Merced County

Points of Order concerning the East Merced RCD meeting at UC Merced, Sept. 24, 2007

Submitted: Sep 25, 2007

To: East Merced Resource Conservation District Board of Directors

From: San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center; Protect Our Water; San Joaquin Valley Conservancy; Merced River Valley Association; Planada Association; Planada Community Development Co.; Le Grand Association; Stanislaus Natural Heritage

Re: Points of Order concerning the East Merced RCD meeting at UC Merced, Sept. 24, 2007

Date: Sept. 24, 2007

East Merced RCD Board of Directors: Via: email and Hand Delivered

POINTS OF ORDER

The East Merced RCD is not the Merced River Stakeholders, which are having its meeting at Washington School at this moment. The East Merced RCD is one Merced River stakeholder among many. In holding of this meeting at UC Merced, the East Merced RCD has greatly exceeded its statutory status as a legislative body and has illegally asserted authority over the Merced River Stakeholders. The East Merced RCD has no legal authority to hold a meeting of the Merced River Stakeholders. Gwen Huff, East Merced RCD staff/Merced Alliance Lower Merced River Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders facilitator, was not authorized by the Merced River Stakeholders to convene this meeting here at UC Merced while the stakeholders are meeting at the Washington School.

The meeting we are attending is an East Merced RCD meeting. The East Merced RCD board of directors is presently illegally constituted under CARCD Guidebook.

The East Merced RCD is a legislative body, whose board members are appointed by the county Board of Supervisors. According to the California CARCD Guidebook, the East Merced RCD is subject to the Ralph Brown Act governing public meetings.

The Merced River Stakeholders group, meeting presently at Washington School, is not a
legislative body, by agreement among stakeholders after years of discussion of governance.

This East Merced RCD meeting is violating the Brown Act in the following ways:

1. There are more than two board members of the RCD in attendance; the RCD board meeting agenda of September 26 contains action items concerning the Merced River Stakeholders; the combination of RCD board members attending this meeting under the false claim that it is a Merced River Stakeholders meeting and the action items these board members will vote on in two days, is a major violation of the Brown Act. This pattern, which has been going on for some time, constitutes a continual violation by the East Merced RCD of the Brown Act;

2. This East Merced RCD meeting we are now attending was improperly noticed: it was not posted at the RCD office; it was not posted on the Merced River Stakeholders website or the East Merced RCD website or the Merced River Alliance website;

3. This East Merced RCD meeting agenda is inadequately descriptive under the Brown Act for a public agency agenda;

4. The East Merced RCD facilitator has no authority to unilaterally decide on the
location for a Merced River Stakeholder meeting in the face of stakeholder opposition;

5. The East Merced RCD had no authority to vote in its last meeting to suppress public
documents produced by Merced River Stakeholders because that suppression violated the
state RCD Guidelines and constituted several violations of the Brown Act;

6. The East Merced RCD is making decisions about the Merced River Stakeholders at their monthly board meetings in multiple violations of the Brown Act;

7. It is our understanding from the RCD board meeting of August 15, that an item will be
introduced into this evening's RCD meeting by RCD board member, Cathy Weber, to protest the heading of a recent letter that successfully protested an RCD grant proposal. This agenda item would be illegal on its face because the RCD board, at the same meeting, voted unanimously on an item not on its agenda, to suppress distribution of this public letter to members of the Merced River Stakeholders for their next meeting. It is illegal because it violates multiple Brown Act provisions for agenda formation.

The Merced River Stakeholders now meeting at Washington School openly participated in the process surrounding the denied grant proposal, sharing our concerns and openly distributing material expressing our opposition. The East Merced RCD, the Lower Merced River Watershed coordinator and the Merced River Alliance continually suppressed public information and public documents concerning not just the grant proposal but the future of river itself.

For the record, Merced River Stakeholders will deal with violations of the California Law on Conflict-of-Interest at a later date.

Because this meeting is not legally compliant, it should adjourn now.

Agendas of East Merced RCD and Merced River Stakeholder meetings and e-mails pertaining to the unlawful topics discussed in this letter are included below:

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: Gwen Huff
Sent: Friday, May 25, 2007 12:07 PM
Subject: EMRCD Grant Proposal

Greetings Stakeholders –

As the current facilitator of the Merced River Stakeholders (funded through current grants to the East Merced Resource Conservation District [EMRCD]), I am sending out a message from the EMRCD Board of Directors. Information for this message was compiled by me, as the MRS facilitator and staff of EMRCD, and reviewed and approved by those EMRCD directors present at the May EMRCD Board Meeting, and other EMRCD staff.

Sincerely,
Gwen Huff
Watershed Coordinator
East Merced Resource Conservation District
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734
gwenhuff@comcast.net

The purpose of this letter is to clarify some logistics in the writing and submitting of our grant proposal to develop a Lower Merced River Watershed Management Plan. A summary of that proposal, in narrative form, is attached to this email.

While we have had a very strong measure of support throughout the community, the response from regular attendees at the Merced River Stakeholders group has been mixed. The members in opposition feel very strongly about certain points, which will be addressed further down, while others are very supportive. The EMRCD is at the service of all stakeholders in Eastern Merced County, and while we appreciate that not everyone is in agreement about this grant proposal, we feel that it will be valuable for our community and that there is ample support to justify proceeding with the submission of a full proposal.

At our regular Board meeting Wednesday May 23rd, at which the following Board members were present, Glenn Anderson, Cathy Weber, Karen Barstow and Bernard Wade, the Board unanimously passed the following resolution, with comments:

RESOLUTION OF THE EAST MERCED RESOURCE CONSERVATION DISTRICT TO SUBMIT WATERSHED MANAGEMENT PLAN GRANT APPLICATION
Cathy Weber I support this grant because there have been gaps of information to make recommendations and “full-picture” choices for the Merced River Watershed. I see a need for this plan to help decision makers and citizens make informed decisions about conservation issues in the watershed.
Karen Barstow I’m a farmer and landowner and I support the proposal because it is in line with State expectations of bringing all of us together on an issue that is vital to all of us; California’s most critical issue-water.
Glenn Anderson I’m a 72 year-old farmer, landowner, life-long appreciator of the river, and someone who has watched the abuse of the river. Our district has now begun a journey of community appreciation of this river and we need to continue this work to expand our community involvement.
Bernie Wade I’m submitting my support of this proposal. It is the imperative continuation to preserve, conserve and enhance the Merced Watershed. It is important that we continue scientific studies and analysis to preserve this natural resource.
Glenn Anderson moved to adopt resolution 2007-02 to submit the Watershed Management Plan grant application.
Cathy Weber seconded motion. MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.

We would like to include here the Mission and Purpose, Goals and Objectives of the Merced River Stakeholders (MRS), as stated in the Merced River Stakeholders Group Charter, adopted January 27, 2003.

Mission and Purpose
Provide a collaborative forum for coordination and gathering and sharing of information about the Merced River watershed. Protect and enhance the lower Merced River watershed such that the natural processes, ecosystems and its unique characteristics are conserved and restored. Foster voluntary stewardship in advance of habitat degradation and regulatory action. Strive for a balanced level of human interaction within the watershed.

Goals and Objectives
Educate the public about the Merced River watershed and its importance. Foster and improve communication among affected private individuals, interested citizens, commercial interests, educational institutes and representatives of local, state and federal agencies.

Additionally, from MRS meeting minutes of April 23, 2003;
The Governance Committee gave a report in which they stated that they are not in agreement that a formalized voting mechanism is necessary to conduct stakeholder meetings.

The EMRCD is a strong supporter of the Merced River Stakeholders, as evidenced by board member participation in MRS meetings, as well as long-term financial support to facilitate these meetings. We also recognize that the MRS has no mechanism for voting and cannot, as a group, support or oppose any item brought before them. They may, however, provide input. Indeed, MRS input can greatly improve projects that are within the watershed.

It is in this spirit that EMRCD has sought input from the MRS group on the development of the Lower Merced Watershed Management Plan. We have also sought input from other stakeholders within the watershed that do not attend the MRS meetings.

Regarding concerns from those in opposition:
MRS not notified before concept proposal submitted
We would like to acknowledge that earlier notification of the grant opportunity to the MRS would have been possible. At the January MRS meeting the grant opportunity was unknown to EMRCD and, therefore, could not have been communicated at that meeting. When this information was known February 13th, between MRS meetings, communication could have been made to stakeholders notifying them of the funder’s priorities, the deadline for grant submission and the intent of EMRCD to develop a concept proposal. No formal endorsement could have been gained - as the MRS has no mechanism for this. But input on direction could have been sought at that time. However, the MRS group was first informed of the process at the March 19th meeting. At which point a concept proposal had been developed and submitted by the deadline of March 16th, three days prior to the MRS meeting.

As there was allowance for modification from the concept proposal to the final proposal (should the EMRCD be invited to advance to a full proposal), the intention was to gain input from the stakeholders on what modifications could be made to improve the direction and content of the proposal. There was a constraint on what changes could be made. CalFed (the funder) had identified the Merced River as a high priority for developing a Watershed Management Plan for this particular round of funding. Therefore, the proposal needed to retain the basic direction of developing a management plan. But input on modifying the concept proposal, before writing and submitting a final proposal, was sought of MRS. As there are many stakeholders in the watershed beyond those who meet at the regular MRS meeting, and the EMRCD is at the service of all in Eastern Merced County, EMRCD was soliciting input from the MRS at this point, not asking for approval or endorsement, as there is no mechanism for that. We regret that not informing the MRS of the grant opportunity in February has caused some to feel excluded from the process. In the future, as long as EMRCD and MRS continue to have a working relationship, the EMRCD will inform the MRS before a concept proposal is submitted, with every effort to allow time to gather input for developing the proposal.

Staff Positions
The EMRCD acknowledges that neither job descriptions nor applicant qualifications were drafted for the concept proposal. This was not a requirement for submission of the proposal. However, these job descriptions will be in place before the final proposal is submitted. Additionally, posting of job opportunities with the EMRCD will be made if awarded the grant and as they become available.

Conflict of Interest?
An EMRCD associate director (who, in this case, is on the planning commission) has no voting rights and as such cannot vote to support or oppose any grant. There is no impropriety in an EMRCD board member, whether full or associate, being on the planning commission. Nor is there any impropriety in an EMRCD associate board member taking a staff position with the EMRCD.

Most, if not all, entities that rely on grant funding to further their mission and goals, pursue funding with their staff time, in order to bring the funds to their organization. Such is the case for EMRCD. The grant funds that are brought in are obligated to be spent on specific tasks laid out in the contract with the funding agency. The funding agency reviews, very closely, the progress of the grant and how the funds are spent. Members of the EMRCD board serve as such without any monetary compensation, and would receive none should the Watershed Management Plan be funded. There is no conflict of interest.

For more information on the authority under which the resource conservation districts operate, you may go to the following website: http://www.carcd.org/yourdistrict/div-9.htm

We thank you for your interest in resource issues of Eastern Merced County and look forward to continuing to work with you on watershed conservation issues.

Sincerely,
EMRCD Board of Directors

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: 'Pat Ferrigno' ; 'Lydia Miller' ; brwade@aol.com ; 'Gail Bettencourt'
Cc: sdragovich@santafeaggregates.com
Sent: Friday, August 24, 2007 11:01 AM
Subject: RE: Proposed Meeting

Thank you very much, Pat, for the invitation to your home and for organizing the points of discussion. I believe they are well laid out. I would also like to suggest inviting Cathy Weber, as she has been an active stakeholder as well as a board member of EMRCD. Two board members may be present and not violate the Brown Act.

My availability is somewhat limited mid-September, but I am available September 9, 10, 11 and possibly the 12th. The next day I am leaving for a wedding in New York and will return on Monday the 17th.

Gwen
Gwen Huff
Watershed Coordinator
East Merced Resource Conservation District
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734
gwenhuff@comcast.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: 'Pat Ferrigno' ; 'SJRRC' ; 'Raptorctr' ; 'Bernard Wade' ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; 'Mike Bettencourt' ; 'Sharon Dragovich'
Cc: 'Teri Murrison'
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2007 2:55 PM
Subject: RE: MRS Agenda

Pat –

Yes – the agenda item “MRS and Grant Development” is intended to encompass any aspect of this whole issue. I hope that the amount of time will be adequate. Also, we can - and probably will –discuss expectations of a facilitator to convey the perspective of stakeholders to the EMRCD and other organizations.

Cathy Weber requested that at least some of the discussion happen in the first 45 minutes of the meeting because she has a conflict in her schedule with another important meeting. Since Cathy has been so involved with the stakeholders, I would like to honor that request. It is a bit awkward, breaking it up that way, though.

Regarding your offer to cover printing costs of the Raptor Center’s letter, thank you. However, we can cover those expenses. Since the meeting is dedicated almost completely to related MRS issues, I can bring copies to the meeting. The board has directed me not to distribute the letter with the meeting announcement, but it can certainly be available at the meeting. And you are free to circulate it before hand, if you wish. Please let me know if you plan on bringing copies so that we do not duplicate our work.

Lastly, we will be meeting in a conference room at UC Merced that holds 50 people. That should do. And thanks for refreshments.

Gwen
Gwen Huff
Watershed Coordinator
East Merced Resource Conservation District
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734
gwenhuff@comcast.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Cathy Weber
To: Gwen Huff
Cc: Brwade@aol.com ; Pat Ferrigno ; Karen L Whipp ; Lydia Miller
Sent: Sunday, September 16, 2007 1:01 PM
Subject: MRS meeting

Dear Gwen,

I just returned home and have found many messages on my email. I'm very sorry if I, as an individual and not the EMRCD, have added to problems within the MRS member community.

Please set the agenda in a way that is best for all the members to deal with important issues. I am sorry that I won't be at the full meeting; but as a member of the Library Advisory Commission, I have a greater obligation to attend a 7:00 meeting in downtown Merced. In my request that the agenda item dealing with the MRS and EMRCD roles be placed early, I had no idea that it would create any type of problem.

I will come to the first part of the meeting and hope I have the opportunity to make one comment before I need to leave, a comment that is separate from the agenda item discussion. I know we have allowed other members to do so. But, please, place the agenda item at whatever time on the agenda that will make it most effective.

I am sorry that I won't be there for what I think is a very important discussion. I believe I have some perspective, being a member of both the MRS and the EMRCD. I care about both organizations deeply. I was always in favor of the MRS having more autonomy and decision making power with a process for it. I wanted to develop a plan for that through the governance committee process.

I am deeply concerned and saddened by what I feel is a misunderstanding. I know the EMRCD board members care a great deal about the resources of the river within our job of caring for and educating about all the resources of eastern Merced County. I feel that we have, unwittingly, been made villains when we thought that what we were doing all along was above-board and for the benefit of the County.

Please don't let the Board take the blame for the agenda item placement, or you for honoring my request. The fault for that is all mine. Again, I made my request, because I care about the whole discussion. I do hope these building misunderstandings can be cleared so we can meet together and support river restoration.

Cathy Weber

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: Gwen Huff
Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 6:03 PM
Subject: MRS Meeting Reminder at UC Merced

Dear Stakeholders -

You may have recently received an email from SJRRC (San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center), Lydia Miller's organization, with a meeting announcement for the Merced River Stakeholders this Monday, Sept 24th at Washington School. That meeting is not sponsored by the East Merced Resource Conservation District and the announcement was not forwarded by me, as facilitator. I am the current facilitator, hired by the EMRCD to conduct the regular Merced River Stakeholders meeting on the 24th at UC Merced. The proposed presenters at the Washington School meeting have not been contacted by Ms. Miller and neither Karen Whipp, Cindy Lashbrook, Cathy Weber, Nancy McConnell nor I will be there. We will be attending the Merced River Stakeholders meeting at UC Merced. You will find the agenda below.

We have been told we can use the parking lot up at the top of the hill, very close to the library where we are meeting. Parking will be free in that lot after 5pm. Detailed directions are at the bottom of the agenda.

It is regretful that you are subject to the confusion generated by the disagreements between a few members of the Merced River Stakeholders, myself and the EMRCD. At our Sept 24th meeting we will be discussing future facilitation of the MRS, as the EMRCD funding to do this will be finished this calendar year. I hope that you will be able to attend this important meeting. Please contact me if you have questions or concerns.

Gwen

Gwen Huff
Watershed Coordinator
East Merced Resource Conservation District
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734
Merced River Stakeholders
September 24, 2007
6:00PM-8:30PM
Kolligian Library, Room 232, UC Merced
Nearby and Free Parking

DRAFT AGENDA

6:00 Introductions, Minutes Approval, Agenda Review

6:10 Updates
Merced Irrigation District

6:20 Merced River Stakeholders Facilitation
Group Discussion

7:10 BREAK

7:25 Merced River Stakeholders and Grant Development
Group Discussion

7:50 Merced County Planning Department Jeff Wilson
Jeff will provide us with an overview of balancing gravel mining with other natural resource interests in Merced County.

8:15 Announcements

8:25 Schedule Next meeting and wrap up
(Plus/Delta, next meeting speakers, refreshments)

For more information, please contact Gwen Huff at
(559) 497-5033 or gwenhuff@comcast.net

DIRECTIONS
From Highway 99, take the “G” Street exit and cross town to Yosemite Avenue and turn right onto Yosemite. Turn left on Lake Road and proceed approximately one mile to the campus. Turn right into the first campus entry (Scholars Lane) and take this up the hill to the end of the road. Make a left by the Round-A-Bout. The library and its parking lot are here. Park anywhere there are available stalls. Here is a link to a campus map https://www.ucmerced.edu/maps/campus/ Once you’ve entered the library, take the elevator to the second floor – we will be meeting in room 232.

Past meeting minutes can be found at www.emrcd.org/stakeholders

NOTICE OF REGULAR MEETING

OF THE

BOARD OF DIRECTORS
EAST MERCED RESOURCE CONSERVATION DISTRICT

USDA Office
Conference Room
2135 W. Wardrobe Avenue
Merced, CA 95340

Wednesday, August 15, 2007, 1:00 p.m.
Visit us on the web at www.emrcd.org
Call EMRCD for more information 209-723-6755
Fax EMRCD for more information 209-723-0880
To be added to the EMRCD agenda mailing list, please send a letter to the RCD at the above address by the 3rd day of the month preceding the meeting.

1. INTRODUCTION

2. ORAL COMMUNICATIONS

3. CORRECTIONS AND/OR ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA

ITEM PRESENTER

* 4. Consent Agenda

# a. Minutes of the July 18, 2007 EMRCD Board Meeting
# b. Treasury Report (July and August ‘07)
# c. DOC II and Prop 13 Grant Updates

5. Correspondence/Information Only

a. Letters
1. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
# b. Meeting Notices and Reports
1. CSDA e-NEWS July 23, 2007
2. CSDA e-NEWS July 30, 2007
3. California Watershed e-News July 30, 2007
c. Newsletters and Flyers (available to review at meeting)
1. CSDA Alliance Brochure
2. CSDA Conference Oct 1-4 2007
3. San Joaquin River Restoration Program
4. NRCS State Technical Advisory Committee Agenda
5. NACD Forestry Notes (June 2007)
6. NACD Forestry Notes (July 2007)
7. MED&R-Merced Developments (Winter 2007)
8. Shell Pipeline Company LP Safety Information
d. Office Election Resolution Ballet Information for Insurance Board

For information only.

6. Written and Oral Updates

a. NRCS Update Malia Hildebrandt
b. Watershed Coordinator Update (DOC II) Gwen Huff/
Cindy Lashbrook

c. Merced River Alliance (Prop 13) Update Karen Whipp

* 7. Planning for Annexation

For discussion and possible action.

8. Board Member Participation with Merced County Landuse
Issues and General Plan Updates

Board members come prepared to discuss current land use
issues and ways to be involved.

9. Old Business

a. Board Member Recruitment
b. Other Old Business

* 10. Priority Action Topic for Next EMRCD Agenda

For discussion and possible action.

11. Next EMRCD Board Meeting

The next EMRCD Board Meeting is scheduled for
Wednesday, Sept 19, 2007 in the USDA Office Conference Room,
2135 West Wardrobe Avenue, Merced, CA.

