Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Op Ed from SD 37 Candidate Justin Blake

Last week we ran an op ed piece from SD 37 candidate Russ Bogh, Republican. We received this op ed from Democratic candidate Justin Blake too late to run in the edition prior to the April 13 primary. I'm placing it in my blog as a courtesy to Mr. Blake. Our editor felt that as an op ed piece it was neither breaking news nor daily news. Blake's text follows:

"Why are Republicans siding with big oil in an effort to repeal AB 32?

Four years ago, California earned international accolades for adopting a law that would slash its greenhouse gas emissions and serve as a model for national climate change legislation.

Governor Arnold Schwartzenneger enthusiastically signed AB 32, the state’s pioneering roadmap to a clean energy economy. The California Air Resources Board, the agency responsible for implementing AB 32, predicts increased economic production of 33 billion dollars. It also forecasts increased overall gross state product of 7 billion, and increased personal income of 16 billion.

Already, nearly 6.5 billion in capital has been invested in California’s green energy economy. In 2008 alone, California based companies received almost 60% of all clean tech investments in the United States, totaling a record 3.3 billion dollars in 111 separate investments. Five of the nations top 10 cities for clean tech investment are in our state. The Inland Empire, with its abundance of solar, geothermal and wind resources is poised to break into those ranks soon.

According to the non-partisan Next 10 economic foundation, between 1995 and 2008 California’s green businesses increased 45% in number and 36% in employment. Our state now has more than 3,000 clean tech businesses that provide 44,000 jobs. CARB’s analysis is consistent with the numerous peer-reviewed studies concluding that California can expect robust economic growth while implementing AB 32.

But everybody supports the continuation of Riverside County’s green energy movement, right?

Not so. Even now, the dangerous and falsely named “California Jobs Initiative” is being readied for inclusion on the November ballot. Bill Emmerson and Russ Bogh, Republican candidates for the 37th Senate district, fully support the move to repeal AB 32 along with Houston’s Valero Oil Corporation, which has bankrolled the effort to the tune of a half a million dollars. Other Texas oil giants are dolling out big bucks, too. Oddly, there is very little California money in the repeal campaign.

Last February, Emmerson wrote in the Desert Sun “Job creation is essential to rebuilding California.” He acknowledges that in the past year, while serving Redlands in the State Assembly, the unemployment rate in his neighboring Riverside County rose high above the national average to over 14%. Incredibly, Emmerson voted against AB 32 and now even now supports its repeal.

Bogh also voted against AB 32. On January 7, he responded to the Governor’s State of the State Address saying, “We need to put the brakes to excessive regulations like AB 32, the bill that will put another bullet in California’s economy.”

The stakes are high here. We cannot allow big oil to continue their wholesale purchase of our elected officials purely for the sake of corporate greed. Ignore the sound bites. Get the facts.

Voters have a choice between clean, renewable energy and the continued escalation of big oil profits. We, the citizens of Riverside County, are already living in Green country. On April 13th and June 8th, let’s vote to keep it that way."

Friday, November 13, 2009


Yesterday was Becky Clark's last day at the helm of the Town Crier. Today is her retirement party.

I started here four years ago and Becky's first admonition to me was to keep my politics and opinions private - that a newspaper reporter's role was to be a neutral "fly on the wall", reporting the story accurately, but not be "in" the story with personal biases or judgments.

We bumped heads a lot that first year - our personalities are similar. She hated my dependent clauses. My writing style was too ornate. We could both have flashes of temper. But through that and succeeding years, she grew a reporter who managed to win some awards. Both the best and worst comments were one's from Becky. "How could you do that? You need to get your facts straight in the story. Now I'll have to run a 'Matter of Fact' correction." Or, far better, "I loved that story!"

I called her "Boss," paying respect to her ability and the facts that she held fast to her convictions, was fiercely loyal to her staff, and absolutely deserved the respect. She did not tolerate bullies of any stripe and held no truck with hypocrisy. She held the First Amendment and the Brown (open government) Act as standards that brooked no compromise.

And her laugh. I could be in a funk in the back of our offices, in the writers' cave, not getting through a story, stuck on a deadline day, and then I'd hear her laugh. And my day would be better. There was a lot of laughing at the Town Crier. I liked the laughter.

