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E & P: A new appreciation for DNHS coaches

Today’s the first day on the job for the Triplicate’s new sports editor, Michael Zogg, who just arrived from Iowa.

That’s good news for readers who follow the Warriors and have perhaps noticed that the coverage has been a bit spare in the past month as various news staffers have filled in here and there. Three different people have covered football games, for example. Fortunately, whatever the sport, the words have still been accompanied by Bryant Anderson’s fine photos when Del Norte plays at home.

I’ve been part of the makeshift arrangement, and one thing I’ll take from it is a stronger appreciation of the dedicated coaches who lead our young athletes. I’ve interviewed several of them by phone after a contest, and whether they were celebrating victory or looking for the positives in a defeat, their knowledge of the sport and their empathy for their players was obvious.

We’re lucky to have them, and these conversations have reinforced my belief that the athletic opportunities afforded to our kids — from youth sports to high school varsity competition — are an important part of what makes this a good place to live.

Have fun with them, Michael.

Covering the prison

Once again, reporters came from far and wide to tour Pelican Bay State Prison last week in the wake of a hunger strike protesting the indeterminate terms many inmates serve in Security Housing Units.

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Coastal Voices: Crowded classes 1 sign we are failing in schools

I need to respond to the Sept. 28 article, “Classes crowded at DNHS.” As a retired teacher of that school, I can attest to this.

“Normal” or “good” is not above 30 or 40 students per class. Multiply this by five classes a day, and that’s 150 to 200 students every day. The Harvard School of Education stated years ago that for effective learning, class size should not be above 20 students.

Where do students go? They drop out! We graduate about half of entering freshmen, but, “We don’t have a ‘drop-out’ problem.”

When I first started teaching at the high school, about 27 years ago, my Spanish classes had about 26 students. My sophomore English classes only had 20, because the state had found that if students remained in school past the 10th grade, they normally graduated, so the state subsidized the classes.

About seven to eight years ago, I taught Independent Study and needed to refresh Algebra. The class I audited was so large that I could not see all the screen or board. I was frustrated and dropped out.

Before I retired, I had wall to wall students; not having room for enough desks, I added chairs to my seating plan. I would assign these to students I thought were emotionally strong and give them extra credit.

With 200, or more, students a day, how can their needs be met? How much attention can they get? How much time can teachers spend on their work?

The ratio previously agreed to by the union, was not an ideal, but an attempt to accommodate  necessity,  but it seems there is no end with the district. How sad it is we spend about $5,000 a year per student to educate here, but the state will spend $58,000 per   year to keep a person in prison.

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Open house for retiring teacher

The leaves on the maple trees in front of my house are starting to turn. There are several yellow ones now and before long there’ll be a lot more colors.

I love that aspect of the maples, but I hate seeing them bare in the winter. I hope the winter flies by because I’m not crazy about the cold weather.

But changes are the cycles of life, and before we know it, there will be little green buds on those branches and it will start all over again.

• Cycles of life change us, too, and are happening to a friend of mine at Grace Lutheran Church.

I first met Jane Goss several years ago when a group of folks from the various churches got together and did a benefit concert for Community Assistance Network, back when I was serving on the board there.

Beside being a very important teaching part of the school at Grace, Jane always helps out at the fair every year, taking in the baked and handcrafted items that are entered. It is always her pleasant smile that makes standing in line awaiting your turn worth the wait.

Jane is retiring after 25 years of classroom teaching, and I’m sure the kids will certainly miss her.

They won’t lose her completely, though, because she’ll still be there in an administrative position.

Today from 1 to 5 p.m., there will be an open house at the church. Guests will be encouraged to decorate a page in the memory book for her. Best wishes, Jane!

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Let’s get real: Water system is in jeopardy

Every citizen of Crescent City should be concerned about the water rate increase that is now before the City Council, not because your rates will go up, but because our water system is in jeopardy.

For parcel owners who think they have a legitimate reason to block the water rate increase, there will be a protest vote public hearing on Nov. 4 so you can be heard. If there are 50 percent plus one parcels counted against the water rate increase, the measure will fail ... and unfortunately, so will our water system at some point.

