The Coastal Post - June 1999

Letters - By Readers


Hiking, Biking And Just A Little Plain Talk

You know, it's all real simple when you think about it.

Hiking is Natural and Mountain Biking Un-Natural.

It's easy to prove.

I don't need any special equipment to walk, I need a machine to mountain bike.

A machine built of metal, plastic, petroleum based products, including rubber. I might need boots, but technically, if I were brave enough and tough enough, I could hike barefoot. Of course mountain biking in barefoot would take a lot of toughening up too, and you would still need the bike, wouldn't you?

A problem here is that these two activities have nothing in common, except the physical space of sharing the trails.

But the bigger problem and what is really causing all this brouhaha, is that mountain bikers are trying to SELL the concept that they do share a commonality.

And they can't.

Let's think about this for a second.

Why is a bicycle as 'in tune' with nature as a walking human being?

Is it because the word "Mountain" is placed in front of it?

Heck, it's got to be natural, it's made for mountain trails and mountain riding!

What does it really mean when a normal bicycle has the 'mountain' word slapped on the front?

It means that the bike has been re-designed to stand up to the rigors of nature-that are un-natural to a regular bike.

Special tires, heavy-duty shocks and suspension for rough terrain over rocks and trails when taken at dangerous speeds and adverse conditions make this possible.

But it's nature that takes the real beating.

The speed and unbalanced weight create a bike-made erosion that over time cause permanent ruts, especially in damp or soft ground.

Eventually the ruts become bad enough that bikers are forced to miss old ruts and create more ruts as they become impossible to ride over.

This loosens up the soil and rocks on the trails.

Rains come and help to further move the ground, often exposing tree and shrub roots to the elements. Once exposed, there is little to keep exposure to insects and even disease to attack those roots. But don't worry, the 'Mountain' bikes can take all the punishment they are dishing out, a new set of tires or springs and they're ready to go again!

Another problem is with wildlife.

Let's face it, wild creatures probably are not thrilled about hikers either, but compared to loud, speeding mountain bikes tearing up the trails having fun making some adventurous jumps now and then can be startling.

It's just as startling to hikers who share the trails as well.

Mountain bikers don't ride for the nature.

They use it as Sport. Exercise is a secondary motive. If it were for exercise, why not ride a bike around the school track, around the block, or pedal on a stationary bike?

The natural surroundings make it more challenging and exciting and in the right situation, there would be no need for discussion.

But that is not what they are trying to sell or get you to buy into.

They want to call the hikers, "complainers" or "radicals" and promote their very "specialized" activity as normal.

But ask yourself, why?

Their reason is because if you accept 'mountain' biking on the same plateau as 'hiking,' then they can defend the damage they do. Moreover, they can get YOU to support and PAY for it through that acceptance. That's what this is all about really.

The free ride - on two wheels.
Ken Rattan
Fairfax

A Note To Marie-Pierre Lahaye

How do you manage to disregard the militant absurdity of Serbian (and Albanian and Croatian for that matter) nationalism with it's ridiculous weight placed on religion and historical myths and misconceptions. And what is wrong in redrawing the borders according to ethnic habitation after a referendum? The Danes and Germans redrew their borders after WW1 according to referendum in Schleswig-Holstein, the Norwegians and Swedes managed to separate without a war in 1905 as did the Tschecksand Slowaks in the 90s. Why should it be so difficult on Balkan? Are they all raving mad bigots?
Bernt Aaby
Norway

Mediation For The Constitution?

The tap dance by Governor Davis around Prop. 187 is unbelievable.

He wants to mediate a constitutional review.

What?

How can anyone mediate a constitutional review? Unheard of. Either it's constitutional or it isn't. It's as simple as that.

The only parties allowed in the mediation are those who are currently in litigation. The courts refused Pacific Legal Foundation's petition to file Friends of the Court briefs, thus excluding them from the process as well as any other supporters of Prop. 187. The only litigants are the opponents of the initiative. They will decide the fate of Proposition 187 behind closed doors without any opposition.

What would be the political leanings of the mediator which would be chosen by "both sides," remembering that the Ninth Court of Appeals has a reputation of being the most liberal court in America?

So we have it now that both parties plus the mediator would be working in concert to see to it that this measure never will go to the Supreme Court.

