Don Frances's Articles Related:  Entertainment | Events | Featured | Food & Wine | Lifestyle & History | News | Obituaries | Opinion | Real Estate | Schools | Sports

Altimira hosts ‘conversation’ with law enforcement on Tuesday

The legal aspects of the shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez, killed late last year by a sheriff’s deputy in Santa Rosa, essentially ended when the county district attorney opted not to press charges in the case.
But the emotional aspects take more time to sort out, which is why county leaders established the Community Engagement and Healing Subcommittee, part of the Community and Local Law Enforcement Task Force.
The subcommittee includes El Verano Elementary School Principal Maite Iturri – and Tuesday night, tonight, there’s a community meeting to further address the matter.
Described as “an open conversation with Sonoma Valley law enforcement,” the meeting is open to everyone and billed as a chance to “ask questions, offer comments and share experiences” with the Valley’s law enforcement personnel, who fall under the command of Sonoma Police Chief Bret Sackett, a Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department lieutenant.
The meeting will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in the Altimira Middle School Multipurpose Room, 17805 Arnold Drive, Sonoma.
Iturri was not available for comment Monday, but in a previous conversation with the Index-Tribune she said “good work is being accomplished” by the task force.
“The issues being tackled are very complex,” Iturri noted, adding, “Anything worth doing requires time and energy.”
Subcommittee members hope that through dialogue, the community and law enforcement personnel will come away with stronger bonds and renewed trust.
Lopez was shot to death on Oct. 22 by a sheriff’s deputy who mistook his air gun for an AK-47. The deputy, Erick Gelhaus, was absolved in July following a lengthy investigation by District Attorney Jill Ravitch, who concluded the shooting was justified because Gelhaus thought Lopez was carrying a real assault rifle when the boy turned to face him. Gelhaus continues to serve in the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department.
The 21-member Community and Local Law Enforcement Task Force was formed late last year by the Board of Supervisors in response to the shooting and the public outcry that followed. Task force members were broken up into three subcommittees, with Iturri sitting on Community Engagement and Healing.
For more on the Community and Local Law Enforcement Task Force, call 565-6611 or visit sonoma-county.org/communitylocallawtaskforce.

SONDRA BERNSTEIN, owner of the girl & the fig, worked with Michael “Bug” Deakin to redo the patio at the restaurant. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

Reclaimed wood gets better with age

The great earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed other places besides San Francisco. For example, the little rail town of Occidental, in western Sonoma County, suffered the same fate that day – and among that fire’s victims was an old-growth redwood tree.

Report offers snapshot of Valley

Policymakers and others interested in comparing the well being of Sonoma Valley residents neighborhood-by-neighborhood, now have an easy tool to do so: “A Portrait of Sonoma County.”

Agencies aid in finding Winslow’s body

Well-loved Sonoma wrestling coach Roger “Deets” Winslow was in water 160 feet deep when he died in a boating accident Aug. 9 on Lake Berryessa, and that made finding his body anything but easy.

Driver in fatal Arnold Dr. crash pleads guilty

The intoxicated driver who slammed his Jaguar into another car on Arnold Drive late last year – killing his own passenger and paralyzing a little girl from the waist down – may be put away for a long time after pleading guilty to 14 felony counts last week, prosecutors announced. Damodar Chandradas, 26, faces up… Continue Reading >>

Parks Supervisor Terry Melberg conducts a visual check of the Sonoma Plaza. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

For city workers, Plaza upkeep is no picnic

Red & White Ball. City Party. Sonoma International Film Festival. The Fourth of July Parade. All year long, Sonoma residents find uses for their historic Plaza, ranging from a single person lounging in the grass to a throng of 10,000 celebrating the nation’s birthday. All of it causes wear and tear, of course, which is… Continue Reading >>

Taxpayers group opposes college bond

Organized opposition to Measure H – Santa Rosa Junior College’s $410 million bond measure appearing on the upcoming ballot — has not been overwhelming. But a local taxpayers group is making a case against it by accusing the college district of not being forthright the last time it put a measure on the ballot. That… Continue Reading >>

Hospital bumps CEO’s salary

Sonoma Valley Hospital’s board of directors granted CEO Kelly Mather a $32,000 raise last week after concluding she’s doing a good job and should be paid accordingly. The unanimous vote to raise her yearly salary to $330,000, with a $25,000 bonus, was made during Thursday night’s board meeting following an evaluation of Mather’s performance in… Continue Reading >>

Jonathan and Alysa Rotella were the winners of the first auction lot as last Sunday's Harvest Wine Auction. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

Giving mood, out-of-towners stimulated record Wine Auction

It was already known that the sixth Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction shattered all previous fundraising records. But now the full extent of last weekend’s success is becoming clearer, with a flurry of six-figure donations – some from out-of-state vintners – helping organizers hit the $4 million mark.

Sonoma City Council to discuss housing, Montini, raising minimum wage

A two-part meeting of the Sonoma City Council this Wednesday includes a brief study session on the city’s housing element, followed by the next in a many-part discussion on allowing dogs in Montini Preserve and – last but not least – a discussion on raising the minimum wage within city limits.

Plastic bag ban takes effect Monday

Hailing “an important new ordinance that will help reduce landfill,” the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency is reminding everyone that Monday, Sept. 1, is when the much-debated countywide ban on plastic bags finally takes effect.

This is a rendering of what the hotel would look like from West Napa Street.

Early praise for new hotel design

The proposal for a 59-room hotel on West Napa Street near the Plaza is off to a good start, based on feedback given at Thursday night’s city Planning Commission meeting. Of several local residents who spoke Thursday, and the Planning Commission members that followed, almost no one had a negative thing to say about the… Continue Reading >>

THE SONOMA COUNTY WATER AGENCY has posted four signs along the bike path that follows Fryer Creek, explaining what happened on July 23 when a clogged culvert opened and drained the creek. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

Water Agency: ‘We hear you’

Sonoma County Water Agency officials say they have heard the complaints of residents regarding Fryer Creek, which drained suddenly three weeks ago to the shock of many who regularly enjoy the waterway.

WORKERS AT GLORIA FERRER CAVES AND VINEYARDS started harvesting pinot noir grapes for its sparkling wines on Aug. 4. A Gloria Ferrer spokeswoman said it’s one of the earliest harvests on record and the earliest since 2004, when the harvest started on Aug. 2. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

Grape growers see quality year

For grape growers throughout Sonoma Valley and the rest of Wine Country, the story is the same: This year’s dry but easygoing weather has yielded an early, excellent crop.

Santa Rosa Junior College pushes $410M bond measure

Santa Rosa Junior College has seen a lot of use over the past 96 years, which is why administrators are now asking voters throughout the county to pass a new $410 million bond measure to fix up its well-worn facilities.

A GROUP OF CUBAN SOMMELIERS has been visiting Sonoma County and touring various wineries. One of the stops last week was the Benziger Family Winery on Glen Ellen. They posed for a picture with the winery in the background.

Cubans sample Wine Country’s best

A typical Cuban breakfast is tostada (toasted bread) and cafe con leche (coffee with milk). Last Wednesday morning, several Cubans gathered around a long table at Ramekins Culinary School on East Spain Street for a somewhat heartier breakfast of eggs, sausage, potatoes and other fare.

City Council vote encourages dog lovers

A pattern is forming in the years-long debate over allowing dogs in Montini Preserve, with environmentalists decrying the idea, dog owners decrying the lack of natural space set aside for them and their dogs, and the Sonoma City Council opting in favor of deciding for themselves whether to someday consider the option.