For me, it will be hard to come in and not see her sitting in the front office. We built a solid professional relationship. She had patience and helped me grow. I will miss her, and like many things in my life, I did not realize how much until she was almost out the door.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day

Today is Election Day. And for me, since voting for the first time in Maryland in a primary against George Wallace's presidential bid, I have loved this important day in our country's process. I've never cared how friends, family or colleagues voted, just that they voted. Well that's not entirely true, as any of my friends, family or colleagues will probably tell you. I do strongly believe that we protect our freedom by exercising our Constitutional right to vote. I am proud that I live in a community that routinely turns out in greater numbers to vote than those down below.

So on this Election Day, the races I am watching in descending order of importance are in Maine, where there is a ballot initiative to overturn a same sex right to marry passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, the governor's races in New Jersey and Virginia, and a congressional race in upstate New York.

As a political junkie I am enthralled by the dynamic of watching the American electoral process at work. I still feel as I did when I cast my first vote - it is thrilling. I remember actually getting chills when voting for the first time.

Do we as a county always get it right? It depends upon your point of view or political affiliation. What is important is that we are still engaged in this process after two hundred and thirty-three years.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Dinner at the Mountain

On Saturday the 24th, my sister who lives in Calabasas and appreciates fine dining, and I dined at Brian Ayer's Mountain Restaurant. Ayers is Cordon Bleu trained and features "slow food" at his upscale but affordable eatery. Everything at the Mountain is prepared from scratch. "You won't find a can opener or a microwave here," said Ayers who, along with wife Courtney and an accomplished waitstaff, provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere to complement their very fine cuisine.

Before detailing what for both of us was one of our finest meals, here or anywhere, I'll add that we took a great deal of food home. Portions at the Mountain are generous. It is one of those places you go anticipating each entree, each side, each dessert, each bite and leave wishing you had room for and could have eaten more.

Maureen started with Mountain's signature shaved celeriac, fennel and green bean salad with horseradish dressing. I had the heirloom tomato salad with toasted pine nuts, apple balsamic reduction, sheep's milk feta and basil. We shared. For me, the heirloom tomato salad was one of the best food experiences I've had. The apple balsamic reduction perfectly complemented the already lucious tomatoes.

Each of us had a special entree for the night - Maureen had a wonderful halibut and I had venison, both beautifully prepared and presented. My sister thought, from prior experiences that she would not like the venison (too gamey she thought) but after sampling, loved Brian's venison version.

We ordered two sides friends had recommended we try - the organic peas with brown onion gravy (great) and the macaroni and cheese made with aged cheddar and gruyere cheese. Now I am a macaroni and cheese fan. I'll admit to even liking, as most cash strapped college students might admit, Kraft macaroni and cheese. Having said that, Brian's mac and cheese set a new bar - not heavy, wonderfully light, and extraordinarily flavorful. The best!!!

And, as if we weren't already bursting, I insisted on ordering the organic apple pie with vanilla double cream. Brilliant!!!

Salads were $7; entrees generally range from $18 to $28 (there is a Thursday evening local special for $16 that is a meal in itself).

Although the Mountain has been doing well, as well it should, Brian and Courtney are a bit worried about the coming winter and whether business will be sufficient to support the kind of dining experience they provide.

If you care about this restaurant and these good folks who have chosen Idyllwild for their venture, please support them as well as you can throughout the winter. We and they deserve that Mountain be successful.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mountain Restaurant Winemaker's Dinner, Sept. 30

Already generating the kind of buzz reserved for the best of fine dining restaurants in chic sophisticated metro areas, Chef Brian Ayers' Mountain Restaurant in Idyllwild hosted the first Winemaker's Dinner on Wednesday, Sept. 30, at 6:30. Internationally pedigreed Chilean winemaker Cristobal Undurraga of Koyle Vineyards, whose family has been making wine in Chile for over 100 years, presented the evenings' wines, delightfully detailing the process of making them and highlighting their unique qualities.

Ayers, wife Courtney, wait staff and assisting chefs Carl and Shannon, generated applause and approving murmurs of digestive approval with each of the five courses of the degustation size plates presented to a capacity crowd of expectant diners. It felt like theater - the anticipation, the first taste of each entree, the looks of amazement after that first bite, the excited communication to your tablemates of what you were experiencing, and the mental reminder to slow down and savor each moment, made the 2 and a half hour dining experience the consummate expression of what "slow food" is all about.

For it is not just the food, exquisite as it was, or the wines, as excellently as they complimented the courses, it is the idea of relishing the food, your tablemates, the conversation, and the delight of sharing a meal - a quintessentially civilizing experience - that makes "slow food", an international movement to counter fast food, so important. Experiencing "slow food" takes those of us old enough to remember back to a time when we as families sat together around a table, ate together, talked together, and spent meaningful time together. Maybe then it was not cuisine of the excellence that Mountain serves, but it was a time of sharing that we, as a culture, are losing.