* 12. Adjournment of the Regular EMRCD Board Meeting, August 15, 2007

* Action
# Attachment
+ Enclosure
IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, IF SPECIAL ASSISTANCE IS NEEDED IN ORDER TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS MEETING, PLEASE CONTACT STAFF AT 209-723-6755. NOTIFICATION OF 48 HOURS BEFORE THE MEETING WILL ENABLE THE STAFF TO MAKE REASONABLE ARRANGEMENTS TO ASSURE ACCESSIBILITY TO THIS MEETING.

Date Agenda Posted August 10, 2007
Please remove after August 16, 2007__

Meeting Minutes of the
EAST MERCED RESOURCE CONSERVATION DISTRICT
BOARD OF DIRECTORS REGULAR MEETING
Wednesday, August 15, 2007, 1:00 p.m.
Conference Room, 2135 W. Wardrobe Ave., Merced, CA 95340
Call EMRCD for more information (209-723-6755)

Directors Present: Cathy Weber, Glenn Anderson, Bernard Wade, Bob Bliss
Directors Absent: Karen Barstow, Tony Azevedo
Others Present: Karen Whipp, EMRCD contract personnel
Cindy Lashbrook, EMRCD contract personnel and associate director (non-voting member)
Gwen Huff, EMRCD contract personnel
Malia Hildebrandt, NRCS staff
Ken Leap, Interested Citizen
Bill Hatch, Interested Citizen

Item #
President Bernie Wade called meeting to order at 1:20 pm.

1. INTRODUCTIONS
Done.

2. ORAL COMMUNICATIONS
None.

3. CORRECTIONS AND/OR ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA
None.

4 CONSENT AGENDA
Minutes of the July 18, 2007 EMRCD Board Meeting
Treasury Report June and July
DOC and Prop 13 Updates
Cathy Weber moved to approve the consent agenda.
Bob Bliss seconded the motion.
MOTION CARRIED UNAMIMOUSLY.

5. CORRESPONDENCE/INFORMATION ONLY
Letters
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
b. Meeting Notices and Reports
CSDA e-NEWS July 23, 2007
CSDA e-NEWS July 30, 2007
California Watershed e-News July 30, 2007
c. Newsletters (available to review at the meeting)
CSDA Alliance Brochure
CSDA Conference October 1-4, 2007
NRCS State Technical Advisory Committee Agenda
NACD Forestry Notes (June 2007)
NACD Forestry Notes (July 2007)
MED&R-Merced Developments (Winter 2007)
Shell Pipeline Company LP Safety Information
d. Office Election Resolution Ballet Information for Insurance Board
So noted.

Following the review of the information items, Cathy Weber moved to have the September EMRCD Board meeting on September 26, 2007.
Seconded by Glenn Anderson.
MOTION CARRIED UNAMIMOUSLY.

6. WRITTEN AND ORAL REPORTS
Natural Resources Conservation Service Report, Malia Hildebrandt (A written report was submitted at meeting and will be attached to agenda packets presented at the EMRCD Board meeting)
Watershed Coordinator--DOC Report, Gwen Huff (A written report was submitted at meeting and will be attached to agenda packets presented at the EMRCD Board meeting)

During the report Gwen Huff stated that Lydia Miller asked her to send a rebuttal letter against the DWR grant proposal to all of the Merced River Stakeholders.
Bob Bliss moved that Gwen Huff contract is with the East Merced Resource Conservation District is not authorized to send the letter.
Seconded by Glenn Anderson
MOTION CARRIED UNAMIMOUSLY.

Merced River Alliance--Prop 13 Report, Karen Whipp and Cindy Lashbrook (Written reports were submitted at meeting and will be attached to agenda packets presented at the EMRCD Board meeting.)

7. PLANNING FOR ANNEXATION
An oral report was given.

8. BOARD MEMBER PARTICIPATION WITH MERCED COUNTY LANDUSE ISSUES AND GENERAL PLAN UPDATES
There was board member discussion.

9. OLD BUSINESS
a. Board recruitment: There was brief discussion
b. Other business: no discussion
10. PRIORITY ACTION TOPICS FOR THE NEXT EMRCD AGENDA
The Priority Topic for next month will be to discuss mechanism for immediate calls to action, discussions for funding sources and review the Strategic Plan.

11. NEXT MEETING
The next EMRCD is scheduled for Wednesday, September 26, 2007, 1:00 pm in the USDA Office Conference Room, 2135 West Wardrobe Avenue, Merced, CA

12. THE MEETING OF THE EAST MERCED RESOURCE CONSERVATION BOARD OF DIRECTORS WAS ADJOURED AT 4:00 P. M.

/S/
KAREN L. WHIPP
EMRCD BOARD CLERK

NOTICE OF REGULAR MEETING

OF THE

BOARD OF DIRECTORS
EAST MERCED RESOURCE CONSERVATION DISTRICT

UC Cooperative Extension
Classroom
2145 W. Wardrobe Avenue
Merced, CA 95340

Wednesday, September 26, 2007, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Visit us on the web at www.emrcd.org
Call EMRCD for more information 209-723-6755
Fax EMRCD for more information 209-723-0880
To be added to the EMRCD agenda mailing list, please send a letter to the RCD at the above address by the 3rd day of the month preceding the meeting.

1. INTRODUCTION

2. ORAL COMMUNICATIONS

3. CORRECTIONS AND/OR ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA

ITEM # PRESENTER

* 4. Consent Agenda

# a. Minutes of the August 15, 2007 EMRCD Board Meeting
# b. Treasury Report
# c. DOC II and Prop 13 Grant Updates

5. Correspondence/Information Only

a. Letters
1. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
# b. Meeting Notices and Reports
1. CSDA e-NEWS September 4, 2007
2. CSDA e-NEWS September 10, 2007
3. CSDA e-NEWS September 17, 2007
4. US Department of the Interior Submittal of
Fiscal Year 2008 Program Proposals
5. California Association of Resource Conservation
Districts – San Joaquin Valley Agenda for the Fall
Area Meeting
6. Understanding the Ralph M. Brown Act
c. Newsletters and Flyers (available to review at meeting)
1. CSDA July – August 2007 Magazine
2. National Woodlands Magazine
3. Noxious Times
4. Forestry Notes
5. Great Valley News
6. Conservation Connection
7. EcoAnalysts
8. NACD News and Views
9. Forestland Steward
10. Water Conservation News

For information only.

6. Written and Oral Updates

a. NRCS Update Malia Hildebrandt
b. Watershed Coordinator Update (DOC II) Gwen Huff/
Cindy Lashbrook
c. Merced River Alliance (Prop 13) Update Karen Whipp

* 7 Recording EMRCD Board Meetings Cathy Weber
action.
For discussion and possible

*# 8. Procedures for Requesting Public Information Karen Whipp

Recommend the EMRCD Board adopt procedures
for requesting public information.

*# 9. CAL-Card Contract Addendum Merced, CA 95340 Karen Whipp

Recommend the EMRCD Board authorize the EMRCD
Board President to sign the contract addendum and resolution.

* 10. Response letter to Department of Water Resources in Karen Barstow
Regard to Letters of Opposition of Grant Proposal

For discussion and possible action.

* 11. Future Relationship Between EMRCD and Merced
River Stakeholders

For discussion and possible action.

* 12. Mechanism for Immediate Calls to Action

For discussion and possible action.

* 13. Potential Funding Sources

For discussion and possible action.

14. Old Business

a. Planning of Annexation
b. Board Member Recruitment
c. Other Old Business

* 15. Priority Action Topic for Next EMRCD Agenda

Review the EMRCD Strategic Plan.

16. Next EMRCD Board Meeting

The next EMRCD Board Meeting is scheduled for
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 in the USDA Office Conference Room,
2135 West Wardrobe Avenue, Merced, CA.

* 17. Adjournment of the Regular EMRCD Board Meeting, September 26, 2007

* Action
# Attachment
+ Enclosure
IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, IF SPECIAL ASSISTANCE IS NEEDED IN ORDER TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS MEETING, PLEASE CONTACT STAFF AT 209-723-6755. NOTIFICATION OF 48 HOURS BEFORE THE MEETING WILL ENABLE THE STAFF TO MAKE REASONABLE ARRANGEMENTS TO ASSURE ACCESSIBILITY TO THIS MEETING.

Date Agenda Posted September 21, 2007
Please remove after September 26, 2007__
-----------------------

ORAL STATEMENT ON ITEM #1 OF THE AGENDA
East Merced RCD meeting at UC Merced, Sept. 24, 2007, 6 p.m.

POINTS OF ORDER

I am Bryant Owens, speaking on behalf of the Planada Community Association, and other signatories to the suppressed letter of opposition Merced River Stakeholders filed against the recent East Merced RCD grant proposal

I am summarizing a letter I am submitting to make the legal record.

The meeting we are now attending is illegal and should be adjourned and any river stakeholders present should go to the Merced River Stakeholders meeting sponsored by the Bettencourt Family and other river property owners at Washington School.

For these reasons and others, the meeting we are attending is illegal:

1. The East Merced RCD is a member of the Merced River Stakeholders group, not its leader
in any sense;

2. The East Merced RCD has no authority to decide on the agenda or location of a Merced River Stakeholders meeting, except as the stakeholders agree. The Merced River Stakeholders disagree and are at this moment holding their meeting at the Washington
School;

3. The East Merced RCD board of directors, appointed by the Merced County Board of Supervisors, is at present an illegally constituted legislative body;

4. The Merced River Stakeholders is not a legislative body, by common stakeholder decision after several years of discussion on its governance;

5. This illegally constituted legislative body has committed multiple violations of the California Association of RCD Guidebook and the Ralph Brown Act in the past, including the calling of this meeting and future actions already agendized on the next East Merced RCD board meeting;

6. Several individuals representing the East Merced RCD present at this meeting are committing violations of the California Law of Conflict of Interest.

To make the legal record, I am submitting our full letter and supporting documents to the East Merced RCD on the illegality of the meeting we are presently attending.

We urge the East Merced RCD board to adjourn this meeting.
----------------------------

PROTEST AGAINST APPROVAL OF MINUTES OF JULY MERCED RIVER STAKEHOLDERS MEETING
East Merced RCD meeting at UC Merced, Sept. 24, 2007, 6 p.m.

David Corser, Planada Community Association, San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, Protect Our Water, et al. and representing other Merced River Stakeholders

The minutes of the July Merced River Stakeholders meeting cannot be approved here tonight because:

1. The only body authorized to approve Merced River Stakeholders minutes is the Merced River Stakeholders, meeting at this moment at Washington School.
2. This is an East Merced RCD meeting, not a Merced River Stakeholders meeting.
3. East Merced RCD is a legislative body governed by the Brown Act.
4. It must include in these minutes the minutes of the last East Merced RCD meeting, which does not include any reference to this unlawful meeting here.
5. It must also include its agenda and minutes pertaining to Item #6 in its last meeting, during which it took an unlawful vote to suppress a public letter of protest from Merced River Stakeholders to an East Merced RCD grant proposal, which the state agency rejected because of that and other letters and petitions from Merced River Stakeholders against it.
6. If East Merced RCD board members and staff and staff of the Merced River Alliance assert that they constitute a subcommittee of the East Merced RCD that has unlawfully convened this present meeting, they must show in East Merced RCD minutes how their authority was generated by board action.
7. They cannot do this because the board explicitly tabled discussion of establishing a subcommittee at its last meeting. East Merced RCD August meeting notes clearly shows this.
8. Therefore, we are attending a meeting unlawfully convened by the East Merced RCD pretending to be a Merced River Stakeholders meeting (when that meeting is going on simultaneously at the Washington School) and the East Merced RCD cannot even justify this meeting in terms of its own authority because it has not authorized “subcommittees” or the like of the board to act between its regular meetings.
9. By convening this meeting at UC Merced against the express wishes of the largest group of stakeholders, the Merced River Stakeholders facilitator has abdicated her authority as the Merced River Stakeholders facilitator.
10. Why have East Merced RCD staff and board members been harassing Merced River stakeholders with a barrage of emails and phone calls to attend this unlawful meeting? Because this is a naked power play by disgruntled East Merced RCD board members and staff and the Merced River Alliance to silence the Merced River Stakeholders.
11. To defend the health of the Lower Merced River, Merccd River Stakeholders wrote publicly to oppose the East Merced RCD grant proposal. Although the best evidence of spiteful reaction is convening this unlawful meeting, there is other evidence: the Merced River Alliance newsletter no longer includes any mention of the Merced River Stakeholders; and the Stakeholders’ independent website was discontinued and its domain is up for sale.
We recommend this unlawful meeting be adjourned immediately.
----------------------

From: gwenhuff@comcast.net
To: gwenhuff@comcast.net
Subject: Moving on
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2007 12:18:58 -0700

Dear Stakeholders -

For those of you not at last nights meeting at UC Merced, I would like to let you know that I am moving to Sacramento and will be resigning from the East Merced RCD and as facilitator of the Merced River Stakeholders group.

The East Merced RCD has funding to facilitate one more MRS meeting, to be held November 19th. After that time, current funding from EMRCD grants to facilitate the stakeholders will cease. At the November meeting you will have the opportunity to set a course for the stakeholders and decide how you would like to move forward with this change of circumstances. I hope that you will be able to attend this important meeting. At the direction of the MRS, we are seeking a facilitator for that meeting and the meeting notification will be forthcoming.

Unfortunately, some members of the MRS have decided to form a separate organization and are using the name Merced River Stakeholders. This will, no doubt, be causing some confusion with meeting notifications. Please note that communications from the East Merced Resource Conservation District (EMRCD) and it's staff (Cindy Lashbrook and Karen Whipp) will relate to the MRS meetings that are facilitated by the EMRCD.

It has been a pleasure working with you for the last year and half. The MRS is a very special and important group. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

Gwen

Gwen Huff
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734

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Merced River Stakeholders protest letter to EMRCD grant proposal

Submitted: Sep 21, 2007

BETTENCOURT FAMILY PROPERTY
TELEPHONE 209/358-9400; FAX 209/812-1818
11570 Shaffer Road, Winton CA 95388
e-mail: pferrigno@elite.net

June 2, 2007

State of California
Department of Water Resources
Division of Planning and Local Assistance
DWR Watershed Program
P. O. Box 948236
Sacramento, CA 94236-001

Re: CalFed Grant Application: Lower Merced River Watershed Management Plan

To Whom It May Concern:

We are property owners and farmers on the Merced River; we farm 815 acres which is contiguous to the River. We have lived in this community since 1852 and we have been active in the Merced River Stakeholders group since its inception in 1998-1999. As a family we have supported many activities of the stakeholders group; in 2001 we hosted 100 VIP guests of the Wild on Watershed tour for a luncheon along our river.

The Merced River Stakeholders group was formed as a part of the initial project to design a Merced River Corridor Restoration plan. There have been lots of meetings (5-12 per year) which we have faithfully attended to help align the interests of the property owners and the agencies/other interested stakeholders; generally, at least three members of the family attend every meeting.

In 2000, we formed a group of property owners which we have kept informed of issues as they developed; when necessary we could muster a large group to attend meetings. Members of this group are our friends and neighbors; many of these friendships span several generations.

Our reason for giving you this history is to illustrate our commitment to the Merced River watershed; and, to establish our credentials and standing to comment on the above-referenced grant.
We oppose the grant for the following reasons:

1. There is little grassroots support for this project: Appropriate process was not followed in allowing the stakeholders to review or comment on the subject/scope of the project. We are in the Snelling MAC district but we were not even notified of the meeting, if one was held, at which the endorsement of this grant was awarded;
2. There is little chance that the grant applicants will be able to accomplish their stated objectives: 98% of the property in the lower Merced River watershed is privately owned; at least 85% of the property is owned by stakeholders who will allow no access to their land for purposes of executing this grant; and,
3. This grant will destroy the existing cooperation among property owners, agencies, and other stakeholders because it totally violates the trust which we have fought to build.

The methodology for accomplishing the work product of this grant is seriously flawed; the grant writers propose a series of work groups (ten) which will meet only twice in a three year period. A rational person will immediately understand that the role of each work group will be to rubberstamp the activities of staff, who will “gather and synthesize extensive existing information”. No qualifications are given as to the education or experience of those tasked with performing the work of the grant; Stillwater Sciences has a role in the project but will not be performing the day-to-day work.

The above-referenced grant was submitted by EMRCD staff (one of whom is the facilitator for the Merced River Stakeholders group); this group chose not to follow the agreed-upon protocol allowing review by the Merced River Stakeholders before presenting any proposal which affects the watershed (this particular betrayal by the MRS facilitator is very troublesome). There was no opportunity for discussion of the concept before the initial submission; there has been no input or cross-cultivation of ideas among the many stakeholders who should be represented in this effort.

The first that the Stakeholders group knew of the grant request was when the concept proposal was approved in principle by CalFed, at which time we were informed that our input was invited but the concept could not be changed substantively without compromising the potential success of the final grant product.

Despite our specific requests, we still have not received a copy of the final rendition of this grant, making it quite difficult to comment on a point-by-point basis or to know the particulars of the grant, e.g., assigned project number, etc.

It appears from the information we have received that one of the goals of CalFed in the awarding of these grants is to “ensure the long-term sustainability of watershed management”; another goal is to “develop a plan to address recreational opportunities”.

We can assure you that neither goal has any chance to be accomplished by excluding the property owners from the planning and execution of this project.

We want a voice in determining the future of the Merced River watershed; it is unfair to expect us to sit by and let our destiny be determined by professional grant writers with the goal of using this project to fund their own salaries for the next three years. They will then move on to the next project which promises acceptable remuneration leaving us to deal with the consequences of whatever planning they have done.

At the request of the review committee we will make a personal appearance before the committee to discuss this situation and/or present additional written information.

We urge the committee to not fund this grant; in this time of scarce resources every dollar needs to be spent wisely and judiciously on projects which will protect and foster stewardship on the Merced River.

Sincerely,

/s/ by Gladys Barbara Bettencourt
Patricia Bettencourt Ferrigno
Michael D. Bettencourt
Nancy Bettencourt Deavours
Lorrie Bettencourt McDowell
Sharon Bettencourt Dragovich

cc: Deidre Kelsey, Supervisor District 4, Merced County
Diana Westmoreland-Pedrozo, Merced County Farm Bureau
John Garamendi, Lieutenant Governor, State of California
Dennis Cardoza, Congressional District 18
Jeff Denham, Senatorial District 17

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Merced River Stakeholders protest letter to East Merced Resource Conservation District grant proposal and a chonology of e-mails

Submitted: Sep 19, 2007

Stefan Lorenzato
Watershed Program Manager
Resource Restoration & Project Support
(916) 651-9617
(916) 651-9607 fax
stefanl@water.ca.gov

Kristyne Miller, Grant Manager
Resource Restoration & Project Support
(916) 651-9621
kmiller@water.ca.gov

Megan Fidell, Watershed Program Staff
Resource Restoration & Project Support
(916) 651-9619
mfidell@water.ca.gov
Dan Wermiel, Watershed Program Staff
Resources Agency - CALFED Watershed Program June 4, 2007
(916) 445-5398
dwermiel@calwater.ca.gov Via :Email & Fax
Re: Lower Merced Watershed Management Plan grant proposal submitted by East Merced Resource Conservation District

Dear Mr. Lorenzato, Ms. Miller, Ms. Fidell and Mr. Wermiel,

We are writing, as members of the Merced River Stakeholders, to protest a proposal submitted by the East Merced Resource Conservation District (EMRCD) called “Lower Merced Watershed Management Plan.”

This letter includes:

1) Objections to the substance of the conceptual application;
2) Objections to the process by which the EMRCD, a public agency, bypassed the Merced River Stakeholders in drafting and approving this grant against significant opposition;
3) A statement of the next steps stakeholders will take should this grant be approved;
4) Attached Merced River Stakeholders’ chronology of correspondence on this proposal.

