Off the Record (November 6, 2019)

BRUCE MCEWEN WRITES: Patrick Pekin has announced for Superior Court Judge. We should endorse him soonest. He’s already proven he can win and the encouragement of our cheers would not go amiss, even though it may well actually be sincere praise, rather than interest-based flattery (as Gibbon would phrase it) on our part, in the very likely event that he carries the election. True, he’s such a nice guy, he would never hold it against us if we were tardy, that is reluctant in our endorsement, having waited to see who would challenge him for the recently vacated Black Robe. But his wife Amanda, the force driving his ambition for the bench, would take it as a slight, and never forgive us. As a precautionary measure, I suggest deploying the avid Ms. Davin to Fort Bragg for a “Get To Know The Candidate” interview. I’ve never been able to get a judge to speak to me in anything but professional sound-bites, but Davin’s different; she can get ’em to talk. That doesn’t mean we would be restricted from enumerating any virtues any opposing candidate may have.”

SHERIFF ALLMAN mentioned recently that there were 11 registered arsonists in the County that his department keeps an eye on. As the temps got well up over 80 on Tuesday last, and were expected to be the same Wednesday through Thursday, and with the media raining down red flag warnings and excited tv talk about PG&E's likely shutdowns, I can't shake an image of the 11 firebugs raptly gazing at their matchboxes and whinnying, "Oh what I'd give to dance again with the flames!"

OLD GUY HUNKERED DOWN WITH KATY TAHJA'S JUST PUBLISHED "An Eclectic History of Mendocino County." 

"I thought I knew a lot about this place," the old guy wheezed, "but darned if this ain't a gen-u-wine learning experience." 

A READER WRITES: I need to let go of all of the drama. Yeah, I know this does not apply to everybody, but back in 2001 and around 2006, the power went out in Gualala. Generators? What are those? So having frozen water bottles in the freezer, I sent those to the fridge, we lived by candlelight, and flashlight (Costco batteries are cheap), and we played scrabble with a fire in the stove. We cooked stew on the stove, and we survived very well, remembering an old cowboy’s statement: “You know why they won’t be able to survive in the bay area is that they don’t know how to salt pork.” Well pork ain’t the prime, but we lived 7 days back in those days quite well, and we cut our driving and Costco shopping down too. Its time whether you are a PG&E customer or not, whether you a Costco shopper or not, you need to cut down on consumerism. You do not need to shop all the time, but as an addict will tell you, You won’t change until you hit BOTTOM. That bottom reflects upon us all as we are all in this together, one and all. Go peacefully, my brothers and sisters. We are virtually screwed. 

SHERIFF ALLMAN released the video of the officer-Involved shooting on Uva Drive in Redwood Valley on Oct. 10, 2019. The 15-minute film is posted on the Sheriff’s Facebook page. It includes an intro by the Sheriff followed by the initial 911 call recording. A trio of deputies are soon on-scene asking a fat guy ensconced in a van to step out with both hands in view. Gun fire suddenly explodes when the suspect, who had casually mentioned that he’s from East LA, brandished a hand gun and was soon ventilated by the three deputies. Mr. Corral of East L.A. was obviously drunk and undoubtedly stupid when sober, but he survived the incident. Corral has been booked into the Mendocino County on attempted murder charges. 

ATTENTION COLD CASE investigator, Mr. LaFever: You might want to look into the mysterious/suspicious death of Mike Kelley, former mayor of Ukiah found dead in his backyard in 1987. Kelley was married to the gifted textile artist, Holly Brackman who still lives in Ukiah.

GOVERNOR Gavin Newsom announced Friday his appointment of attorney Victoria Shanahan, of Windsor, to serve as a judge on the Mendocino County Superior Court bench. She fills a judicial vacancy created by the retirement of Superior Court Judge David Riemenscheider. A criminal defense attorney living and primarily working in Sonoma County, Mrs. Shanahan is also a former prosecutor, having worked in the past for both the Mendocino County District Attorney and the Sonoma County District Attorney. She ran unsuccessfully in 2014 to unseat the incumbent Sonoma County DA, Jill Ravitch. (Ed note: Ms. Shanahan was born and raised in Willits.)

