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Off the Record (December 18, 2019)

PHIL BALDWIN HAS DIED. A former Ukiah city councilman, Baldwin, noted for his liberal stands on a range of inland issues, was a retired teacher who worked for years at Potter Valley High School. Prior to establishing his home in Ukiah, the affable Baldwin had lived in Santa Cruz where he served on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. A full obituary is being prepared.

CHIEF LIZARRAGA TO RETIRE — At the Monday, December 9th Fort Bragg City Council meeting, Police Chief Fabian Lizarraga announced his resignation, effective in May, 2020. That would mark a five year tenure as chief of police in Mendocino County's second largest town. Previously, Lizarraga spent more than three dozen years with the Los Angeles Police Department. The surprise announcement came during the staff comments section of the Fort Bragg City Council meeting. The Chief was hired in March of 2015 from southern California besting a field of over 30 applicants for the position.

HELLO, HISTORY? GET ME RE-WRITE: The news that Fort Bragg police chief, Fabian Lizarraga is "stepping down" from the lucrative sinecure he shouldn't have stepped into in the first place, should include the fact that Lizarraga will have completed exactly five years in the job qualifying him for yet another lucrative pension on top of the lush package he gets from the LAPD.

THE EQUIVALENTLY MERCENARY FB city manager at the time Lizarraga was hired, Linda Ruffing, managed to pass over Fort Bragg's heroic (no exaggeration) John Naulty, the local cop who rightly should have gotten the chief's job over the Los Angeles pension-padder. Naulty and Scott Mayberry, the latter another shaft victim of Ruffing, shot it out with the berserk tweeker-killer who'd ambushed Sheriff's Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino, literally putting their lives on the line for Fort Bragg. Their reward? Naulty is ignored for the chief's job, and Mayberry is subjected to all manner of bureaucratic harassment from Ruffing. Of all the crummy personnel moves I've seen over the years, Ruffing’s hit on Naulty was the crummiest. Ruffing, incidentally, presently enjoys a lucrative contract with the County of Mendocino to advise the County on relations with the Coastal Commission.


Local author Katy Tahja has just published her latest book, “An Eclectic History of Mendocino County.” 

Copies are flying off the shelves at bookstores, but we will have gift-wrapped copies signed by the author available to purchase here at Kelley House. During this casual one-hour presentation, Katy will entertain us with a trivia quiz covering fascinating topics in our county’s history. White deer? Tobacco farms? 

Find out more at the Kelley House on December 22nd at 4:00. Admission is $7 and $5 for members. 

WOMEN  RULE (the local courts).  Her Honor, Presiding Judge Ann Moorman, administered the oath of judgeship this week to Victoria Shanahan, recently appointed by Governor Newsom to fill the vacancy left by Judge Reimenschneider, who retired after a fleetingly brief stint on the bench (with no cut in pay, for sure). Reimenschneider was himself appointed by Governor Brown. This leaves the juvenile court, Department F, dark these past few years. Judge Shanahan, now officially The Honorable Victoria Shanahan, joins a bench of predominately female judges, Cindee Mayfield, Ann Moorman, Jeanine Nadel, Carly Dolan, and one lone male judge, Keith Faulder. 

WE UNDERSTAND that Judge Shanahan, back when she was a Deputy DA along with Deputy DA Keith Faulder, used to complain about how "masculine" the Mendo Bench was -- intolerably so! We hope she now finds the gender split more to her liking. Since that time Ms. Shanahan was a prosecutor in the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office. After an unsuccessful ran for District Attorney there against incumbent Jill Ravitch (herself a former Mendo Assistant DA), Ms. Shanahan has been in private practice as a defense attorney.

JUDGE SHANAHAN will preside over the misdemeanor calendar in Department B, and Judge Mayfield will go back to family court in Department C, bumping Judge Dolan up to fill the vacancy left by retiring Judge John Behnke in felony court, Department H. Judge Nadel will stay in the civil court, Department E; Judge Faulder will stay in felony court, Department A; Judge Moorman, having been re-elected to serve another two years as Presiding Judge, will continue to hold down overflow and field odd cases in Departments G and F. Judge Reimenschneider was well within his rights to retire after only enough time on the bench to try on his robe, but we hope Judge Shanahan has a more traditional — not to say "conservative" — sense of duty, and will stick it out for at least a little while. (Bruce McEwen)

KATE LEE is retiring as boss of the Fort Bragg Advocate/Beacon. I've always been fond of Ms. Lee, a grand lady in the old sense with whom I had absolutely nothing journalistic in common, but with whom I always managed a cordial relationship. True to the ruthless tactics of the hedge fund that owns the Advocate/Beacon, The Willits News and the Ukiah Daily Journal, KC Meadows of the Journal, another grand lady, will now assume responsibility for the Advocate/Beacon along with her responsibilities for the Willits paper and the Journal.

