Builder jailed for bad business practices June 30, 2011, 02:55 AM Daily Journal Staff Report
The builder and former Green Building Exchange CEO accused of bilking two Pacifica homeowners of thousands of dollars through incomplete home projects was sentenced to 18 months in jail and ordered to pay more than $400,000 in restitution. A prosecutor argued that Michael George Schaeffer, 52, deserved two years and eight months in prison but Judge Jack Grandsaert opted for a lesser jail term followed by three years of supervised probation. He must also pay one homeowner $269,231.33 and the other $132,813.00. Schaeffer, who had been out on a $50,000 bail bond, was immediately taken into custody. A jury convicted Schaeffer April 15 of two felony counts of diverting funds and misdemeanor counts of contracting without a license and accepting a down payment greater than $1,000. Prior to jury deliberations, the judge granted the defense request to dismiss two counts of felony grand theft. Prosecutors say Schaeffer collected thousands of dollars for the two remodels but abandoned the projects before completion. One house was gutted to the point of being uninhabitable and another renovated without permits, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Schaeffer made a splash in local sustainable building circles with his own contracting work and as CEO of the Green Building Exchange in Redwood City. A year after opening, the exchange filed for bankruptcy, claiming nearly $1 million in debt, and moved out of Redwood City. Schaeffer is also facing a similar court trial in Santa Clara County.
The Rickson family cleaned up Fassler Boulevard June 26, removing three bags of litter, one bag of recyclables, and lots of car parts and Styrofoam, but only two Jack Daniel's bottles. At past cleanups they have collected as many as a dozen empty JD bottles. The Ricksons have adopted Fassler and cleaned it for Earth Day in April, Coastal Cleanup Day in September, and just about every other month for more than three years. Before that, they cleaned Palmetto Avenue from Walgreens to IBL School. Nancy Rickson also inspired Cabrillo School families to adopt streets around the school and clean them for Earth Day.* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Deirdre Finnegan and Georgette Derdevanis of the Pacifica Beach Coalition led more than a dozen volunteers June 26 in removing wild radish, wild mustard, and other weeds along the bike path from Linda Mar to Rockaway.Removing invasive species gives native plants more space, nutrients, and water to grow. We hope natives will expand their territory up to the bike path and provide more shelter and food for native shorebirds and insects and animals that rely on beach habitat.While some may think the flowering weeds are pretty, species relying on beach habitat will benefit greatly from weed removal. More opportunities to help clean, plant, weed, and restore beach habitat:
Thursday, June 30 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (meet at Chamber of Commerce, Rockaway Beach)
Saturday, July 2 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (meet at Pacifica Community Center, Crespi and Highway 1, or along bike path between Crespi and Rockaway)
Thursday, July 7 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (meet on bike path between Crespi and Rockaway)
4th Sunday of every month from 10 a.m. to 12 noon (meet at Pacifica Community Center)
L Y N N . A D A M S President, Pacifica Beach Coalition 650-355-1668 Office 415-309-5856 Cell * Pick up fireworks debris and litter wherever you see it. * Join a beach cleanup. Fireworks debris washes up on the beaches for months. * Join a habitat restoration project. Native plants feed native species. * Visit pacificabeachcoalition.org for schedules, photos, stories, and updates.
Several reports released in June 2011 underscore the urgency of ocean protection efforts like California’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). Scientists warn that climate change, overfishing, habitat loss, and acidification are driving marine systems to the brink, and cite marine protected areas as a critical part of the solution to buffer against growing pressures and to allow nature to rebound.
On June 20, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published a study that concluded the state of our oceans is more dire than previously thought, warning “this is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level. We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime.” A story in the San Francisco Chronicle noted that “damage to marine life would harm its ability to support humans.”
While the findings are grim, the IUCN report does offer concrete steps we can take to reverse the downward trend in ocean health. The report summary specifically calls for the need to “establish a globally comprehensive and representative system of marine protected areas to conserve biodiversity, to build resilience, and to ensure ecologically sustainable fisheries with minimal ecological footprint.”
The same week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a report that called for more marine reserves and protected areas in U.S. waters, particularly in coastal areas. It noted their value both for wildlife and for people: “Establishing a marine reserve not only protects and helps to restore the habitats and populations of organisms within the reserve, it can also support and enhance the habitats and populations throughout a region. This in turn supports human communities by protecting places and resources valued by people for their intrinsic and economic values.“
Finally, a study published in Nature on June 22underscored the worldwide importance of the California current, likened to the Serengeti, for the survival of top ocean predators like sharks, sea turtles, and tunas. The study emphasized the value of protecting habitat “hot spots.” One of the authors was quoted in the San Diego Union Tribune calling for an ecosystem based management system (like a network of marine protected areas).