1. Objections to the substance of the conceptual application

· Where are the traditional partners that have been involved in every Merced River project and application to date: Merced Irrigation District, Merced River Stakeholders, California Department of Fish and Game, for example?

· “…and a consultant (as yet to be selected) experienced in facilitation and the Central Valley Blueprint process – a process similar to the development of this plan.” It is highly probable a consultant has already been selected, so why the mystery?

· The proposal states that a plan will be developed to address recreational opportunities. The Merced watershed is almost completely privately owned (and those owners are well represented on the Merced River Stakeholders.) “Recreational opportunity” is a very contentious issue on the Lower Merced River.

· How can this grant fund a management plan for the Merced River Watershed and manage lands outside that watershed? The vast majority of vernal pool habitat in Eastern Merced County is NOT in the Merced River Watershed. This fact is well known to watershed owners and to Merced Irrigation District (not a partner to this grant proposal). This problem may be addressed by another grant EMRCD is proposing, to NFWF, as part of their match. But, this is not clear.

· If the Merced River Stakeholders are as the proposal presents us, an unduplicated model of consistent public/private interaction, why aren’t the stakeholders partners in the grant?

· Six thousand dollars sounds like an inflated amount to publish a plan.

· Some stakeholders, even after reading the concept proposal, were misled by EMRCD communications into thinking the proposal submitted on June 1 was not the final proposal and that it could be changed later to reflect stakeholders' concerns. EMRCD made no copies of the June 1 proposal available to stakeholders prior to submission. Merced River Stakeholders that aren't members of the EMRCD board do not know what proposal the EMRCD voted unanimously to support. If it was the concept proposal, stakeholders raised numerous objections to it and some told EMRCD they would strenuously oppose it.

· “And many involved will have the authority to implement parts of the plan, such as federal, state and local agencies or Municipal Advisory Councils.” EMRCD staff evidently does not know that MACs have no authority. They are appointed in unincorporated towns by their district supervisors to serve strictly as advisory groups. This is a strange blank spot in EMRCD staff knowledge, considering that the EMRCD board president serves on one MAC and an EMRCD associate director is a county planning commissioner.

· “The success of this project will dependant upon connections with other projects, the academic and scientific community and agencies in the watershed. The management team will devote a significant amount of time to gathering data on existing conditions within the watershed in order to provide baseline information to the work groups.” Hasn’t this been done in the literature review in the MRS Restoration Plan? It just needs updating to add the studies completed since 2002. Why will it take a significant amount of time? Existing conditions are part of the Merced River Restoration Plan. Beyond the watershed, we doubt if that work has been done (in the vernal pools area). However, a great deal of mapping of vernal
pools has also been done by agencies such as the University of California and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

· Items in the budget section:

o data collection: 650 hrs collecting and compiling background data for the Plan. @ $40 hr =$26,000. That would be EMRCD… for all the projects we have seen, Stillwater has compiled an extensive inventory of existing studies through 2002. What other data has to be collected?
o Purchase1 laptop computer ($1,500).

o Scientific Consultant will compile and synthesize data $22,547 What does this mean? If EMRCD collects and compiles it, why does Scientific Consultant then compile it again (and synthesize it)?

o Training: Attend facilitation & technical training workshops and conferences. 2 EMRCD personnel x 2 trainings ea per year = 12 trainings X 20 hrs pr workshop/conference = 240 hrs @ $40 hr = $9,600. Plus registration $1,400, meals $360, mileage $2,000 and lodging $1,200. Elsewhere in the proposal, it is mentioned a professional facilitator was going to be used.

· “The management team will gather and synthesize existing information on the watershed – including, but not limited to Merced River Corridor Restoration Plan, Merced Alliance Biological Assessment, USFWS Endangered Species Recovery Program, ongoing fish and water supply studies by Merced Irrigation District, TMDLs, Wildlife and Rare Plant Ecology of Eastern Merced County’s Vernal Pool Grasslands, DWR and UC Merced information on climate change.” The last we knew, the Merced doesn’t have a TMDL. Stillwater should have all the data noted above except Vernal Pools and maybe UC Merced data. They should have a good idea of what DWR has. Again, this grant is for the Merced watershed unless they expand it (or unless they don’t get called on it).

· UC Merced and the Upper Merced River Watershed Council/Mariposa Resource Conservation District both submitted concept proposals to CALFED in this funding cycle. Neither were accepted. In this context, the EMRCD proposal is fragmentary, is straying out of the Lower Merced River Watershed into Eastern Merced vernal pool land that is not in the river watershed, and cannot result in a comprehensive watershed planning tool because it relied on other conceptual proposals that weren't accepted.

· What is the need for watershed coordinator, grant manager, and education/outreach coordinator?

· “Many of the partners and agencies will internalize the ideas and knowledge acquired during the workgroup and planning process, making connections to their institutional strategic plans and budgets.” We would appreciate it if EMRCD staff

· will provide us with their methodology for quantifying the results on this statement.

· “An important component of this project will be the development of concept proposals that would address the needs identified in the plan. With concept proposals in place, landowners, nonprofits and agencies will have the core concepts for implementation ready to use and can more easily acquire funding, permits and/or partners for important work. The business community will become involved stakeholders, recognizing that they have more likely to fund further meetings and projects.” Huh?

· “Many of the concepts introduced during this process may become part of the Merced County General Plan Update currently in process (earliest expected completion date, Spring 2009). Several of Watershed Plan participants are involved in Focus Groups for the County General Plan Update, including EMRCD board members. If the Watershed Plan proposal is funded, the process and the Plan have great potential to influence the County General Plan Update.” Again, we would appreciate the EMRCD staff providing the methodology by which they plan to implement this political fantasy. The Merced River Stakeholders are on record as opposing the Merced River Corridor Restoration Plan being treated as a political policy document locally, regionally or for state or federal use.

· Merced River Stakeholders were denied review of the final proposal. What we see in the concept proposal doesn’t give us a clear picture of the roles or staff, outcomes, or processes by which the tasks will be accomplished. We cannot imagine the CALFED review panel will approve this proposal.

· Finally, our question to CALFED is: Why aren’t the Merced River Stakeholders the preferred vehicle of partnership and consensus at this point?

2) Objections to the process by which the EMRCD, a public agency, bypassed the Merced River Stakeholders in drafting and approving this grant against significant opposition

To: Merced River Stakeholders (MRS) and East Merced Resource Conservation District (EMRCD) Board of Directors
From: Lydia Miller, Merced River Stakeholder, and president of San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Re: Refutation of RCD watershed coordinator’s version of events surrounding two grant proposals
Date: May 23, 2007

This letter will refer to a chain of emails attached below and to notes taken at the March 19 and May 21 MRS during which staff presented two grant proposals for MRS support. Staff’s recollections of events, put forth in her email of May 23, are inaccurate and misleading. Because of the timing, they appear to be last-ditch efforts to influence the RCD board vote this afternoon.

Comments made at the March 19 meeting were not included in the later version of the CalFed grant. Nor were they included in the minutes of the March 19 meeting, which staff admitted at the May 21 meeting.
These comments included:

1) Starting up a Technical Advisory Committee again, after the TAC approach has already proved unsuccessful in the stakeholder process because it separates agencies from other stakeholders and creates a top-down decision-making hierarchy;
2) San Joaquin Valley Blueprint and UC/Great Valley Center experience: there are stakeholders who don’t support either and neither organization has participated in the MRS process;
3) Partners and co-sponsors of these grants have never attended MRS meetings. Staff who created these grants did not recognize local stakeholders except to come to them at the eleventh hour, present them a grant, tell them it couldn’t be changed, and request MRS support;
4) The Merced River has not political voice on the county Board of Supervisors because Supervisor Kelsey recuses herself on all issues involving the river;
5) The California Department of Fish and Game and USFWS Endangered Species Sac. has no involvement in these grants;
6) According to staff, the document to be produced by the CalFed grant will become a part of the Merced County General Plan Update and become planning policy; the partners and co-sponsors on the proposal are not representative of real stakeholders on the river;
7) Merced River Corridor Restoration Plan is not a policy document either, despite repeated attempts of county special interests to make it one; it remains a fluid document;
8) MRS, composed of agencies, landowners, businesses and environmental representatives, has been involved in the stakeholder process since 1999; the partners listed on these grants have not been involved in MRS;
9) MRS did not support the grant concept proposal; MRS will oppose it; it was presented by staff at the March 19 meeting as a done deal in its present form that could not be altered (comments on it weren’t even included in the minutes of the meeting).

At the May 21 meeting of MRS, some new issues were brought out:

1) There at least two grant proposals being submitted and there may be more; they may duplicate tasks; there is no coordination among them – the topic of coordination is mentioned, but not explained;
2) The recipients of funding for staff work are not identified, but it is apparent there will be significant monetary advantage from the grants to RCD, Stillwater, and the Merced River Alliance.
3) The orderly way to proceed on the consultant portion of the grant would be to put the consultant’s tasks out to bid; it appears here that the consultant may have been the primary grant writer;
4) RCD has proving itself on four occasions to be unable to administer past grants; four grants have been frozen due to RCD lack of accountability;
5) Thirty-to-40 concerns were written down by a facilitator who was not invited by MRS at the May 21 meeting; none of these have been incorporated in to the grant nor has their been any attempt to incorporate them into the document the RCD board will be asked to approve today;
Only four stakeholders among the MRS participants had read the grant. None of the four RCD board members had read it. Staff picked and chose who got to see it.

Staff claims the RCD will make all information about tasks in the grants available to the public through its website. RCD staff got off to a bad start: the grant proposals were not posted on its website.
Staff attempts to railroad the MRS have the appearance of corruption.
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center and its associated organizations cannot support these grant proposals.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center
San Joaquin Raptor / Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

3) A statement of the next steps stakeholders will take should this grant be approved
If approval of this grant proceeds, we request a formal hearing to protest further what we consider to be a misuse of public funds. Considering that public funds are involved and there is substantial controversy about the efficacy, propriety and failure of public process by the applicant public agency contained in this proposal concerning vital natural resources in our county, we suggest that the project, if approved, would require CEQA and NEPA review.

We believe the project is legally actionable and are considering our legal options at this time.
We request notification of your decision on the grant. In the event that you approve the grant, we request that you provide us with all material supporting your reasons for that approval.

4) Attached Merced River Stakeholders’ chronology of correspondence on this proposal. (See attachment “MRS Chronology”)
Respectfully,

Lydia M. Miller Steve Burke
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center Protect Our Water (POW)
P.O. Box 778 3105 Yorkshire Lane
Merced, CA 95341 Modesto, CA 95350
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax (209) 523-1391, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net/sjrrc@sbcglobal.net

Bill Hatch
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy
P.O Box 732
Merced, CA 95341
209-723-9283 ph & fax
sjvc@bigvalley.net

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
San Joaquin Raptor /Wildlife Rescue Center Protect Our Water
Merced River Valley Association The Stevinson Citizen’s Group
Planada Association Le Grand Association
Planada Community Development Co. Stanislaus Natural Heritage
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy
CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORK
MISSION STATEMENT
Central Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of "Eco-Justice" -- the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political, and religious groups, and other stakeholders.

P.O. Box 64
Merced, CA 95341
cvsen@sbcglobal.net
cvsen@bigvalley.net
--------------------------------

----- Original Message -----
From: Four Seasons Ag. Consulting, Inc.
To: 'Raptorctr' ; 'Gwen Huff'
Cc: 'Karen Barstow' ; 'Cathy & Don Weber' ; 'Bernard Wade' ; 'Glenn Anderson' ; 'Whipp' ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; doubletacres@aol.com ; 'SJRRC'
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 10:58 PM
Subject: RE: EMRCD Grant Proposal

Dear Lydia,
The grant was finished and sent off to Sacramento at 12:30 pm today, at which time, Gwen, turned her attention to Saturday’s Merced River Fair, which she is responsible for, and the Heartland Festival. Plus she was away from her home computer. I am sure she will send it to you Monday when she is back in her office. There was no slight intended, just the reality of multiple responsibilities.
Hope to see you here, at the Merced River Fair, again this year.
Thanks, Cindy

From: Raptorctr [mailto:Raptorctr@bigvalley.net]
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 1:55 PM
To: Gwen Huff
Cc: 'Karen Barstow'; Cindy Lashbrook; Cathy & Don Weber; Bernard Wade; Glenn Anderson; Whipp; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us; doubletacres@aol.com; SJRRC
Subject: Re: EMRCD Grant Proposal
Importance: High

To: Board of Directors, East Merced Resource Conservation District
Date: June 1, 2007
Re: Request to review final copy of grant proposal
Members of the Board,

At the Merced River Stakeholders meeting, EMRCD staff informed stakeholders that changes might be made in the grant proposal that you approved several days later. We have been waiting to view the final document. EMRCD staff has not made it available to stakeholders who have consistently requested to see it.
We are disappointed that the EMRCD board and staff did not give us the opportunity review the proposal before it is submitted.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Raptorctr
To: Gwen Huff
Cc: 'Karen Barstow' ; Cindy Lashbrook ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Bernard Wade ; Glenn Anderson ; Whipp ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; doubletacres@aol.com
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 4:50 PM
Subject: EMRCD Grant Proposal

Gwen,

We are requesting that you send us on Friday an electronic copy of the final grant proposal in the form it is being submitted.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Raptorctr
To: Gwen Huff
Cc: 'Karen Barstow' ; Cindy Lashbrook ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Bernard Wade ; Glenn Anderson ; Whipp ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; doubletacres@aol.com ; SJRRC
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 1:55 PM
Subject: Re: EMRCD Grant Proposal

To: Board of Directors, East Merced Resource Conservation District
Date: June 1, 2007
Re: Request to review final copy of grant proposal
Members of the Board,

At the Merced River Stakeholders meeting, EMRCD staff informed stakeholders that changes might be made in the grant proposal that you approved several days later. We have been waiting to view the final document. EMRCD staff has not made it available to stakeholders who have consistently requested to see it.
We are disappointed that the EMRCD board and staff did not give us the opportunity review the proposal before it is submitted.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Raptorctr
To: Gwen Huff
Cc: 'Karen Barstow' ; Cindy Lashbrook ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Bernard Wade ; Glenn Anderson ; Whipp ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; doubletacres@aol.com
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 4:50 PM
Subject: EMRCD Grant Proposal

Gwen,

We are requesting that you send us on Friday an electronic copy of the final grant proposal in the form it is being submitted.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Karen L Whipp
To: Raptorctr ; Gwen Huff
Cc: 'Karen Barstow' ; Cindy Lashbrook ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Bernard Wade ; Glenn Anderson ; Whipp ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; doubletacres@aol.com
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 5:08 PM
Subject: Re: EMRCD Grant Proposal

Cindy,

We have names that you can us as contact names to see about getting these letters of support If you want I will email them to you later today! ok.

Karen

Raptorctr wrote:
Gwen,

We are requesting that you send us on Friday an electronic copy of the final grant proposal in the form it is being submitted.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

KL Whipp & Co. Inc.
"providing a voice to those in need"
Karen L. Whipp, President
P.O. Box 1426
Merced, CA 95341-1426
Tel: 209.723.6755
Fax: 209.723.0880
email: kwhipp@klwhippandco.com
website: www.klwhippandco.com

----- Original Message -----
From: Raptorctr
To: Gwen Huff
Cc: 'Karen Barstow' ; Cindy Lashbrook ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Bernard Wade ; Glenn Anderson ; Whipp ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ; doubletacres@aol.com
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 4:50 PM
Subject: EMRCD Grant Proposal

Gwen,

We are requesting that you send us on Friday an electronic copy of the final grant proposal in the form it is being submitted.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Jon Kelsey
To: SJRRC ; Gwen Huff ; 'Pat Ferrigno' ; 'Hicham Eltal' ; 'Jean Kiel' ; 'Jean Okuye' ; 'Jeannie Habbin' ; 'Jeff McLain' ; 'Jeff Wilson' ; 'Jim Genes' ; 'JoAnne Armstrong' ; 'Joanne Karlton' ; 'Joe Mitchell' ; 'John Shelton' ; 'Kazi Rasheedi' ; 'Ken Jensen' ; 'Kevin Faulkenberry' ; lrobinson@muhsd.k12.ca.us ; 'Maia Singer' ; 'Marc Epstein' ; 'Marna Cooper' ; Marsh Pitman ; 'Mary Ward' ; 'Michael Rood' ; 'Michelle Cuningham' ; 'Mike Bettencourt' ; 'Mike Gallo' ; 'Molly Flemate' ; 'Nancy McConnell' ; 'Pam Buford' ; pklassen@unwiredbb.com ; 'Pat Brantley' ; 'Peggy Vejar' ; 'Rob Root' ; 'Ronnie Grisom' ; 'Rudy & Hope Platzek' ; 'Scott Stoddard' ; 'Scott Turner' ; 'Sharon Boyce' ; 'Steve Simmons' ; 'Tami Cosio' ; 'Tom Grave' ; 'Urla Garland' ; 'Virginia Mahacek' ; 'Zooey Diggory' ; Whipp ; Glenn Anderson ; Bernard Wade ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Mary Furey ; Cindy Lashbrook ; 'Karen Barstow' ; Malia Hildebrandt ; Merced Farm Bureau ; Mike Pellicano ; Tim Johnson ; watershed@sti.net ; watershededucator@sti.net ; Robbyavilla@aol.com ; Koch ; William Loudermilk ; Madelyn T. Martinez ; Rhonda Reed ; Teri Murrison ; William Hatch
Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2007 4:14 PM
Subject: Re: A point of clarification on EMRCD Grant Proposal

Deidre Kelsey here. I have just today been made aware of the problems with the grant application not being reviewed by the Merced River Stakeholder group. As the Board of Supervisor member who represents the Merced River within Merced County, and who helped launch the Stakeholder process years ago, I am concerned about these problems. I have asked to speak with Gwen Huff and expect she will call me soon. I must correct Ms. Miller's assertion that I am "conflicted' on river issues or have no political voice". This untrue statement, which apparently has been repeated at previous MRS meeting, is misleading and again, is untrue. The future of the river as a resource for our county is what is important. I have helped on many watershed and river related or fishery related issues in the past and I am ready to help with this problem or any other that affects my district and the County of Merced.
Deidre

----- Original Message -----
From: SJRRC
To: Gwen Huff ; 'Pat Ferrigno' ; 'Hicham Eltal' ; 'Jean Kiel' ; 'Jean Okuye' ; 'Jeannie Habbin' ; 'Jeff McLain' ; 'Jeff Wilson' ; 'Jim Genes' ; 'JoAnne Armstrong' ; 'Joanne Karlton' ; 'Joe Mitchell' ; 'John Shelton' ; 'Jon Kelsey' ; 'Kazi Rasheedi' ; 'Ken Jensen' ; 'Kevin Faulkenberry' ; lrobinson@muhsd.k12.ca.us ; 'Maia Singer' ; 'Marc Epstein' ; 'Marna Cooper' ; Marsh Pitman ; 'Mary Ward' ; 'Michael Rood' ; 'Michelle Cuningham' ; 'Mike Bettencourt' ; 'Mike Gallo' ; 'Molly Flemate' ; 'Nancy McConnell' ; 'Pam Buford' ; pklassen@unwiredbb.com ; 'Pat Brantley' ; 'Peggy Vejar' ; 'Rob Root' ; 'Ronnie Grisom' ; 'Rudy & Hope Platzek' ; 'Scott Stoddard' ; 'Scott Turner' ; 'Sharon Boyce' ; 'Steve Simmons' ; 'Tami Cosio' ; 'Tom Grave' ; 'Urla Garland' ; 'Virginia Mahacek' ; 'Zooey Diggory' ; Whipp ; Glenn Anderson ; Bernard Wade ; Cathy & Don Weber ; Mary Furey ; Cindy Lashbrook ; 'Karen Barstow' ; Malia Hildebrandt ; Merced Farm Bureau ; Mike Pellicano ; Tim Johnson ; watershed@sti.net ; watershededucator@sti.net ; Robbyavilla@aol.com ; Koch ; William Loudermilk ; Madelyn T. Martinez ; Rhonda Reed ; Teri Murrison ; William Hatch
Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2007 1:56 PM
Subject: Re: A point of clarification on EMRCD Grant Proposal
To: Merced River Stakeholders (MRS) and East Merced Resource Conservation District (EMRCD) Board of Directors
From: Lydia Miller, Merced River Stakeholder, and president of San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Re: Refutation of RCD watershed coordinator’s version of events surrounding two grant proposals
Date: May 23, 2007

This letter will refer to a chain of emails attached below and to notes taken at the March 19 and May 21 MRS during which staff presented a grant proposal for MRS support. Later, we discovered there was a second grant proposal that was never submitted to MRS for review or support. Staff’s recollections of events, put forth in her email of May 23, are inaccurate and misleading. Because of the timing, they appear to be last-ditch efforts to influence the RCD board vote this afternoon. As staff stated in her May 16 email response, staff is presenting MRS as a full participant and supporter of these grant proposals.

