WatchSonoma Watch

Federal government shutdown hits North Coast


Natalie Manning packed up some paperwork from her office in downtown Santa Rosa and headed home Tuesday morning not sure when she would be able to work again or, more importantly, when her next paycheck would arrive.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration program manager is one of hundreds of North Coast federal employees who stopped work Tuesday as a result of the government shutdown that furloughed some 800,000 federal workers nationwide.

Employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from left, Natalie Manning, Maura Moody, Natalie Badrei and Joe Pecharich leave the Santa Rosa federal building, Tuesday Oct. 1, 2013, with personal belongings as the partial government shutdown affects their job. (Kent Porter / PD)

Employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from left, Natalie Manning, Maura Moody, Natalie Badrei and Joe Pecharich leave the Santa Rosa federal building, Tuesday Oct. 1, 2013, with personal belongings as the partial government shutdown affects their job. (Kent Porter / PD)

As Washington lawmakers continued to bicker over a spending bill past the Tuesday deadline to avoid a shutdown, employees deemed non-essential were given until noon to clean up their offices and leave outgoing voice and email messages.

At the federal building in Santa Rosa, which houses about 150 government workers, employees in casual attire cleaned out refrigerators and packed potted plants to take home. About a third of those workers, who are with NOAA, one of the agencies designated to shut down, received emails Monday saying they are legally barred from working and will not get paid during the furlough.

The Santa Rosa office is a hub for NOAA’s fisheries restoration efforts, Endangered Species Act enforcement and oil spill clean-up programs.

“We committed our lives to service so that future generations can enjoy our fisheries and our resources,” Manning said. “It’s not like we have executive pay positions. We live paycheck to paycheck.”

Many of the North Coast’s 2,030 federal workers were ordered to stay home. The Social Security field office in Santa Rosa was open but with limited services.

IRS offices in Santa Rosa were locked and dark with a sign on the door that read: “In the event of a government shutdown, this office will be closed. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

U.S. Bankruptcy Court judges were scheduled to hear cases for the next two weeks before shuttering if Congress continues its stalemate over the budget bill. The U.S. Probation office in Santa Rosa was open.

The U.S. Marshals Service, which protects judges, and other public safety agencies like the FBI office in Santa Rosa and the Coast Guard station at Two Rock were open. Federal airport screeners and air traffic controllers kept flights moving through the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.

The Point Reyes National Seashore closed on Tuesday and gave campers two days to leave the park.

The Veterans Affairs clinic in Santa Rosa was open, and the U.S. Postal Service continued to deliver the mail.

Flood control operations at Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino will continue, Army Corps of Engineers spokesman J.D. Hardesty said Tuesday, but the campgrounds will be closing within the next week. The salmon fish hatchery at Lake Sonoma will remain open, he said, using money left over from the fiscal year that just expired.

“We are certainly not going to let a species die” because of the shutdown, he said.

North Coast winemakers and brewers were worried Tuesday after the Treasury Department said regulatory activities, such as reviewing alcohol licenses or proposed labels for new wine and beer products, would be suspended for the duration of the shutdown.

Collin McDonnell, founder of Petaluma’s HenHouse Brewing, said a delay of any length would further backlog the department’s review process and call into question his hope to expand production from 60 gallons per week to 1,200 by the end of the year.

“We need to be moving forward with this expansion and without federal approval we won’t be able to sell any of the beer we would be able to produce at this new location,” he said.

Erich Bradley, winemaker at Repris Wines near Sonoma, was relieved to hear the new Moon Mountain grape-growing region was approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau the day before the government shutdown, but was concerned about other impacts of the shutdown.

“Our wineries are going to be affected in terms of being able to submit for all sorts of things,” he said. “If this thing goes on long enough, it’s going to interrupt business in a meaningful way. If we can’t bottle more wine and label it, it’s going to hamstring us. If it’s over in a few days we’ll be okay, but if it’s longer than that it would be a pain.”

The shutdown could put a cramp on the annual meeting of the Great Wine Capitals Network, set to meet in San Francisco and Napa in November, said Rex Stults, government relations director for the host Napa Valley Vintners. The event is to feature an extensive wine tasting on Nov. 4 and any of the featured wines that are not already imported into the United States require label-by-label approval from the Treasury Department.

“It is certainly an angle I did not anticipate when I got up this morning and saw that the government had shut down,” said Stults, who had been dealing with the issue all day Tuesday.

Patrick Rutten, a regional supervisor with NOAA in Santa Rosa, said the budget showdown in Washington has had wide-ranging effects on nearly every community outside the Capital Beltway.

