- Winter Storm
- Affiliation Resolution
- Stuart Tregoning
- Free-Form Dance
- AV Village
- Movie Credits
- Ed Notes
- Discount Heaven
- Mental Health
- Cannabis Layoffs
- PV Project
- Choke Stab
- Sheep Party
- Failing State
- Rambunctious Georgie
- Fired Lineman
- Unfortunate Judge
- Public Utility
- Yesterday's Catch
- Toughie Roach
- Saudi Lackey
- Foreign Aid
- Female Education
- In-N-Out Fire
- Wealthy Dems
- Misleading Stats
- Found Object
WIDESPREAD PRECIPITATION will move over the area Tuesday and persist through Wednesday. Mountain snow will be likely above 3000 feet, in addition to strong winds gusting to 40 mph and bouts of accumulating small hail. This will create locally hazardous travel conditions Tuesday through Wednesday. (National Weather Service)
At a November 22nd meeting of the Mendocino Coast Healthcare District's Board of Directors (BOD) it took about two hours to come to a foregone conclusion. The Directors eventually voted 4-1 in favor of a resolution to affiliate with Stone Point Health, a subsidiary of Adventist Health (AH). A second resolution, by the same vote (Director Amy McColley dissenting in each case), sent the affiliation agreement on to the county clerk to place it on the ballot in March for a simple up or down vote.
The ballot wording will be similar to the following: "With no additional taxes to the taxpayers and to assure continuing emergency medical services, acute hospital inpatient services and outpatient services, with substantial investments by non-profit Stone Point Health to meet the needs of Mendocino Coast residents, shall the Mendocino Coast Health Care District enter into a lease agreement of Mendocino Coast District Hospital for up to thirty (30) years at fair market value to Stone Point Health, per terms approved by Resolution 2019-17 adopted November 22, 2019 YES ____ NO ____."
Changes have been made to the term sheet accepted by the healthcare district's board on November 8th. Notably, the rent to be paid by AH will rise from $1.5 million annually in the first three years of the thirty year lease to $1.75 million. After those three years the rent will rise to $2,950,000 annually. Director John Redding was commended by Directors McColley and Steve Lund for encouraging AH to up the rent ante. See the November 13th AVA for the basics of the original term sheet.
Under the same category of “Lease Terms,” the Mendocino Coast Healthcare District (MCHD) commits to making available two million dollars each year in repairs, upgrades, and equipment. AH maintains the right to prioritize which upgrades, repairs, and equipment get funded.
As discussed in that November 13th AVA piece the promise of AH to continue to provide existing services now has this qualifying language, “Parties may mutually agree at any time to change the service commitments.”
Another term sheet addition: “Adventist Health will have the right to terminate at three years with 270 days notice.”
In relation to the statewide laws coming in the year 2030, the term sheet now includes language that states, “Adventist Health will be entitled to liquidated damages in the event the District does not achieve seismic compliance by 2030 or fails to set aside the funds required for Future Development and Adventist Health terminates the lease. Liquidated damages will set at $10,000,000.” However, AH agrees that in the event construction or renovation becomes a necessity it “will use its corporate resources to support the planning and execution process.”
In addition, MCHD agrees to “fund into a Board Designated nontransferable (escrow) account funds in excess of operations to be used for a) Seismic retrofit, b) New hospital investment or c) other outpatient construction investments, as mutually agreed on by Adventist Health and the District.”
The term sheet runs about three and a third single-spaced pages. The fully detailed, final lease agreement will total out at around one hundred pages. At the November 22nd meeting, Director McColley seemed intent on picking through the new term sheet to the extreme with question after question, often punctuated by the phrase, “The devil's in the details.”
The rest of the board seemed content with the language of the newer term sheet. At one point, after a string of picayune queries and comments by McColley, Director Redding quietly stated, “It's a standard contract.”
McColley's rambling comments about particular parts of the agreement often terminated with her bemoaning that she, personally, feared some horrendously negative outcome for the hospital, its clientele, or the healthcare district's voters and taxpayers. After the fourth or fifth such doom and gloom, look at me wringing my hands, Board President used her voice to gavel an end to it by saying something akin to, 'We all have concerns.'
McColley's incessant questioning gave the appearance that she either hadn't read the new term sheet carefully or that she was incapable of understanding it. Neither is a good look for a director of a healthcare district.
Fairly late in the meeting, Director Jessica Grinberg and interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Wayne Allen engaged in a series of more cogent questions, comments, and answers. From these relatively brief exchanges the audience learned that in October the coast hospital came up a million dollars short in revenue compared to the same month a year ago. Allen also used the term “Zone of bankruptcy,” to describe where the hospital's finances are currently. Grinberg's questions and remarks clearly led Allen and anyone paying attention to the conclusion that MCHD is perhaps only a month or two away from being a total economic shipwreck, and that AH affiliation represents the only salvage ship left on the sea.
After the 4-1 vote to approve the affiliation resolution, Grinberg accurately noted that much is now in the hands of the community, meaning not just casting your ballot in March but that the public need not simply sit back and helplessly hope that AH straightens the financial picture. The local district can still be a solution provider in many areas of healthcare, including the topic that, continually, elicits the most wails of distress, the labor and delivery department (OB). As stated in these pages before, forward thinking approaches have already come to light in MCHD's Planning Committee. With no video coverage of most hospital meetings recently, a seat at the Planning meetings should be the go-to ticket of each month.
