Saturday, April 16, 2016

ABAG Members Talk about How to Profit from AirBNB through taxes and fees

If you rent out your house or condo through AirBNB or some other short term rental service, you may be subject to huge taxes and fees if our local politicians get their way.  ABAG's director is asking to make it ILLEGAL.

Yikes.  Talk about stepping on property rights.

Merle Haggard doing impersonations (Marty, Hank Snow, Buck, Cash)

Friday, April 15, 2016

Socialism is Not Cool!

LAFCO "lays down the law" to the Marinwood CSD

Editor's Note: The Marinwood CSD got a visit from Keene Simonds, executive director for Marin LAFCO.  He essentially said, "LAFCO is in charge of everything.  The Marinwood CSD has no power without our approval".   He definitely suggested there will be changes and his word will be law.  It is really chilling actually.   We have no rights and they can take our CSD assets.  No appeal.  
Susan Adams ( Damon Connolly as of 1/1/2015), Judy Arnold and Kate Sears serve on it's board, and issue orders to the director. Could this be the county's "workaround" the 85% of us who oppose high density development of unincorporated Marin? 

If you don't have time for the full video, just watch the last three minutes. Dearborn asks, "If we don't want a study, will you still do your study?". Simonds responds, " Oh, we WILL study you"

Sorry that I did not edit this video down.   For more information on LAFCO see

Marin Voice: LAFCO's governmental role in Marin

Posted:   11/14/2013 06:15:11 PM PST

WHAT exactly is Marin LAFCO? This is certainly a common response — at least one version — for most citizens when they hear or read about LAFCO; a governmental agency whose acronym alone seemingly conjures up imagines of everything other than what it actually is.

A Local Agency Formation Commission — LAFCO — is a planning arm of the California Legislature sited in all 58 counties and tasked with producing efficient and accountable government.
Additionally, for those with some existing awareness of LAFCO, questions frequently persist in understanding what the agency actually does and for what reasons.

All LAFCOs ostensibly operate with relatively low "q" ratings in terms of the public's familiarity with their purpose and work despite the agency's very public role in directing growth and development by forming, modifying, and dissolving local governmental agencies and service areas.
This dynamic is amplified locally given the increasing number of acronym-laden agencies in and around Marin County that provide some type of focused planning ranging from broadband to transportation. Marin LAFCO, however and contrast to observations in a recent Marin Voice column in the Independent Journal ("We are losing local control," Oct. 24), is different from most of the other referenced agencies given it exercises broad powers derived directly from state law (unlike joint powers authorities) and comprised solely of locally elected and appointed officials drawn from the affected county (unlike other regional regulatory agencies).

As for the ins and outs in getting to the "oh" — most citizens reaction to hearing more on our activities — in Marin LAFCO, here are some takeaways:

• Marin LAFCO includes seven voting members divided between two county supervisors, two city council members, two special district representatives and one public member. Each voting category also has one alternate.
Importantly, all members are obligated by oath to exercise their independent judgment on behalf of the interests of the entire county.
• Marin LAFCO maintains local discretion in administering its prescribed regulatory and planning responsibilities with observance to three core objectives that apply to all LAFCOs: prevent urban sprawl; protect against the premature conversion of agriculture and open space; and produce studies to contribute to the orderly development of local communities.
This local discretion markedly helps to explain why governmental boundaries and service areas take up different forms from one county to the next.
• State law now requires Marin LAFCO to prepare studies every five years to independently assess governmental services relative to local needs; studies known as "municipal service reviews."
These studies have three connected purposes: inform the public; facilitate opportunities to make government more efficient; and guide the commission in its duty to regularly update all local agencies' spheres of influence — the state's version of urban/service limit lines.
• Marin LAFCO currently oversees governmental boundaries and service areas of 63 local governmental agencies divided between 11 cities and 52 special districts with most of the latter consisting of independent boards providing services to unincorporated communities.
With regard to upcoming activities, Marin LAFCO is starting work on a countywide municipal service review on potable water with the goal of presenting a draft outline for initial discussion as early as December 2013.

This study will focus on independently evaluating the supply and demand issues underlying water service and its integral role in supporting growth in Marin County.

Public input of this and all of Marin LAFCO's studies are encouraged. Toward this end, Marin LAFCO generally meets on the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at San Rafael City Hall.
Information on meetings and other items is available by visiting

We hope to hear from you.

