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FRIEND CONFIRMS THAT WOMAN AND CHILD MISSING AFTER A CRASH NEAR CONFUSION HILL HAVE BEEN LOCATED
The three-year-old boy and his mother that have been missing since the car she was driving crashed into a tree about noon on November 30 have been located, according to a friend of the family. According to scanner traffic, Leggett Fire was dispatched to the scene about 10:50 a.m. after Trinity Bray and her three-year-old son, Anthony, were located.
SUNNY SKIES this morning will quickly give way to clouds by midday. Rain is likely by mid afternoon on the north coast. This will diminish as it spreads south and east. Clearing skies and dry conditions are expected Sunday and into early next week. There is the potential for some light rain late in the week. (NWS)
26 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County on Friday, bringing the total to 1697. The "Ukiah Area" ratio is now 1 in 30 residents testing positive.
COVID CASE RECORD
California's seven-day daily average of new COVID-19 cases exploded to another record high Thursday, and the state reported triple-digit fatalities from the virus for the third consecutive day.
PG&E CONSIDERS POWER SHUT-OFFS IN THE NORTH BAY DUE TO ELEVATED FIRE RISK
Gusting winds and low humidity are forecast to bring elevated wildfire risk in the North Bay late this weekend, as well as the possibility of preemptive power shutdowns early next week for nearly 1,800 Sonoma County households, according to PG&E.
KATHY WYLIE RECENTLY POSTED the following summary of next Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors Agenda:
BOS 12/8/20 meeting agenda is packed…
Another packed BOS agenda for 12/8/20:
• County hazard mitigation plan
• August and Oak Fire debris removal rules
• First reading - electric charging stations policy
• Draft ordinance for Administrative Penalty Increases Relating to Stormwater, Cannabis and Building Violations
• Recategorizing Cannabis Cultivation as an Agricultural Activity
• SWOW Caspar transfer station improvements
• Mendocino County Air Quality Management District’s 2020 Annual Report
• COVID update
• CEO's report
Mark Scaramella Comments:
YES, it’s “packed” with a few routine items that CEO Angelo requires the Board to rubberstamp.
IN FACT, there’s not much of general interest on the Board’s agenda for next Tuesday, even though there are numerous important issues to deal with. Not one single item on the long list of routine matters is sponsored by a Supervisor, everything’s from staff. Covid? No proposals to deal with the surge, merely a “discussion.” Cannabis permits? Nothing but “Review Additional Options for the Program Including Potential Consideration of Cannabis Cultivation as an Agricultural Activity.” Drought? Nothing. Winter Homeless Shelter(s)? Nothing. (The Fort Bragg homeless are already in deep freeze.) Long-delayed Measure B? Not a peep. What to do with the over $22 million in PG&E settlement windfall? Nothing.
THE MEASURE B Bunch, by the by, apparently met on Wednesday, November 18. We received their agenda packet in which Measure B project manager Alyson Bailey mentioned that she was setting up a separate youtube channel for Measure B meetings. But like the month before, there’s been no video posted, no mention of the meeting, no minutes or summary of what action may have been taken, nothing from Supervisors Williams or Haschak who are now on a specially designated Measure B ad hoc committee. We have sent two emails to Ms. Bailey asking for some explanation for the missing meeting — maybe things were delayed by Thanksgiving? — but no response yet.
LAST MONTH Ms. Bailey told us that steps had been taken to make sure the IT department video’d the meeting and posted it. But at this point it looks like they may have dropped the ball again. We’re starting to wonder if it’s more than just an ordinary mistake.
AFTER A CLOSER LOOK at the “packed” agenda however we noticed a claim from the Calverts out in Albion for almost $10k — $9,339.04 to be exact to the penny — for several years worth of back fire protection taxes imposed by the Albion-Little River Fire Protection District parcel tax, which County Counsel recommends approving.
THIS IS THE SAME Fire Protection District that Supervisor Ted Williams once ran as Fire Chief and which organized Measure V which declared poisoned dead trees to be a “nuisance.”
“5d) Discussion and Possible Action Including Approval of Tax Refund Claim in the Amount of $4,220.40 by Karen A. Calvert, Pursuant to Revenue and Taxation Code Sections 5096and 5097, Regarding Certain Taxes Paid to the Albion Little-River Fire Protection District (Sponsor: County Counsel) Recommended Action: Approve Tax Refund Claim in the amount of $4,220.40 by Karen A. Calvert, pursuant to Revenue and Taxation Code sections 5096and 5097, regarding certain taxes paid to the Albion Little-River Fire Protection District.