STUART TREGONING: A LOSS WE CAN’T AFFORD
by Mitch Clogg
I came to know Stuart Tregoning around the time I moved to the Mendocino coast in 1985, both of us then middle-aged men with lively pasts. I’ve enjoyed the birthday bashes at his Caspar farm many of the years since.
Of his past the stories are many, but one sticks out in my mind. Call it “Once Upon a Time in Mendocino.” Brad Pitt and Leo DiCaprio would do very nicely to play the parts.
Stuart was young, working as a mechanic. There came a man with a broken bus and a retinue of young admirers and servants. It was instantly apparent to Stuart that the whole scene was, as they say, “a couple bubbles outa plumb.” He told the boss mechanic they all seemed a little weird. What should he do?
The boss said, “Fix the bus, but don’t fix it too good, just enough to get across the county line.” Stuart did that. He later heard they got as far as Siskiyou County or Oregon or someplace before the bus pooped out again, terminally. The leader of that small crowd, a man older than his mistresses and acolytes, was Charlie Manson.
The Tregoning name is on a street south of Fort Bragg, but Fort Bragg could be called Tregoningville. The best thing that could happen to a piece of land or property was to come under the stewardship of Stuart Tregoning. Everything he touched glowed. If all of Stuart’s handiwork suddenly vanished from Fort Bragg, the town would be unrecognizable.
Stuart fell off a ladder. That put him out of commission for a while. He lost his longtime partner Lisa Lebow to cancer, and it was a hard, hard passing.
Like Stuart, Lisa was a maker of things, and her creative side, as we see so often, had a definite wilfulness to it. As good as she was with arts and crafts, she was that bad at being a cancer patient. She was careless about the piles of meds you have to take and childish about keeping appointments with doctors. Stuart’s entreaties were often insufficient, and he was no Simon Legree. Her condition deteriorated. He was frantic and nearly went crazy trying to get her to take care of herself. She looked to him to make things right despite her non-cooperation. At one point she said, “Stuart, get me out of this,” but, prodigious as he was, there was no magic he could summon for her.
Stuart came down with Parkinson’s, I came down with cancer and we both came down with old age. The time we spent in each other’s company shrank to near zero despite being, in recent years a mere stone’s throw away from each other. Now I can’t amend that. Add it to the list of insults aging brings.
(I got rid of my cancer, but the after-effects are mine to keep.)
It’s been a consolation to me, especially since learning he had a progressing disease, that he found a new mate in Marlene Placido, a lady of many resources, all of them no doubt in service as Stuart declined. Marlene, I’m sorry I’ve been so scarce, and I have no words adequate to express my sympathy nor my gratitude nor my admiration to you.
Mendocino owns my heart, but if I learned there was a Land of Stuart Tregonings somewhere, I’d pull up stakes.
ANDERSON VALLEY VILLAGE – UPDATE
Below is a link to a list of all of the calendar events for the next two weeks that are hosted by The Anderson Valley Village as well as events in our community at large. Plenty to keep you busy! Note: We try to maintain this calendar as events change, especially AV Village events. Other events listed here are subject to change without notice so contact the particular organization/ venue for the latest information.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us:
ONE OF THE AVA’S MANY AESTHETES WRITES: Have you seen the small film “Leave No Trace” by Debra Granik? Lovely, serious, not exlpoitive re the subject matter. As an added bonus, the song over the end credits is written and sung by one of your avid readers who typically is quite reclusive. Recorded on a 12v solar system with parlor reed organs, guitar, etc. and written as a custom ending to the film. I’m thinking AVA people may tolerate if not enjoy this movie that has no explosions, no love-interest, yet is still suspenseful and compelling. Released in 2018.
ED NOTE: Yes, I have seen it and liked it very much. Five stars!
WE SAW a Mendocino Village (sic) house rental for $2400 a month. Using the standard one-third of your gross income formula, if you face a $2400 per month rent, you’d need a $7200 a month income which translates to $86k per year, and how many Mendo people are pulling down that kind of dough? If you’re a two-earner family, which is much more often the Mendo case, that would be $43k per earner. A house that big might be able to handle two small families which might be able to split the rent. A $15 per hour gross wage for full-time work available all over Ukiah is $15 x 2080 hours per year or about $31k per year, or $2600 per month. So that would leave you $200 after paying rent, assuming no other expenses like a whole month's food.
WHICH REMINDS ME of a comment a working guy made to me about Medicare for all. "We can't afford it, Bruce. Jesus, what else don't you understand?" Lots, dude, but how about the 2008 too big to fail bank bailout? That tax gift to a small gang of criminals was forked right over, nevermind the billions spent annually on the eternal wars on the Mohammedans. But noooooo, anything that helps out the average citizen is unaffordable? It kills me when an ordinary working person goes all inclusive about himself and billionaires, most of whom would feed Average Joe and Jane to his dogs if their fat content wasn't too high.
IN A STUDY at Oxford University, experienced tasters convinced they were sampling a rosé were actually drinking a white wine - from an entirely different grape - that had been dyed pink.
