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JANUARY 22 - JANUARY 28, 2010

MARiN’S BEST EVERY WEEK

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

My body is a temple of accumulated error. [SEE PAGE 28]

Upfront

Behind the Sun

Theater

Stop the N-sanitary!

Portrait of the artist as a young man

Talking scriptures

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› › pacificsun.com

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www.marinbeautycompany.com JANUARY 22 – JANUARY 28, 2010 PACIFIC SUN 3

DONATE YOUR AUTO Point Reyes National Seashore Association

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›› THiS WEEK

Year 48, No. 04

PaciďŹ c Sun 835 Fourth St. Suite B (entrance on Cijos St.) San Rafael, CA 94901 Phone: 415/485-6700 Fax: 415/485-6226 E-Mail: letters@pacificsun.com

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Mr. Dave also has a keen eye for classy album-cover art... Music, p. 28. 6 Letters 7 Upfront 8 Behind the Sun/Trivia CafĂŠ 10 Heroes & Zeros 11 Publisher’s Comment 13 Feature 16 Style 20 Best of Marin Ballot Information 22 Open Homes 24 Food & Drink 26 Single in the Suburbs 27 That TV Guy 28 Music 29 Theater 30 Film 31 Movies 32 Sundial 36 ClassiďŹ eds 38 Horoscope

›› ON THE COVER

›› STAFF PUBLISHER - Sam Chapman (x315) EDITORIAL Editor: Jason Walsh (x316); Reporter: Samantha Campos (x319); Movie Page Editor: Matt Stafford (x320); Copy Editor: Carol Inkellis (x317); Calendar Editor: Anne Schrager (x330) CONTRIBUTORS Lee Brady, Greg Cahill, Pat Fusco, Richard Gould, Marc Hershon, Richard P. Hinkle, Brooke Jackson, Brenda K. Kinsel, Jill Kramer (x322), Lois MacLean, Joel Orff, Rick Polito, Renata Polt, Peter Seidman, Nikki Silverstein, Annie Spiegelman, David Templeton, Barry Willis. Books Editor: Elizabeth Stewart (x326) ADVERTISING Advertising Director: Linda Black (x306) Senior Display Representative: Dianna Stone (x307) Display Sales: Ethan Simon (x311), Linda Curry (x309); Inside Sales: Helen Hammond (x303); Courier: Gillian Coder; Traffic Coordinator: Amanda Deely (x302) DESIGN AND PRODUCTION Art Director/Production Manager: Beth Allen (x335); Graphic Designers: Gwen Aguilar (x336), Michelle Palmer (x321); Missy Reynolds, Gabe Lieb, Brindl Markle (x308)

Design Beth Allen

Embarcadero Publishing Company. (USPS 454-630) Published weekly on Fridays. Distributed free at more than 400 locations throughout Marin County. Adjudicated a newspaper of General Circulation. Home delivery in Marin available by subscription: $5/month on your credit card or $60 for one year, cash or check. No person may, without the permission of the Pacific Sun, take more than one copy of each Pacific Sun weekly issue. Entire contents of this publication Copyright Š2009 Embarcadero Publishing Company ISSN; 0048-2641. All rights reserved. Unsolicited manuscripts must be submitted with a stamped self-addressed envelope.

ADMINISTRATION Business Administrator: Cynthia Nguyen (x331) Administrative Assistant: Elisa Keiper (x301) Circulation Manager: Bob Lampkin (x340) PRINTING: Paradise Post, Paradise, CA

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The exhibition is organized by National Geographic, Arts and Exhibitions International, and AEG Exhibitions, with cooperation from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities. The San Francisco presentation is sponsored by Athena Troxel Blackburn, Mrs. Thomas B.Crowley, Sr., Rajnikant and Helen Desai, and Beringer Vineyards. Accessibility programs for this exhibition are supported by the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund.

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Recovery Without Walls successfully treats patients with an individualized, outpatient program. It is founded and directed by Howard Kornfeld, M.D., a leading authority on treating alcoholism and addiction, as well as chronic pain. Dr. Kornfeld has been a medical leader in Marin County for over two decades and has taught about addiction medicine as a member of the clinical faculty at the UCSF School of Medicine for over ten years. Dr. Kornfeld is an expert in gentle, therapeutic detoxification from alcohol and drugs, particularly as a leading practitioner in the use of Suboxone (buprenorphine), a medication for the management of both pain and the addiction that can happen so quickly from opiate pain pills. Dr. Kornfeld combines his pharmacological expertise with a pioneering medical methodology that naturally aids recovery.

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ONE ON ONE TREATMENT FOR CHRONIC PAIN AND ADDICTION JANUARY 22 – JANUARY 28, 2010 PACIFIC SUN 5

›› LETTERS We, the jury To the Pacific Sun: We on the Marin County Grand Jury write in reference to the Pacific Sun’s recent Upfront article by Peter Seidman [“Runaway Grand Jury?” Dec. 18]. We write because California state law forbids grand juries from discussing their reports or defending themselves once a report is issued. The future of the Marin Clean Energy initiative is a key issue. Supporters and opponents hold strong opinions regarding its value and viability. The Marin County Civil Grand Jury’s report recommending abandonment of the initiative has prompted strong reactions from some MCE proponents. Unfortunately, some responses included attacks on the grand jury itself. We believe such attacks reflect a misunderstanding of the role and process of the grand jury, which is not a political body. It is, rather, a legally sanctioned independent unit of 19 volunteers who take an oath of office to diligently and truthfully investigate and report on aspects of local government in an unbiased manner. It is a watchdog agency beholden to no governmental or political entity. Grand jury investigations stress impartiality, neutrality and detachment; any member with even a potential conflict of interest removes him- or herself from germane discussions. Investigations typically include multiple interviews, reviews of public and private documents, and, when appropriate, on-site visits. A committee cautiously vets each draft report and revision. Then an editorial committee and the full grand jury scrutinize every word. In accordance with California law, only after at least 12 of the 19 grand jurors and the

presiding judge of the Superior Court approve the report is a final version issued. The law provides a final report may be submitted for comments to responsible parties and entities before being released to the public. This comment period is usually between two to five days prior to release. The grand jury followed its mission by objectively probing and reporting on Marin Clean Energy. By all means, its recommendations should be examined and discussed. But to attack the institution or its credibility because one disagrees with its conclusions is to do a disservice to residents who want to weigh the actual pros and cons of the issue. Sincerely, Catherine D. McKown, president Marin Chapter, California Grand Jurors’ Association

It’s like a game of Monopoly, and we’re the shoe... It is unfortunate that by its narrow 3-2 vote, the Ross Town Council has choked off free-market choice for the town’s ratepayers. Citing the grotesquely flawed Marin Civil Grand Jury report was the worst possible excuse for its action. Now all Ross ratepayers— those that want reduced greenhouse gas emissions and those that don’t—are forcibly stuck with whatever PG&E deigns to offer them. They won’t get to choose, as residents of most other Marin cities will, between PG&E electricity and Marin Clean Energy’s considerably cleaner offering. When Ross’s council majority eventually comes around to see the error of their monopoly-influenced ways, perhaps they can consider opting in—for freer choice, reduced risk and greener power—during MCE’s phase two. And that goes for Novato, Corte Madera and Larkspur, too. Ed Mainland, Novato

›› TOWNSQUARE

TOP POSTINGS THIS WEEK

Another Year For Novato Sanitary District Drama Dennis Welsh, the newly elected member of the Novato Sanitary District board, is embroiled in a dispute with fellow board members over the rescheduling of a Dec. 28 closed-ses... Palin coming to Fox News Just announced, Sarah Palin will be offering political commentary & analysis on the Fox News, Fox Business and Fox Radio Networks. She will also host a new show called “Real A... Can Courts Get Waste Management to Do What’s Right? Waste Management Inc. (WMI) is the mega-corporation that owns and operates Redwood Landfill, a dump next to sensitive wetlands north of Novato. WMI complains they can’t do go...