Lastly, the idea of substituting the Management Plan process for the MRS meetings was not a good one. I heard that loud and clear. I was happy to get that feedback – it reminded me that the MRS meetings are, indeed, valuable for those who come. So, when changing the concept proposal to the final proposal, we will be adding in the MRS meetings. We cannot add anymore to the budget, so we will just have to work things out to accommodate this. Most probably we will hold the MRS meetings on the same day as we hold the logistics meetings to save on costs and it will most likely change to once a quarter instead of every other month. At the MRS meetings we will be able to summarize progress on the Management Plan, but attendees will have had to do their homework on the website because we will want time for group input, not spending too much time bringing everyone up to speed. At these MRS meetings we will ask the group for feedback on the process and the direction, as well as encouraging continued participation in the workgroups.
Oh – and when the workgroups have finished meeting and a draft plan is put together based on their meetings, this draft plan will be circulated to the stakeholders, as well as all work group participants, to see that it accurately reflects their experience. Review from them will shape the final project. -- Email from Gwen Huff to Lydia Miller, May 16, 2007

This comment by RCD staff ignores the fact that consistent stakeholders, who have been in the process since its beginning in 1999, were not involved in the drafting of the proposals, have basic objections to the proposals and will oppose the funding publicly.

The EMRCD Directors have now been made aware of the lapse in soliciting MRS comments and are resolved to rectify that failing. Canceling the current proposal signals termination of the MRS and continued scientific research on the Merced River. Then we are out of the loop and CalFed can award the money to a candidate regardless of content. Best Regards, Bernie

RCD President Bernie Wade's comment in his May 22 email is irresponsible, inaccurate and typical of what the east Merced public has come to expect from the RCD.

1) RCD cannot rectify the failure to solicit MRS comments in time;
2) Cancelling the current proposal does not signal termination of the MRS or continued scientific research: MRS is a volunteer organization that can dispense with the services of a paid coordinator; and according to the primary grant writer, Maia Singer, (during May 21 MRS meeting) there is other grant money available to implement scientific research on the river.

Comments made at the March 19 meeting were not included in the later version of the CalFed grant. Nor were they included in the minutes of the March 19 meeting, which staff admitted at the May 21 meeting.

Some of these comments included:

1) Starting up a Technical Advisory Committee again, after the TAC approach has already proved unsuccessful in the stakeholder process because it separates agencies from other stakeholders and creates a top-down decision-making hierarchy;
2) San Joaquin Valley Blueprint and UC/Great Valley Center experience: there are stakeholders who don’t support either and neither organization has participated in the MRS process;
3) Partners and co-sponsors of these grants have never attended MRS meetings. Staff who created these grants did not recognize local stakeholders except to come to them at the eleventh hour, present them a grant, tell them it couldn’t be changed, and request MRS support;
4) The Merced River has no political voice on the county Board of Supervisors because Supervisor Kelsey recuses herself on all issues involving the river;
5) The California Department of Fish and Game and USFWS Endangered Species Sac. has no involvement in these grants;
6) According to staff, the document to be produced by the CalFed grant will become a part of the Merced County General Plan Update and become planning policy; the partners and co-sponsors on the proposal are not representative of real stakeholders on the river;
7) Merced River Corridor Restoration Plan is not a policy document either, despite repeated attempts of county special interests to make it one; it remains a fluid document;
8) MRS, composed of agencies, landowners, businesses and environmental representatives, has been involved in the stakeholder process since 1999; the partners listed on these grants have not been involved in MRS;
9) Some MRS members did not support the grant concept proposal; they will oppose it; it was presented by staff at the March 19 meeting as a done deal in its present form that could not be altered (comments on it weren’t even included in the minutes of the meeting).

At the May 21 meeting of MRS, some new issues were brought out:

1) There at least two grant proposals being submitted and there may be more; they may duplicate tasks; there is no coordination among them – the topic of coordination is mentioned, but not explained;
2) The recipients of funding for staff work are not identified, but it is apparent there will be significant monetary advantage from the grants to RCD, Stillwater, and the Merced River Alliance.
3) The orderly way to proceed on the consultant portion of the grant would be to put the consultant’s tasks out to bid; it appears here that the consultant may have been the primary grant writer;
4) RCD has proving itself on four occasions to be unable to administer past grants; four grants have been frozen due to RCD lack of accountability;
5) Thirty-to-40 concerns were written down by a facilitator who was not invited by MRS at the May 21 meeting; none of these have been incorporated in to the grant nor has their been any attempt to incorporate them into the document the RCD board will be asked to approve today;
6) Only four stakeholders among the MRS participants had read the grants. None of the four RCD board members had read them. Staff picked and chose who got to see it.

Staff claims the RCD will make all information about tasks in the grants available to the public through its website. RCD staff got off to a bad start: the grant proposals were not posted on its website.

Staff attempts to railroad the MRS have the appearance of corruption.

San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center and its associated organizations cannot support these grant proposals because staff has already shown it is ignoring significant critical input by MRS members.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor RescueCenter
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net
-----------------

CHRONOLOGY OF E-MAILS

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: 'Pat Ferrigno' ; 'Hicham Eltal' ; 'Jean Kiel' ; 'Jean Okuye' ; 'Jeannie Habbin' ; 'Jeff McLain' ; 'Jeff Wilson' ; 'Jim Genes' ; 'JoAnne Armstrong' ; 'Joanne Karlton' ; 'Joe Mitchell' ; 'John Shelton' ; 'Jon Kelsey' ; 'Kazi Rasheedi' ; 'Ken Jensen' ; 'Kevin Faulkenberry' ; lrobinson@muhsd.k12.ca.us ; 'Lydia Miller' ; 'Maia Singer' ; 'Marc Epstein' ; 'Marna Cooper' ; marshpitman@sbcglobal.net ; 'Mary Ward' ; 'Michael Rood' ; 'Michelle Cuningham' ; 'Mike Bettencourt' ; 'Mike Gallo' ; 'Molly Flemate' ; 'Nancy McConnell' ; 'Pam Buford' ; pklassen@unwiredbb.com ; 'Pat Brantley' ; 'Peggy Vejar' ; 'Rob Root' ; 'Ronnie Grisom' ; 'Rudy & Hope Platzek' ; 'Scott Stoddard' ; 'Scott Turner' ; 'Sharon Boyce' ; 'Steve Simmons' ; 'Tami Cosio' ; 'Tom Grave' ; 'Urla Garland' ; 'Virginia Mahacek' ; 'Zooey Diggory'
Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2007 8:35 AM
Subject: A point of clarification on EMRCD Grant Proposal

Pat and Bernie –

I just wanted to add a little bit to this discussion on the point about gathering input from stakeholders. The effort may or may not have been adequate in everyone’s opinion, but below you will find my recollections on what was done.

At the March MRS meeting printed copies of the concept proposal were made available, for anyone who cared to have one.

During the meeting a presentation was made outlining the proposed grant and request made for input from stakeholders. Comments were made and incorporated.

Upon notification that we had been asked to submit a full proposal, the following email went out to the entire MRS:

Stakeholders –

Today we received the very good news that our concept proposal was accepted to go to the next, and final round. You may remember we talked about this at the last MRS meeting and you said you wanted to give more input to the final proposal. I will call all the stakeholders who have been frequent attendees and we will go over the project as it now stands and see where we can modify to make it better. If you are not a regular attendee, and you want to participate in this process, please let me know. I will be happy to call you, too.

Also, at the next MRS meeting, May 21, our primary order of business will be to go over the proposed project and get input from the stakeholders as a whole. I hope that you will make an effort to be there. I’ll be sending out more meeting details later.

I am pleased that we were asked to go forward – I think the project has potential to coordinate many of the diverse efforts and interests in the Merced Watershed.

Following this, contact was made with all those who regularly attend stakeholder meetings, soliciting their input. Those contacted by email only were also sent a summary of the concept proposal. The text of such emails is as follows:

As you will remember, at the last MRS meeting we talked about the upcoming grant proposal. I’m attaching a summary of the draft proposal to help jog your memory.

There were some comments that I received that we will be incorporating into the final proposal, they are:

· Keep the Merced River Stakeholders meetings going (we will – may have to go to once a quarter)
· Review the focus areas for the work groups (looking for your input on this)
· Be sure to include more stakeholders so all organizations are working together (any organizations you know of that we should contact?)
· Be careful that the management team isn’t separate from stakeholders (may rename this to the “Logistics Workgroup” rather than “Management Team” as the bulk of work will be compiling and sorting information from the workgroups, and outside sources, as well as setting up and facilitating workgroup meetings. The real work will take place in the workgroups. Additionally, the minutes of the “Logistics Workgroup” will be posted with all other work group meetings on the website that will be set up for this and the meetings will be open to all)

If you would like to talk to me or email me about this issues, or others that come up for you, regarding the grant proposal, I am very anxious to have as much input as possible from every interested (and even not so interested) party.

Remember – this is due in Sacramento by June 1st and the sooner we get any comments, the more likely we will be able to incorporate them. Thanks for taking the time to look at this.

One stakeholder requested the full concept proposal and this was sent. Two stakeholders responded to this request for input, Glenn Anderson who provided suggestions on workgroup content, and Sharon Dragovich stating;

As of now, my family’s position is the same as at the last meeting. We do not believe that this grant is consistent with the direction which the property owners (those who make their living along land contiguous to the river) have supported in the past and we cannot support it.

We believe the appropriate focus of the Merced River Stakeholders Group should be (1) oversight of projects which impact the River and (2) education. We expect to be present and to participate in the discussion on Monday night. The Grants timing is unfortunate for farmers (this is everyone’s busy season) and it is doubtful that we will be able to get them to attend this meeting; we will keep the property owners group up to date on the discussion through 1:1 contact and mailings.

Sharon’s family was contacted (Pat Ferrigno and Mike Bettencourt) by phone and personal visit in order to hear their concerns and attempt to shape the proposal to better represent their interests.

Lastly, the May MRS meeting devoted a significant portion of the time to the concept proposal.

Respectfully submitted - Gwen
------------------

From: Pat Ferrigno [mailto:pferrigno@elite.net]
Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2007 4:16 AM
To: 'Brwade@aol.com'
Subject: RE: May 22nd Update

Bernie: Nothing in our previous comments was meant to impugn your sincerity or good faith in dealing with EMRCD or MRS and I apologize to you if that was your interpretation. The fact that you must book-end meetings with a 125 mile commute is solid evidence of your commitment; I’m not sure how many of us would make that sacrifice.

There is an appearance of impropriety, a sense that the process has become inbred. The entire MRS meeting was agenda-ed as a discussion of the grant application—but a copy of the grant was supplied only to those who specifically requested it (Lydia Miller and Sharon Dragovich). The grant application was written, reviewed, and approved by the same committee and the members of that committee appear to be the direct financial beneficiaries of the grant.

Actually, staff for this project has never been formally identified nor have their qualifications to represent the diverse watershed interests been described. There were no job descriptions nor qualifications outlines included in the grant application we received.

The #1 Project Priority stated in this grant is to “Broaden the participation of Federal, State, or local government agencies with watershed partnerships”. How many of us have had our lives/property improved through participation of the government? With the shortage of water which is looming in the future of California and the upcoming (2012?) change in the MID relationship with the River, we are all very sensitive; several of the identified partners in this grant are already “water shopping”. These groups have never been involved in watershed activities on the Merced; what criteria was used to select partners? What is the objective of the partnership? These are valid questions which were never addressed/answered.

Comments made at the meeting espoused the thesis that MRS has no standing because it is “only” a consensus group; therefore there was no imperative for this grant to be presented to MRS. Does it not seem hypocritical for this project to be excepted from review when we have, as a group, scrutinized and withheld endorsement of other projects?

No one wants MRS to die for lack of funding; if necessary, we will keep it going through purely volunteer efforts until we can identify a funding source. MRS is the only forum for interaction and the exchange of ideas; it provides the opportunity of face-to-face meeting for those who have nothing in common except MRS.

We don’t know the answer to this grant funding cycle dilemma; the copy of the grant which we reviewed at MRS does not represent the views of many of the stakeholders. Does EMRCD have the right to proceed with attempting to obtain grant funding for a project which lacks broadbased grassroots support? Thank you for acknowledging the awareness which EMRCD now has regarding this situation. We no longer feel that it is necessary to submit a formal letter to you.

Best regards,
Pat Ferrigno, Mike Bettencourt, Sharon Dragovich
--------------------------

From: Brwade@aol.com [mailto:Brwade@aol.com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2007 5:08 PM
To: pferrigno@elite.net
Subject: May 22nd Update

Dear Pat, A case well explained. I appreciate your comments and pointing out the consultations we had missed. I thought the MRS had been notified and had received copies of the Grant Proposal. There has never been on my part any attempt to ignore MRS or any other concerned input. I think the Directors saw this as a continuation of River Studies already underway and we were merely complying with the CalFed request for a
Grant Proposal. I know the time limit for submittals has been extremely close. The Vernal Pools Grant proposal had to be submitted in a little over 48 hours.

The EMRCD Directors have now been made aware of the lapse in soliciting MRS comments and are resolved to rectify that failing. Canceling the current proposal signals termination of the MRS and continued scientific research on the Merced River. Then we are out of the loop and CalFed can award the money to a candidate regardless of content. Best Regards, Bernie

PS. Myself, and the Directors I know, have never received any compensation for our
participation in the EMRCD even though we are legally entitled to mileage fees.
In fact, we have contributed out of pocket to make up a short fall.
PPS. Pat, Please feel free to forward to this to the CC: of your letter.

----- Original Message -----
From: Pat Ferrigno
To: Brwade@aol.com
Cc: gwenhuff@comcast.net ; 'Hicham Eltal' ; 'Jean Kiel' ; 'Jean Okuye' ; 'Jeannie Habbin' ; 'Jeff McLain' ; 'Jeff Wilson' ; 'Jim Genes' ; 'JoAnne Armstrong' ; 'Joanne Karlton' ; 'Joe Mitchell' ; 'John Shelton' ; 'Jon Kelsey' ; 'Kazi Rasheedi' ; 'Ken Jensen' ; 'Kevin Faulkenberry' ; lrobinson@muhsd.k12.ca.us ; 'Lydia Miller' ; 'Maia Singer' ; 'Marc Epstein' ; 'Marna Cooper' ; marshpitman@sbcglobal.net ; 'Mary Ward' ; 'Michael Rood' ; 'Michelle Cuningham' ; 'Mike Bettencourt' ; 'Mike Gallo' ; 'Molly Flemate' ; 'Nancy McConnell' ; 'Pam Buford' ; pklassen@unwiredbb.com ; 'Pat Brantley' ; 'Pat Ferrigno' ; 'Peggy Vejar' ; 'Rob Root' ; 'Ronnie Grisom' ; 'Rudy & Hope Platzek' ; 'Scott Stoddard' ; 'Scott Turner' ; 'Sharon Boyce' ; 'Steve Simmons' ; 'Tami Cosio' ; 'Tom Grave' ; 'Urla Garland' ; 'Virginia Mahacek' ; 'Zooey Diggory'
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2007 1:26 PM
Subject: RE: EMRCD

Dear Bernie:

We were very disappointed with the discussion regarding the EMRCD grant application at the Merced River Stakeholders (MRS) meeting on Monday night. The conflict of interests present in the entire situation are disconcerting: the facilitator for MRS is applying for a grant under the auspices of EMRCD which will be reviewed by the EMRCD board which includes the MRS co-facilitator; plus the MRS facilitator did not acknowledge the importance of the MRS reviewing the concept grant before submission even though this is what we have perceived as the role of MRS since its inception. And, the RCD will receive the overhead allocation in this grant by providing oversight, which oversight will be provided by the RCD Board which includes beneficiaries of the grant, which beneficiaries include a member of the Planning Commission.

Bernie, I don’t have to be an attorney to know that this isn’t good; there has to be some Federal statute about the fox guarding the henhouse. I don’t think that is what the regulators have in mind when they talk about transparency!

Our aggregate project went under the microsope of MRS scrutiny for six months of meetings; your tailings project has been on the agenda many times. It is mind-boggling that the facilitator(!) has so little respect for the role of MRS that she chose to simply ignore that forum. The excuse that the time schedule did not allow review is a non-starter: Gwen has made multiple contacts with Lydia Miller and with members of our family by telephone and e-mail (and even an unannounced visit to my brother’s home) in her quest to garner after-the-fact support for this grant; the same avenues were available and would have had more success before the concept proposal was submitted.

I am sure that I don’t have to tell you that we will oppose this grant application with all of the resources available to us.

You will receive our formal letter of opposition prior to the meeting. We would appreciate our position being noted in the minutes.

Thank you.

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: 'Raptorctr'
Sent: Wednesday, May 16, 2007 11:07 AM
Subject: RE: Merced River Grant Proposal

Hi Lydia –

Thanks for the response and I will answer your questions in order.

What is the role of the Merced River Stakeholders' Group in this East Merced Resource Conservation District proposal?

There are several roles. First would be participation of individual members of the MRS in the work groups. That is where an understanding of topic areas will come from, as well as identifying needs and determining future direction. The fact the stakeholders are willing to come to meetings, demonstrates an active interest in the river and they will be critical to the work group process.

Secondly, all the information from the workgroups, including the logistics planning and background information gathering, will be posted to a website that is interactive. Most people won’t be willing or able to make most meetings, but they can stay current and add in their information through the website. Merced River Stakeholders members will again be really important to have participating in that.

Lastly, the idea of substituting the Management Plan process for the MRS meetings was not a good one. I heard that loud and clear. I was happy to get that feedback – it reminded me that the MRS meetings are, indeed, valuable for those who come. So, when changing the concept proposal to the final proposal, we will be adding in the MRS meetings. We cannot add anymore to the budget, so we will just have to work things out to accommodate this. Most probably we will hold the MRS meetings on the same day as we hold the logistics meetings to save on costs and it will most likely change to once a quarter instead of every other month. At the MRS meetings we will be able to summarize progress on the Management Plan, but attendees will have had to do their homework on the website because we will want time for group input, not spending too much time bringing everyone up to speed. At these MRS meetings we will ask the group for feedback on the process and the direction, as well as encouraging continued participation in the workgroups.

Oh – and when the workgroups have finished meeting and a draft plan is put together based on their meetings, this draft plan will be circulated to the stakeholders, as well as all work group participants, to see that it accurately reflects their experience. Review from them will shape the final project.

How much funding is left for Stakeholders' meetings?

Right now the MRS meetings are funded through our DOC grant, which ends next month. The May meeting will be the last one to be funded by that grant. From then until May of next year the funding will come from the Merced River Alliance Project. Though not specifically named in the grant, there are hours available for “building the Alliance” and the functioning of the MRS is very important for that. Also, there is soon to be another grant proposal out for watershed coordinator work – a continuation of the DOC grant work. We will be applying for it as soon as it is out and we will be asking for continued funding of the stakeholders.

How much money is being budgeted in the proposal for Stakeholders' meetings?

We haven’t gotten that far yet. The concept proposal didn’t have any money budgeted for stakeholder meetings, but that will change when we do the final proposal. We are still working on it, but the thinking is that we will move enough money that way to be sure that there will at LEAST be a quarterly MRS meeting. If we get more funding, we can continue to have meetings every other month.