GOOD NEWS for the Mendo economy: Tokers are expected to spend $8.7 billion on unsanctioned consciousness obliteration this year, compared to sanctioned storefront dope projected at a mere $3.1 billion in sales, according to BDS Analytics, a cannabis industry research firm. Local off-the-books growers we've talked to expect at least $1500 a pound this season, a price making the gro effort worthwhile. State and county governments expecting a windfall pot tax bonanza cooked their own pot turducken with preposterously onerous local regs, with Mendo's being the most onerous anywhere.
ADAM SCHIFF is annoying as all hell, but Orange Man's description of him as "human scum" seems excessive even by Orange Man's subterranean standards. And, as if to solidify the suspicion that a low rent Lear occupies the White House, here comes consigliari Guiliani. Asked if he thought Trump might "throw you under the bus," Giuliani said, "No, I've got insurance."
FORT BRAGG MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ADVOCACY LIST
by Fort Bragg NAMI Family-to-Family Class
Sonya Nesch, Teacher, 10-12-19
Our Fort Bragg NAMI Family-to-Family class ended October 12th. In the last class, we created our Fort Bragg Mental Health Services Advocacy list. As family members, we are all familiar with the mental health services our family member does or does not receive. Below are 8 services we need in Fort Bragg to best support our family member with mental illness including substance use disorder. The first 4 services are also recommended in the Mendocino County Kemper Report. We’re including quotes from that report and from the Board of Supervisors.
We think the County could buy a Fort Bragg building for Coast Crisis Residential Treatment with the $500,000 of AB 82 money we don’t want to lose, and some Measure B money. This could be leased to a non-profit to provide all adult mental health services. Having all Fort Bragg Mental Health Services (Crisis, Counseling, Healing Center, Crisis Residential Treatment and Addiction Program) in one building would be cost effective with shared and varied staffing. The RCS Healing Center in Fort Bragg could add self-help groups including for substance abuse, and the inexpensive Acudetox to support people with abstinence by eliminating craving.
The following are Mental Health Services that can be provided now (or very soon) in Fort Bragg as a pilot project to be the model that can be replicated in Ukiah when their 3 buildings are built.
Fort Bragg Mental Health Services Advocacy List
Crisis Residential Treatment (CRT)/Early Crisis Support -- Support for a person in the early stage of a breakdown or relapse. A person can be helped in this voluntary setting with 6 beds, BEFORE they decompensate to a dangerous level and need hospitalization. To ensure cost effectiveness, staff can be varied and include experienced family members and recovered clients. With a CRT, and comprehensive Healing Center Program, emergency room and law enforcement involvement will usually not be necessary.
KEMPER RECOMMENDATION (p. 30, 31): “The CRT will put an emphasis on “reducing inpatient hospitalizations, reducing unnecessary emergency room visits for mental health emergencies, reducing the amount of time in the emergency room, and reducing trauma and stigma associated with out-of-county hospitalization.” A Mendocino grant (AB82) said, “CRT provides a clinically effective and cost-efficient alternative to psychiatric hospitalization.”
Integrated Treatment Program for people with mental illness including substance use disorder, modeled after the successful program at the “Chopra Addiction and Wellness Center”. With current funds we can replicate much of this program, and add low cost acudetox to help with abstinence (1 acupuncturist can treat 15 patients in a circle with 5 needles in each ear). Residential can be added (with current funds and perhaps Measure B funds). There is a local Therapist with expertise in addiction treatment who may very likely be interested in this program.
KEMPER RECOMMENDATION (p. 5, 40, 42): KEMPER suggests Measure B funds to expand access to Substance Use Disorder Treatment (SUDT) services, either through current service contracts or others, so that more people can be served. KEMPER believes this is essential and that integrated treatment that addresses both the mental health condition and the substance use disorder is best. Substance Use Disorder Treatment needs community-based recovery and rehabilitation programs, with a wide range of residential possibilities. A residential facility is necessary to support and stabilize individuals with behavioral health conditions including addiction. We want recovery strategies and services that support a person’s ability to live a productive life in the community and that help with abstinence.
Fort Bragg RCS Healing Center Day Program can be expanded to include clients in Crisis Residential Treatment and in an Addiction Program. Clients learn self-help techniques for optimizing their health and wellbeing. The Healing Center offers classes in: managing illness symptoms, managing stress, breathing exercises, mindfulness, nutrition, importance of sleep for healing, self-compassion and forgiveness, finding a meaningful life, automatic negative thinking patterns, and more. Client Self-Help Support Groups can easily be added.
KEMPER RECOMMENDATIONS (p.41) says Mendocino County needs to offer “alternative services that prevent crisis conditions and provide alternatives to inpatient psychiatric care.” “. . . there are no meaningful alternatives to inpatient psychiatric care, and there are insufficient front-end services that support persons with mental illness and reduce the incidence of crisis conditions.”
The Board of Supervisors said in the KEMPER Report (p. 5,6) that they want Measure B to fund community-based services that reduce need for higher-level services.
Housing options to include: supported living, permanent, board and care, clean and sober, and respite.
KEMPER RECOMMENDATION (p.5, 41): Residential facilities for people with substance use disorder and supportive housing.
