Yesterday, the ECA received a package from our friends at Sonoma Raceway. It was a well-produced and very informative 50 Year history of this local treasure. I thought I knew a thing or two about the old Sears Point Raceway, now the Sonoma Raceway, but after reading this wonderful gift, I realized that I didn’t know much.
Art Siri, Inc. was the original contractor, and that just happens to be who the ECA is honoring in February with the posthumous Hermsmeyer Hall of Fame Award! It was kind of a neat “fit”. This Installation Dinner is shaping up to be a special evening on Feb 8, 2020 at the John Ash Convention Center. New location, and a new opportunity to learn about a great man, and maybe one that some of you know very little about. Contact Mary for sponsorship opportunities and get some guests together to have an enjoyable evening! Now-on to the Soapbox!
So how did Sonoma Raceway come to be?
In the 1960’s, sports car racing was viewed by motorsports journalists as the “next big thing” in live spectator entertainment. Yet there were no tracks located near the biggest population center in Northern California-the San Francisco Bay Area.
Local Marin County attorney Robert Marshall was an avid sports car enthusiast, and he “had a dream”. He wanted to build a track where he and his buddies from the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) could get together and drive their sports cars on a real driver’s track. He was not interested in stock cars or drag racing, it as all about sports cars.
Marshall teamed up with his neighbor, his attorney, and a sports car journalist who got a promoter involved, and scouted for a location in Marin County for his “buddy track”. After a few months, they settled on a dairy ranch settled by Franklin Sears in 1851. They went looking for a contractor.
A young contractor named Art Siri Jr. was asked to join a group at a Sonoma restaurant to discuss a potential project. It was 1967. Without any plans, and after a 5-hour lunch, the group decided to move forward to build the track at what was known as Sear Point. The group convinced Marshall he should build a track to incorporate drag racing and to accommodate NASCAR racing as well as Marshall’s love-sports car racing.
Investors were rounded up in San Francisco, plans were drawn up by Murray and McCormick, and excavation started in May of 1968. Quickly, Siri discovered the pond, which was next to the dairy barn and where Turn 11 is now, had 18’ of cow manure in it. After almost swallowing one of his 50 earthmovers he had rounded up, they got it drained and mucked out and completed 500,000 cubic yards of excavation in time for the first race on Dec 1, 1968.
A side note for those familiar with rock and roll. Sears Point offered their facility for free to the Rolling Stones after San Francisco refused to issue a permit for a concert in Golden Gate Park. With audio equipment being set up, the small Sears Point group got cold feet and asked for money and the Stones left to set up their concert at Altamont Pass. That is the concert where Hells Angels took it upon themselves to “police” the concert and the rest, is history—
Big Daddy Don Garlits, Parnelli Jones, Dan Gurney, Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, A.J. Foyt, Roger Penske, and other Hall of Fame racers were attracted to the “driver’s course” and raced at Sears Point.
Meanwhile, the original investment and management team had given financial authority to Craig Murray who lined up the San Francisco investors to build the original track. Murray kept looking for investment money and found Filmways, of Green Acre/Addams Family/Beverly Hillbillies fame and sold the entire facility to Filmways in 1970 for $4.5 million without the original founders even knowing about it until they woke up one day and found themselves OUT.
Filmways shut down the track and tried to sell it out after a few short months. Finally, after a few years, a new “owner” leased the facility and introduced a dirt oval, motorcycle track and other improvements (including a much-needed sewer plant) in the early 70’s.
Bob Bondurant became a much needed and highly publicized tenant in 1973 and the Raceway went through a few years of trying to get their sewer plant built while still being owned by Filmways.
Chaos in ownership reigned for a few years until the property was sold at auction in 1981 for $800,000 to new owner Williams/Betts/Marshall and the track was renamed Sears Point International Raceway. Filmways was OUT.
Cash flow was a problem, and the track needed a sponsor. They landed Ford, then Skip Berg, Frank Scott and Don McKim to pump some money into the facility in 1984-1987.
McKim felt building a garage and shop complex was a must to attract steady income, and they approached Huffaker Engineering to be the main tenant and sole providers of parts and gasoline sold at the facility. In 1988, the deal was made for a Winston Cup Race to move from Riverside to Sears Point and there was stable ownership, management, and rental income coming in.
Steve Page was hired in 1991 and proceeded to oversee $4 million in improvements-new leader board, multi-use building construction, VIP suites located next to the drag strip, and a gas station. In 1997, Skip Berg sold the track operating rights to Bruton Smith-Chairman of Speedway Motorsports. From 1997 to 2005 an ambitious $90 million plus rebuild of the entire facility was done. Ghilotti Construction was a major part of the earthmoving and paving project, and Yours Truly rebuilt the aging and out of compliance sewer treatment plant.