Your soapbox is waiting at ›› pacificsun.com

Who said romance is dead? The saying use to be, “Women have what men want and they know it!” But, unfortunately, the current truth is that women have what men want and they don’t know it. In her recent Single in the Suburbs column, Greek playwright “Obsession, For Men” Aristophanes’ comedy [Jan. 8], Nikki Silver- ‘Lysistrata’ centered on stein says she wouldn’t war-weary wives with“consider cutting off sex holding sex to end the to punish or change” Peloponnesian War. her commitment-phobic sometimes-boyfriend. I am not sure if she was being sarcastic or humorous, but a woman should not cut sex off to punish or change a man. She should cut off sex to not waste her own time. In the same issue, the Advice Goddess has a writer who moved in with her boyfriend and then was shocked when he was not committed to her. Saving money on the rent does not make a man love you or want to marry you. If men weren’t getting as much sex as they wanted from as big of a variety of women as they desired they would be down on their knees begging a woman to marry them. And then children would have fathers who live with them. Simple! Myra, San Anselmo

Dental hygiene ain’t the only thing we’ve got on the Brits... Teen pregnancy has proven to be an increasing problem over the past several decades. Statistics have shown that the United States has the highest teen-pregnancy rate in the world. For developed countries alone, the U.S. outweighs its runner-up, Great Britain, in teen births by nearly 50 percent. In fact, one-third of the women in America get pregnant before they are 20. These pregnancies have come with a high cost to the nation; at least $7 billion goes toward dealing with teen pregnancies each year. Some of this funding is used to directly support teenage mothers and their children. The rest of the money goes to prevention programs across the country that inform teenagers of safe ways to go about having sex, as well as advocating abstinence. Although 6 PACIFIC SUN JANUARY 22– JANUARY 28, 2010

the funding is widespread it is not enough to cover the estimated $500,000 cost of rearing a child. Along with such expenses, come the sacrifices these young mothers are forced to make. Most are likely to drop out of school before getting a high school diploma and only 1.5 percent of teenage moms have a college degree by age 30. The mother is not the only one affected by this one decision; studies have shown that children born to teenage mothers have a greater chance of experiencing abuse and neglect. More specifically, sons born to teenage mothers have a 13 percent greater chance of ending up in jail compared to children born to non-teen parents. And daughters born to teenage mothers are 22 percent more likely to become a teenage mother themselves. In this way we perpetuate a traditionally difficult lifestyle. It is time for a change. Let us start at the beginning of the issue, preventing the unwanted pregnancies from occurring. Let us donate money to nonprofits such as Huckleberry Youth Organization and Planned Parenthood to make everyone aware, educated, and have equal access to preventative options. Let us make a difference! Seadisc Academy, Drake High School

If that’s the case then it’s one helluva strange recruitment film... The Hurt Locker shouldn’t be awarded best picture because it is a war-glorifying propaganda piece. It is a very incredulous, unrepentant pro- War is great! war piece of crap that unironically honors war and murder and makes us implicit in furthering and supporting the war. An artistically flawed and politically backward film! Eric Seligson, Marin

Where the sidewalk ends indeed Funny how nobody gave a sh-t about Haiti until the earthquake. Reminds me of the Shel Silverstein lyrics, “Nashville is rough on the living—but she really does right by the dead.” Craig Whatley, San Rafael

Put your stamp on the letters to the editor at ›› pacificsun.com

›› UPFRONT

Witness for the prosecution? Newest board member has Novato Sanitary District in another fine mess... by Pe te r Se i d m an

I

t didn’t take long. Just days after the lone opposition candidate to win a spot on the Novato Sanitary District took his seat, the first confrontation erupted in a district that has been wracked with dissension. The acrimony and accusations that have been flowing through the district mirror a general anti-government attitude evident on the boards of government agencies across the county, state and country. In the words of Beverly James, general manager of the Novato Sanitary District, “It is a challenging time for local public agencies, and Marin is a challenging environment in which to work.” Residents and board members in sanitary districts in the Ross Valley and Southern Marin can attest to that. Those districts have been working through their own controversies, but the polarization in the Novato district sets it apart. The latest dustup in Novato came on Dec. 23, according to Dennis Welsh, one of three opposition candidates who ran for three open seats on the Novato Sanitary District Board. Welsh, Bill Scott and Dennis Fishwick campaigned on a slate opposing the district’s plan to privatize its new wastewater treatment plant under a contract with a multinational corporation. Welsh, the lone opposition candidate to win a seat on the board, garnered the most votes in the election, emblematic of the

polarized district. He received 5,844 votes, or 20.47 percent, in the Nov. 3 election, according to the Marin County Registrar of Voters. Scott came in fourth, just five votes shy of incumbent Bill Long who, along with fellow incumbent Mike Di Giorgio, won re-election. (Di Giorgio received the second largest vote count behind Welsh, another example of polarization.) That set up a 4-to-1 majority on the board. Welsh was sworn in at a Dec. 14 board meeting. At a regularly scheduled board meeting on Dec. 28, an agenda item called for a closed session during which the board would discuss legal matters associated with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency raid at district offices in May. It was part of an investigation into alleged environmental violations in the district in 2006 and 2007. Welsh was the superintendent at the Novato plant from 1987 to 2006, when he retired. Last spring, the EPA interviewed Welsh as part of its investigation leading up to the raid. The district and the board maintain that they do not know the details of the EPA investigation, and the agency has not yet revealed its case, or potential case. That Welsh was called in during the investigation made some people at the Novato district a little nervous when the board wanted to meet in closed session regarding the case. “It was the instinctual sense of things that he should recuse 9 >

›› NEWSGRAMS Marin Energy seeks power At their January board meeting, Marin Energy Authority Board of Directors received presentations from potential power suppliers, including Power Choice, Sol Orchard, SunRun and Pacific Biogas Energy. Since Nov. 5, when the Marin Energy Authority (MEA) board released the final draft to secure a power supply for the proposed Marin Clean Energy program, the county of Marin, along with the cities and towns of Belvedere, Fairfax, Mill Valley, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito and Tiburon have reaffirmed their commitment to the initiative.The next MEA meeting, in which the board will consider approval of the final contract to supply power for MCE, will be held 7-9pm Feb. 4 at MCERA headquarters, 1 McInnis Pkwy., San Rafael. Bay Area hit by storms, power outages Storms hit early this week, as high winds, heavy rain, thunder and occasional lightning continue to impact the entire region. About 29,000 PG&E customers lost power throughout the Bay Area—including more than 2,300 in Marin. The San Francisco Zoo closed for a couple of days, as did the Alameda/Oakland Ferry. Mudslides occurred on roads in San Jose and Napa, as well as falling trees (one causing a temporary closure on the Bay Bridge’s Treasure Island off-ramp). The rate of rainfall reached up to a quarter of an inch per hour in some spots, with San Rafael receiving 2.13 inches, Kentfield 2.2 inches, Novato 1.75 inches and Point Reyes Station receiving 1.4 inches in less than 24 hours. More storms with high winds—up to 50-60 mph—are expected throughout the week, along with a flood advisory. For the most up-to-date weather info, visit www.readymarin.org and click on “Current Emergency Information.” For school closure info, visit http://mcoeweb.marin. k12.ca.us/emerprep/. Free sandbags are being offered to residents of most Bay Area counties (including Marin): Call 2-1-1 or 800/273-6222 or visit www.211BayArea.org. Former West Marin rancher was community role model Rancher Donald J. McIsaac Sr. of Tocaloma—near Point Reyes Station—and Sun City, Arizona, died Jan. 15 after a short illness. He was 93. Mr. McIsaac was a beef and dairy rancher in West Marin for several decades, at one time serving as president of the Marin Farm Bureau and director of the Marin County Resource Conservation District. Born in Nicasio and a graduate of San Rafael High School, Mr. McIsaac was a member and former president of the Nicasio Native Sons of the Golden West; served on the boards of trustees of the West Marin School District and Olema School District; was a member of the Marin County Civil Grand Jury, the West Marin Chamber of Commerce and the West Marin Lions Club; and was a director of Arden Farms and member of the California Cattlemen’s Association. Mr. McIsaac was married to Lorraine Janes McIsaac for 54 years (she died in 1994), raised five sons on the McIsaac Ranch, remarried in 1997 and moved to Arizona in 2008, making frequent family visits to West Marin. He is survived by his wife, Arletta, five children, three stepchildren, 16 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren. A funeral Mass in his honor will take place at 11am Feb. 5 at Sacred Heart Catholic Parish in Olema. Shorts... The Marin Independent Journal is cooperating with Mill Valley officials this week over the cleanup of white paint lines left by a newspaper carrier in residential areas earlier this month to remind himself of designated delivery drop-offs...Serial bank robber Alan David Hurwitz—also known as the“Zombie Bandit”—received a 17-year sentence in federal prison this week for his string of December 2008 stick-ups in San Rafael.—Samantha Campos EXTRA! EXTRA! Post your Marin news at ›› pacificsun.com