Keene Simonds is the executive officer of the Marin Local Agency Formation Commission.

I'm Proud to Pay My Taxes!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

LAFCO announces Study to Merge Marinwood 4/12/2016

Meet Rachel Jones, LAFCO associate that will be Conducting Marinwood Merger Study

Rachel Jones is the new LAFCO associate that will be assigned to the Marinwood, Lucas Valley, Los Ranchitos, San Rafael study.

She was an associate with SPUR, an urban policy think tank pushing high density housing and regionalism.  Here is a humorous video that she did in 2015.

Important LAFCO Meeting about the MERGER with SAN RAFAEL

Important LAFCO Meeting!
Like King Henry the Eighth, LAFCO rules with IMPUNITY on the fate of neighborhoods.

An important LAFCO meeting is happening tonight at 7 PM in San Rafael City Hall.
Up for discussion, is a LAFCO  study to recommend possible merger with San Rafael. As many of us know San Rafael is insolvent due to vast pension debt.  Merger undoubtedly will drain our local resources and lead to the loss of our local voice in neighborhood issues. I suspect the later is EXACTLY why it is being looked at because of our recent successes.

We need you to attend to voice objection.  This is the start of a new fight for the survival of our community.  Please spread the word.  

Dallas is crushing this small business in a "Priority Development Area"

   able to open up his own shop in 1985.
That business, Hinga’s Automotive Company, is located in Dallas and has been hugely popular among locals for three decades (seriously, check out these Yelp reviews!).
So all’s well that ends well, right?
[T]hanks to a little-known zoning tactic known as “amortization,” the Dallas City Council is trying to remove Hinga from his own property. Back in 2005, the council re-zoned Hinga’s neighborhood for a “planned development district.” Any properties that were “nonconforming” with the new zoning designation had a limited amount of time to comply. For Hinga, that would mean closing down his business. …
Despite strong protections against the abuse of eminent domain, Texas has failed to safeguard homes and businesses from amortization. Back in 1972, the Texas Supreme Court upheld amortization, ruling that it “does not constitute a ‘taking’ in the eminent domain sense,” but instead fell “within the scope of municipal police power.” With only one justice dissenting, the court held that “property owners do not acquire a constitutionally protected vested right in property uses once commenced or in zoning classifications once made.”
Meanwhile, any “compensation” comes from owners recouping their investment in their property during the amortization period. In other words, the government doesn’t have to pay Hinga a dime to kick him off his property.
While Mbogo has been able to convince the city planners to extend their doomsday plans twice—at the cost of $7,500 in one case—he’s not out of the woods yet. And because potential buyers know he’s under the gun to sell thanks to the rezoning rule, Mbogo is getting lowball offers that aren’t enough to relocate his business or fund his retirement in a few years.
“I got bad offers [from developers] because they thought I was desperate from pressure,” he explains.
Today, Hinga’s Automotive Company is the only functioning business left in its neighborhood, and Mbogo has enlisted the aid of the Institute for Justice (IJ), a libertarian law firm that fights against exactly this kind of government abuse:
Dallas is also violating the U.S. Constitution, which requires the government to give “just compensation” to property owners whose property it takes. The city is not compensating Hinga whatsoever, even though it is effectively taking his property through amortization.
Hinga’s shop poses no risk to public safety, health, or welfare; instead, it provides a vital service to the Dallas community.
Dallas officials aren’t only taking away Hinga’s business; they’re stealing the American dream from someone who worked incredibly hard to achieve it.
“When I found out I had to lose my livelihood,” Mbogo says, “I couldn’t believe that I was in America. I left a place where that stuff happens—but not here. This is the land of opportunity.”
Unfortunately, this kind of cronyism and trampling of individual rights has become very American indeed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

County of Marin bans Glyphosate while Marinwood CSD just approved its use in parks, playgrounds and open space.

County of Marin Takes Baby Steps Towards a Toxic-Free Approach to Vegetation Management 

Sir Francis Drake Median, where County Parks will test a new toxic-free
approach to vegetation management (Frankie Frost - Marin IJ)
Hi Neighbors and Friends,

Yesterday, the Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved County Parks Staff's proposal to test out a toxic-free approach to vegetation management on County traffic medians, which would eliminate the use of conventional herbicides, including Glyhosate-based formulations.  Glyphosate is the main ingredient in the toxic herbicide Roundup and has been identified as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO).  Staff's plan involves testing the new toxic-free maintenance methods for about a year, at which point Staff will return with an evaluation of the effectiveness of the program. 