THERE WERE a lot of evil rumors around when the young Advocate reporter Kelci Parks died, rumors that she had succumbed to opioids. No, the poor thing died of natural causes stemming from a bad heart.

Kelci & son

ADD to the long list of major local stories ignored by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, the recent drug ring bust. Partly based in Cloverdale with tentacles reaching deep into Mendocino County, the feds have arrested 11 people and are looking for more NorCal crank distributors responsible for sales up and down the Northcoast. If one gang was based in Cloverdale, well, gee, isn't Cloverdale kinda close to Mendocino County with its innumerable tweekers? Could there be a local hook here, PD? 

ANOTHER ignored story involves the Press Democrat's ownership. Understandably, the cringing publication isn't about to unleash its own reporters on the people who write their paychecks, but a truly excellent story in the current Pacific Sun by Peter Byrne and Will Carruthers explains almost all of their findings in their title: "Burned: How daily newspaper owner Darius Anderson set up an emergency fund to rebuild Sonoma County, raised millions from his client, PG&E, then spent money on lobbying trips instead of helping victims of California's worst fire."

ANDERSON and former congressman Doug Bosco, own the Press Democrat. The revelatory Pacific Sun expose also recalls another story the Press Democrat kept its reporters from revealing:

".... Anderson's stake in the local news business paid off last year when a panel of arbitrators implicated him and Doug Boxer — his partner in Kenwood Investments and son of former senator for California, Barbara Boxer — in a fraud scheme that victimized a group of indigenous people. Just about a year ago, the San Francisco Superior Court affirmed the arbitrators' finding that Anderson and Boxer bilked the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria when the tribe was trying to develop a casino in Sonoma County in 2003. The Press Democrat did not report the finding of fraud in its brief coverage of the court-ordered $725,000 award to the Native Americans…"

IT'S WAYYYYYY PAST TIME to consolidate the numerous water and sewer districts of the Ukiah Valley, an expensive patchwork of jealously guarded little fiefdoms whose net benefit is to lawyers, and whose net negative impact is on their captive ratepayers who suffer unnecessarily expensive water and sewage rates. 

ON THE SUBJECT of district consolidation, it's also past time to consolidate the school districts of the County. It's extravagantly expensive, and a budget drain on actual classroom instruction to maintain all these outback school districts, each with its own expensive admins. 

BRUCE McEWEN WRITES: “I have a document that proves the Judges, so recently blamed for the neglect of the late Mr. Chas. Hensley, was not overlooked and shunted aside by their honors. The judges who have dealt with the late Chas. H. over the years, and they’ve done everything legally – not to say “humanely” — possible to accommodate an obviously suicidal drunk.

WHAT MORE could be asked of our judges? They did everything they were “legally” capable of to save the suicidal Mr. Hensley; to say that the legal system “failed” this poor devil, I think is unfair. I should also add the one memorable comment from Trapper Joe, that smoking and drinking are the only legitimate forms of committing suicide (and even newspaper editors cannot transgress those domains of personal choice ) but the difficulty of fixing blame is strong in all of us …!

PROSTITUTION IN UKIAH? Yes. Those hard-looking babes you occasionally see around Ukiah are in and out of town from Sacramento to service enough of the erotically challenged to make the girls' Sacramento commutes worthwhile. One of the primary organizers is a computer-adept woman who has so far managed to cyber-elude the forces of law and order. Local historians are always quick to remind us that brothels thrived in every area of the county well into the twentieth century, one of them, Madge's, so popular that there's a memorial plaque out front of its old West Church Street, Ukiah, address.