More frightening still is the fact that

the governor may use this action to establish a precedent to (a) abolish the initiative process or (b) if the Hispanic advocacy groups don't like an initiative, just "mediate" it into extinction. It seems like the

future of California is in the hands of these ethnic-centered groups regardless what the voters think or do.
Robert Simmons
San Rafael, Ca.

Costs of The War Against Yugoslavia
Dear Representative Woolsey:

We were opposed and still do not support the illegal bombing of a sovereign country in order to support insurgent KLA terrorists who were sent in by Albania to conduct overthrow of the government authority in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo.

The U.S. government-led NATO is balkanizing Yugoslavia. You are not only helping terrorist revolutionaries to divide Yugoslavia, a sovereign country, so that they may become a colony of the EU for the purposes of a cheap labor force and another free market territory, but many of us feel you are also balkanizing the U.S. population by importing thousands of insurgent militants from all over the world in order to gain political power over a divided populace here in the States for the purpose of economic exploitation by the military-industrial complex.

The military-industrial complex will make the profit by expanding their economy while the U.S. taxpayers are paying for the whole operation.

The cost of the war for the first three weeks: $4 billion.

The next three weeks: $4 billion.

To the end of the year, March 25, 2000: $72 billion.

Support for refugees: $1,500,000,000 @ $50/per day = $27,375,000,000 per year.

$75 million per day rebuilding 300,000 homes @ $200,000 = $60 billion per year.

Infrastructure, roads, utilities, sewer = $10 billion per year,

Community support-schools, hospitals, services, administration buildings = $60 billion per year.

War reparations to Yugoslavia for air invasions = $500 billion per year.

Grand total: $737,375,000,000 per year.

Cost of maintaining troops for 25 years minimum, 8,000 @ $100/per day = $800,000 per day = $292 million per year, $7,300,000,000 billion for 25 years.

Housing: $40,000,000.

Equipment: $4 billion.

Equipment maintenance $700 million.

Final total; $749,395,000,000.

This figure, of course, does not reflect other peace-keeping missions future administrations may ponder for their legacies. * * *

I have some questions which I hope you will respond to:

1. How has our policy toward Russia changed in the last week from the week before when the news media announced on TV, "The condition of Russia made it irrelevant on the international scene"?

2. Does the government plan to continue off-setting present budgets and the on-going additional costs of war against Yugoslavia against Social Security and health care, and the tax burden on the public?

3. How has the German government's policy of re-expansionism eastward toward Russia led them to arm and support the expatriate Albanians in Europe in order to export destabilization in Yugoslavia?

4. If sovereignty of nations is no longer recognized, does that imply the speeding up of the destruction of sovereignty of the U.S.?

5. If sovereignty and international law is still recognized, how it is that the U.S. is using DU238 nuclear weapons on Yugoslavia?

6. How will the spread of DU238 radiation effect countries neighboring Yugoslavia, Europe? How will this phenomena effect the food chain? Are we taking steps against importation of agricultural products from Europe?

7. Under the Geneva Convention, is it legal to use nuclear weapons?

8. Should we resettle Kosovars in an area that has become radioactive?

9. Should we endanger the lives of NATO or U.N. peacekeeping forces by installing them in a radioactive Kosovo?

10. Do you feel bombing Yugoslavia has had deleterious effects on our relations and policies toward Russia? China?

11. Is it probable or important that Russia revert to a radical system? How about China?

12. Michel Collen, a Belgian journalist, has described the U.S. national interests in Yugoslavia as to:

a) Dominate the Balkans, a key region to control the roads of petroleum from the Middle East as well as from the former USSR, Caucasus, Caspian Sea, and Kazakhstan.

b) Dominate Eastern Europe, reservoir or raw materials, skilled labor and of markets for exportation.

c) Prevent Russia from controlling the above resources and becoming a rival to the Western powers.

d) Secure military bases-with the recent installations of bases in Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia, the U.S. will have Southern Europe and the former USSR under control.

13. Are we again becoming "the Ugly Americans"? Are we again promoting insurgent paramilitaries in the overthrow of government? You may recall that in order to protect the interests of ITT and United Fruit Company, President Carter supported the Sandinistas in Central America, and when the Sandinistas decided to be independent of the U.S., President Carter then supported the Contras' insurrection in Central America. How much violence is worth the expansion of the economy and our GNP?

14. What will happen in Kosovo when the U.S. government decides to cease their support of the Albanians and to support another faction? In Macedonia? In Greece, in Turkey? In the former republics of the USSR? In Muslim countries bordering the Silk Route?