JANUARY 22 - JANUARY 28, 2010 PACIFIC SUN 7

›› BEHiND THE SUN

From the Sun vaults, January 25 - 31, 1980

Episode 1: Return of the Journalist Sinister newspaper tails heroic filmmaker into asteroid field of questions... by Jason Wals h

30

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

And by that we mean years ago 30 years ago this week in Marin. It was the winter of 1980; the Ayatollah had just taken power in Iran, Zimbabwean strongman Robert Mugabe was consolidating control in southern Africa, and the United States was preparing to boycott the summer Olympics in Moscow. But there was some good news ahead in the new decade. The Empire Strikes Back was opening in May! Despite mercurial space-opera mastermind George Lucas’s strictly adhered to interview-request policy—which was to basically not grant them—Pacific Sun reporter Joanne Williams used a few Jedi interview-request mind tricks of her own (she kept asking for one) that got her through the front door of the filmmaker’s San Anselmo home quicker than Obi Wan Kenobi slipped past the stormtroopers at Mos Eisley. And once she got the notoriously tightlipped 36-year-old talking, it was hard to get him to stop—the interview ran nearly 5,000 words—so in typical Star Wars fashion we’re breaking the interview up into “episodes,” with the first sequel coming next week. Here’s the first part of one of the Sun’s most classic interviews—George Lucas, just as his film career was making the jump to light speed. O



O



O



O

‘Star Wars’ was one of the biggest box office successes of all time. What was its genesis? Star Wars is really three trilogies, nine films. I wrote it as one long 18-hour movie in two-hour increments. When it’s all done it will be one of the most expensive films ever made. There was no way to do it all at once; you have to do it one at a time and each time we learn a bit more technically. It won’t be finished for probably another 20 years. The real history is that I split it into six films, two trilogies at first, and after the success of Star Wars I added a third. Star Wars and the first sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, are really the first two films in the middle trilogy. When I finish the third film, Luke Skywalker’s part, I’m going back to the first trilogy, which is about young Ben Kenobi, Luke’s young father and young Darth Vader. The next film in the trilogy, which I’m writing the screenplay on right now, will be out in 8 PACIFIC SUN JANUARY 22 – JANUARY 28, 2010

›› TRiViA CAFÉ

by Howard Rachelson

1. The roof and exterior walls of the Marin County Civic Center are painted what two colors, which mimic its environment? 2. The names of what four U.S. state capitals contain the word city? 3. Possibly the world’s most common bird is known in Latin as Gallus gallus.What is it in English? 4. Announced last Sunday in Beverly Hills, name these Golden Globes winners from 2009: 4a. Best Motion Picture — Drama 4b. Best Motion Picture — Comedy or Musical 5. In 1940, what politician said,“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”? 6. Devised about 100 years ago to simulate the skills required of a 19th-century cavalry soldier, what five sports make up the modern pentathlon? 7. Around 1850, at a feminist conference in Seneca Falls, N.Y., a woman named Amelia wore this outlandish costume, which eventually became very popular among women and was named after her.Who was she? 8. Counterfeit currency 8a. What is the most commonly counterfeited U.S. paper bill? 8b. What is the most commonly counterfeited euro bill? 9. On what two days each year do Americans consume the most food? 10. Find the measure of each angle of an equiangular pentagon.

Lucas, in his San Anselmo home, 1980.

1983. I can’t give out the title now because it isn’t trademarked. Did you start in the middle for artistic reasons? Artistic and practical. I couldn’t start with the first and walk through it chronologically because the first trilogy is more plot oriented, more soap-opera-ish than Luke’s story. The problem is like a play, the first act is essentially exposition and you’ve got to explain everything. That’s usually pretty boring so I wanted to avoid that and get into the meat of the matter, get everybody interested. Right now, nobody knows what the problem is. Things are going on that are very complicated, very Machiavellian, that Luke doesn’t know about. I started in the center because I thought it was the most action oriented, and at the same time the audience has the same kind of innocence Luke has. As Luke finds things out we find things out. Later I’ll go back for the exposition part. People will be more tolerant because they’ll have more information. The first trilogy takes place about 20 years before this one. A trilogy takes place over eight or nine years, with a few years between films. The first Star Wars was originally called Star Wars, Episode Four, A New Hope. I chickened out at the last minute, thinking people aren’t going to understand what this is all about, so we dropped “New Hope, Episode Four.” Now we’re putting it back on. Empire will be called Episode Five.

#4a

#4b

#7 BONUS QUESTION: In 1909, on the centennial of his birth, he became the first person displayed on a U.S. coin. Who was he?

#5 Howard Rachelson, Marin’s Master of Trivia, invites you to a live team trivia contest at 7:30pm every Wednesday at the Broken Drum on Fourth Street in San Rafael. Join the quiz—send your Marin factoids to howard1@triviacafe.com.

To many people R2D2 was the star of the show. Is he a character you made up? The truth of the story is, when we were mixing soundtracks from American Graffiti—sound editor Walter Murch, who works with us and lives here in Marin, and I were working at 3 o’clock in the morning mixing—we wanted to fix something on one of the tracks. You have about 15 soundtracks in a film and about three or four dialogue tracks. There are 21 reels to a movie. So Walter asked me to go over to the rack and get R2D2, that’s reel 2, dialog 2, and I said, “I like that, that’s a great name.” I wrote down in my little book, “great name.” When I was developing the character of the little robot I developed it around that name. Are there new characters in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’?

Answers on page 36

There’s a new character played by Billy Dee Williams, a friend of Han Solo’s, and there’s another character who’s a Jedi master who’s teaching Luke how to be a Jedi. Otherwise the cast is the same? Yes, everyone else is in it. Empire is a different kind of movie than the first one. It’s a rather sad movie, more of a tragedy than a comedy. It’s still got a lot of very funny stuff in it. But it’s like the second part of a trilogy, therefore it’s the second act and has all the problems of a second act. Everything goes wrong in the second act and gets straightened out in the third. I think it’s a better film than the first one. < Next week: Lucas and the Sun discuss religion, child rearing and morality.

