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Off The Record

LIVING PROOF of the old adage “You can't keep a good man down,” the good man we're talking about here is Vern Piver, the true mayor of Fort Bragg no matter who happens to be sitting in the mayor's chair.
I stopped by to see Vern at UCSF last Friday where he's recovering from a second round of life-threatening illness. Vern, 78, had previously beaten back The Big C, beaten it back so thoroughly he was fully restored and cutting firewood, clearing brush, tending his award-winning rhododendrons, and generally doing the work of a man half his age. Then he gets whammed by a couple of brain tumors, which won him a helicopter ride from Fort Bragg directly to intensive care in the big hospital on Parnassus Avenue in San Francisco where the old ballplayer has again defied the odds, emerging from another round of debilitating treatments with what is already shaping up as a second return to full vigor. Vern's also lucky in his devoted wife, Betty, who's been at his bedside for going on a month now, and the spirits of both halves of the popular couple have got to be raised by a steady stream of visitors, people who have driven all the way to the city from Fort Bragg just to see the guy. Betty told me that just that hour Vern had been able to get out of bed to sit in a chair, which is where I found him joking with his nurse. He looked very good for anybody his age, and double good for a guy who'd just been put through the medical meat grinder. It took him a while to recognize me, and when he did, he asked with a laugh, “Santa Claus?” Betty said the prognosis is good.

TUESDAY MORNING, Christopher Diaz was extradited to Texas where he faces charges stemming from possession of a quarter ounce of marijuana product. He was due to appear in Mendocino County Superior Court Tuesday afternoon where, it was assumed, attorney Don Lipmanson would argue that the young man was being held without cause. Judge Ann Moorman, only last week, had ordered Diaz returned to Texas, but had agreed to hear a status report this Tuesday on whatever had happened in the case over the past week. Diaz, 22, is the father of two young children. He'd been held in the Mendocino County Jail for more than a month awaiting forced return to Texas from where he'd fled because possession of any amount of marijuana in Texas means a sentence of 5 to 99 years in state prison. In California, possession of a quarter ounce doesn't even get you a citation. So, why was the kid hustled back to Texas hours before he was again due in court in Ukiah? Speculation is that Judge Moorman had made it real clear that she would not tolerate further dithering by either Mendo or Texas. If Texas didn't come and get the guy, she wasn't about to let him sit in the Mendocino County Jail any longer. The judge just might have set low bail and sent Diaz home to Mendocino. But...But here comes Texas just before Tuesday's hearing, and whatever fighting Chris Diaz does from now on he'll be doing it from Brownwood, Texas.

CONTRARY TO a story in Tuesday's Press Democrat, Sheriff Tom Allman's innovative zip tie program has not been shut down. A suspension of the lucrative medical marijuana licensing program may be necessary pending the outcome of ongoing court battles, but for now, even in the latent farming months of January and February, local pot farmers can buy their permissions from the County. Last year, Allman has said, 94 growers signed up for the program, which generated $663,230 for the Sheriff’s Office.

I WONDER IF OAKY JOE bought zip ties last year. The legendary Redwood Valley grower could probably make more money selling his 2012 calendars, certainly destined to become collector's items, with each month featuring a fetching marijuana maiden, bud babes. As a public service we bring you Miss January.

RON PAUL is truly a big tent guy. Most of the lefties I know say they'd vote for him over Obama if it came to it, which it won't because the oligarchs and the corporations the oligarchs own are backing both Obama and Romney, and Romney will surely be the Republican candidate because he's the only candidate the Republicans have, besides Paul, who could pass a 5150 check. Even the Mendocino County John Birch Society — down to one guy, I understand — is for Paul, as demonstrated on that big billboard north of Ukiah, the one that usually says, “U.S. Out of the U.N.” Now it says “Ron Paul for President."

CEO ANGELO is still trying to refinance the County's debt with the hope of saving up to $100,000 per year by lowering the interest rate on it. Last fall the County was turned down for debt-payback insurance for two reasons (1) because County debt is too great and (2) the County still hasn’t come to an agreement for a wage cut with their biggest union, the SEIU, representing some 700 workers. Angelo and the County’s top financial officials hope to get the refi boys, a bond outfit, to take another look at Mendo's budget in the next few weeks. Angelo said last month that budget was “looking really good.” Unfortunately, the tentative labor agreement Angelo and the Board reached last month is starting to unravel and without that, there wouldn’t appear to be any new information to present to the bonding company.

