Lake Transit Route Cuts from Hell

The recently proposed transit route cuts are substantially different than what was proposed at the June Transit Authority meeting. Possibly the amount of cuts are the same but a low use route was restored at the expense of additional cuts on North Shore, the City of Clearlake, Lakeport, and Middletown. Middletown may have broke even on the route exchange.

Originally, a little used Saturday route and an early run was cut in Clearlake. North Shore was to give up two mid day runs each way. But the biggest planned cut was the complete elimination of Route 2 which connects Kits Korner to Cobb and on to Twin Pines Casino. The reason for Route 2 taking the big hit was because ridership never returned after the fire. Even before the fire, when I got on the bus at Anderson Springs there was never anyone else on the bus until Cobb.

Due to permanently losing a funding source, the Transit Authority had to cut about a hundred total route hours. I indicated to the authority’s general manager, Mark Wall, that although his original proposal based on ridership was rational, cuts could be reduced by making changes in the routes themselves. Specifically, cutting the unused parts of Routes 2 and 4A while rerouting Route 4 thru its original journey. But when I saw the official list of bus runs to be cut, as part of notice for Public Hearing on August 9th, I was shocked.

Additional cuts to those proposed were demanded from Route 1 and all three Clearlake local runs. Note that a majority of the bus trips are within Clearlake. These reductions were offset by restoring 7 of the planned 8 run cuts on Route 2 that would be made if the Route 2 were axed.  This sudden change from a rational to an irrational plan would only make sense if considerable pressure were brought to bare from a County supervisor. I assume that the North Shore and Clearlake sups didn’t call up Wall to demand more transit cuts in their District.

Beyond simply giving low ridership areas a break at the expense of higher use runs, while consequently increasing the cost per passenger trip in the system, there are public safety and financing liabilities that are created by this negative reversal. Most of this collateral damage is for Clearlake’s residents while one cut threatens the eligibility for a grant that could end service for the whole county to Napa.

The flagship of bad ideas has to be cutting the Westbound 7pm Route 1 from Clearlake. This particular run is designed to connect to the last Route 3 coming in from Calistoga. These four trips a day to Napa County and back are made possible by a 350,000 dollar grant. This grant has two strings attached. The first one is there cannot be any reduction in the 4 runs to and from Napa using this grant or we lose the whole grant. The second condition is the Route 3 runs using this money have to connect with a specific Lake County route. The 6pm bus from Napa County has to connect with that 7pm Route 1. Suddenly we plan to cut it to appease someone. What’s wrong with this picture?

Public safety suggests we should not be forcing the disabled, women, and the elderly to make hazardous trips on foot if its not absolutely necessary. But three of the last minute deletions do exactly that. The new 8pm Route 11 cut in the Highlands will force passengers coming in on the 6:30 Route 4 to make their way home at night on foot across a long distance of hills, no sidewalks, and dirt roads while being menaced by psyco tweekers and packs of feral dogs. I know this about the Highlands from being a taxi driver in Clearlake.

The most vulnerable won’t even have Dail-a-Ride to fall back on. Cutting the last two local runs across the city allows Lake Transit to legally whack off two hours a night of Dial-a-Ride service, even though Route 1 and Route 4 regionals are still coming in. Cost savings: Ten hours per week. Some grumpy people will say, “ What a bunch of whiners. Take an earlier bus.” For many people this is the earlier bus. When we lost our night time reverse commute grant people who used to take the 8:30 Route 4 from Lakeport now have to take the 6:30 Route 4 or brave the howling wilderness. This new 8pm Route 11 cut means that both night inter county Route 4 runs are now decapitated. Could this  be population control by transit?

Unbelievably, it gets even stranger. After the original planned reduction of Route 12’s lightly used Saturday and 6:27am runs, the new plan calls for adding the 4, 5, and 6pm Route 12’s to the chopping block. Cutting the weekday 4pm and 5pm Route 12’s to Lower Lake means what? Think! Think! It means that moms pushing baby carriages and non dial-a-ride disabled will be struggling down Highway 53 to make their 4:30 appointments at Social Services, in the hot sun and pouring rain. Did the Republican Central Committee suggest this cut?