15. One of the members of Free Congress foundation disclosed that if Russia detonated a nuclear device in the stratosphere over the U.S., it would create an AMP effect that would obliterate our electrical power and communications. Should we favor violence in the expansion of interests around the globe in the New world Order versus the protection of our population? How does our government weigh the pros and cons of violent takeover of the globe versus benefits to the public? If the U.S. does not take over the globe, which international power will do so? What is the bottom line? Cannot we do this peacefully?

Jeurgen Chrobog of Germany stated that Russia must be brought into the agreement. This sounds like the deal Hitler made with Russia prior to German invasion of Russia and the start of World War II.

I am very concerned and alarmed that our nation is being used to spread violence and start World War III.

16. How do you respond to the fact that 15,000 homeless street people were cleared off the streets in Washington DC for the celebration of the arrival of NATO nations guests in the capital?

National Health Care services being provided to Albanians arriving here in the U.S. while denied to the homeless, poor and those who are overtaxed and cannot afford medical services?

17. On Saturday, May 8 on MSNBC, in an interview with the pilot of a B2 bomber, the pilot stated that upon takeoff from England with cruise missiles, they had not been given the targets of their mission. He did not elucidate further about targets. Should we assume that those decisions are made by pilots later on? Or directed by Geo Sats? If Geo Sats, those are now available in automobiles; can China or Russia adapt this technology?

As our representative, your considered response will be very much appreciated.
OLGA GOLDSMITH
San Rafael
(Editor's Note: Letter condensed to exclude other subjects.) The Hospital Was Bombed Tonight

Belgrade, 02.30 a.m. A hospital where I was born was bombed tonight. This is the fourth time that hospital was targeted. The last time children had to be evacuated from the department specializing in respiratory diseases in children. This time the hospital, marked according to all the regulations of the Geneva Convention, was directly hit by two missiles. Department of Neurology is completely destroyed, three patients were found dead and many are seriously injured. The number is not final, the rescuers are still trying to get to them. The ceiling collapsed in Gynecological Department. Two women who were just giving birth were badly cut when the entire glass front of the building exploded. One of the babies was hurt.

The newborn babies and the patients are being evacuated. Some 300m away a gas station was bombed in the exclusively residential area called Dedinje. A small, local gas station with three pumps. Surrounded by private houses. And four hospitals. And every night something like this happens I think to myself, no, this time the world cannot stay silent and watch this senseless slaughter. And every morning I am greeted by the bloodthirsty sneer of Jamie Shea and his NATO buddies, who laugh and say: OOPS! Sorry. But next time we will get you for sure! Surrender or we will kill all your children and new born babies and you can't do anything to stop us!

Actually, I wouldn't be surprised at all if they came back the second time to finish off that maternity ward, just to make sure that no Serb will ever be born to defy their maniacal plan to rule the world. So what if they bombed a HOSPITAL? It's a Serbian hospital, and they are expendable. Let's kill them all in the name of humanity!
Tatjana Milisavljevi
Belgrade Mountain Bikes On Private Property

About a year ago, I and two of my neighbors began negotiating to purchase a 10-acre parcel of wooded hillside that is tucked between our homes, the Marin County Open Space District Cascade Canyon Preserve, and the Marin Boy Scout Camp Tamarancho.

The parcel had been put on the market, and rumors had spread that a potential buyer planned a 10,000 square-foot mansion, complete with helipad.

We made our offer and subsequent purchase with the specific intent of preventing such development. I won't say that we expected our neighbors to march up our little dirt road with a brass band, but I think we all anticipated that residents on both sides of the hill would be pleased that these lovely woods were not to be bulldozed for construction. (Both sides of this hill are filled with homes on very narrow, winding streets. If, God forbid, we were to have a wildfire, it would make the East Bay/Oakland Hills Fire look like a picnic in the park next to the devastation and destruction that could happen here.)

As it has turned out, wildfire is the least of our worries.

Far more threatening are the hordes of mountain bikers who ride hell-bent-for-leather down

two narrow single-track trails on our property that meet at the Tamarancho border. I have walked these trails twice a day for many years, and for most of those years rarely saw anyone else at all. The few people I did see were neighbors who lived within a block or two.

Shortly after the Marin County Open Space District bought the Wagon Wheel Trail from Camp Tamarancho, mountain bikers started riding the trails, often in large groups. Trails that were footpaths, no more than a few inches wide, have been ripped by the wheels of mountain bikes to 3 feet wide, and more.

