County's stand-in for SOS is suspect

October 9, 2007 

From the headlines, e-mails and voice mails:

PARDON MY CYNICISM -- Stanislaus County is offering an alternative to Measure E, the Stamp Out Sprawl, or SOS, initiative headed for the February ballot, possibly exceeding all previous levels of arrogance.

In August, the supervisors pre-empted the voters by approving what essentially was the Salida Now plan that calls for 5,000 homes and doubling the area's population to 28,000. The Salida Now initiative was to be a competing measure on the same ballot as SOS. By approving the development plan, the supes took Salida's future out of the voters' hands. They exempted Salida from SOS, which remains on the February ballot.

Co-authored by Modesto City Councilman Garrad Marsh and former councilman Denny Jackman, SOS would give voters the final say when developers propose to rezone unincorporated farmland for residential development.

Obviously fearing the SOS measure will pass and limit their fund-raising opportunities, the supes are pushing their own version, which calls for a 15-member commission to rewrite the county's general plan. If that one passes, the developers can not only buy a vote, they could buy a seat on the panel as well.

Is the county's version a real plan or a ruse designed to confuse the voters come February?

When given two slightly different initiatives addressing a similar issue, voters sometimes will reject both. That would leave the status quo, which means more first-come, first-served development, the opportunity for more backroom deals, and the voters left out of the process.

Again.

NEVER-NEVER LAND -- While Randi Lineé's arm begins its slow healing process, lawyers will hash out who will pay her medical bills. Lineé broke her arm in three places Sept. 8 during the final dress rehearsal for Modesto Performing Arts' production of "Peter Pan." The arts group hasn't exactly stepped up like it should.

First, it went on with the show instead of postponing until she could play the role. That didn't sit well with some folks in the arts community, especially since Lineé hired a private trainer at her own expense to shed 34 pounds for the role.

Second, she's had to pay $813 out of pocket -- the $500 deductible from her employer-provided insurance plus $318 for the special brace needed to hold her surgically repaired arm in place -- for the privilege of almost getting to play Pan on stage. Other bills could be forthcoming, she said. And she exhausted all her sick and vacation time at Doctors Medical Foundation, where she works. So when her cousin got married in New York over the weekend, Lineé was forced to take leave without pay to attend.

None of this should be an issue. Peter Pan shouldn't have to pay the piper one single dime for care of an injury she suffered in rehearsals, period.

FROM THE ASHES -- Kennedy Meadows Resort's historic main lodge, which went up in flames last week, will be rebuilt in the spring. Resort owner Matt Bloom is getting plenty of help in his race to clean up the mess before the serious snow arrives. Then he'll spend the winter developing plans to rebuild.

"We've had an overwhelming amount of help from the community and from customers," Bloom said. "I've had to put lots of them off until spring."

As long as the rebuilding is done within the previous footprint, Bloom won't have to submit to a California Environmental Quality Act review, Tuolumne County Supervisor Teri Murrison said.

Bloom, Murrison, fire officials and others associated with the rebuilding project will have a news conference today at 12:30 p.m. on the county courthouse steps in Sonora. Fire officials will confirm the cause of the blaze -- a flue fire -- and rumors suggesting Bloom wouldn't be allowed to rebuild will be dispelled, Murrison said.

BUMPER CROP -- You could say Modesto's Gladys Wallis has a green thumb when it comes to growing yellow tomatoes. In the spring, she bought a couple of red beefsteak tomato plants and put them in the ground. The 97-year-old decided she needed more.

"I wanted three plants, so I bought another carton," Wallis said. "But this one wasn't marked."

The two beefsteak plants produced few tomatoes. The unmarked plant, however, grew. And grew. And grew some more.

"They're still a-growin'," she said.

A bit of plant food and some fertilizer had the same effect as "the clear" and "the cream" from the infamous BALCO steroids lab. That single tomato plant turned into a monster that grew nearly 21 feet in one direction and 15 feet in the other.

"The one that grew up (along) the house fell down, otherwise it would have grown to about 25 feet long," she said.

The vines produced lots of yellow tomatoes ranging from about the size of a golf ball to a tennis ball, she said. And it's still producing even though the weather has turned cooler.

"I imagine there's still lots of tomatoes under there," she said, referring to the vines. "But I can't lift 'em."

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com or 578-2383.

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