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hero and zero

By Nikki Silverstein

Hero: Congressman Jared Huffman did us proud by boycotting Donald Trump’s inauguration. Rather than “sit passively and politely applaud,” as he stated on his Facebook page, he took to the streets of his district to “perform days of service and engagement.” On inauguration day, Huffman helped Habitat for Humanity build a home for a family in Novato, and in the evening joined an interfaith vigil in San Rafael to celebrate peace, religious freedom, social justice and community engagement. The following day, he addressed Marin Women’s Rally participants. “I felt it was more important to do something positive as a counterweight to all this darkness,” he told MSNBC. Great start, Representative Huffman. We’re counting on you to keep shining that optimistic light in Trump’s face.

Zero: Junk food addicts are jonesing in downtown San Rafael. Police arrested two alleged Doritos bandits and a Ben & Jerry’s burglar in the past month. There was the Kentfield man we told you about that allegedly ran out of the Shell station on Fourth Street without paying for his chips. On the heels of that incident, a suspect hid a pint of Ben & Jerry’s under his jacket and fled the Walgreens on Third Street. (Must have been Cherry Garcia, the only flavor worth jailtime.) In the final episode of the junk food trilogy, a man allegedly stole a bag of Doritos and a burrito from the 7-Eleven on B Street. Let’s get these men some proper nutrition before the M&M riots break out.

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Rep. Huffman and North Bay eco-warriors preach hope and lawsuits

At Santa Rosa Junior College in Petaluma last Thursday, Rep. Huffman was joined by an attorney and environmental leaders to discuss everything from Standing Rock to the impeachment of Trump.

By Tom Gogola

Trump may have the Winston Churchill bust in the West Wing but the people own the legendary British leader’s Nazi-stomping message in the North Bay and nation of dissent at large. Speaking to an overflowing crowd at Santa Rosa Junior College in Petaluma last Thursday, environmental lawyer Michael Wall merely alluded to the famously spine-tingling Churchill quote, but here it is in full:

“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

Wall, an attorney at the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), was joined on the panel by Drew Caputo of EarthJustice and Ann Hancock of the Santa Rosa­-based Center for Climate Protection. U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, recently named Vice-Ranking Member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, organized the event.

The meeting mirrored the spirit of recent protest actions and marches—a demonstration of resiliency, of decency and solidarity, of immediate pushback in the courts and of respect for the differently-abled, in the form of a sign language interpreter, and pussy hats scattered in the audience, which Huffman noted—and lots of questions that boiled down to: What the heck is going on in Washington with that maniac tweeter-in-chief, and what is to be done?

Huffman noted the “unprecedented threats facing our environment” which very much included state efforts at carbon-gas emissions and his own eco-awesome bills aimed at carbon sequestration in the cattle fields, and his “keep it in the ground” act, which says that we should do exactly that with fossil fuels, whenever possible. The fate of those bills is up in the air, to put it mildly, as is Huffman’s bill to permanently ban all offshore drilling. “I’m going to keep trying to move the bills, keep the conversation alive—those bills are unlikely to get hearings in this Congress, they are not supported by this administration—its environmental policy is in exile right now.”

Below are the topics that Huffman and the panelists addressed.

RICK PERRY

Trump picked the former Texas governor to be his Secretary of Energy after Perry himself couldn’t recall the name of the agency during a 2012 GOP primary debate, while vowing to eliminate it—all the while, never understanding that the Department of Energy (DOE) is responsible for the nation’s nuclear arsenal. Gulp. Huffman described him as “a guy who combines Texas swagger with a memory problem.” The Senate has hit pause on his full confirmation vote “indefinitely,” so there’s that.

OBAMA’S ECO-FRIENDLY EXECUTIVE ORDERS

Huffman warned that Congress can override regulations that were put into effect by the previous administration, in the short and long-term. Any of Obama’s last-minute regulations can be repealed without review—if they were implemented in the last two months of his administration—and others will be. The proposed REINS Act (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny), would be “the kill switch on any regulation of any kind,” Huffman said. “This is a very aggressive and ambitious agenda that they are setting and they are going to get a lot of help from … Trump.” In the short-term, new and stringent regulations that set standards for venting and flaring of natural gas on public lands are on the firing line, and on toxic slag removal from coal-blown mountaintops.

THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY

Huffman noted on two occasions that besides the courts, local leaders and state government leaders, the business community should be acknowledged as he highlighted the good corporate citizens “who have done exciting things,” have bought into the Paris Agreement that Trump wants to ditch, “and can be an important part of the discussion moving forward. We’re not powerless or hopeless; we’ll get through it.”