- Close collaboration between client, psychiatrist, therapist and family on a continuing basis to: monitor illness symptoms, medication effects, and watch for early signs of relapse to get support and avoid hospitalization.
- Supportive family members as part of the Treatment Team. “Release of Information” form can be signed annually along with the MediCal form to ensure it is kept current.
- Access to a psychiatrist within 3 days. Appointments scheduled in Fort Bragg (not Ukiah). Shasta County provides access to a psychiatrist within 2 days.
- Minimal involvement of law enforcement as these are health issues and people just need early and comprehensive support within available resources.
‘NOT ENOUGH RETAILERS AND NOT ENOUGH SHELVES’: CANNABIS COMPANIES LAY OFF WORKERS
WHAT’S NEXT FOR POTTER VALLEY PROJECT?
by Janet Pauli & James Russ
California Trout, Humboldt County, the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission and the Sonoma County Water Agency signaled to the Federal Energy Regulation Commission in June that they are exploring options for the future of the Potter Valley Project.
These organizations, along with the Round Valley Indian Tribes, entered into a planning agreement to advance shared objectives that will set water users in the Eel and Russian river basins on a path toward economic and environmental sustainability.
The Potter Valley Project is a hydropower project on the Eel and Russian rivers just northeast of Ukiah. Its features include Lake County’s Lake Pillsbury, which is impounded by Scott Dam; Van Arsdale Reservoir, impounded by the Cape Horn Diversion Dam; and a tunnel that diverts Eel River water into the Russian River’s headwaters. Diverted water flows south, out of the Eel and into the Russian, where it is stored in Lake Mendocino to provide water for drinking, agriculture and industry in Marin, Mendocino and Sonoma counties.
The planning agreement parties came together after PG&E withdrew its application to relicense the project. Citing the high costs of keeping the project running and upgrading the facility as a likely condition of relicensing, PG&E walked away. The utility’s decision created the opportunity for a regionwide solution that would better serve the people and wildlife in the Eel and Russian river basins.
The planning agreement partners, now working together as the Two-Basin Partnership, have high hopes that they will identify a way forward, but this process is still in an early stage. The partners are undertaking a feasibility study to determine possibilities for the project’s future. The study will explore options for forming a regional entity to take over operations and for pursuing a potential licensing proposal for the project. The partnership plans to have a draft feasibility study completed by January and to finalize it by April.
Exactly what the Potter Valley Project will look like in the future is not set in stone. The partnership is committed to identifying solutions that meet the needs of the communities and wildlife affected by the project’s operations.
Here’s what we do know. Members of the Two-Basin Partnership are committed to shared objectives rooted in the concept of a “two-basin solution” that will meet the needs of water users in both watersheds. The principles that underpin the two-basin concept are an outgrowth of an ad hoc committee process convened by Rep. Jared Huffman, which began the work of developing baseline scientific data to inform the best way forward.
These principles include minimizing or avoiding adverse impacts to water supply reliability, fisheries, water quality and recreation in the Russian and Eel river basins, including improving fish passage and habitat on both rivers to help recover native migratory fish like salmon and steelhead.
The partnership is committed to using the best available scientific and engineering studies when considering options for restoration, water delivery and power generation. Partnership members are pooling resources to fund the necessary studies.
Residents who rely on water supplies affected by the Potter Valley Project should take comfort in the broad range of stakeholder interests represented in the Two-Basin Partnership. These include voices like ours from public agencies, irrigation districts, conservation groups and tribes. Compromise will be required to find a working solution in line with the values that underpin this collaboration. By working together, we seek to identify a realistic, sustainable solution that supports a vibrant future for water users and wildlife alike throughout the region.
(Janet Pauli chairs the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, and James Russ is president of the Tribal Council of the Round Valley Indian Tribes. The authors speak on behalf of the Two-Basin Partnership formed to study future options for the Potter Valley Project.)
Mark Scaramella notes: Ms. Pauli neglects to note that she is a long-time Potter Valley grape grower who, along with her fellow Potter Valley grape growers (including First District Supervisorial candidate Glenn McGourty), are committed to ensuring that unmetered (at the vineyard) Eel River water continues to be available to water their grapes at bargain-basement bulk acre-foot water prices that are far below the cost charged to residential users on a carefully metered per gallon basis.
YOU HAD IT COMING, JOE
On November 21, 2019 at approximately 2:17 A.M., Deputies were dispatched to a male subject reporting he had been stabbed in the 11000 block of East Side Potter Valley Road in Potter Valley. A short time later the male called back and stated he no longer needed assistance. Deputies continued to the location and contacted Joseph Asbury, 31, of Potter Valley, at the front of his property.
Deputies noticed Asbury appeared to be injured, however when Deputies questioned Asbury his injures were reported to be accidentally self inflicted. Deputies entered the residence and contacted Asbury's 25-year old girlfriend. Deputies continued their investigation and determined Asbury and his girlfriend were engaged in a physical domestic fight. During the altercation, Asbury choked the female to the point she was going to lose consciousness. In self-defense, the female stabbed Asbury in an attempt to get away from him. Asbury was arrested for Domestic Violence Battery and booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $25,000 bail.
OUR AILING, FAILING STATE
by Tommy Wayne Kramer
California, a sprawling pit of corrupt splendor grabbing at slogans while tumbling into squalor, can no longer fend for itself.