5e) Discussion and Possible Action Including Approval of Tax Refund Claim in the Amount of $5,118.64 by James H. Calvert, Pursuant to Revenue and Taxation Code Sections 5096and 5097, Regarding Certain Taxes Paid to the Albion Little-River Fire Protection District (Sponsor: County Counsel) Recommended Action: Approve Tax Refund Claim in the amount of $5,118.64 by James H. Calvert, pursuant to Revenue and Taxation Code sections 5096and 5097, regarding certain taxes paid to the Albion Little-River Fire Protection District.”
AS WE READ the Calverts’ claim, they seem to be saying that since MRC won a similar claim on appeal recently that the County/Albion-Little River Fire Protection should do the same for them. Never mind that the cost of lawyers and claim prep are more than the taxes they want back, and both MRC and the Calverts are far from paupers and both of them benefit directly from having a mostly volunteer fire protection service in the vicinity of their vast timber holdings — even if, technically, their property is ruled to be “outside” the Albion-Little River District boundaries its people like the Calverts who take the 'C' out of community.
THERE’S ALSO a proposal on the consent calendar to pay a consultant $650k (!) to “Provide Disaster Recovery (DR) Assistance and Special Planning Project Management and Review for Planning and Building Services (PBS), Beginning on January 1, 2021 and Expiring on December 31, 2023.”
ACCORDING to the attached consulting agreement, a white-shoe Davis-based consultant will “facilitate” some meetings, develop protject management tools for emergency response and recovery and a “strategic recovery framework” and recovery plans, and “provide capacity building and development services…” etc. They will also “assist” with various planning document updates, attend relevant meetings, review code updates, etc. In other words, apparently, essentially privatize a bunch of vague Planning admin work for the Planning Department, probably on the grounds that this important work isn’t getting done because the County can’t hire staff to do the work. As a result of the county’s staffing difficulties — which the County attributes to Mendo’s senior planners only getting $70k or more plus generous perks— the County is proposing to pay through the nose for a consultant to do ordinary planning work. Funny, there’s nothing on the “packed” agenda about the County’s difficulties hiring planning staff.
BoS Dec 8 - "treat it as ag"
Discussion and Possible Direction to Staff Regarding the Cannabis Cultivation Permitting Program Priorities from September 22, 2020 and Direction to Staff to Review Additional Options for the Program Including Potential Consideration of Cannabis Cultivation as an Agricultural Activity
Discuss the recommendations and provide direction to staff.
Previous Board/Board Committee Actions:
Adoption of Ordinance No. 4381, adopting Chapters 10A.17 and 20.242 to the Mendocino County Code. Adoption of Ordinance No. 4392, making certain amendments to Chapter 10A.17. Adoption of Ordinance No. 4405, making modifications to Chapter 20.242. Adoption of Ordinance No. 4408, making additional amendments to Chapters 10A.17 and 20.242. Adoption of Ordinance No. 4411, making additional amendments to Chapter 10A.17. Adoption of Ordinance No. 4413, making additional amendments to Chapter 10A.17. Adoption of Ordinance No. 4420, making additional amendments to Chapters 10A.17 and 20.242 as well as adding Chapters 20.118 and 20.119 to County Code. Adoption of Ordinance No. 4422, making additional amendments to Chapters 10A.17 and 6.36. Adoption of Ordinance No. 4438, making additional amendments to Chapters 10A.17 and 20.242. Adoption of Ordinance No. 4463, making additional amendments to Chapter 10A.17.
In addition to the Ordinances noted above, the Board has previously given direction to staff on the Cannabis Cultivation Permitting Priorities on September 22, 2020.
Summary of Request:
The Board provided direction to staff on September 22, 2020 regarding ten different priorities for the Cannabis Cultivation Permitting Program including: (1) County Counsel Analysis of State California Environmental Quality Act request, (2) Digital Portal, (3) Cost Recovery for Work Outside of Application Scope, (4) CDFW Interagency Agreement, (5) Publication of Cannabis Cultivation Guide, (6) Plan for Staffing Increase or Consultant Request for Proposal (RFP), (7) Equity Grant Program Update, (8) Notices to Correct Applications, (9) Request Provisional License Extension from California Department of Food and Agriculture, and (10) Schedule Special Board of Supervisors Meeting for Cannabis Cultivation Phase 3 Zoning Table and Permitting Model.