STANDING ROCK

“If we’ve learned anything in six days—it’s, worry,” said Drew Caputo, Vice President of Litigation for Lands, Wildlife and Oceans for EarthJustice, which is representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Obama Administration stopped the pipeline from crossing sacred Sioux land in the waning months of his presidency, and ordered a full environmental review on its eventual forward progress as he denied a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers easement. Last week Trump signed an Executive “Blather” declaring that the pipeline would be built, and the Obama-rejected Keystone project would go forward as well. “We have the honor” to represent the tribe, Caputo said. “Earth needs a good lawyer.”

Caputo described the Trump executive order as a “wink wink nod nod” gesture to expedite a now-process and compared it to King Henry VIII, “won’t someone relieve me of this troublesome priest,” to nervous chuckles from the audience. “If and when the Army Corps does the wrong thing and grants the easement without the review, we will sue them,” Caputo said.

Trump’s financial interests in the Dakota Access Pipeline project have been widely reported, and Huffman joked that attendees—live or on Facebook, where the event was live-streamed—should sell their stock in Energy Transfer Partners. “Get out of there!”

OBSTRUCT OR ACCOMMODATE TRUMP?

“We’ll give him a chance for success that the Republicans never gave president Obama,” Huffman said. “I’m skeptical but I always leave open the possibility. Speaking as a Democrat, obstruction worked across the board for [John] Boehner and Mitch McConnell—they shut it down. That’s not my brand. We want government to be good and to do good things for people. That said, most of what is coming at us is really bad and we have to work to defeat it.”

WHAT’S BEING DONE TO STOP SCOTT PRUITT?

Trump’s choice for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sued the agency a dozen times. Huffman pointed to his colleague’s “heroic nature to spotlight the terrible choice. He is the possible person you could imagine to head the EPA … [but] this is a 51-vote question and every GOP member is going to vote for Scott Pruitt. I don’t think there is realistically a chance to stop Scott Pruitt.”

SEE YOU IN COURT

The speakers noted generally that while voters put Trump into office, they did not vote against the environment. They celebrated Obama’s move to ban drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans even as the soon-to-be Secretary of State leaves a multinational energy concern that plans to drill in the Arctic. If Trump’s EPA won’t defend attacks on the environment from an unloosed corporate community, “looking over the long-term, we have the capacity to fight everywhere we can in the Federal court system,” Caputo said.

“People know there is a difference between fact and fiction,” he said before tearing into Trump. “The president is going to try and undo a lot of good things,” he noted. We’ll fight in Congress, in the court of public opinion—and most importantly, in the courts. Every step of the way when he does things that are illegal, we will meet him here in court, and that is a genuine cause for hope,” Huffman ranted, to the delight of all in attendance.

ANY MORE?

The massive Women’s Marches, the rolling resistance to Trump’s administration of maximum cruelty, and as Wall said, “American Democracy at some level is under attack.”

WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

“The American people didn’t vote against the environment but not enough people voted for the environment,” Wall said. State, local and regional efforts at greenhouse-gas reductions are the new normal, as are gas-efficiency standards and a roaring wind and solar power economy that sparked the much-cited observation that the number-one in-demand job in the country right now is wind power tech.

CAN’T WE JUST IMPEACH THIS GUY ALREADY?

It’s coming, folks, Huffman says it’s coming. “This president is like a walking target for impeachment, so stay tuned.” He cited Congressional and outside investigations in declaring, “I think there is reason to believe there will be the most credible case for impeachment you’ll ever see, in the short term.”

David Luning’s wanderings shine on new album

David Luning recorded his new album, ‘Restless,’ at the Panoramic House in West Marin. ‘Restless’ moves from exuberant rock ’n’ roll to softly melodic ballads with ease. Photo by Jay Blakesberg.

By Charlie Swanson

North Bay native David Luning was playing piano and studying film scoring at the Berklee College of Music in Boston when his world turned upside down, musically speaking.

“I was hanging out with friends who lived in my apartment building and listening to music,” Luning says. “They played me John Prine and Old Crow Medicine Show and Ryan Adams, stuff like that. I had never really heard that music before, and I knew then what I wanted to do with my life.”

That spark of inspiration led Luning to drop out of Berklee, return to his hometown of Forestville and take up the guitar in a transformation from cinematic composer to Americana troubadour. Now a fully-fledged rambling man, Luning presents his new album, Restless, in concert on Saturday, February 4, at the Mystic Theatre in Petaluma.