Today the Sonoma Raceway is one of the premiere racing stops on the NASCAR circuit and hosts a big time NHRA drag racing event each year. Other events have been hosted there and many of us enjoy going out to many of their events. The management group has given a tremendous amount of money to charity, and we are proud to have Sonoma Raceway celebrate 50 years!
I hope this little article contributes to your enjoyment of the Racetrack, and you can click on their website right here to buy tickets for upcoming events. Way to go Steve Page and Sonoma Raceway!
That’s All Folks
To the ECA Member Firms
We need the ECA Member Firms to vote on two outstanding issues by the end of December, 2019. Please fill out and sign the attached ballot. You can return your ballot by mail, personal delivery, email or fax. It needs to be returned by December 31, 2019.
On November 14, 2019, our ECA Annual General Membership meeting was held in Rohnert Park, CA. As per our existing ECA Bylaws, the Membership was scheduled to take action and vote on two issues:
- To vote on the ECA Board of Directors for 2020 and Bylaws- Click here for ballot.
- To read the proposed changes to the ECA ByLaws.- Click here for bylaws
Due to a lack of a required quorum on November 14, 2019, we were unable to have the Membership vote on these two issues. The vote is therefore being conducted by written ballot.
Mailing address: ECA, PO Box 8249, Santa Rosa, CA 95407
Fax Number: 707-546-5507
If you have questions about the ballot, please contact Mary Kennedy or John Bly at 707-546-5500
John had to go to the dentist today so you got me!
But I will be brief…
We annually put on The Installation Awards & Dinner (where we say thank you to outgoing Directors and Officers and welcome the new Board and Officers). This is our 43rd Annual Installation Awards & Dinner and are excited that it will be held at Vintners Inn this year on February 8, 2020. We also will be honoring our Hall of Fame recipients. This year is Doug Hamilton, Oak Grove Construction and posthumously Arthur Siri, Siri Grading & Paving), and we will honor our Contractor of the Year, Jerry Engelke, Engelke Construction and Affiliate of the Year, Troy Soiland, Northgate Ready Mix.
This is a fun evening where you will get to hear from incoming President Dave Weller from RCX Inc. as well as remarks by outgoing President, Kevin Ghilotti, Team Ghilotti. We hope you come to this event and celebrate a new year with a new board and join us in honoring the above. Buy a table and bring some clients or prospective new members to the ECA!
Look out for the invitations which will be going out soon. We also are looking for sponsors!
Although we did send out invoices for dues, I want to remind everyone that you should not respond to an email from firstname.lastname@example.org regarding dues payment. I was advised to tell our members to block this email.
I really don’t like people that do these sort of things… I am so sorry for.the inconvenience.
Thank you and have a wonderful day!
One of the best reasons to support the ECA and be an active Member, is the access to local policy makers that we can facilitate. Much better to go before a lawmaker as a group, rather than as an individual firm. The ECA can enable our members to speak with a unified voice and that voice is heard much more clearly by our legislators.
On 12/4/19, there was a meeting between State Senator Mike McGuire, Miguel Lemus from Ghilotti Bros., Tom Smith from Ghilotti Construction, Debbie Ferrari from MAG Trucking, Raul Valdivia from Valdivia Trucking, and me to discuss the impacts from a horrendous piece of legislation that becomes law on January 1, 2020.
Assembly Bill 5 basically eliminates the ability for trucking brokers to dispatch independent truckers to General Contractor jobs. The analogy would be that consumers would have to go shop straight to the farmer or supplier every time they need groceries. It is ridiculous.
This law is included here by clicking on the link here—
If you have not already had meaningful discussion with your attorney and your workers comp carrier, you should have them right now.
If you have not had a discussion with your estimating department, you should do so immediately. Trucking prices will be all over the “board” and GC’s will have to make certain they are safe from future claims for non-compliance. Keep in mind, the labor board of California will probably not go after the individual truckers that fail to comply, they will probably, out of necessity for “volume effect”, have to go after the brokers or GC’s that “cut corners”.
If you are thinking there is going to be a “quick fix” to this horrible bill, think again.
I really do want to thank Senator McGuire for hearing us out on 12-4-19. Man-did he get an earful! Miguel, Tom, Debbie and Raul were respectful but clear on the effects that AB5 will have on our industry. Senator McGuire heard that trucking brokers serve an important purpose (or did) to our GC’s in providing the trucks when needed, making sure the pricing was uniformly applied to a project’s estimator and project manager, helping to solve disposal problems, and on and on and on. McGuire also heard that estimators hate uncertainty, and AB5 is making things uncertain. Given a project schedule that GC’s cannot extend, having fewer trucks to perform the work will cost GC’s money. They cannot extend the time of completion, but they can pay a premium to get the necessary trucks and skilled trades to work in a compressed time due to the lack of trucks delaying certain aspects of the projects. Senator McGuire also heard that many of the estimated 70-80% of independent truckers in our industry, do not want to go to work as an employee of somebody else. They are independent because they choose to be independent. Some will sell their equipment and retire. Some will keep hiring themselves out but will probably not see as much work since nobody is brokering the work for them anymore. Some will move to another State that does not have such asinine laws as California. Senator McGuire also heard that our tax dollars will not go as far because of the dramatic increases that the trucking industry will see in 2020 and moving forward. Again-pricing for trucking is all over the board, and estimators hate risk, so as they bid work for 2020 and beyond, the customer will bear the higher price of their putting costs in the estimate to handle the uncertainty of the trucking industry moving forward.