Despite annual revenues of many billions, building and maintaining adequate roads is no longer a priority or even a possibility. Providing reliable electrical power is beyond its grasp.
California focuses on “alternative” transportation (bullet trains to nowhere, bicycle lanes everywhere) and fusses over hypothetical climate change scenarios while people huddle in cold dark homes as if it was 100 years ago. Or 200 years ago.
California is obsessed with “Green Solutions for Tomorrow” which results in misery for today. We live at a time when obsolete highways are the norm and the electrical grid threatens to set our hair on fire.
The mentally hopeless and criminal homeless swarm California, the most expensive place in the country, and live as if it was 200 years ago. Or as if they were rodents.
Drug use is celebrated and free syringes are tossed away like confetti; human urine and feces have turned San Francisco, once America’s most beautiful city, into a big toilet.
These problems and many more paralyze California’s officials, so they announce new programs promoting transgender studies in public schools and regulations keeping citizens safe from Uber and Lyft treacheries. They denounce Donald Trump. They find new ways to spend more money.
They propose Smart Transportation Strategies, billions of dollars for a big bike and pedestrian path from here to Canada along old railroad lines. This path is designed to absorb all the money they were hoping to spend on the (perhaps) abandoned Bullet Train located somewhere in the Central Valley.
Here in Ukiah we have the same stagnant approach in providing what citizens need and pay for. Our roads are broken, so the city promises parking meters downtown and a bigger and better paved Rail-Trail extension through Ukiah’s own central valley.
We have jumbo MTA buses wheezing around town that you and I and all our friends have never ridden a single time, and the money for this lavish, pointless system comes from highway and gasoline taxes. It’s “alternative” transportation. It’s groovy.
Ukiah can no longer refund money to consumers to recycle aluminum, the most valuable commodity in the waste system. Ukiah elected officials can’t even operate a long-established sewer system without indulging many years and millions of dollars in a costly squabble with a different branch of Ukiah elected officials.
Ours might be the most highly paid administrators in the state, with a city manager “earning” more per year than a state governor. No one knows how this happened or why.
Drive around town and ask yourself if Ukiah has the look of a city that is anything other than broken. At our south end sit ruined motels converted to cheap apartments, a burned down saloon, big, battered, dirty RVs crammed with mobile vagrants parked next to the airport, and a dining facility sworn to feed as many transients our numerous local grant-funding agencies can lure to town.
In exchange, these newcomers sometimes set fires in vacant lots, empty sheds, local parks and creeks. Welcome to Ukiah.
All the way to the north end of town stand vape shops, cannabis operations and bums with dogs on leashes striding around purposefully, but aimlessly, and making it clear the streets are not for you, me or our children.
Look at our hollowed-out city. In no time at all both our skating rink and bowling alley disappeared, the biggest bank is closed and empty, the lone downtown architectural gem is a rotted, useless embarrassment. How long will the movie theater survive?
Empty storefronts line the streets, unless we count the three new vape shops that opened yesterday and the ever-multiplying Asian massage parlors that magically thrive within a few hundred feet of each other. And some tattoo joints.
City officials respond to this glum wreckage with a solution straight out of a consultant’s handbook: a six-month State Street deconstruction nightmare that guarantees to bankrupt any Ukiah business foolish enough not to put itself out of its own misery before demolition days begin.
Do city officials understand the disaster it is about to visit upon valuable longtime downtown shops like Mac Nab’s Menswear, the Forest Club, Village Books, Paula’s Hair Salon, Mama’s Cafe and a dozen others? Does it care?
If you think they’ve talked with these owners to see what mitigating forces might be brought into play to salvage their stores you are mistaken. City officials only care about businesses named Costco, Walmart, McDonald’s and any others that pay big taxes to the city but add zero to keeping Ukiah’s downtown alive and thriving. The “Shop Local” banner fluttering across State Street betrays deep cynicism.
Who cares if shops go bankrupt? The road diet will pave the way for bright new franchise cafes and latte shops to lure tourists here with amenities just like the ones in Healdsburg but with wider sidewalks and cuter, pinker tables!
And new parking meters. After all, somebody has to pay the bills around here.
(TWK and his older smarter roommate, Tom Hine, have conspired on a new book called “Happy to Be Here (Tall Tales of Fact and Fiction)” and it’s on sale right now at Village Books on North State Street, and the Mendocino Book Co.)
GEORGIE, GEORGIE PUDDIN' AND PIE, KISSED THE MERCEDES AND MADE IT CRY
On November 23, 2019 at about 4:45 AM, a Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy observed a white Mercedes, with no license plates, driving recklessly in the 1300 block of North State Street in Ukiah. The Deputy conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle, where the vehicle initially stopped. As the Deputy approached the vehicle it accelerated away quickly. The Deputy pursued the vehicle as it traveled recklessly on numerous city streets. During the pursuit, the vehicle collided with a tree and then struck a parked vehicle. The vehicle continued westbound where it again went off the roadway striking a mailbox and then another tree, before becoming disabled. The driver, later identified as Georgie Hoaglin-Britton, 19, of Covelo, exited the driver's side of the vehicle and disobeyed orders from law enforcement personnel.