Would you send a copy of the NFWF grant?
It is attached

Lydia Miller

----- Original Message -----
From: Raptorctr
To: Gwen Huff
Sent: Tuesday, May 15, 2007 3:04 PM
Subject: Re: Merced River Grant Proposal

Gwen,

What is the role of the Merced River Stakeholders' Group in this East Merced Resource Conservation District proposal? How much funding is left for Stakeholders' meetings?
How much money is being budgeted in the proposal for Stakeholders' meetings?
Would you send a copy of the NFWF grant?

Lydia Miller

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: Lydia Miller ; Lydia Miller
Sent: Thursday, May 10, 2007 4:16 PM
Subject: Merced River Grant Proposal

Hi Lydia –

I just left you a phone message, and here is the follow-up. As you will remember, at the last MRS meeting we talked about the upcoming grant proposal. I’m attaching a summary of the draft proposal and a full draft as well, to help refresh your memory.

There were some comments that I received that we will be incorporating into the final proposal, they are:

1. Keep the Merced River Stakeholders meetings going (we will – may have to go to once a quarter)
2. Review the focus areas for the work groups (looking for your input on this)
3. Be sure to include more stakeholders so all organizations are working together (any organizations you know of that we should contact?)
4. Be careful that the management team isn’t separate from stakeholders (may rename this to the “Logistics Workgroup” rather than “Management Team” as the bulk of work will be compiling and sorting information from the workgroups, and outside sources, as well as setting up and facilitating workgroup meetings. The real work will take place in the workgroups. Additionally, the minutes of the “Logistics Workgroup” will be posted with all other work group meetings on the website that will be set up for this and the meetings will be open to all)

I would like to talk, or email, about these issues, or others that come up for you, regarding the grant proposal. I am very anxious to have as much input as possible from every interested (and even not-so-interested) party.

Remember – this is due in Sacramento by June 1st and the sooner we get any comments, the more likely we will be able to incorporate them. Thanks for taking the time to look at this.

Gwen

Gwen Huff
Watershed Coordinator
East Merced Resource Conservation District
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734
gwenhuff@comcast.net

----- Original Message -----
From: Gwen Huff
To: gwenhuff@comcast.net ; Hicham Eltal ; Jean Kiel ; Jean Okuye ; Jeannie Habbin ; Jeff McLain ; Jeff Wilson ; Jim Genes ; JoAnne Armstrong ; Joanne Karlton ; Joe Mitchell ; John Shelton ; Jon Kelsey ; Kazi Rasheedi ; Ken Jensen ; Kevin Faulkenberry ; lrobinson@muhsd.k12.ca.us ; Lydia Miller ; Maia Singer ; Marc Epstein ; Marna Cooper ; marshpitman@sbcglobal.net ; Mary Ward ; Michael Rood ; Michelle Cuningham ; Mike Bettencourt ; Mike Gallo ; Molly Flemate ; Nancy McConnell ; Pam Buford ; pklassen@unwiredbb.com ; Pat Brantley ; Pat Ferrigno ; Peggy Vejar ; Rob Root ; Ronnie Grisom ; Rudy & Hope Platzek ; Scott Stoddard ; Scott Turner ; Sharon Boyce ; Steve Simmons ; Tami Cosio ; Tom Grave ; Urla Garland ; Virginia Mahacek ; Zooey Diggory
Sent: Wednesday, May 02, 2007 10:29 AM
Subject: FW: Merced River Mgt Plan Grant Proposal

Stakeholders –

Today we received the very good news that our concept proposal was accepted to go to the next, and final round. You may remember we talked about this at the last MRS meeting and you said you wanted to give more input to the final proposal. I will call all the stakeholders who have been frequent attendees and we will go over the project as it now stands and see where we can modify to make it better. If you are not a regular attendee, and you want to participate in this process, please let me know. I will be happy to call you, too.

Also, at the next MRS meeting, May 21, our primary order of business will be to go over the proposed project and get input from the stakeholders as a whole. I hope that you will make an effort to be there. I’ll be sending out more meeting details later.

I am pleased that we were asked to go forward – I think the project has potential to coordinate many of the diverse efforts and interests in the Merced Watershed.

See you soon!

Gwen

Gwen Huff
Watershed Coordinator
East Merced Resource Conservation District
Home Office (559) 497-5033
Mobile (559) 250-4734
gwenhuff@comcast.net

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The real Merced River Stakeholders agenda, time and place

Submitted: Sep 18, 2007

Merced River Stakeholders Meeting

September 24, 2007

6 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

Washington School

4402 W. Oakdale Road, Winton

AGENDA

6:00 Introductions, Minutes Approval, Agenda Review

6:15 Updates

Merced Irrigation District Ted Selb

Merced County Planning Department Jeff Wilson

Grant Reporting

DOC II: Watershed coordinator update:

Reports from Gwen Huff, Cindy Lashbrook

Prop. 13: Merced River Alliance:

Reports from Cathy Weber, Cindy Lashbrook, Karen Whipp, Nancy McConnell

Props. 50 and 84 if applicable

6:30 Grant Discussion

Protest letters to EMRCD grant proposal (please refer to attachments)
California Public Records Act requests regarding existing grants in which MRS is "partnered"
Letter to suspend public grant-fund releases until relationship with MRS and EMRCD/Merced River Alliance/Watershed Coordinator is clarified
Support/non-support of EMRCD
Continued Facilitation of the Merced River Stakeholders
MRS grant development
EMRCD/MRS website
Merced River Alliance newsletter

Announcements

Next meeting date

Refreshments will be provided by the Bettencourt family and can be accessed at any time during the meeting. There will be no break.

Past meeting minutes can be found at www.emrcd.org/stakeholders

Produced by Stakeholders for Stakeholders

MERCED RIVER STAKEHOLDERS

MISSION STATEMENT

Provide a collaborative forum for coordination, and gathering and sharing of information

about the Merced River watershed. Protect and enhance the lower Merced River Watershed such that the natural processes, ecosystems, and its unique characteristics are conserved and restored. Foster voluntary stewardship in advance of habitat degradation and regulatory action.

Strive for a balanced level of human interaction within the watershed.

GOALS

Educate the public about the Merced River watershed and its importance.

Foster and improve communication among affected private individuals, interested citizens, commercial interests, educational institutes, and representatives of local, state and federal agencies.

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East Merced Resource Conservation District not lookin' too good

Submitted: Sep 17, 2007

The Badlands Journal editorial board believes it is necessary to clarify some matters. We are aware, from reports of people who fear reprisal and whose anonymity is safe with us, that there is quite a propaganda campaign going on against the Merced River Stakeholders, claiming they are “obstructionists.”

The Merced River Stakeholders (MRS), for those who have not attended its meetings in its near decade of existence, is a collaborative forum of people representing the full array of divergent interests concerning the Merced County reach of the Merced River. After some years of committee work on a system of governance for the MRS, stakeholders decided that it should remain a collaborate forum. This was decided with respect for the divergence of the interests included in the MRS. Stakeholders believe they need to meet, share information, discuss river issues, yet maintain their autonomy of action. MRS members strongly defend the processes they have created for their group and believe these are the only processes that will maintain the MRS and continue the valuable work it does.

The propaganda campaign against members of the MRS comes from particular individuals, visible in the community, for specific reasons. Because important matters are at stake, there are also less visible players and interests behind the attack against MRS. To understand the hostility, it is necessary to follow the money.

The public funds for scientific work and watershed coordination on our reach of the Merced River are administered by the East Merced Resource Conservation District (EMRCD), which has non-profit status and is therefore eligible to receive grant funds. A group of staff people, who facilitate publicly funded grants, have collected into yet another agency, called the Merced River Alliance. Public funds are disbursed by the EMRCD to a scientific consultant and to the Merced River Alliance.

Grants of state and federal funds require local stakeholders’ support. In past successful grants, the Alliance staffers wrote grant proposal for the EMRCD to public agencies, the MRS was presented in the grants as supporting their aims, purposes, and the salary requests of the Alliance staff. In a recent, unsuccessful grant proposal, the EMRCD and Alliance staff did not claim the support of the MRS.

Alliance staff wrote a grant this spring for the EMRCD to the state Department of Water Resources for about $500,000, claiming the support of a number of occasional stakeholders, most of whom have never participated in MRS meetings. From the start Alliance staff was required to show the proposal to MRS members. Two MRS member groups in particular were concerned about this grant: the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center and representatives of the river property owners.

The Raptor Center has a well-known reputation for upholding correct public processes, proven in court on many occasions. Its president, Lydia Miller, sensed that Merced River Alliance staff, through the EMRCD, was trying to railroad a grant through because they weren’t following proper protocol with the Merced River Stakeholders. The river property owners correctly guessed that this grant could adversely affect property owners’ water rights.

One of the grants administered by the EMRCD for Alliance staff is a watershed coordinator grant. Part of the responsibilities of the watershed coordinator is to facilitate MRS meetings. The Raptor Center and river property owners, in two spring meetings before the due date for the final EMRCD grant proposal, continually voiced objections to the grant. The Alliance facilitator and several stakeholders who are also EMRCD and/or Alliance staffers continued to ignore those objections. MRS members told them that they would file protest letters with DWR, the grantor agency.

The opposition to the concerns of the property owners and the Raptor Center was led by a newly appointed county planning commissioner, who is also a paid staffer on the Merced River Alliance and an associate member of the board of directors of the EMRCD. The Badlands Journal editorial board believes that Merced County Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook is in deep conflict-of-interest.

When the deadline for submission of the grant to the state DWR arrived, stakeholders were denied access to the final document. The excuse offered by Alliance staffers was that the MRS facilitator had to turn her attention immediately to work on the River Fair and so just couldn’t get a copy of the final grant out to the MRS. The River Fair, partially funded by public agencies, was held on the riverside farm of Commissioner Lashbrook.

The following week, the Raptor Center, numerous groups and river property owners filed letters of opposition with the granting agency, DWR.

At a recent public meeting of the board of the EMRCD, Lashbrook emotionally expressed her sense of betrayal that the DWR accepted the letters in opposition, saying that if she had known material could be submitted after the deadline she could have gathered many signatures on a petition supporting the grant. One question MRS members have is: Who did she think was betraying her?

The Alliance staff did not give MRS copies of the final grant for review and comment before the grant was submitted. This was done in the face of well-known opposition. The staffers believed that MRS opposition letters filed after the deadline would be rejected by the DWR. This was not the case. The case was that the grant was rejected, based in part on the strong opposition of members of the MRS. This is not the first time that MRS members have successfully stopped inappropriate grants with letters of opposition to state and federal funders.

Since the state agency rejected the EMRCD grant, there has been a concerted campaign mounted by disgruntled members of the board of EMRCD and the Merced River Alliance to discredit the MRS, particularly the Raptor Center and river property owners. This “obstructionist” campaign deepens suspicions in the MRS that it is the object of a power play to eliminate stakeholder influence on Merced River policies.

The latest attempt concerns the next MRS meeting, the subject of several e-mails presented below. At the last EMRCD board meeting, a request by the Raptor Center to include its letter of opposition to the grant in the next MRS information package was unanimously refused by the board.

The Merced County Board of Supervisors appoints the EMRCD board. It acknowledges it is a public agency, known as a “special district,” and is subject to the state Brown Act governing its conduct. The opposition letter is a public document submitted to a state agency in opposition to a grant seeking public funds. There is no question here: the EMRCD has a duty to release that letter to the MRS. Yet, the board bought the argument that because EMRCD administers the grant that covers the MRS facilitator, it can prohibit public information from being distributed by the MRS facilitator to the MRS members.

Meanwhile, MRS members discovered that MRS meetings are no longer listed in the Merced River Alliance newsletter. Curiously, the MRS facilitator is the editor of this newsletter.

The MRS facilitator, having rejected a meeting agenda offered by MRS members for their own meeting, has now changed the meeting venue to UC Merced, where the MRS has never met. The next meeting of the MRS should be held at a familiar location, where farmers in the middle of harvest can come without campus police questioning their appearance.

Badlands Journal editorial board
-------------------------------

To: Gwen Huff, EMRCD/Merced Alliance Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator
From: San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Re: Your Sept. 10 telephone calls and draft Agenda
Date: Sept. 12, 2007

Gwen,
We received your telephone call on Sept. 10 concerning your proposed agenda for the next Merced River Stakeholders (MRS) meeting. The agenda appears to have been proposed by the East Merced Resource Conservation District (EMRCD) rather than the stakeholders, whose facilitator you are paid by public funds to be. Due to your inability to maintain a value-free, professional facilitation position with stakeholders during this period of conflict between MRS and EMRCD, and in light of the RCD board's recent decision to suppress public documents from MRS view, as members of MRS, we will be forced to make inquiries to your funders about your facilitation grant.

As members of the MRS, we reject an agenda, originating with the RCD board, a majority of whose members regard the MRS is unnecessary, that MRS should spend half its next meeting discussing its charter, with respect to how often it will meet and how it participates in grant development. Our mission statement and goals, painstakingly worked out over a period of years of meetings, are clearly stated on the EMRCD website.

MERCED RIVER STAKEHOLDERS
MISSION STATEMENT
Provide a collaborative forum for coordination, and gathering and sharing of information
about the Merced River watershed. Protect and enhance the lower Merced River Watershed such that the natural processes, ecosystems, and its unique characteristics are conserved and restored. Foster voluntary stewardship in advance of habitat degradation and regulatory action.
Strive for a balanced level of human interaction within the watershed.
GOALS
Educate the public about the Merced River watershed and its importance.
Foster and improve communication among affected private individuals, interested citizens, commercial interests, educational institutes, and representatives of local, state and federal agencies.

We members of MRS are content to be a collaborative forum. If MRS members who are also EMRCD board members and/or staff of the Merced Alliance are unhappy with them, as far as we are concerned their discontent does nothing but raise issues of conflict-of-interest and perception of corruption, already well articulated in our protest letters and petitions sent to the state Department of Water Resources in opposition to your grant application. Your refusal, as MRS facilitator, to circulate these documents, along with
the chronology of emails in the weeks and days prior to your final grant application, does nothing to relieve suspicion of conflict-of-interest and perception of corruption.
We find it less pardonable that a member of the RCD board and staff for the RCD and Merced River Alliance, Merced County Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook is, as presented in the public minutes of the last EMRCD public meeting, the most vociferous proponent of suppressing distribution of public information to the MRS. EMRCD, a public agency, whose board is appointed by the Merced County Board of Supervisors, is subject to the Brown Act. This, too, will need looking into.

In fact, the MRS stakeholders' process worked exactly as it was designed to in the case of the grant application, which would have feathered a few staff nests in the course of performing studies that some stakeholders perceived as detrimental to their particular business or environmental interests. Those few members of the MRS who received and read copies of the draft grant application opposed it, believing it was against our interests.
We expressed our opposition in a completely lawful process, by sending letters and petitions to the funders, and the grant was rejected by those funders. Now the EMRCD, represented in the next MRS meeting by your biased facilitation and a few stakeholders conflicted by their membership on the EMRCD board and/or drawing staff salaries from EMRCD and the Merced River Alliance, want to change the MRS charter? You want to cut back our meetings because the EMRCD "administers" your watershed coordinator grant? On whose authority?

The EMRCD complaint for failure to receive grant funds in this cycle -- because of the political incompetence of yourself, an out-of-town facilitator who would not reveal who was paying for her, Planning Commissioner Lashbrook, Supervisor Kelsey and, most of all, the EMRCD board of directors -- is with your prospective funders, not with the MRS. The MRS, a collaborative forum, did exactly what it was intended by its Mission Statement and Goals to do. Members of the MRS who opposed the grant and opposed the deplorable attempt by EMRCD/Merced River Alliance staff, including MRS stakeholders, for personal profit, to railroad the process with the MRS. We offered to meet and discuss. You and other EMRCD/Merced River Alliance staff and board members rebuffed our offer.

"EMRCD is supported by public funds; there is a forgotten concept that the public has a
right to equal access to information under the law. This attempt at suppression raises the question of just what ERMCD is attempting to hide. The property owners and the raptor group rarely see eye-to-eye but neither of us has ever advocated suppression of the other's information/opinion." -- Pat Ferrigno to Gwen Huff, email, Sept. 10, 2007

We reject the EMRCD agenda for the MRS meeting. We once again request that you, the MRS facilitator paid with public funds, distribute to MRS members:

The EMRCD rejected grant application;
the two MRS letters and accompanying petitions;
all correspondence from the state DWR concerning why your application was rejected;
the letter of Nancy McConnell (also publicly paid staff of Merced River Alliance) on the
meeting with DWR official Dan Wermiel in Snelling concerning the grant;
any other documents concerning the grant;
EMRCD legal justification for its board's decision not to distribute public information
concerning the MRS to the members of the MRS.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
SJRRC@sbcglobal.net

----------------
From: gwenhuff@comcast.net
To: SJRRC@sbcglobal.net; Raptorctr@bigvalley.net; brwade@aol.com; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us; pferrigno@elite.net
Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2007 13:30:05 -0700

The agenda item “MRS and Grant Development” was agreed upon by the stakeholders at their last meeting. The item “MRS Charter” was added by me to frame this discussion –a starting point of agreed upon goals and mission. I don’t know where you got the idea that the charter would be changed, though it can be if the stakeholders see fit. Cut back on the MRS meetings? I have no authority (nor intent) to do that. I can only offer facilitation services as the grant allows. I asked for your input, as well as other stakeholders, on the agenda. You have not provided any suggestions for agenda items. The meeting notification must go out TODAY – the meeting is only a week and a half away and many receive notification by regular mail only. If you have suggestions on modifying the agenda, please get back to me right away.
-----------------------

From: SJRRC@sbcglobal.net
To: gwenhuff@comcast.net; brwade@aol.com; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us
Subject: Yet another request- Items for Sept 24th MRS- Protest letter, MRS chronology & public minutes.
Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2007 14:26:22 -0700

Gwen,
This is not true. We and other MRS stakeholders have asked you numerous times for distribution of the material attached to this email, sent to you and EMRCD President Bernie Wade on August 8, September 6, and September 12. The material is attached as we have provided all along. We asked for additional information in our September 12 letter to be made available. All of this material pertains to talking about grant applications.
We requested that the EMRCD send this material to the MRS before its next meeting as a matter of courtesy to the EMRCD board. We were stunned that the EMRCD board displayed at its August 15 meeting such a hyper-inflated view of its authority that it voted unanimously to prohibit the MRS facilitator, yourself, to distribute a public letter in opposition to the EMRCD grant application. We were further appalled to witness a county official, Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook, leading the argument for this prohibition. Your manifest gratitude to the EMRCD for making this decision destroyed our trust in you as a professional facilitator.
We got the idea that you and members of the EMRCD board who also sit on the MRS group were planning to try to change the MRS Mission Statement and Goals, which you misname the "Charter," from your telephone call to Lydia Miller on September 10 in which you talk of "reviewing the charter" with an eye to limiting the number of meetings and how the MRS can or cannot participate in grant proposals and how to limit the effect of its recommendations.
You have repeatedly ignored our requests for distribution of information, behaving as if
"they are off the table," behaving as if you were the president of the MRS instead of its facilitator, paid by public funds. The EMRCD board is behaving as if it believes that the MRS is an unnecessary institution for discussion of Lower Merced River issues. Cindy Lashbrook, EMRCD board member, Merced River Alliance staff and Merced County Planning Commissioner is on record in two public meetings as saying she is "at war" with some MRS stakeholders and the EMRCD "doesn't need" the MRS. EMRCD/Merced River Alliance Grant Administrator Karen Whipp is on record as saying that because EMRCD administers your grant, it can direct you to suppress distribution of public information to MRS stakeholders.
You and the EMRCD and the Merced River Alliance have taken an unwise course since the grant application first surfaced in March. By attempting to railroad that grant over the MRS, you have seen the authority the MRS has and have demonstrated the kind of ambitions EMRCD/Merced River Alliance staff have. This has now caused suspicion of EMRCD intents, purposes, and legality. Unwise.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
------------

To: Bernard Wade, President East Merced Resource Conservation District
From: San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, MRS stakeholder
Re: Protest against actions taken by EMRCD/Merced River Alliance watershed
coordinator and MRS facilitator
Date: Sept. 13, 2007

Bernie,

We are writing to protest actions taken by the EMRCD, recently and specifically by MRS
facilitator, Gwen Huff. EMRCD administers grant funding from the state Department of
Conservation II and Prop. 13 for EMRCD/Merced River Alliance staff, including Huff. At your last board meeting, the board unanimously passed a motion to prohibit Huff, the MRS facilitator, from distributing a public documents written by a group of MRS stakeholders to DWR concerning a EMRCD grant application for public funds.
We are making a formal request that you direct the MRS facilitator to:

1) Distribute to MRS stakeholders prior to their next meeting on Sept. 24 the public documents in opposition to the EMRCD grant proposal from SJRRC and the Bettencourt family to the state Department of Water Resources;
2) Send all MRS stakeholders a copy of the latest list of email and regular mail addresses of all MRS stakeholders -- since Huff has been the facilitator this list has been suppressed and not available to stakeholders;
3) Provide us with copies of any documents that support the EMRCD board claim that because the MRS facilitator's grant funding is administered by EMRCD, the EMRCD has authority over the MRS and is authorized to direct the MRS facilitator to commit or omit actions MRS stakeholders regard as prejudicial to their interests and their rights to information essential to their understanding of issues before their collaborative forum.
4) Change the proposed venue for the Sept. 24 MRS meeting to a location familiar to MRS stakeholders.