Kudos to Miguel, Tom, Debbie and Raul for explaining all the above (and much more) to Senator McGuire. He listened, asked many questions, and in the end, had some painful but clear messaging for us.
Senator McGuire was not pleased that the Teamsters were unwilling to discuss “fixing” this legislation with CTA or anybody else. I suspect he will apply some persuasion. Although all of us acknowledge this is primarily a Federal “stance” the Teamsters are taking, Senator McGuire is a powerful man. His persuasion should matter.
Senator McGuire will also have a discussion with a few others that are in positions of power and will report back to us before our next ECA meeting with Senator Dodd on December 17. Senator McGuire was painfully honest-he said not much was going to happen anytime soon as legislators do not even come back to Sacramento until January 6, 2020. Prior to that time, he was willing to assist but was not hopeful or promising that much would happen.
So why am I so upbeat about ECA Advocacy? Even though this meeting did not garner instant “fix it” steps that will ease our collective pain, the ability to have frank discussions with such powerful Senators in a small setting is invaluable. Senator McGuire now knows about what effects AB5 will have on funding transportation projects. He knows that the bidding of cost estimates will be higher. He knows that the American Dream of starting out with one truck and doing well enough to eventually own a trucking broker company and employ hundreds, is severely curtailed. He knows the names of the four people that spent 45 minutes with him today. Face to face matters. Being unified matters. It is much more powerful to speak to how AB5 will impact the industry by being a group rather than one company writing a letter or even meeting one on one with the Senator.
I am proud to have played a small part in enabling this meeting today. And I am proud of our ECA Board of Directors who were wise enough to direct me to focus on this State issue rather than the very localized issues we usually deal with. I am proud that we are trying to help “Joe Q Citizen” with their tax dollars as well as standing up for our ECA Member firms that are trucking brokers.
I will provide updates as they happen on this important issue. In the meantime, the law is the law on January 1, 2020. I urge you to have a frank conversation with your attorney on the pragmatic way to avoid compliance issues with this new set of rules. We are all smart enough to realize that the State will have a tough time handling compliance issues quickly, but remember-the incidents can occur tomorrow and be dealt with 4 years from now by the State. It is a risk. You need to be aware of it.
Stay unified and please, write to your representatives-on our website, www.nceca.org, you can find who your local Senator and Assemblyman is, and the links to their contact info are right there. Emails and phone calls matter. If you are not willing to message those folks, then we will get what we get and that won’t be much.
The SQUEAKY WHEEL GETS THE GREASE!
That’s All Folks
President Kevin, Mary, Cheryl and myself, want to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.
The ECA and its wonderful, involved, supportive, and generous members have become my extended family. I personally am thankful that the Argonaut workers are back home after spending 7-8 months up in Paradise. I am thankful that most of our employees are working full time in our industry and making good wages. I am thankful that our family and friends will sit down Thursday and consider what blessings we have in our lives. I have many things I am thankful for.
I recently hired an electrician who was an immigrant (legal!!) from Syria. His positive thankfulness was shared in an hour long conversation with me. He does not just celebrate Thanksgiving one day per year. He reflects on his family huddling in a basement with bombs going off all around him for months. He reflects on living in a refugee tent camp in Jordan for 2 years. He reflects on his good fortune to come to the United States with his family a little more than a year ago. Every day he counts his blessings of safety, opportunity, and family health that he has here. It really put things in perspective for me. We all tend to overlook our family and friends and our blessings at times. We should not take those blessings for granted. Like my new friend from Syria, blessings can be taken away through circumstance so we should celebrate what we are thankful for each and every day of the year.
I hope you have many things in your lives to be thankful for. And I hope you share the blessings with friends and family tomorrow and have a very safe and wonderful Thanksgiving!
