February 28, 2009
Return to Barker Ranch - Death Valley
We returned to the Barker Ranch, the hideout where Charles Manson was arrested. We couldn't see any evidence in the vicinity of the digging and searching the Inyo County Sheriff did this past year. Don't know whether the suspected burial sites were further away, or the Sheriff did a good job restoring the terrain.
DHS Flower Report
Here is a report received today from Pat, the Desert Hot Springs flora inspector:
Your DHS readers might like to know about blooming wildflowers I found in Long Canyon today, Saturday. The canyon is not covered in masses of color. But with a little searching it was easy to find 16 types of flowers just starting to bloom. I found: bladder pod, brittlebush, brown-eyed primrose, burro bush, chia, creosote bush, desert canterbury bells, desert chicory, desert dandelion, desert trumpet, forget-me-not, Fremont pincushion, lupine, phacelia, sand verbena and Spanish needle. I also checked both sides of Mountain View Road between Dillon Road and 20th Avenue. Desert dandelion and chicory should provide lots of color there there is coming week. We don't have to drive to Anza Borrego or JoshuaTree to see flowers.
February 27, 2009
Ballarat - Almost Death Valley
We drove over to Panamint Valley and paid a brief visit to Ballarat, which we had completely skipped last year. Some people call Ballarat a "ghost town," but anyplace where you can buy a soda for $2 and bemoan the lack of any Charles Manson t-shirts to the proprietor is hardly a ghost town. A few photos:
Nothing Is Sacred
Coca Cola Light Plus Green Tea
Photo by hirosan.
In Brooklyn In March
Myrtle Windows Gallery presents: ordinary wonderful
A solo exhibition celebrating everyday beauty by Brooklyn-based artist Trevor Brown
CLINTON HILL, BROOKLYN, February 26, 2009 – From March 3rd to April 1st, three blocks of Myrtle Avenue will again play host to the Myrtle Windows Gallery, an open-air art gallery of ten storefront windows, with an exhibition of photographs by Brooklyn-based artist Trevor Brown. This exhibit, entitled ordinary wonderful, is sponsored by the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership (the Partnership) as part of their larger effort to bring art to public spaces on the retail corridor. The Partnership and artist Brown will celebrate this exhibit with a public reception on Friday, March 6th from 6pm-8pm at Karen's Body Beautiful at 436 Myrtle Avenue between Clinton and Waverly, after a guided tour beginning at 5:30pm.
The Myrtle Windows Gallery brings two-dimensional art traditionally limited to the private gallery to the public arena via the storefront window, where it is accessible to anyone walking down the street. This exhibition features the work of photographer Trevor Brown, whose work encourages all of us to take a moment to enjoy the beauty around us that we see every day, but too often take for granted. The Partnership issued an open call for participation in this exhibition, and selected Brown from a strong pool of local applicants because of the striking content and color in his work that brings a new light to familiar places. "From railroad tracks to garbage cans and window gates - you would never guess that the images in this show were all shot in Brooklyn. Even our local eateries with backyard gardens become magical places in the right light," says artist Brown, whose works will be offered for sale at price points considered quite affordable. Brown explains, "Community access to the arts has always been important to me as an artist. This is an opportunity that sounds like it is custom-made for me." Information on pricing is available inside participating stores. Un-mounted prints can also be ordered through the Partnership.
