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National Fisherman: California crab fishermen fight to save fishery after three-year spike in whale entanglements.

September 1, 2018

The future of California’s iconic Dungeness crab fishery seemed uncertain after a three-year spike in the number of whales entangled in fishing gear from 2015 to 2017. A warm-water blob, domoic acid and a coinciding of whale migrations and fishing caused by the delayed start of the Dungeness crab season spurred a record number of whales and other marine animals to become twisted in crab gear.

Few fisheries were spared entanglement issues on the Pacific Coast, but California Dungeness crab fishermen came under fire for their lines snaring the largest number of whales. Negative publicity, threats of a federal shutdown and a lawsuit in federal court made California crabbers fear the worst. But with ocean conditions returning in the direction of normal and state legislative effort looking to head off litigation, crab fishermen can breathe easier. Still, there’s no returning to the way things were.

The Press Democrat: California Highway Patrol data shows where DUI suspects drank most recently

June 17, 2018

Sonoma County is a drinking destination. Roads swell with traffic on summer weekends when out-of-county visitors go tasting at more than 425 wineries and two dozen breweries that call the county home.

People line up for hours in downtown Santa Rosa every February to get their three 10-ounce glasses of Pliny the Younger triple IPA — a ration designed to prevent people from drinking too much of the high-octane 10.25 percent alcohol beer.

More than 7 million people come to Sonoma County annually, 4.6 million of whom cite beer and wine as their reason for visiting, according to the Sonoma County Economic Development Board.

While some locals blame beer-drinking and wine-tasting tourists for making Sonoma County roadways less safe, the fact is most drunken drivers in Sonoma County are residents whose last drink came at home, a bar or a restaurant.

Read more at The Press Democrat…

Northern California 2017 wildfire coverage for The Press Democrat

April 16, 2018

Fires jumped from wildlands into the city of Santa Rosa, one of the largest cities in the San Francisco Bay Area, on Oct. 8. In the end, 24 people lost their lives and more than 5,000 homes were destroyed displacing thousands in Sonoma County alone.

This is where I lived and worked. My job at The Press Democrat took me to the frontline of the blazes and to the response mounted by municipal, county, state and federal agencies.

For our efforts The Press Democrat was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. Here are some clips from documenting the devastation in what is now the most destructive wildfire in California’s history.

Most SoCo Alert calls failed to connect in first hours of Sonoma County wildfires (Dec. 15)
Sonoma County prosecutors charge six landlords with price gouging (Dec. 7)
‘Please hurry up it’s really close’: Speed, terror of fires revealed in 911 calls (Dec. 5)
Mendocino County Sheriff examines lessons learned from Redwood Valley fire (Nov. 9)
Carl’s Jr. in Santa Rosa catches fire while making burgers for first responders (Oct. 26)
ICE statement about wildfire-related arson arrest ‘misleading and inflammatory’ (Oct. 19)
State prison firefighters on the frontlines of Sonoma County wildfires (Oct. 19)
Firefighters close in on full containment as Sonoma County turns toward recovery (Oct. 17)
Homes destroyed by fire outside of downtown Sonoma (Oct. 14)
Sonoma County’s emergency alerts face scrutiny in wake of deadly wildfires (Oct. 12)
Sonoma, Napa fires wreak havoc with gas, electricity & cellphone service (Oct. 10)

Immigration action, ICE cooperation then restrictions in Sonoma County: A year reporting on immigration for The Press Democrat.

April 6, 2018

In the following months the politically liberal, yet agricultural, Sonoma County in Northern California passed resolutions to protect undocumented immigrants.

The sheriff promised to restrict cooperation with ICE agents at the county jail but never did. My reporting on that fact forced the Sheriff’s Office to moved quick, getting ahead of the “Sanctuary state” bill in Sacramento. The Trump Administration took notice and repeatedly attacked the county in both rhetoric and action for months.

