Letters (Nov 12, 2014)

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FEEDBACK

Editor:

Time to renew my subscription for another year of truthiness and curmudgeonry. Besides the brace of Bruces, I look for these writers in every issue: Costello, Yearsley, Heilig, Dinh, Rouse, Gardner, Bedrock, Meister, Sigel and now Pausky. Thankfully, the AVA has not devolved to eight pages of Turkey Vulture, and the precious Todd Walton.

As for recommendations, perhaps some of your readers would enjoy these select graphic novels and collections:

The book of Genesis, R. Crumb: Opera Adaptations, Vols 1&2, P. Craig Russell; American Splendor, any volume, Harvey Pekar; Journalism, or any book by Joe Sacco; Cuba: My revolution, Inverna Lockpez; The 911 Report, Jacobson and Colon; 9/11, Artists Respond, V/A.

Not for the faint of heart: The Art of war, Roman and DeWeese; Preacher, Vols. 1-9, Ennis and Dillon; Scalped, Vols. 1-10, R.M. Guera.

Isn't it amazing how long your little newspaper has lasted? May you continue to prick the pompous and prosper. In the words of Woody Guthrie, take it easy, but take it.

Michael Townsend

Port Townsend, Washington

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GOOD QUESTIONS

Dear Mr. Anderson:

Thank you for "LWOP & Other Sentences" (AVA, September 3, 2014) by Leif Berkson. Mr. Berkson makes the excellent point that if more people were properly informed on the realities and threats facing us from the prison industrial complex run amok — maybe they would resist or at least ask some tough questions of our politicians. Perhaps outlets such as the AVA, outside the corporate media cabal, can still be that messenger.

Keep up the great work.

Garry Erwin

Auburn, New York

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SEDUCTION

Hey there!

You with the stars in your eyes — if anything you are an outsider — an islander playing a solitary part scripted on the heart. Nocturnal candles burning bright proffer you sufficient light. Hurtling headlong through space and time you find absolutely nothing to hang onto. A solo pilgrim you, journeying, at sea, to who knows where — a fool, for heaven's sake — a joker on the make — neither saint nor scholar, you've been seduced by the dear-bought dollar.

Diego Donahoe

San Diego

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HILARITY

Dear Editor,

I'm currently recovering from surgery and catching up on some of my Anderson Valley Advertiser reading. I found a couple of issues that are about eight months old that fell behind a stack of other shit that I should have read long ago, too. I'm noticing that Aaron Cometbus sometimes writes in to your "letters" section and I'm hoping he reads this. I want to thank Aaron for introducing me to the AVA. He publishes a zine called Cometbus and in an issue about 14 years ago called "Back to the Land" he interviewed Bruce Anderson. I can't remember the specifics of what Bruce said in his interview, but I remember it being caustic and hilarious towards anti-establishment people circa late 1960s fleeing San Francisco to Mendocino claiming to want to go "back to the land." How many of them were serious dumbshits like Jim Jones and that Tree Frog pedophile guy? And how many of them now hold cushy, overpaid establishment jobs like schoolboard morons or congressional representatives? I never thought of The Nice People as being as bad as the hideously evil Republicans, but Bruce lit into them in his Cometbus interview and I was on the floor laughing. I had never even heard of The Nice People before. Really, though, I knew who they were and I've always had a dislike for them. In Virginia where I grew up we called them Phony Assholes. At the end of Aaron's interview he mentioned that Bruce Anderson was publisher of a newspaper and listed the address. I sent off for a subscription and have been a loyal reader since 2002.

Like Aaron, I don't live anywhere near Boonville, but the AVA is the only paper I subscribe to.

Thanks, Aaron. And thanks Bruce: you are seriously one funny-ass mother scratcher.

Ralph Coon

Pasadena

PS. After reading for years in the Anderson Valley Advertiser about the hilarious impotence of your local "public" radio station KZYX, I decided to tune in online for some laughs. I've listened for several days now and haven't laughed once. It's just painfully boring and is at times, in fact, severely irritating. Is there a time or a certain program that I should particularly tune in for?

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GIVE US A BREAK, KIDS

Editor,

So we've all made the typical observations about the detrimental effects of modern technology on human socialization, development etc. Well, I just came back from some time in the woods away from society, Obviously human beings have rebelled against the complete separation that screen time really is and long for true human contact. The problem is that we've restructured our lives away from free social spaces and we're addicted to all the new technology. So what I see is people longing for human contact, interaction and socialization and so people are taking the most menial transaction and turning it into an extremely long and drawn blathering conversation (for others to stand by and take in may I add, an element of performance).