ON THE ROAD, with Katy Tahja: “What do you do when you're an author with a new book? Drive 25 miles at 9 a.m. to be interviewed by a newspaper about the book. Drive over the mountains 40 miles in Willits to sell 10 copies of the book to the Book Juggler and leave a review copy with the county museum. Then drive 30 miles in Ukiah, sell copies to Held Poage/Mendocino County Historical Society & Mendocino Book Company. Leave review copy for the Grace Carpenter Hudson Museum. Go to Ukiah Daily Journal to arrange a phone interview. Then drive 30 miles back home over those mountains again. Successful Day.”

MINUS THE EXIGENCIES of the global village during last week’s blackout, I had time to read two slender books of successful poetry by a Ukiah guy, Mark McGovern, which I liked the hell out of. 

CULL CANYON ROAD

If I close my eyes I can readily recall

A happy time when I was young and

Riding my motorcycle on

Cull Canyon Road

October leaves of yellow and gold

Swirled and danced in my wake

With the wind in my hair

I was all of nineteen years old

I had money in my pocket

A place of my own

A blonde haired beauty

Held on to my tight

"I love you" she yelled over

The roar of my bike

I felt free and alive and I thought

Man, it just doesn't get any better than this

And wouldn't you know 

It never did.

— Mark McGovern

HALLOWEEN IN UKIAH. The most original and at the same time most horrifying costume I saw was a little maid made up as Jon Benét Ramsey; the most inspiring was two tall, white-stemmed “death cap” mushrooms walking the streets of Ukiah. (Amanita muscaria, commonly known as the fly agaric or fly amanita, is a basidiomycete of the genus Amanita. It is also a muscimol mushroom. Wikipedia.) Other notables were a tamer version of such political luminaries running for president, some angels, lots of devils, rabbits, kittens, a pit-bull in a Sheriff's uniform with a Stetson, a badge, and a gun, a pair of twin girls, one as a G.I. Joe; the other as a Barbie; lots of witches, oodles and scads of 'em, really; a sober working stiff or two, and one Tyrannosaurus Rex. Notable costumes at the courthouse included Mary Poppins in her starched white blouse, scarlet bow tie, billowing black skirt, and celestial eyes; then there was Salome in aqua pantaloons, bangles, sandals and a truly arresting décolletage.  (Bruce McEwen)

ELECTION NOTES: The primary is in distant March of 2020, which is shaping up at the national level as The Year of Living Dangerously. But here in Intoxicants County we will also be watching three elections for Supervisor. A word: At each meeting of the Supes, an average of perhaps 15 people watch the Supervisors live, and that's a combined audience of people physically attending meetings AND watching them via YouTube [not counting the occasional special interest crowds]. By default, Boonville's beloved weekly is the only media to closely monitor our five reps, meaning only a relatively small minority of County residents has any idea of the functioning of County government. The typical local knows much more about national government and its lead figures than they do about local government because most of us are force fed national politics by the dominant media. Be this as it undoubtedly is, the following force-fed opinions are our preliminary take on the candidates for Mendocino County Supervisor. 

THERE are three candidates for 1st District Supervisor as long-time incumbent, Carre Brown, retires. She is the most recent Supervisor from Potter Valley in a long line of them to hold the position, and only the latest to take her cues from the local branch of the Farm Bureau, whose primary mission in Mendocino County is to guarantee cheap, very cheap, water via the Potter Valley Diversion of Humboldt County's Eel River. (And to ensure frost fans disrupt the sleep of most of Anderson Valley.) There are three candidates vying to succeed Mrs. Brown: Jon Kennedy, John Sakowicz and James Green.

JON KENNEDY has functioned as a supervisor in Plumas County where he seems to have enjoyed a broad base of support; his departure from Plumas for Mendocino County was widely lamented. (How many officeholders can say that they're missed?) A former resident of Mendocino County where he was also popular, Kennedy, a contractor, served as a volunteer firefighter here and in Plumas County. And now he's back in Mendo. To give us some idea of his political perspective, Kennedy supported Frank Riggs for Congress when Kennedy lived in Mendocino County. Since Riggs was opposed by Dan Hamburg, give Kennedy credit for prescience in that one.