We have heard endless complaints from our neighbors about the danger that mountain bikes hurtling down the trails pose to people walking. We are saddened and dismayed by the damage that has been done to the woods we bought to protect. The trails are eroded, many tree roots exposed, whole sections turned into muddy quagmires, overarching branches

broken, wildflowers ground into dust, and the pileated woodpeckers that have nested here for years have been driven off entirely.

When we decided to purchase the land I knew

very little about mountain biking; I know a great deal more now.

I know that the massive influx of mountain bikers in our neighborhood occurred about the same time that the MCOSD opened the Wagon Wheel Trail to public use.

I know that a large part of the mountain biking culture is an attitude of aggressive hostility that frequently breaks out into vandalism and violence.

We have owned our home here for nearly twenty years, and I lived just a few blocks away for several years before that.

We had never had any vandalism, and violence was unheard of.

In the past year, I have received direct personal threats from mountain bikers, telephone threats from mountain bikers, one mountain biker threatened to burn my home down, our house has been broken into, and our cars have been vandalized repeatedly. (All of this is documented and on record with the Fairfax Police Department and the Marin County District Attorney's Office, including tapes and videotapes of the threats.)

My son was threatened by a biker who picked up the bike and tried to hit him with it. One of my neighbors was punched in the face. It is only a matter of time before a hiker is run down and injured or a mountain biker finally succeeds in breaking his/her neck.

We hoped that we might work things out by means of cooperation and consensus. I felt certain that everyone -- hikers and bikers alike -- would agree that we did not want anyone to get hurt.

I was wrong.

We posted signs asking bikers to please slow down, then to walk their bikes, and finally, 'private property, walk at your own risk'. All were torn down. Last winter we installed

metal signs mounted on steel posts and set in concrete at the each of the trail entrances. Every one was ripped out

and hurled down the hill into the canyon.

One mountain biker who brings groups of 20 and more bikers across my property every weekend was arrested for trespassing after months of asking him to walk his bike had no effect other than to cause him to spew invective. The District Attorney's Office chose to let him off with a warning. When a police officer recommended getting a restraining order or an injunction to keep him off my property, two friends offered to pay for it as a Christmas present. I am grateful to my friends and appalled that they believe that I need such a gift.

I have spoken with several of the leading lights of the mountain biking community including Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Otis Guy, and Jim Jacobsen.

(Chris Lang checked in with a phone message that prompted the Fairfax Police to tell him to never dial my number again.) These talks have accomplished

nothing by way of cooperation

(or even simple obedience of the law) from mountain bikers.

I turned to those with hands-on experience in dealing with mountain bikers, the rangers of the Marin County Open Space District and the Marin Municipal Water District.

To a man they told me of the damage and destruction, violence and vandalism, that mountain bikers have wreaked on public lands.

I have sought help from the Fairfax Police, the Fairfax Town Council, the Marin County Open Space District, Camp Tamarancho, the Board of Supervisors, and the Marin County District Attorney's Office. Despite a wealth of evidence, despite innumerable phone calls, letters, and e-mails, despite speaking out at endless public meetings, no significant action has been taken by any of these agencies. The law is meaningless without enforcement, and there has been no enforcement to speak of.

Quite simply, the situation between private property owners and mountain bikers has deteriorated into a range war,

turning my backyard into a battleground.

I feel as though I live in a combat zone. Both the police and the District Attorney's Office recommended closing the trails with fences and 'no trespassing' signs.

Instead I put up a gate with a lock to which our immediate neighbors are cheerfully given the combination. The mountain bikers responded by taking chainsaws and cutting a new illegal trail across private property to access Camp Tamarancho and the Mcosd's Wagon Wheel Trail. The Fairfax Police and Camp Tamarancho have been notified of this latest act of vandalism to private property. I should point out here that there is no legal public access to Camp Tamarancho except for the fire roads: all other access requires crossing private property, a fact of which the Boy Scouts are fully aware. (They have an easement that permits access via Iron Springs Road that is restricted to "Boy Scouts and those on Boy Scout business only."

That easement does not include mountain bikers.)

The cost of mountain biking to the taxpayers of Marin is horrendous. Most of the agencies that deal with them are funded by Marin County taxpayers.