So it was that Becky and Jack Clark, Ray and Corrine Brown, Vanessa Rivera Del Rio and her husband Jason Hlebakos, Grace Reed and I sat together, laughed togther, ate and drank together, and, importantly, shared an experience that we will savor for some time to come.

Here is the menu:

Rosemary marinated swordfish medallions over spaghetti squash with arugula pesto sauce accompanied by a sophisticated Savignon Blanc.

Game hen cooked two ways with sauteed spinach , fresh summer peach and tarragon chutney and a distinctive Chardonnay.

Lamb loin slow roasted with olives served over potato (the most amazing potato puree) with a sherry and marjoram vinaigrette. The wine, a red, was a Carmeniere.

Char-grilled beef tenderloin with Jerusalem artichoke puree and traditional Bordelaise sauce, graced by a lovely Cabernet Sauvignon.

A chocolate and coconut creme brulle accompanied by french press Batdorf and Bronson coffee.

At the beginning of the evening, Brian, Courtney, Cristobal, Brandon Lee of Quintessential Wines in Napa, and the wait staff greeted diners as they came in. At the end of the evening, Brian, Carl and Shannon circulated among the diners to pay their respects and say good evening.

Was it a hit? Oh yes!

Something to note - Brian and Courtney want this restaurant to be local-friendly. The portions on the regular menu are large and reasonably priced. Each Thursday there is a locals' special, at a feature price of around $16. Although this was my first time at the Mountain, many locals at the Winemaker's Dinner had already been there 3 or 4 times.

May Brian, Courtney, Justin and all who work to provide this venue its gracious, unpretentious, and warmly welcoming atmosphere, with some of the best food in the Southland, succeed beyond their wildest expectations. They deserve it. And what an honor to have this restaurant in Idyllwild.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Kicking off a board member for being independent

Sad. Recently a friend, whom I admire, was kicked off a board of directors of a local non-profit, for not conforming, according to him and certain others, to the prevailing orthodoxy of the board Chair and those of like agreement.

His apparent crime - thinking independently, looking into past instances of what could be considered sloppy board management, and putting together, as he was asked to do by the board Chair, a committee of heavyweights commissioned because of their resumes not friendships. Worst of all, he took his issues with board management to the press rather than the board, because he believed the board, and specifically the Chair, would be unresponsive.

Another member of the board, whom I also admire, spoke privately of the need, on any board, for healthy disagreement and the ability to freely discuss issues of interest to the board without recrimination. And yet, when the vote came to dismiss this apostate board member "without cause," the vote was unanimous. Another board member, whom I also admire, was absent at this meeing and a previous meeting at which a move to dismiss this same troublesome board member "for cause" died aborning.

Whistleblowers play a valuable function in our society and they are often castigated, cast aside, and even,in the worst of cases, disposed of for their failure to keep their disagreements with prevailing orthodoxy private and "in house."

It is always a casualty, and in this case it may turn out to harm the objectives of the non-profit and prove disadvantageous to the town.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Cottonwood Fire - Day 2

I'll be blogging about the "personal" side of the Cottonwood Fire and how it is affecting local residents and businesses. First, I am listing Mountain Disaster Preparedness' twelve things to have ready to grab when you're ordered to evacuate:

1. A minimum of one week supply of any medications you need to stay alive;

2. Extra glasses or contacts if needed to see, read, or drive safely;

3. At least one large bottle of drinking water and a couple energy bars per person;

4. Copies of your property and auto insurance policies and the phone number for their claims offices;

5. Photos of the inside and outside of your home and garage, and any outbuildings, as well as any vehicles that will be left behind during an evacuation. Take the photos now, get them developed right away, and keep them updated as your buildings, vehicles, and contents can change;

6. Current medical records and copies of your health insurance card(s);

7. Passport and or driver's license or other photo ID (Note: if your ID address is NOT the same as the home you'll be returning to following evacuation - for example, your P.O. Box - also keep a copy of a recent utility bill in your name that shows that service address or you may not be allowed through the check point(s);

8. Birth certificate(s) - especially your children's (if your home is burned, you may have to enroll them in a new school);

9. Military records, if needed for VA or DOD reporting or claims;

10. Copies of any important papers or documents (mortgage, credit cards, recent bank statements, investment accounts, Social Security documents - whatefer you'll need to continue your life away from your home for several days or weeks);

11. Irreplaceable personal papers and family photos. Only you know what these are;

12. Your computer backup on an external hard-drive or flash-drive.