<b>Back aboard the Skunk</b>
The Skunk Train is back on the tracks. Four months ago, when a tunnel east of Fort Bragg collapsed, there was a real possibility that it was the end of the line for the historic train. That would have been bad news for Mendocino County, which counts the Skunk as one of its major tourist attractions.
A public fundraising campaign brought in about $110,000 for repairs, and Save the Redwoods League, a conservation group, provided the rest by buying an option on some of the forestland along the Willits-Fort Bragg route. The first trains ran Wednesday from Willits, and the full route should reopen soon. All aboard.
<b>A poster boy for pension reform?</b>
Vernon is an industrial city with about 90 residents in Los Angeles County. As city manager, Bruce Malkenhorst, negotiated a sweet deal for himself — about $900,000 a year in pay and benefits. He retired in 2005 with an annual pension of $545,000.
Two years ago, he pleaded guilty to charges that he spent city money for his personal benefit. He was placed on probation and, in an unrelated development, CalPERS ruled that Vernon hadn't properly reported Malkenhorst's pay and reduced his pension to $115,000 a year. He is now suing the city for the difference. Let's hope the court isn't as gullible as Vernon's City Council.
<b>When yes is no and vice versa</b>
Readers often ask how a particular legislator voted on a particular bill. It's a good question — but sometimes the answer isn't what it seems. In the state Assembly, members routinely change their votes after the fact to disguise or burnish their records. Sometimes they wait to add their vote until hours after the roll call is completed.
According to an Associated Press report, Assembly members changed their votes 5,000 times in 2012. And the practice has continued this year, with every member changing or adding at least one vote. As an illustration, AP checked all 97 bill passed on May 30 and found that at least one legislator switched a vote on every bill.
The only reason to change a vote is to fool voters. What needs to be changed is the rule allowing this misleading practice.
<b>A midsummer showcase</b>
If you haven't gotten out to the Sonoma County Fair, there are still seven days of "home spun fun." Since 1936, the fair has been a gathering spot for families and a showcase of local arts and agriculture.
Most fairgoers have a favorite destination — maybe it's the Ferris wheel or the livestock barns, the Hall of Flowers or a junior livestock auction. Perhaps you want a bowl of Art Ibleto's pasta or some garlic fries or to look for familiar names among the 20,000 entries in the arts and crafts competitions.
Few events bring more attractions to the same venue. Before it closes on Sunday, more than 300,000 people are expected to pass through the gates. We'll look for you there.