Ignoring the damage to the land, the costs directly attributable to mountain bikers runs easily into thousands upon thousands of dollars. This includes the wages of the rangers who must deal with law-breaking bikers, repair the bike barriers mountain bikers destroy, and replace the signs mountain bikers tear down, as well as the costs of the barriers and signs themselves.

I do not believe that Marin County taxpayers intended their tax dollars to be spent preventing or repairing the damage done by a small, politically vocal, special interest group when they voted to fund the Marin County Open Space District. I do not believe that the customers of Marin Municipal Water District would be pleased to learn that thousands of dollars are spent every month to close and restore illegal mountain bike trails on critical watershed land. Private property owners, myself among them, have been forced to spend thousands of dollars protecting their land and their private property rights against the depredation of mountain bikers.

Mountain bikes, if used precisely as the manufacturer recommends, destroy the land. That's what traction tires are designed to do: tear up the soil on unpaved roads and trails. Mountain biking is, by definition, a form of habitat encroachment that drives out birds and wildlife.

The erosion caused by mountain biking causes siltation in our streams, endangering the fragile comeback of endangered species such as steelhead trout and coho salmon.

Marin County is an affluent county, but

we can no longer afford the frightening cost of mountain biking: Not in terms of taxpayer dollars spent, not in terms of damage to our watershed, not in terms of the lawless disregard of private property rights, and not in terms of the destruction of the peace and privacy of our neighborhoods. Much of the law necessary to protect this lovely land already exists -- but the law must be enforced to be effective. That needs to happen now.
Sara Godwin
Fairfax

New Rules For Courtroom Recording

At your web page, https://www.coastalpost.com/96/2/taperec.htm, you say, "California Rule of Court 980(c) permits any person to make a sound recording of a court proceedings. It has been the law for a long time, but it is little known and very infrequently used. The exact text is: "Unless otherwise ordered for cause, inconspicuous personal recording devices may be used by persons in a courtroom to make sound recordings as personal notes of the proceedings. A person proposing to use a recording device shall inform the court in advance. The recordings shall not be used for any purpose other than as personal notes."

I have checked the quote.

The paragraph letter and content have both changed.

It now says, "980(d) [Personal recording devices] The judge may permit inconspicuous personal recording devices to be used by persons in a courtroom to make sound recordings as personal notes of the proceedings. A person proposing to use a recording device shall obtain permission from the judge in advance. The recordings shall not be used for any purpose other than as personal notes.

(Subd (d) as amended and relettered effective January 1, 1997; adopted effective July 1, 1984, as subd (c).)"

A new 980(c) has been created.

It now says, "980(c) [Photographing, recording, and broadcasting prohibited] Except as provided in this rule, court proceedings shall not be photographed, recorded, or broadcast. This rule does not prohibit courts from photographing or videotaping sessions for judicial education or publications and is not intended to apply to closed-circuit television broadcasts solely within the courthouse or between court facilities if the broadcasts are controlled by the court and court personnel.

(Subd (c) adopted effective January 1, 1997.)"

The judge now has complete discretion to prohibit recordings. Your web page needs to be updated.
Bill Thornton

Kudos To Frank Scott
I read Frank Scott's columns every time I get the opportunity. I hope you realize the is a treasure.
Congratulations,
John A. Mena
[email protected]

No Zero Tolerance

President Clinton calls for "zero tolerance" on youth violence, but his administration signally fails to enforce existing laws.

Of the 6,000 young people he says were caught with guns at schools, his Justice Department should have prosecuted more than only five in 1997, and only eight in 1998. That's not zero tolerance.

Of the thousands of young armed thugs on the streets, his Justice Department should have prosecuted more than three in 1997, and eight in 1998. That's not zero tolerance.

Of the thousands of persons who purchased guns for juveniles, his Justice Department should have prosecuted more than five in 1997, and six in 1998. That's not zero tolerance.

Clinton claims the Brady Act has stopped a quarter of a million felons from buying guns. For a felon to try to buy a gun is another felony. Yet of those 250,000 new felonies, his Justice Department should have prosecuted more than zero in 1996, zero in 1997, and zero in 1998. That's not zero tolerance.

When will the Clinton administration enforce the law?
Fielding Greaves
San Rafael

Y2K Lawsuits and Democrats

The Congress is trying to pass a bill to limit Y2K related lawsuits estimated to cost the computer software industry and the economy about 1 Trillion dollars (1000 billion dollars). Without lawsuit limitations, these lawsuits would create the biggest windfall for lawyers in the history of the world and threatens America's economic recovery.