CLOUDY thoughts on a cool, clear Saturday afternoon, beginning with the SMART train's celebration of not quite reaching the ferry terminals at Larkspur Landing, leaving train travelers slightly more than half-a-mile from a convenient onward journey to San Francisco by water. The halt and the lame will somehow have to get themselves from the train station to the ferry. There is belated talk of shuttles. The Not Quite Train is a much larger money trap than, say, the Mendocino Transit Authority, and will also require heavy subsidies for the foreseeable future because ridership is wildly insufficient to support it. The only people riding the SMART Train regularly are tourists — well, not the only people, but it has proved useless to regular commuters between Santa Rosa and San Rafael because its stations are inconveniently sited at both ends of the track and fares too high.  The original early 20th century rail line from Tiburon and Sausalito to Eureka, with connections up and down what is now 101 and, at Willits, a daily connection with Fort Bragg's Skunk train, meant people from a huge swathe of the Northcoast's Sonoma, Mendo and Humboldt counties could get to The City inexpensively and comfortably by train.

SONOMA COUNTY'S northern tier is paying for the SMART Train but the line still hasn't gotten to Windsor, nevermind Cloverdale whose town's leaders many years ago erected a spiffy station in premature anticipation of the reintroduction of train travel. It stands isolated and unused on the old Northwestern track remote from central Cloverdale. 

Cloverdale train station

Mendo's old train stop in Ukiah has, with its surrounding acreage, been set aside for another boondoggle, a new County Courthouse wanted by no one other than the grandees of the Mendocino County Superior Court, and even they are afraid to say they want it in public because the project is so unpopular. 

Abandoned Ukiah train depot: proposed site of new courthouse

PRE-INTERNET, lone nuts were alone, the most tiresome monomaniacs were even excluded from the heavily edited letter’s pages of their local papers where overt lunacy was not permitted. (Or confined to the paper's editorials.) But with cyber-communications, here they come — the racists, the anti-Semites, the anti-vaxxers, the Grassy Knollers, the porn pervs. Thanks to the internet, these loons now have whole communities of each other, but not content to talk to each other  they try to clog up, ahem, wholesome sites like the ava's. A tiresome race baiter and anti-Semite named Kittle keeps popping up on our comment line whom we've had to put on our watch list to exclude altogether if he keeps it up. The only reason we've tolerated him as long as we have is because he shares a surname with the great George Kittle, 49er tight end whose last minute catch and ferocious run against New Orleans two Sundays ago was so absolutely thrilling.

IF WORDS still had meaning, references to the liberal wing of the obviously conservative Democratic Party as “radical Left Democrats” and “the party of socialism” would have been laughed at. As if single payer health insurance is, as Biden and Trump have described it, “crazy socialism.” One third of GoFundMe requests arise from some desperate family trying to raise money to save a loved one. If I hear one more everyday working person say something like I've already heard, something like this, I'm going to start drinking again: "I wish we had single payer. Hell, I could use it myself. I'm totally screwed if I get sick but we can't afford it." We? You're barely scraping by and you're talking like you're Bloomberg? The Brits just voted against their own true interests and here we go in the USA where millions who ought to be all the way behind Bernie will vote against their true interests. Chalk another one up for a lying mass media, with CNN and MSNBC as bad as Fox on the "socialism" issue.

THE DEMOCRAT'S top secret Get Trump whistleblower, as we and many other media except the mainstream media have identified for more than a month now, is a young (in his 30's) CIA agent name Eric Ciaramella with ties to Biden. In other words, not credible. Meanwhile, the true whistleblowers — Snowden; Manning; Assange — are written off by Trumpers and Schiffters as "traitors" for documenting that our government has lied to us about darn near everything (I guess this fact surprises some people) and also spies on us in our Alexa and home computer fastnesses! 

JOHN ARTEAGA writes in the UDJ: "I was so disappointed to see the excellent proposal of State Sen. Weiner, which would override local planning to allow more dense housing to be built near transit hubs. It was dropped without so much as a decent public hearing, though it could have resulted in a significant increase in reasonably priced housing units statewide.

Locally, it is so disheartening to see the minuscule number of incredibly heavily subsidized ‘low cost’ housing units built locally; yes, they look great, but they are less than a drop in the bucket when compared to the need.

The pragmatic former supervisor John Pinches had, I thought, a much bigger and better plan for increasing the county’s housing stocks; he pushed for the county to create trailer parks on a nonprofit basis. It seemed like a practical and affordable way for the county to address the staggering homelessness crisis we see all around us. No action taken.

