Year-end Roundup: Quotable Sebastopol 2023
Our year in review in your own words
We published over 370 stories in 2023. Here are some notable and quotable people who spoke with us in those stories; it’s a year-end review of the many faces and facets of the people who live and work here.
Big Bird Nerds
Some people who are really big bird nerds like to look at them without seeing what the bird is and try to identify it—some are more obvious than others—but I've seen some people do very well doing that.
— Christopher Reiger, a local artist whose paint strips of the colors for bird species, the Laguna Bird Field Guide, was featured at the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation.
From “The color of flight” by Laura Hagar Rush. (January)
TV news fasting
For more than a year ago I chose not to listen to any television news programs. Although I miss some important information, the fact that I’m exempt from hearing all the political nonsense, and various unbelievably ridiculous news output, this “news fasting” of sorts has helped me to focus on my own community and my own peace of mind.
— Lauralee Aho, “My Television News Fasting”. (February)
I only wanted him to shut up and let me talk
Cesar Chavez interviewed me himself. When he heard that my parents were farmworkers, he was so happy and excited, and he began to tell me of his vision for the union. I sat there thinking that I only wanted him to shut up and let me talk about my vision, because it was the very same one!
Number one, we needed to provide services for the members, but more importantly, we needed to be servants to the farmworkers. We had to be humble and totally respectful of them. And number two, we needed to be non-violent.
— Alicia Sanchez, on getting a job out of law school with the United Farm Workers.
Recovering from a cybertheft
It was quite a complicated scheme.
— Larry McLaughlin, City Manager and City Attorney, said of the 2021 cybertheft that happened when a fake email from a Sebastopol City employee made the request to the Country treasurer’s office to transfer $1.2M. The funds were never recovered nor anyone prosecuted but insurance and the County together covered the loss.
From “Sebastopol recoups almost all of the $1.2M lost in 2021 cybercrime” by Laura Hagar Rush (March)
Two Trees Dancing Together
I’ve traveled all over the world photographing myself—and other women—with some of the most amazing trees all over the world. That started in 1995 when I went to Australia as a kind of vision quest/graduation/solo experience. I had this very mystical experience in the rainforest in Queensland, where I saw these two trees that looked like they were dancing together. (And I wasn't on anything.)
I’d just graduated art school, and I was very experimental. I was traveling with this guy, and I just handed him my camera and said, “I don't know what those trees are doing, but I'm gonna get in there!” So I took my clothes off and I just wrapped myself around these trees, and said, “Take my picture.”
— Julianne Skai Arbor on how she came to be known as TreeGirl.
From “The Forest and the Trees: A conversations with TreeGirl” by Laura Hagar Rush. (May)
Jerry and Nattie
My dad was hired in ’55 to be the general manager of the Co-Op plant. That’s how we got here from Oroville. We first moved to a house on Covert Lane, next to where the Catholic Church is now. The house is still there.
You know, there were lots of Pomo Indians who worked in the cannery. I was friends with them all, maybe partly because my grandmother was Osage Indian. I played on their (the Pomo team) fast pitch softball team. I held down first base. Batted cleanup! They called me The Hammer.
You know, they didn’t drink beer at all, but they bar-b-qued seaweed! I learned to like it. That was a native Pomo thing. They may have been seaweed eaters, but man were they big people, and so good to me.
— Jerry Overstreet, who Steve describes as an older gentleman sitting on the front porch of his home, which had Trump flags in the yard. Wrote Steve: “He waved at me as I rode by. I circled back and approached the man on the porch, an older black dog, asleep at his feet.”
From “Faces of West County: Jerry Overstreet” by Steve Einstein. (May)
She’s buried now in our backyard, but I’m not so sure that was such a good idea. I miss her so much, and seeing her picture by her grave makes me so sad … Every night I look down from my bedroom and say, “Good night, Nattie, see you in the morning.”
— Jerry Overstreet, who talked about the loss of his dog, Nattie, when Steve went to visit Jerry after not seeing him on his porch for a while.
From “Face of West County: Nattie the Dog” by Steve Einstein (September)
Moved By the Earth
Every day, when I go outside, I'm literally moved by the earth. Physically. Emotionally. I would say spiritually too. Even going for a walk, it can change your mood. It changes mine entirely and I'm observing and being affected by everything around me. That's how most of the poetry happens for me. It's observation of little details and I make notes of whatever it is that attracts my attention in that way. Sometimes it grows into a poem, especially if it combines with some other inner experience.
— Raphael Block, who published his new book of poetry, The Dreams We Share.
From “Old Cat: Poet Raphael Block” by Dale Dougherty. (May)
From 2 to 650 tables
One of the servers wanted to take a weekend off to sell at a garage sale. Instead of agreeing to that request, Cal pulled two picnic tables in front of the snack bar, and the employee set their wares on them. What better exposure do you have than 116? Two tables went to 650.