"Art on Myrtle enriches the daily experience of the visitor, shopper, and resident, and also highlights what makes this community special. We are thrilled to be able to create opportunities for local artists like Trevor Brown to show their work through this initiative," explains Meredith Phillips Almeida, the Partnership's Director of Community Development. Conceived as an innovative local economic development strategy with the dual purpose of increasing access to art and driving foot traffic to Myrtle Avenue, Myrtle Windows Gallery offers an added bonus for participating merchants – if a piece is sold, the store where it is displayed will receive a commission. Prior to the opening reception, Brown will lead at guided tour of the exhibit at 5:30pm on Friday, March 6th beginning at Karen's Body Beautiful at 436 Myrtle Avenue. Light refreshments will be served at the opening reception, which also takes place from 6-8pm at Karen's Body Beautiful and is free and open to the public. The pieces will be on display from March 3rd to April 1st in the following storefronts, all located within three blocks on Myrtle Avenue between Hall Street and Clinton Avenue:
- Anima (458 Myrtle)
- Five Spot Supper Club (459 Myrtle)
- Joseph Tyler Salon (456 Myrtle)
- Karen's Body Beautiful (436 Myrtle)
- Karrot Health Food (431 Myrtle)
- Miracles Unisex Barber Shop (473A Myrtle)
- Move with Grace Dance & Yoga Studio (469 Myrtle)
- Optimum Care Rehab (474 Myrtle)
- Thai 101 Restaurant (455A Myrtle)
- Three Stars Laundromat (439 Myrtle).
The Partnership's public art program is funded in part by a grant from the Lily Auchincloss Foundation and Myrtle's Business Improvement District.
Contact: Meredith Phillips, Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, 718-230-1689, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rattlesnake in Cahuilla Canyon
Seen and photographed yesterday by °Florian. We've had a few warm days, but not as many or so warm to bring out the snakes, I would have thought. Last week in Death Valley we saw a very active baby rattlesnake when the air temperature was only 55°.
DEA Gets On Board With Obama Policy On Medical Marijuana
In a press conference on Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that henceforth federal law enforcement policy will match President Obama's policy: there will be no more DEA raids on medical marijuana dispensaries (coops or collectives). Also, the feds will drop their opposition to needle exchange programs.
Just In Time For Lent
The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah.
Via one of my brothers.
If the crisp choreography and pizzazz of that gay version doesn't float your boat, here you can watch a poorly lighted version in front of an apparently humorless congregation of United Methodists.
Someone Has Found A Silver Lining
An L.A. Times story about "prison consultants," ex-cons who, for a fee, prepare white collar convicts for their first visit to the slammer. These consultants are expecting an upturn in business as the economy goes to hell and uncovers more Ponzi schemes and scams.
Lesson number 1 is that nobody in prison ever heard of Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Stay with your own race. Don't use the phone of a person of another race. Don't play cards with people of another race." Maybe Lesson 1A is what to do if you're of mixed race.
It all makes sense in the United States, which has made itself the most imprisoned nation on earth.
Larry Levine, the focus of the article, said he made $100,000 from 40 clients last year. That's an average of $2.500 each. He doesn't deal with child molesters, but gives them this advice: "Pray. You're going to get beat up every day you're in there."
LADWP Discusses New Route For Green Path
A Press-Enterprise article with two big stories about Green Path North. First, the obvious one that they are considering another route (called "A3") that would run from Devers II (near Desert Hot Springs) to I-10, along I-10 to San Timoteo Canyon, and then to Loma Linda, Colton, Rialto and San Bernardino to Lytle Creek north of Fontana. [I wonder if anyone at the Press-Enterprise ever looks at their web articles to see how horrid their graphics turn out.] The route crosses a lot fewer private properties than the other I-10 route that would run lines all the way along the Ten to I-15. LADWP contacted Southern California Edison two weeks ago to re-open discussions for the I-10 route. They have not, however, contacted Union Pacific, whose right of way would be used as well. The Redlands Conservancy is concerned about environmental damage to San Timoteo Canyon.
The second big story is that we are finding out about this proposal now, even though it has not been publicly announced, and there is no detailed information or official maps yet, because the LADWP asked "desert stakeholders" to a private meeting on the subject in Los Angeles last week.
Yes, instead of trespassing and secretly planting survey markers, they are now asking for up-front input from April Sall, Joan Taylor, and (we assume) others unnamed. This is a great improvement from David Nahai's snotty remark last summer, "I didn't have to come out here, you know."