As you may have heard, our water rates are the lowest in the region and have not been raised in over a decade, which is great for the ratepayers, but not so much for maintaining a critical infrastructure project like our water system, which delivers some of the cleanest water in the region to our homes for less than 50 cents per day.

Even with the 60 percent increase, the average water customer would only be paying an additional $80 per year and getting that clean water delivered to their home for only 53 cents per day — after the initial increase.

Over the last couple of years under the guidance of our city manager, Gene Palazzo, five-year strategic plans have been put into place to help the city anticipate and plan for maintenance, repair and expansion of our critical systems, which include police, fire, buildings, sewer and water.

Without these plans, the city was working in a mainly reactionary manner and having to come up with money for repairs and replacement of assets on the fly, most of the time at greater cost to the taxpayer. With the strategic plans, the city can be more fiscally responsible by planning and saving up through corrective rate increases for services that cover the costs of these maintenance projects, which can go into the millions of dollars.

By not borrowing the money, the city is saving money in the long run.

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Coastal Voices: Even in DN, don't take water for granted

“Whisky is for drinking; water is for fighting over.”

-— Quote attributed to Mark Twain

Lets just forget the possibility of a water rate increase for a minute and take the time to reflect on what water really means to all of us.

Once the importance of water is honestly assessed, we’ll be more equipped to objectively address the rates necessary to deliver the water to our homes and businesses.

We all know from basic science classes that our bodies are actually about 97 percent water! Water is a basic building block of life. Without drinking water none of us survive very long. The majority of the world’s population lives near or depends upon freshwater environments.

My brother recently retired from a career working with the World Health Organization to improve the public health of people living in developing countries. He does not hesitate to volunteer that the biggest threat to the populations of those countries is simply the lack of clean drinking water.

We drink, bathe, cook, clean, flush and play in and around water. Our crops and animals of all kinds need and consume water. We depend on water to put out fires in our forests and buildings. Water runs all manner of machinery and provides power to our industrialized world.

Here in California it is not unusual to hear about “water wars” between special interest groups, and between populations in Northern and Southern California. Dams and reservoirs are constructed, and complex, expensive delivery systems developed.

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Coastal Voices: This isn’t necessarily just a ‘crackpot’ idea

What does it take for an idea to go from “crackpot” to “worthy of consideration” to “the time has come” to “acceptance?”

I imagine our ancestors asked that question as they contemplated the “crackpot” idea of organizing 13 British colonies so that they could consider the outlandish idea of breaking away from the British yoke of oppression.

 They had legitimate reasons that they enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. They were willing to risk their lives, fortunes and sacred honor for a cause.

Today we live under an oppressive state government that only listens to the citizens living in large metropolitan areas like San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. 

Our forebears fought the British because those colonists had no representation before the British crown. Is that any different than a state  imposing a tax that only applies to those living in rural areas and exempts cities?

The fire tax is a case in point where only those living in rural areas pay this $150 tax every year even though they are protected by their own local fire departments, to whom they also pay a tax.

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Coastal Voices: Dealing with health care reform puzzle

We are just days away from the Affordable Care Act taking a major step forward as individuals and families begin to seize newly available opportunities to enroll in health care coverage.

All the pieces of the puzzle have to fit together. We won’t know how well all the technology and procedures will work together until after Tuesday, when enrollment commences.  

Undoubtedly, there will be problems — some with easy fixes and some that are more difficult to overcome — to address. Please know that our county agency and staff are doing everything in our control to bring health care coverage and the expansion to our residents.

For many in our community, it is the county where the rubber meets the road in health care reform.  Del Norte County Department of Health and Human Services is where many people will turn to understand the available health care coverage options either through the expansion of MediCal, or through the state insurance exchange, known as Covered California, which will offer income-based federal subsidies.

For Del Norte County, state projections indicate an additional 2,000 individuals will be eligible for MediCal and another 3,000 for the state insurance exchange. 

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Protest aside, what about our water?

It’s not an election year, but there is a door-to-door campaign unfolding nevertheless on the streets of Crescent City.