— Clifford “Cliff” Madariaga, who runs Midgley’s Flea Market in Sebastopol with his sister, Yvonne Beardsley, the son and daughter of the original founders, Cal and Rose Midgley, whose market grew out of a snack bar.
From “The Flea Market is here to stay” by Mark Fernquest. (July)
Our expenses have been growing faster than our revenue.
— Mayor Neysa Hinton at the City Council meeting in June to discuss the budget. The city is projecting $10.87 million in revenue and $12.81 million in expenses, leading to a deficit of $1.94 million, which will be paid out of the city’s dwindling reserves.
They are going to attempt to save $80,000 on the backs of these volunteers who are saving the city a million a year on salaries…It’s just not fair.
— Jack Piccinnini, Interim Fire Chief, on the budget committee’s choice to cut volunteer firefighter retention pay.
From “The City Budget and its Discontents” by Laura Hagar Rush (June)
The Gravenstein is certainly the star of the show. I have been getting inquiries of people, being a little bit nervous. It's a later harvest this year, but I have been assured that we will have Gravensteins galore. And I actually saw in the flesh, my first Gravensteins today. I have them in hand.
— Carmen Snyder, producer of the annual Graventstein Apple Faire in Ragle Park
From “Gravensteins Galore - The Apple Fair at 50” by Dale Dougherty (August)
The Second Chance Program is for formerly and currently incarcerated students. We started out with only a handful, and now we’re up to more than 150!
In 2018 I got the green light to build the Second Chance Program, and two years ago, I expanded the program and began a partnership with Sonoma County Juvenile Hall and the JC. Today, I only serve the Juvenile Hall kids. There are 26 incarcerated youth taking online courses. We had our first JC graduate in May. He had taken all his classes while in custody at the hall.
— Rhonda Findling, a retired counselor at SRJC, talks about the program she started to help incarcerated youth continue their education.
From “Faces of West County: Rhonda Findling” by Steve Einstein (August)
A dream or a whim?
It’s a big variety of people who get up at the open mic. We get some professionals, but we also get a lot of first-timers who just want to try it out, see if they have what it takes to do stand-up. Sometimes it’s a life-long dream; sometimes it’s just a whim.
— Jon Lehre of Santa Rosa, who co-hosts the Comedy Open Mic night at the Abbey at HopMonk.
From “A Laughing Matter” by Mark Fernquest. (September)
What we know now is that (Burbank) was able to activate genes in the plant pool that otherwise would never be expressed by the exquisite care that he gave the plants. When a plant was given that kind of care, just like a person, they began to express things in their flowers and their growth that otherwise would never appear.
— Steve Fowler on the genius of Luther Burbank.
From “Steve Fowler on the Luther Burbank Experiment Farm” by Dale Dougherty (September)
What the Fire Chief Got Done
I just don't want to be the chief anymore. I’m super proud of what we have done internally in the department in terms of getting our volunteer program back to what it should be, the fact that we're buying a new engine, the fact that we've brought attention to the staffing issue, and that they [the city council] need to really start working on that.
— Jack Piccinnini, Interim Fire Chief, who stepped down in November.
From “Burning His Bridges” by Laura Hagar Rush. (September)
What the Fire Chief Didn’t Get Done
Sending a letter out in the final days of employment just shows what Ex-Chief Jack Piccinini did not get done, and in my opinion, he had every opportunity to support us and our city to guide us to find and implement solutions. I would say this is not working in a collaborative way with the city or others and is absolutely the opposite of being transparent and solving issues for our entire city.
— Mayor Neysa Hinton, on the letter sent in November by Interim Fire Chief Jack Piccinini to the Board and others.
From “Conflicting visions for the fire department lead to a crisis in emergency services ” by Laura Hagar Rush. (November)
No Longer Hanging Over My Head
There was never any crime, so I was never worried but it is nice no longer having it hanging over my head….The last Peacetown was off the hook.
— Jim Corbett, Mr. Music, on the dismissal of criminal charges against him relating to the organization he founded that runs Peacetown.
From “Case against Jim Corbett (Mr. Music) closed with no charges filed” by Laura Hagar Rush. (September)
(The sculpture) was knocked off the base twice, then broken. It’s desecration.
— Marghe Mills-Thysen, upset at the vandalism of “Us” by Josho Somine, which was in the Sebastopol Community Sculpture Garden but then removed.
From “Roundup: A Place for Public Art” by Dale Dougherty. (October)
The hardest part
“The (Sebastopol) Center for the Arts has nine programs, thousands of volunteers and 31 years of history. The hardest part of the job is trying to understand all of that. I am in month five and I’m just beginning to understand.
— Serafina Palendech, new Executive Director of the Sebastopol Center for the Arts.
From “12 Questions for Serafina Palendech” by Laura Hagar Rush. (October)
On the run
Anyone who lives in Sebastopol could have told alleged car thief Nicole Medeiros that trying to have a high speed chase on Sebastopol Avenue (Hwy. 12) in downtown Sebastopol on a Sunday afternoon was a bad idea.
