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News from the Redwood Empire
Newsletter of the Town Hall Coalition - Summer 2002

Town Hall Coalition's mission is to build a social movement that promotes ecologically and economically healthy communities through responsible land use.

Dear Friends,
These are very troubling times for friends of the environment, civil and human rights, separation of church and state, democracy, economic security, privacy, public health and education, and peace on earth. No matter which way you turn the outlook for maintaining and protecting the environment and our most basic rights and freedoms looks dreadful as a host of recent government decisions threaten to roll back hard-won gains. Voter turnout for midterm election primaries hit a record low this year. It is hard to understand why the increase in patriotism that came after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 has not translated into greater participation in elections or democracy. Only 16 percent of the voting-age population bothered to vote in recent statewide primaries. In other words, 84% of the voting-age public did not exercise their right to vote and approximately 10% of eligible voters determine public policy. The result of this is that a handful of extremist populists is now in the process of dismantling the country.

Some years ago, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas provided us with a keen warning which a nation of people who do not want to think or participate should heed: "As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight. And it is in such twilight that we all must be aware of change in the air - however slight - lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness." Powerful forces in the government are diverting us from thinking about the dreadful fundamental changes in our country. We are kept busy thinking about crisis, fear, national enemies and terrorists lurking within and without our country threatening the homeland and national security. Each change in policy is small, well explained, regretted, isolated and not related to the whole picture. It feels like each act of the government is a little worse than the last. We seem to think we still have a democracy and we will vote these people out of office. Or maybe we are waiting for some shocking occasion that will reveal the true motivations of our new leaders, wake us up and bring us together to resist the systematic dismantling of our country.

The Town Hall Coalition believes that participatory democracy is the most powerful tool to combat oppression and totalitarian governments. We urge people to help register people to vote, get out the vote, attend public meetings, voice your opinion and consider running for public office. Please consider making a donation to the Town Hall Coalition to support our Participatory Democracy Campaign.

Mr. Smith Goes to Obscuristan
Thursday, July 25-8PM (Music begins at 7:30)
Analy High School Theater, Sebastopol

Town Hall Coalition is proud to present the world-renowned San Francisco Mime Troupe's new production Mr. Smith Goes to Obscuristan, an original political musical satire driven by the recent events of American politics. The event is Thursday, July 25, at 8 PM (music begins at 7:30.) Tickets are $15.00 in advance or $20.00 at the door. Tickets are available at all Copperfields Book Stores and the Town Hall Coalition office in Occidental.

This performance is a benefit for the Town Hall Coalition. For More information and reservations call the Town Hall Coalition 707-874-9110 or visit us on the web at or email us at


"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it's the only thing that ever has." -- Margaret Mead

Youth and Community Activist Program
On April 12th-14th the Town Hall Coalition sponsored the first annual Youth Activist Convergence in Sebastopol. This youth-inspired, youth-driven event brought together students and educators, representatives of over 75 non-profit organizations, and community members for a weekend of workshops, keynote speakers, musical events, and hands-on demonstrations. Twenty-two workshops were held during the weekend focusing on environmental dilemmas and solutions, social issues, political topics, and economic realms. The weekend concluded with the creation of the Youth Activist Manifesto, the unifying vision for creating positive change on local and global levels. We would like to thank all of the supporters and donors to this project as we look forward to another year of youth-inspired activism!

The Youth Activist Convergence is part of the Town Hall Coalition's "Participatory Democracy Campaign" launched in 2001. The campaign's primary purpose is to enable people to become informed, activate, organize, and participate in decision-making processes at the local, state, and national levels. It is also to serve as a guide for those wanting to run for numerous non-partisan elected positions throughout Sonoma County and North Coast region.

Democracy Requires Active Citizen Participation:
Elected decision-making bodies levy and manage your tax dollars and make critical decisions that can effect land use, the environment, quality of life and public policy related to health, education and safety. We urge you to attend public meetings of decision-making bodies, get informed, voice your opinions or better yet, run for public office.

Elections for Special Districts such as Park and Recreations Districts, Community Services Districts, Water Districts, City Councils, etc. are held in odd numbered years. Last year Town Hall Coalition took an active role in distributing, mailing, and posting detailed descriptions for elected positions in each special district of the county.

Elections for Fire, Public Health, Water, and Resource Conservation Districts, City Councils, and School Boards are held in even numbered years. If you are interested in running for office or want to receive more information, please call the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters at 1-800-750-8683.