SUPERVISOR seats are supposed to be non-partisan, but in Mendo, dominated in the Second, Fourth and Fifth districts by conservative, organized Democrats, both parties beat the tom toms for the person they see as more or less in line with their politics. The overall party split in Mendo is roughly 60-40 Dems over Repugs, although over the years the conservative Supervisors have been much better at being Supervisor than the libs.

MAVERICK LIB John Sakowicz, to whom Demo herd bulls are likely hostile, will be Kennedy's primary opposition. The third candidate, James Green, doesn't seem ready for prime time given his brief and irrelevant recent appearances before the Supervisors. Sakowicz has managed to amass an impressive roster of critics left and right but, and say what you will about him, Sako's smart, articulate and better informed about County affairs than at least two of the sitting Supervisors. Green and Kennedy belong to the Farm Bureau, meaning they will be competing for the district's majority conservative vote. Whether or not 1st District libs will rally for Sako remains to be seen, but the peripatetic Kennedy already seems to be the man to beat.

IN DISTRICT TWO — mostly Ukiah, areas of Hopland and scattered neighborhoods of Hill Muffs — the declared candidates are Ukiah mayor Maureen Mulheren and Joel Soinila. Mulheren is the front runner, at least until incumbent Supervisor John McCowen declares whether or not he will run again. We think McCowen should retire, and would finish a humiliating third in a three-person race if he runs for re-election. His primary deficiency is his deep love for the sound of his own sonorous voice, and his unyielding confidence in his often flawed opinions. Worse, lately McCowen, after singlehandedly making the County's pot licensing program unworkable, tried to create, then wire, an absurd Climate Change Committee job for his personal friend and tenant, Alicia Little Tree Bales, an "activist" associated with the somnolent Mendocino Environment Center whose premises are owned by McCowen, a Ukiah rentier. Minor league corruption is nevertheless corruption, and McCowen, despite his many valiant hours of cleaning up after Ukiah's ever larger homeless population, has earned his way outta office.

DEPENDING on your view of Ukiah's civic functioning, and we think its management is laughably over-large and wildly over-compensated, you are for or against Mulheren for 2nd District Supervisor. She can hardly point to Ukiah as a model of small town functioning while Willits and Fort Bragg, by way of contrast, although smaller towns than Ukiah, both boast competent, modestly compensated managers and viably capable city councils. Uh, Ukiah doesn't. And Mulheren, as mayor, is ringleader for the mess the County seat has become. For us one telltale issue for 2nd District candidates is where they stand on the new County Courthouse. If they're for that massive boondoggle cum mistake, we hope you vote accordingly.

CANDIDATE SOINILA is an intriguing newcomer. Old (very old) timers will remember the last Finn to hold local office, he being the late great rabble rousing Oscar Klee. Descended from the Mendo branch of the turn of the twentieth century Finnish diaspora, colonies of Finns settled in Mendocino County, and this guy, an ag graduate of Cal Poly, comes from a Redwood Valley farm family descended from the County's original Finn settlements. The dude has roots! Soinila, natch, belongs to the Farm Bureau and a host of inland groups, including the Mendocino County Historical Society. Assuming McCowen decides not to run again, the race for 2nd District seat will be between the Flying Finn and Mayor Poppins, er Mulheren.

THE 4TH DISTRICT contest between incumbent Gjerde and challenger Lindy Peters is going to be close. Both are Fort Bragg old timers, Gjerde home grown, Lindy a Davis transplant at an early age. Gjerde will get the Democrat-lib vote but the popular Peters will also get some of it plus strong support from more conservative voters. This one will be close, especially given Gjerde’s silent tenure as Supervisor.

THE SUPE’S races have already inspired some pointed comment: (1) “Candidate Sakowicz: please explain your termination from the Mendocino County sheriff's department when you were employed at the county jail.” And (2) “A similar question was asked to current 4th district supervisor Dan Gjerde back before he slid un-opposed into his seat here on the coast. He was picked up while walking along hwy 20, disoriented and in a possible psychotic state of mind by the Sheriff’s Dept.”