That’s All Folks
I went to the Kincade Fire Community Meeting on Saturday in Alexander Valley. The Community Hall was completely full. James Gore was in charge and he did a great job not only expressing our compassion for those that lost property, but to all our Community that had impacts. James also did a nice job taking the mic around the room and having folks with resources introduce themselves and inform the fire victims how much help is out there. I introduced myself and the ECA and let everyone know we have contractors, suppliers, and testing firms that have lots of experience in the last few years with fire victims, debris cleanup, soils testing and even rebuilding. The County has listed the ECA as a Resource for Homeowners and Fire Victims to call for help with testing, cleanup and reconstruction. Just so you ECA Members know, as I field these calls, I guide the Homeowner/victim to our website, and I urge them to go through the entire list of ECA
James introduced Johannes Hoervetz (Head of the Sonoma County Transportation and Public Works) and Johannes explained the top few items they are dealing with right now:
- Tree Removal: County has contracts with several tree companies and are falling trees that are dangerous to the public and the public roads. The County is not doing tree removal on private property. The County is having the trees felled, and brushed as much as possible, then will haul the logs off as they can get to them. They are still catching up from 2017 fire damaged trees. The County is going to remove the trees and treat the stumps so they will die on their own. Some hydroseeding will be done around the disturbed stump areas by the County.
- Soil erosion: County has contracted with one or two big hydroseeding companies and will be hydroseeding right behind the tree falling operation. Surprisingly, to me at least, the companies that did site surveys of the Kincade burn footprint, did not see the burnt area as an emergency to the waterways at this point. They also see minimal risk of major landslides. Some wattles will be placed, but mostly hydroseeding is the erosion control for now.
- Phase 1 Hazardous sweeping is going on right now. There were 173 homes destroyed and another 70 structures destroyed (barns, outbuildings, shops, etc.). The destruction did not meet the criteria for FEMA or the Corps or CALOES to step in (they only do that when it is decided there is too much for local resources to handle on their own). If you recall in 2017, the EPA did the initial hazardous sweep assessment of the properties, but we will not be seeing the EPA doing that on the Kincade Fire. The County has hired two firms that are doing it and they have enough teams out there where they should be complete by Thanksgiving. Homeowners can assist this process if they have gate codes needed by calling in to 707-565-6700 and letting the County have the gate code. These teams remove small propane bottles, gas cans, paint cans, weapons and ammo, and other small hazardous items they find in their “sweep” of the property. If you see white stakes out there, that means they have done the sweep or are in the process of doing that property. Once the initial sweep has been completed, the teams will report back to the County and the Environmental Health Department will track the properties that have been cleared. There is no cost for this Phase 1 cleanup to the homeowner.
- For those of us familiar with the process from 2017 for debris cleanup and rebuilding, the process is much the same:
- a) Phase 1 household haz waste sweep certified by County as completed
- b) Homeowner or GC comes in to 625 5th Street and fills out application for debris removal (no charge by County
- Application needs to ID the licensed asbestos firm that will do a site survey for asbestos. Once clear, go to next step. If not clear, site needs to be cleared legally and properly of asbestos.
- On debris remove application, ID the specialty contractor that will do the debris cleanup.
iii. ID the specialty firm that will test the soils within the footprint of burned area and get the background tests outside the burned footprint for final clearances. Typically, this is a soils engineer that works with a lab.
- Sample “Work Plans” are available, and a work plan needs to be a part of the application. Things like which landfill will you be utilizing? To date, Clover Landfill in Calistoga and Central Landfill in Cotati have the necessary waivers to take the debris. Just like in 2017, concrete/metal/ash debris should be separated. I believe Stony Point Rock Quarry is taking concrete rubble with no tip fee for Kincade Fire Victims. There may be others but that is one ECA Member who has provided me with that info.
- Because there is no FEMA and Corps on this project, concrete foundations need to be analyzed by a structural engineer if the homeowner wants to save them. Remember, all FEMA work required concrete foundations to go, and this caused great problems in the “scraping process” for achieving testing results that were within 20% of the “background” levels required. The other change this time is that the background levels to be used for final soils compliance in the burned footprint, are not regional averages but they are tested on the property just outside the burned area so the results should be much more attainable due to the specificity of the area of the debris pile.
- A word about safety, hazwoper certification, etc. This was of great concern to us in 2017 and info was all over the place. I made certain I spoke with Christine Sokol (Head of the County Environmental Health Department) so I would give you the right information:
Somebody must have 40-hour hazwoper certification on the debris cleanup crew. The idea is that person is boots on the ground and can see if there is a concentration of potentially toxic material that needs to be tested. This person is obligated to call for additional testing as needed-if no toxics are found, the debris removal continues with PPE up to the debris removal contractor’s discretion. If toxic material is found, that is when a hazardous license is needed by the GC to come in and deal with the toxic materials. This is a tough license to get, several of our guys have it, but it is far more difficult and exclusive than the 40-hour hazwoper certification. All loads must be “burrito wrapped” like they were in 2017 to be received at the landfill.
Finally, a word about time deadlines. The County just came out with the rule that debris cleanup permits shall be applied for by January 31, 2020. All Cleanup should be completed and signed off by the County by May 31, 2020.
I hope this helps. As calls come in to the ECA for “who they should use”, I hope you all understand that I cannot recommend any specific contractor or testing agency. We have the folks that can handle this as members of the ECA, and I will provide that list of Members in good standing to the homeowners as they call in. They are being encouraged to “shop around” so you guys know the drill.