Mosaic Canyon - Death Valley
Just as the sun was nearing the western horizon we did a short hike into Mosaic Canyon where the soft light was good for bringing out all the detail and color in the geology around us. Mosaic Canyon re-opened only a couple of days before we got there. All roads in the park were closed the week before due to flooding.
February 26, 2009
Mecca Hills Again
Some of my photos from yesterday's hike in the Mecca Hills.
Police Shooting in DHS
I saw the yellow tape around the now-empty storefront at Hacienda and Palm this morning and my first optimistic thought was that they were making preparations to demolish the building in preparation for the future Fresh N Easy store. No such luck. When I saw all the yellow numbered markers I knew it was something much worse. The police describe it as a situation where the young man was combative, didn't respond to tasering, so they drew their weapons. A witness says she saw it differently.
Al Schmidt Resigns From City Council
AB 390 - Legalization of Marijuana in California
I ignored the hubbub about Tom Ammiano's introduction into the California Assembly of AB 390 to legalize marijuana. (His official website). I waited the couple of days for the text of the bill to appear on the Assembly's website.
So let's take a look at it without hysteria. Everything in quotes is from the bill itself:
"This bill would remove marijuana and its derivatives from existing statutes defining and regulating controlled substances. It would instead legalize the possession, sale, cultivation, and other conduct relating to marijuana and its derivatives by persons 21 years of age and older."
"It would set up a wholesale and retail marijuana sales regulation program, including special fees to fund drug abuse prevention programs."
"It would ban local and state assistance in enforcing inconsistent federal and other laws relating to marijuana."
The act refers to all parts of Cannabis sativa L., except "mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of the plant that is incapable of germination." That is, the act does not touch on all the parts of hemp that are already legal.
Commercial growers will be licensed. The license cannot cost more than $5,000 initially, nor more than $2,500 for an annual renewal. Criminal background checks of potential growers will be required. The grower has to provide plans for a complete security system to prevent unauthorized access to the crop at any point in its growing and processing. Employees of the grower who have access to the crop must be age 21 or older. No one under 21 can transport the crop. Consumption of marijuana on the grounds of cultivator is forbidden — so there will be nothing equivalent to wine tastings.
Wholesalers will also be licensed with the same cost limits ($5,000/$2,500) as for cultivators. Criminal background checks required as well. Same rules on security, age of employees, and non-use of marijuana on the premises.
Only California marijuana from a licensed cultivator, delivered by a licensed wholesaler, can be sold by a licensed "off-sale general licensee," meaning they sell it to you for off-premises consumption. So there will be nothing like Amsterdam's hash bars. The retailer will keep the marijuana in a locked case behind a counter. You'll have to be 21 or older to buy it. Penalties for violations by the retail regulations will be similar to those imposed for alcohol sale violations.
The list of items banned as "drug paraphernalia" remains substantially the same, because most of the provisions refer to "controlled substances," rather than specific drugs - and after this bill passes into law, marijuana will not be a controlled substance as defined in the law. For example: "(3) Isomerization devices designed for use or marketed for use in increasing the potency of any species of plant which is a controlled substance."
Where marijuana or hashish is referred to specifically, the reference is deleted. For example: "(C) Roach clips, meaning objects used to hold burning material
, such as a marijuana cigarette, that has become too small or too short to be held in the hand."
Bongs for marijuana and hash would be legal. Bongs for "controlled substances" would not be legal. There's text in the law already that defines the intended use of equipment. That's why when the ill-informed customer goes into a headshop and asks the proprietor how to use a bong, the instructor will tell the customer where to put the tobacco.
Current law specifies certain penalties for those who possess less than an ounce of marijuana on or near school property (18 and older: $500, 10 days in jail; under 18: $250 first offense, $500 second offense and 10 days in juvie). The bill would remove the 1 ounce provision of the rule, so the penalties remain the same regardless of the quantity possessed at or near a school.