The software industry is a relatively new industry and has been experiencing very rapid growth. Computer and the Internet have been the backbone of America's recovery from spiraling debt to budget surpluses. Every significant breakthrough in every form of science and medicine is directly or indirectly related to advances in computer technology and software. Now as we approach the end of the century, the computer industry is faces with a technical hurdle to overcome-Y2K. This technical hurdle should not be used as an opportunity for lawyers to get a Trillion dollars at the expense of the public.

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party and the trial lawyers are in bed with each other the same way the Republican Party is in bed with guns and tobacco. The American Bar Associations expects the Democrats to sell out the interests of our country so as to protect the profits of wealthy lawyers who will kick back some of the trillion dollar windfall to the coffers of Democrats who do their bidding. This is wrong and it must be stopped.

In 1998 I was the Democratic candidate for Congress in the general election for the 7th District of Missouri. But I am an American first and a Democrat second. (Which might partially explain why I didn't win.) However, it would be a big mistake for Democrats to block the Y2K bill. Protecting the right of the consumer to sue in this circumstance is not a consumer protection issue. I therefore urge Democrats to join with the Republicans on this issue and allow computer programmers to fix computer software rather than defending lawsuits so that we can continue to be prosperous into the 21st century. We can pay off the national debt through the expansion of science and technology and medical breakthroughs that will only occur in an environment that is reasonably safe from frivolous litigation. It's time to put the interests of the citizens ahead of the interests of lawyers.
Marc Perkel
[email protected]

Stop Me Before I Sue Again

I am filing a lawsuit I do not wish to file. With a lawyer I do not wish to hire. For a claim that has no merit. Against a company I do not wish to sue. With an agreement for legal fees I am not allowed to see.

This lawsuit is driving down the price of my home, disrupting my formerly tranquil neighborhood, and all to correct alleged construction defects in our homes that largely do not exist, we cannot see, do no harm, or will not manifest themselves for many years in the future, if at all.

Of all the crazy lawyers jokes I have ever heard, this is the craziest-and least amusing. But this is no joke; it is happening right now to me, and thousands of other homeowners in Southern California, and they are not laughing either.

Our story began last year, when a law firm sent our homeowners association a letter, telling us we could win a lot of money because our condos were probably just full of defects.

This was not a joke, but a surprise to me and my neighbors, who thought we lived in nice houses, in a nice neighborhood that didn't have any problems that a guy with a tool belt couldn't fix on a Saturday morning.

But the lawyers told us different. Oh no, they said, you have lots of problems-you just can't see them.

We didn't believe the lawyers, and we told our board of directors we wanted nothing to do with their bogus lawsuit.

They did not listen. Instead, they salivated as the lawyers dangled the prospects of large buckets of money in front of them. Money that would come after we filed a construction defect lawsuit. Money they said they would collect from an insurance company, supposedly eager to avoid a lawsuit.

The fact that we didn't have defects didn't seem to disturb the attorneys. They knew of a quirk in the law that would help win the case-and help the attorneys collect a 30 to 50 percent contingency fee.

No one listened as we told them these lawsuits would prevent us from selling, or refinancing, our condos, thus hurting our home values.

No one listened as we told them the builder had videotaped every step of the building process so thoroughly that it was held up as a model of how to prevent defect lawsuits on the CBS news show 48 Hours.

No one listened as we insisted that the only ones who would make any money on this lawsuit were the lawyers.

Finally no one responded when we asked to see the leaky roofs, the crooked doors, the dangerous construction that would merit such a radical course of action. They could not respond: These items did not exist.

But our board didn't listen. So with the two votes that made up a majority of the board, they voted to proceed with the lawsuit on behalf of over 220 homeowners, signing on agreement with the lawyers that, to this day, remains a secret.

So how many of us are in a lawsuit we want nothing to do with?

We thought we had options. We presented a petition to the board-complete with 117 signatures, more than 50 percent of the homeowners-that would have derailed the lawsuit. The board simply and completely ignored our plea.

We'll fix that at the upcoming election in a few weeks. But much of the damage has already been done. Already a few people bought into our complex, unaware of the hundreds of defects that the lawyers said exist. Including water pooling on exterior stairwells, when we have no exterior stair wells, and lots of other defects on items that do not even exist.