The toxic-free approach will cost $100,000/yr more than the previous maintenance method of using conventional herbicides like Roundup.  This is money well spent and a pittance compared to the County's total budget (over $519 million in expenditures for Year 2015-16) or the medical costs of even one person developing a serious illness due to exposure to a Glyphosate-based herbicide.

In addition, the Supervisors allocated $100,000 for an Educational Outreach Program to educate the public about reducing the use of hazardous herbicides.  While tending to their gardens, homeowners use the greatest amount of Roundup in Marin.

The Board's actions follow a previous decision, made earlier in the year, to eliminate the use of toxic Glyphosate-based herbicides in County Park Facilities.  

With these baby steps, the Supervisors and the County are moving in the right direction but much more must be done to protect the environment and public health and safety.  The new toxic-free maintenance methods only apply to the 147 sites managed by Marin County Parks (approximately 3,300 acres).  However, the majority of lands under the County's stewardship are the 34 Marin County Open Space District preserves, which consist of nearly 16,000 acres.  Conventional herbicides, like toxic Roundup, are still being used in these preserves.  

To urge the Supervisors to make greater strides towards protecting the environment and the public from hazardous toxins, Sustainable TamAlmonte made the following recommendations, which unfortunately were not addressed:

- Direct Staff to eliminate Glyphosate-based herbicides from the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program's "Allowed Products List" by no later than January 2017.  (As long as Glyphosate remains on the IPM products list, County Parks Staff can return to using Glyphosate-based herbicides at any time.)

-Direct Staff to develop a plan and cost estimate for an alternative design of traffic medians, which would minimize the need for weed maintenance.  (Staff mentioned that they would consider such a plan sometime in the future.  Our request was to get started on it right away.)

- Require the Marin County Open Space District Vegetation and Biodiversity Plan Draft Environmental Impact Report's (DEIR) alternative analysis to include a "No Pesticide Alternative".  (By not evaluating a "No Pesticide Alternative" approach to vegetation management in the Marin County Open Space District, the DEIR violates the California Environmental Quality Act.  Moreover, it makes it more difficult for the Supervisors to move forward on extending the toxic-free maintenance approach to the Marin County Open Space preserves.)

- Officially bring the Marin County Open Space District under the Integrated Pest Management Ordinance.  (Currently, the Marin County IPM Ordinance, Policy and Program only apply to Marin County Parks but not to the Marin County Open Space District.  The IPM Program provides for greater protections, oversight and transparency, which could greatly benefit the Open Space preserves.)

Supporters of "Pesticide-Free" Marin will need to continue their efforts to persuade the Supervisors to give the Marin County Open Space District the same protections as Marin County Parks.

For more details, please read the below Marin IJ article by Nels Johnson entitled; "Marin eliminates use of glyphosate on traffic median strips."

Thank you to all of you who attended the hearing and sent in letters.  Together, we made a difference!


Sharon Rushton
Sustainable TamAlmonte |

See the story in the Marin IJ HERE
Meanwhile, in Marinwood, the CSD unanimously approved the use of pesticides including Glyphosate in the Parks, Playgrounds and Open Space in February 2016. 
I was the only person to speak out against its use and was silenced. It is illegal EVERYWHERE IN MARIN COUNTY PARKS. Undocumented pesticide use has been happening in Lucas Valley as recently as a few weeks ago. 

Free Speech and Local Politics.

Why do local politicians argue AGAINST citizen involvement in local matters?  This Novato policy is anti-democratic and likely illegal.  Novato should abolish it immediately.

Martin Luther King has a few things to say about the First Amendment.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

CNN: 'Erin Brockovich' town still poisoned

Remember the Julia Roberts movie, "Erin Brokovich"? It was about a terrible hexavalent chromium contamination in Hinkley, CA by PGE . I understand the caseworker for RWQCB on Marinwood Plaza was a consultant that worked in the case for PGE during that time: 

It takes guts and determination to get environmental justice. Will you stand with your neighbors?