Anyone age 21 or older could legally possess and transport marijuana. It could be sold, however, only by licensed retailers. Gifting seems to be legal, but trading, swapping and bartering with marijuana is not specifically addressed. I would assume trading, swapping and bartering is considered "retail."
Anyone age 21 or older may "smoke or ingest marijuana in one's home, or in any private residence, or upon the grounds of that home or residence not visible from any public place or neighboring property, with the consent of a resident 21 years of age or older." It would NOT be permitted to smoke or ingest it in a public place. They don't seem to try to force people to keep the smoke on their own property, so long as the neighbors can't see the smoking going on.
Here the bill gets to the heart of the matter: "11724. (a) It is lawful and not a violation of California law, except as provided in subdivision (f) of Section 647 of the Penal Code, or in Section 11729, for a person 21 years of age or older to be under the influence of marijuana." Yes, legal to be stoned.
People over age 21 may cultivate marijuana NOT for sale under the following rules:
- In the house or yard where it is NOT visible to the public, and this is further defined similar to the way it is for private nudity: it's okay if it's visible from airspace, and it's okay if the viewer has to climb up to some spot that reasonably violates the grower's privacy;
- No more than 10 mature plants;
- A licensed nursery, however, may cultivate more than 10 seedlings for resale;
- Not everyone in the household has to be over 21;
Possession of marijuana by someone under age 21 is punishable by a fine of $100 (how does that compare to the fine for possession of alcohol?).
Here is the "Live Free Or Die" provision: "11728. State or local funds may not be expended on, and state or local law enforcement or other personnel may not assist in, the enforcement of any federal or other laws that are inconsistent with this division, or provide for greater sanctions for conduct prohibited by this division." The feds are on their own.
Stating the obvious: "This division may not be construed to affect or limit any criminal statute that forbids impairment while engaging in dangerous activities like driving." Yes, you can be stoned. No, you can't be stoned behind the wheel.
It's not a total party: "This division may not be construed to affect the rights of employers concerning employees who use marijuana." If your boss doesn't want you to smoke dope and wants to get urine tests, he can still do that and still fire you for smoking dope.
Medical marijuana and marijuana that contains less than ½% THC by weight is exempt from the fees imposed by this bill. The basic fee is $50 per ounce at retail. All of these fees (ALL!) "shall be expended exclusively for drug education, awareness, and rehabilitation programs under the jurisdiction of the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs." Well, those should become well-funded programs. The Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs would be permitted to lower that fee if they determined they were getting too much money. Any bets on whether that will ever happen?
There doesn't seem to be a provision similar to the open-container law. So, I suppose, if a police officer pulled you over and observed a passenger smoking a joint, or saw a joint sitting in your ashtray, he couldn't cite you just for that, but could certainly administer some of those famous tests for driving under the influence.
There also is no special provision governing trademarks, so there might be a rush to register names for popular strains of marijuana. Or maybe some people have already done that and are sitting on valuable names the same way people squat on domain names.
A Brief Look At Scotty's Castle
We stopped by Scotty's Castle to buy tickets for a tour NOT at Scotty's Castle. Got a few photos while we hung around.
Philip José Farmer, 1918-2009
February 25, 2009
Aguereberry Point - Death Valley
Aguereberry Point is a spot about 6,600 feet elevation with a view down into Death Valley. The road is easily drivable, but if there's snow on it I recommend you avoid it unless you have 4WD. Google satellite view.
City Council Study Session, February 24, Public Safety Taxes
If you want to listen to the whole audio recording of this city council study session, you can get it here.
Councilmember Al Schmidt was absent due to illness.
The city council study session opened with City Manager Rick Daniels introducing Jerry Kappel, a consultant who has been retained to help come up with an operational strategy to enhance private funding of Cabot's. His fee is half-funded by a private donation and half-funded by the city. He will be around for 90 days and bring to the city council a strategy for increased private funding of the museum.
Public Safety Taxes
The first public comment came from Charles Nocella who is opposed to the proposed tax increases. He cited the many other increased costs and hard times that are besetting homeowners now.
