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Off The Record

“MARIJUANALAND — Dispatches From An American War” by Jonah Raskin is a fascinating insider's tour of the Northcoast's marijuana business. Professor Raskin is a partisan on the side of cannabis. He celebrates the courage and ingenuity of growers without romanticizing their outlaw lives, lives lived in perennial legal limbo, and forthrightly describes his own commitment to the herb without ignoring the drug trade's considerable downside. For a real feel for what the marijuana business is like in all its complexity here at ground zero, Raskin's book is far and beyond the best of the genre.

“HENRY'S DEMONS” by Patrick and Henry Cockburn is the clearest, and most moving, account of marijuana's downside that I've read. I hadn't known that large numbers of people born with a genetic susceptibility to mental illness, can have that susceptibility triggered by youthful over indulgence in cannabis. Which is what happened to Henry, a talented painter and, as he demonstrates here, a writer of superior ability whose accounts of his hallucinations as he descends into what seems to be suicidal madness, are terrifyingly vivid. As young Henry disappears from his comfortable and supportive home to obey life-threatening directives from trees and unseen forces, his parents and brother live lives waiting for the ultimate in bad news. The reader is carried along — this reader read the book in two alternately fascinated and terrified gulps — as the family copes for a full decade with Henry's only occasionally hopeful periods of normal functioning.

HENRY'S DEMONS caused me to think back over the years since 1970 when dope became prevalent in the lives of millions of Americans, and prevalent, certainly, here in the Anderson Valley where I can name a hundred young people permanently derailed by premature drug dependence. There was a kid named Joe Mannix, a gentle, intelligent kid who, it seemed to me, had a bright future as, probably, a pilot, an interest developed by a flight program at Boonville High School from which many young people went on to productive careers in one or another branch of aeronautics. Joe got good grades,  played jv basketball and helped his father, Homer Mannix, produce the Anderson Valley Advertiser. And then, about age 17, as I remember his sudden deterioration, Joe got into heavy pot smoking, and the pot of 1975 was not the triple strength pot of 2011, but strong enough to permanently retool the young mind for schizophrenia ever afterwards. And soon Joe was all the way nuts. He busted in on his ailing parents to threaten them with a machete. He wandered around The Valley in a fog, but engaged often enough in dangerous or threatening behavior that he was the constant companion of Deputy Squires. One day, brandishing a rifle, he walked into the tasting room of the Greenwood Ridge Winery where he told Eileen Pronsolino that he was robbing the place. Eileen, who'd known Joe all his life, told him to go away. And Joe went away but was soon formally suppressed by the inevitable Deputy Squires. Soon there was an account in the city papers of a young man who stole a Cessna from San Francisco International and deliberately flew into the side of San Bruno Mountain. It was Joe. He walked away from the debris. Joe told people in The Valley he planned to rent a plane and dive bomb it into the Boonville gym some night when we were all inside for a basketball game. And then he drove his car over the side of the Ukiah Road, plummeting a thousand feet down but indestructably emerging with nothing more than cuts and bruises. And he landed a small plane on an impossibly precarious knob in the hills east of Boonville where the Palmer Ranch is now. It was in and out of the County Jail and, finally, to the state hospital at Napa where he remains. Did marijuana destroy Joe Mannix? It didn't help him any, and it probably didn't help Aaron Bassler, the presumed killer of Jere Melo, Fort Bragg City councilman, a national news story all this week. Bassler's distraught father said Monday his son was fine until he started smoking pot at about age 18, but I'll bet the kid was already deep into it during his high school years. That's where it starts, if it doesn't start even earlier in junior high. And that's the Mendo Paradox, the mixed message of cliche-dom; on the one hand marijuana's propagandists say it cures everything from cancer to depression, and maybe it does. But where do all these blitzed, permanently incapacitated young people come from?

A FUND has been established in the memory of the late Matt Coleman reflecting his passion for environmental education and conservation. Coleman, 45, of Albion was shot to death by a person or persons unknown on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011 near Rockport on the Mendocino Coast. Donations can be sent to: The Community Foundation of Mendocino County; Matthew Coleman Fund for Environmental Education & Conservation, 290 S. State St., Ukiah, CA 95482.

DA DAVE EYSTER has finally been cleared to hire ace prosecutor Paul Sequeira lately of Contra Costa County's fraught DA's office. It took Eyster almost eight months to clear Sequeira with the County's “management bargaining unit” although the hire comes with a net savings to the County. Sequeira enjoys a formidable reputation in the Bay Area as a man adept at the successful resolution of high profile murder cases, of which one and possibly two are pending prosecution here in Mendocino County. Sequeira graduated from Ukiah High School and is often seen at local ball games involving his sons who play sports at Analy High School in Sonoma County where the Sequeiras make their home. Sequeira attended Willamette College in Oregon with Eyster where they became friends. Sequeira has been involved in several Contra Costa political controversies as the DA's office there underwent heated elections. There was also a very odd in-house sex scandal that saw two prosecutors, colleagues of Sequeira's, retreating to a noon hour love nest for complicated couplings involving ice cubes and revolvers. (Wacky as official Mendocino County can be, local officials seem to lack the kind of imagination for the more esoteric sexual practices.) The young woman involved in the ice cube hijinks, Holly “Frigidaire” Harpham, was briefly hired by Eyster's predecessor, Meredith Lintott, to work as a prosecutor at Ten Mile Court, Fort Bragg. Ms. Harpham had claimed she'd been raped by her kinked-out colleague, a much older man.

