Rock doc: Designing better asphalt

Dr. Haifang Wen grew up in a rural area of Shandong province, in eastern China. In his youth there were not many paved highways in the Chinese countryside. “Lots of the roads were gravel,” he told me recently. “They were muddy when it rained. I remember riding a cow on them, or going along in […]

My turn: The economy and jobs in rural California

Although I am passionate about getting voters involved, especially the silent majority and many of you have read my past op-eds, my true passion is small business promotion (where the bulk of private sector jobs are created) and reducing the size of our government by improving its efficiency. These beliefs are shared by many rural […]

Rotten streets

Placerville’s streets are a rotten mess. Everything is falling apart in this town, including 65-year-old sewer pipes made of tar paper and really, really old water pipes. The latter two elements of city infrastructure are due for eventual replacement, financed by some of the highest water rates in the foothills and a sales tax levy. […]

Belltower: Georgia O’Keeffe show has some rare pieces

When we visited Santa Fe, N.M., at the end of September, the first place we went to was the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. It was a major disappointment because most of the museum was closed and all that was available were about a dozen paintings in two small rooms. On Feb. 13 I happened to be […]

My turn: The view from the top

After three dry years, California and the nation are understandably focused on the immediate problems associated with water shortages. As stewards of the source of one-third of the waters that flow from the mountains to the valleys and through the Delta, Mountain Counties Water Resources Association takes a longer view and holds that investment in […]

My turn: Turn your irrigation off, please!

by Alan Day Wonderful! The series of storms last week in Northern California, with the snowfall and steady soaking rains, was absolutely wonderful. You could almost hear the ground drinking it in. But the drought is far from over. Much like other water districts, here in El Dorado County at the El Dorado Irrigation District […]

The rural life: Before you speak (or text or post)

Words can be weapons. They can also be catalysts for great good. It all depends on how we use them. My husband is the principal of a large public high school in the Elk Grove Unified School District. A few years back, he began popularizing a certain expression among his students. His goal was getting […]


Two issues emanating from Washington, D.C. are troubling. First, is a letter from three Democratic senators and one Demo representative calling on the Federal Trade Commission to save us from outlet malls. They are claiming outlet stores are pulling the wool over the consumers eyes by making them think they are getting top-quality merchandise marked […]

California rambling: Now that’s weird

Don’t expect to visit the International Banana Museum on your next trip to Los Angeles. As appealing as it might be, it has slipped from Tinseltown to the Salton Sea. You won’t find the Museum of Miniatures, Lingerie Museum, Poodles Museum, Foot and Toe Museum or Hopalong Cassidy Museum there, either.  They’ve all closed after […]

The weekly Daley: Me and Shirley Temple

Reflecting on the death of beloved child star and later U.S. Ambassador Shirley Temple Black took me way back in time to the day Shirley and I began our relationship. Now, my brother the conservative, as we reminisced the other night, tells a Shirley Temple story that I cannot corroborate, not that I doubt his […]

Grid danger

For those who didn’t catch the well-researched article in the Feb. 5 Wall Street Journal, or its summary on Fox News, the electrical power grid may be under direct threat, and not just from cyber attacks. What the WSJ found from public filings that recently became available is that on April 16, 2013, someone removed […]

Billingsley’s Bullets: The greatest mystery of our time?

John Chapman forwarded a T-shirt statement that read, “Humpty Dumpty was pushed!” I asked seven people if they thought Humpty was pushed. Two people said “yes.” Four said “no,” and one person thought he was just clumsy. • Perhaps the greatest question of our time is “Was Humpty Dumpty pushed? Did he jump of his […]

My turn: Windfall could tempt legislature to repeat past spending mistakes

We’ve all heard dramatic stories of lottery winners acquiring hundreds of millions of dollars only to declare bankruptcy a few years later. In fact, studies show 70 percent of all individuals who suddenly receive large amounts of money will lose it in a short period of time. The cause of this problem is impulse spending […]

The ‘State of the Mountain Democrat’

I was recently invited to speak to the Pollock Pines–Camino Rotary Club. It’s always enjoyable to break bread (or in this case a breakfast Danish) with business leaders of this small but highly respected service club. It’s amazing what 16 Rotarians can accomplish. One of their key projects is to provide free dictionaries to students […]

FAA roadblock

The Federal Aviation Administration is standing in the way of progress and taking too long to write rules about things it should have minimal, if any, say over. Case No. 1 is aerial drones used by real estate photographers that don’t go any higher than 500 feet. Real estate photographers use balloons or mini-blimps that […]