More on Hinkley, CA HERE

EDITOR'S NOTE: The cleanup plan of Marinwood Plaza must be rejected.  The polluter has not even defined the how far the toxic plume and soil gas has spread.  They now want a "conditional approval" that may delay full cleanup for DECADES.  Come to the meeting on Wednesday, April 13th in Oakland, CA.  See details below:

Important Meeting Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at 9:00AM

Celebrate Earth Day!
Public Hearing on
Marinwood   Toxic Waste Cleanup

Now is the time to act on behalf of Marinwood.
Casa Marinwood,  Silveira Ranch and the future residents of Marinwood Plaza are in danger of
toxic contaminants.

We need YOU.

We need YOU to testify at the public hearing to urge the board to reject the Clean up Plan and create a new plan that addresses ALL the TOXIC WASTE.

Please attend:

Regional Water Quality Control Board
San Francisco Bay Region
1515 Clay St.,Auditorium
Oakland, CA  94612

Hearing starts at 9:00 AM.

Marinwood hearing starts approx 10:00 am

for more info and ride sharing:

Five Minutes to understand the Basics of the Marinwood Plaza Toxic Waste Problem

Only a few drops of PCE can poison an entire pool.
The original "spill" reported in July 2013 was reported as "only a few pounds" by Geologica and the spill less than a few hundred square feet.  It is now estimated to be 1/2 mile to the East and we still not have full defined the plume. We estimate hundreds of pounds may have spilled since the business began in 1965.
Geologica is recommending only to remove a 10' x 10 x 15' deep section of toxic soil. The known plume is well over 500,000 square feet and they will only remove 100 square feet?  RIDICULOUS!

This is the size of "a few pounds" of PCE. It is about 1 pint or .47 liters.

The Geologica Remedial Action Plan is incomplete and relies on inaccurate and incomplete data for its recommendations.  Worse still, it does not have a start date which means that they are asking the board to permanently delay remediation until after a buyer is found. Meanwhile NO ACTIVE REMEDIATION has occurred since 2011 while TOXIC WASTE has spread.  This is not acceptable.

Tetrachloroethylene (Perchloroethylene)


Hazard Summary-Created in April 1992; Revised in December 2012
Tetrachloroethylene is widely used for dry-cleaning fabrics and metal degreasing operations. Effects resulting from acute (short term) high-level inhalation exposure of humans to tetrachloroethylene include irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes, kidney dysfunction, and neurological effects such as reversible mood and behavioral changes, impairment of coordination, dizziness, headache, sleepiness, and unconsciousness.  The primary effects from chronic (long term) inhalation exposure are neurological, including impaired cognitive and motor neurobehavioral performance.  Tetrachloroethylene exposure may also cause adverse effects in the kidney, liver, immune system and hematologic system, and on development and reproduction. Studies of people exposed in the workplace have found associations with several types of cancer including bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma.  EPA has classified tetrachloroethylene as likely to be carcinogenic to humans.
For a complete report see the EPA Website HERE
And of course there is the politics of Toxic Waste........

Erin Brockovich Explains the Flint Water Crisis

Over a year ago — nine months after the city of Flint, Michigan, began sourcing its water from a polluted local river, and 10 months before the national media began paying any attention to the crisis unfolding there — Erin Brockovich was sounding alarm bells.

WHO Poisoned Flint, Michigan? 