After relocating, Luning built up a repertoire of country-tinged folk and assembled a backing band to join him on the road. His first album, Just Drop On By, came out in 2012 to widespread acclaim.

“(I wanted to) write about real things, and make it more honest,” Luning says of his early songwriting.

Ironically for the one-time film score student, several songs from the first album found their way into films and television programs, propelling Luning’s career onto larger and larger stages. A constant traveler, Luning has appeared at festivals all over the West Coast.

Now with Restless, Luning rises to the occasion with a polished, confident collection of country rock and Americana music that’s both radio-ready and emotionally resonant. He credits some of the new sound to album producer Karl Derfler (Tom Waits, Dave Matthews). “He knew where I wanted my music to be at, even before I knew it sometimes,” Luning says of Derfler.

Luning’s travels will continue after his upcoming album release show. “We’re going to play everywhere,” he says with a laugh. “And all the time.”

David Luning; Sat., Feb. 4; Mystic Theatre, 23 Petaluma Blvd. N, Petaluma; 8pm; $17-$22; 707/765-2121.

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Brown announces 1.6 billion deficit, but don’t count on pot tax bonanza to close it

Proposition 64 prohibits cannabis excise tax revenue going into the state’s general fund—at least for now.

By Tom Gogola

Governor Jerry Brown released his $180 billion fiscal 2017 budget on January 10 and identified a $1.6 billion deficit, the result, he said, of slower-than-anticipated growth in the California economy.

The deficit’s return—the first since 2012—comes in the aftermath of the state’s historic yes vote on Proposition 64, which legalizes adult use of recreational cannabis in the state.

State agencies that have studied the initiative, including the Board of Equalization, have reported that future excise taxes could funnel between $1 billion and $1.4 billion annually into the state coffers. But before you say “tax bonanza,” it’s important to underscore that the pot tax can’t be used to close a budget gap in this or any year, unless the Legislature revisits the issue.

“The state government would certainly like to do that,” says Hezekiah Allen of the California Growers Association (CGA), a cannabis industry group. But they are hampered by the legally binding language in Proposition 64, which says that no taxes collected on cannabis sales can be directed into the state’s general fund. Moving forward, “the real limiting factor here is going to be, how much wiggle room does the Legislature have?” Allen says.

Even if Brown could close the deficit with pot revenue, the state won’t have its new cannabis tax regime in place until next January, when licensed growers will pay a cultivation tax of $9.25 per ounce of buds and $2.75 per ounce of leaves. Another 15 percent sales tax will be applied to the retail price of all cannabis products, and localities, including Sonoma County, are cooking up local taxes of their own. There’s a special pot tax vote in Sonoma County in March.

One problem for localities with enforcement issues of their own to fund, says Allen, is that Proposition 64 set a higher rate of tax than was even contemplated by the Legislature, which will make it difficult for localities to add an additional levy. “There is no room for additional taxes,” Allen says.

Those taxes are mainly earmarked for law enforcement and anti-drug efforts in schools. According to a statement from Brown, state pot taxes can be used for “regulatory costs, youth substance-use programs, environmental cleanup resulting from illegal cannabis growing, programs to reduce driving under the influence of cannabis and other drugs and to reduce negative impacts on public health or safety resulting from the legalization of recreational cannabis.”

In the short term, the emergent recreational cannabis industry may actually wind up contributing to a future deficit, as Brown’s budget would send $53 million to regulators to help square up the regulatory regime in the recreational and medical cannabis industries.

“Right now, there’s going to be a lot of pain before there is any gain,” says attorney Aaron Herzberg, a partner at CalCann Holdings, LLC, a California medical cannabis real estate investment firm. But Allen says the $53 million proposal “is an open question.” He notes that policymakers and the industry “are thinking that we should maybe move a little slower and take an incremental, balanced approach.”

The state envisions a single regulatory framework for recreational and medical cannabis. Nate Bradley of the California Cannabis Industry Association says his organization was in a conference call with the governor’s office last week and that “they are pushing ahead with one system.” He says stakeholders such as the CGA don’t want to see a single regulatory structure enacted because “there’s lots of money” at stake in, for example, medical cannabis distribution networks.

Brown’s office has reported that the $1.6 billion budget shortfall this year will be closed via a slowdown on planned outlays for K-12 education and on the elimination of some discretionary spending.