— Laura Hagar Rush
Within a couple of minutes, Santa Rosa PD was able to make an arrest on the driver. She was hiding in a big laundry hamper nearby.
— Sebastopol Police Sergeant Andy Bauer, describing the high speed police chase that ended with the suspect abandoning her stolen car and fleeing on foot in Sebastopol.
From “High speed car chase grinds to a halt in Sebastopol traffic.” (November)
Love this area too much to leave
I love this area with the redwoods and the river too much to consider leaving. At least not at my age.
— Terry Phillipp, a veteran of the US Navy, when asked if he ever thinks of leaving West County.
From “Faces of West County: Terry Phillipp” by Steve Einstein. (November)
The Peaceable Kingdom
I have been in locations for eight hours. The thing with nature, of course, is staying as far back as you can. Because I don’t want to interrupt what they’re doing. It’s so peaceful to sit there and observe what nature does so naturally.
— Marlene Ortiz Smith, nature photographer.
From “Through Nature’s Lens” by Mark Fernquest. (November)
Yes, we’re in a fiscal emergency and we have very little time to stabilize ourselves.
— Diana Rich, City Council member.
From “Budget numbers don’t lie — or do they?” by Laura Hagar Rush (November)
You’ve got an unaltered male wolfdog running around. Things can happen.
— Mark Scott, Director of North Bay Animal Services
From “Wolfdog found — now he’s safe at home” by Laura Hagar Rush (November)
That was very painful.
— Sandra Maurer, City Councilmember, who was shocked and sickened by the racist and hateful remarks made during a Zoom bombing in a City Council meeting, which elected Diana Rich as Mayor and Stephen Zollman as Vice Mayor.
From “Diana Rich is Sebastopol’s New Mayor” by Laura Hagar Rush. (December)
Sebastopol getting to my head
It may just be Sebastopol getting to my head but I truly believe that this generation loves traditional things like a physical copy of the news and of books. They love anything “vintage” and historical. Newspapers are still cherished by many; they just don’t find it to be worth paying for when they can get a free read online. It’s about the price, so we offer free newspapers for all to enjoy.
— Yocelin Ramirez Cruz, on why they decided to print the Analy student newspaper, co-editor of West County World.
From “West County World debuts this fall” by Dale Dougherty (November)
So we have this convergence of three things. We have this an largely unregulated assisted living industry - not federally regulated. We have baby boomers turning 65 and moving into places like this. And we have these climate disasters that are increasing. They're bigger and badder. We are seeing floods, heat domes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and freezes across the country in places that have never had them. If this kind of botched evacuation can happen at the highest end assisted living facility in Sonoma County, what’s going to happen down the road or across the state at other places that are equally unprepared for a power outage or a disaster. Many of these places are just not prepared.”
— Anne Belden, Sebastopol resident and co-author with Paul Gullixson of a book about the abandonment of more than 100 senior citizens at a luxury senior living complex during the Tubbs Fire in 2017.
From “Book Talk - Inflamed: Abandonment, Heroism and Outrage in Wine Country’s Deadliest Firestorm” by Laura Hagar Rush. (December)
Gravenstein Grill and Sonoma Burger Shuttered
None of us wanted to do this. It was entirely a financial decision. There was just no way we could go on with the way costs have been going up with inflation, with the ongoing labor shortage and other factors. We had kind of gotten squeezed, and there was no way to continue going with the way finances were.
— Brandon Parkhurst, owner with Chef Bob Simontacchi and Owen Barrett of Gravenstein Grill and Sonoma Burger, both of which closed in late December.
From “Gravenstein Grill and Sonoma Burger Close Down” by Laura Hagar Rush. (December)
He wants to come to our Christmas dinner
I know the word is getting out because like this one guy calls me up and he said, ‘Oh, I hear you're having the Christmas dinner again. Well, can you pick me up at the transit station?’ He takes a bus from San Francisco to the Santa Rosa transit station, and then we pick him up because he wants to come to our Christmas dinner.
— Kathy Rogers, Sebastopol Sunrise Rotary member and principal organizer of the holiday dinner.
From “The Return of the Sebastopol Holiday Dinner” by Laura Hagar Rush. (December)
That's the beautiful thing about something like this—if you're serving the most vulnerable, you also end up serving other people too.
— Courtney Klein, Sebastopol librarian, on how a program to help the homeless connect with social services has also benefited others.
From “The library's Social Services Days bring county agencies and nonprofits together with the people who need their help” by Laura Hagar Rush. (December)
Our favorite wines are what we call “zero-zero” or "super natty" or "vivant" (living). This means that there is nothing added or taken away during the entire winemaking process.
— DC Looney, co-owner with his wife, Lisa Costa, of The Punchdown in the Barlow, a wine shop featuring natural wines. (December)
Happy New Year
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