Important dates for Nov. 5 2002 elections:
· July 15 to August 9 - Take out nomination papers
· August 9--File Nomination papers
· November 5 - Election Day

Elections will be held for the following offices:
Fire Protection District (Cloverdale, Forestville, Geyserville, Gold Ridge, Graton, Kenwood, Monte Rio, Rancho Adobe, Rincon Valley, Roseland, Russian River, Timber Cove, Valley of the Moon, Windsor)
Health Care District (Cloverdale, Palm Drive, Petaluma, Sonoma Valley)
Resource Conservation Districts (Gold Ridge, Sotoyome, Southern Sonoma County)
Water District (Sweetwater Springs, Valley of the Moon)
City Councils (Every city in Sonoma County)
School Boards (Every school board in Sonoma County. Support public education!)
Sonoma County Board of Supervisors (District 1-Sonoma)


"I firmly believe, from what I have seen, that this is the chosen spot of all this earth as far as Nature is concerned." Luther Burbank (From a letter sent home to Massachusetts, soon after arriving in Sonoma County 1875)

Town Hall Coalition is working with government and environmental groups to accumulate existing documents that identify areas containing critical wildlife habitat, headwaters of streams and creeks, native forests and wildlands, endangered species, etc. Our research will provide an important resource for the Town Hall's library of information and pro-active Wildlands Protection advocacy and education program. Our goal is to inform property owners about the benefits of putting both public and private conservation easements on their properties and support the acquisition of ecologically rich wildlands for public parks.

If you are interested in finding out more about putting a "Forever Wild" conservation on your property please contact one of the local Land Trusts. Find out how conservation easements can lower your property and income taxes. Here is a partial list of local Land Trusts and contact information for the Open Space District:
Bodega Land Trust: PO Box 254 Bodega, CA 94922 Phone: 707-876-1806
Land Paths: PO Box 4648 Santa Rosa, CA 95402 Phone: 707-544-7248
Mendocino Land Trust: PO Box 1094 Mendocino, CA 95460 Phone: 707-962-0470
Sonoma Land Trust: 1122 Sonoma Ave. Santa Rosa, CA 95405 Phone: 707-526-6930
Agriculture Preservation and Open Space Dist.: 747 Mendocino Ave., Suite 100 Santa Rosa, CA 95403 Phone: 707-524-7360


ACTION ALERT: We have received notices of the development of several wine factories in rural, water-scarce and ecologically sensitive areas in Western Sonoma County. The Sonoma County Planning Commission, appointed by the Board of Supervisors, has approved wine factories for Hirsch in Cazadero, Dutton in Sebastopol near Ragle Park and Sonoma-Cutrer on Vine Hill Road. Phelps Inc. currently has an application for a wine factory in their industrial vineyard development in Freestone. These factories could have negative impacts on the environment and quality of life in rural neighborhoods and must receive a full environmental impact review. Of major concern is the issue of water. Industrial development should not be allowed in areas where there are limited water resources. Heavy industrial water usage has the potential to effect the recharge capacity of underground aquifers, de-water springs, creeks and streams and threatens to cut off water for local residents who depend on small springs and wells for their domestic needs. Noise, traffic, paving, destruction of habitat, drainage, lighting, sewage disposal, pesticides and breakdown products and other issues must be addressed in a full EIR.

We urge everyone to consider the broader picture. Imagine what it would be like to have wine factories on every small vineyard in Western Sonoma County-Fitzpatrick Lane, Jonive, Taylor Lane, Morelli Lane, Cazadero, Annapolis, etc. And think about the cumulative impact on water when all of these new wells draw water at the same time in a drought year. Factories and commercial developments belong in industrial and commercial zones where there is adequate infrastructure. Town Hall Coalition is exploring ways to change current legislation to require that developments of this magnitude be required to have an EIR and/or be constructed in areas designated for industrial use.


The THC Office continues to take calls and document complaints from the community regarding water problems, habitat destruction, erosion, animal and bird kills, siltation of waterways, toxic exposures, pesticide drift, etc. The THC staff will investigate complaints and facilitate communication between the parties involved. If the situation cannot be resolved we will assist people to form a local community group and register complaints with the appropriate county, state and federal regulatory agencies. Our actions have prompted investigations by county, state and federal agencies and the press. Please call the THC office with your observations, concerns and complaints.

Future Forums: The Town Hall Coalition is currently working to organize the following community forums.
· Wine Factories and Industrial Vineyard Development: Review and revise public policy
· Preservation of Native Forests, Ecosystems and Wildlands: Conservation easements and parks
· Water: Protect private and community water rights and resources from corporate theft

Office and Staff Update

Thank you to Christina Newell! THC would like to thank Christina for her dedication and invaluable contribution as Office Manager and Assistant Director for past two years. Christina has moved on to further her career.

Welcome Toben Dilworth! Toben is our new Program Manager. He is a graduate of Sonoma State University in Environmental Studies and is in the process of working on his thesis for a Master in Culture, Ecology, and Sustainable Community from New College. Toben spent a year and half working with Rainforest Action Network.

"I befriended the countryside and it lead me closer to my own heart." Ellis Felker

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Town Hall Coalition
6741 Sebastopol Ave. Ste. 140 Sebastopol California 95472
T: 707-824-4371 / F: 707-824-4372