The governor has opposed legalized weed in California on the grounds that everyone would be getting high instead of working. Donald Trump basically makes the same argument. Meanwhile, as Herzberg observes, most of the cannabis sold in the state is on the black market, and for every additional tax the state adds, the more likely it is that those growers will stay in the shadows and not participate in the licensing process. The more tax-heavy the recreational industry becomes, he says, the more likely it is that recreational users will get a medical card to beat the local or state sales tax. There’s a lot of work to be done, and Herzberg is convinced that $53 million won’t cut it.

Meanwhile, Brown alludes to the uncertain federal-level issues: “The amount and timing of revenues generated from the new excise taxes are highly uncertain and will depend on various factors including state and local regulations, how cannabis prices and consumption change in a legal environment, and future federal policies and actions toward the cannabis industry.”

Allen believes the two-decade-old medical cannabis industry in California is probably safe from any attacks from anti-pot attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, but notes that “there are a lot more questions about adult use moving forward. The governor’s proposal stuck with what we were expecting—combining the two systems and moving forward with one regulated marketplace.”

Herzberg says a pot crackdown in California is hard to imagine given the public support for legalization and that Trump adviser and PayPal founder Peter Thiel is “heavily invested in cannabis.”

Violinist Midori makes her debut with the Marin Symphony

“Everything I have experienced—whether I am conscious of it or not—has [had] an impact on me as a person,” violinist Midori says. Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.

By Stephanie Powell

Studying at Juilliard’s Pre-College program and debuting at the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Zubin Mehta at age 11, violinist Midori Goto’s trajectory redefined “child prodigy.”

The powerhouse violinist will make her debut with the Marin Symphony with two performances on January 27 and 28. The program includes contemporary composer wunderkind Mason Bates’ “Devil’s Radio,” Britten’s Violin Concerto and Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra.

“In any program, it is always interesting and intriguing to have a balance of contrast and cohesiveness,” Midori says. “This sometimes means compositions coming from different times, as well as styles, lengths and character.”

Although Midori will be performing as the soloist in Britten’s demanding piece, the reason behind her Marin debut hits closer to home—she will be kicking off a weeklong residency with the Marin Symphony Youth Orchestra (MSYO).

In 2004, Midori founded her Orchestra Residencies Program, an initiative aimed at providing the next generation of classical musicians greater access to the arts. This year, the program has announced MSYO as the sole recipient of her residency program—an honor that Marin Symphony Music Director Alasdair Neale calls “a real testament to the regard of the organization.”

“Each [residency program] is unique and memorable,” Midori says. “I enjoy working with young musicians—they always inspire me with much energy.”

As for her Marin debut, Midori says, “I am very excited to [come]. I have been to San Francisco a number of times, as well as other cities and communities in the Bay Area. The region is so beautiful, and I always feel a special energy there.”

Midori performs with the Marin Symphony on Jan. 27-28 at the Marin Center, 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael; 415/473-6800; marinsymphony.org.

hero and zero

By Nikki Silverstein

Hero: Laura and her husband were on a bicycle ride around the Tiburon Loop when a pickup truck suddenly swerved into the bike lane on the downgrade into Tiburon. With her husband traveling at 20 mph and no escape possible, the inevitable crash occurred. Unfortunately, he suffered serious injuries. When the ambulance arrived, Dick, a Good Samaritan approached Laura and quietly offered to take care of their bikes, as he saw that she would be accompanying her husband to the hospital. Dick, also a cyclist, pedaled home for his car and returned immediately to pick up their bikes. Several days later, he delivered the bicycles to their doorstep. Laura expressed her appreciation and Dick simply smiled, shrugged and said, “This time it was my turn to be the angel.”

Zero: Nobody we know is against housing for homeless moms and their young children. Unless, that is, the housing is in their community. The convent on the private campus of Dominican University in San Rafael wants to offer transitional housing to two women and their children for two years. Great program, right? Not so fast. In the process of applying for the temporary change-of-use permit from the city of San Rafael, The Dominican Sisters have come face-to-face with the shameful, selfish, not-in-my-backyard crowd that is now battling the convent’s housing project. If you live in the neighborhood and you’re a gracious, warm-hearted soul, please lend your support to the Sisters. As for the rest of you, we wish that you weren’t in our backyard.

Luke Temple hits all the right notes

Luke Temple, founder of indie pop band Here We Go Magic. Photo by Steve Keros.

By Charlie Swanson

There must be something in the waters of West Marin, for it seems lately that a new wave of up-and-coming indie rock artists are arriving and returning to their folk roots among the region’s rolling hills and foggy coastlines.

The latest transplant is Brooklyn singer-songwriter Luke Temple, who relocated to Point Reyes last year, and recently unveiled the stunning and eloquent folk album, A Hand Through the Cellar Door.

