Business and the Economy

Reading Sonoma Biz, the county’s premier slick and glossy business magazine, created by and for very gung ho business supporters. Disclaimer: I have written articles in the far past for the magazine and they have some great stuff at times. This month’s lead off story is all about a new Chamber of Commerce led effort to create jobs — 4,000 or more in five years.

As usual, the first thing business wants to do is dip into the public trough to pay for it. The new byword is “public-private partnership” where the public funds private ventures. Politically, many of these folks are beating the “no taxes” drum as loud as possible and supporting the biggest group of dingbats I’ve ever seen on the campaign trail, but they never stop reaching in the public pocket when things get tough.

“The first phase of the project is to raise $3.5 million …” The project is designed to help the community and raise all boats, countywide, with all the money that will be spent locally by the new hires spending their money locally.

The Chamber promptly hired a Florida-based revenue raising consultant to survey 60 local government and business people to come up with a plan. I’d really like to how much money flowed out of Sonoma County to pay for that, and if any of it was provided by taxpayers.

The tap will be put on county and city governments to pony up for the jobs program. According to the article, Sonoma County’s supervisors voted the group $100,000 a year for the next two years with a two-year extension possible ($500,000 max). The grant will be funded by the county’s Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) which is designed to stimulate tourism through advertising and marketing. I can only speculate that the majority of jobs to be created will be in the hospitality/wine industry to justify sourcing the funds. Using that money to get outside businesses to move to the County might well fall inside the original intentions behind the tax.

The more subtle aspects of what the business community will be trying to do, among other things, is “create a positive environment in which to do business.” Read: reduce or eliminate environmental, health and other public safety regulation, reduce fees and taxes, and expedite all forms of paperwork.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane lamented the fact that Amy’s Kitchen, a hugely successful local business, expanded it’s East Coast operations in Greenville, NC. What wasn’t said was what concessions Greenville made to the company to get them there. Five to ten years suspended taxes? There is often a huge cost to taxpayers incurred with these deals that may never be recovered. Sure, people are hired and pay local taxes, but never enough to cover what a local company would have had to pay. There’s a reason for the taxes that the local companies are paying: they take a high level of public support to keep the roads open, police and fire, sewage, garbage, and other civilized functions operating to keep business running smoothly.

What you wind up with is less taxes being put in by the very people asking for more tax-based support to continue business. This is not a formula designed to solve our overall problems. Clever and stupid at the same time.

The new girl

My roommate George and I have a new cat in the house, or technically his house. An elderly calico, this kitty was actually born in the Canyon 16 years ago at Louie and Peg Geissler’s summer home, about a quarter mile down the creek from me. This is the last remaining cat of the litter I understand, but even though Peg and Lou lost their pet just last year, they weren’t ready to take on another cat, and especially an elderly female cat. We already have two female felids.

Lou gave the cat the unimaginative name of “Cali” and gave her to the neighbors across the street, Gary and Theresa Reiss, who were busy raising their three very bright boys. Lo, these many years later, Gary has retired from being a  university psychologist and Theresa is ready to hang up her firefighting turnouts and move to Hawaii. Since the Aloha State requires a four-month quarantine, at the owners’ expense, and given the age of the cat — which they never really named — they put it up for adoption.

You can imagine how many people were jumping for the chance to take on a 16-year-old cat who, according to Gary, lived outdoors most of the time. Sucker that I am, when the time got close to sending it to Forgotten Felines or other shelter, I piped up and said, “sure, I’ll take her.”

When I went over to pick her up last Saturday — it’s been a week, yesterday — she turned out to be a quite friendly, chubby old lady who really wants to spend her days being petted not too far away from a food dish. She has been living outdoors mostly because of the Reiss’ 5-year-old twin grandsons who like to pull her in different directions. She rode over to my house on the front seat, uncaged and yowling, but not frantic.

I carried her into the house and plopped her down next to the food dish and she came over for a pet. She took to the house right away, finding a hidey hole under George’s feet and for some reason camping out on the short stairs up to the bathroom and George’s bedroom.

I should mention at this point that there are two other cats on the premises. My 5.5 pound calico, Cleo, a bulemic terror who cannot tolerate any other cat within sight, and Cloe, a 20 pound grey who mostly lives with George but manages to eat at both places. (I live in a converted garage about 150 feet from the main house.) These eating forays into my house were formerly cat screaming matches whenever Cleo the Tiny spotted Godzilla cat, but it has quieted down a lot over the years. Still not happy about it, mind you.

Well, the big cat, Cloe, who mostly lives in George’s house, had a bit of a squalling match with the new girl right away, but quickly ignored her, deciding instead to bide her time.

That time came two days ago when I let the new girl out for the first time and turned my back to answer the phone. I heard a squawk and thundering kitty feet across the porch and they both took off up the hill in back.

Up the hill in back is a jungle. No kidding. A jungle of French broom and manzanita and scrub oak all the way to Sugarloaf. It’s wilderness, with mountain lions, bobcats, raccoons, foxes, beaver, skunks, you name it.

The new cat stayed gone in spite of me going out back and calling her several times a day. Finally, I actually hiked a ways up the mountain, sat down, and called her for 15 minutes and eventually she came — oh so slowly — and submitted to a pet.

The petting led to a real pick up and I brought her back to the house where she promptly disappeared under the bed. So far so good, but for now, I think I’m not going to even try to find a suitable name. She’s gotten along pretty good for 16 years without one. I just hope she can get along as well for whatever’s left.

June 28, 2014

Postscript: This beautiful lady died in my arms two months ago, after a long and happy life. She is buried by the stump in the yard and will be a permanent part of the little slice of paradise i have been lucky enough to call home for the last 20 years.

After we got to know one another, and especially after it started getting cold and I started the pellet stove up again, she moved indoors with little fuss. She quickly took to sleeping right under the stove fan and staying as warm as she could stand. She began to come around the bed for pets and lovvies and found a number of places to nest in the Bunkhouse. As the last year rolled around, she used the kitty box more and more, even when she couldn’t quite make it. She was getting weaker by the day when the end came, but she thoroughly enjoyed living indoors for the past two years and being fed whenever she wanted and sleeping wherever she liked, next to my hand when sitting at the computer most of the time. Damn, I  miss her.