I will say, there were several questions from the crowd of fire victims who just wanted someone to “guide them”. I offered
myself at no cost to be a resource that could help these victims but only through the debris cleanup phase. After that, I will send their questions over to Keith Woods at the Builders Exchange.
If anybody needs phone numbers for the County offices, the main one you will be dealing with is 707-565-6700. That is County Environmental Health and they administer the debris cleanup permits.
That’s All Folks
I know-I am not supposed to take positions on Labor Issues. I honestly do not consider the recent action by the Trustees of the SRJC to be a labor issue, but rather an issue of discrimination.
After reading the Press Democrat and a personal message from my pal Keith Woods about a meeting he attended recently at the SRJC Trustees, I threw away the Soapbox I had already written, and decided to take a chance at writing about the Santa Rosa Junior College Trustee decision to move forward on another exclusive Project Labor Agreement contract for their next big building project. Their decision discriminates against qualified local builders and subcontractors based upon their status as a union signatory contractor or not. That is discriminatory.
Here is the article from the Press Democrat this morning— link
In 2014, the ECA backed a local Bond Measure that raised over $410 million for renovating old and tired SRJC buildings on their Santa Rosa campus. I attended many meetings before advocating for support of the Bond Measure, and at each of those meetings, I asked whether all local builders and subcontractors would be allowed to bid and work on the projects after paying their taxes into the bond measure. I specifically asked if a Project Labor Agreement would be considered as a requirement to do the work, which in effect would exclude non-signatory contractors from bidding the work on an equal basis as signatory contractors.
The answer, every time, was that “no discussion of including a Project Labor Agreement has taken place. All qualified General Contractors and Subcontractors would be allowed to bid on the work.”
Based on those assurances, I recommended a “YES” Vote on the Measure that raised over $400 million to replace aged buildings on the SRJC Campus.
“Holy Shenanigans Batman”. The Trustees passed a PLA on the very first project (Burbank Auditorium) and the ability of non-signatory contractors to participate and bid on a level playing field on a huge local project was gone.
Now the SRJC has decided the next building will also be bid and constructed under a PLA. My pal Keith Woods, heard the Trustees were voting on the next $78 million project and attended the meeting. It should be noted that I participated in closed door sessions and public sessions with Frank Chong and Keith Woods prior to the first PLA, and we were assured there would be a “study” conducted as to the cost effectiveness of the first project, the reconstruct of the Burbank Auditorium. This “study” will be part of the basis for deciding whether to continue with the PLA being put in place on future projects. If the “study” showed that there was no cost difference and no discrimination to non-signatory contractors, the Trustees would consider extending the PLA requirement on the next project.
No such study has been done.
Why am I even writing about this? Our ECA Members do not work on above ground projects and we have many signatory contractors that are able to bid on the surface work and infrastructure work on these SRJC projects with or without a PLA in place. So why even get involved?
My involvement is not professional as a representative of the ECA. I never spoke out publicly against the original PLA. I have not monitored the 1-year late project completion of the Burbank work. I did not attend or have discussions about the Trustees latest vote. No-my interest is purely ideological. I am concerned that the Trustees have decided to give the $410 million projects to a limited number of contractors, and that flies in the face of what I believe are the ideals of a Junior College. The institution of the SRJC should be open to all students, and open to all bidders, to attend, use as a resource, and to sharpen their estimating pencils and possibly construct the publicly funded work that is going on. To limit the contractors allowed to bid on the work, flies in the face of “inclusion” that the SRJC should be promoting to their students and to their workers. I believe that Project Labor Agreements, as written by the SRJC for the publicly funded work, is discriminatory. I disagree with any discriminatory policies by the SRJC whether it be to accept students or accept bidders.
For over 100 years the SRJC has had no labor problems, no shoddy work problems, and no late construction completion problems on any of their building projects. Suddenly, with the election of labor friendly Trustees, this century old practice of inclusionary bidding is now a problem that requires a Project Labor Agreement? No, this is blatant payback of a special interest group and I would argue that if “non signatory favoring Trustees” were elected and tried to pass a policy that excluded union workers, it would be no different. It would require someone to speak out against that discriminatory policy. It would be discriminatory to favor only union contractors as well as favoring nonunion contractors. A College should do everything they can to avoid discrimination and promote inclusion.
On a personal note-
Thirteen years ago, my Mom passed away. My Father, Sister and I decided to gift $10,000 to the SRJC Trustees to help fund their newly constructed library on campus. Our family and our business, Kirkwood-Bly, Inc., had a long-standing relationship with the SRJC in funding scholarships, attending, and supporting their endowments.