I had the misfortune of going to a Radio Shack to look for an item recently proclaimed extinct by all the common chain pharmacies: the hand held transistor radio. First was a lady of 60 or so who should have known better than to fall prey to the magic, blathering on and on about her password and the various failures of her phone to meet her various important expectations. (It was truly a study in mental health, or the lack thereof), Next in line was a girl of 20 who wanted the iPhone 5 and proceeded with an faq on the product and all its compatibilities and accessories and the quality of each and such and such additional pieces. Just as the conversation would crescendo, about to end, she would rapid fire spit out 20 more questions and the sales boy engaged her like a true hipster stoner just blathering on oblivious to the surroundings as if he were in a bicycle bar. After twenty minutes of that I just left.

At any point I could have yelled out “Transistor Radios?!?” But in my own sadistic pleasure I decided to see how far it would go and how many words I could extract from the experience. Well, here it is: Perhaps it is the starkness and simplicity of country life that makes me notice the oddness of how people carry on.

I do not fear that we as humans will fail to seek out the old forms of relating, what I fear is that our rediscovery will be tainted by the rewiring we have gone through and this is best demonstrated in the extremely odd behavior and disposition of the children of the late 20th and early 21st century. I've only been back a couple days and, man, I need a break from this shit already.

Nate Collins

Oakland

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HILARY IN 2016

Dear Editor:

Now that the midterm elections are over it's time to think about the 2016 presidential election. As for the GOP so far they do not have a viable candidate. Meanwhile It looks like Hilary Clinton will begin her campaign in the near future. The electoral system favors the Democrats. The large states except for Texas which vote Democratic have about 240 electoral. votes. It is very difficult for the Republicans to over come this handicap. So, we may will have our first woman president. When Obama was elected the racists crawled out from underneath the rocks with their silly assertions that Obama was not a citizen and was a muslim. With Clinton we will watch the misogynists crawl out from underneath the rocks and blather about their concepts of women — baby factories who should stay home and do housework. For the misogynists the glass ceiling for women should be about 6 inches off the ground. They could will have 8 years to spout off about their crabbed views of womens' rights.

In peace,

Jim Updegraff

Sacramento

ED NOTE: Readers inclined towards Hillary should first read Doug Henwood's piece in the November 2014 issue of Harper's (harpers.org/archive/2014/10/stop-hillary-2/).

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IS KZYX ACCOUNTABLE?

To the Editor:

To Holly Madrigal: As Mayor of Willits, you mention you are a graduate of Leadership Mendocino; sit on the KZYX Board, a non-profit entity; and, have been involved with the Mendocino Community Foundation. Leadership Mendocino brings knowledge about all business sectors including the workings of non-profits, both generally and specifically.

How do you reconcile what you have learned as Mayor of Willits and specifically about non-profits with the lack of KZYX's fiscal accountability by the Board; the absence of a Board Nominating Committee; the absence of a Development, Personnel and other key KZYX committees?

As a KZYX Board member and someone who has been exposed to the working model of all non-profits, how do you reconcile what you have learned about the lack of oversight of management/staff by the Board; and, expending $325,000 (half the station's operating budget) from our county's listeners without full disclosure from the GM to you as a sitting board member?

M Kathryn Massey, KZYX, Members for Change,

Mendocino

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A LOVELY VISIT…

Dear Editor,

The drive was beautiful, the lunch delicious and the conversation engaging. I’m sorry to see that it added so little clarity to the AVA’s coverage of VMC and destination marketing.

I’m persisting here because Mendocino County taxpayers all have a stake in this issue. Love it or not, tourism is a primary driver of our economy. Sharing our spectacular environment and the cultural richness of our communities with visitors is key to preserving these valued attributes and essential public services for our own benefit. Because the fruits of tourism are so important to your readers, they deserve a few fairly simple facts (as well as the always-entertaining AVA editorializing).

The Players:

Mendocino County Lodging Association (MCLA) manages the 1% Lodging Business Improvement District (BID) assessment on room charges that owners collect for tourism promotion. It receives no tax dollars.

Mendocino County Promotional Alliance (MCPA) is a cross-sector Board that manages the 1/2% match of the BID assessments. Paid from the County General Fund, the match is used to promote Mendocino County as an attractive visitor destination (thereby putting “heads in beds,” bodies in businesses, eyes on art, ears in concerts, feet on trails, etc.)