"Dangerous Undrinkable Drinking Water," Brockovich wrote on Facebook in January 2015. "Everyone is responsible from the top down: USEPA, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the State of Michigan and the local officials."
Brockovich is famous for her fight in the 1990s to hold Pacific Gas & Electric accountable for contaminating the groundwater in the town of Hinkley, California. The company was eventually forced to settle the direct-action lawsuit she brought against it for $333 million — at the time, the largest award for a suit of its kind. Julia Roberts famously portrayed Brockovich in the 2000 film about the suit.
Brockovich's early 2015 Facebook post turned out to be prophetic. Several months later, scientists from Virginia Tech confirmed that dangerously high levels of lead had been found in more than 40 percent of residents' homes, and some time after that officials admitted they'd stopped essential water treatments — the kind would keep from lead and copper from leaching into the water — after switching water sources.
Within the year, the EPA's regional administrator, the head of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and MDEQ's spokesman had all resigned in connection with the crisis. Gov. Rick Snyder publicly apologized and promised to do everything he could to fix the situation.
So, how did Brockovich — who lives  in Southern California, 2,300 miles from Flint — know there was a problem before local and state officials did? Because the people of Flint told her.
"Whenever there is a water contamination [problem], because of the film Erin Brockovich, people just think: Erin Brockovich," she tells Rolling Stone. She has a website with a contact form that routes inquiries to her email address, so whenever a flurry of emails from one city show up in her inbox, she knows there may a problem.
When Flint residents started writing her more than year ago, Brockovich was out of the country, but she dispatched water-quality expert Bob Bowcock to test the water in the city.
Bowcock, a former water-utility manager, recognized immediately that there was too much chlorine in Flint's water supply — and he told the local newspaper that such a high level of the chemical was undoubtedly responsible for the rashes city residents had begun complaining about.
On February 17, after touring the city's water-treatment plant and examining documents related to the switch, Bowcock sent a letter to Mayor Dayne Walling and the Flint City Council containing 16 recommendations for addressing Flint's water issues.
"It was about the corrosiveness of the river, it was about the appropriate ways to treat it," says Brockovich.
And "it was ignored," she says.
"It's very frustrating for us. It's very frustrating for the people of Flint. It's very frustrating for every community that we're dealing with throughout the United States," Brockovich says. "Flint is the tip of the iceberg; this is a national crisis."
She says the same dynamics at play in Flint are creating parallel situations in cities around the country: Cash-strapped municipalities trying to cut costs are taking short-cuts when it comes to the water supply. "It boils down to money," she says.
One of the biggest problems Brockovich has noticed is a dramatic increase in the use of less-expensive chloramines by water utilities around the U.S. High levels of chloramines have been shown to cause low birth rates, among other adverse health impacts. "We should pay more upfront to protect health and welfare," Brockovich says.
She says damage is already being done in cities around the country, rattling off a list of cities where problems are cropping up: Stockton, California; Sebring, Ohio; Tyler, Texas.
Brockovich predicts there are many more Flints to come.
"We've [seen] this coming for 20 years," she says. "I feel like Bill Paxton from that scene in the movie Twister, when they say the tornado's coming, and he's like, 'It's already here!' It's already here."
Water-contamination problems have been "just popping up, popping up, popping up" around the country, she says. "And the delay has been politics."

Read more:
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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright"

Merle Haggard, RIP

Merle Haggard, RIP

A great American voice has died.

The man better keep both eyes on me, or they're gonna lose ol' Hag.CapitolFifty-nine years ago, two men and a woman sat around a table in Bakersfield, drinking red wine and cursing the state of the union. "Ain't no jobs to be had," one man said.
"I know it, I know it," said the other. "An honest man might's well quit trying." And then he added: "I know where there's a bunch of money. It wouldn't be no trouble to get it."
The trio, now thoroughly drunk, decided to break into a restaurant on Highway 99. No one would catch them, they reasoned, because it was 3 in the morning. And so they headed out to the roadhouse with a baby in tow, and they started trying to pry their way in through the back door.
Unfortunately for the crooks, they had been too drunk to read the clock correctly: It was actually around 10 p.m., and the joint was still open. And that was how Merle Haggard, who had already spent more than a little time locked up for a variety of petty offenses, got a ticket to San Quentin.
It was in that prison, inspired by one of Johnny Cash's concerts-behind-bars, that Haggard the inept burglar decided to turn his life around. We're all fortunate that he did. In the time since he left San Quentin in 1960, Haggard—who died today on his 79th birthday—built one of the richest bodies of work in the history of American popular music. A country singer, Haggard was always happy to draw as well from other genres: blues, rock, gospel, and especially jazz. (The next time you watch that famous clip of Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing an odd-couple duet, remind yourself that Haggard was a professed fan of both.) He was an excellent vocalist, a capable guitarist and fiddler, and the leader of an expert band. But he wasn't just a musical giant. His finest songs are tightly compressed stories and character sketches that belong in the canon of American literature.
How much do his best records stand out? Country music is full of songs about truck drivers, but I can't think of any as world-weary and bleak as "White Line Fever," with its aging narrator's lament: "I've been from coast to coast a hundred times or more/And I ain't found one single place where I ain't been before."

