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New chancellor is the right choice for YCCD

    Eighteen applicants vied to become the Yosemite Community College District’s new chancellor. A committee then narrowed the field to two finalists, who then answered questions at public forums at Columbia College and Modesto Junior College.
    But the board’s eventual choice for the important and challenging job likely surprised few: Former Columbia College president and Interim Chancellor Joan Smith won a three-year contract to head the two-college, 21,000-student district.
    She was also, clearly, the right choice for the job.

Full disclosure, full compliance expected of GCSD

    The state’s notice of violation, to say the least, is startling.
    It finds that the Groveland Community Services District reported that an August 2010 sewer spill amounted to only 10 gallons when in fact it was between 10,000 and 15,000 gallons and flowed into Pine Mountain Lake before the leak was halted.
    The State Regional Water Quality Control Board’s notice also reports that the district did not report other leaks. It concludes that the “recurring spills from the district’s sewer lines and the district’s failure to comply with notification requirements” violate  more than a half dozen state or federal laws and standards.

Our community acts deserve a full helping of bravos

    Within a month, we went from the bottom to the top.
    In late January, a vandal did nearly $90,000 in damage to Sonora’s Odd Fellows Cemetery, upending and breaking numerous century-old marble tombstones.
    But just two weeks later more than 130 volunteers, many of them high school students, came out for a cemetery cleanup organized by the Odd Fellows. If anything could restore our faith in mankind, this community effort was it.

Fire Districts should support working group concept

    They are the heart of local control.
 With their elected boards and largely local funding, Tuolumne County’s fire districts are the essence of taxation with representation. Board members and constituents are often friends or neighbors and, at least ideally, trust and communication prevail.
    So you can understand why leaders of a few of our districts are skittish about being part of a joint powers agreement aimed at improving fire protection countywide.
    “It’s not going to work,” said Charles Wagner, a Mi-Wuk-Sugar-Pine Fire District board member. “It’s going to be a failure from the get go.”

Mother Lode Fair needs sponsors, community support

    Faced with a state budget deficit of $25 billion, Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed cuts are deep, wide and ever closer to home.
    Among the most potentially painful here is a plan to slash all state funding from California’s 80 county and district fairs. Yes, the move would save the state $32 million. But it could financially hamstring more than two dozen fairs, including Sonora’s.
    If Brown’s cuts are enacted, the Mother Lode Fair would take a $200,000 hit.
 Although funding for this year’s July 7-10 fair is safe, beginning in 2012 the event could lose about a third of its $600,000 budget.

Supervisors set realistic, achievable goals for 2011

    As everyone involved with a business, a government agency or even a family knows, setting goals is a lot easier than reaching them.
 But if you set the wrong goals — be they unrealistic, impractical or unachievable — all that results is wasted effort.
 To Tuolumne County’s credit, it has set reachable, sensible 2011 goals tailored to today’s struggling economy and to our thinly stretched government budgets.
    Building out the ambitious Law and Justice Center off Old Wards Ferry Road is not on the list. Nor is purchase of a fleet of new sheriff’s patrol cars or paving Italian Bar Road. 

Judge Boyack: A legacy of integrity, accomplishment

    The bad news is that Doug Boyack is hanging up his robe after nearly 20 years on the Tuolumne County Superior Court bench.
    The good news is that Boyack is putting that robe back on almost every day, as a state-assigned judge filling his own vacancy. He’ll continue to do so until Gov. Jerry Brown appoints a permanent replacement, and that could be months or even a year away.
    Even after that, Judge Boyack may fill in on occasion, both here and in counties around the state.
    Yes, after two decades on the bench and another 14 as a prosecutor with the District Attorney’s Office, the 63-year-old jurist deserves a rest. But we’re happy he’s sticking around awhile longer, because this soft-spoken, thoughtful man seems ideally suited to the job.

How we respond to senseless acts, helps define us

    Some stories hit on a visceral level.
    A vandal’s wanton rampage through a hallowed and historic Sonora cemetery or the unconscionable neglect that left a Copperopolis couple’s horses filthy, malnourished and sick, both in the headlines this week, are among them.
    We don’t step back and objectively appraise stories like these, slowly forming opinions.
    Instead, our reactions are immediate, emotional and powerful: disbelief, revulsion, outrage. Our stomachs turn and blood rushes to our heads as we struggle — and fail — to make sense of what we just read.

City of Sonora faces deficits and budget cuts

     The all-pervasive nature of the ongoing recession and ever-worsening state budget crisis is evidenced by Sonora’s fate.
 Historically, the city has been like Switzerland, a fiscal rock seemingly immune to the financial winds that have buffeted the counties, schools and special districts around it. City government has been responsible, conservative and solvent. Look at a graph mapping past municipal income and expenditures, and there’s either no gap or there’s daylight in the form of annual surpluses.
 Constituents, in fact, have so trusted the Sonora City Council and staff that they in 2004 voted in a sales tax hike to bolster police and fire protection. And last year, they approved an increase in the city’s hotel-motel tax.

Student cell phone use needs strict enforcement

    Ninety-eight percent.
 That was the most startling statistic to emerge from last week’s Sonora High School Board discussion on student cell phone use.
    That, said junior Luke Houghton, is the percentage of students who violate a school rule against texting or otherwise using a cell phone in class. In other words, he said, everybody flouts the rule.
    Houghton should know: He’s the student representative on the school board.
    “It may be an enforcement issue,” Houghton understated.
    It also shows that Trustee Ed Clinite’s concern that using cell phones might be “distracting” to students is more than justified.

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