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
----------------

From: Brwade@aol.com
To: SJRRC@sbcglobal.net
Sent: Monday, September 17, 2007 5:24 PM
Subject: Re: Request for July MRS minutes and email list

Dear Lydia, Gwen has been out of town and I don't know if she is back yet for the minutes. I am waiting for a policy decision from CARCD regarding distribution of material through EMRCD. Best Regards, Bernie

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Proximity to a boom-doggle

Submitted: Sep 14, 2007

We thought UC Merced's First Chancellor Carol "Cowgirl" Tomlinson-Keasey's late-Nineties slogan --"Proximity is destiny" -- was about the finest piece of UC Merced Bobcatflak in an era of budget surpluses we ever heard. For those uninitiated in the Fabulous UC Bobcatflak or merely forgetful, the Cowgirl used the slogan to emphasize that -- although no one has yet figured out exactly why -- proximity to a UC campus raises the percentage of the population who goes to college. This percentage is supposed to be the best measure mankind has found for Truth and Beauty.

For those of us outside the Valley leadership circle, it was apparent that something else entirely was taking place, for which we created the slogan: "Proximity is density." Subdivision after subdivision was built and Merced vied with Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto and the State of Nevada for being the top target of real estate speculators taking out subprime mortgages. As these mortgages "reset" to much higher payments, "proximity" is beginning to mean dry lawns, dead garden foliage and swimming pools turned into stagnant mosquito nurseries.

The people of Merced were raped by the University of California, the developers on its board of trustees, it local, state and federal politicians (especially Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced), land-use planning agencies, local large landowners and special interests representing finance, insurance (like Bob "Mr. UC Merced" Carpenter), and real estate from here, there and everywhere.

Badlands Journal estimates that 40 percent of the real estate transactions in Merced were speculations and we are certain that largest part of the Merced population has only begun to realize the negative economic consequences of having won the competition for the San Joaquin Valley UC campus. For us, proximity to UC Merced means exorbitant real estate prices. We won't be elevated. We will be squeezed out and replaced, having fattened landlords, banks and realtors, utilities and local government on the way out.

The public works improvements required to support the new development is being built on our backs. We will see yet another million-dollar campaign to persuade us to raise our sales taxes to help pay for various expressways all leading to UC Merced. And this campaign, like all the others, will receive the enthusiastic endorsement of the people we elect to government, who gambled that we would pay for all the public works needed to support so much speculative development for the profit of so few and, it is becoming apparent, hardship for so many.

Honestly considered, UC Merced is an overpriced, under-enrolled, scofflaw junior college. It has been such an outrageous development project that -- a fitting tribute to its creators -- it has engendered a genuine addition to the American language, the word "boom-doggle," coined by a member of our editorial board.

Badlands Journal editorial board
--------------------------------

9-14-07
Merced Sun-Star
County report card close to D's and F's in 2006...Abby Souza
http://mercedsunstar.com/167/story/35941.html

Of the 40 California counties surveyed last year, Merced ranked 39th for the percentage of residents older than 24 who hold a high school diploma; only Imperial County ranked lower...the percentage of adults who hold a bachelor's degree, Merced ranked 38th out of 40. Sixty-four percent of Merced County residents over the age of 24 have a high school diploma. That compares with the statewide 80 percent and the national 84 percent. Eleven percent of Merced residents over 24 hold bachelor's degrees, compared with California's 30 percent.
While experts say lifting Merced out of its next-to-last position might prove a bewildering task, the implications of its ranking are clear. "The ripple effect that comes with an uneducated population is huge," said Simon Weffer, a professor of sociology at UC Merced...
The data come from the census bureau's 2006 American Community Survey, now conducted annually in cities and counties above a certain population.
While it's easy to blame Merced's K-12 education system...the causes lie with the types of industries in Merced, said Adrian Griffin, a senior policy analyst with the California Postsecondary Education Commission...said that Merced lacks industries that require an educated work force. For that reason, he said, highly educated Mercedians often leave the area to start their careers. ...people moving to Merced tend to be less educated.
Many say UC Merced is the key to accomplishing both, but that major change will take time. As a research university, Kevin Browne, UC Merced's vice chancellor of enrollment, said UC Merced will eventually attract high-tech companies. And even for students who don't choose UC Merced, the university's mere presence can make a difference, Browne said.

Modesto Bee
Housing tab rising in Northern San Joaquin ValleyJ.N. Sbranti
http://www.modbee.com/business/story/67789.html.

Homeowners in the valley pay far more each month for housing than most Americans, according to the 2006 American Community Survey...new data also shows homeownership rates are lower in the valley than the national average, while housing costs consume a much larger share of residents' income.
Homeowners traditionally have been advised to keep housing costs below 30 percent of their income. The same goes for renters, but many of the valley's renters didn't do that last year. In Merced County, for example, 51 percent of renters spent more than one-third of their income on housing.
The Northern San Joaquin Valley expanded its housing stock much faster than the national average from 2000 to 2006...census statistics show, the number of housing units rose 9 percent nationally but more than 18 percent in Merced and San Joaquin counties, and nearly 14 percent in Stanislaus County.
Despite the rapid growth, the valley's homeownership rates still lag behind the U.S. average. That's particularly true in the city of Merced, where census statistics show fewer than 40 percent of homes are owner-occupied. Nationwide, more than 67 percent of homes are owner-occupied.

Foreclosure not an issue for nation's vast majority...Kenneth R. Harney, Washington Post
http://www.modbee.com/business/story/67771.html

The rate of American home loans entering the foreclosure process last quarter hit the highest it's been in the history of the survey, which dates back to 1953.
But from a national perspective... The answer is: Not as bad as it may sound. Drill down into the latest delinquency and foreclosure numbers and you'll find that for the overwhelming majority of homeowners across the country, delinquency and foreclosure are not issues -- at least not yet.
To begin with, remember that mortgage delinquency problems only affect people with outstanding loans, and more than one out of three homeowners own their properties debt-free. Of the remaining two-thirds of all owners with active mortgage accounts -- the latest survey examined 44 million of them -- prime loans that are 30 days past due or more constitute just 2.6 percent of all loans nationwide. In other words, among mortgages made to borrowers with good credit at application, 97.4 percent are continuing to be paid on time.
The numbers get more sobering when you look at how borrowers with subprime mortgages are performing: 14.5 percent of them nationwide are behind on their payments by at least 30 days. That's more than five times the rate of delinquency among prime borrowers. On the other hand, 85.5 percent of subprime borrowers are still paying on time every month, according to the survey.
The numbers get even worse when you look at the performance of subprime borrowers who took out adjustable-rate loans, such as the notorious "2/28" mortgages that allow low monthly payments for the first two years but then reset upward with a big jolt at the beginning of the third.
What about the record jumps in new foreclosure filings? In 34 states, the rate of new foreclosures actually decreased. In most other states, the increases were minor, except in California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona, where they were attributable in part to investors walking away from condos, second homes and rental houses they bought during the boom years. In Nevada, for instance, non-owner-occupied (investor) loans accounted for 32 percent of all serious delinquencies and new foreclosure actions. In Florida, the investor share of serious delinquencies was 25 percent, in Arizona, 26 percent and in California, it was 21 percent.
Bottom line: The scary foreclosure and delinquency rates you're hearing about are for real. But they're highly concentrated -- among loan types, local and regional economies, and especially prevalent among investors in formerly high-flying markets who are finally throwing in the towel.

Sacramento Bee
Foreclosures gain on sales
An ugly new duel in capital area: Home keys picked up vs. those lost...Jim Wasserman
http://www.sacbee.com/103/story/378452.html

...For roughly every two homes sold in August in the capital region, one house went into foreclosure, according to the newest sales statistics released Thursday...
grim ratio may worsen as fall and winter sales traditionally slow and foreclosures keep rising, analysts say. Already, in Sacramento County in August, there were more defaults -- the first indicator of payment problems that can trigger foreclosure -- than sales, DataQuick reported.
Last month, 2,978 new owners picked up keys to homes they purchased in Amador, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties, La Jolla-based DataQuick Information Systems reported Thursday. But in those same counties during August, 1,367 homeowners in foreclosure handed their keys back to the bank, according to Fair Oaks-based Foreclosures.com, a Web site for real estate investors.
"Sacramento (County) was positioned almost perfectly to take the brunt of this housing storm," said DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage.
Sacramento County now shows the region's worst ratio of sales to foreclosures. The county reported 1,527 escrow closings during August and 772 bank repossessions, according to DataQuick. The county also tallied more defaults during the month -- 1,869 -- than sales, statistics show. But analysts like McGee are quick to caution that only about one-third of people going into default will eventually lose their homes to foreclosure. DataQuick says about half of those in default in California will likely lose their homes.

8-31-07
Merced Sun-Star
Are we forever poor?...Our View
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/13944522p-14506970c.html

Distressing news came to light this week when it was revealed Merced County residents are poorer than ever... new information from the United States Census Bureau should be a rallying cry for making wholesale improvements to underlying conditions present in the county...more must be done -- and soon -- to raise the educational level of Merced County's residents. We need more high-paying jobs with the well-qualified workers to fill these positions. Both of these elements are lacking right now. we need stepped-up efforts to enhance this area's chances of landing top-notch employers looking for qualified workers. More minimum-wage jobs aren't the answer. Between 2005 and 2006, the percentage of Merced County residents living in poverty rose from 18.1 percent to 21.5 percent...about one out of every five people living here. The county's median income level also dropped nearly $1,600 between the two years, further evidence of this area's profound poverty and worsening economic conditions. It's no secret Merced County's economy is not very well-diversified at present. It's mainly farm-based, subject to vagaries from Mother Nature and cyclical agricultural conditions. Couple recent setbacks in some crops along with a severe downturn in the county's housing industry and one can see why the poverty figures have jumped.

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Behind the curve

Submitted: Sep 07, 2007

Politics attracts all sorts. In fact the personalities in politics are probably as complicated as a number of the systems in nature. However, politics never resembled a Sunday school class.

One of the many rough distinctions one can make about people in politics is between those who read and those who don't.

The other day I happened to be in a meeting in a distant town in which a small disagreement broke out between someone who reads and someone who doesn't. The one who doesn't read was talking about his long friendly chats with a local land-use official. The fellow who reads documents countered, saying that documents indicate the land-use official has been lying in his teeth for months.

"You're just ahead of the curve," the jawboner replied, dismissively.

The north San Joaquin Valley is now the most notorious region in the nation for foreclosures stemming from our red-hot speculative real estate boom. The nation itself is notorious for having started a world-wide credit crisis, stemming from bad subprime loans. North San Joaquin Valley land-use authorities, cities and counties, were enabling partners in this global scam all the way. If it hadn't been for a few lawsuits, they would have done more.

A whole lot of fine print went unread. But the people who wrote it knew what they were doing.

Now, city, county and state officials, probably under panicked pressure from bankers, plan to do something about it. They are behind the curve. They didn't read the documents. They were told by a number of people who do read documents -- which would not include their newspapers -- that this was going to happen. They were told. They were warned. They arrogantly dismissed all the warnings because they didn't come from the developer bought-and-sold McClatchy Chain.

Now, from so far behind the curve they hope you will not be able to see who they are, they gently nudge the barn door, which will be stuck wide open at least until these individuals are thrown out, some into cells if wheels of justice still grind here.

We are supposed to applaud their responsible reforms? They prey upon the public's belief in government, which is a good belief. They follow the Bush line that any criticism of politicians and policies of the existing government is unpatriotic and anti-government and, of course against "our sacred American Way of Life."

The American Way of Life is not this corrupt, it is not this irresponsible. It does not depend on urban sprawl or even NASCAR. Our government has not always lied to us like this much. Corrupt public officials have been sent to prison. The government did not fall. In fact, it got better. But, government around here is beginning to look like a pork barrel full of bad apples.

Now these same elected officials and "planners," who have profited from the boom, expect the people to believe they can "reform"? What contempt they have for the public they have injured on behalf of a small group of finance, insurance and real estate special interests in these northern San Joaquin Valley counties.

Is it deserved? Perhaps. Even now, groups of the usual suspects representing the usual groups of official citizens, refuse to read documents and continue to allow themselves to be flattered by politicians and planners that meeting and talking makes all the difference, when in fact it has never made any difference in land-use planning around here. These are the professional citizens who live in mortal fear that if they get close enough to "the curve" waves will appear. In this, they are abetted every step of the way by the McClatchy Chain. How can a story involving a policy on commercial development fees to be submitted to a city council five of seven of whose members have real estate licenses be reported with a straight face?

This Merced story looks like a pretty, fallen cottonwood leaf floating on a dairy lagoon. There is not one word about the employment commercial development would bring to a city where unemployment is again rising. In the Modesto story, at least the reader can catch the scent of fear and aggression in the general air.

Badlands editorial board
---------------

9-7-07
Merced Sun-Star
Developer perks may be on the chopping block...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13964798p-14524813c.html

Take your handout requests elsewhere.
That's the message the Merced City Council could soon send to builders if it approves a new policy banning discounts on commercial development fees.
The Planning Commission approved the policy Wednesday night; the City Council is scheduled to consider it Sept. 17.
The policy would "make it clear that the city is not inclined to entertain requests for financial incentives for commercial development and ... refrains from negotiating impact fees on an individual basis."
In other words, no more special deals, discounts, breaks or rebates.

Modesto Bee
Toss book on growth, report urges...Garth Stapley
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/61359.html

Study would put planning in state lawmakers' hands.
California's air would be cleaner if city and county leaders would stop making bad decisions on where to build houses and stores, according to a new state report.
Poor development decisions also contribute to global warming, according to the California Energy Commission's study.
"The Role of Land Use in Meeting California's Energy and Climate Change Goals" makes the extraordinary recommendation that legislators mandate regional growth plans that could be used to create a statewide growth plan.
That could mean stripping land-use decisions from tunnel-visioned city and county leaders who would lose one of their most important powers.
"There must be a concentrated and collaborative process to identify where, and in what way, long-term growth should and should not occur in the state," the staff report reads. The document also urges new studies on how tax laws facilitate lousy planning.
Proposition 13, embraced by California voters in 1978, holds down property taxes but inadvertently promotes sprawl, the report found.
The same decision-makers during the past three decades introduced the phenomenon of long commutes by providing inexpensive housing far from jobs, according to the report.
Study sounds familiar theme
Carol Whiteside, president of the Modesto-based Great Valley Center, said leaders can craft "back to the future" plans by regularly calling for grocery stores, for instance, within new housing projects. Children chauffeured to school should have the option of walking, she said.
"In many ways, this requires a change of culture," Whiteside said. "A lot of people grew up that way. It's back to the future."
The report is among several technical documents to be compiled in the 2007 Integrated En-ergy Policy Report, scheduled for review in November by en-ergy commissioners. They would send it on to legislators and Gov. Schwarzenegger, who would issue a response within three months. The report grew out of a 2005 Schwarzenegger edict and last year's Assembly Bill 32, both of which target emissions reduction.

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Merced River Stakeholders public minutes of East Merced Resource Conservation District board meetings

Submitted: Aug 23, 2007

To:
Gwen Huff, Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator
Karen Whipp, Merced Alliance/RCD Grant Administrator

From:
Members of the Merced River Stakeholders

Re: Merced River Stakeholders public minutes of East Merced Resource Conservation District meetings

Date: August 22, 2007

Gwen, Thank you for acknowledging and agreeing to send our protest letter to Merced River stakeholders (posted below). At this time, we are requesting that the enclosed attachments also be sent to Merced River stakeholders and EMRCD board members.

The enclosed attachments include two versions of what happened at the June 14, 2007 EMRCD special meeting, held by teleconference: the minutes taken by the EMRCD/Merced Alliance staff; and those dictated from notes from a Merced River Stakeholder on the call. The difference between the two sets of minutes is remarkable and should be noted by the public. As a result of this difference, members of the Merced River Stakeholders have begun attending EMRCD board meetings.

The third attachment is the Merced Stakeholders public minutes of the EMRCD board meeting of August 15, 2007. For the moment, Stakeholder concerns about public funds have been addressed by EMRCD funders, but a lively dispute continues between members of the Merced River Stakeholders and the EMRCD.

For more background on the dispute, we direct the attention of the public to three recent articles appearing on Badlandsjournal.com:

New Merced County Planning Commissioner: fast and loose with public processes, public funds --Friday, June 29th, 2007
Central Valley Safe Environment Network reply to a Merced County Planning Commissioner--Tuesday, July 10th, 2007
Badlands replies to Commissioner Lashbrook’s information and commentary--Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

---------------------------

Lydia Miller, President San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341

Meeting Minutes of the
BOARD OF DIRECTORS SPECIAL MEETING
EAST MERCED RESOURCE CONSERVATION DISTRICT

Thursday, June 14, 2007, 9:00 a.m.,

Teleconference Location – 1635 Luke Drive, Merced, CA
913 West Yale Avenue, Fresno, CA, 12230 Livingston-Cressey Rd., Livingston, CA, 1658 Scenic View Drive, San Leandro, CA, 6401 Hultberg Road, Hilmar, CA, 3279 Merced Falls Road, Snelling, CA
Call EMRCD for more information (209-723-6755)

Directors Present Per Roll Call:
Glenn Anderson
Tony Azevedo
Karen Barstow
Cathy Weber
Bernard Wade (joined call at 9:30 a.m.)

Directors Absent:
Bob Bliss

Others Present:
Karen Whipp, EMRCD personnel
Cindy Lashbrook, EMRCD personnel and associate director
Gwen Huff, EMRCD personnel

Item #
Vice-President Azevedo called meeting to order at 9:10 am.

1. INTRODUCTIONS
Done.

2. ORAL COMMUNICATIONS
None.

3. CORRECTIONS AND/OR ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA
Karen Barstow moved to add item to agenda regarding preparing rebuttal letter for the opposition letter of the submission of the Merced River Management Plan grant Proposal.
Glenn Anderson seconded the motion/
Call for the vote, Director Anderson, yes; Vice-President Azevedo, yes, Director Barstow yes, Director Bliss, absent, Director Weber, yes; President Wade, absent.
MOTION CARRIED.

4. LETTER OF SUPPORT FOR 4H EDUCATION PROJECT
Cathy Weber moved to approve the EMRCD Board submit a letter of support for the 4H Education Project and authorize Board President to sign letter of support.
Tony Azevedo seconded the motion.
Call for the vote, Director Anderson, yes; Vice-President Azevedo, yes, Director Barstow yes, Director Bliss, absent, Director Weber, yes; President Wade, absent.
MOTION CARRIED.

