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News Briefs

By Patricia Lynn Henley

Seals with hats

Harbor seals along the Marin and Sonoma coastline are sporting new accessories: brightly colored plastic "hats," each marked with an easy-to-read number. Coastal residents and visitors are asked to report the color, number and location of any tagged animals as part of a harbor seal health study by Denise Greig, a biologist at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. "The harbor seal's coastal habitat is influenced by human-produced pollutants, including sewage, agricultural and surface runoff, and industrial pollutants," Greig explains. "Our study may tell us if exposure is affecting seal health, and the seals in turn may tell us about possible impacts on human health." Studies using hat tags have been done elsewhere, but this is the first in the North Bay. To report a seal hat, call 415.289.7350 or e-mail [email protected]. People should only report tag sightings, Greig says, and never approach or in any way disturb the seals.

Lion shuts school

On the second day of school, classes were cancelled for approximately 300 preschool-to-eighth-grade students at St. John's Lutheran School in Napa, thanks to a reported campus visit by a mountain lion. Shortly after 7am on Thursday, Aug. 23, two school neighbors made independent sightings of the animal and called police and animal control officials. School principal Joel Wahlers was notified of a possible but unconfirmed mountain lion sighting, and as a safety precaution he locked down the campus and shut the school for the day. "We've never seen anything like that here before," Wahlers says. He adds that the suburban campus is surrounded by houses, but is located less than a mile from the open, wildlands-style Alston Park and vineyards. Local and state officials searched the area but couldn't find any signs to confirm that a mountain lion strolled onto the campus.

Parking suits

Dispute over parking-lot rights has prompted two Marin County lawsuits. Dave Corkill, a Petaluma resident and operator of the Tiburon Playhouse movie theater, recently filed a lawsuit claiming that, beginning in April, his patrons were unfairly denied free parking in the next-door lot, a policy that had been in place for 13 years. The lot's owner, Laleh Zelinsky of Belvedere, says that deal ended when she officially transferred ownership of the theater building to her daughter-in-law as part of a complicated family real estate split. Zelinsky is suing Corkill for defamation.

Faxing it In

Faced a court hearing, Marin County officials reversed their ruling disqualifying Judy Schriebman as a candidate for the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District board because she faxed in her paperwork. Although state guidelines prohibit candidates from filing by fax, Marin County's written guidelines don't include that specific stipulation, says Marin County Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold. Schriebman was out of California on the final filing date, so she called the registrar's office and was incorrectly told by a staff member that she could fax in her paperwork. She did, and a representative turned in her required payment. On Aug. 13 the county ruled that Schriebman was disqualified because they her papers were faxed. "The main thing is that we have to have an original signature on these documents," explains Ginnold. Schriebman took the issue to court, and county officials re-visited their decision. "The county counsel advised us to put her on the ballot," Ginnold says. If Schriebman had not qualified as a candidate, incumbents Douglas Colbert and Craig Murray would have kept their seats on the North San Rafael board without an election. The county, Ginnold adds, is revising its written election guidelines to specifically ban faxed-in paperwork.

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