Visit Mendocino County, Inc. (VMC) is headed by CEO Scott Schneider who prevailed in a competitive process to develop a local destination marketing organization (DMO). The alternative was to continue outsourcing the jobs and dollars. In only a few years, Scott and his small team (about 8 full and part-time employees) have matured from a start-up faced with a deep recession to being an award-winning, nationally accredited DMO. VMC operations are fully transparent. It provides regular reports to the County and over-sight committees and is subject to regular audits. ( Documentation is online at www.mcla.info )

The current governance structure also includes a VMC Board comprising members of MCLA and MCPA and a 5-member BID Advisory Board appointed by the Supervisors.

The Money:

Since 1998, Mendocino County has invested tax dollars in agricultural and tourism promotion after a nationally funded study advised that this would help close the economic gap left by Timber’s decline. Mr. Scaramella objects to this use of public funds, as do some lodging owners and as did the 2000-01 Grand Jury. These complaints have been rejected repeatedly. Government bodies invest in economic development and virtually all tourism boards receive public funding. It is deemed good public policy because of the generous return on investment.

Mendocino County and its 4 incorporated cities impose a 10% “bed tax” on room charges that is collected by lodging establishments. The more tourists sleep here, the more bed tax. The total peaked in 2007-08, when the County received $3.8 million and the cities gained $2.7 million for a total of $6.5 million in direct tax relief paid by non-residents.

During the subsequent recession, bed tax dropped nearly 15% over a 2-year period. As troubling as this was, we held our own against contiguous counties and other competitive destinations, most of which are closer to target populations and all of which spend more on promotion. Comparative data suggest that VMC deserves significant credit for pulling us through. The tide turned in 2010-11 and, unlike other sectors of our County’s economy, tourism ended the 2013-14 fiscal year having exceeded its pre-recession high.

So, how much of tourism’s largesse, is the County actually re-investing in the care and feeding of its Golden Goose, and how is this amount determined?

In 2013-14, the total collected from Lodging’s 1% BID assessment was $677,045. The County’s 1/2% match was $338,552. This equals a re-investment of 8.8% of the $3.8 million in bed tax it received or only 5% of the combined $6.7 million in bed tax received by the County and Cities.

(Visitor spending on a wide array of goods and services also provided millions more in sales taxes, kept numerous businesses alive and supported nearly 5,000 tourism-dependent jobs.)

VMC’s Programs and Performance:

Clever editorial comments notwithstanding, VMC’s annual reports describe a broad array of sales and marketing activities strategically focused on target markets and market sectors. In an increasingly competitive, data driven field, VMC is keeping Mendocino County in the minds of potential visitors and winning state and national awards for its efforts. Spending on administrative overhead is low, with salaries and other costs assessed against those in comparable markets. Standard industry-wide measurements are used to assess performance. Reports and audits a matter of public record.

The Current Kerfuffle:

Like Mr. Scaramella, some lodging owners have never seen value in county-wide promotion and dislike the BID assessment. Some have inter-personal issues. Some thrive on micromanaging. All of these perspectives are evident among the current MCLA majority. Its leaders believe that they can improve outcomes by canceling the VMC contract, writing a new RFP and, once again, outsourcing promotion. At a recent “special meeting” the MCLA executive committee won a vote to abruptly cancel the MCLA contract with VMC and cease payments for the contracted work. Additional “special meetings” and a shut down of the MCLA members List Serv have ensued to discourage airing of dissenting opinions. An extension to the VMC contract was granted only after County Counsel responded that the cancellation was a breach of MCLA’s contract with the County. Once an annual marketing plan is adopted, the contract prohibits changing contractors without prior notice and BOS approval. The current contract runs through June 2015.

Numerous efforts have been made to resolve MCLA’s internal issues. Toward that end, MCPA and MCLA agreed to jointly fund a Governance Study to develop recommendations for simplification of the governance structure, and a Marketing Study to establish data on which to base strategic marketing programs and evaluate outcomes. Current MCLA leaders (some of whom participated in the selection of the research groups and development of the studies) are now opposed to implementing the recommendations.

The Governance Study accurately describes the existing multiple boards as duplicative, ineffective and inefficient. It recommends that both revenue streams flow directly to VMC with oversight by a single cross-sector board, subject to the Brown Act and regular audits. It further recommends ethics and board training for all board members and vetting to ensure appointed members will focus on the organization’s mission rather than personal politics.

The Marketing Study developed local and comparative data to position Mendocino County against its major state and regional competitors. A key finding was that the 1% BID assessment is insufficient to compete against areas that are collecting from double, up to 10 times as much through assessments of 2-4%.