4A. REBUTTAL LETTER OF THE OPPOSITION LETTER OF RECENT GRANT PROPOSAL
Kathy Weber moved to table this item and discuss at the next regular EMRCD Board meeting.
Glenn Anderson seconded the motion.
Call for the vote, Director Anderson, yes; Vice-President Azevedo, yes, Director Barstow yes, Director Bliss, absent, Director Weber, yes; President Wade, absent.
MOTION CARRIED.
Let it be noted that President Bernard Wade joined the conference call at 9:30 am. The board members reviewed the meeting and actions of the board with him.

5. NEXT MEETING: The next EMRCD Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 20, 2007, 12:00 pm at Golden By Products, Inc., 13000 Newport Road, Ballico, CA.

6. ADJOURNMENT 9:50 a.m.

For more information, contact: East Merced Resource Conservation District, 2135 W. Wardrobe Ave., Suite C, Merced, CA 95340, Phone (209) 723-6755, Fax (209) 723-0880.
----------------------------

Merced River Stakeholders public minutes

Subject: Minutes of June 14, 2007 East Merced Resource Conservation District Meeting by Telephone

Gwen Huff said letters were written to legislators by Pat Ferrigno. The Farm Bureau and Diedre Kelsey were OK with the grant. Huff asked that an emergency item (4a) be placed on the agenda because Ferrigno had written to the legislators, calling for a response from the EMRCD to Ferrigno’s letter.

They took a roll call vote.

On the call at this time: Gwen Huff, Cathy Weber, Karen Barstow, Glenn Anderson, Cindy Lashbrook , Karen Whipp, Tony Azevedo, and Lydia Miller. Miller was never asked if a public member was on the phone.

Attempts were made by email and fax to get Bernie Wade on the call. Wade had called the wrong number and was put on indefinite hold. He joined the meeting late.

The purpose of the special meeting was a letter of support for the 4-H Wells Project.

Lashbrook, having just checked her email, brought up the need for EMRCD to sign on to the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition letter to the Governor about the Williamson Act. Sign on deadline was the next day. Weber said the board would like to see the letter.

Wade finally got on the call, requiring a briefing of all that had already happened.

After Huff told Wade about the need for a letter to the legislators to reply to Ferrigno’s letter, Wade asked, “When is this going to end?”

Lashbrook replied: “We’re at war.”

There was a discussion about the ingratitude of the Merced River Stakeholders. Wade recommended that the stakeholders should be cut out.

The board authorized the letter on the 4-H Wells Project, but didn’t authorize either a letter to legislators in reply to Ferrigno’s letter or the letter to the governor on the Williamson Act. Wade and Weber expressed irritation with being presented with 11th-hour decisions (referring to the Williamson Act letter).

Lashbrook brought up the idea of a means to streamline the authority process.

The board decided on an agenda item to ask the stakeholders how they wished to be involved with the EMRCD in the future.

Azevedo said he would be out of town for the board meeting on June 20. It was to be held at Golden Bi-Products Tire Recycling Co.. Barstow said the company had teleconferencing capability.

Submitted July 17, 2007
By Lydia Miller, president
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
-----------------

Public minutes of the East Merced Resource Conservation District (RCD) board meeting, August 15, 2007

Members of the public, in this instance also members of the Merced River Stakeholders, believing that the official minutes of RCD meetings fail to describe the political and economic issues being discussed and decided by the RCD, have begun taking their own public minutes of its meetings. We urge other members of the public, particularly river stakeholders, to begin attending RCD meetings.

The East Merced RCD is a public institution. Its board members are appointed by Merced County supervisors, its books are overseen by Merced County and its funds are derived from grants from public agencies.

Members of the Merced River Stakeholders recently challenged RCD grant proposals amounting to nearly a half-million dollars. This meeting primarily concerns the results and consequences of the grantors’ decisions regarding these proposals and the RCD response.

Participants:
Public: Bill Hatch, Stakeholder

RCD Board:
Bernie Wade, Glenn Anderson, Cathy Weber, Robert Bliss
Associate Board Member, Cindy Lashbrook, Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator

RCD staff:
Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Cindy Lashbrook
Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholder Facilitator Gwen Huff
Merced Alliance/RCD Grant Administrator Karen Whipp
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service staff:
Malia Hildebrandt

Bill Hatch, Stakeholder who prepared these minutes arrived about a half an hour late to the meeting. Merced County Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook, an associate (non-voting) member of the RCD board and a staff member of the Merced Alliance, whose grants are administered by the RCD, was speaking. She said she had signed up the RCD to attend an economic development conference being held by the City of Merced.

Next, Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook mentioned a sign-on letter by the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition that she wished the RCD board to sign. She said, as she had said in a previous RCD meeting, that the RCD board should appoint either one person or a small committee to deal with issues signing onto this letter, which occur between meetings.

The public correspondent mentioned that the two groups from Merced that are founders of the CRCC, San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center and the San Joaquin Valley Conservancy, are not going to sign this particular letter because it was not clear in the letter that the easements CRCC were requesting would be perpetual and the two founders have a firm policy against term easements.

“Land-use decisions can’t wait,” Lashbrook said, stressing the urgency of the coalition letter to Congress, urging it to pass provisions in the 2007 Farm Bill that would fund more land easements.

RCD Board Member Cathy Weber said the board needed more members (four of the six voting members were at the meeting) present before deciding on such a protocol, and asked that the issue be put on the agenda for the next board meeting, September 27.

Malia Hildebrandt, Merced County Natural Resources Conservation Service staff, reported to the board about the latest water discharge order for dairies, stating that the first reports were due December 31, 2007, NRCS would be providing workshops for dairymen in November and December to help them write their plans for manure disposal and discharge pollutant plans. She also said that Merced County Environmental Health Department is applying for grants to pay for a consultant to help prepare the dairy reports. Consultations would cost between $8,000 and $20,000 per dairy. Hildebrandt said there were about 330 dairies in the county. The NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) would require recipients to file these reports, Hidebrandt said. She added that some dairies were already opting out, but that the program covered all dairies of all sizes and that new dairies or expanded dairies must get individual permits.

In response to a question from the public about the effect of the closure of Hilmar Cheese Co. and the loss of dairies, Hildebrandt said she didn’t know. RCD Board Member Glenn Anderson said he’d heard “there would be no more cows in Hilmar” at some point in the future, either 2020 or 2050 (he wasn’t sure).

Hildebrandt announced that on August 29, Rep. Dennis Cardoza would be holding a “listening” conference on the Farm Bill from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Double Tree in Modesto.

She also mentioned that new dairy lagoons would have to be double-lined with new synthetic, leak-proof liners.

The report of Merced River Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Gwen Huff came next, beginning with a question of whether state Department of Water Resources official, Dan Wermiel, would have to sign off on the next Merced River Alliance newsletter concerning a recent meeting with board members and staff at Henderson Park in Snelling on July 20.

County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook explained that the meeting was a citizen water-quality monitoring event of a sort that will continue “as long as the grant continues.”

A version of the meeting somewhat different than the commissioner’s explanation occurs later in the minutes.

Staff reported that Nancy McConnell, another Merced River Alliance educational coordinator, had written a report on the meeting in Snelling with Wermiel.

Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff announced that the RCD had lost both the large and the small vernal pool grant its had applied for. She said she was awaiting comments from CalFed, the granting agency, about why the RCD had failed to get the grants.

Board Member Weber said that Lydia Miller, president of San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, a Merced River Stakeholder, had sent the RCD a copy of the letter written in opposition to the RCD grants and had asked that the RCD send it out of other stakeholders. Weber and others objected to the heading on the letter, which read: “Merced River Stakeholders,” saying that Miller and a member of the public present at the meeting weren’t the only stakeholders.

There is a header on the top of each page of the protest letter because it was professionally written. The first sentence of the letter reads:

We are writing, as members of the Merced River Stakeholders, to protest a proposal submitted by the East Merced Resource Conservation District (EMRCD) called “Lower Merced Watershed Management Plan.”

Huff said the next meeting of the Merced River Stakeholders was on September 24. Huff, both Merced Alliance/RCD watershed coordinator and facilitator of the stakeholders’ meetings, said that “we won’t spend time on how the grant was developed, but on how the stakeholders should participate” in the future. She added that staff was inviting a regional manager of the state RCDs to attend the meeting to help “RCD/stakeholders’ interface.”

Commissioner Lashbrook said, “We don’t need their (stakeholders’) input.”

Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff outlined RCD board options on how the stakeholders’ should participate in RCD grant applications in the future, prefacing her remarks by saying that Teri Murrison, her predecessor as facilitator for the stakeholders, thought the stakeholders were the most important part of the RCD. “She came to the stakeholders before submitting concept grants,” Huff said. This, Huff said, was Murrison’s first suggestion on RCD relations with the stakeholders. Second, inform the stakeholders. Third, take their comments.

Board Member Weber said that the stakeholders were also independent and that the board should support the idea that stakeholders should be notified and notified better in the future. “But the RCD is also independent,” she added.

RCD Board President Bernie Wade summarized that the board should inform the stakeholders and accept their comments.

Board Member Anderson asked: “Who is to be informed and how? It is a fluid group. Every landowner on the river?”

Actually, in addition to landowners on the river, environmental groups and state and federal agencies have been involved with the Merced River Stakeholders since its inception, facts perhaps forgotten by Anderson.

Lashbrook said that on March 6, 10 days before the concept proposal, “it was mentioned” at a stakeholders’ meeting. “Anyone who cared could have commented.”

Actually, the Merced River Stakeholders meeting was held on March 19.

Karen Whipp, grant administrator for the Merced River Alliance/RCD, said that some Merced River stakeholders don’t open their messages. She keeps a file on those, she added.

RCD Board Member Robert Bliss said that five stakeholders had attended an RCD meeting and they were positive about the two RCD grant proposals.

The board returned to the subject of the Merced River Stakeholders, complaining again that it has no real mechanism for reaching a consensus or for voting.

Commissioner Lashbrook opined that that was because “(Merced River Stakeholders) Lydia Miller and Pat Ferrigno” had rigged the stakeholders’ bylaws so that they would have no mechanism for consensus or voting.

“There has to be a mechanism for support or opposition to a proposal,” one board member said.

Returning to the topic of Lydia Miller’s request that the letter of opposition to the grant be sent to the stakeholders by the Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator and Merced River Stakeholders’ Facilitator, Gwen Huff, Commissioner Lashbrook said: “We don’t have to rub our nose in our failure.”

Merced Alliance/RCD Grant Administrator Whipp stated that, “Lydia doesn’t pay Gwen’s salary.”

Huff, Merced River Alliance/RCD watershed coordinator and stakeholders’ facilitator, said that she would like to send out the letter with a preface.

Lashbrook, county planning commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD educational coordinator, said that the RCD needs to write an introduction to the stakeholders’ letter sent by Miller.

Board Member Weber agreed with Huff and suggested an introductory paragraph: “Lydia requested that this be sent out before the next stakeholders’ meeting.

Commissioner Lashbrook and board member Bliss disagreed. Commissioner Lashbrook did not want the letter sent out without a negative introduction by the RCD.

Board Member Anderson suggested: “Lydia has requested …”

Board Member Bliss stated, “Lydia pays the postage.”

Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Stakeholder Facilitator Huff informed Bliss that the letter would be sent by email.

Merced County Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook reminded the board that the action about to be taken was a board action and not a “unilateral staff action.”

“You as a group decided not to publish a rebuttal letter,” Lashbrook said (although at this point the board had decided nothing.)

Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook wanted a letter of rebuttal by the RCD to points made in the letter of opposition to the grant the Merced River Stakeholder Miller had requested Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff to distribute to the Merced River Stakeholders before the next meeting. She emphasized that the stakeholders had been notified of the concept grant on March 6. She added that the RCD needed “to make a few points against this crap!”

Board President Wade said: “We send out a letter. It will never end!”

Commissioner Lashbrook said something about “different letters …RCD not defending …”

Board Member Anderson said: “All we can do is move forward. If it requires that the stakeholders organize for making comments …”

Commissioner Lashbrook said that there were stakeholders who didn’t know.

Board Member Weber focused on the header of the letter of opposition to the grant and suggested the RCD send out only the header and the first page.

Merced Alliance/RCD Grant Administrator Whipp asked why the RCD was “sending out this scathing letter?”

Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook asked: “Why send out our ‘slap down’?”

Board Member Weber then withdrew her motion to send out the letter in opposition to the grant.

Grant Administrator Whipp informed the board that it would have to make some motion, for example, that Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff is not authorized (by the RCD) to do this …”

Huff said she had already promised Miller she would send out the letter.

Board Member Bliss moved that the letter not be sent out because it is “inflammatory.”

Board President Wade suggested “not authorized –the letter is not authorized to be sent by the board or staff.”

Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholder Facilitator Huff thanked the board for this resolution, which passed. She then described three new grant opportunities available before the end of the year. One involved Bear Creek, the urban parts of which are not in the RCD. The grants were for a watershed coordinator for the stakeholders, water monitoring, and water pollution. Huff finished her report by asking the board to find a group for her to make her final presentation on the Endangered Species Act (in order to fulfill a grant).

The remaining member of the public asked Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholder Facilitator Huff who paid her salary? Huff replied it was paid by the state Department of Conservation at the moment and that will continue until May through the Merced Alliance. At this point, she added, the RCD is looking for new funds from the state Department of Conservation.

Grant Administrator Whipp interjected to explain that the watershed coordinator has a contract with the RCD for the task of facilitating the meetings of the Merced River Stakeholders.

According to Whipp’s logic, Miller as a California taxpayer is paying the watershed coordinator’s salary but evidently the RCD dictates the tasks of stakeholder facilitation.

Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook, reporting as staff of the Merced Alliance on a grant run through the RCD, said that the Riverfair had gone well however there was some question about where it would be held next year. This year it was held at the commissioner’s ranch.

She expressed surprise that state Department of Water Resources official Dan Wermiel “had said those things” at the Snelling meeting on July 20. She added that she is “not putting up with a lot of shit from people for their own self aggrandizement.” She also said she was “hoping we’ll put in some grants that won’t be misrepresented.” She concluded by saying, “These are trying times. You may just be meeting here and looking at each other …”

The member of the public interpreted these remarks to mean that Commissioner Lashbrook’s “ war” (declared at a special RCD meeting a month earlier) against the Merced River Stakeholders who had opposed her grants was still on, however, things didn’t look good for future grants to the East Merced Resource Conservation District, at least from its usual sources.

Board Member Weber suggested that the RCD go to the stakeholders with ideas for things that can be done without grants and coordinate with the stakeholders on these projects.

Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff stated that in California, all RCD funding is by grant.

County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook added that California is the only state that operates its RCD funds this way.

NRCS staff Hildebrandt said that some states have base state funding for RCDs and others don’t.

Commissioner Lashbrook told the board that it needed to look to its strategy “in light of what’s going on.” Funding for RCD staff runs out in March. She quoted DWR official Wermiel as saying that the federal government didn’t contribute to CalFed.

Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook said that the instructions CalFed gave her and other grant writers were that they needed a broader stakeholder base and a wider watershed to qualify. She said it would have been an “open public process, not steered …” and that “we (the grant writing staff) were set to do a plan for implementation.”

However, she continued, “big negatives drowned that out.”

Commissioner Lashbrook said the granting agency told her nothing would be accepted after the submission date. She added that had she known, she could have gotten 40-60 support letters.

Board President Wade said, “Scandal! Criminal!”

The stakeholders opposed to the grant contacted the granting agency, still unable to get a copy of the grant from after the submission date from either Merced Alliance/RCD Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff or Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook. The funders instructed them to send their opposition letter early in the week after the submission deadline.

Huff said that the review of the grants from the funders will come and will be shared.

Board members said that DWR official Wermiel had called the meeting on July 20 in Snelling (so it was not really a routine water monitoring meeting). Then a letter from Nancy McConnell, like Commissioner Lashbrook, another Merced Alliance educational coordinator, was read in which McConnell said she was “real sorry the grant didn’t make it.” The McConnell letter continued to say that after the tour, Wermiel said that chances of getting more CalFed money were unlikely. California is very backwards, said McConnell, who lives out of the area. She said, “top managers of the watershed program didn’t buy into the process themselves.” She concluded the letter with a rousing: “Keep the watershed community base faith!”

The board and staff did not discuss the request of Merced River Stakeholders Miller and Pat Ferrigno and RCD Board President Wade’s request to be sent a report on the meeting between Merced Alliance/RCD staff and DWR official Wermiel, nor has it sent her a copy as of the writing of these minutes.

Merced County Planning Commissioner/Merced Alliance/RCD Education Coordinator Lashbrook reported on a Merced County plan to review all “annexations.” RCD, which is a special district and falls under the jurisdiction of the county Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), will be reviewed and needed to provide a legal description of the district and a man. A new annexation would cost $2,700 and require environmental review and a Notice of Determination.

Members of the board entered into an intense discussion about where the legal description and map might be, which was brought to an end when Huff found them in a filing cabinet behind Planning Commissioner Lashbrook.

Lashbrook reported that the Sierra Club would hold a meeting on the high-speed rail proposal the next day and that Kim Forest, US Fish and Wildlife Service manager of the Grasslands would attend to express her concerns about how the rail proposal would affect west side grasslands. The planning commissioner added that there would be a public hearing on the project at the end of the month – the only hearing on it in the Valley, to be held in Merced.

Board members discussed briefly whether the high speed, electric powered railway would cut down on pollution, some saying yes, others asking how the electric power would be generated.

Board Member Anderson reported on the Valley Land Alliance, a board he also sits on, saying that the Alliance “wants an active role.” Currently, he said the Alliance is proposing a food-and-energy element in the county General Plan Update process.

Watershed Coordinator/Merced River Stakeholders Facilitator Huff said that the board should consider using fee-for-service agreements to raise funds as well as grants.

The meeting adjourned.

During the meeting, another member of the public, who had to leave the meeting early, said that when he was in the hallway outside the meeting before it began, Commissioner Lashbrook demanded to know why he was there (at a public meeting discussing public funds). There have been several reliable reports by either eyewitnesses or victims, that Commissioner Lashbrook has threatened people in what has the appearance of a personal vendetta against Merced River Stakeholder Miller for protesting the substance and process in the RCD grant proposals. Commissioner Lashbrook has been reported to say to people that they must choose sides between herself and Merced River Stakeholder Miller and must not communicate with either Miller or anyone associated with her, presumably including all people for the last 30 years who have used the services of or volunteered with the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center or are now or have ever been members of the Central Valley Safe Environment Network as well as people involved with newer organizations. In a previous RCD meeting, Merced Planning Commissioner Lashbrook summed up her attitude toward Merced River Stakeholder Miller: “It’s war.”

Is this the way Merced County citizens want high officials to treat the public?

The question of whether the RCD has a right to obstruct the tasks of the Merced River Stakeholders facilitator, paid public funds to facilitate stakeholders’ meetings, will be taken up at the stakeholders’ meeting in September.

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Submitted: Jul 26, 2007

At the financial market level, it is of course assumed that all local land-use authorities would automatically have to approve subdivisions funded by subprime loans, now in default, because, naturally, no local land-use officials could possibly behave with any kind of economic caution or care. In fact, elected officials in this area -- from Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, down to three county boards of supervisors and many city councils, promoted an orgy of greed that has ended in the northern San Joaquin Valley counties leading the nation in per capita mortgage foreclosures.

These days, not only have they been proven corrupt, the arrogance of these elected officials has increased and they are even more willing to try to intimidate the public by calling them "socialists" and whatnot.

But, looking at it from their point of view, what else can they do but try to slander their critics? What they did is out in front of God and Everyone. The obvious political play is to bring up the Socialist Menace. Let's forget about subsidized federal water for subsidized cotton and all the rest of Supervisor Jerry O'Banion's friends and interests. O'Banion would never be dumb enough to call anyone a socialist, given the political situation on the west side. But, would he above goading Supervisor Mike Nelson to do it?

The socialists in Merced County are rich, subsidized farmers, public employees (teachers, city and county employees, etc.) and UC Merced. We have bureaucratic oppression on the east side and the same-old feudalism on the west side.

