Closing Bodega Bay Elementary School is “Off the Table”


To the delight of the assembled crowd at a special meeting of the Shoreline Unified School District on Thursday, it was announced that closing the school is not being considered as an option, and the board will be looking at other ways to cut $1.5 million annually from the $12 million annual budget.

Two hours of acrimonious discussion followed the announcement, as parents, teachers and community members expressed their concerns about the alleged lack of transparency and suggested other ways to make the necessary cuts. Superintendent Stubbs commented that “it is the day of reckoning for the district”.

The Bodega Bay Elementary School, which has a current enrollment of about 26 students, is the only Sonoma County school of the five in the Marin County-based district. Although the school is small, it is considered an important part of the community. One Hispanic parent was upset that there was no translator available. It was explained that the translator who was scheduled to be at the meeting didn’t come, and the board promised to make sure a translator is always at future meetings.

There will be a special meeting at Tomales High School at 6:00 p.m. on September 8 to discuss potential cuts. The next board meeting is September 11, and the board must make concrete recommendations to the Marin County Office of Education by September 30 in order to remain in control of the process.

Currently, 85% of the budget goes for salaries and benefits. School enrollment has gone from 660 to 500, but the number of employees has remained the same. In addition, mandated retirement contributions are going from 8% to 19.2% over the next ten years. Parent Amanda Bryant, read part of the minutes from a May 21 meeting. Those minutes included the fact that the average cost per student is $8,000 – $10,000, but that cost in the Shoreline District is $21,000 per student.

The cause of the current budget problem is complicated. Federal Impact Aid, which attempts to replace property taxes for the National Seashore, has varied in the past, but it will now be $1.7 million annually – most of the balance of the $12 million comes from property taxes.  As Susan Skipp, Chief Business Officer for the district explained, “We are required to look at the current year and two subsequent years. The district is not allowed by law to have a structural deficit which is what we are facing.”

All in the name of entertainment

There is rarely any news. We are instead entertained, easily, by the lives of celebrities, sporting events, restaurant reviews, by introspective novels about our internal lives, our true selves. And we are never shocked, either in form or content by the information we do receive. Our entertainments never transgress our expectations. When our entertainments are called shocking, it is only by intensifying our expectation: sport becomes more violent, boxing gives way to cage fighting. Life in San Francisco, a friend told me, was under a decree: “You can’t have a meal; it has to be a feast. You can’t have a good time; it has to be a blast!”

We accept this of sport and soap operas, but we all know that it is serious topics that perform as entertainment, too. The television news is like this: explosions, shootings – an evening’s drama. As a child, I remember my uncle telling me about the coverage of the first Iraq war, We all watched those planes dropping bombs onto buildings, and I thought, ‘”Those are apartment buildings, people live there.'” All of this in support of toothpaste commercials and that new Fiat (I’m told there’s a dealership in Berkeley now).
Guy Debord’s book, Society of the Spectacle, defines spectacle in one sense as the convergence of real power and representations of power. When the military in their uniforms flank the sidelines, and fighter jets fly overhead, and millionaire minstrels perform the only work that a racist nation feels black men are fit for, with ads on the field for Lockheed-Martin, all to pour narcotic and numbing entertainment into the empty vessel called the American sports fan who stares into their television and occasionally applauds what they see on the box – a little Nuremberg rally in your own house every Sunday – we have a haunting image of American life and power in 2014.
(If that sounds strident, let me confess that it gives me pleasure when the University of Michigan defeats Notre Dame. I, too, contain multitudes, and we all like, Whitman, must be allowed our hypocrisy.) 

This is the media I grew up with, which exist as pure enjoyment, unchallenging, whose truths are self-contained, a fantasy world you enter into, in which that good grows and evil withers, that does not tell you anything about yourself that you do not already know.  And more, we select media because we know that it will not challenge us.
Roland Barthes called these media entertainments, “readerly” texts, those that confirm our prejudices and embody our desires. But he described a second category, the “writerly” text, one that can be transgressive and truly shocking, that can attack our beliefs and make us uncomfortable, that can rend the fabric of our settled and self-satisfied perceptions of reality and through this opening allow us to attain new truths and understanding.  This goal is the inspiration of great art, but we don’t like it, because it makes us uncomfortable and interrupts our gluttonous self-amusement.