ONE OF THE BENEFITS of advanced age is re-reading the books that moved you when you were a kid because you've forgotten everything about them except the author's name and maybe, if your memory is hitting on all cylinders, a title or two. A lot of critics sneer at Thomas Wolfe as "a young man's author" whose lyricism doesn't withstand adult life's beatdowns. The following, read at the end of life, holds up pretty well as advice to a young person as to the repeated blows he can expect to his central nervous system as he staggers through life. Yeah, yeah, too long by facebook standards and too preacherly elegiac by lit-crit standards. I like it, though, and I think "You Can't Go Home Again" is the truest picture of American life in the 1920's that there is, better than Gatsby in its way because it embraces a whole town's people, not just a nouveau riche bootlegger and his upper crust friends: “Child, child, have patience and belief, for life is many days, and each present hour will pass away. Son, son, you have been mad and drunken, furious and wild, filled with hatred and despair, and all the dark confusions of the soul — but so have we. You found the earth too great for your one life, you found your brain and sinew smaller than the hunger and desire that fed on them — but it has been this way with all men. You have stumbled on in darkness, you have been pulled in opposite directions, you have faltered, you have missed the way, but, child, this is the chronicle of the earth. And now, because you have known madness and despair, and because you will grow desperate again before you come to evening, we who have stormed the ramparts of the furious earth and been hurled back, we who have been maddened by the unknowable and bitter mystery of love, we who have hungered after fame and savored all of life, the tumult, pain, and frenzy, and now sit quietly by our windows watching all that henceforth never more shall touch us — we call upon you to take heart, for we can swear to you that these things pass.” ― Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again

HEMINGWAY gets to the point faster: ''The first and final thing you have to do in this world is last in it and not be smashed by it and your work the same way.''

LATELY, I've been reading Chekov's short stories, many of which I recognized as I got into them. What I've always liked about the Russian writers is how they go straight to the basic question, the only question really, "What the hell is this all about anyway?" Compare the spiritual struggles of Chekov's characters to the purplish lib-lab Sunday sermons of, say, Methodists or, more egregiously, drive-in churches and guys calling themselves "Pastor Rick" with their tales of how they traded their sins for a ticket straight to eternal life when, if they were sincere, they'd be like the guy I once saw in the Santa Rosa Catholic Church who crawled, weeping, to the alter where he prostrated himself and went completely to pieces. That's Chekov and Dostoevsky for sure. That's also what I've always liked about "The One True Church," the Catholic Church. It's got standards, and best of all its got Confession where you can rattle off all the prior week's bad behavior, get yourself absolved by the sinner listening to you, and go right back out and sin for another week!

ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK

 [1] I am from Humboldt, I grow in Humboldt, I reek of Humboldt weed. When I travel and say I am from Humboldt I always hear as a response “got any weed” and always will til I die. The next moments are filled with smoking weed, making new friends and tax free transactions. Yeah, I see the corporations losing money. Lots and lots of money and they are begging for more. They just filled their coffers with another 850 million. They are lying to investors about our market and not informing them they entered into a war. I consider it an honor and I will do my best to make sure they lose every penny of that 850 million they just received. This is our plant not theirs, it’s always been our plant and will always be our plant. We Humboldt, Trinity and Mendo growers are often duplicated but never replicated. They try, have tried and been trying and they have failed.


[2] I’m not sure what can be done to motivate PG&E doing things better, but here’s what I did.

Once the power was turned back on I wasted little time contacting the Governor’s Office and Rep. Ro Khanna (17th District of Santa Clara/Alameda; he’s been advocating for the State to take over the utility). I asked that California take over PG&E because the situation here in Humboldt-- and elsewhere-- bordered on the ridiculous. I encourage you to do so, too.

They liked that I called but seemed surprised so few people did. Of course, there are some real objections in the State taking over the company. I understand that. On the other hand, PG&E shares have sunk to $3.80 per share with experts saying get out while you can and with something to show for it. It's good time to buy the whole enchilada and make it better for California.

This is the real point, though: If enough fed-up folks called for the takeover of the utility added with the State's pressure to do so, PG&E would actually be more motivated to do something, like firing up our Humboldt Bay King Salmon plant to the local grid and making infrastructure improvements rather than paying their executives and shareholders gobs of money as if it were a well-run and effective company. Just a thought.

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