But, don't tell the focos grupitos participating in the county general plan update process that! Perish those critical thoughts! We will reach a grand consensus (led by the adroit triple-speak of county planning staff). Don't count on Agriculture. Those people are in acute political schizophrenia: landowner v. farmer. To preserve or to sell, that is the question. It's Hamlet time.

If we are not to be guided lovingly over the cliff to San Fernando Valley by our triple-speaking public employees, it would be wise to talk among ourselves, not coagulating into some phony group, but in caucus among those we trust and who share common interests. The way the flak is drifting at the moment, people cannot find their allies because they are buying into political agendas against their self-interests, in the name of vast, utterly illusory, consensuses defined by our common grave diggers.

But, Hey, it's the California Way. Right?

Wrong.

Groups must develop now that can identify their own self interests and can seek and find coalitions with other groups with allied self interests against a bureaucracy in the east, which cares for nothing but more jurisdictional revenue, and the feudalism in the west, living off subsidies and cheap labor.

Bill Hatch
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San Francisco Chronicle

Wall Street Plunges, Dow Falls 400 ... JOE BEL BRUNO, AP Business Writer
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/07/26/financial/f112916D39.DTL&hw=environment&sn=002&sc=891

Wall Street suffered its second-biggest plunge of the year Thursday, leading global markets lower as investors fled stocks amid increasing uneasiness about the mortgage and corporate lending markets. The Dow Jones industrials fell more than 400 points, while Treasury yields plunged as investors moved money into bonds.
Investors who had been able to shrug off discomfort about subprime mortgage problems and a more difficult environment for corporate borrowing appeared to finally succumb to those concerns. The Dow's drop is the biggest since it plummeted 416 points on Feb. 27 after a nearly 10 percent decline in Chinese stock markets.
Feeding the selling were concerns that higher corporate borrowing costs will curb the rapid pace of takeovers that have driven major indexes this year. Investors also feared the sluggish environment for home sales and continued defaults in subprime loans would spur debt defaults and weigh on corporate earnings.
"Worries that have been out there for the past couple of years are coming to a head right now," said investment strategist Edward Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research Inc. "It's show time" ...

Huge Farm Bill Offers More of Same for Agribusiness ...Carolyn Lochhead
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/07/26/MNG9AR6V6S1.DTL

WASHINGTON - A prominent San Francisco patron of the arts, Constance Bowles — heiress of an early California cattle baron, widow of a former director of UC Berkeley’s Bancroft library and a resident of Pacific Heights — was the largest recipient of federal cotton subsidies in the state of California between 2003 and 2005, collecting more than $1.2 million, according to the latest available data.
That is the way U.S. farm programs are designed to work. Five crops — cotton, corn, wheat, rice and soybeans — received 92 percent of the $21 billion in federal farm payments last year. The biggest payments go to the biggest farms.
That also is pretty much the way farm programs will continue to work for the next five years under mammoth legislation scheduled today for a House vote.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco has endorsed the new farm bill, produced by the House Agriculture Committee to run programs for the next five years, as a major reform because it limits annual payments to farmers who earn $1 million a year.
The income limit for a couple would actually be $2 million, because a husband and wife each could collect.
If the bill becomes law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says the cap will affect just 3,100 farmers, assuming they do not use accounting tactics to reduce their taxable income. Actual payments to farmers would rise over the five years authorized by the bill. The bill is over budget, so Democratic leaders propose a $4 billion tax increase on U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies to pay for it...Pelosi is pushing for a quick House vote this week on the Agriculture Committee’s bill to give rural Democrats — especially those who won seats in GOP-dominated districts last year — something to tout when they return home for the August congressional recess...But most California farmers — and most U.S. farmers — do not grow the five subsidized crops and do not receive direct payments from the federal government. California fruit, nut and vegetable growers, who would get research and marketing aid under the new bill, mostly oppose crop subsidies and did not seek them.
Economists say the subsidies harm most farmers. That’s because they lower crop prices, raise land prices and rents, and give subsidized farmers a financial advantage that has helped drive their neighbors out of business and keep young farmers from getting started.
Many farmers, and farm state politicians of both parties, oppose large payments. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, all want to limit payments to one-quarter the size Pelosi has endorsed in the House bill.
“When you say to the biggest farms in the country, ‘The bigger you get, the more money you get from the government,’ then the farm program effectively subsidizes the destruction of family farming,” said Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs in Nebraska. “Most people in rural America think that is bad policy.”
The big payments would continue while prices of subsidized crops are at or near record highs, fueled by the ethanol boom. The value of this year’s giant corn crop — which would almost cover the state of California in acreage — is expected to reach $40 billion.
California’s top subsidy recipient from 2003 to 2005, Bowles, 88, of San Francisco, collected the $1.2 million in mostly cotton payments through her family’s 6,000-acre farm, the Bowles Farming Co., in Los Banos (Merced County). She could not be reached for comment.
Another family member, George “Corky” Bowles, who died in 2005, collected $1.19 million over the same period. George Bowles once ran the farm but lived on Telegraph Hill. A collector of rare books and 18th century English porcelain, he served as a director of the San Francisco Opera and a trustee of the Fine Arts Museums.
The farm is run by Phillip Bowles in San Francisco. Phillip Bowles was on vacation Tuesday and could not be reached. He told KGO television last week that he’s no fan of subsidies, but if big cotton growers in Texas get them, so should he.
“Many of these businesses are getting 20 to 30 to sometimes 40 percent of their gross revenues directly from the government,” Phillip Bowles told KGO. “I don’t have a good explanation for that. Somebody else might, but it beats me.”
Economists say they can find no rationale for the subsidies, which started in 1933 as temporary aid for small farmers devastated by the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Then, a quarter of Americans lived on farms. Today, less than 1 percent do — so few that the Census Bureau quit counting.
“The programs are just outdated,” said Daniel Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center and a leading farm economist. “No one can think of a legitimate reason why we have these farm programs for a handful of crops in the United States.
“If the best the committee could do is say these payments are to help people in need, and we’re going to define for farm legislation that somebody’s in need if the family makes $2 million a year — a million for the husband and a million for the wife — that’s a little strange. If these are really welfare programs for the needy, we don’t normally cut those off at $1 million. It’s more like $20,000.”
Cotton ranks as the No. 1 subsidized crop in California. Federal data compiled by Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization, shows that the state’s cotton, rice and dairy farmers received more than $1 billion in federal support from 2003 to 2005. During the same period, about $62 million went to farm conservation and environmental projects in California...Farm environmental programs now total $4 billion a year, far outstripping any other federal funding for private conservation. Environmentalists would like to see the crop subsidies also go to “green payments” to induce environmental protection for wildlife habitat, watersheds and the like.

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Let them eat subsidized blueberries!

Submitted: Jul 14, 2007
"We are looking for a niche," said (Merced County Planning Commissioner) Cindy Lashbrook, a Merced County organic farmer who grows blueberries and almonds near Livingston. "We're looking to be legitimized, in a way." -- Merced Sun-Star, July 12, 2007

Happy Bastille Day.

If it hadn't been for Dan Morgan's article in the Washington Post today, noting that hundreds of lobbying groups have been going to Washington to state their case for the Farm Bill, we would not have had a clue what was going on in a July 12 story from McClatchy on a group of local organic growers in Washington. Whatever coherence the story may have had was ruined by the quote from Commissioner Lashbrook. But UC/Great Valley Center leadership training doesn't stress coherence. Self-dealing self-promotion is highly prized, however. In passing Morgan's book, The Great Grain Robbery, is an unforgettable classic in agricultural investigative reporting.

Why are organic growers "desperate" if their segment of the market is the fastest growing in the land? Perhaps, these days, land prices and debt prohibit farming in California.

We need to traipse through a little recent history to try to understand what this story is could be about. We won't get beyond tentative suggestions.

In November 2006, the reign of the Pomboza (representatives RichPAC Pombo, R-Tracy, and Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced) ended when Democrats regained a majority in Congress. The Pomboza was unable to gut the Endangered Species Act (although the Bush administration has attempted to do it by fiat since), the House Resources Committee, on which they served (Pombo as chairman) was restored to its former title, House Natural Resources Committee, and Cardoza was assigned a seat on the House Rules Committee. This committee is an exclusive committee. According to Democratic Party House rules, members who serve on exclusive committees cannot serve on other committees. However, Cardoza was given a waiver to serve on the House Committee on Agriculture because of his district and because it is a Farm Bill year that will define federal support for agriculture for the next five years.

Cardoza is a member of the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry, which makes sense because his district includes the center of the California poultry industry, the administrative center of the dairy industry and because Merced is the second largest dairy county in the nation. Cardoza's top individual contributor is Gallo Cattle Co., owner of the largest dairy in the US.

However, Cardoza is also chairman of the Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture. Although his name does not appear in this story it is rumored that Cardoza is one of the leaders of the opposition to a Farm Bill favoring the large commodities -- rice, cotton, corn and milk -- and we think that somehow his office was involved in this little piece of fluff, which reminds us of the aluminum foil designed to confuse incoming missiles.

What's missing from the story is any mention of commercial rather than organic fruit, nut, vegetable and grape grower groups. Merced is the top producer of almonds in the world. The centers of organic production in California are in coastal counties.

Cardoza represents the largest wine company in the world, the largest dairy in the nation, the largest cheese factory in the world and the largest commercial almond area in the world.

However, all is not well in these giant agribusiness concerns. The largest cheese factory in the world, having polluted its area's groundwater to the point that even the regional water board dared to fine it, is building a new plant in Texas and will soon be gone, taking dairies with it. A French-owned gourmet cheese plant recently relocated from Turlock to Wisconsin. The Totally Illegal 42-inch Ranchwood Sewer Line from Livingston runs through the middle of property owned by the largest dairy in the nation and is headed toward the headquarters of this dairy, whose owner is planning an entire new town, having recently finished a strip mall and a truck stop on Highway 99. The largest dairy in the world is also planning a large residential subdivision near UC Merced. The almond industry is facing an uncertain future due to crashing populations of Honey Bees, required for pollination. Finally, the word in the real estate markets is that one viable sector left is farm swaps, by which developers wishing to buy farmers' land locate comparable acreage in other states for them to move to.

So, although the chairman of the Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture must appear to support the themes of his subcommittee, cotton, poultry, dairy and wine interests will control his voting on the next Farm Bill as they have controlled his agricultural votes throughout his political career. However, the theme of real estate is dearest to Cardoza's heart since he began his political career. No state legislator or House representative did more to promote the speculative real estate boom in his districts in the north San Joaquin Valley, for which reason his present congressional district contains the highest per capita rate of mortgage foreclosure in the nation.

Farmers are landowners. In periods of real estate speculation as reckless as what recently occurred in Cardoza's congressional district, farmers are more landowners than production agriculturalists. Any news, even about organic agriculture, is preferable to more news about the financial hemorrhage going on in the 18th Congressional District of California.

Nevertheless, the public has limits on the amount of inanity it will accept from the press at the behest of congressmen. Merced County Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook transgresses these limits by making the absurd connection between legitimacy and a subsidy of public funds. While Lashbrook is probably sincere in her belief (she has declared war to acquire public funds for self-dealing and self-promotion despite public opposition), many of the Valley's better farmers have always resisted growing subsidized crops in the belief it is not really as legitimate as Lashbrook suggests. They will do it, but it isn't their first choice. The media from the local to the international level have been increasingly critical of farm subsidies, particularly in cotton. In fact, Lashbrook was the moderator of a meeting kicking off a campaign for an anti-growth initiative, which featured author Mark Arax, who signed and sold copies of his expose of the Boswell subsidized cotton kingdom. Would she have felt differently if Boswell had been growing subsidized blueberries in the Tulare Lake all these years? The whole thing is ridiculous and makes you think of Joseph Heller's great entrepreneur, Milo Minderbender, feeding chocolate covered Egyptian cotton to the troops. We aren't dealing with rational thought processes here. We are dealing with public-funds grubbing.

At least until the most recent speculative real estate boom, organic farming has been about the only sector of California agriculture where entry without a fortune has still been possible and its market has steadily grown on the hard work of its farmers, steady improvement of soil quality, and the quality of its produce, for which consumers have been willing to pay a premium. If Lashbrook is still looking for a niche in organic agriculture, one imagines she will never find it because the niche has been there and growing for 30 years and has had recognized USDA federal standards for about a decade. USDA market reporters even report organic produce prices these days. If she hasn't found it yet, her chances are slim at this point.

The present problem in organic agriculture is corporatism -- perhaps a business response to land values. For example, the e-coli outbreak from San Benito County last year was produced not by family organic growers on small, orderly plots, but by a rapidly growing organic produce corporation, which clearly lost control of its quality and safety systems. Corporatism will be the death of organic agriculture, because organics is founded on small farming, greater attention to quality and safety, and modest lifestyles that do not include cruising the halls of Congress. In fact, organic farming is more accurately called organic gardening, because all if its significant techniques emerged from very small plots, few achieving the size of truck gardens, using styles of horticulture begun in ancient Rome and perfected by Parisian market gardeners during the Napoleonic period. These techniques were brought to California in the 1970s by Alan Chadwick of Covelo and UC Santa Cruz and popularized in this country and others by John Jeavons of Willits and J. Mogodor Griffith of Chicago. Nationally, the books of Garden Way Publishing, Rodale Press, and magazines like Prevention and New Farm, from Pennsylvania, for decades have formed the background and underpinnings of the organic movement in the US.

It is not about subsidies to agribusiness corporations that poison people with mass-market produce labeled "organic." Sales, marketing and distribution started small. Organic produce has been the backbone of the growing farmers' market and community supported agriculture movements throughout the nation. Next came regional cooperative markets, a few wholesale stands in places like Jerrold Street, SF and the LA Terminal Market, and companies like Veritable Vegetable and Mountain People Warehouse that frequently grew out of regional cooperatives.

One Badlands staffer has spent decades in and around organic agriculture. In the long complaint that he has heard from organic growers about weather, bugs, water, labor and markets, he has never ever heard an organic gardener or farmer complain to the government about "legitimacy," in any way at all. He’s never known an organic grower with a legitimacy problem. He reasons that organic agriculture would only develop a legitimacy problem when corporations overwhelmed the cooperative roots of the organic movement.

The idea of organic growers whining to Cardoza for legitimacy is unwholesome and against the tradition of organic production and distribution. Once again, Commissioner Lashbrook is ripping off a tradition of great integrity and history for self-dealing and self-promotion or else has been absorbed by an organo-agribusiness campaign for subsidies. But, beyond noticing that that is what is apparently going on, what can you say? Perhaps, one can say that "organic agriculture" as presented by Lashbrook and Cardoza, has cut itself off from its roots so far that it is now lost in the halls of Congress, where all the decent things go to die.

Badlands editorial staff
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7-12-07
Merced Sun-Star
Merced second in nation in foreclosures...J.N. Sbranti, Modest Bee
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13780283p-14360785c.html

About $925 million worth of mortgages have been foreclosed on since January in the northern San Joaquin Valley, and 2,575 homes have been auctioned off on courthouse steps in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties. Sean O'Toole, who owns ForeclosureRadar, a research firm based in Discovery Bay has been tracking the rapid rise in foreclosures throughout California. "Foreclosure sales now represent about 16 percent of all home sales in California,"..."Lenders are building a significant inventory (of repossessed homes),"..."Since Jan. 1, 2007, a total of 29,696 California properties have been returned to the lender for an astonishing total loan value of $12 billion. This is unprecedented." The situation may get worse before it gets better. RealtyTrac, another foreclosure property research firm...northern San Joaquin Valley leads the nation when it comes to mortgage defaults...calculated that San Joaquin County had the highest rate of homes in the process of being foreclosed — 1 in 103. Merced County ranked second-worst, with 1 in 121 homes in the foreclosure process. And Stanislaus County ranked fourth-worst, with 1 in 131 homes. For California as a whole, 1 in 315 homes were in the foreclosure process. The nationwide rate was 1 in 704 homes. Traditionally, most homeowners who receive notices of default have been able to refinance their mortgages, catch up on payments or sell their houses before lenders force a foreclose auction. But as home prices fall, mortgage lending requirements tighten and loan interest rates rise, avoiding foreclosure has become more difficult.

Local growers in Washington to push farm bill...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13780293p-14360810c.html

WASHINGTON...on Capitol Hill, the House Agriculture Committee is poised in coming days to divvy up billions of dollars in a new farm bill... With the House panel planning to write its farm bill over the course of three days next week, Teixeira and several dozen other organic farmers are taking a desperate stab at changing the course of federal agricultural policy. So far, success is elusive. Existing cotton, rice, wheat and corn subsidies would stay essentially the same, under the current bill written by the agriculture committee chairman, Rep. Colin Peterson, D-Minn. Federal crop subsidies totaled about $17 billion last year. The politically vocal American Farm Bureau Federation likewise supports Peterson's stay-the-course approach to traditional subsidies, as does the National Milk Producers Federation. California at Davis agricultural economist Dan Sumner allies himself with California's fruit and vegetable growers, who seek a bigger share of the farm bill. The bill coming before the House committee next Tuesday does boost some specialty crop funding. Even so, specialty crop advocates — and organic growers in particular — complain the current House bill shortchanges the fastest-growing sector of U.S. agriculture. "We are looking for a niche," said Cindy Lashbrook, a Merced County organic farmer who grows blueberries and almonds near Livingston. "We're looking to be legitimized, in a way."
Hear an audio interview with Merced County farmer Cindy Lashbrook about the proposed Farm Bill.

7-13-07
Houston Chronicle
July 13, 2007, 11:55PM
Public support for Congress at lowest in a year By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
Associated Press
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/headline/nation/4967558.html

WASHINGTON — Too much bickering and not enough legislating.
That, in just a few words, explains why public approval of Congress' job performance has fallen 11 points since May, to 24 percent, its lowest level in a year, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll finds.
That's lower than for President Bush, who isn't exactly "Mr. Popularity," either ...

7-14-07
Washington Post
Democrats divided over Farm Bill changes...Dan Morgan
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/13/AR2007071301930_pf.html

When freshman Ohio Democrat Zack Space replaced veteran Republican Rep. Robert W. Ney after the 2006 elections, groups lobbying for a major revamping of farm subsidy programs were elated. House Democrats, with their base in urban areas and coastal regions, were not beholden to programs weighted toward large commercial farmers in the grain and cotton belts. And Space's eastern Ohio district of small and medium-size farms was far down the list of those receiving government farm payments. But, as the House Agriculture Committee prepares to take up a new five-year farm bill on Tuesday, Space, one of nine freshmen Democrats on the panel, is opposing major changes in the traditional price and income support programs that in 2006 paid farmers $19 billion. Space's resistance to change highlights the struggle within the Democratic Party as the farm bill moves to center stage on Congress's legislative agenda. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) have told Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.) that they will not support a "status quo" bill. A coalition of Democratic-leaning environmental organizations, anti-poverty groups and church organizations are pushing to redirect some subsidies to conservation, wetlands preservation, rural development and nutrition. But top Democrats are reluctant to push too hard for changes that could put at risk Democratic freshmen from "red" states, which backed President Bush's reelection in 2004 and where the farm vote is still a factor in close elections. At stake in the new farm bill are billions of dollars affecting the fortunes of farmers, as well as groups that include soft-drink manufacturers using corn sweeteners and poor families relying on food stamps. In 2006, more than 475 organizations reported lobbying on agricultural issues, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Peterson, whose northwest Minnesota district grows wheat, corn, soybeans and sugar beets, has vowed to protect the traditional programs... Peterson's draft has been criticized by fellow House Democrats representing farming interests that receive little direct help. Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, complained that the bill would provide $465 million in new money over five years to support fruit and vegetable growers. "That's not even a crumb," he told reporters, adding that unless improvements are made the bill will face a battle on the House floor. The debate over subsidies is coming in the midst of nearly unprecedented prosperity in U.S. farming. Farm income and the value of farmland and farm assets have been rising, spurred by strong exports and a boom in the demand for corn, which is used to make ethanol.

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