Next came Jane Nocella who, while acknowledging the challenges facing the police, also opposes the tax increase. She suggests the funds should come from increased enforcement of motor vehicle registrations, the ban on handheld cellphones while driving and more code enforcement, especially on garage sales. Later, Mayor Pro Tem Baker reminded us that the Agua Caliente Indians had funded the purchase of an automated license plate reader for the police which would improve enforcement of motor vehicle registrations.
Then Florence Martin shared some excellent comments. She expressed her support for the public safety tax, but said she is afraid that public support for the tax increase may be eroding. She also pointed out the apparent inequity of giving developers a break on the Developers Impact Fee, while imposing increased public safety taxes on current residents. You can listen to her full comments here:
Later, Mayor Pro Tem Baker and Councilmember Matas pointed out that the Developer Impact Fees are built up of several components and that the parts reduced were the fees for parks and flood control. The public safety portions of the DIF were approved at the full rate. IOW, nobody's getting a break.
Also, City Manager Daniels said that a survey of public opinion on the public safety taxes is being conducted and will be available to the city council next Tuesday when they are expected to vote on putting the taxes on the ballot in June.
Mayor Pro Tem Baker made a good speech in favor of the increased public safety taxes, saying that people could support the idea of "$10 per month for 10 more cops." He also embraced Hank Hohenstein's accusation that this council's strategy is "Ready, Fire, Aim." Mr. Baker said that too many times in the past the city has been paralyzed by a strategy he characterized as "Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim...oh, I forgot I was supposed to shoot." You can enjoy Mayor Pro Tem Bakers comments in full here:
Councilmember Matas shared with us about his insomnia, which I thought I would be discreet about and skip over, but Marcel brings it up in his Desert Sun article, so there it is. Mr. Matas lies awake at night thinking of 10 more police officers. I admit I've had some dreams myself. Councilmember Matas rhetorically asked the voters, "Do you want to pay for more. Do you want more officers. Do you want more firefighters. Or do you want to stay status quo."
He praised Chief Williams and the police force, citing the 24% reduction in "Part 1" crimes (the serious ones). Later, Chief Williams said that this crime reduction under his leadership was the FIRST time crime has dropped in Desert Hot Springs since the police department was formed (which was about 1997, I believe).
Mr. Matas also asked Finance Director Jason Simpson about our bankruptcy debt. Half of the utility users tax goes to pay for that. The remaining principal is $12 million and that will be neatly paid off in 2044. Mark it on your grandchildren's calendar.
Councilmember Betts began his comments by saying that the greatest gift to this city has been Police Chief Pat Williams. His main point, though, was that the shares of the parcel tax among the eleven different land use categories should be adjusted to provide greater equity. For example, the single family residential rate ($120/year now, $240/year proposed) would provide about 53% of the total income from the parcel tax. That's based on an analysis done when the tax was first approved showing that about 53% of the police and fire service calls were to single family residences. Mr. Betts's point was that EVERYone benefits from greater public safety and that the rates should be spread more evenly. Vacant residential and industrial lots, for example, generate almost no calls to police or fire, but increased public safety increases the value of those vacant lots, benefiting the owners. You can listen to his full remarks here:
This theme of how to apportion the tax rate among the various land uses continued throughout the rest of the discussion. The audience, however, was a bit in the dark. There were no copies available for us of the spreadsheet being passed around among the city council and staff. Councilmember Betts has said he will email me a copy, and I'll get it up here as soon as I receive it. The only time I've seen the eleven categories of land use listed was at the February 12 public safety commission meeting. There they were projected on the screen along with their tax rates, and I regret that I did not try to write them all down. Here, however, is the discussion of the issue of parcel tax breakdown from that public safety commission meeting. You will hear the voices of Finance Director Jason Simpson, Chairman Jeff Bowman, Commissioner Russ Martin and Police Chief Pat Williams.