Sonoma County law chiefs steer clear of state and federal feud (March 7, 2018)
Trump administration threatens to subpoena Sonoma County (Jan. 24, 2018)
Sparring between California and feds reaches new level (Jan. 20, 2018)
ICE chief slams Sonoma County sheriff’s immigration policy on Fox News (Jan. 3, 2018)
ICE statement about recent arrest ‘misleading and inflammatory’ (Oct. 19, 2017)
‘Sanctuary state’ law doesn’t spell significant change for law enforcement (Oct. 5, 2017)
Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office watchdog under scrutiny (Sept. 16, 2017)
Recent killing by immigrant puts Sonoma County & ICE at odds (Aug. 30, 2017)
ICE flagged Santa Rosa man two weeks before he allegedly killed girlfriend (Aug. 21, 2017)
Sheriff’s Office to limit ICE cooperation at Sonoma County Jail (Aug. 13, 2017)
Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office still notifying ICE on inmate releases (Aug. 5, 2017)
Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office still notifying ICE on inmates (May 10, 2017)
Hundreds march in Santa Rosa in honor of Cesar Chavez (April 2, 2017)
Sonoma County law enforcement chiefs detail immigration policies (Feb. 25, 2017)
1,000s skip school, work to support ‘Day Without Immigrants’ (Feb. 16, 2017)
‘Day Without Immigrants’ protest to counter President Trump (Feb. 15, 2017)

Vox: Thank God I don’t work at Whole Foods anymore

June 21, 2017

Thank God I don’t work at Whole Foods anymore.

That was my immediate thought when news broke that Amazon was planning to purchase the organic grocery chain for 13.7 billion dollars. If I still worked the fish counter at Whole Foods, I’d have to work harder and more efficiently — while eating fewer samples — to justify my job over Amazon’s robots.

In 2012, I had a three-month stint as a fishmonger at a Whole Foods Market in San Francisco. I worked at the store in the SoMa neighborhood. My job included organizing the seafood case and cleaning fish to customer preferences. I earned $13 an hour for my services.

But at Whole Foods, being broke didn’t mean we had to go hungry. There were perks — a relaxed atmosphere, 25-cent leftovers at the end of the day, and access to samples from the meat, seafood, and other departments. Amazon knows robots don’t need this kind of margin-eating sustenance.

Read more at Vox…

The Press Democrat: New maps reveal extent of homeless problems in Santa Rosa

June 5, 2017

Santa Rosa Police Officers Jason Brandt and Brian Sinigiani sat in a police van by the Fifth Street underpass during a weekly Wednesday morning homeless encampment cleanup. Those living on the street knew the officers by name, and the officers knew theirs, their addictions and their stories.

Brandt and Sinigiani estimated there are more than 200 chronically homeless in downtown Santa Rosa with whom they are on a first name basis. Nearly all have been offered services, they said.

“We’re trying to take away all of the excuses and break down the barriers to get them off the street,” Sinigiani said. “We’re really social workers with a law enforcement aspect.”

Sinigiani and his partner are among the top sources of referrals to Catholic Charities’ Homeless Outreach Services Team. But they take the law seriously and aren’t afraid to make arrests and write citations. Brandt said he makes more arrests now than he did while working patrol.

Read more at The Press Democrat…

The Press Democrat: Google honors Richard Oakes, Native American activist killed in Sonoma County

May 22, 2017

Google recognized the late Native American activist Richard Oakes on its homepage Monday with an illustrated image of the man who was shot and killed in Sonoma County in 1972 when he was just 30 years old. The honor came on the day Oakes would have turned 75.

Oakes’ killer, the manager of a YMCA camp near Annapolis in northwest Sonoma County, was acquitted for involuntary manslaughter by an all-white jury at the Sonoma County Superior Court in March 1973.

“We are excited to see Google give him recognition today on his birthday,” said Reno Keoni Franklin, chairman of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians, by email. “His passing still haunts us, and the decision to let his killer go is a sad example of the type of injustices that he fought so hard against.”

Read more at The Press Democrat…