WHATTTTTT? Never happened in the County in our memory, but Judge Richardson Henderson has made it known that he intends to “revisit” his December sentencing of Cody Fisher, 30, of Ukiah. Henderson had meted out a four-year state prison sentence to Fisher arising out of an August accident that saw Fisher's pick-up leave the remote dirt road of deep McNab Ranch Road and hit a tree. Fisher's close friend, Matt Pare, also 30, was killed. Instead of immediately going for help, Fisher summoned his girl friend and a pot of coffee to the accident scene. Some four hours after the catastrophe, and apparently sober enough to talk coherently to law enforcement, only then were the police called. Fisher was subsequently found guilty of felony vehicular manslaughter and failure to report the fatality. Henderson now apparently thinks the four year sentence was too severe given that the two young men were long-time friends, that Fisher had correctly assumed his friend was dead but drunk and in a state of shock incorrectly failed to seek help, that the family of the deceased did not want Fisher, a man with no priors, packed off to state prison. No local judge has ever re-considered a sentence, although there are cases where it definitely would have been warranted.

THE COUNTY BOOKMOBILE has been out of commission for the last few weeks because it's dead. Worn out. Transmission finito. A new bookmobile is expected to be in service by January 26. But as with all Mendocino County projections, that date is soft.

ALSO DEAD is the American middleclass. US Bureau of Labor Statistic and Federal Reserve data demonstrate that the average American family can't afford a single family house, either depends on their employer for health care insurance or goes without, is hopelessly in debt, is not pursuing higher education, has no savings, and radically cut back on food purchases.

OCCUPY MENDO, Coast branch, nicely sums up what the Occupy Movement is all about in this proposed resolution, pared down a bit by the infallible editorial pen of yours truly, prepared for presentation to the Fort Bragg City Council: “....want government of, by and for the people not government by corporations, lobbyists and the One Percent. We stand with those who've lost their homes, their jobs, their savings, retirements, pensions, health insurance. We stand with those who struggle to put food on the table and who now work more for much less. We stand with the elderly, the vulnerable, veterans, working people, students, teachers, unions, children, and our planet."

'PLANET' may be a little grand and, unfortunately, it also suffers from its permanent highjacking by crackpots. Always been for unions but lots of them, the SEIU for instance, are now mere extensions of the utterly corrupt Democratic Party with union leadership riding in the same big black limos as the oligarchs and thinking like oligarchs, too. We need Harry Bridges! His pay was pegged to what his workers got. SEIU's so-called organizers pull down a lot more money than almost all the people they allegedly represent in Mendocino County. Anyhow, will the Fort Bragg City Council endorse Occupy Mendo's statement? Bet on it.

ALSO BET ON Occupy not going away. On Friday, January 20th, beginning at 6am at the skating rink at Bradley Manning/Justin Herman Plaza, a very large demo will mobilize and head out for Frisco's nearby financial district. And bet on huge, immobilizing demos at both conventions this summer,not to mention the looming Occupations of federal courts.

THIS BRIEF EXCHANGE between Supervisor John Pinches and Supervisor Carre Brown at the Supe's meeting of December 13 is in the Occupy spirit:

Pinches: “In the governor's statement, did he say that the state is spending less than they did 30 years ago?”

Brown: “Yes.”

Pinches: “Well that's a damn lie. Make sure you tell him that, Supervisor Brown.”

Brown: “I'll see him tonight. I will.”

Pinches: “I don't know how he can talk about the results of the trigger cuts because we are still two days away from the Department of Finance report on the amount of revenues. I guess he just has it scripted about what he's going to do and it really doesn't matter what the Department of Finance is going to say about revenues. I just don't understand it. Is everyone in Sacramento as confused as the way they are portraying themselves to be?”

Brown: “Yes.”


AS OF THIS MONTH, January 2012, the amount of money you can seek in small claims court has increased from $7,500 to $10,000. But also as of this month the amount of hope obtainable from either political party has decreased from zero to double ought.

FRIENDS OF THE EEL RIVER has announced that the group's founder, Nadananda, has retired. A Marin-based attorney, Scott Greacen, will be the organization’s new executive director. Nadananda will continue to serve on the board of directors “and will work on special projects.” Nadananda. There's something mesmerizing about that handle, something that always causes me to barge on through that last syllable, Nadanandabandadandadobbledeedoo until someone slaps me on the head and yells, “Stop! Come back!”