Chief Williams says that four different methods of calculating the apportionment were under consideration. Those four methods may have been four of the five methods on the spreadsheet at the city council study session. The issue of a more recent calculation of the service call rates was brought up at both the public safety commission meeting and the city council study session. Chief Williams cited the difficulty of that, because record keeping was not automated (or not as automated) before he came on board. Also, City Manager Daniels said it would be a big task because the city does not have the mapping database software to facilitate that.
[Update: Download the PDF of the spreadsheet referred to by Councilmember Betts that shows land use categories and tax rates. The eleven land uses are:
- Single family residence
- Apartments/Mobile Homes
- Residential Vacant
- Commercial Developed
- Commercial Recreational
- Commercial Vacant
- Industrial Developed
- Industrial Vacant
- Hotel Developed
- Hotel Vacant
Mayor Parks said it seemed illogical to her to raise public safety taxes on parcels that required no police or fire services, such as vacant lots.
Mayor Pro Tem Baker, acknowledging that Councilmember Betts had worked very hard on his proposal, said the Citizens Finance Committee had considered his ideas, but that as the current level was working, they supported the current apportionment.
After much additional discussion of the issues during which EVERYone expressed their strong support for the tax increases, whether they met their preferred formula or not, Mayor Parks asked Chief Williams to speak. It was pointed out that by arresting a suspect only ten days after the murder the Chief had set a new record for himself and other police in the valley. It was noted that there have been many other convenience store robberies and other murders in the valley that still languish without an arrest. The Chief said that many citizens had turned out to provide a lot of helpful information that led to the arrest of the suspected murderer. That kind of support, he said, comes only from a citizenry that trusts its police force. He said the police force is also getting a lot of help from citizens on the second murder, the one that occured just this past Monday. He went out on a limb and predicted the arrest of a suspect for that murder within a reasonably short time as well.
With the tax increase, the 10 additional police officers would be allocated like this:
4 patrol officers, driving the streets;
2 dedicated to gangs, one of which would also be on the valley's gang task force, where we currently have no representative;
1 on the valley narcotics task force, where we also have no representative. We have received assistance from the gang and narcotics task forces since Chief Williams started his duties.
2 motorcycle cops;
1 supervisor for the neighborhood revitalization program.
Chief Williams pointed out (as he has done before) that all criminals have to get from Point A to Point B, and that means walking, bicycling or driving down city streets. A great percentage of busts start with simple traffic stops, and that requires more police officers doing pro-active (not reactive) police work.
2008 Goals Implementation
You may recall that about a year ago the city council clarified the goals that it wanted city staff to work towards. City Manager Daniels gave a brief summary of the progress that has been made. He said the full report will be on the city's website Wedensday, and when I find it I'll let you know where it is. It's hard to believe it's been only a year.
February 24, 2009
Republican Leadership Goal: More Narrowmindedness, Even Smaller Minority
The hope that Michael Steele might draw the Republican Party together around a more centrist platform has been quickly dashed. Yesterday he was asked by Mike Gallagher whether the Republican Party "ought to consider" something "like civil unions." A fairly moderate question. Steele's response:
No, no no. What would we do that for? What are you, crazy? No. Why would we backslide on a core, founding value of this country? I mean this isn’t something that you just kind of like, "Oh well, today I feel, you know, loosey-goosey on marriage."
Marriage was a core, founding value of our country?! I'm sure there was no mention of marriage rights before or during the revolution. It's not mentioned in the Constitution or Declaration of Independence. I'll bet it's not in the Articles of Confederation either, but I'm not going to search. I'm sure that Britain did not interfere in the rights of colonists to marry, and that marriage laws were the same in 1784 as in 1774. Nonetheless, if Steele has his way, the Republicans will not even consider anything that even looks like civil unions.
I'd like to be able to give you a link to the interview itself, but Mike Gallagher keeps almost all his on-line material restricted to paying subscribers ($5/month). Maybe because of this, Steele thought his words wouldn't travel far.