The song treats truck driving as an addiction, and when you combine that with the phrase "white line" you may suspect the verses have a hidden second subject. Decades later, Haggard would begin another world-weary song—"Wishing All These Old Things Were New"—with an explicit reference to that other sort of white line: "Watching while some old friends do a line/Holding back the want-to in my own addicted mind." And then, in the second verse, a moment with more than a hint of autobiography: "Watching while some young men go to jail/And they show it all on TV, just to see somebody fail." Listen:

It's both nostalgic and anti-nostalgic—a song for someone who misses the old times but also knows damn well they weren't as good as he remembers them. This was a recurring theme for Haggard. (It should be no surprise that he recorded a version of Dolly Parton's "In the Good Old Days When Times Were Bad.") His most poetic expression of the idea may be a line from "They're Tearing the Labor Camps Down," a song about a man returning to his hometown and seeing that the camp where he used to work isn't there anymore. "I feel a little sentimental shame," he sings.

Photo not shot in Muskogee.Hemp TimesHaggard's most famous record—or infamous, in some circles—is "Okie from Muskogee," the Silent Majority's great culture-war anthem of 1969. At the time, people took it as a song for hardhats who hated hippies: Spiro Agnew mashed up with the Grand Ole Opry. Years later, it became common to claim the tune was intended as a joke. Haggard's latter-day lifestyle certainly made it easy to take it that way: When a man who smokes pot starts a song with the words "We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee," you have to wonder whether he's speaking for himself. And Haggard undeniably enjoyed his pot. "Son," he supposedly said once, "the only place I don't smoke it is Muskogee!"
Haggard himself was always cagey about what he meant by the song, and the answers he gave to interviewers weren't always consistent with one another. But the best way to understand the record, I've long thought, is to take it as a dramatic monologue. "Okie" reports how a conservative character feels about the counterculture, and whether you take his views as inspiring or hilarious is up to you. The fact that it can work either way is a tribute to Haggard's skills.

It could be hard to get a bead on Haggard's politics. After "Okie from Muskogee" was a smash hit, Haggard wanted his next single to be "Irma Jackson," an anti-racist story about interracial love. His label rejected the idea—indeed, it refused to release the song at all for several years—and his follow-up instead was "The Fightin' Side of Me," a ditty about wanting to beat up anti-American protesters. That one could've been the soundtrack to the Hard Hat Riot of 1970, when rampaging construction workers in New York attacked hippies and demanded that City Hall raise the American flag. (Though even here, the politics aren't as simple as you might assume: The singer stresses that "I don't mind them switching sides and standing up for things that they believe in" before explaining that it's "when they're running down our country" that "they're walking on the fighting side of me.")
Haggard's politics got only more unpredictable as he grew older. By the late '90s he was spouting militia-style conspiracy theories and calling for the legalization of weed. In the Bush years he took to denouncing the president as one of "the top three assholes of all time" (along with Nixon and Hitler) and harshly criticizing the Iraq war. ("Why don't we liberate/These United States?/We're the ones who need it the worst," he sang in 2005. The track was called "America First.") In 2008, he wrote a number endorsing Hillary Clinton for president—not one of his most accomplished compositions, though I can't help admiring his ability to fit the line "What we need's a big switch of genders" into a country song. Or maybe I should say he seemed to endorse Hillary: Not long after he wrote it, he went on the Bill Maher show and defied common sense by denying that the song—which builds to the line "let's put a woman in charge"—had been an endorsement. ("I simply wrote a song that said she would be the best buy," hegrinned, prompting Maher to comment that Haggard was "parsing it closer than Bill.") Haggard was large. He contained multitudes.
And so did his catalog. It's not just that he wrote so many wonderful hits, from "Mama Tried" to "Silver Wings" to "Big City." Even his obscure compositions could be gems, from the delicate, Blackbirdesque beauty of "The Day the Rains Came" to the blunt paranoia of "Lonesome Day." He was a master interpreter of other people's words too: It was Hank Cochran and Red Lane who wrote "I'll Be a Hero When I Strike," a haunting portrait of an assassin, but the skittish, apprehensive delivery here is all Haggard:

With so many brilliant entries in the Haggard songbook, I'm not sure I could pick a single favorite. But if I had to choose one, it would probably be "Sing Me Back Home," a superficially simple account of a prisoner singing one last song to another convict before the latter is led to the executioner. There are no inspired metaphors or bursts of clever wordplay here, but the song feels infinitely complex; we hear a memory within another memory, and somehow, in the spaces between the chorus and the song's two verses, we feel the weight of a man's entire life. If it isn't Haggard's best song, it's surely the one with which to mourn him: