This is my response to a thread on WaCCoBB.net
WaccoReader: UTNE Article: Chopping Down Redwoods to Make Wine
After seeing the alarming rate of wine grape conversions in this county - be it clear cut of forested ridge tops, with endangered species habitats just below being subject to enormous silt intrusions; tearing out other dry-farmed crops, such as apple orchards; wild land, etc; I now see the majority of those serving on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Planning, Zoning, Permitting agencies and commissions, as being complicit with the criminals who profit from this land rape for fermented grapes.
It took me awhile, then I got it; if the County & State employees' retirement benefits investments are tied to this kind of land use; it's no wonder they keep letting it happen.
I don't know if this scheme was set up by Willie Brown back when he ruled State gov.; or in his more recent role as CalPERS Board member re: their investment practices; but Preservation Ranch has had big Wall St. backers like CalPERS, (don't know if they have pulled out all the way or not. It was mentioned they changed their vineyard management co. Plus, we know planting a few trees does not replace an ecosystem)
It's not just about the juicy campaign donations folks like Supervisor Efren Carillo got from land assaulters like Paul Hobbs, LLC, while he turned a blind eye to the illegal land use practices; and theft of Jenkel's property.
Efren didn't throw Hobbs under the bus, until you all made such a big fuss and he saw his re-election threatened.
Don't ever underestimate the power of using your free speech, loud and often. Especially let stores, restaurants, and the media know, you will boycott them and their advertisers if they continue to profit from these "bad apples"; while they continue to distort the truth, and promote an industry which chokes the quality out of our life here; and exports our water - one case of wine at a time.
Fortunately there are many farmers here who value, and adhere to social and environmental justice. It's mostly the Big Ag guys who abuse and manipulate the rules and tarnish the industry, making it harder for the rest of them. They have the money and power for what they used to call "graft". (I only saw "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" for the first time this year.)
The big guys just pay the fines and do it again; this needs to be corrected. Just don't expect the people paid to have oversight to do it; when their retirement, and next round of campaign funding require allowing "business as usual" to do so.
Just as people are waking up to taking their money out of bad banks; know by whom, your wine was made, and if their practices helped, or hurt the community where it was produced. Let them know, just paying fines and making a donation to a charity, is not enough to cover their damages. Are they ethical when it comes to how they treat the environment, their workers, and their neighbors?
The State has known for a long time, that there have been 800 illegal diversions in the Russian River watershed (Mendocino and Sonoma). This County thinks it's fine for the growers to police themselves on frost protection! The County and State have dragged their feet for a long time; sadly seem only motivated by law suits, in order to take action on these issues.
Recovery for the endangered species, done only by the farmed fisheries is not good enough!
Giving these wealthy landowners money to repair the damage they've done to the watershed is not OK either. Let their profits pay for it; so we have enough funds left to heal our watersheds where the low, and no income folks are having problems.
So many of our precious streams and groundwater have been depleted and poisoned by the wine grape industrialists. The pollution and water diversions by pot growers, (while also not OK), pales in comparison; but you'll never see the mainstream news research or cover that statistic.
Bob Anderson has been this region's prime industrial wine grape lobbyist; and yet he was somehow able to become the Chairman of the Regional Water Quality Control Board, under the last governor's watch.
He'd like to keep the job of a fox guarding the hen house. Please tell Gov. Brown, this is a serious conflict of interest for one of our most precious natural resources - water!
For more info on these issues; look into the Sonoma County Water Coalition www.scwatercoalition.org
I'm hoping someone, or group will come up with something to make it easy for consumers to know which wineries to avoid, and which to support; like the seafood watch program to protect the species which are over-fished.
There is a labeling program for Fish Friendly Farming; though I'm not sure it addresses all the issues impacted by the industry.
Research before you buy. Let your stores and restaurants know the brands you trust to be valued social and environmental partners. Recommend they drop the brands which are not. When they get that your patronage depends on it; they will be motivated to make more informed choices too.
On Nov. 17 the BZA will be hearing three winery applications. There is a growing kickback on the proliferation of “special events”. Here comes some more.
Thanks for your actions on informed consumption,
Some of this is old news, and CalPERS has changed some of its practices; but one still need one wonder if they just didn't invest in hiding the graft better. We can't only blame big bad banks and Wall St. for the mess were in; let's take a deeper look at how our of system of government enables it.
My question for you is; will you continue to support the Senate incumbent, just because she's a Democrat; even though she's only really working for the 1%?
Here's a few conflicts from CalPERS, W. Brown's & D. Feinstein's actions:
October 24, 2009
State Employee wrote:
I agree with Public Watchdog. Is anyone looking at the sales of properties between related entities and kickbacks relating to inflated prices paid to purchase real estate from intermediary entities owned by friendly entities owned by Willie Brown, Seth Scott and others, who had just recently acquired rights to property at price much lower than what they sold it to Calpers. That stinks of an illegal kickback. This is what should be investigated. The public employees who own Calpers deserve to know the truth about how they were ripped off. This should not be covered up or quietly slipped under the rug because of the political affilliations of the people involved in the rip-off.
...This sure helps with campaign financing on a quid pro quo for DEALS! What a better person is there to have on the CalPERS Board than Willie L. Brown, Jr.???
CalPERS Investigation: Criminal Probe Targets Nation's Largest Public Pension Fund
Now, the $149 billion fund may need a dose of its own medicine. CalPERS, which has 1.3 million beneficiaries among current or former state employees, has developed a rash of governance problems. Revelations that the fund knew about--but never blew the whistle on--Enron Corp. Chief Financial Officer Andrew S. Fastow's self-dealing partnerships were a big embarrassment. The board is increasingly pushing social and political criteria in investment decisions. And there has been a spate of high-level resignations. All this caps a more-than-two-year period when CalPERS' investment performance has trailed that of other large pension funds.
Just as troubling, CalPERS' board seems to have developed a blind spot for potential conflicts of interest. In March, CalPERS put $100 million into Premier Pacific Vineyards Inc., which buys land for growing grapes. The co-CEO of that firm, Richard Wollack, is a major fund-raiser for California Governor Gray Davis, a Democrat, who names three CalPERS' board members.
CalPERS also committed more than $760 million in the past year to two funds created by Los Angeles billionaire Ronald Burkle, who, with his wife, has contributed to the campaigns for state office of two CalPERS board members, Treasurer Philip Angelides and Controller Kathleen Connell, according to the California Secretary of State's office. He previously employed two other board members, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and actuary Sidney L. Abrams, both have confirmed. Burkle is also a big contributor to Davis, whose wife, Sharon, earned $37,500 last year as a board member at a Burkle company, according to Jordan Rasmussen, her spokeswoman.
Increasing transparency of how investment decisions get made at CalPERS is laudable, said former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, who served on the CalPERS board while mayor of San Francisco from 1990 to 1995.
But banning the payment of contingency fees to intermediaries who make successful sales pitches to the CalPERS board and staff is counterproductive, he said.
"If I was hiring somebody to assist me in trying to get an allotment [of money] to manage, I certainly would not want to pay for it unless he produced," Brown said.
"Imposing greater rules and restrictions," he predicted, would make it harder for newcomers, including women and members of racial minority groups, to break into the "old-timers' " hold on CalPERS' business.
Water + Career Politicians = mud!
Retrospective: Pork OD Kills Water Project
DEC. 1, 2010
By RICHARD TRAINOR
When former San Francisco Mayor and California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown said that a “political earthquake” is rumbling in the Central Valley over water he was right on the money, and it seems that big money was driving the water bond process right from the start.
The history behind the water bond initiative removed from this year’s ballot in June and rolled over until 2012 is illuminating. It was one of the sleaziest proposals put forward in recent memory.
It was billed as the Delta Vision, but the vision put forward by Arnold Schwarzenegger and other key peripheral canal backers like Sen. Dianne Feinstein and agribusiness billionaire and water banker Stewart Resnick would have benefited its backers while costing Californians as much as $50 billion.
THE GREAT GOLD HEIST
The Desert Wilderness Protection Act
The California Public Employees Retirement System, (CALPERS) is a nearly $80 billion pension fund whose investment clout is heavily influenced by California leadership which includes Sen. Diane Feinstein. Several years ago, CALPERS made a $400 million investment in Catellus. Shortly after CALPERS made its investment in Catellus, the value of the stock collapsed 82%. Dehnert Queen, a San Francisco businessman, filed a criminal complaint in regards to this investment to U.S. Attorney Michael J. Yamaguchi and Ms. Sylvia Scott of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Queen states, in his complaint that Sen. Feinstein "misrepresented facts to defraud a public corporation (CALPERS), abused power and conflicts of interest to defraud State and U.S. taxpayers. In early 1993, CALPERS doubled its investment in Catellus to 41 percent...Queen contends "that both former Senator Cranston and Senator Feinstein acted to sponsor the Desert Protection Act in order to preserve and protect the formal agreement that then Mayor Feinstein signed with Catellus to build the Mission Bay Project in 1984, updated in 1986 and shepherded same through the City's (San Francisco)departments and commissions."...
According to public records, CALPERS investment in Cattelus was through Bay Area Partnership, subsequently changed to Bay Area Real Estate Associates, which is itself comprised of JMB Realty and CALPERS. Efforts to determine all of the participants in the investors' group behind JMB Realty and Bay Area Real Estate Associates so far have been unsuccessful, but at least some appear to have business ties with Senator Feinstein's husband.
None-the-less, allegations continue that Senator Feinstein as well as California Speaker of the House Willie Brown and a wide variety of San Francisco special interest groups would therefore benefit financially. More directly, does Diane Feinstein, as a former employee of the City of San Francisco, Willie Brown and other California politicians maintain a CALPERS retirement account?