Promoting incompetence 

The recent news release announcing the appointment of Don Neubacher as the new Yosemite Park director left a lot to be desired, including little things like the facts.

“Top park directors need a high degree of sophistication and experience,” National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said of his pick. Yet if you ask a lot of the people in West Marin, where Neubacher served for 15 years as head of the Point Reyes National Seashore, you would get a much different take on the overall experience — as in, happy to bid him adieu and pray for Yosemite.

Neubacher was widely criticized for his efforts to end the leases on many federally owned properties in the ranch areas of West Marin, especially one popular oyster company in Drakes Bay. In that case, it was determined that park service officials purposely fudged the scientific findings on the effects of the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. to reach the public conclusion that the operation harmed the environment.

As it turned out, a panel of scientists said the farm, which is under a federal lease until 2012, had no negative impact on Drakes Bay’s ecosystem and especially on local harbor seals. The inspector general of the U.S. Department of the Interior issued a report accusing park service officials of exaggerating data, allowing critics to say that the agency was being driven by an ideological agenda.

Neubacher’s boss at the time was none other than regional park service Director Jon Jarvis, who ultimately got tapped for the top job in Washington, D.C. Jarvis apologized for the many mistakes that were made on the lease dispute, but continued to back Neubacher throughout the controversy. And now he’s promoted him to head California’s most famous national park.

“Let’s just say they didn’t win a lot of friends in the Bay Area,” one longtime state parks official said. “The park service seems to be intent on taking over all the private holdings in national parks. This one just blew up in its face.”

For the record, Yosemite is about 10 times the size of Point Reyes and has a lot more delicate issues than oyster cultivation, trail access and how to eliminate non-native deer. To be fair, Neubacher also had some fans among Marin environmental groups and was praised for his accessibility.

That should come in handy in a high-profile national park, because chances are Neubacher is going to need a hot line. 


Mount Diablo name change stirs up debate

All hell is breaking loose in the generally pastoral area around Mount Diablo after a local man launched a drive to change the name of the historic peak after conservative champion President Ronald Reagan.

Arthur Mijares has told reporters that he wasn’t even that big a fan of Reagan. He just believes that naming a mountain after the devil was blasphemous and offensive.

I don’t know what the Spanish word for “whoops” is, but someone should provide it to Mijares so he can mutter it to himself.

More than 80,000 people have signed on to a new Facebook group called “People against re-naming Mt. Diablo Mt. Reagan,” and word is that the comments are running about 9-1 against Mijares’ plan. And they’re not all being Christian-like in their responses.

“What bozo came up with this idea?” read one of the postings.

A pithy account in the Los Angeles Times of the heretofore losing battle — county and parks officials also are adamantly opposed to it — wryly noted that Mijares has managed to unite two oddly disparate groups, those that love Mount Diablo and those that hated Reagan.

You can see more than half of California’s counties from atop Mount Diablo, and currently most of its visitors are seeing red. Mijares hasn’t helped himself with comments suggesting that the fight is one of “good versus evil.”

Reagan might have gotten away with that, but he wouldn’t have added that God told him to do it.


Suddenly, football stadiums are infrastructure of choice

How many development deals does it take to get a football stadium built? That tagline continues to add to the joke possibilities, now that reports say Oakland wants to build its own stadium to house the Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers.

That gives three scenarios to weigh: a stadium at Hunters Point that San Francisco wants to build; a stadium in Santa Clara that the 49ers want to build; and Oakland’s latest proposal, which looks like a wobbly Hail Mary tossed from the shaky hand of Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

But the number may be four, because Leonard Stefanelli, a former Cow Palace board member, has long maintained that the best site may be on land in Brisbane that San Francisco had once considered as part of a land swap for Candlestick Point. Stefanelli said the parcel was looked at by Cow Palace officials when they were talking about a new arena for professional basketball.

And it probably makes as much sense as any, since hardly a single person involved in the 49ers stadium discussions believes the organization’s owners and Raiders boss Al Davis will ever agree to share a stadium between the two teams.


Repair California may need its own overhaul

Let me see if I have this straight: The plan to put forth a ballot measure to reshape California’s constitution was dropped recently because proponents said they didn’t have enough money?

That seems to be a most improbable excuse for pulling the plug on the reform proposal since almost every major corporation in the state was a member of the coalition. Could it be that Shell Oil, PG&E, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Comcast and others simply had more pressing concerns?

You know, like lobbying all those state legislators to get what they really want? Word has it that many of the companies wanted to hold onto their money in preparation for a fight about potential tax increases on businesses.

Or it could be that the “big idea” of reform just doesn’t elicit excitement among the populace, no matter how much voters seem to dislike the very people they elect.

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