Blast into Marin’s past with more Behind the Sun at ›› pacificsun.com

›› UPFRONT < 7 Witness for the prosecution? himself, and he did not wish to recuse himself,” says Kent Alm, attorney for the district, “so we terminated the meeting so there would not be any Brown Act violation until we could resolve this matter.” (The Ralph M. Brown Act is the state’s open-meeting law, which forbids meetings behind closed doors except under special circumstances.) Welsh came out swinging and claimed the board and the district were violating the Brown Act. “I believe this continuance to be unlawful,” Welsh wrote in a letter to the county district attorney. “A matter can be continued but not for the purpose of preventing a duly elected member from participating in the meeting. I find these events troubling because I believe this attempted exclusion to be in violation of the Brown Act, with the board thwarting the will of the electorate.” That letter is dated Jan. 6. Six days later, Welsh wrote another letter, this time to Di Giorgio, president of the Sanitary District board. In it, Welsh clarifies his contention and says the board “may be” meeting to defeat the Brown Act. It’s a technical clarification, which becomes clear when he states that the board “may be having private unnoticed meetings with district counsel.” The clear indication is that Welsh continues to believe the board and the district “may be” meeting in secret. That’s just not the case, says Alm, who reiterated that the closed session meeting was in fact postponed so the district would not violate the Brown Act. The legal matter, he adds, actually has more to do with other meeting laws than with the Brown Act. “There may be a balancing of rights,” says Alm, “of the board or the agency to have a candid attorney-client conference balanced against the right of a board member who may be involved and who may be an adversary in a legal proceeding to be present at a meeting. We have not taken a final position on it. It merely came to a head [when Welsh refused to recuse himself].” Welsh, not surprisingly, disagrees with Alm. In his letter to Di Giorgio, Welsh says that in a telephone conversation with an investigator at the district attorney’s office, the investigator “stated he did not know of any case law that would support the [Sanitary District’s] position of my exclusion from the closed sessions at this time.” Alm, also not surprisingly, disagrees. On Jan. 14, Alm said he soon would send his arguments regarding the situation to the district attorney’s office, and he would send a copy to Welsh and other board members. The unstated supposition is that Welsh could be something of a hostile witness to the district, no matter what personal position he takes regarding the alleged violations while he was superintendent—

especially considering that the EPA interviewed him as a potential witness for the prosecution. In November, the board hired an environmental law firm to represent district interests in any legal action that may stem from the alleged environmental violations. A representative of the law firm of Barg Coffin Lewis & Trapp asked the EPA whether Welsh was a witness. “The answer was affirmative,” says Di Giorgio. Welsh says that although he was interviewed, no one ever told him whether the EPA definitely will call him as a witness. “Lots of people can be potential witnesses,” he says, and that’s not sufficient reason to exclude him from board business. But if the EPA possibly intends to present Walsh as a witness in a case against the district, say Alm and district officials, it’s not unreasonable to exclude him from what amount to strategy sessions regarding the case. The district has yet to get a definitive answer about whether Welsh is a potential or definite witness and what that distinction might mean in a possible court case. “We have yet to receive that report” from the law firm, says Di Giorgio. He and Alm contend that the situation will reach a rational resolution based on legal interpretations rather than emotions. The board and the district, Di Giorgio maintains, never intended to exclude Welsh from district business because of his vocal opposition against positions the other board members assume, including the plan to privatize the new $90-million wastewater treatment plant. The issues Welsh raises regarding the Brown Act “will be resolved through the process,” says Di Giorgio. “Let the process work. If it is determined he does have a conflict of interest, he will be asked [again] to recuse himself.” While the board and district administration wait for a legal determination from their law firm and the district attorney, James notes that district board members have received extensive training in implementing the Brown Act. “Dennis is new to the board and hasn’t yet had the training, so perhaps he’s not yet aware” of Brown Act details and compliance issues. Welsh disagrees. And he says he plans to continue pushing to present his positions on the board to represent residents who elected him. “Let us all resolve to attempt in good faith to narrow [our] differences where possible,” he states in the letter to Di Giorgio. But he ends with a kicker: “I intend to do the job I was elected to do and that includes participating in every meeting and discussion that this board conducts.” The district has been conducting business on a razor’s edge of dissent since the board proposed privatizing its new treatment plant. On July 27, the board voted to sign a five-year contract with Veolia Water North America. The contract runs 10 > for five years, and the district has

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›› UPFRONT

I think most of these “free tire repair” offers are SCAMS, placing you in a position where you end up spending a lot more money than you expected, especially when you go in thinking it will be FREE.

MOST OF THEM WORK LIKE THIS: You bring in your tire with a nail in it for your FREE REPAIR. Now dealers on this program only fix 2 or 3 out of 10 flat tires. That leaves only 7 tires that are not repairable because “the puncture is on the side wall, the puncture is on the crown, or the puncture has torn your Butyl liner,”, etc..etc..etc! IT’S CALLED: “HOW MANY NEW TIRES CAN I SELL YOU?”

Your tire is not repairable, so you need to buy a new tire, for about $150.000. BUT you can’t buy just one tire…you have to buy at least 2 tires so they match up! You end up spending about $369.00 & you’re on your way. Now the dealer fixes the tire, (the same tire he couldn’t fix for you), and sells it for around $40 or $50 each. Your FREE FLAT repair cost you $369.00! Bring your flat tires to CAINS – we’ll repair it for about $30.00 & it will be “good as new!” FOR THE MOST CHOICES & BEST PRICES FOR USED & NEW TIRES AND THE BEST VALUE FOR YOU…

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HAITI HERO

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< 9 Witness for the prosecution? the option to extend the contract for two three-year options; the financial terms will be renegotiated if the district exercises the options. When the news broke that the district was ready to pay Veolia $15.6 million for a five-year operations and maintenance contract, opponents began lining up to protest a move that they said would privatize a public asset, even if it is a deal that includes an ultimate sunset. Opponents say they mistrust the numbers, including an assumption by a consulting firm the district hired that Veolia could save the district $7.2 million over the length of the five-year deal. A group coalesced in opposition to the deal, which included the newly formed Alliance of Concerned Citizens of Novato. Concerned Citizens garnered a big ally when California Healthy Communities came to Novato to help the antiprivatization fight. Healthy Communities is connected to the Tides Center in San Francisco, a home for progressive politics and social justice efforts. Roots of the Tides Center rest in the Tides Foundation, an organization founded in 1976. Healthy Communities and its ally, Food & Water Watch, adamantly oppose privatizing water utilities. With the help of Healthy Communities, the opposition to the Veolia deal mounted a petition drive and succeeded in getting enough signatures to qualify the Veolia arrangement on the June 8 ballot. Some disagreement exists over whether a referendum in the Novato district would be binding. “In all likelihood it would,” says James, “but there are potential issues as to whether it’s a referendable issue. The

Sanitary Act allocates specifically to the board of directors the responsibility to enter into contracts.” But the board decided to refrain from mounting a legal challenge to the referendum and to let it get on the ballot unopposed. Should voters pass the referendum, however, the district still could mount the legal challenge. Welsh says the referendum will be a binding vote. The Veolia deal “will have to stop as soon as the vote is certified.” The referendum already has made an impact on the district, which suspended its contract with Veolia on Dec. 12, and downgraded, at least temporarily, its relationship with the company. James says the district expects to start up the new $90-million plant on schedule, bringing “a good portion” on line in March and most units in operation by June. To accomplish that, the district has entered into an emergency services agreement with Veolia, which will cost $40,000 per month. In addition to using Veolia as a kind of consultant with its own employees, the district has hired two temporary workers to help get the plant started and running. Union opposition has surfaced because the Veolia deal would allow the district to shed public employees, along with their pension and benefit plans. James acknowledges the forces behind the debate. “They are largely driven by the challenges that public employees and public employers are facing, and that creates a lot of uncertainty and an atmosphere for controversy.” < Contact the writer at peter@pseidman.com.