Staff has been working on and completed many of the priorities as directed by the Board. However, staff believes it is appropriate to pause on certain priorities to give time to explore additional options beyond a discretionary permit model including the potential of considering Cannabis an agricultural activity. The request to pause these items is the result of on-going discussions with the Cannabis Cultivation Ad Hoc, CDFA and discussion regarding other potential options for resolving concerns with the California Environmental Quality Act challenges that the program has faced. staff requests to pause on the following items from the September 22, 2020 direction: (1) Digital Portal, (2) Cost Recovery for Work Outside of Application Scope, (3) CDFW Interagency Agreement, and (4) Publication of Cannabis Cultivation Guide.
Staff continues to work on all other priorities as directed by the Board on September 22, 2020.
DAVID KING: The designation of cannabis as a commercial crop is decimating the legacy farmers and putting the entire industry on a path to collapsing. Consumer demand is increasing. The only way to fill the consumer demand with a safe product, produced in an environmentally-friendly manner is to have a regulated industry.
Mendocino shows very little projected growth in population in the next 30 years compared to the rest of the state. Mendocino presently cannot maintain its infrastructure, pension obligations, and presently cannot support its employees in a manner that would give them health coverage and financial security through retirement. As it stands we are working in a failed system. Our county government and citizens need an income. Cannabis grown correctly will produce the largest income with the smallest amount of land use combined with the lightest environmental degradation.
So we are in the design stage of a new industry. Like it or not the cannabis industry is here. What direction do you want it to go. The small legacy farmers who raise their families here and support their communities or large out of town interests that wish to spend their profits elsewhere? With a failed system we can no longer afford to send profits out of the area. In addition to saving profit we want to keep our expenses and workforce local. Our current commercial model is designed for large commercial AG with a seasonal migrant workforce. Our current agricultural industries have difficulties filling their seasonal labor needs. The wine industry is no longer in its rapid expansion and is trying to find its balance. Designing the cannabis industry to depend on a migrant workforce will put pressure on other AG industries because they cannot compete with cannabis because it is such a high value crop. We have seen the devastation of other agricultural crops like pears because they could not compete with grape growers for laborers during harvest.
If legacy farmers are able to grow their crop as agriculture it will greatly increase their survivability. The goal of the craft legacy farmer is to produce a crop in a regenerative fashion. Regenerative agriculture is no longer just an ideology. Hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland are grown in a regenerative fashion. Many of them are receiving substantially higher incomes with greatly reduced impute costs. This is why large companies like General Mills are getting in the game.
If given the opportunity Legacy craft farmers can offer a living wage with year round employment. Legacy craft farmers wish to offer more than cannabis. They want to offer other regenerative products, education and inspiration for a new way of running an industry. In the last 20 years who else has been investing in our community. In the next 20 years who do you see investing in our community?
NOT A GOOD IDEA
On Nov. 5, I attended a public workshop to review the proposed Mendocino County Oak Tree and Oak Woodlands ordinance, an ordinance intended to prevent the wholesale clearing of oak woodlands to plant cannabis. While I support its intent, it is so poorly written that even my tree-hugging, environmental-crusader friends will likely take issue with it. The Planning Commission will hear public comments on this item Dec. 17. I hope after reading this column, you will be inspired to participate in that meeting.
In short, if you own property in the unincorporated part of Mendocino County, the ordinance would require you to plant between eight and 16 oak trees on your property for every one that is cut, whether you own two acres or 200 acres, whether you have room on your property or not, whether the soil is right for oaks or not. It seems this ordinance was based on the belief that the more trees that are planted, the more likely one is to survive. Clearly, the ordinance was developed in a bubble rather than in collaboration with foresters, land managers, or anyone else who understands how to plant and protect trees (though apparently, some experts were brought in after the fact). I can tell you that county staffers did not get stakeholder buy-in; that is, they didn’t take the time to ask Mendocino County farmers and those of us in real estate how this might affect the local economy and housing market.