But here's the catch: Even though these defects do not exist, as our own attorneys claim they do-thus they must be listed on real estate disclosure forms. Costing all of us lots of money in lower home appraisals and prices. And maybe even legal costs from the new, and disgruntled, buyers.

Even if we drop the suit now, which we still want to do, the biggest investment any of us will ever make is tainted, costing each of a good portion of the equity we were counting on for retirement, or our kids' education, or just plain old savings.

And all because a lawyer sent us a letter, a pipe dream, that our board did not have the sense to rip up into a million pieces, and treat like the rotten, corrupt, insidious sick joke that it was. And is.
Marci O'Brien
Mission Viejo

Suit Benefits Homeowners

We fought city hill on excessive building inspection fees. And won. And lower prices, even refunds, for California homebuyers will be the result.

The fight was in Murrieta, where our lawsuit alleged the City of Murrieta was violating state law by charging 200 to 300 percent more for building fees than it was entitled to collect. This amounted to more than $1,000 per home.

Earlier this month the city agreed to settle the suit by reducing building fees by as much as $1,300 per home; refunding overcharges made on recently built houses; adopting a new, lower fee schedule known as the Paladin Group Tables; eliminating (higher) fees set by the International Conference of Building Officials; and allowing the Paladin Group authority to monitor and enforce these changes.

The homebuyer refund is unprecedented in California. And the fee reduction is being using by building industry officials throughout the state to justify our calls to lower building fees in accordance with costs. This will help reduce home prices.

Prior to the lawsuit, the City of Murrieta charged $1,830 per unit for building inspection and plan check. As a result of the settlement, these fees will be reduced by as much as $1,300 per unit to $488. And more.

As part of the settlement the City of Murrieta agreed to pay the plaintiffs Paladin Group, Barratt American and the Building Industry Defense Fund a total of $600,000. Part of that will be used to refund $100 each to the 2,030 homeowners who bought in Murrieta subsequent to the lawsuit. In addition, Barratt is refunding its homebuyers in Murrieta another $570, because we feel that homebuyers are the ultimate source of all building fees.

In the settlement agreement the city also admitted that its method to calculate fees was "unreliable, inaccurate and improper." And it pledged to change the way it calculates fees for building inspection services; promising to adhere to the Paladin tables which more accurately reflect the cost of providing these services.

Building industry officials and city planners throughout the state have been watching the litigation with interest, with both sides expecting this decision to set precedent in other cities throughout the state.

If this is of any interest, Dick McCarthy of the Paladin Group (1-760-327-6528), our attorney Walter McNeill (1-530-222-8999), a Murrieta homeowner, and myself will be available to answer any questions. Call 619-280-4994 for a copy of the settlement agreement or clips on the topics.
Mick Pattinson
President, Barratt American Inc.
Carlsbad

Being An American

The crisis in Kosovo is currently polarizing the American public into two distinctly opposite camps: Those who are adequately aware of world history and those who are not. Those who clearly understand our country's role as world leader in the resolution of international issues and those who do not. Those who put high priority in human right values anywhere around the world and those who do not. Those who are deeply committed to the proud American heritage, passed on to us by our forefathers and those who are not. Those who believe in making self sacrifices for world peace and those who do not. Those who have the courage and resolve to fight for our country and what it stands for and those who do not. Those who support our President in making us live up to our established foreign policy commitments and those who simply oppose anything that he ever does. Those who put an end of petty political squabbles when our national interest is on the line and those who are just too dumb to understand it.

To which camp do you belong? But is there really a choice if one is an intelligent, responsible and patriotic individual, worthy of the honor and privilege of being an American?
Antonio R. Serna

Tribute to Shel Silverstein

Children of all ages lost a great friend with the recent passing of Shel Silverstein, author of such best-selling books as Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and Falling Up. A writer and artist, Silverstein will best be remembered as the poet laureate of children. He wrote poems kids understand, often about subjects many adults would rather ignore.

For example in his poem "Point of View," from Where the Sidewalk Ends, Silverstein reminded readers:

Thanksgiving dinner's sad and thankless
Christmas dinner's dark and blue
When you stop and try to see it
From the turkey's point of view.

Sunday dinner isn't sunny
Easter feasts are just bad luck
When you see it from the viewpoint
Of a chicken or a duck.

Oh how I once loved tuna salad
Pork and lobster, lamp chops too
Till I stopped and looked at dinner
From the dinner's point of view.