Based on these recommendations, the BID Advisory Board has proposed amendments to the Lodging BID that would result in direct funding of VMC with MCPA as the single multi-sector over-sight board. MCPA bylaws and policies are being revised to better define the selection process for board members, establish term limits and ensure appropriate training and transparency. To increase revenue, a tiered BID assessment is proposed that would increase total assessment dollars by assessing 2% on lodging properties who earn more than $500,000 in room charges; 1% on those between $100-500K; and 1/2% those with less than $100K in annual revenue. Because the tiered BID will increase total assessments, it also increases the County’s investment through the 1/2% match. The Marketing Study sets targets for monitoring the return on this added investment.

None of these changes will take effect until they have been fully vetted and accepted through a legally defined process for amending the BID. This process is moving forward at an appropriately measured pace, with respectful attention to input from all concerned. It would be a service to the community to provide accurate progress reports as this process unfolds.

Regards,

Wendy Roberts

Mendocino

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SEARCH & RESCUE

Dear AVA,

At its meeting on October 30, 2014, the board of directors of the Anderson Valley Health Center authorized formation of a search committee to assist the board in finding a new permanent executive director for the Health Center and asked me to chair it.

The search committee’s goal is to find the best possible executive director for the Health Center. The committee’s first task is to compose a sound job description and personality profile for the new executive director. Then the committee will circulate a request for job applications as widely as possible in order to attract qualified candidates whether from the local community or from elsewhere in the country. The hope is that process can be concluded within six months.

The members of the search committee combine professional expertise and representation of the community. They are Mark Apfel, M.D., Eric Arbanovella, George Gaines, Maureen Hochberg, R.N., George Lee, M.D., Teresa Malfavon, Susan Smith, M.D., Bill Sterling, and Gaile Wakeman.

The committee’s first meeting took place on Friday afternoon, November 7th, 2014. George Gaines, Susan Smith, and Bill Sterling were directed to draft a job description and personality profile for the executive director position for committee review. The members of the Health Center staff are being canvassed for suggestions for the job description so that the people at the Health Center who will be immediately affected by the new executive director will have a say in the formulation of the responsibilities and personal qualities which should go with the position.

Once applications are received from candidates, the search committee will winnow the applications, conduct interviews and then recommend a short list of candidates to the board of directors. The committee’s proceedings will observe the discretions and protocols appropriate for evaluation and hiring decisions.

The board will make the final hiring decision.

The search committee has no fixed meeting schedule. It will meet as often as needed to conduct its work expeditiously.

I intend to write to you from time to time to report the progress of the search committee in the interests of keeping the Anderson Valley community informed about the status of the search.

Sincerely yours,

William W. Sterling,

Chairman, AVHC Search Committee

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AMEND IT, JARE

Dear Editor,

Congressman Jared Huffman held a town hall meeting at the Mendocino County Museum in Willits last month. Regarding the need for the We the People Amendment to make clear that corporations are not persons with Constitutional rights and that political spending is not free speech, Huffman stated it will take a grassroots effort to achieve an Amendment. He also noted that although some people are passionate about amending the Constitution, it is not something most people are concerned about.

Huffman is absolutely right that it will take a grassroots movement to get the We the People Amendment passed.

In 2012 Mendocino County voters passed Measure F — a Citizen's advisory calling for an amendment — by 75%, thanks to grassroots effort! And, this election, 18 communities in Massachusetts, 12 in Wisconsin, 2 in Ohio and one each in Illinois, Florida and California had ballot initiatives calling for an amendment and ALL of them passed, most by over 70%. All involved organized grassroots effort by Move to Amend affiliates.

I hope that Congressman Huffman will take heart knowing that his constituents here in Mendocino County are solidly behind the amendment effort. As for the alleged lack of passion on the part of Americans in general, polling data shows that 80% of Americans think that the Citizens United decision was wrong. The appalling lack of participation in elections, while perhaps not “passionate,” is certainly an indication of feeling on the part of the People.

Those of us working on the amendment effort know this will be a long effort with many twists and turns along the road. We take our lessons from those who have gone before us such as the Women's Suffrage Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Gay Rights Movement and others in knowing that when the People lead, the leaders will follow. Congressman Huffman can help in this, knowing his own constituents will back him up on any efforts he makes in Congress. We know it will take a lot to achieve success, and we need our Congressperson to speak for us, as he is elected to do.

Margaret Koster,

Move to Amend Coalition of Mendocino County

Willits

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