Do I have a solution? As a matter of fact I do. Given the fact that we have to come up with a hundred hours of cuts, I have crunched out a plan that is not only better than this train wreck but is an improvement over Mark Walls original “cuts only” proposal. Adding back the new run cuts that are egregious monstrosities and doing a once over on 7 of the County’s routes gives us about 70 hours of cuts with roughly 30 to go. These remaining cuts will have to come from cuts and “changes” to Routes 2, 4, and 4A. My cuts are from segments of Routes 2 and 4A that riders don’t use while preserving segments where people are getting on and off a bus.

Adding up the net bare bones net cuts from these three routes I come up with another 34 hours and 40 minutes, for a total of over 104 route hours of cuts. Since this is over the required 100 route hours of needed cuts I’ve come up with four hours of options.

Summarizing these changes:  4A as a stand alone route would be eliminated with pieces of the route added to the Route 4 and Route 2. Route 2 would shift, running between Cobb and Clearlake Riviera. Route 4 would detour to service Konocti Vista and Finley for non Ukiah “Express” runs. Routes 2 and 4 might want to exchange bus number routes between Clearlake and Kits Korner for the non express Route 4 runs. As a bonus, since we have a little slop, we could continue the Route 4 non expresses on Saturday to Konocti Vista and Finley for an additional 40 minutes of route hours and bump out to Cal Packing and up East Finley six days for an extra three route hours per week. Both options would reduce total route cuts to 101 hours.

The bump out of the Route 4 would not be an option for the one run each way for the Hance School detour. The 2:10 Eastbound would now be the 2pm and the Eastbound Route 4 would not turn into Route 7 until 3pm straight up. I also suggest leaving off the Mendocino College detour in Ukiah off the Saturday schedule. Most drivers skip it anyway or go off route.

As for servicing Konocti Vista and Finley, there are 3 current, non cut runs, Monday thru Friday to and from this 4A segment. There are 3 non cut Route 4’s running each way that aren’t Ukiah expresses. Some combination of Running round trip Route 4’s from Walmart to Kits Korner and Running a Route 4 to Kits, doing the shorty Route 2, and continuing on as the Route 4 to Lakeport can be worked out for the non Ukiah expresses.

So that’s the informed opinion of a member of the public. I’m requesting that the Lake Transit Board reject the hastily assembled political proposal that is clearly against the public interest. Furthermore, I suggest the Board direct Mark Wall to inform the intruding supervisor that he may represent his district but a supervisor works for the County – the whole County.

Well Prepared for the Trump Era

When I moved to Lake County in 2002 little did I know that I was going to undergo a rigorous conditioning to living under a fascist regime. While the 2016 Election left millions of people dazed and bewildered, I looked at the horror unfolding and could only see that the Nation had caught up with Lake County reality. There are several elements to this reality. If I thought deep down most of the Trump vote was anything more than fear and ignorant rage I would not bother writing this.

I happen to like details, check facts, and I follow thru. This made me immediately suspect to the self serving paranoids that ruled the backwater of Lake County. The first thing I learned is that “the public” does not include me. A full description for “the public” in this former frontier of Napa County is “the old landed families”, the real estate industry, right wing fundamentalists, retired police, corrupt civil servants, opportunists pitching Lake County’s low development requirements to out of County interests, and small town, small minded, mean spirited Republican business men who would never survive in a dynamic market environment.

People who find themselves stuck here, but are not members of the club, are only valued if they have brought money with them that can be siphoned off by the tight knit cabal of reactionaries to keep the black heart of the past beating on. The poorer sorts who retreated here from more expensive areas are alternately vilified as the reason progress has bypassed Lake County and exploited as State and Federal grant bait. This grant money is either used to hire more do nothing cronies and unemployable relatives or used for programs that attack people in a class war that the money was supposed to help.

Those who meet in the usual gatherings for “the right kind of people” to hatch schemes for excluding or crushing “the wrong kind of people” are found even in decent localities. Only in Lake County it is all out in the open, for all to see, with neither shame or denial – just like Donald Trump. There are no cover stories, rationalizations, or excuses. The law is not important except when it benefits the right kind of people or some fancy lawyer gets involved to muck things up. Coalitions of diverse interests and future thinking are strategies for losers.

Remember, Lake County was the scene of the Dinius trial that caused a National sensation, resulting in the ouster of both the District Attorney and the Sheriff. Fast boats, corruption, and death on the water. Its only a matter of time before Clear Lake gets their big Hollywood movie. The Chamber won’t like it.

Myself, I’ve experienced numerous instances of freedom of speech and search warrant violations. But so have many other residents. Even in the 21st Century reefer madness still justifies the most absurd and egregious assaults on our civil liberties in the land of Clear Lake. In the rare instance where someone can get a lawyer, and of course win the case, the attitude is “So what. The taxpayers will pay for it.”  No actual presence of devil weed is seen as necessary. They are on a mission from God who over rides the Supreme Court.

My first experience as the subject of civic minded mob action was when I decided to produce a video parody of local politics for the public access station. I was not considered part of “the public.” The City Manager of Clearlake was outraged. When it leaked out what I was planning the former Chamber head and a right wing minister organized a howling mob of their buddies, retired policemen running for local office, businessmen, even one of the founders of Clearlake to storm the  PEG meeting to intimidate me. The Chamber guy kept saying he wanted to punch me out. I challenged him to a chess game. He declined.

After years of attacks on the station everyone was finally driven off, leaving TV8 nothing more than a government channel with some internet filler. But all three governments still use its public forum status to extort money from cable users as a fee for public access. No shame. No shame whatsoever. And why should there be? After all, they are the right kind of people taking from the wrong kind of people, like me and you. When people like Trump aren’t born rich they are called bullies or thugs. To me, Trump is just one of these Lake County goons in a better suit with bigger guns.

As someone who has made a habit of showing up to places I’m not supposed to be at and reading documents I’m not supposed to read, I understood the Trump mindset right from the beginning. I see millions wringing their hands in disbelief that the short sighted, unapologetic arrogance I experience on a local level is now on display in the Presidency for the World to see. I had hoped that after another generation of goobers had died off Lake County would finally join the civilized world. Instead I find that the Nation has decided to become Lake County. It won’t be pretty but I’ve seen it all before.

Pot, Police, and Pirates

Beware of getting news from articles that only quote the police. In the March 25 Lakeco News there was an article about the first big bust under Clearlake’s new marijuana regulations. The problem is one fact is wrong and the interesting half of the story is missing. The police embellishment about all the alarms at the grow is a lie. The alarms are all on my property 4 parcels away from the grow. I marked off the distance to the grow to look up the street number. No alarms went off as I got near the grow’s fence.

There was indeed a marijuana grow on 6089 and 6109 Vallejo in Clearlake. Ho hum, it happens all the time. But Officer Celli did not mention that the big bust swept far beyond the scope of the newly fenced in compound, and I’m certain, the narrow confines of their search warrant. Specifically, the police bounced over three heavily wooded lots and continued their eradication mission uphill to my knoll, starting with 15787 Yankee and 6009 Vallejo. But there was nothing to eradicate at this second location. That is because this is where I have been building experimental video and theater sets for nearly 20 years. I’m also creating a research library in a cargo container, which doubles as a video set.

Before I arrived on my knoll the officers apparently got bored with the professionally fenced in yard and turned their attention on the interlocked Manzanita branch barricade and heavy steel no trespassing sign at my entrance. One officer confided in me that they thought a branch barricade is typical of marijuana grows which is why they unceremoniously tore it down, breaking the interlocking structure.

Of course, a Manzanita branch barricade could also be the product of artistic sensibilities and having been the victim of 16 devastating burglaries and numerous perimeter penetrations on foot and dirt bike. But the police were not thinking anything except marijuana on this day and were not taking the time to learn that this was the very same site they had been to on numerous occasions in 2010 on harassment sorties directed by City Hall. They were on a roll…or is it a frenzy. It must be a frenzy because they tore out my driveway alarm and it disappeared.

When I rode up on my bicycle before work the police were staged on my neighbor’s illegal dump site. They were naturally curious who I was. I gave them my ID and answered all their questions. Why not? I figured they were there about the grow 4 lots downhill from my knoll. If I had known they had already ransacked my property, soiled props, and impounded my dog Ruby from her run I would not have been so friendly and cooperative. In the course of our conversation when they realized I was not a pot grower and had intelligence equal to the entire Clearlake Police Department they admitted they “moved” some of my upper perimeter barriers. For reasons that totally baffled me, the more serious cop seemed annoyed that I even had any kind of intrusion deterrent.

I left Clearlake’s finest to survey my now ignored knoll. It was a mess. Theater hats were thrown around and storage bins left open. I noticed one hat from a set of pirate hats in a bush. Then I realized that Ruby was gone. Did she break her chain defending her territory? Did the police shoot her but not tell me to maximize my cooperation? A two page notice from animal control was posted – “protective custody”, Section blah blah “mandatory spay”, Section blah blah “rabies shot”. Bullshit! She’s been spayed and has a current rabies shot. And who is being protected from who? I’m going to have to rescue Ruby tomorrow from her alien abductors. Today I have to go to work driving a bus.

I wonder if it occurred to any of these mental giants that with my barricades torn down, alarms stolen, and guard dog impounded my property is now completely vulnerable in one of the highest crime areas in Clearlake. As I went by the damaged Manzanita I spotted another one of my pirate hats on a branch. Why is it down here? I push my bike by the dump site and there’s three more pirate hats in a garbage pile. Nothing else from the knoll, just my pirate hats. I asked the cops, “Why are these here?” They just said, “Take them.” The serious cop walked off. I told the younger cop, “I’m on a mandatory 6 day work week due to driver shortage. I don’t have time for all this.”

I worked my shift very distracted. Is my dog suffering? And what were the police doing with all my pirate hats? Were they milking the clock playing pirate with my hats? After work I called my girl friend Lorna about my police invasion and Ruby’s abduction. She offered to come by in the morning. We didn’t know what documents animal control would require to release my dog. I went to the vet to get copies of her records. I knew where the dogs are held but where is the person in charge? We stopped in for coffee and a policeman in line offered to call animal control. No one answered but he was sure he saw her earlier at City Hall.

I called on the phone outside of the police department. Two women came out. The one in charge generously offered to wave the 50 dollar abduction fee and would call the kennel keeper to release Ruby. The boss’s back-up said another reason they came on my property was because I was uphill from the grow area so I must be a look-out. What?!! I’m a suspect because of something going on 200 feet downhill from my property? Are properties uphill from me responsible for what I do deep in the brush?

Oh yes, and she brought up the barricade again. I said, “Look, the reason it looks like a white supremacist compound is because I keep on getting hit again and again. And I’m planning to do a lot more starting with trail cameras that I bought.” If nothing else, next time it should keep the cops from mincing around in my pirate hats while they make each other walk the plank. Unless of course they steal the cameras.

We picked up Ruby at the lock down and Ruby squealed with delight. Lorna got us home and I got to work. It was another distracted day but not as distracted as the day before. I feel violated. I want some answers. And I want to see some paperwork from the Chief of Police. Anyone know a good 4th Amendment lawyer?

Report From Driver 39

A personal account of the struggle between Lake County bus drivers and Paratransit Services.
The video includes clips from a Transit Authority meeting, a KPFZ radio show, and news coverage by Shannon Nailor.

Press Democrat 4th Estate Sale

by Dante DeAmicis

The obit for the dead tree media read, “Lake County Transit Workers Call Off Strike” by Glenda Anderson, August 15, 2013. My name is Dante DeAmicis. I have been substituting for Herb Gura’s Law Show for the last two weeks. My two main topics have been the local transit strike and the lack of critical media at the local level.

The Press Democrat’s article on the end of the transit strike has provided me with an excellent example of the latter issue. A critical reporter would have asked chief operating officer Christie Scheffer, why is service not being restored on the next day? I doubt you would have gotten a meaningful answer from Paratransit Services.

A critical reporter would have then sought another knowledgeable source and learned that Paratransit’s emergency plan, approved by Lake County Transit Authority, called for resuming full service in two phases. Paratransit was short two replacement drivers from their hasty training program, requiring them to take back the two senior Union drivers to implement Phase 1.

Full service could have been resumed immediately by simply declaring the emergency plan now null and void. All slots remaining in Phase 2 to restore service could have been filled by the old drivers immediately. Instead, Paratransit was allowed to pretend that the emergency was ongoing and continue to train every replacement employee that made it through the door. This was done for reasons that had nothing to do with getting the buses running at full strength. This could have been done the next day if they simply acknowledged that the strike was over. I repeat: Every single bus route run that did not operate after August 16th was 100% due to Paratransit malfeasance.

Finally, a critical reporter would then have asked for examples of the “variety of issues” that Paratransit was working out over the 5-day legal maximum. A good redirect might be “What situations are those 5 days meant for and is Paratransit using that grace period for those reasons?” If the same question was then asked of the Union drivers, the Press Democrat’s ace reporter would have heard that Paratransit is misusing an unneeded reorganizational period to shoot as many wounded and strip as many dead as time allows.

Here’s some illuminating analogies to illustrate how ridiculous Paratransit’s unquestioned statements look to a critical person:

* If someone was qualified to give First Aid to an accident victim and a doctor arrived soon after, would the First Aid responder be justified in not letting the responding doctor take over because they have started First Aid?

 * Say a mudslide completely closed a freeway and the highway department temporarily allowed traffic to detour around the slide on a nearby creek bottom. Should the highway department allow this practice after the slide is cleared because off road yahoos prefer to tear up the waterway?

 * And lastly, pay attention to this one, what if a developer with government contracts was told a new heritage oak ordinance was taking effect in 5 days, and he used those 5 days to hire 30 day laborers in town with chain saws to cut down every big tree on properties he controlled? Should the local government give the waste maker more of the people’s money? `

Once again, I thank the Press Democrat for providing a shining example of why community radio and local activist blogs are the survivors of and successors to our late great newspapers.

Report from Driver 39

By Dante DeAmicis

 This just in from the Lake Transit Economics Department: Lower Wages are good for Lake County. On September 1st we will know how many 11 to 12 dollar an hour drivers have been axed for $10.48 an hour replacement drivers. Inquiring minds want to know, “How is paying lower wages going to help Lake County?” Its simple, by making it harder for people here who have to work for a living we will be encouraging these people to leave and be replaced by bon vivants who have independent means, preferably from Napa. This follows the real estate credo: “The only good buck is a fast buck.” No doubt the Transit Authority knows where their bread is buttered and has signed on to policies that have made Lake County the booming metropolis that it is today.

 There will probably be a net increase in that high-roller EDD money pouring into the County. Since the State is struggling to stay afloat, it makes sense to the goober brain trust to get as many people on unemployment as we can while the money is still there. The strategy of replacing working people with recipients of meager unemployment checks is related to General Cornwallis’ tactic of firing cannon on his own troops during the American Revolution. Not only did it ensure a win, it cut down on food costs.

 Many non bus riders have had a hard time wrapping their mind around transit issues except when someone puts a bus stop sign in front of their house and Jesus tells them to take a hacksaw to it. The problem is that Transit Authority meetings lack the entertainment value of a Clearlake City Council meeting. News coverage about buses is a total snoozer.

 First off, taking a Paratransit guy from Washington and a Teamster guy from the Bay Area does not make them interesting just because you put them in Lake County, churning out official statements. Instead, I recommend that local media ignore the suits and focus on Operations Manager Wanda Gray and senior driver and organizer April Allen. If there’s going to be a fight, we want it to be an all local, high-powered bitch fight. Randy and Ralph look terrible on video.

 Next, since the the TA is where the big money is, the meetings have an obligation to be exciting since money is supposed to be exciting. Oh, Board Member Chuck Leonard does what he can with his rabid anti-unionism and open disgust with poor people in general. But one man can only do so much without a foil. There are two at-large seats on the Board. I certainly wouldn’t advocate replacing Chuck for the frivolous reason that he only represents the upper crust of Lake County’s day-old bakery. No, since its all about entertainment I recommend replacing the other at-large Member with a slogan chanting union goon. Someone like former union organizer Tim Williams might create some sparks with the old union buster.

 Have we forgotten anything? Oh yes, the children. There is an educational opportunity here to include them in the controversy. We just might have the local equivalent of Jeff Foxworthy’s “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” The “Are You Smarter than a Bus Rider” version would feature local elementary school kids pitted against Paratransit business wonks. These are the guys who said 2 out of 39 was “.05%.” Second guess: “Well, not even 1%, no wait, I’d like to buy an exclamation point.”

 I hope the kids don’t humiliate them too badly.