It’s your county, speak up at ›› pacificsun.com

▲ This week’s Hero/Zero column 888/392-0392, doctorswithoutborders.

is dedicated to the heroes of Haitian relief. Listed are agencies accepting donations to provide help to Jan. 12 quake victims in Haiti: American Red Cross, 888/4435722, www.redcrossbayarea. org. (You can also text HAITI to 90999 and a $10 donation to relief efforts will be charged to your phone bill.) CARE, 800/521CARE, www.care.org. Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, www. haitiaction.net. Mercy Corps, 888/256-1900, mercycorps.org. Partners In Health, 617/432-5256, pih.org/home.html. UNICEF, 800/486-4233, www.unicefusa. org/haitiquake. World Vision, 888/5116598, worldvision.org. Save the Children, 800/728-3843, savethechildren.org. International Rescue Committee, 877/733-8433, www.theirc.org. Doctors without Borders,

org. Soles for Souls, www.solesforsouls. org is collecting rugged and sturdy shoes for rescue workers and civilian survivors. O O  O O

Locally, Tamalpais Bank has set up an account for people to donate money to the American Red Cross; Circle Bank is directing funds to Doctors Without Borders; and Redwood Credit Union is accepting contributions to the American Red Cross International Response Fund. Toast Mill Valley (31 Sunnyside Ave., 415/3882500) and Toast Novato (5800 Nave Dr., 415/382-1144) will hold a fundraiser Jan. 26 in support of Haitian relief services, donating all proceeds to Doctors Without Borders. NovatoSpirit is hosting a Valentine Bake-a-thon for Haiti Relief through The International Rescue Committee, Feb. 1-28. For more info, call 415/892-5118. —Samantha Campos

Got a Hero or a Zero? Please send submissions to scampos@pacificsun.com. Toss roses, hurl stones with more Heroes and Zeros at ›› pacificsun.com

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hen I came to the PaciďŹ c Sun a little over ďŹ ve years ago to become its publisher, Embarcadero Media, a small, independent Bay Area company, had just acquired the paper from its longtime owner and publisher, Steve McNamara. I was excited and honored to be given the opportunity to preserve the best of this important community voice and, at the same time, usher it into a new era. I quickly came to appreciate its talented, creative and dedicated staff, all of whom were in their positions because of their love for journalism and the Sun. It has been a joy to work with such special Sam took the reigns of the Sun in late 2004. people every day. I want you to know that I have made a know that the Sunâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s greatest challenge, as difďŹ cult decision to leave the Sun for an ex- is the case with all publications, is to thrive ceptional opportunity at Lawrence Berkeley in the current unprecedented recession and in a world that is increasNational Laboratory (www. ingly moving online. Over lbl.gov), which is doing the past year we made strasome of the best work in the Whatever has been tegic cuts in our expenses world on the major issue of achieved at the Sun in to position us better in this our dayâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;climate change. I economy. Those efforts will be the state and com- the past ďŹ ve years has have paid off and we are in munity affairs manager been achieved because the best ďŹ nancial position for the Lab. I have worked of the work of a team we have been in since 2007. on energy efďŹ ciency and My thanks to each of you renewable resource issues dedicated to providing reading this for your loysince my days as a county the people of Marin alty to the Sun. I also want supervisor, when I chaired with the best in local to thank our advertisers for a governorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s commission on your support and I encoursolar and soft path energy news and analysis, arts solutions, and throughout and entertainment, and age readers to continue to our advertisers my many years as chief of features on fascinating patronize and â&#x20AC;&#x153;tell them you saw it staff for Sen. Barbara Boxer. in the Sun,â&#x20AC;? because your Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m excited that I will be a topics and people. support for our advertisers part of an organization dowill continue to be what ing such good work in such an important ensures a long future for the Sun. I also area at such a crucial time. want to thank Embarcadero Media for the My time at the Sun has been one of opportunity given to me and for its benevodramatic changeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;from a weekly newslent trusteeship as Sun owner. paper to the multimedia enterprise it is Whatever has been achieved at the Sun today. Todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Sun incorporates pacifin the past ďŹ ve years has been achieved icsun.com, a website with dynamic and because of the work of a team dedicated expanding content. We send out a daily to providing the people of Marin with the e-mail newsletter, Express, with highlights best in local news and analysis, arts and of whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s happening and whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most entertainment, and features on fascinatinteresting in Marin. We have a regularly ing topics and people. As other media updated Facebook page and we tweet on downsize and homogenize, the Sunâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Twitter (paciďŹ c_sun). We have an online strong, independent voice is needed more digital edition, and we have a variety of than ever. I am conďŹ dent that the Sun special publications that reach targeted is well equipped with our current team markets and advertisers. We have introto carry on its unique brand of journalduced the Sun to countless new readers ism. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll continue to be one of the Sunâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s during our period of home mailing, and most devoted readers and look forward to we have upgraded working conditions seeing many of you in Marin, which will for our dedicated staff. We have also won many awards in recent years for the quality continue to be my home. < of our writing and design. Flip through our latest issues at While I know I am leaving the Sun in â&#x20AC;şâ&#x20AC;ş paciďŹ csun.com the good hands of a talented team, I also

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Dr. check love Or, how Atul Gawande learned to stop hurrying and check a list... by Ronnie Co he n