Well, people are sometimes aware of this, and it causes them to be ashamed of themselves, their indolent minds and lack of moral courage. So we have invented new forms of entertainment that will deal with this dilemma. In the crisis of conscience caused by this era of destruction, we are soothed by the appearance of counterfeit “writerly” content, for instance, the provocations of contemporary art: sharks in embalming fluid, the photographs of Robert Maplethorpe, etc.  The late Robert Hughes called these, “…not a critique of decadence, they are merely decadent.”

Non-news takes a subtler form in the medium of radio, in particular, NPR.  The hosts on National Public Radio not only play to the desire of the audience to be amused, they are, in essence, the internal thoughts of the listener. It isn’t a man or woman talking to you; they are you, the voice of your internal monolog through the speakers in your car. In this way, reports about Iraq give way naturally to discussions of the complications of providing your dog or cat with health insurance, or an elk in Yosemite that has its own blog. Terri Gross listens to guests for you and asks inane distracted questions on your behalf as you drive along half-aware.  To some aging protest singer she will yawn, “I mean, um, for you, was that like a good thing or a bad thing?”
News is something you need to react to. It tells us something is wrong. Sadly, we have become convinced we can’t change the world. In a sense, we don’t have news anymore, on TV or in print, because “news” implies that you can do something to respond. And we feel the terrible events that happen all around us every day are all beyond our control. News channels and papers only present stories that, when not meant merely to depress our will to act or inflame our emotions, function as Party propaganda. Each crisis is held in a narrative that heavy implies that a resolution of any problem can only be achieved by the viewer’s loyal support for either the Republican or Democratic Party.

There is another view of the news. I have observed men and women in West Marin who cannot conceive of their own death. They have lived for decades desperately pressing the supposed frontier of existence; the belief that self-expression and the worlds we create in our heads are the ultimate purpose of being, a world with no future beyond ourselves. This ecstatic narcissism defines our culture. Its cynicism knows no bounds. So as age leans upon our dull cold bodies, some of us are entranced by apocalypse, which offers a perverse satisfaction in its “news”. It assures us: It is not we who will die. It is the world that will end.


Rockin’ and rollin’ at 3:20 am

By Ellen Shehadeh

I don’t mean to get personal, but what were you doing last Sunday morning at 3:20 am? Most of us in West Marin were supine in our respective beds, which for some reason were in motion. Many slept right through the event, which as everyone knows by now, was an earthquake originating not far from us, in and around the Napa Valley. Others knew immediately we were once again experiencing a significant earthquake- this one seened much gentler than the 1989 Loma Prieta version.

Naturally, we have stories. And here are a few:

SUBHEAD: Katie Eberle of Marshall- The naked responder

There’s a first time for everyone, and mine was August 24, at 3:20 am. I was having a dream that one of my eyes was deformed, but somehow everybody found me incredibly attractive- then I was bolt upright in bed because my little cabin was shaking. I knew it was an earthquake, and it was terrifying to me because it was my first. Having lived in a constant state of outsider-panic about earthquakes ever since moving to California – imagining the many ways I could be crushed – I exited my loft like a flying squirrel, grabbing my handheld radio and running out the door. Not knowing what to do next, I just stood there in the nighttime fog, listening.

Now, I am the Marshall coordinator for the West Marin Disaster Council and I also work at KWMR. We have a volunteer group of citizens out here that is supposed to activate in the event of a fire, flood, tsunami, earthquake, you-name-it. We run a monthly radio drill to keep our community groups “in shape” for when something dangerous actually comes our way, and with this in mind, I stood there waiting. Would anyone respond now that we had a real event?

In under a minute, a man’s voice, bewildered and groggy, crackled through the speaker: “… anyone else feel that?” Our West Marin ad-hoc disaster network, worked! It was Jim Fox from Inverness, calling out for more information. What was more incredible, KWMR’s Station Manager, Amanda, responded on a dime. Then KWMR transmitter engineer, Richard Dillman confirmed that he was patching in to the station to conduct a live remote broadcast. A Disaster Council correspondent in the San Geronimo Valley popped up to check in, and then I myself checked in for Marshall. The airwaves were jumping. Within 10 minutes of the earthquake, we were broadcasting information on KWMR out to the public and receiving calls from all over the place.