Hoaglin-Britton took off running southbound on Despina Drive and then eastbound on Capps Lane. Hoaglin-Britton jumped a fence into a backyard of a residence in the 600 block of Capps Lane and climbed onto a roof of a residence. The Ukiah Police Department, the California Highway Patrol and the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office were able to arrest Hoaglin-Britton without incident. Hoaglin-Britton was evaluated by CHP and found to be driving while impaired. Hoaglin-Britton was subsequently medically cleared at a local hospital. Hoaglin-Britton was later transported to the Mendocino County Jail where he was booked on charges of reckless evading, two counts of hit and run, driving under the influence of drugs, resisting or delaying Law Enforcement, violation of probation, Driving without a license. Hoaglin-Britton was to be held in lieu of $35,000 bail.
HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC working on the painting titled "At the Moulin Rouge, The Dance".
FORMER PG&E EMPLOYEE SAYS HE WAS FIRED AFTER WILDFIRE SAFETY COMPLAINTS
by J.D. Morris & Matthias Gafni
Managers at Pacific Gas and Electric Co. failed to address concerns from front-line workers who felt electrical equipment the utility was installing to boost efficiency made power lines more vulnerable to starting dangerous fires, a former employee alleged in recently filed court papers.
Todd Hearn, who was a PG&E lineman for more than 20 years, said he repeatedly told his superiors — including the former head of electric operations — that he was troubled by how the company used a specific kind of device designed to automatically restart a power line after it turns off.
The devices, called reclosers, allow PG&E to avoid sending workers out to fix temporary faults, which are common. But reclosers can also be risky because they shoot bursts of electricity that can start a fire if a broken line is in contact with dry vegetation.
Hearn, 50, claimed in court papers that he and several other employees were particularly concerned about a kind of recloser called TripSaver that PG&E was installing in 2017 — months before its power lines started a series of fires around Wine Country.
Hearn alleged that he told management at the San Francisco utility that the company was unsafely installing the TripSavers in areas with high fire risk such as Napa County, where he worked. But he said the company did not take the reports seriously.
After speaking up about wildfire safety problems on many occasions, Hearn was placed on leave and eventually fired, he said.
“They were playing Russian roulette with the fire areas,” Hearn said in an interview with The Chronicle. “We threw safety out the window in favor of metrics. … It was chaos. We didn’t know what we were doing, but we were putting them up everywhere.”
Civil lawsuits against PG&E are suspended because the company filed for bankruptcy protection in January. So Hearn this week asked the US Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California to let him move his case forward — a step even his attorney, Anne Costin, admitted may be unlikely.
Even if the move is unsuccessful in the bankruptcy case, Costin said it is important for her client to “say everything he knew … so that it is publicly out there.”
Regardless, Hearn and Costin are not alone. Another attorney, Dario de Ghetaldi, told The Chronicle he represents four other employees from Napa County who “raised safety issues … about the installation of TripSavers in high-fire-threat areas.” They were all fired “for reasons that had no basis,” de Ghetaldi said.
In a statement to The Chronicle, PG&E said it was aware of Hearn’s legal motion and will respond by the Dec. 12 deadline set by the Bankruptcy Court. The company does not “comment on employment-related matters” for privacy reasons, spokesman James Noonan said in an email.
PG&E was more specific when it communicated with Hearn directly through letters, copies of which his attorney provided to The Chronicle.
In a January termination letter, PG&E told Hearn he violated the employee code of conduct by “misusing company time, misstating work activities, and fraudulent submissions of timecards for overtime compensation resulting in all-day rest periods, and delayed service time to customers.” And in a March letter to Hearn, the company told him it found his allegations, including retaliation for “continually raising issues regarding the dangers of TripSaver devices being installed in improper locations,” unsubstantiated.
Hearn denies that he acted improperly and maintains his belief that PG&E retaliated against him because of his safety complaints. As part of the bankruptcy case, he filed a claim against PG&E of about $7.6 million, mostly because of wage loss from his job, which was paying him $275,000 a year when he was fired.
Hearn also said he believed PG&E was retaliating against him for raising concerns about fire safety in messages he sent company officials after he was placed on leave and in a complaint he filed with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, copies of which were reviewed by The Chronicle.
It’s not clear how large a role, if any, reclosers played in the October 2017 fires. But one fire from that month that merged into a 56,556-acre complex of blazes in Sonoma and Napa counties was “caused by a downed power line after PG&E attempted to re-energize the line,” according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
De Ghetaldi said “a flurry” of TripSaver reclosers were installed in the North Bay before the 2017 disasters and he was “looking at them in relation to their role in some of the fires.”
Reclosers have been implicated in other fires, including the 2007 Witch Fire in San Diego County and a devastating 2009 conflagration in Australia that killed 119 people.
State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, a frequent PG&E critic who focused on recloser safety after the 2017 fires, was not surprised by Hearn’s allegations.
“The facts support the claims that he’s making, and indicate, again, that PG&E did not have a sustainable recloser policy,” Hill said.
San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison have long disabled their reclosers during times of high fire risk, but PG&E was only doing a limited trial of that approach at the time of the 2017 infernos.