My turn: Responsible budget would eliminate fire fee

In the middle of California’s driest winter on record and following an active fire season, our state must provide the firefighting services Californians need and expect. That’s why I recently sent a letter to Gov. Brown urging him to eliminate the controversial (and probably illegal) Fire Prevention Fee. I also asked him to restore full […]

February 08, 2014 | Posted in Opinion | 1 Reply

How to save water

When the El Dorado Irrigation District asked its customers to reduce water use 30 percent many customers thought EID would be checking their meters and making a list of who’s naughty and nice. Put your mind at ease. That ain’t going to happen. No. 1, they only have enough staff to read them every other […]

The balancing act: How to get around welfare

Nearly 50 years ago, President Lyndon Baines Johnson declared the creation of the Great Society in his State of the Union Speech on Jan. 4, 1965. Its purpose was to end poverty, create a program of civil rights and new health care legislation. But six months before, he already got his War on Poverty bill […]

Belltower: An early California Valentine story

Retired Chief Associate Forester Doug Leisz told me a few interesting tidbits about his wife Marian’s great-grandfather jumping ship upon his arrival in California in 1847, later getting married and his wife purchasing a book of advice on marriage from a predecessor to the Placerville Newsstand. But when Marian, who had all the details wrapped […]

Thirsty future?

January looked like one for the record books when last week we looked at it in this space, but decent rain at the end of the month left the month with a total of 0.75 inch. That is more than the 0.62 inch recorded in January 1977, the final drought years. It is more than […]

The weekly Daley: Drama and trauma and terror, oh my

Sochi — Who would ever pick Sochi, Russia as the site of the Winter Olympics, let alone for the Dog Catcher or Going Postal Olympics? For the terrorist bomber Olympics it might be just the place. Americans are warned not to leave the Olympic compound wearing their red, white and blue American flag uniforms and […]

Something to think about: Wondering while I wander

It’s always been annoying to me that I have to dump the bottle of water I brought to the airport before going through security. Since airports have learned to place little stores past the security check-in, I’ve become accustomed to purchasing a $3 bottle of water instead of the 25 cent one I would have […]

The Democratic-Chronicles: The Goldilocks solution

Following a recent editorial in this paper, “Another stab in the back,” numerous readers commented about the role of government. Thus I decided to talk with you today about this. Hold on, don’t get up and leave, I am not going to go on about Hobbs and Locke, Adam Smith or Rousseau. OK, I will, […]

Take my word for it: Time to grow up

At some point in our lives we all have to make a decision. We have to decide if the choices we are making with our lives are beneficial or detrimental to those we love around us. Or, put more simply, if those we love around us are worth keeping around. When children grow into adulthood, […]

Plan now for water saving

From the documents the El Dorado Irrigation District produced for its revenue-saving refinancing comes a list of the district’s largest customers. The list also serves as a blueprint for saving water. There is little prospect of saving water this year, except through the individual efforts of its customers. But that doesn’t mean EID shouldn’t plan […]

A water-saving ag practice

UC Cooperative Extension alerted us to a way to save some water and improve soil conditions. Since 1999 UC researchers, farmers on the west side of the valley and Natural Resource Conservation Service conservationists studied cotton and tomato production by comparing fields with cover crops and no tillage to fields with standard tillage. Applying 8 […]

The rural life: Savage love

His name was Spunky, but it could just as easily have been Slasher the way he wielded those claws. My hands and arms and ankles were often threaded with tiny scabs back in the day, when my family owned this magnificent cat, from 2002 to 2004. Half Siamese and half Himalayan, beautiful Spunky had medium-length […]

Save our plastic bags

Another bill, Senate Bill 270, is making its way through the Legislature to ban free plastic bags. It’s the San Francisco disease. They want to charge us all 10 cents apiece whether its plastic or paper. By the way, since San Francisco’s plastic bag ban went into effect there have been five to six more […]

Target shooting

Who would have thought simple target shooting could play a role in California’s economy? Well, according to a new report from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, in California target shooting-related spending contributed $1.5 billion to the state’s economy and supported 12,046 jobs. The report, dated 2012, covered statistics from 2011. It was released Jan. 24 […]

The Weekly Daley: All the news…

I think I might have missed one of my annual jaunts down memory lane last year. That is my review of the news from 100 years ago as presented in the “Chronicle of America” and the notion that there’s not much new under the sun. The Chronicle gives a year-by-year history of America from Paleolithic […]