D

r. Atul Gawande prescribed an of two doctors who emigrated from India to operating-room safety checklist to Ohio and recently retired, talked to about 150 other surgeons but did not believe he people, many of them physicians and other needed to use one himself. To avoid seeming healthcare workers who read his work in The like a hypocrite though, he did employ the New Yorker. “Interestingly, I did not bring the checklist while operating on his own patients checklist into my operating room because I in Boston two years ago. Since then, he says thought I needed it,” he said. “I did it because the checklist catches a potentially critical I didn’t want to be a hypocrite because I was mistake in his operating room at least once a telling rural Tanzania and Seattle that they ‘We hate [checklists],’ declared the author of a new book about checklists last week at Dominican University. week, and it saved one patient’s life. ought to be doing it. Did I really think that A staff writer for The New Yorkat Harvard we needed the who never before worked together get to and ambitious things.” er as well as a surgeon checkl checklist? No.” know one another and coalesce as a team. Since Gawande published the results of his and a Harvard MediHe chuckled. “It’s like folding your hands before the meal checklist study last January, 20 countries— cal School and Harvard “Th “Then I was chagrined and making sure we genuinely are on the including Canada, Australia, Brazil, Costa School of Public Health to discover disc that from the same page,” he said. Rica, Ecuador, France, Ireland, Jordan, New professor, Gawande is very first week we were “To my surprise, because we’re working Zealand, the Philippines, Spain and the perhaps best known using it, we were catchbetter as a team, the nurses want to come United Kingdom—have committed to for a recent article, coning problems: p antibiotics work with me. We are finishing our day more implementing checklists in hospitals nationsidered required White that weren’t given; a team likely on time. It’s had these side benefits that wide. About 20 percent of U.S. hospitals have House reading, comparmem member saying, ‘What I didn’t expect at all.” adopted checklists, and the state of Washinging the cost of healthcare are we w doing about this Gawande said he never imagined he would ton agreed to implement checklists throughpati in two Texas communipatient’s breathing prob- be writing a book about checklists. He calls out its hospitals, Gawande said. lem ties and making the case lems?’ What breathing them “lowly, humble and overlooked and “We are getting there,” he said, “but at the pro that paying more may problems? I’ve seen it misunderstood.” But being a doctor is more front line is a struggle against almost the idea in aat least one instance buy substantially less. complex today than it was when his parents of what a checklist represents. We hate them. tha Gawande spoke about hiss that I write about in the began their practices. He counts 13,600 It seems contrary to what it means to be an bo most recent book—Thee book save a patient’s diseases he can diagnose, 6,000 drugs he can expert at something. A checklist is a way of life Checklist Manifesto: How To life. I have no question prescribe, and 4,000 medical and surgical dumbing things down, and that’s for other I’v Get Things Right—last weekk I’ve yet to get though a procedures he can perform. people, is the way it’s regarded.” n w at Dominican University in week of surgery in the “Managing to get the right combination At the end of the pilot hospital-checklist la San Rafael. last two years without at the right time at the right place without study, Gawande said 80 percent of surgical iit catching problems.” error has turned out to be incredibly overPhysicians throughout st seller’ teams said they saw value in the checklist, k ‘write another be Gawande can chec to do. the world perform a quarterThe safe-surgery whelming, and doing it without wasting they saw it improve communication and gs in th of off his list billion operations a year, with checklist includes resources without mistreatment, underteamwork, and they saw it catch at least the number of surgeries surchecks to ensure that antibiotics are admin- treatment, over-treatment has brought even one error. But the other 20 percent said the passing the number of childbirths and with istered within an hour of a surgical incision, our economy to the brink,” Gawande said. checklist was a stupid waste of precious time. death rates 10 times higher than infant morthat blood is available in case it is needed On the simplest level, evidence of the The number of skeptics shrank, however, tality rates. Three years ago, the World Health and that the surgeon is doing the right pro- problem can be seen in the rate of patients when the survey asked whether surgical Organization asked Gawande to coordinate cedure on the right side of the right patient. contracting infections in team members would want a checklist if an effort to reduce avoidable complications In London during a kneehospitals. “We still have they were lying on the table about to have and deaths from surgery. replacement surgery, be- “We believe the joy of work, trouble making sure an operation. Put them on the table, and His latest book details his journey recause of the checklist, an we’re all washing our 93 percent of the surgical teams said they especially as experts, comes searching the value of checklists in other inorthopedic surgeon realhands,” he said, “with 2 would want a checklist. dustries, like aviation and construction, and ized before cutting into from autonomy,” Gawande million people picking “We believe the joy of work, especially as developing a two-minute, 19-step surgery his patient that a knee said. “You’ve trained for up infections in hospiexperts, comes from autonomy,” Gawande checklist. Gawande credits the safe-surgery prosthesis he was about tals across the country, said. “You’ve trained for many years, and checklist with reducing major surgical comto use was the wrong size many years, and you know and 100,000 of them you know what you’re doing. Yet we find plications in eight pilot hospitals by a whopand that he did not have what you’re doing. who die from those we can make experts better. We haven’t ping 36 percent. Out of nearly 4,000 patients one that would fit. infections.” yet embraced the notion that we are falin the eight hospitals, the checklist spared The list also ensures that everyone present We know how to prevent hospital infeclible, that the complexity of the world at more than 150 from surgical complications in the room introduces him- or herself, allow- tions, Gawande said, but we fail to apply the this point exceeds the capabilities of our and saved 27 lives. ing the medical student and the nurse to feel knowledge. “Ineptitude has become as much brains to hold it all in. We have to re-think Gathered from widely different hospitals as much a part of the team as the surgeon and or more our struggle as ignorance,” he said. what it means to be great. It is about being with a vast array of resources and needs—in the anesthesiologist. He believes checklists can combat prepared for the unexpected. It’s about the Seattle, London, Auckland, Manila, Amman, “The medical student who barely feels ineptitude. discipline that you’re ready for whatever Toronto, New Delhi and rural Tanzania—the they belong there introduces himself and is “Under conditions of complexity, our may come. The checklist, then, is a tool.” < data shocked Gawande, as did the checkmore likely to say, ‘What is that drug that’s brains are not enough,” he said. “We will fail. Contact Ronnie Cohen at ronniecohen@comcast.net. list’s benefit in his own operating room at dripping on the floor?’” Gawande said. Knowledge has exceeded our capabilities. Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Every surgical team member team explains But with groups of people who can work toWearing a blue suit and tie and standing his/her goals and issues, and during these It’s your county, speak up at gether and take advantage of multiple brains, ›› pacificsun.com at a Dominican podium, Gawande, the son brief introductions, Gawande says people preparing, being disciplined, we can do great

12 PACIFIC SUN JANUARY 22 - JANUARY 28, 2010

CORY BROAD

›› UPFRONT

BETH ALLEN

B

T P U ANKR

one. Neither MediaNews chief Dean Singleton nor his longtime business partner Richard B. Scudder will lose a nickel in the bankruptcy, because neither ever put any of his own money into the company, said a MediaNews spokesman. But they aren’t unscathed. Each of the MediaNews founders will suffer the complete loss of paper gains that at one point theoretically were worth as much as $500 million per man.” Newspapers owned by MediaNews appear to be downplaying the story. The Marin IJ carried a story on Saturday (the paper’s lowest circulation day) at the bottom of its business section that managed to avoid the word “bankruptcy” in its headline and didn’t get to it until the third paragraph. The story received similar treatment in the Mercury News. According to its announcement, Affiliated Media has put together a plan that involves senior creditors trading what is owed them for a share of a “new secured term loan” in a smaller amount but with more collateral to guarantee it. The creditors appear willing to sacrifice a major part of what is owed to them in the hope that a restructured company will be able to survive and grow its value. The alternative may have been that they would lose even more, immediately. Details laid out in an Affiliated Media press release include the following: “At present, senior lenders to the company are owed approximately $590 million, guaranteed by certain affiliates. The company also owes an aggregate principal amount of $326 million to holders of subordinated notes. By accepting the Prepackaged Plan, senior lenders will trade their existing claims and guarantees for a pro rata share of the new secured term loan, in a smaller principal amount but with more collateral and a more financially sound borrower, as well as ownership of a majority of the new equity of the reorganized company, subject to a gradual dilution as a result of grants of restricted stock. Subordinated note holders condition of anonymity because he did not will receive warrants for future equity. All want to discuss the plan publicly.” existing equity interest in Affiliated Media “Giving up interests” could mean that will be cancelled.” What that means is that Hearst was one of the shareholders that the company’s debt will be reduced from Singleton was referring to when he said, “This $930 million to $165 million because major reorganization does not come without pain. creditors, including Bank of America, have Current shareholders will be losing the value agreed to swap what is owed to them for of their holdings.” a better secured loan and a share in the Industry insider and UC Berkeley jour- ownership of the company. nalism instructor Alan Mutter, in his ReflecIn a letter to his employees, Singleton tions of a Newsosaur assured them that he blog, says flatly, “After The Marin IJ carried a story on and company presiplowing well over $1 dent Joseph Lodovic Saturday (the paper’s lowest billion into a decadeIV will retain control long effort to salvage circulation day) at the bottom of of the company its ill-starred purchase its business section that managed and that “you’ll see of the San Francisco no changes in your Chronicle, the Hearst to avoid the word “bankruptcy” operation. Our plan Corp. now stands to in its headline… allows for trade lose another $317 miland other business lion in the upcoming vendors to be paid in the ordinary course bankruptcy of MediaNews Group.... Instead of of business. The company is current on all fixing the long-festering problem, Hearst be- vendor payments, and we expect to remain came not just the biggest loser among the eq- so. We have adequate cash to fund all of uity investors in MediaNews. It will be the only our operations in a normal fashion.” 14 >