The actions of the current Trustees in passing discriminatory PLA’s, flies in the face of what the SRJC has stood for over the last century. My family will never contribute another dime to the Trustees unless and until the Trustees recognize that giving special interest groups carte blanche to build their projects is wrong. This is not a union vs nonunion issue. It is discrimination-plain and simple. If the Trustees can eliminate qualified contractors from bidding on their work, how far behind can they be on limiting enrollment to certain favored students?
The Trustees lost a very supportive Family on this poor decision—-
That’s All Folks
A good article to read on what was the cause of the 10 worst wildfires (at the time), which admittedly does not have the last several fires included in it, is the SF Chronicle article from October of 2017 that you can read by clicking on this link.
Native Californians that I know, and I am one of them, do not recall such a huge number of wildfires as we have seen in the last 12 years. Yes, we would see occasional wildfires in Southern California fanned and spread by the infamous Santa Ana winds, and occasionally some fires in Lake County over the decades, but not the “every year” occurrence that we have recently seen.
So why the burning prevalence now?
Governor Newsom would have you believe that it is all PG&E’s fault for neglecting maintenance on their distribution lines. President Trump would have you believe it is all the State of California’s forest mismanagement.
Although lengthy-the this link from CAL Matters is the best analytic I have read on the reasons for these fires throughout California since 2007.
Where’s the Truth?
My humble opinion is the cause is drought, people building more houses in areas that have high fire danger, the bark beetle ravaging our National and State forest land, and a failure of the State and Feds to thin their forests and cleanup fuel that lies on the ground.
Oh-and there is the matter of PG & E malfunctioning equipment and power lines arcing in high winds.
Although I am biased because I wrote and spoke against the huge fine the PUC levied against PG&E in 2015, I want to lay some of the blame on the PUC. When the San Bruno explosion tragedy happened, it was obvious that PG & E had some real safety problems with their gas distribution lines. Yes, PG & E should have dealt with those safety concerns earlier, but when the PUC was considering the $1.4 billion fine they ultimately assessed, the appeal was made to the PUC to force the ENTIRE FINE to go to safety upgrades and facility maintenance-not just for gas lines, but for power distribution lines as well.
The PUC detailed that $850 million would go to improving PG & E’s gas transmission lines, $300 million to the State Treasury, $400 million to be rebated to PG&E’s customers/ratepayers, and $50 million to PUC safety concerns/activities that are not known to me or the public.
I am not saying that PG & E should not have been penalized I am saying the PUC should have forced maintenance work and safety upgrades by where the dollars were spent.
Now we all know that PG & E did not cause all the wildfires in the past dozen years. There is very little we can do about lightning strikes, dumbasses who mow high weeds with equipment that has no spark arrestors, and “a not so bright person” that put in non-code wiring to power their hot tub in Lake County. Short of the government taking over and really screwing up PG & E (because we know they would screw it up), what can we do to eliminate the wildfires that were caused by PG & E?
I keep hearing the “easy” fix would be to bury the overhead lines in high fire areas. Supervisor David Rabbitt and State Senator Bill Dodd have discussed burying those lines and the rough estimate would be about $1 Trillion to do so.
The next easiest fix was to force PG & E and other power providers to cut power on high risk weather situations. We all know that could help, but what a costly and major and in some cases, dangerous fix. Regardless, that is the State’s mandate to PG & E to let them out of some major litigation following the 2017 fires. PG & E has no choice in that matter.
After a casual discussion with Mr. Ken Dern of Aaction Rents, I have my suggested, somewhat plagiarized planned fix for mitigating fires caused by overhead wires arcing in high winds and a few ideas for the other wildfire causes in the last dozen years:
- Get that $300 million back from the State of California and immediately use inmates, homeless, youth, and guide them with skilled workers and clear 50 yards from all overhead transmission lines in high fire danger areas.
- Install weed barriers and rock under those overhead transmission lines in high fire danger areas so there is no fuel under them
- Continue the costly and invasive power shutdowns on high fire danger days and provide tax incentives for folks to buy and properly install generators for their businesses and homes. Make sure we inspect to ensure the installation is to code and does not create more fire danger problems.
- Invasive or not, we need to quickly trim trees and brush away from other overhead power lines in high risk neighborhoods (Proctor Heights, Montecito Heights, Mark West areas are good examples of these areas).
- Provide tax incentives to larger landowners for clearing larger fire breaks on their lands. Vineyards have proven to be a good way to slow the wildfires, but in many areas that won’t sustain vineyards, we could do a lot more to cut 100-yard fire breaks at property boundaries. After speaking to a few landowners, they would be willing to do those big fire breaks if their tax savings could help pay their costs.
- Hope it rains more.
- Stop talking about taking over PG & E.
- Put much higher penalties on dumbasses that mow and target shoot and do fireworks and burn campfires in high fire danger areas.
Thanks, Ken Dern, for the inspiration!!
That’s All Folks!
- The Boise Decision-homeless folks cannot be forced to move from sleeping in public areas unless suitable housing is offered to them as an alternative. This is a Ninth Circuit Court decision from 2014.
