Letters to the Editor, Dec. 1

Readers weigh in on school board transparency and the future of Eldridge|
Et tu, Douglas? Reader offers a Caesar-sized joke fit for the gods.
Et tu, Douglas? Reader offers a Caesar-sized joke fit for the gods.

The unkindest cut of all

EDITOR: Once upon a time, the Roman Legions under Caesar’s rule extended his empire to many far away lands around the globe.

Year after year, battle after battle, his armies fought and won. Then, they returned to report to Caesar of their victorious triumphs.

For the soldiers, it was usually a very long trudge, marching week after week with bad food and poor accommodations.

One bright spot occurred at the end of the trip as they arrived back home. There at the outer gate to the city, they discovered “Nona’s Fresh Berry Juice Stand.” She offered cold, fresh squeezed berry juice of all kinds. The legionaries loved it, and always made a brief stop to have a tankard of her refreshing juice.

They got to know her and would tell her of how the battle went, and how they won.

They even gave Nona the nickname “No.” Every soldier knew her. And, to a man, they looked forward to that tankard of berry juice at the end of the journey.

Unfortunately, Caesar insisted that he be the first to know the news of any military victory in foreign lands. It came to his attention through a casual conversation that “Nona, the owner of the juice stand at the city gate, knows of the battle news, even before you do!”

He immediately ordered a platoon of soldiers (all of whom knew and loved Nona) to go and tear down her juice stand. When they arrived, she greeted them cheerfully, “Hi Flavius, did you come back for some more juice?”

He sternly he looked at her, and said loudly, “‘No’ we came to seize your berries, not to praise them!”

Doug Chambers


School board trying to avoid public scrutiny

EDITOR: Last week we were witness to a shameful episode in local governance. The Sonoma Valley school board adopted an agreement that will likely add millions of dollars to the cost of future school facility construction, and were it not for the vigilance of this newspaper’s education reporter, it might have slipped through unnoticed on the board’s consent calendar.

The item in question is a Project Labor Agreement and its effect will be to deny access to district construction projects for about 85 percent of local contractors. It is a multi-million dollar gift to local construction unions and, unfortunately, it comes at the expense of district students and tax payers. Labor unions have been an important force in lifting up the lives of our nation’s workers, but any institution is capable of abuse and over-reach and this current episode is a prime example.

We would like to assume our elected officials set the interests of their constituents as their first priority. If that were the case here, then several questions would need answers:

• Why was an item of this magnitude slipped onto the board’s consent agenda which is intended for routine administrative matters?

• Why was there no apparent staff analysis to determine the potential impacts of this agreement? There is ample public data that demonstrates the effect PLAs have on the cost of capital projects. In fact, a study earlier this year by the Sonoma County General Services Administration estimated that a PLA added nearly $4 million to the cost of a new county detention center. Wouldn’t a district that is significantly over budget on its current construction agenda want to have that information in front of them before making a decision of this kind?

• Why was there no study session or other opportunity to educate the public on the costs they would bear if the agreement were adopted?

• Why was an agreement that will have such sweeping long-term impacts on district finances hustled through in a lame-duck session before the newly elected board could be seated?

This subterfuge was all cleverly orchestrated by board chair John Kelly, who has racked up thousands of dollars in contributions from labor interests in his prior campaigns. Trustee Britta Johnson, who was defeated for re-election, but still voted on this agreement, received more than $6,000 this fall in contributions from the very construction trades who showed up to speak in favor of the PLA at last week’s meeting. It’s no mystery why they attempted to slide this under the radar of public scrutiny.

Can this bell be un-rung? I don’t know. But, if nothing else, it is a lesson to all of us to pay attention to what happens in our local boards and commissions and to the actions of those who are elected to be stewards of our tax funds.

Steve Page


Preserve Eldridge for the commons

EDITOR: A recent edition of the I-T (Nov. 24) featured a number of letters and opinions on local matters as per what that section of the paper is for. Here are a few comments in response.

The Valley Forum column by Tracy Salcedo (“The Post-SDC Future of Glen Ellen”) I thought an excellent summary of the long-debated matter of the disposition of the Sonoma Developmental Center’s (SDC) extensive property (approximately 1,000 acres). In particular the column focused on SDC’s proximity and inextricable connection with Glen Ellen, which is not only geographical but intertwined historically, economically and aesthetically as well.

The question of how that invaluable and critically ecological land should be used has been in discussion and debate since the state decided to close the center and sell the property. Since Sonoma County, and in particular Sonoma Valley, is where it’s situated, these entities are major stakeholders. The question of the land’s use and potential “visions” for it have been in play for almost five years now.

Seeing as how opinions and visions are the order of the day and this is the place to air them, I’ll voice mine. Primarily I would like to see some of the lower, developed sections abutting Arnold Drive east and west used for affordable housing. In addition I’d favor, as Ms. Salcedo espoused, some of that land be used for the purpose of research and development dedicated to the mental health and physical disabilities of those people in need. After all, that was its raison d’etre for many decades. My “vision” for the remaining lower sections and the upper regions on Sonoma Mountain as well is simply that those lands be kept in use for the commons. By that it’s meant that the land be kept open for public use: hiking, biking and the pure enjoyment and connection to our natural world. This would serve all the people, those that live here and those that don’t, which is the purpose of maintaining natural resources – air, water and habitable earth – for the commons. For the benefit of all. In short, out of the hands of commercial development.

A second comment on another matter is a shout-out to letter-writer D’mitra Smith that reports incidents of racism, verbal aggression, and threats to local individuals of color and a prominent black businesswoman (“Hate Should Not Be Tolerated”). These vile violations of decency and threats to human and civil rights have no place in our Sonoma community and will not stand. I want to see our local and county law enforcement agencies active in response to these incidents with immediate investigations and charges when proven and warranted. I want it to be clear to all living here that racist acts and violations of human rights will never be tolerated.

Will Shonbrun

Boyes Springs

Shop local this season

EDITOR: The holiday shopping season is here, and it’s a difficult time for many of us who are far from family, isolated, unemployed and/or worried about the state of our country and our loved ones. It’s tempting to head to Amazon for retail therapy, but I encourage everyone who can to consider shopping locally. The merchants in the Valley are struggling to stay afloat, and they will go to great lengths to serve you safely. You can order online or call ahead to enquire, you can ask for things to be delivered, or even stand outside the store window and point. And they have so much to offer, from books to clothing to pampering items, gift baskets, car accessories, jewelry, foods and home goods. Not to mention wine and spirits! Our local Chamber of Commerce just put up a website( to help with remote local shopping that is easy to use and so helpful. You could also make a donation in someone’s name to one of our many deserving nonprofits. Or you can buy toys for the upcoming Boys & Girls Club Toy Drive (drop-off locations TBD). We want all of our Valley vendors to be around a year from now, so please shop locally if you are able.

Lynne Lancaster

Sonoma Valley

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
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