Temple will perform off the new album on Saturday, January 21, at ink.paper.plate in Point Reyes Station. Born in Massachusetts, Temple lived in Seattle briefly before moving to Brooklyn 10 years ago. He already had two critically acclaimed, though commercially unheard, folk albums under his belt when he switched gears and formed alternative indie pop band Here We Go Magic in 2009.

Temple’s rhythmically repetitive and often stream-of-conscious songwriting shined on Here We Go Magic songs that had crowds dancing for joy at major festivals around the world. In the last few years, Here We Go Magic underwent some lineup changes, and while the band is still performing occasionally, Temple’s main focus these days is his reinvigorated solo output.

Released last November, A Hand Through the Cellar Door finds Temple in full storyteller mode, crafting eight songs that explore family struggles, trace the lives of several fictional characters and wear emotions prominently on the sleeve.

Musically, the record is a patient, acoustic collection. Temple’s hypnotizing rhythms come through on tracks like opener “Estimated World,” in which a repetitive acoustic riff and minimalist backing drums, bass and organ slowly build. That unfolding sound appears again in the emotionally cathartic and impactful climax of “Maryanne Was Quiet.”

Other tracks, such as “Birds of Late December,” feature Temple’s lilting voice taking on delicate falsettos and hushed tones that remind one of a blend between Nick Drake and Paul Simon. All the while, Temple commands the listener’s attention with just enough off-kilter elements, such as the cellos and almost spoken-word delivery of “The Complicated Men of the 1940s.”

This record isn’t background music—it’s a powerful amalgam of socially relevant lessons wrapped up in distinctly personal stories.

Temple’s performance this weekend will also feature two other rising folk stars. From Portland, Oregon, songwriter MAITA employs intricate guitar fingerpicking and a sonorous voice on her forthcoming debut EP, Waterbearer. And Petaluma songstress Ismay matches her country-western aesthetic with an ethereal atmosphere in her promising demos and unforgettable live shows, such as her appearance at last year’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco.

Luke Temple, MAITA and Ismay; Saturday, Jan. 21; ink.paper.plate Studio & Shop, 11401 State Route 1, Point Reyes Station; 6:30pm; $10-$15 donation; 415/873.6008.

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The Power of a Sibling Bond

Studies have found that pairs of siblings aged 3-7 engage in more than 2.5 conflicts on average during a 45-minute play session.

By Maria Grusauskas

When I was 7, I told my 4-year-old brother that his real sister was taken to “Land Kazoozoo,” and I was her replacement, a witch who could look like anyone she wanted. I can still remember the beat of fear in his big brown eyes, and to this day I’m not sure he’s fully dismissed the possibility that I’m an evil imposter.

At 8, I called my older sister a “seed head”—an improvised jab at her shiny dark hair and the shape of her head. At the time, I thought the lame insult had died on contact, and I would have forgotten it entirely had my sister not exhumed it; on her wedding day, no less. She said she still thinks about it every time she puts her hair up.

We are clay when we first meet our siblings, says Jeffrey Kluger in a TED Radio Hour podcast “How We Love,” and “practically set and kiln fired by the time we meet most of our friends and our spouses. But our siblings shape us, we learn from our siblings.”

I’d been thinking about all of this a lot while visiting my siblings over the holidays and simultaneously reading Kluger’s book The Sibling Effect. Kluger says that it’s not necessarily shared genetic material that makes sibling relationships so powerful, but rather shared experiences.

What’s amazing to me, though, is that after so many years of tumult—bickering, name-calling and fighting that sometimes turned violent—my siblings and I seem to like each other now. It’s both a testament to the resilient nature of sibling relationships, and a small consolation for parents grief-stricken by their children’s inability to get along.

Interested in the lingering effects of childhood battles, psychologist Victoria Bedford studied adult siblings over a 22-year period and found that of the 75 percent who fought “somewhat frequently” to “extremely frequently” as children, 87 percent said that once they grew up, arguments with the same siblings occurred “hardly ever or not at all.”

“Having siblings and not making the most of those bonds is, I believe, folly of the first order,” says Kluger. “If relationships are broken and are fixable, fix them. If they work, make them even better. Failing to do so is a little like having a thousand acres of fertile farmland and never planting it. Siblings may be among the richest harvests of the time we have here.”

As resilient and powerful as the sibling bond may be, it’s not indestructible, writes Kluger. Barring unforgivable abuses, though, for adult siblings who have drifted away from each other, whether in apathy or estrangement—and I know of many—reconciliation is always a possibility.

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