Billingsley’s Bullets: Know when to shut up

In a relationship, the timing of what you say may be at least as important as what you say. For example, right after your spouse drops and breaks her/his favorite coffee cup is not a good time to say, “You need to be more careful in the morning,” or “You have too many cups anyway. […]

California rambling: Local Olympians

El Dorado County has a lot to cheer about this month, as three local women will be competing for the United States at the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. All three represent the Sierra at Tahoe Resort. Hannah Teter is the most renowned of the South Lake Tahoe trio of two snowboarders and […]

Rock doc: The door to hell lies in Turkmenistan

I’ve written here before about the problem of unwanted fires burning in coal deposits. Above and below ground, coal fires are a problem in both developed and developing nations. If we are serious about reducing our carbon dioxide emissions, we should address the unwanted fires burning around the world. Unwanted coal fires are not a […]

January 30, 2014 | Posted in Opinion | 1 Reply

Publisher’s ink: Puppies, cats and pork chops

Our oldest daughter called me the other day. It’s always nice to hear from her. Now that she has a full-time job and is officially off my payroll, her incoming text messages and phone calls are that much more enjoyable. Actually with this particular call she was reaching out to her mother. “Looking for mom?” […]

My turn: A response to Bill Center

Bill Center’s response to your editorial “Goofy Gavel” is framed not to respond to the specific issues raised, but to assist in his own radical, personal agenda to stop all development in El Dorado County by discrediting staff and outside consultants: those responsible for implementing local transportation programs consistent with the General Plan (GP) — […]

Ad tax insanity

Democrats never saw a tax they didn’t like. To translate that from the double negative, Democrats love to tax us. In 1969 there were 155 high-income taxpayers who found enough deductions to not pay any income tax. So Congress enacted a millionaire’s tax called the Alternative Minimum Tax. Since then it managed to suck in […]

Belltower: The high life in Albuquerque

No, we didn’t go night-clubbing in Albuquerque, N.M. We rode what the AAA Guide calls “one of the world’s longest” aerial trams. It is, if I recollect correctly, the longest in the U.S. It’s even less expensive than the Tahoe Heavenly Tram. Of course, the Sandia Peak Tram Co. in Albuquerque crams a couple dozen […]

Toxic cloud

The Pacific Northwest experienced a “cloud” of radiation after Japan’s monster tsunami sent three units of a power plant into meltdown following the March 11, 2011, Tōhoku magnitude 9.0 earthquake. That was pretty tame compared to what China has been sending us via the atmosphere — air pollution. It’s been going on for some time […]

The weekly Daley: Ain’t it awful?

Forget the “rant” by Seattle Seahawks defensive star Richard Sherman right at the end of Sunday’s championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. He was pumped up, in the game “zone,” he said. He was excited knowing he and his team were heading to the Super Bowl. And he’s only 25 years old. He’s been […]

Something to think about: Year of the Wooden Horse

Whether you believe in Chinese astrology or whether it’s just an interesting placemat at your favorite Chinese restaurant, the Chinese New Year and all that it promises arrives on Jan. 31. The New Year is always the new moon day in the first lunar month, but the Chinese astrological year, the first day of Spring […]

Drought or no drought?

An examination of the Mountain Democrat rainfall records for the past 139 years finds no precedent for this year’s pathetic precipitation to date. To recap the rain year that began July 1, 2013, September recorded 0.11 inch of rain. That is not an unusual figure for September, which has averaged 0.54 inch and had zero […]

Publisher’s ink: All dams leak

“All dams leak” were three interesting words I heard prior to taking a tour of the inside of Norris Dam located at Norris, Tenn. This dam was the first one constructed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1933. While it’s not the largest of the TVA dams, standing 265 feet below it gives one […]

Another stab in the back

In the 2012 presidential election the IRS managed to stifle a whole raft of Tea Party groups throughout the country by stalling on their application for 501(c)(4) status. The IRS would ask endless bizarre questions and then never deny their application so they could not appeal. No decision, no appeal. When this hit the news […]

Democratic-Chronicles: Protection of the General Plan

Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part column by contributor Gene Altshuler. Part one, “Whack-A-Mole,” ran on Jan. 15. The General Plan was intended to protect us from over development. However, this plan was so contentious that it had to be adopted by court order. The very first paragraph of our General Plan […]

‘A stone of hope’

Today we celebrate the 85th birth date of Martin Luther King, Jr. Whenever you say that famous name, we immediately think of two things — his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” and the “I Have a Dream” speech. Aug. 28, 2013, was the 50th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech given at the […]