Both inside and outside the city limits, users of the city water system are being asked to sign letters protesting plans for a rate increase. If enough such letters are collected by Nov. 4, the proposal is quashed.

The natural inclination, of course, is to oppose anything that adds to your monthly expenses, especially if it seems to provide no additional services. The opponents of the rate increase are banking on this simplistic response. They say the good folks of Crescent City can’t afford to pay more. Period. End of story.

After all, when the budget’s tight, long-term maintenance gets deferred, right?

The problem with that line of thinking is that, while it may be prudent to postpone a new coat of paint on the house, it’s irresponsible not to maintain a public system that delivers fresh, clean, downright good-tasting water to your tap, your neighbors’ taps, the whole community’s taps. And once that system falls into disrepair, it’s a lot more complicated to fix it than to finally get around to that paint job.

Another problem with the just-say-no campaign is it ignores the fact that city officials have already deferred taking care of the water system’s finances to the point of irresponsibility.

The water system is aging. An elevated storage tank needs to be made more earthquake-resistant. And the water fund has been running a deficit that the city has been covering with reserves that are now depleted.

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Church Notebook: Church offers ‘Around the World’ class

When I got home from Bible study Thursday night, I made a disheartening discovery. I had forgotten to turn on the porch light before I left.

But the not thinking about it wasn’t the problem. The whole thing of it was, once again, how time has flown — that we have arrived at that point in the year when turning that light on is a necessity in order to arrive safely at the front door.

Before we know it, most of our days will be wet and windy again. At least the rose bushes and other flowering things will have a never-ending source of water that doesn’t require hauling out the garden hose!

I’m about to embark on a repeat of four years ago — the time I grew my jalapenos on the kitchen counter all winter.

Four years ago, I had four mild-variety jalapenos growing in a big pot on the back porch. I like the flavor of those peppers, but the regular variety make my mouth sore. So the mild ones seemed like a good thing to try.

They were growing beautifully, about 24 inches tall. One morning I went out to water them, and found them completely denuded of leaves. The slugs had had a feast. I watered anyway, hoping they’d come back.

Come back they did —unfortunately, for a repeat slug feast. Well, maybe they’d come back again. Water and a liberal application of slug pellets did the trick. Come back? They did so with a vengeance. At 30 inches, and just loaded with leaves and blossoms, I observed them with smug satisfaction. I was going to get some peppers after all. Really?

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Coastal Voices: Poor residents can't pay more for water

I am the organizer of the Prop. 218 protest against the proposed water rate increase, and my reason for this action is to represent the 46 percent of the Crescent City population that lives at or below the federal poverty limit, which as anyone in that group knows, it’s a constant struggle for survival.

The majority of Crescent City citizens have an annual income of $30,000 or less. Of that group, those with an annual income of $10,000 or less is the largest, followed by the second-largest group with annual incomes in the $20,000 range. Our city’s median annual income is $19,000, which is less than half the state average.

Half the population in Crescent City literally can’t afford to pay more for such vital services as water and sewer. That isn’t saying they merely would prefer not to: they simply can’t.

Thanks to the doubling of our sewer rates back in 2007, low-income people, half the population, have already made sacrifices in food, medicine, or other necessary evils of living, to pay their increased sewer bill. We were told with that rate increase to just suck it up, and we were forced to do so. But for those living on a fixed income, or working a low wage job — which is the bulk of jobs Crescent City has to offer — the incomes have not gone up, in fact, adjusting for inflation they’ve gone down, and cost of living has increased.

Another aspect to consider that was pointed out to me by a local business person: These rate increases combined with lowered incomes take enough out of customers’ pockets that it affects their ability to buy extras: get haircuts or nails done, buy clothing or shoes, go out for an occasional meal or movie. This hurts local business.

Look around at the empty houses and closed businesses. Do we want to turn Crescent City into a ghost town? It appears to be already on its way.

But I’ve noticed a pattern with city dealings: the poorer end of the population is not even considered in its solutions. It’s as if our plight is not real to them. If they really understood what it’s like to live on $866 a month, they would not be coming with their hands out one more time.

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