U O Marin IJX ‘Independent Journal’ parent company to file for Chapter 11

by Sam Chapman

T

he company that owns the Marin Independent Journal will soon declare bankruptcy, according to sources within the company. The bankruptcy of the paper’s holding company, Affiliated Media, Inc., in the form of a Chapter 11 filing, is the result of its inability to pay huge debts accumulated in recent years when MediaNews Corp. acquired many of the papers it now owns, including the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune and some 50 other daily newspapers, as well as 100 non-daily papers in 12 states. Reports indicate that the filing could occur at the end of this week or next week. MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton will see his interest in the company—which he founded in 1985—fall from 31 to 20 percent, according to a MediaNews report. Because Singleton is also chairman of the major U.S. newswire service Associated Press and the majority of the daily newspapers in the Bay Area are owned by Medi-

aNews, most of the Bay Area reporting on this story comes from entities that have a direct interest in the story. To further entwine matters, the largest daily newspaper in the Bay Area, The San Francisco Chronicle, is owned by Hearst Newspapers, a major creditor of the Singleton-MediaNews conglomerate. Hearst provided major funding, in excess of $300 million, when MediaNews acquired the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and other papers in 2006. The Chronicle on Saturday carried a small AP story inside its pages that said in part: “Hearst Corp., which owns magazines and newspapers including The San Francisco Chronicle, has an investment in MediaNews but it was not clear how that would be affected by the bankruptcy.” Some think Hearst Corp. will be “affected by the bankruptcy” in a big way. A Canadian Press story reported that “The Hearst Corp., and the family of MediaNews co-founder Richard Scudder, are giving up interests in MediaNews, according to a person who had knowledge of the plan but spoke on

JANUARY 22 - JANUARY 28, 2010 PACIFIC SUN 13

< 13 Marin IOU The bankruptcy will be filed under the provisions of Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code, which is commonly used when a debtor proposes a plan of reorganization to keep its business alive and pay creditors over some extended time. This one is of the increasingly popular “prepackaged” variety, meaning that most senior creditors have agreed to a reorganization plan and to reduce/ restructure what is owed to them before the case is filed in federal court. The advantage of a prepackaged filing is that there are fewer Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code allows a business decisions for a court to make, fewer negotiato reorganize and act as a ‘debtor in possession’ of its tions with creditors and the proceeding can operations, but with oversight by the court. usually be completed more quickly. Singleton had reported in a December The horizon is not entirely bleak for 2009 memo to employees that he planned daily newspapers, however. A story in to restructure the company’s debt in the industry trade journal Editor and Publisher first quarter of 2010, but made no mention (which itself recently folded, then surfaced of possible bankruptcy. MediaNews, which again under new ownership) reported last claims to be the nation’s second largest newsweek that “Newspaper stocks have come paper publisher by circulation, was reported back so far from their parlous state a year throughout 2009 to be unable to meet debt ago that the sector now ranks among the payment deadlines and to be in the process market’s best performers...Zacks Investof talking to creditors, including Bank of ment Research Chief Equity Strategist America, about a way to rework its debt. Dirk Van Dijk says MediaNews papers, newspapers now rank including the IJ, have Unfortunately for readers, more seventh-best among gone through multiple 206 industries tracked consolidation means less journalism waves of layoffs and by the Chicago-based cost cutting in recent and fewer voices to describe and firm. Two stocks— years, which included, interpret our world. Gannett Co. Inc and among other things, the New York Times outsourcing their proCo.—are now given duction of advertising to India. Downsizing No. 1 ratings in its stock evaluation system.” has been common throughout all print pubHowever, it’s all relative: “Newspaper lications, including magazines, for a number stocks across the board are trading at or near of years as the industry has struggled with a 52-week highs, and some have rebounded severe recession, declining circulation and spectacularly since hitting all-time low prices migration of significant amounts of advertisin the winter of 2009. Gannett’s share price, ing revenue to the Internet. for instance, is up 103 percent from a year ago. What does all this portend for the future? Stock in the McClatchy Co. sunk below $1 a Singleton, newspaper consolidation maven share last year, and only narrowly avoided beextraordinaire, has an answer. In a Wall Street ing delisted by the New York Stock Exchange. Journal story on the planned bankruptcy A year later, McClatchy shares have soared filing, he is quoted as saying that dealing 322 percent. Still, newspaper stocks remain with the company’s debt allows him to lead near historic lows. McClatchy shares in Janunewspaper-industry consolidation. He wants ary of 2005, for instance, traded for around to be aggressive in merging newspapers. His $60. On Wednesday, McClatchy shares closed answer to a further question about which at $5.06.... While [newspapers] may never papers might be combined was: “You can return to their glory days, that doesn’t mean look at the map.” We have looked at the that they are all going to go extinct in the near Northern California newspaper map and see 37 newspapers already owned by MediaNews. future, either. Most have greatly reduced their Unfortunately for readers, more consolidation costs over the last year, so just a small pick-up in revenue should lead to large gains on the means less journalism and fewer voices to bottom line.” describe and interpret our world. So while the MediaNews bankruptcy may According to industry observer Alan Mutnot be the exceptionally good news it was ter, the MediaNews filing, along with one by portrayed as in the company’s publications Morris Publishing Group announced a day and major investors in the company have earlier, will bring to nine the number of daily taken a bath, newspaper cost cutting industrynewspaper publishers forced to file for bankwide appears to have produced companies ruptcy because of unsustainable debt they with healthier bottom lines. Surviving papers acquired just prior to the Great Recession. may well be better positioned for 2010 than Others include Freedom Communications they were for 2009. < (Orange County Register), Heartland PubShare your memories of daily newspapers with us at letters@ lications, Journal Register Co., Minneapolis pacificsun.com. Star Tribune, Philadelphia Newspapers LLC, Sun-Times Media Group and the $13 billion Comment on this story in TownSquare, at Tribune Co., which operates the Chicago ›› pacificsun.com Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. 14 PACIFIC SUN JANUARY 22 - JANUARY 28, 2010

The oracle of MediaNews A speech given last September by MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton now seems almost prophetic. Addressing the National Conference of Editorial Writers in a speech covered by his own Salt Lake City Tribune, Singleton is reported to have said that “motives for newspaper ownership have shifted over the years, from those who wanted to cover news and write opinion to those who came to view newspapers as purely financial investments. Now banks are becoming ‘accidental’ stockholders. To reduce debt, more newspapers are likely to seek bankruptcy court protection, while others try to convince banks to swap debt for ownership stakes in their companies.” We can see now that this is exactly the path he was on. And further, Singleton predicted:“Whether by supervision of the courts or by negotiation to convert some debt to equity, America’s banks will own a large position in the newspaper sector going forward. Get used to it.” He was foretelling the story of his own company. While the proposed bankruptcy deal announced by MediaNews indicates that Singleton and his management team will be able to appoint four of the seven members of the new company board and retain control of the company, deals such as this are not so simple. A Bank of America-led group of 116 banks and 49 bondholders will own 80 percent of the second largest newspaper company in the nation. The problem for readers is that financial institutions don’t want to be in the business of journalism. What they want is the maximum return on their distressed investment, which may not bode well for healthy journalism. In the same story, Singleton comes back to one of his favorite theme—consolidation—in predicting how banks (as newspaper owners) will behave.“Singleton said lenders will seek to recoup their investments by pushing newspapers to consolidate,” reported the Tribune.“Through mergers, banks will eliminate expensive corporate overhead and allow papers to improve their financial performance without hurting readers or advertisers.” Consolidation among Bay Area MediaNews properties has certainly been the order of the day, as it has in other parts of the industry. Whether readers and advertisers are unscathed in the process is the subject of much debate. One thing is known. Banks are not permitted to own parts of companies except in cases such as the MediaNews bankruptcy, when their stake is due to a swap for debt. In such cases federal law requires that they divest their ownership within five years. According to an Associated Press report quoting Marc Abrams, a New York lawyer who represented newspaper publisher Journal-Register Co. while in bankruptcy protection,“The first question these banks have is:‘What is my exit strategy?’”Their decisions are not based on criteria related to what produces high-quality journalism and sustainable publications, but on how they can extract as much equity as possible as quickly as possible from the investment. The highly regarded Knight Ridder newspaper company, which included the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times, came to an end when Florida investment manager Bruce Sherman, who owned some 19 percent of the company’s stock, decided his return on investment wasn’t as high as he wanted. He effectively forced a sale of the company and its dissolution. The irony here is that MediaNews acquired Bay Area Knight Ridder newspapers by incurring major debt that has now put MediaNews itself in a similar situation of being dependent on the financial calculations of non-newspaper company owners mostly interested in selling and recovering as much of their investment as possible. And in the restructured MediaNews empire with its 54 daily newspapers and 100 non-daily papers in 12 states, the banks and bondholders will own 80 percent of the company, more than four times the percentage Sherman owned of Knight Ridder. The financial picture in the broader daily newspaper publishing business is not rosy. Respected credit rating company Fitch Ratings in a 2009-10 report noted that while “the worst of the advertising downturn has passed, Fitch believes that daily newspapers are likely to be left behind in an ad recovery. Fitch expects revenues to be down again off very easy comparable periods due to permanent shifts in advertiser sentiment and excess ad inventory that will plague the industry for years to come.” Just last week in an analysis of the McClatchy Company, Fitch said that “large newspaper companies are not likely to be able to comfortably sustain and repay debt at more than 1x leverage [debt equal to more than one times annual operating profits]. Newspaper companies that do not transition their revenue base and cost structure may not generate sufficient free cash flow to support or repay any level of debt on the balance sheet.” Industry veteran and UC Berkeley journalism teacher Alan Mutter observes in his blog, Reflections of a Newsosaur, that “seven of the publicly traded companies are burdened with debt ranging from 2.9 to 14.7 times their operating earnings.”The list includes such majors as Gannett, McClatchy and New York Times. Mutter goes on to note that three newspaper companies have already emerged from bankruptcy. In each case the CEO who incurred the disabling debt that forced the bankruptcy was no longer around in the restructured company. Singleton could be the first to survive, albeit with greatly diminished holdings in his company. —Sam Chapman