- AB47 was passed in 2014 which decriminalizes most “minor” infractions of the law. Police can not arrest people for possession of illegal drugs, or defecating in public, or for public intoxication, or littering, etc., etc.
- State Laws passed in 2009 by a panel of Federal Judges, citing overcrowding and inhumane treatment of prisoners, link. mandated jails and prisons to lower their inmate population without any provision for funding mental health or drug rehab options.
- Cheap and plentiful manufactured drugs that are highly addictive flow into the United States from foreign countries. Many homeless people have substance abuse problems and cannot find adequate treatment to mitigate their addiction.
- Have business owners fill out a form at the local Police Department called the “Trespass Letter”. Cops can and do respond to anybody calling in on behalf of a property owner that is witness to trespassing as long as this form is on file.
- Write to our local District Attorney and demand they prosecute repeat offenders to keep them off the streets and keep the “rest of us” safe.
- Vote in a different way than the norm in California. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is out of control. We need new judges to protect us.
- Take photos and videos of environmental damage caused by the homeless folks. Disgusting as this might seem, take the photos and demand that the environmental groups do something about the damage to our environment.
- Vote for the Mental Health tax that will be on the 2020 Ballot in Sonoma County. Mental Health needs more funding.
On Tuesday, 10-15-19, Community Relations Chair Lacey Torkelson Smith and Mary Kennedy Cabrera and I met with Tom Boylan to discuss a new concept for a Public Relations campaign. Before I talk about the ideas we kicked around, first a little background—
Last week, I had a discussion with Jere Starks from Sonoma Raceway. Jere brought up something I was aware of but needed a reminder about to act upon. Jere commented on how nice it was for the ECA to have adopted the Sonoma Valley Teen Center as its Community Relations Project some years ago (by the way, if any of you worked on this project or know anyone that worked on this project, please contact me with your info as we would like to do a “spotlight” in the future where we show photos and talk about what the ECA Members did to develop this great resource in Sonoma Valley).
Jere also mentioned that he felt the ECA could “toot our horn” a little better about some of the many Community Relations Projects we have done over the years. Not only “toot our horn” but reestablish a connection between the ECA and the CR Projects so our Members know about the charity and they also can take pride in what we have done to help the Community.
I thought this was a great reminder for me to “step up our game” on some of these past Projects to inform everyone of how much impact our Members have had to better our region. Tom, Lacey, Mary and I brainstormed for over an hour, and decided to put together an outline in a few weeks that I can assign budget dollars to, that would further our Public Relations efforts that should have many direct and some indirect benefits.
With an important vote upcoming on the sales tax extension of Road and Infrastructure funding Measure M, what better way to show people the benefits that our area receives as a result of our sales tax dollars going to hire local contractors using local materials in fixing our roads and bridges? The concept is that if we demonstrate how much impact our CR Projects have had, the “tie in” is that local dollars not only fix the roads, they allow our contractors and suppliers to give back to the community by helping with these CR projects that are so needed by so many.
I hope you all like the concept. If you would like to help with any kind of information on past CR Projects, or help with any ideas to promote these past CR Projects to the public, we just might convince a few voters to cast their “YES” vote on the Measure M extension which could fund our road needs for many decades. What better way to enjoy doing “feel good” projects that help those that need it, while coming back and helping ourselves in the end.
Maybe this can help me, to help you so you can help us.
Pretty cool huh?
More to come in about a month as we “flesh out” our approach to this.
Thanks Tom Boylan and Lacey!!
That’s All Folks!
Community Relations Committee News:
*Chair Lacey Torkelson Smith had Bob from the Earl Baum Center and Barry from The Lions Club come to the Board Meeting on 10-15-19 to present the latest Community Relations Project for consideration. Twenty years ago, the ECA Members adopted the sitework at the Earl Baum Center on Occidental Road as their CR Project and the facility was built. So, the ECA has a long-standing relationship with the Center. The presentation was a good one, and Lacey led the Board in a unanimous vote of approval. The new project consists of a small gravel pad (approximately 50’x45’x6” deep) on an already cleared site. We just need to scrape off some weeds, level it, install a weed barrier and then the gravel, and we are done. The Earl Baum Center will provide a nice plaque for us (Braille included!). If you would like to chip in and provide some help, please let me know very quickly as we want to get this built right away.
*If any of you out there worked on the Earl Baum sitework 20 years ago, we would like to hear from you. Please let us know if you worked on it or remember who did please!
To click on the Earl Baum Center website, click here—
Spec Committee Meeting News: Chair Dave Weller
Next meeting will be October 24, 12 noon to 1:30 pm. We have come up with some great examples for the City of Santa Rosa to improve their chances to get better bids from you contractors and will be sharing our findings with the City folk at this meeting.