AS SOME OF YOU may agree, the only sure-fire way to revive and save the Eel, as we've often suggested, is to pile dynamite on a raft, float it out into the middle of the diversion tunnel and ka-blooey! Instant restoration. It's the diversion that sends much of the Eel flowing south, depleting it to the north as it goes. The reason for the diversion in the first decade of the 20th century was to electrify Ukiah, not to provide free water in perpetuity for the noble sons of the soil in the Potter and Ukiah valleys. And it certainly wasn't the intention of the original diverters to give most of the waylaid Eel to Santa Rosa and Marin. Of course God probably didn't intend WalMart either, as the best intentions of mice and men go terribly awry here, there and everywhere. If you've never seen the tunnel and the cockamamie fish elevator at its Potter Valley end, the spectacle is worth of the trip. Maybe one fish a week is lifted by a giant Archimedes Screw over the mouth of the diversion lest he get sucked through the 1,000 yard tunnel and on into the old power generators at Potter Valley. The screw deposits the disoriented fish in what's left of the Eel on the other side of the tunnel. One day I asked a guy who looked like he worked there, “Dude! How many fish have you lifted out of harm's way today?” It was about 1pm. “Five,” he said. To summarize, class: Without that diversion and its related up-river dams, the Eel would again run wild and free.

SEIU ORGANIZER CHRISTAL PADILLA, as reported here last week, was reassigned immediately after signing off on the tentative agreement between the union and the County of Mendocino with Mendo's rep Carmel Angelo. Normally, this kind of agreement has got to be put to the membership. If County workers vote it down, Padilla's absence can be considered another unfair labor practice as SEIU “field representative” Paul Caplain arrives to “educate” the rank and file to explain why SEIU headquarters wants them to vote it down. If you missed the patronizing assumption here, that assumption is that the 700-plus County workers represented by SEIU are so dumb it all has to be slo-mo explained to them by yet another day-tripper.

THE “EDUCATIONAL” MEETINGS began last Thursday. Referring to the new retirement tier included in the agreement, Caplain says, “Am I willing to sell out my children's future...for 2.5% less being taken out of my paycheck now?” (Naturally, this being Mendocino County, it's all about the kids.) Mr. Caplain added “It's not about the money.” Translation: “It’s not about my money.” It's easy for SEIU outsiders to stir up the locals and then go on to the next assignment without suffering any of the consequences.

NOT SO LONG AGO, SEIU had a local business agent whose full time job was to represent the membership for everything from workplace grievances to collective bargaining. Tom Drum and Joe Wildman come to mind. But hiring decisions for the “local” business agents are now made at SEIU headquarters in Oakland, not by the workers they supposedly represent. And the local workers have effectively been without a business agent since the departure of Jackie Carvalho last May.

JOHN HEISE WAS HIRED ON AN INTERIM BASIS, but sources within SEIU say he was sidelined almost immediately for being “too reasonable” in advocating for settling for a 10% cut when he realized that was the best deal available. So Heise was kept away from the negotiating table as the “leadership” stumbled their way into a 12.5% pay cut.

CAPLAIN PAINTED A GRIM PICTURE if the County adopts a new retirement tier for new hires. Caplain asked the members to think not only of their children, but of future generations and their ability to look forward to a decent retirement. All of which ignores that government at every level is going broke paying for unsustainable levels of retirement benefits predicated on unrealistic returns from the grandest Ponzi scheme in history — the stock market.

LOUISE “WHEEZER” GONYO, the local president of SEIU, in a typical overstatement, said the agreement would take away the union's collective bargaining rights. But the new retirement tier would only apply to new hires. Every other aspect of the terms and conditions of employment, including for new hires, would still be negotiable.

SEIU IS NOW SCHEDULED TO VOTE JANUARY 17-20. If the membership signs off on the tentative agreement for a 10% pay cut, it will go to the Board of Supes on January 24 for what is expected to be an automatic approval. It is increasingly clear that the Board was always willing to agree on 10% and only moved to impose 12.5% when it was clear the union leadership was not interested in reaching agreement. If SEIU approves the agreement it will take effect February 1, if not, workers will be stuck at 12.5% for at least the next year

SAN FRANCISCO'S volcanic former supervisor Chris Daley functions as a “consultant” for SEIU. Will we see him in Mendo? Count on it. The guy's made for Mendo.

One Comment

  1. January 12, 2012

    Bruce: I take enough grains of salt with what I see and read in the media that it affects my blood pressure.
    The AVA tends to rate pretty high in the trustworthiness department until you write about the Potter Valley Project and Eel River Diversion.
    Then I get an instant reset on my salt grain meter.
    You claim you questioned someone at Van Arsdale Dam once, but I have to wonder if you have ever been to Potter Valley.
    I think you and the Major have some kind of little mental block here.
    Jim Armstrong

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