It’s not as though our local bureaucrats had to start from scratch. In Napa County they have a far more reasonable oak tree ordinance. Two or three oaks must be planted for every one that is removed, and the new trees can be planted within the county wherever it makes sense, either on the property where trees are removed or off-site. Clearly, the folks in Napa County understand that each property is unique, and that flexibility is key. And they reward property owners who take action that aligns with the county’s overall vision. For example, if a property owner completes a publicly beneficial project, he only has to plant two trees for every one removed rather than three.
The proposed Mendocino County ordinance not only misses the mark on protecting oak trees, it does so in the most expensive, bureaucratic, and burdensome way possible. It’s as though misguided staffers who were supposed to create a reasonable ordinance to limit the conversion of woodlands to marijuana cultivation instead saw an opportunity to halt land development countywide. As written, the ordinance represents nothing more than poorly considered and poorly executed overreach.
There are so many things wrong with this ordinance, I hardly know where to start. Generally speaking, it is full of squishy definitions that make it almost impossible to know how to comply, and the permit process is discretionary, which leaves compliance up to two individuals’ interpretations, one after the other, because the permitting process involves not only county personnel but also the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Probably one of the most frustrating elements of the proposed ordinance is its lack of common sense. It is unclear whether specific exemptions exist for creating defensible fire spaces or pruning trees away from homes, businesses, or utility lines. It is unclear what happens if property owners have to remove oaks because of sudden oak death and cannot afford to replace the trees. The ordinance includes an exemption process, but for sudden oak death, for example, you have to hire a qualified professional to certify that the trees are, in fact, diseased. According to my sources, even if sudden oak death is present, you may have to go through the full permit process required for any tree removal, and that permit is estimated to cost about $2,500 plus $1,000 per tree.
Check back next week when I share more information about the damaging details of this ill-conceived proposal. To read the ordinance for yourself, visit www.mendocinocounty.org/home/showdocument?id=38690. If you’d like to review some common sense recommendations, you can review our proposed changes at www.mendocinocounty.org/home/showdocument?id=38898. If you are concerned about this ordinance, please share your thoughts with the Mendocino County Planning Commissioners and the county supervisors. I hope to see you at the Planning Commission meeting on Dec. 17.
Richard Selzer, Realtor
MATT BARNES POSTS:
Important Postal Service PSA for those of us that have mandatory PO Boxes because we don’t get USPS home delivery...starting in January, the local Post Offices will be sending back any mail/packages, labeled only with your street address, the same day they are received. Currently they will hold them for about 3 days.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced this headache multiple times. (Post Office employees - please provide further guidance if I got any info wrong.) I’ve had good success of ensuring delivery by doing my addresses this way...
PO Box 312 (USPS Only)
Philo, CA 95466
I have had limited success writing the zip as 95466-0312 because many automated systems change it to 95466-9XXX.
I realize this is not like the good old days when the local POs knew who you were and put mislabeled letters/packages in your box. Please don’t turn this into a gripe session. Let’s figure out if there are ideas to ensure a high degree of successful deliveries. I think we would all love some guidance from the local Post Masters.
FORT BRAGG CITY COUNCIL TO DISCUSS HOMELESS WINTER SHELTER ON DECEMBER 7, 2020
The following agenda item will be discussed by the Fort Bragg City Council at a special meeting on Monday, December 7, 2020 at 6:00 PM:
Receive Report and Consider Adoption of City Council Resolution Approving Budget Amendment 2021-07 to the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Budget to Fund Additional Wages for the Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center Winter Shelter and Directing Staff to Negotiate a Lease for Space at the C.V. Starr Community Center to Temporarily Host the Winter Shelter
To review the staff report and attachments, please click here: City Council Agenda 12/7/2020 and scroll to Item 1A.
SERIAL THIEF TARGETING FORT BRAGG LUMBERYARD
Over the past couple of months, employees at Fort Bragg’s Fred C. Holmes Lumber Company noticed lumber missing and suspected a thief was the culprit. John Gould, whose step-father owns the lumber company, saw the problem persist and decided to set up a game camera to document the suspected thief.
Autopsies recently completed by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the identity of a woman found dead in Covelo last week, but have yet to determine the cause and manner of death for a woman found in the Russian River near Hopland.
MCSO Capt. Greg Van Patten said Tuesday that an autopsy had been completed on Christina D. Emmett, 54, but that the investigation into her death was “still pending with no official determination/report from the pathologist.” Van Patten said his office was waiting for “Blood alcohol/Toxicology analysis, which will take four to six weeks.”