“When I told people I wasn’t coming in to work today, they were surprised,” he said. “They think this is just a D.C. shutdown. Everyone in this office who would normally go downtown to eat lunch won’t be spending any money. It’s the secondary effects that people don’t see.”

Furloughed employees were given a letter asking creditors for leniency while their paychecks are in limbo, but many remained fearful of missing car and mortgage payments.

Joe Pecharich, a NOAA fisheries biologist, said there is no guarantee that employees will get back-pay when the budget crisis is over.

“Are we going to trust this polarized Congress to come back and pay us?” he said. “Their pay doesn’t stop. We’re the ones who are feeling the pain.”

NOAA office manager Natalie Badrei said there is no plan in place to call employees back to work after the shutdown.

“They told us to watch CNN,” she said. “It’s a mess. Everyone is nervous.”

Staff Writers Sean Scully and Cathy Bussewitz contributed to this report.

8 Responses to “Federal government shutdown hits North Coast”

  1. Irene Tavenner says:

    This so called government shutdown is a pain in the derriere and all political nonsense. Most of the national parks are closed because they close during the winter months. The “non-essential” staff are just extra baggage in the federal army of paper pushers.

    All of this shutdown is just smoke and mirrors and hype.

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  2. James Bennett says:

    The ‘shutdown’ is all charade and political theater.

    Not that there won’t be genuine pain coming down the bike path.

    Look, Obama is an installed globalist change agent.

    He imposes all the Agenda 21 crap.

    CommonCore: Education.
    ‘Affordable Care Act’ (which will be anything but): Health care, Smart Growth, ‘Climate Change crap, all the Fed lies, the foreign policy lies, everything.
    And. Racially, socio-economically deviding us.

    Stop paying homage to this division, it does not serve us.

    The only name calling should be traitor.

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  3. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    This should require just an up and down vote. To try and tack on EVERY SINGLE THING the Republicans have been trying to get like getting rid of the ACA (which is LAW) and banning abortion to a simple up and down vote on the budget


    There are votes in the house to get it passed as is. Boehner won’t bring it to the floor. This COWARD is trembling at the knees because of the minority teapartiers.

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  4. Larry Watkins says:

    bear, let’s just make it simple and hang a “we surrender” sign out and all of our troubles will go away. Obama is getting one painted as I write this so all of your wishes will soon be granted.

    Unfortunately we live in a very dangerous world with lots of people wishing harm. If you and the other leftists in this country succeed, we and our way of life is doomed.

    But isn’t that what you really want?

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  5. Lets be Reasonable says:

    No negotiating with terrorists. Period.

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  6. GAJ says:

    I know you’re going to go into shock Bear but I completely agree with you on this.

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  7. Dan Drummond Sr says:

    Here’s what happened the last time, when Newt Gingrich and the Republican-controlled Congress shut it down by adding amendments sure to fail.

    From Journalist’s Resource: http://journalistsresource.org/studies/government/politics/shutdown-federal-government/
    A 2011 report by the Congressional Research Service, “Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes and Effects” (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL34680.pdf), presents the mechanics of such a work stoppage and enumerates the broad effects of the shutdowns in 1995-1996.

    Important points in the report relating to the shutdowns in 1995-1996 include:
    - Health and welfare services for military veterans were curtailed; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped disease surveillance; new clinical research patients were not accepted at the National Institutes of Health; and toxic waste clean-up work at 609 sites was halted.
    - The closure of 368 Nation Park sites resulted in the loss of some 7 million visitors.
    -Recruitment and testing of federal law enforcement officials was reportedly cancelled, including the hiring of 400 border patrol agents.
    - 200,000 applications for passports and 20,000 to 30,000 applications for visas by foreigners went unprocessed; U.S. tourism and airline industries incurred millions of dollars in losses.
    - More than 20% of federal contracts, representing $3.7 billion in spending, were affected adversely.

    The Congressional Research Service Report notes that there are a variety of activities that are excepted from a shutdown, including those relating to national security, medical care, duties “essential to ensure public health and safety,” law enforcement, and air traffic control and transportation safety functions.

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  8. bear says:

    Has it ever occurred to anyone that there are simple ways to reduce the federal budget deficit AND reduce the debt?

    Cut the Defense Dept. budget by $250 billion a year, with special attention to defense contractors. Mothball some of our excessive number of aircraft carrier groups – and all their support vessels.

    Get the hell out of 130 countries where US military are stationed.

    Why is our country responsible for world peace? Not only is it NOT happening, but we are giving the Europeans a free ride.

    Where are the fiscal conservatives?

    You’d rather drug test food stamp recipients and require 20 hours a week of public service on top of whatever job they have, rather than address the real issues?

    Conservatives are being screwed because they don’t have the wits to know they’re being penetrated.

    Shameful all around.


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