The vast, barnlike homeless shelter now being remodeled on South State is fine for the hard-luck cases that it is apparently designed to marginally house, but we really need to start thinking out of the box for those many of our hard-working fellow citizens who are now finding it impossible to locate any kind of affordable shelter."

MARGARET CROWNINSHIELD passed from this world on September 27, 2019. The beloved mother of Steve and John Crowningshield and former spouse of David Crowningshield. She leaves behind a four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She was a singer, songwriter and musician, cofounder of the Mendocino Women's Chorus, and an accomplished seamstress and quilter. A celebration of her life is scheduled for December 21 at 3 PM at the Casper Community Center. (Sheila Dawn Tracy)

THE CANDIDATES for the March 3rd Mendo election, a preliminary assessment: 

SUPERIOR COURT Judge Jeanine Nadel: We haven't heard a critical word about Nadel's work as a judge, but then the Druidic functioning of the County's judicial posse is aggressively kept from prying eyes. Ms. Nadel made her way up from the equivalent of that legal dead letter office — County Counsel’s seraglio — and now enjoys an unopposed incumbency. 

WE'VE admired Patrick Pekin's work as a defense attorney — a thankless task given that clients are almost all guilty and tend heavily to ingratitude. We see no reason the smart and personable Coast attorney won't make an excellent judge as he runs unopposed to replace John Behnke, who has retired.

FAVORITE defendant as ingrate story was told to me by my cousin, James Rowland, a defense attorney who once worked the Mendo-Lake circuit. Cousin Jimmy said a guy he was defending insisted he present this defense, that the bag of cocaine the guy was sniffing as the cops burst through the door wasn't cocaine, it was sheetrock dust, which he just happened to be snorting to see if it was the goods or not!

WHY DO we have nine judges? Because the state legislature is composed mostly of lawyers, and back in the mid-1970s, the palsy-walsy lawyers who make state law decided that Mendocino County's far-flung justice courts with their "lay" judges — judges who didn't have law degrees — couldn't possibly render a "professional" quality of justice, nevermind that outback Mendo was perfectly content with their "lay" judges for the prior 125 years. So, presto, a gang of jive hippies who *did* have law degrees before they took a few years off for an interlude of stoned grabass came running out of the woods to fill the magically elevated, part-time justice court positions which, by legislative fiat, were now Superior Court life sinecures, with the lofty pay and perks lawyers seem to think God entitles them to. And here we are, although it seems from here the present crop of judges is pretty good — no obvious fascists or lunatics.

THE ELECTIONS for Supervisor are going to be interesting this time around. District 1, Potter and Redwood valleys with a slug of voters outside and northeast of Ukiah, has been represented by Carre Brown, who is retiring.  The seat has been held for years by someone from Potter Valley, most notably in terms of quality of service, Jim Eddie, a Potter Valley rancher. Then we had three terms of Eddie's son-in-law, the priapic Michael Delbar, and then Mrs. Brown, also from Potter Valley. 

APART from their apparent blood oaths to defend scandalously cheap water for themselves and their fellow grape growers and ranchers in Potter Valley forever, via the Eel River Diversion, the 1st District reps are selected by the politically retro Farm Bureau. In theory, the Supe’s job is non-partisan, but the mere whisper of a complaint about frost fans or how householders get screwed by high water rates while the sons of the soil get virtually free and unlimited access to water from the partially diverted Eel, and here they come a’ roaring, the whole Farm Bureau posse! 

THE ELECTION to replace Brown would seem to be between Glenn McGourty, a wine grape grower and Farm Bureau guy, and Jon Kennedy, whose views on local issues are not yet clear. Kennedy has been a popular Supervisor in Plumas County before returning to Mendo where he has lived before and where he was well thought of for his work as a firefighter. A vague fellow named James Green is also a candidate. He has appeared before the Supes a couple of times where he's issued cryptic comments having nothing to do with anything beyond establishing his presence, kinda like a guy establishing a phony alibi. And there's John Sakowicz, the putative “liberal” in the race. If Sako gets into a run-off, and this race, like District 2, is likely to go there, Mendo will have an electoral extravaganza the likes of which will be the likes of which…

DISTRICT 2 is basically Ukiah. Incumbent John McCowen is retiring. Maureen ‘Mo’ Mulheren, mayor of Ukiah, is opposed by a former mayor of Ukiah, Mari Rodin, and Joel Soinila. Mulheren and Rodin have the civic albatross of Ukiah to explain. They also would seem to draw from the same electoral base, although we understand that Mulheren is preferred by Ukiah’s business people. Soinila is a newcomer to local affairs whose family goes back to the Finn diaspora of the early 20th century when the Soinilas settled in Redwood Valley. 