PG&E has since embraced the practice: The company’s 2019 wildfire safety plan said it has a program to disable 2,800 reclosers in high-fire-threat areas, and 2,100 of them could be remotely switched off during wildfire conditions as of the end of last year. The remainder can be turned off manually and the company said it was working to have all reclosers in risky fire zones equipped to be remotely disabled.
A representative of S&C Electric Co., which makes TripSavers, declined to comment on Hearn’s allegations, citing the pending litigation.
The Chronicle reviewed court filings and supporting documents; interviewed Todd Hearn, his attorney, and legal and technical experts; and sought comment from PG&E and S&C Electric over the course of several days.
Hearn said the company prioritized lessening power-outage times and costs, but he and other linemen immediately started seeing issues with the equipment and were concerned they were installed in high-wildfire danger areas. He started speaking out about the dangers they posed.
By the spring of 2017, he began complaining in regional safety meetings with executives in attendance, telling anyone who would listen that the devices were failing and the company was acting against the manufacturer’s safety warning, Hearn alleged.
Hearn contends he even got a response from Patrick Hogan, who was at the time PG&E’s senior vice president of electric operations. Hogan told Hearn that PG&E “may have put the cart before the horse” and would look into a TripSaver training class and committee, Hearn alleged in court papers.
Hogan left PG&E in January, and The Chronicle’s attempts to contact him this week were unsuccessful.
Hearn’s complaint says he attended a TripSaver training class in March 2017 and was “shocked to discover that there was no safety training” on the devices. Instead, Hearn alleged he was told PG&E “was having system-wide problems with TripSavers” and the company was looking at using a new device.
PG&E continued installing the TripSavers anyway, Hearn’s complaint said. He claims he later found out about another problem: The company was downgrading high-priority power-line repairs in order to save money on overtime costs, his complaint said. He said he spoke up about that issue, too, to no avail.
Hearn said he was placed on leave in June 2018 and fired effective Jan. 22.
Despite his termination, Hearn has continued speaking out. In June, he attended a PG&E shareholder meeting in San Francisco and said he delivered letters to the board members regarding his TripSaver concerns.
Hearn still drives around his community and snaps photos of TripSavers on poles in high-fire-danger areas and is, in his own words, “a little obsessed.”
“Napa is a small town, and all my friends are here. I grew up here, and that’s why it’s a concern for me,” he said. “I have a bad feeling it can happen again.”
(Courtesy, the SF Chronicle)
PG&E SHOULD LIQUIDATE ASSETS AND BECOME A TRUE PUBLIC UTILITY
Now that most of the smoke has settled and the power has returned to our neighborhoods, it is probably a good time to look at what went wrong. Of course I am referring to the Pacific Gas and Electric public safety power shutoffs.
Bear with me, because there are a lot of moving parts. But, in the end, I believe I will substantiate my hypothesis that PG&E management are a bunch of ham-handed nincompoops.
A lot of us became aware of this back in 2010, when a neglected gas pipeline blew up in San Bruno, killing eight people and injuring another 60, while destroying 30 homes. But PG&E’s incompetence really came home to me in their failed launch of the “smart meters.”
Back a couple of years ago, without informing customers, PG&E rolled out this program – or perhaps I should say “crammed it down our throats” — resulting in a partial implementation that defeated the entire intent of the technology. So for the moving parts of the discussion; the old mechanical/inductive electric meters were notoriously inaccurate – over or under metering power use by 20-30%. This required the utility to generate 30% excess power to prepare for usage spikes – like when folks come home from work and all turn on electric heaters or air conditioners at about the same time.
The smart meters collect real-time usage data and create localized cellular power utilization profiles – reducing overhead power generation requirements to just 5%. The real-time data is communicated to the utility by way of cell-phone technology (at one-third the broadcast energy, at the same broadcast band as cell phones). But PG&E management, without letting us know, just started installing the new meters – amplifying the distrust we already had about the utility.
Conspiracies bloomed and conjecture was rampant. What started out as a good idea degenerated into a mosh pit of consumers and meter installers fighting it out in the streets. At least nobody got killed, but almost; at one point a meter-installation contractor was charging his truck into a line of Inverness protesters who were laying their bodies down on Sir Francis Drake Blvd to stop the installation.
So now we have the fires, a couple of years in a row – ostensibly caused by more neglected PG&E equipment. So the utility’s response was to shut down all power during weather conditions that put their neglected equipment at risk. But when they shut down power to all of Marin County, it included the marina areas of Sausalito and San Rafael and Corte Madera Creek, as well as downtown business districts where fire danger was not really in the deck.
What am I to make of PG&E’s capability to manage a “smart” power grid under these circumstances? I return to my original hypothesis that PG&E management are ham-handed nincompoops. Although I do need to be a bit charitable here; as a privatized public utility, the managers need to attend to their shareholders, as well as reward themselves with bonuses and competitive executive compensation packages. This was punctuated by a recent $11 million bonus package offered to their top 16 managers who had to decide how to cut costs to provide billions of dollars in dividends to their shareholders over the years.
While I believe I have substantiated my hypothesis, I would argue that these additional factors provide the evidence that we should not privatize our public utilities.
PG&E is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy – allowing them to reorganize and pay their creditors (including the victims). I suggest that they liquidate under Chapter 7 and have all the assets inure to the rate-payers. It should be managed as a public utility without the burdens of dividends to shareholders, and competitive executive pay packages.