PETA wishes more Americans would take a moment to consider their dinner from the animals' point of view. Then call our toll-free hotline, 1-888-VEG-FOOD, for free vegetarian recipes.
Paula Moore
Staff Writer
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Norfolk, Virginia

Demand to Douglas Dawson

This will be your last opportunity to sign a letter of apology to the poet W.C. Bondarenko, for your crimes of three false arrests at Council Meetings in Mill Valley. Your verbal apologies were appreciated in 1988 and 1992, but because these false arrests became a politically motivated crime, we are urging you to do your duty to your fellowmen, especially as your status as Rotary Club President demands it. If your apology does not appear in print in the Coastal Post newspaper before you resign as City Manager of Mill Valley, we can guarantee a full-scale federal investigation as to the motives of your felonies.

Perhaps the United States Supreme Court will finally come awake and decide your fate, and the fate of Free Speech in our United States of America.

Semper fidelis.
W.C. Bondarenko
President
Citizens Action Committee to Preserve the Constitution
Mill Valley

An Open Letter To The Entertainment Community Of Marin

I went to church last Sunday here in San Quentin. My favorite church in my favorite town in Marin County. Darrell Wright ( "Big D") sang this song with the gospel band. Big D had a nationwide hit single in or around 1962, "Pull the little string and I'll wink for you, I'm your puppet." Big D's doin' life. The text that follows is the gist of what Big D sang at church and the text of a song I was doin' on the streets. Maybe now if y'all read it while I'm in prison you can really hear instead of listen.

"A little boy was playin' in his yard one day. He got to wandering and drifted far away from his neighborhood, so far he wandered, he was lost, he never understood just what the cost. So the boy started to cry out on somebody's front lawn. The man came out on his porch to see what was goin' on, they asked him, what's the matter little boy? He said, I can't find my way home! Well, son, do you have the number to your momma's telephone? Boy said, momma don't have no telephone since Daddy been gone. You see the judge sent Daddy to the penitentiary. Well, is there anything you can remember about your house, is it near a school or a store? The boy said, yes, there's a church I can see from my front door. And in front of that church is a big white cross, if I could find that cross I wouldn't be lost. If I could just get to that cross, I could find my way home. Yes, if I could just get to that cross, I could find my way home, if I could find my way to that cross, I wouldn't be lost."

I woke up at 4:30 this morning to pray for the Sunday service. I'm going back to church this morning. I have a lot of spiritual conflicts on wavelength with the community of Marin County. Here is my song to you, Marin County and Carabello, Cippolina, Carlos and Jorge, Town of Fairfax, Father Guido Sarducci, Bartender Krystal at Peri's and Mad Hannah's:

"Do I have to change my name, move to another town, start all over again? Nothin' seems to feel the same, whenever you're around, you treat me like an old friend. Do I have to fake love? From the punishments and the promises you handed me, what is this attitude? If this is really you, then you're not all that you made yourself out to be. Well, I got a brand new life, and I got a song of love, and if only you could share all that I been dreamin' of. I heard that you been courtin' fame under another name. Tell me, where does it end? Do I have to change my name, move to another town, start all over again?" -Chris Hillman, Desert Rose Band from "Pages of Life"

I subpoenaed officer Phil Torres of Fairfax P.D. at my Board of Prison Terms Morrissy hearing here at San Quentin April 29. On tape, under oath, Torres stated that somebody from the 7 a.m. AA meeting at the Women's Club in Fairfax on Park Road called him and told him of the substance of my participation in that AA group. I have begun to litigate. I will see you AA Fairfax 7 a.m. people in court. Bank on it baby! Carabello, Cippolina, Carlos and Jorge (there in my old UPC office), Father Guido Sarducci, Jerry Hannan, Derek and Christine, Jumbo, Raphael Sexton, Gabe Grvch. Hey, I had to do this time, I'm sorry, I did all I could (Read "Ex-Prisoner Says" Letters to the Editor, Coastal Post, April, 1999.)

I can't get the help I need to function in society on your, Hey, "tell me where your freedom lies, your streets are fields that never die" -Jim Morrison-Crystal Ship.

So somebody please tell me, write me and let me know I gave it everything I had, man, ya'll want me to jump the bridge? Take a shotgun barrel, put it in my mouth and pull the trigger with my big toe like Shawn, my original NCR guitar player did out there in his van by White's Hill? Yes? No?

Or do I have to change my name, move to another town, start all over again?
Marc "Texas Tad" Adams
SAN QUENTIN

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