THE DISTRICT 4 race for Supervisor pits recumbent incumbent Dan Gjerde vs the popular Fort Bragg City councilman, Lindy Peters, who has also served as the town's mayor. Gjerde is a smart guy who knows all about how local government works, the boring stuff few people pay any attention to. He was very good, even brave, when he sat on the Fort Bragg council at a volatile, nay incendiary, time in the town's history as unindicted criminals burned down the town library, justice court, the Piedmont Hotel, and suborned several councilmen. Gjerde stood up to them, one of whom physically attacked Gjerde at city hall, to give readers an idea of how bold scumbaggery was in Fort Bragg at the time. Gjerde, now in his second term, has recently come alive as a Supervisor, having been quiescent his entire first term. Has the first real competition he's faced as a Supervisor brought Gjerde back to life? Whatever's revived him, and it seems to be the new energy represented by 5th District Supe Ted Williams, Gjerde is back. Assuming he stays alive, Gjerde should have the edge over the affable and highly popular Fort Bragg sports guy, Peters. This one will not go to a runoff because only two candidates are running.

ALSO on the ballot will be the Coast Hospital Affiliation question (for the Hospital’s NorthCoast District) and the Countywide application of Transient Occupancy Taxes to private campgrounds. More on these later.

THERE was a line at the tax collector's window when I popped in to pay my property tax two days before the due date, resenting that portion of it that goes to fund the lush retirements of the unemployables who've managed to luck into Fifth District Supervisors seats over the years. I parked, as always, in the space marked "Reserved For County Counsel." Who says they get preferential parking? As Mendo trash czar and unindicted car bomber Mike Sweeney, an absolute stickler for the rules as applied to everyone except him, used to say, "Show me the stat-yoot!" 


 (1) Truth is another of those overworked words such as outrage. The truth that matters is being overlooked or even buried. Truth is millions of Americans that are a very short step into living out of their cars. The cars with the 7 year mortgage on them. Truth is that a whole bunch will go into their cars because some medical “professional” sent them a bill that they cannot pay off in a gazillion years. Truth is that the whole damn economy is a sham and a scam. Truth is that the deep swamp cannot be cleaned up because there is zero benefit to any politician for that to happen. Why would anyone expect someone to break their own rice bowl? The truth is the courts are a scourge. When some judge in Hawaii can render a ruling that constipates the rest of the nation is a system with a 1000 dictators. The truth is too ugly for the electorate to bear which is why the impeachment scam lives on and will keep living on beyond Trump’s lifetime. The electorate is too busy to give a shit because another bill just came in they cannot pay.

(2) Back in the1950s we had a milkbox on the front porch. When the milkman put full bottles in the box, he would pick up the empty bottles—glass of course—and take them back to the dairy, where they were washed and refilled.

The only part of the packaging that was single-use was the bottle cap, which was crimped, wax-coated, heavy paper. No plastic. 

How many times could a glass milk bottle be washed and refilled? I can only guess, but it could have been dozens, if it did not get broken.

Good to hear you will soon have home delivery of milk. I hope they go back to this system of returning and re-using the glass bottles.

Ed note: My brother and I used to fight over who got to drink the cream at the top of the bottle, and the ice man, with a leather gherkin over his shoulder, used to lug in big blocks of ice for the ice box over our old Kelvinator. And guys hand-digging ditches all day. And washing machine wringers. Remember those? There was always some kid with his forearm in a cast from running his arm through the thing. (All boys. Girls were too smart to mess with the machines.)

One Comment

  1. John Sakowicz December 20, 2019

    Regarding the meth drug ring busted in Cloverdale, northern Sonoma County has a long history with thugs. Barry Mills was from nearby Winsdor.

    Barry “The Baron” Mills was leader of the Aryan Brotherhood (AB) prison gang. He died on July 8 last year at United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility Prison (ADX) in Florence, Colorado.

    He was one of the most dangerous criminals in America.

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