After a hiatus of more than three years, Bravos & Barbs returns today to The Union Democrat's opinion pages.

Installments will still give pats on the back when earned and raps on the knuckles when deserved. This will be an occasional piece on the Opinion Page and will highlight both praiseworthy accomplishments and avoidable mistakes which alone do not warrant an entire editorial.

That said, this chapter's winners and losers:


? To Tuolumne County Supervisor Liz Bass and challenger Randy Selesia, for conducting a responsible, ethical, civilized campaign refreshingly free of the broadsides, hit pieces and 11th hour slams that have marred the pursuit of higher offices. Although these two candidates were serious about winning the District 1 seat each spent about $17,000 on the campaign) they treated each other and the voters with a measure of respect too often absent in 21st Century politics. The same goes for seven candidates who cleanly campaigned for three seats on the Tuolumne Utilities District Board.

? To Yosemite Community College District voters, whose 2004 approval of $52.5 million in bond-funded projects for Columbia College is now giving a boost to the local economy when it most needs it. Measure E projects now under way at the Sawmill Flat Road campus include the Madrone Building project (a new $2.3 million home for Columbia's welding technology and auto body program, a public safety center ($2.8 million), child development center ($9.1 million) and a science and natural resources center ($22.4 million). That local contractors and workers are involved in many of these projects only enhances the benefit.

? To the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which has withdrawn a plan to divert an additional 35 million gallons a day from the Tuolumne River and has instead decided to implement conservation measures to cut use. The Tuolumne is federally protected wild and scenic river, and the proposed diversion would have hurt both fisheries and whitewater rafting.

? To the winning Sonora and Summerville high school football teams, both in playoff contention as the '08 season draws to a close. For the Wildcats, this is nothing new Sonora has made the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs six times in a row. For the Bears, however, this glorious season reverses a six-year losing streak and the overdue success is particularly gratifying.


? To Tuolumne County Supervisor Mark Thornton, for calling out colleague Paolo Maffei for attending a conservation conference in Oregon without first "formally" securing board permission. As Maffei himself paid for the trip and as he had mentioned his plans several times in advance, the public reprimand was uncalled for. Thornton's dislike for Maffei (Thornton had supported the District 2 supervisor's opponent in 2006) is well-known. But making an issue of this minor transgression seems excessively petty at a time when the county has far more important matters with which to deal.

? To the thieves who stole numerous signs urging a yes vote on Measure V a parcel fee increase proposed by the Mi-Wuk-Sugar Pine Fire Protection District then dumped them near Soulsbyville. Also found were a couple of pilfered "No on 8" signs and one Obama sign. When logic, debate and clean campaigning don't work, theft and vandalism become the refuge of the desperate and dishonest.

? To out-of-state robo-callers, who during campaign season have targeted millions of California voters with pre-recorded calls from Bill Clinton, Charlie Sheen, Dianne Feinstein and many more politicians and celebrities. Yes, the universally disliked calls are illegal in California, but perpetrators get around the law by making the automated calls from out-of-state locations exempt from our Public Utilities Commission reqiurements. A silver lining? Think of how many robo-calls those living in so-called "battleground states" got.