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“A vamp is a passage of instrumental music which can be played as many times as needed to create time for some purpose. In musical theatre or cabaret, vamps are often used to allow singers to deliver dialog or carry out stage directions within a song. A vamp is essentially a musical holding pattern in music for the stage. ‘Vamping’ is sometimes metaphorically used outside the context of music to mean ‘stalling for time without making it obvious’." (

As a former bar piano man, I’ve experienced both the pleasure and the pain of vamping. Good singers not only can extract great humor and expectation out of a vamp, but they make the final product that much better because the audience gets into a good mood.

 But, more often, live vamps fail because inexperienced or incompetent singers either can’t pick up the beat or they can’t pick up the musical cues or, worse yet, they’re so far off-key that the accompanist is sorry he even bothered to vamp.

Mendo’s Measure B Oversight/Advisory committee has been vamping now for almost a year and a half now with nothing to show for it but meandering preparations. Even Sheriff Allman, the driving force behind the popular measure to fund mental health facilities in Mendocino County, strains to find “progress” in the County’s seemingly endless dithering, which so far hasn’t even managed to hire a project manager or begin a feasability study.

Just last month — when the Measure B Committee didn’t even bother to meet — in an open letter to all local papers, the Sheriff called upon his fellow committee members to “be willing to make very strong decisions and vigorously encourage the Board of Supervisors to follow our direction.” 

At the May 22 meeting, the Sheriff even told his fellow committee members that one day recently all five local inland cops on duty (except CHP) were tied up at the hospital tending to 5150s and none of them were available for ordinary patrol duties. (A PHF would probably allevaite this somewhat, but what about the $25-million plus mental health apparatus? Where were they? Why did cops have to stand around so long waiting for their 5150s to be dealth with?)

If Sheriff Allman was really as frustrated as he says he is, he’d at least propose a short-term fix like a modular PHF facility to handle today’s 5150s, not satisfy himself with the county staff’s continuous stalling tactics revolving around the maze of brick and mortar construction preparations. 

We suggested a modular option a year ago with no response. Not only would it get help for the mentally ill in the short term, but it could be moved to the Coast if there’s ever a brick and mortar facility inland to help address the the crisis cases there. 

Then the local Mental Health Alliance’s Sonya Nesch proposed a modular approach in an open letter to the Measure B Bunch, and still not a peep.

Upshot: If there ever is a Psychiatric Health Facility in Mendocino County, it will be over the cold dead hands of the obfuscators and staffers who comprise Mendo’s Measure B Oversight Committee.

At their latest meeting on May 22, a parade of county staffers tried at length to pretend that vamping is progress. Meetings have been held, money has been accumulating, consultants have been hired, more consultants and architects and project managers are being hired, RFPs are being drafted, lawyers are being consulted, reviews are underway, interviews are scheduled, options are under consideration, bids are being sought, property ownership is being transferred, issues are being identified…


When Sheriff Allman asked newly appointed Measure B planner Nash Gonzalez if they might have a feasibility study on the Orchard Street and Old Howard Hospital sites done in 60 days (hah!), Gonzalez replied that such studies are “extensive” and would take at least 90s days. (Besides, no RFP for the feasibility study has yet been issued.)

To make matters worse, Gonzalez threw in several new complications, such as California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) compliance, and Disability Act compliance, and the possibility of toxics underground at the sites, and the need to address alternatives and combinations of alternatives.

Allman then asked if the Request for Proposals for the feasibility study would be ready in a month.

Gonzalez said he didn’t know, it was under review at the County Counsel’s office (where projects go to either become more complicated or die ).

Committee member Mike Mertle of Fort Bragg, one of the few lucid persons on the committee, asked what happened to the idea of soliciting proposals from local hospitals for a PHF unit.

Deputy CEO Janelle Rau said they hadn’t been asked by the Supervisors to look into that.

What about using the old Public Health facility on Dora Street?

Rau replied that that building would require extensive repair before it could even be included in the feasibility study, which it’s not. And, in Rau’s opinion, the County should fund those repairs before it’s even on the table for Measure B consideration, not Measure B funds.

Former Mental Health Advisory Board Chair John Wetzler told the Committee that they shouldn’t build anything until they know how much staffing they can afford. Response: Blank stares.

At the end of the May 22 meeting, Measure B Committee Chair Dr. Ace Barash asked his fellow committee members when their next meeting should be because he didn’t see much material likely to be ready to discuss in June.

Although CEO Carmel Angelo said she could give a status report in June, a majority voted in favor of no meeting until July. Not one “very strong decision” was even proposed, much less made, and nobody “encouraged the Board of Supervisors” to do a damn thing.


Tell the piano man to keep vamping. The singer hasn’t even approached the stage.

PS. FROM WHAT CAN BE GATHERED, it seems the County of Mendocino is apparently buying the Orchard Avenue property back from the private Mr. and Mrs. Schraeder. Near as we can tell the parcel is valued at about $2 million, the down payment for which was paid out of public grant funds, about $500,000 that may have to be returned. 

ASKED about this murky transaction, we asked CEO Angelo for clarification: 

CEO ANGELO REPLIED: "This is my understanding: The Orchard Street property was purchased by RCS with government money. RCS is the legal owner of the property. The County is in negotiations with RCS for the purchase of the property....from RCS to the county."

RCS, aka the Schraeders, is magically the sellers? Seems from here that the entire relationship of the Schraeders with Mendocino County is overdue for serious investigation. 

One Comment

  1. Lazarus June 5, 2019

    So if Orchard Ave. is a crooked deal, where do you want it?
    As always.

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