If anybody has any other Specification or Contract type issues out there, please let us know so we can address them at the Spec Committee meeting on 10-24-19. Everyone is welcome to attend. Please RSVP as we provide lunch at this meeting.
Workforce Development Committee News: Chair Laura McArthur will be following up with internship information from Sonoma State and SRJC as well as some intern types that have gone through the Sonoma Teen Center (another one of the ECA’s Community Relations Projects from the past!!). If you have experience with the intern program or have interest in hiring any interns, please contact Laura or myself. To click on the Sonoma Valley Teen Center website link, click here—
Two Updates On Government Affairs:
- The ECA and NCBE Hosted a Forum on AB5 Last Night:
The Forum featured three great speakers: Stephen Holden from the Holden Law Group in Auburn, Debbie Ferrari from Mag Trucking in Hayward, and Mike Ghilotti from Ghilotti Brothers, Inc. in San Rafael. The Forum was sponsored by V Dolan Trucking, InterWest Insurance Services, and R & S Trucking. We had 80 attendees that included many truckers and many trucking brokers that wanted to learn about any possible “workarounds” of this disastrous AB5 law going into effect January 1, 2020.
Mr. Holden (who we were able to connect with thanks to Erik Fowler and Mike Ryan) carefully explained the legal issues and the background of the independent contractor issue. He recommended everybody carefully review their employment policies and procedures to make certain that on January 1, 2020, all those that have hired and utilized independent contractors in the past, are well protected from compliance issues. Mr. Holden also warned us that trying to do a “workaround” is dangerous even if you are able to avoid the AB5 compliance issues. One of the main reasons it is “risky”, is if a trucking company dispatches his/her own employees driving his/her own trucks, that is fine-they are his/her employees. If a trucking company then tries to utilize another company’s employees driving their own trucks, the risk is that those drivers and trucks become the liability of the trucking company that is using them. In other words, if there is a labor dispute from a driver, or if there is an accident, or a worker comp claim, the company that is “borrowing” those employees could be held responsible. Many other aspects of this new law were discussed.
Ms. Ferrari discussed the Legislative aspect of the new AB5. She informed us that there were a few Assemblymen that stood up during debate and took issue with AB5 and they asked their associates for a “carve out” to no avail. Those “friendlies” are being contacted now to see if they would be willing to author a “clean up” bill to allow trucking companies to be exempt from the new law. Although there is hope, there is no clear path to exemption in the near future and Debbie warned the audience they should expect a rough 2 or so years as this is worked through.
Mike Ghilotti talked about how the General Contractors are on the side of the trucking brokers in this issue. He talked about the need to stay unified in trying to find a solution for the trucking broker industry. The brokers serve a particular need by making sure the right number of qualified and inspected and safe trucks show up when and where they are supposed to, as well as arranging dump sites and providing other useful resources to the GC’s.
At the end of the evening, I asked if everyone would appreciate doing a similar “Forum Update” in about 6 weeks and the response was unanimously “YES”. Further, the idea of gathering General Contracting owners with trucking broker owners in a room with our local Assembly and Senate Representatives Marc Levine, Jim Woods, Bill Dodd and Mike McGuire also was deemed a great idea. Perhaps, since elected will want our help to pass a Measure M sales tax extension, we “negotiate” some assistance from our local elected in fixing AB5 in exchange for Measure M support? More to follow—-
How a contractor or supplier can help. link
- Sonoma County Supervisor Candidate Forum 10-16-19:
I attended the Sonoma County Candidate Forum for Supervisor on 10-16-19 at the Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club. Candidates were David Cook and Susan Gorin for the 1st District, Shirlee Zane and Chris Coursey for the 3rd District, and Lynda Hopkins unopposed in West County District.
The big difference between Susan Gorin and David Cook is that Cook opposes any road tax. Susan supports it.
The big difference between Shirlee Zane and Chris Coursey is that Shirlee is endorsed by all our State Representatives (Jim Woods, Mike McGuire, and Bill Dodd) and by our United States Congressman Mike Thompson. This is important because Shirlee knows how to leverage those relationships to get Federal and State funding for our Sonoma County needs, while Chris is not endorsed by any of those mentioned above. My other editorial comment regarding Mr. Coursey is that he was critical of the County on many aspects, yet short on solutions to his stated problems. As to his one critical comment that Supervisors tend to “pull and push staff in different directions because of their own District wants” he suggested the solution was to “bash some heads of staff together to fix that”. Ms. Zane countered that “bashing heads” is not a good idea and she suggested working with staff to achieve benefits for all County residents while still representing her own District constituents.
Lynda Hopkins is running unopposed (so far), but she still supports fixing our roads and bridges as the #1 priority. Lynda was also aggressive and vocal in her support of both Susan Gorin and Shirlee Zane. In particular, Lynda pointed out accomplishments by Zane in building homes for our homeless veterans and streamlining the effort to build more affordable housing.