What a first earthquake to have- intrigue, immediate response, and luckily for us no damage to report. Only when things died down did I finally head back inside. And that’s when I realized: I was buck naked, holding a radio.
SUBHEAD: Susanna Henderson, Inverness Park- You can always blame a raccoon

I was sleeping outside and felt a bump on my bed. Thinking it was a nervy raccoon, I got up and, in indignation, went inside to sleep the rest of the night, mumbling dark things about raccoons.

SUBHEAD: Ellen Serber, Point Reyes Station – Max, the rooster, valiant in death
Max, the rooster, also called Max ZuZu, died during the earthquake defending his flock of hens from the unseen enemy that rattled the chicken house and buckled the floor. He was found in the morning in the outside pen, sprawled on the ground by the fence, as if he had flown to the perimeter and then fell, struck by an unknown foe. He will be missed.

SUBHEAD: Susan Brayton of Inverness- More blame for the animals

I am interested that so many people thought it was something their animals or outside animals were doing. Friends thought it could be the dog scratching, raccoons in the fig tree or a cat rocking the bed. For me, at first I thought it was the dog pushing up against the bed, and then oh, oh, closet doors rattling! It’s an earthquake, then lying totally still hoping the ceiling wouldn’t collapse on me.
SUBHEAD: Mary Olsen, Inverness- What will everyone do without me?

‏Twenty-four hours after the recent early morning quake, just about every member of my tribe had checked in with me, either by email or telephone. “Are you OK?” my friends and family in other parts of the country wanted to know. One cousin said she was praying for me. That touched me deeply. Someone praying for me? I wonder how that prayer went?

‏”Dear God,
‏Let Mary still be alive. What will we do without her help planning our family reunion in Chatham, Massachusetts? She volunteered to cook our big dinner Saturday night. Pretty complicated, lobster, corn, salad. and tiramisu. And, she’s bringing the wine. Has she shipped it yet? Oh God! Plus, she has all the really good photos of grandmother and grandfather. And the family tree. Oh how I wish she’d entered all that info on”

‏My older brother called. He left a message. “Mary, can you shoot us a couple of cases of that nice Lodi Zin before the aftershocks hit?”
‏”We are seeing photos on TV of wine barrels busted from their racks and wine flowing everywhere. What a mess.”

‏Yes. I slept through it. Didn’t feel a thing. I wish I had a better story to offer. My husband felt the quake. Heard it and felt it. I’m furious he didn’t awaken me. Even our dog didn’t get excited, despite the fact that the house got a good shaking. Couldn’t have been that good though-not even one spice jar fell out of my rickety spice shelf.


News from Marin County Farm Bureau


Marin County Farm Bureau (MCFB) welcomes new manager and board members


MCFB is pleased to welcome Sharon Knudsen as their new manager. Sharon grew up on the family ranch in Tomales and participated in 4-H and FFA. After many years of working in other industries she looks forward to re-connecting with the agricultural community in Marin. She lives in Tomales with her husband and youngest son.


MCFB also has four new board members. Brian Dolcini is a past president who has chosen to return to the board as the organization works on some critical issues that have the potential to affect the agricultural industry for years to come. Brian manages Dolcini Jersey Dairy. Brian brings many years of experience as a previous board member and past president.


Marissa Thornton, who graduated from Chico State with a degree in Animal Science, has returned to her family ranch in Tomales and has recently started the Marshall Home Ranch & Dairy, milking both sheep and cows. She is the sixth generation to live and work on the family ranch in Tomales and sells her milk directly to Bleating Heart Creamery which is also located on the ranch.


Jarrod Mendoza is a fourth generation dairy farmer and lifelong resident of the Pt. Reyes Penisula and also attended Chico State. He milks 240 organic cows on the same ranch that he grew up on.


Kevin Lunny is a third generation rancher on the Pt. Reyes Penisula. Kevin’s love for the family farm inspired him to earn an Animal Science degree from UC Davis and obtain the first organic certification of beef cattle in Marin County. MCFB appreciates Kevin’s passion for producing food locally and organically with minimum impact on the environment.


The Marin County Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of over 600 local members and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.


For more information contact Sharon Knudsen.