WatchSonoma Watch

Who will pay for California’s state parks?

Cyclists ride past a parking pay station at Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. (BETH SCHLANKER / The Press Democrat)

Who pays and who doesn’t for access to the natural and historical wonders protected inside the state’s parks are key considerations amid calls to overhaul the 150-year-old parks system, an effort spawned by a major financial scandal involving the Parks Department in 2012 and perennial budget problems that threatened the closure of dozens of destinations.

Options that have been discussed for generating more revenue include opening up parks to more private enterprise, creating a dedicated funding source or allocating more money out of the state’s general fund, now that California’s financial health has improved.

But it’s the idea of asking people to pay more through fees that has sparked the most attention and controversy.

Lack of party affiliation a popular idea, except in California’s election results

Shedding political party labels is increasingly popular among California registered voters, but in casting ballots they are reluctant to pick candidates who do the same.

Governor Jerry Brown’s budget hints at future of Sonoma Developmental Center

The Sonoma Developmental Center is the last large undeveloped property in the Sonoma Valley. The site’s future is in doubt after a state task force in December recommended that California’s four remaining developmental centers be downsized. (CONNER JAY / The Press Democrat)

Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposals for this fiscal year reflect the state’s desire to dramatically downsize or close developmental centers, including one near Sonoma, and transition much of the care for hundreds of severely disabled Californians to community-based programs.

Palm Drive Hospital eyes debt relief, new bond funds to aid reopening

Palm Drive Hospital.

Representatives from both the Palm Drive Hospital board and the hospital’s foundation said this week they are hopeful Gov. Jerry Brown will sign a bill that will offer some bond debt relief and possibly make available to the district millions of dollars in bond escrow funds.

‘Opt-in’ bill for power customers moves ahead

power lines

A bill that would change how community-based power providers like Sonoma Clean Power enroll new customers cleared a big hurdle in Sacramento this week.

State Sen. Noreen Evans’ state oil tax bill appears dead

State Sen. Noreen Evans.

A North Coast lawmaker’s bid to tax oil extraction in California appears to be dead.

Campaign for Santa Rosa’s Southeast Greenway gets boost

After having the plan on the drawing boards more than 50 years, Caltrans of-
fi cially has proposed abandoning the idea of extending the Highway 12 freeway
in Santa Rosa from Farmers Lane eastward across Spring Lake Park to where it would rejoin the highway on the eastern edge of the city.
The decision means the state most likely will dispose of the property, a prospect that has re-energized advocates who want to use the 300-foot-wide, 2-mile-long right of way to create an urban greenway. The open space runs past
Montgomery High School, crosses Yulupa Avenue and Summerfi eld Road, before it turns northeast and climbs the hill to the edge of Spring Lake Regional Park.
The citizen group proposes a multi-use trail network, restored native vegetation and orchards, community gardens, some limited retail development and a
gathering space at the intersection with Yulupa Avenue, and reconfiguration of
the Farmers Lane intersection. It could be linked to the Prince Memorial Greenway, providing a continuous pathway across the city. (SOURCE: City of Santa Rosa)

Supporters of a plan to build a park and bike path network on a strip of vacant land through southeast Santa Rosa — property once eyed for a Highway 12 extension — were buoyed by developments in Sacramento this week that could accelerate the transfer of the 55 acres from the state highway system to the Southeast Greenway campaign.

Race for Marin-Sonoma Assembly seat hotly contested

Gregory Allen, Erin Carlstrom, Diana Conti, Marc Levine.

Marc Levine’s upset victory over a powerful state Assembly incumbent in 2012 signaled a battle for the soul of California’s Democratic Party. Two years later, that fight still resonates in Levine’s bid for a second term against a field of candidates who want to portray the San Rafael Democrat as being out of step with core party values.

State Sen. Noreen Evans’ oil extraction tax plan passes senate committee

State Sen. Noreen Evans.

A North Coast lawmaker’s controversial proposal to tax oil extraction in California and give most of the estimated billions in new revenue to higher education narrowly survived a crucial test Thursday at the state Capitol.

Labor group won’t back Assembly candidate in primary

(Left to right) Eric Carlstrom, Diana Conti, Marc Levine.

More than 60,000 union members living in the North Bay are expected to receive a slate mailer in the coming weeks bearing recommendations for who they should vote for in the June primary.

A candidate endorsed by the North Bay Labor Council, in turn, can benefit from hundreds of volunteers manning phone banks, walking precincts and performing other campaign duties.

However, the council is taking what may be an unprecedented pass on endorsing in the 10th Assembly District primary, featuring incumbent Assemblyman Marc Levine, Santa Rosa Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom and Marin college trustee Diana Conti.