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ou probably made a few New Yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s resolutions, right? Did you have any that went like this? O â&#x20AC;&#x153;Lose 10 pounds,â&#x20AC;? which really means â&#x20AC;&#x153;ďŹ t into my skinny jeansâ&#x20AC;? O â&#x20AC;&#x153;Increase my income by 15 percent,â&#x20AC;? or more speciďŹ cally, â&#x20AC;&#x153;buy that handbag Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been covetingâ&#x20AC;? O â&#x20AC;&#x153;Meet Mr. Rightâ&#x20AC;? could be â&#x20AC;&#x153;have a wardrobe that attracts the right attentionâ&#x20AC;? Those are all fashion-related goals and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m here to help you realize success in all matters fashion and beauty this year. You see, I think looking great in 2010 can make you feel younger, stronger, more ďŹ t, more enthused about life. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got ďŹ ve tips to help you get there. 1. Decide to look great right now What if you decided that you were at your ideal weight right now, this minute? Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pretend that your doctor said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;No need for improvement. Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re right where you should be.â&#x20AC;? See, I think that it wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be astonishing at all to realize that many women are never going to be happy with how they look because they keep putting their pleasure on hold. Who hasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll look good when I lose 20 pounds. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not going to bother with clothes until then.â&#x20AC;? What if that magic number never shows up? Hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a mindblower: Maybe 2010 is the year that you accept yourself as you are. I mentioned this concept to a friend who said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;You know what? Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been saying this same thing for years and as a result, when I open up my closet, everything in there is icky! Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not attracted to any of it!â&#x20AC;? I say celebrate the new decade with something new hanging in your wardrobe beckoning

you with open arms, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Wear me! Wear me today!â&#x20AC;? And forget about the size on the hangtag. Find pleasure in a bright-colored sweater or a sleek pant or a pretty shawl. No more â&#x20AC;&#x153;ickyâ&#x20AC;?! 2. Revisit your stuff...all of your stuff Maybe you made a resolution to get organized. You got all excited about going to the Container Store and ďŹ nding new systems to store your stuff in. But you know what? Most of that stuff should be stored outside of the closetâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;like at a consignment store, Goodwill or maybe even in the trash. You have too much stuff, and ďŹ nding more creative ways to store it isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t the answer. The answer is to try on all those clothes and ask yourself these three questions: Do I love it? Does it serve a current purpose in my wardrobe? Would I buy it again? Let me give you some examples of how this would shake out. First of all, much of what is in peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s closets are things that they have no physical or emotional connection or attachment to. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s called â&#x20AC;&#x153;clutter.â&#x20AC;? You donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t need it. Compare that to the jeans that are your favorites, the shawl you love to wear, the dress that fits you so well and always garners compliments. Now there is a category of items that are just plain necessary to living that donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t necessarily make your heart speed up. Things like a well-ďŹ tting black V-neck sweater, a pair of classic trousers that make your butt look great, a white blouse that dresses up your jeans. So of course, keep those. Theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re very useful. And then the last question: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Would you buy it again?â&#x20AC;? is easy. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just â&#x20AC;&#x153;yesâ&#x20AC;? or â&#x20AC;&#x153;no.â&#x20AC;? If the answer is yes, but it has never 18 >

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Getting fitted for a bra Finding a new lipstick color O Updating skin care products O Buying new panties and shapewear O Reassessing your sleepwear O Shaping your eyebrows O Exploring a wig purchase O Updating exercise clothes O Creating an at-home lounging wardrobe Now attach them to months of the year. So February can be “Bra-fitting Month” and March can be “New Lipstick Month” and April can be “Exercise Clothes Month” and so on. Easy! O O

3. Beautify your closet One of the easiest home improvement projects you can take on is to march over to Bed Bath & Beyond and purchase 5. Create a ‘What their slimline hangers I Wore’ journal in your favorite color A client of mine and get all your clothes Defeating the purpose: Even pretty actresses works in the exercise made up to look unfashionable were given switched off of wire or industry. A trainer told makeovers. mismatched hangers. her that if you write This brand of hangers down what you eat evhas a notch where your spaghetti strap dress ery day in a food journal, you will consume or tank-style tops will hang on and not slip 20 percent fewer calories. Twenty percent! off. Beware: I have seen slimline hangers at Well, I think there is 20 percent more pleaCostco that look similar and are cheaper but sure to be had each and every day if you they don’t have that nifty slot for those thin were to write down your outfits each day in straps. Use the Costco ones for your husa “What I Wore” journal. When you know band’s shirts, but not for your camisoles and you’re going to write it down, you make tank tops. Your closet will look beautiful! more thoughtful and creative choices. You 4. Break projects down into ‘beauty bites’ Often people think that improving their wardrobe or their looks will require nothing short of a total makeover, tons of money or extreme plastic surgery. When you make it seem like a huge task, chances of making any headway are nearly impos-

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been worn, then create an outfit right now using that item. If the answer is no, it’s heading out the door. If you answer these questions honestly, you will have less stuff! Suddenly all those super-sized under-the-bed storage units are unnecessary. And the added bonus is that with fewer things to be responsible for, you may be able to get all your clothes arranged nicely under one closet roof, so you aren’t going to the spare bedroom for your casual clothes or the front closet for all your jackets, or your husband’s closet for the spillover of your blouses.

sible and you give up. But if you break it up into “beauty bites” it actually happens and you see results. Make your beauty and grooming improvements doable by breaking them up into monthly tasks. Start with a list of some possible tasks, such as:

W

take more pride in how you dress. You’ll always be able to remember the “fashion hits” because they’re written down. Now have some fashion fun. < Brenda Kinsel is a fashion and image consultant based in Marin. Check out her website at www.brendakinsel.com.

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Pacific Sun 01.22.2010 - Section 1