CEO CARMEL ANGELO reported that “the County continues to spend $28,000 per week ($1.5 million per year) more than it generates in revenue. The Federal government, experiencing what is shaping up as terminal fiscal stress of its own, is scaling back on domestic spending. As is the state. The California State Budget for fiscal year 2011-2012 is based on faulty revenue assumptions certain to trigger automatic cuts in January. Mendocino County, as bottom dog in a shrinking state and federal economy, can only anticipate additional cuts in state and federal reimbursements. The County CEO is drafting an austerity plan she will present to the Board of Supervisors during the final budget hearings in September. That plan consists almost entirely of further staff cuts. Supervisor McCowen asked, “You refer to the ongoing shortfall we have and make the statement that you are formulating options for deficit mitigation. Can you elaborate on that at all?” Ms. Angelo was blunt: “We are actually formulating a layoff list. That is based on, we really have to stay on budget this year. I’m not going to go into everything we've already talked about as far as our credit rating, what this means, the fact that we narrowly got our TRANS [operating cash borrowing]. If you look at our audit, we have a $16 million general fund deficit so it is imperative that the Executive Office make recommendations to this board to keep us on budget, and at this point we had budgeted for that $1.46 million we have not seen yet, and so we are looking at layoffs to make up the difference in that money. And that's probably the number one cost-cutting measure that we’re looking at right now, along with keeping positions vacant. We are working with departments that have a critical need, I believe that the Ag department is one, and they will be hiring. At the same time there will be positions left vacant. So vacant positions, restructuring where we can, consolidating where we can, and again the last measure being layoffs.”

COUNTY OFFICIALS have complained several times in recent weeks about how the County’s largest bargaining unit — Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021 — has been dragging out the negotiations process, and that former business agent Jackie Carvallo unfairly pressured the Board by having the Union vote on a 10% cut in hours before the Board agreed to that particular reduction. But we’ve heard from some union people close to the negotiations that Ms. Carvallo may have had a good faith reason to ask her membership to vote on the 10% hours reduction — Carvallo was under the strong impression that CEO Angelo had offered it.

THE PROBLEM, some union members say, is that nothing has been put in writing. All the negotiations have been verbal, and nobody can be held to anything. This kind of sloppy negotiating reflects badly on both the union and County Management. It also allows both sides to blame the other for any contract delays, delays that now are costing the County an estimated $20,000 a week, and which will force CEO Angelo into another round of wholesale layoffs.

THERE ARE OTHER variables involved, such as how much (or how little) money the County will get from the State this year. But the prospect of more layoffs leads directly to the likelihood of another round of contentious debate on how much of next year’s deficit should be absorbed by the Sheriff’s Department which makes up the largest part of the County’s discretionary General Fund expenses.

A READER WRITES: “My name is Michael Johnson I am writing to you with great concern for a situation that has arisen to my attention recently. Between March and April I donated 3 quilts that took weeks to make to the Hospitality House for holding so that they could be used for the homeless. I donated them with clear instructions that the quilts were for use by the homeless. Recently I went back to the Hospitality House to bring humanitarian relief supplies (blankets large amounts of bulk foods dry socks towels, etc.) I was invited in by the onsite manager on 8/26/11. I explained to him that before I could donate more supplies I needed to simply see that the blankets were still on the premises and being used (an appropriate measure considering the amount of supplies I was going to donate added up to thousands of dollars worth of commodities). The manager refused to show me the blankets and got hostile towards me and threw me off the property as well as refusing the donation. I have talked to many people who have many stories about the misappropriation of supplies and blatant violations of their basic human rights such as the right to access their prescription medications or to have their property safe from blatant unwarranted search etc. Long story short, I believe (and have many people to attest for this belief) that there is a clear misappropriation of supplies if not criminal theft being committed regularly and I would like to see an investigation into their records of finance (donations, etc.) and how they were spent. If this is truly an emergency shelter that is seeing over 772 men, women and children in 2001 alone as reported in the Mendocino Institute, then it is owed to the near 1000 people who use that facility and the thousands of us concerned citizens who donate to the organization a full and impartial investigation into their finances to assure the public that misappropriation and embezzlement is not being committed by the people running this organization. I have sent copies of this letter to all investigative branches of our local government from the police chief to city council members and the DA's office requesting investigation. I am available for interview on this subject day or night. I believe it is our duty to act when those who can not defend themselves are possibly being abused.”

MINI KEDIMNA (“things that are important”) will take place on Friday, September 16, 2011, from 10am to 4pm at Consolidated Tribal Health Wellness Center located at 6991 N. State, Calpella. Mini kedimna is inviting American Indians to a forum to strengthen community awareness and to advocate a positive path to higher education for Indian students in the tri-counties region of Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma Counties. Please join us to learn the history of Indian Education, health and academic issues facing American Indian students in the public school system. Experienced American Indian Scholars will address the issues and strategies of working within the public and American Indian school systems and the importance of community commitment to long-term education goals. Morning refreshments from 9-10am and lunch served from 12-1:30pm. Please RSVP since seating and lunch is limited to 100 people, call 462-8325. Native American History Project Inc., Higher Education Committee — Verle Anderson

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