The message for California is clear: global scientific consensus supports the need for timely implementation of the MLPA. A statewide system of marine protected areas will function like an insurance policy against environmental changes, boosting resilience, enhancing our understanding of marine systems, and safeguarding vital resources.
With so many jobs and businesses depending on the productivity of our ocean, it’s clear that ocean protection must remain a top priority for our state, with completion of the statewide network of protections called for in the MLPA as job number one.
Inspirational item in San Francisco Chronicle (June 25) about bar owner Paul Marino, who mistakenly was given three boxes of silver coins worth more than $82,000 at a UPS store. When he got home and discovered the error, he promptly returned the treasure trove to UPS and picked up his correct shipment of poker chips for his North Beach bar, Columbus Cafe. Apparently, the UPS clerk, despite an I.D. check, had handed Marino the wrong boxes. I hope Marino gets a reward and an award for his honesty. If I can ever find a parking place in North Beach, I will go to the Columbus Café, order a Virgin Mary, and leave Marino a large tip.
How the mighty have fallen! Now even the Wall Street Journal has succumbed to spellcheckeritis: "...in 2003 Maris's name resurfaced on the Veteran's Committee ballet." ("The Case Against Roger Maris," by Allen Barra, Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2011) Good catch by Gary Lippman, who joins me in mourning overreliance on automation in the newsroom and the resultant loss of high editorial standards. Always remember, spellcheckers just spell words correctly but don’t discern one word from another.
Our jaunty jokester Mikey sent us an Internet oldie-but-goodie called "Money Bags," which says that this year the month of July has five Fridays, five Saturdays, and five Sundays. This actually happens every few years, not 823 years ago, as the email claims. ("Money Bags" also says that you have to forward the email to all your friends to win lucky bucks. Yeah, sure. Hey, we weren't born yesterday.)
The email also says that this year has four unusual dates (1/1/11, 1/11/11, 11/1/11, 11/11/11) and that if you take the last two digits of the year you were born and add your age, the result is 111 for everyone in the world. We have no idea if this is true or not, because we are just English majors, not mathematicians, so feel free to debunk us on Snopes.com and flame us with withering looks and comments.
The Pacifica City Council adopted a budget Monday that cut $1.5 million and 19.7 staff jobs, including that of the city attorney. But it won't be nearly enough. "We're still deficit spending," said Mayor Mary Ann Nihart, before voting for the budget. "We're but a decent lawsuit away from a bankruptcy this year."
Officials used the city's reserves to cover the deficit, a long-running habit in Pacifica. But the reserve is now running so low -- projected to bottom out at $976,000 by the end of the fiscal year, barring an unexpected boost in property taxes -- that if an earthquake or a tsunami hit, the city would not be able to pay for a response.
The city was counting on voters' willingness to renew a fire suppression property tax assessment that, along with further cuts, would have buoyed the city through a $14 million shortfall between now and 2014-15. But voters rejected the assessment this year, and officials have projected the need to cut $2 million more in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
Unfortunately, council members disagree on where to cut. Councilman Peter DeJarnatt voted against adopting the $26 million budget as written on Monday. He said he objected to cutting City Attorney Cecilia Quick and replacing her with a contracted attorney. Pacifica spent $388,179 on Quick's salary and benefits last year, plus another $283,358 on outside attorney expenses, for a total of $691,720. This year, the city is projected to save $112,000 on attorney services -- a savings of 16 percent.
DeJarnatt remembers how, several years ago, the city changed back from a contract attorney to a city attorney because of ballooning expenses. "I don't think this will save any money in the long term," he said.
At the eleventh hour, city officials were able to avoid cuts to the Pacifica Resource Center, which serves Pacifica's neediest residents, and to the Pacifica libraries. In retrospect, some council members said they ought to have made some cuts so that next year's slash-and-burn-style budget will come as less of a shock to residents. But Councilman Len Stone said he would avoid touching the Resource Center's budget at all costs.
Most of the cuts this time came from big-ticket payroll positions, especially in the police and fire departments. Five police dispatchers and a dispatch supervisor were laid off as the city prepares to contract with police dispatch services in South San Francisco. A fire battalion chief, two firefighters and a fire inspector were demoted, laid off or shifted over to the North County Fire Authority.
Every city department has made concessions and suffered cuts. But DeJarnatt said the public had been shielded from the effects of the budget crisis so far, which he said would have to change. "People don't realize how dire this is," he said. "Next year is going to be really, really bad."