CATCH OF THE DAY, November 24, 2019
GEORGIE BRITTON-HOAGLIN, Covelo. DUI alcohol&drugs, misdemeanor hit&run, evasion, no license, resisting, probation revocation.
DEREK DAVIS, Covelo. Probation revocation.
ERICK HIDALGO-SANDOVAL, Bakersfield/Fort Bragg. Possess/purchase for sale controlled substance, sale/transport of organic drug, controlled substance for sale, controlled substance, transportaiton.
STEVE MAROS, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
BRADLEY MAXFIELD, Willits. Paraphernalia, tampering with vehicle, probation revocation. (Frequent Flyer)
DARIC PARDO, Covelo. Smuggling firearms, deadly weapon or teargas weapon into jail, under influence, vandalism, parole violation.
DANIEL PEREZ, Ukiah. Criminal threats, child endangerment.
PABLO PREGO-ROMERO, Vigo, Spain/Ukiah. DUI.
SAMUEL SANCHEZ, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, parole violation. (Frequent flyer.)
CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS, Willits. DUI, suspended license (for DUI), probation revocation.
COLD WAR CASUALTY
by Dave McCain
We had blackout curtains on the window of our elementary school. They were supposed to protect us from the burns of the flash when the atomic bomb went off and saturated the room in a shower of glass shrapnel. By the time we were in the fifth grade we had all seen the movie newsreels of Hiroshima victims running with their bodies trailing strips of skin like fleshy streamers.
During the atomic bomb drills we were told to get under our desks, place our head between our knees, lace our fingers together on the nape of our neck, and kneel like a person about to be beheaded. Sacrificed to struggles unknown.
One day when we did this in my seat mate, Otto "Toughie" Roach, who sat next to me, said: "Now give ’em a final fart Davy and kiss your ass good-bye!" Of course I laughed and Mrs. Johnson whacked me savagely on top of the head with her ruler.
I thought, Screw the Kremlin! I had more to fear from ruler wielding Mrs. Stalin Johnson than I did from some atomic blasts from afar. My enemies were not ideological. They were personal and seemed willing to maim or destroy me before I could learn how to possibly grow up and enjoy myself and my life.
We had to practice this over and over again, our a bomb drill, so we could achieve greater and greater speed and efficiency, for what was to us our final impending doom and death by burns and radiation. And while rabid Mrs. Stalin Johnson patrolled the aisles lashing out at slackers, our vice principal, Sydney Hook, universally known as "Shit Hook," urged us to greater and greater speed and efficiency. "Assume the position!" he would bark and we would all plunge beneath the plywood desktops like obedient little lemmings over some unknown adult cliff.
We dove again beneath the desks and assumed the position, equating ourselves with our nether regions. Toughie said under his breath: "Please pucker now! Please pucker now! Oh smoochy, smoochy, smooch!" and I laughed again, but this time we both got whacked on the head by Mrs. Stalin Johnson and her unbreakable ruler and her Mickey Mantle swing. She looked like a jazz drummer doing a solo on our heads. It was 50 years ago and my ears still ring.
By the time I was in the eighth grade I was a confirmed fatalist and had lost all trust in adult sanity. But I owe my dark sense of humor to Toughie who taught me to laugh at oncoming trains, stand my ground, take the blow, and appreciate the joke even if it's played on you.
WHY THE UKRAINE?
U.S. can’t afford aid to Ukraine.
What concerns me most about the impeachment inquiry is the fact that we are providing aid to Ukraine in the first place. After all, we have trillion dollar budget deficits looming for as far as the eye can see to go along with $23 trillion in outstanding debt. Funding for any foreign aid will have to be borrowed, obligating our children and grandchildren to service the debt indefinitely. Why are we funding Ukraine’s military when we can’t afford our own? Is fiscal insanity an impeachable offense?
AMONG OTHER INVALUABLE ITEMS of useless information, I recall a book written by an English lady of the eighteenth century, which dwelt long and lovingly on the evils of education for women. This lady deplored the growing desire among the girls of her time to be educated and learn to read and write; her theory was that once a girl started filling her mind with facts instead of fancy embroidery methods and seven easy tunes on the harp, she would turn into an attic storehouse of miscellaneous knowledge, tending to decrease her matrimonial value and rendering her almost useless as a wife and mother, and even, possibly, delusional.
— Shirley Jackson
IN-N-OUT SUED BY CAL FIRE FOR ALLEGEDLY STARTING 2017 WILDFIRE
"IT'S POLITICALLY INCONVENIENT for those in power for the hollowing out of America to be quantified. To conceal the decline, institutions only measure what can be massaged to appear positive. These statistics include inflation (Consumer Price Index, CPI), the unemployment rate, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and hundreds of financial numbers: net wealth, bank loans and so on. Everyone knows from experience that big-ticket expenses such as healthcare, childcare, rent, college tuition, etc. have been rising at double-digit rates, while 'shrinkflation' has reduced the quantity and quality of goods even as price has remained unchanged. In other words, the official statistics are gamed to appear positive even as the nation is being hollowed out. People sense the disconnect but since what actually matters isn't measured, there are few objective indicators of the decline we all experience in everyday life."
— Charles Hugh Smith