Emmett was found Nov. 23 in the Russian River south of Ukiah, after being reported missing around 3:30 p.m. the previous day when her vehicle was found abandoned in the 11000 block of Old River Road in Hopland.
Members of the MCSO Search and Rescue Team, as well as the swift water rescue team from the Hopland Fire Protection District and personnel from Cal Fire, Ukiah Valley Fire Authority and the Little Lake Fire Department, began searching the water near where Emmett’s vehicle was found. After about an hour of searching, her body was located. At the time, Van Patten said it was unclear whether Emmett had gone to the river by herself, and that the death may have been accidental. When asked if her death could have been a suicide, Van Patten said there was no clear evidence yet that pointed to either an accident or suicide.
The MCSO also reported that “there is no foul play suspected at this time,” and Emmett’s death may have been caused by a fall.
Also this week, the MCSO reported that it has positively identified a woman found dead in Covelo as Traci L. Bland, a 48-year-old resident of Covelo.
Bland’s body was found with that of Kyle J. McCartney, a 34-year-old resident of Covelo, on Nov. 23 by a bystander who discovered them along Hulls Valley Road in what was described as “a remote area northeast of Covelo’s valley floor.”
The MCSO reports that a forensic autopsy was performed Nov. 27 on McCartney and Bland, who were reported missing Nov. 19 by a 911 caller who described the pair as being victims of an assault and possible kidnapping.
This week, the MCSO reports that “an official cause of death for both individuals is pending at this time, but MCSO detectives are investigating their deaths as being homicide-related, (and that) no additional information is available for release at this time due to the ongoing investigations.”
(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
JOAQUINA’S ON THE LOOSE
- Kyle James McCartney (34 years-olf from Covelo, CA)
- Traci Lynn Bland (48 years-old from Covelo, CA)
- Joseph Joshua Hoaglen (37 year-old male from Covelo, CA)
- Samson Musselini Joaquin (23 year-old male from Covelo, CA)
- Janet Faye Azbill (34 year-old female from Covelo, CA)
- Britton Leonard Azbill Sr. (61 year-old male from Covelo, CA)
- David Lee Joaquin Jr. (26 year-old male from Covelo, CA)
WANTED (OUT OF CUSTODY):
Joaquina Patrice Joaquin (24 year-old female from Covelo, CA)
UPDATED PRESS RELEASE 12-04-2020:
On 12-01-2020 Mendocino County District Attorney C. David Eyster formally charged several individuals for their connection/involvement in the deaths of Kyle James McCartney and Traci Lynn Bland.
The charging was based upon investigations and subsequent reports submitted by Sheriff's Detectives.
The charging consisted of the following individuals:
- Joseph Joshua Hoaglen (37 year-old male from Covelo, CA)
- Samson Musselini Joaquin (23 year-old male from Covelo, CA)
- Janet Faye Azbill (34 year-old female from Covelo, CA)
- Britton Leonard Azbill Sr. (61 year-old male from Covelo, CA)
- David Lee Joaquin Jr. (26 year-old male from Covelo, CA)
Details of each individual's booking charges associated with the DA's Office charging can be found on the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office booking page at http://188.8.131.52/NewWorld.InmateInquiry/Mendocino
WANTED (OUT OF CUSTODY):
Joaquina Patrice Joaquin (24 year-old female from Covelo, CA)
Anyone with information on Joaquina Patrice Joaquin's current whereabouts are urged to contact the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office by calling 707-463-4086.
UPDATED PRESS RELEASE 11-30-2020:
On 11-23-2020 at approximately 3:30 PM a bystander located the bodies of two deceased persons along Hulls Valley Road in a remote area Northeast of Covelo's valley floor.
Sheriff's Detectives responded to the location and confirmed the existence of the two deceased bodies.
Due to pending darkness, the Sheriff's Detectives processed the scene the following day with the assistance of the California Department of Justice Eureka crime lab and investigators with the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office.
On 11-27-2020 a forensic autopsy was performed on the bodies at which time they were identified as being Kyle James McCartney and Traci Lynn Bland.
An official cause of death for both individuals is pending at this time but Sheriff's Detectives are investigating their deaths as being homicide related.
Sheriff's Detectives are continuing investigations at this time and are working closely with the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office in identifying suspect(s) and potential charging/prosecution related to McCartney and Bland's deaths.
No additional information is available for release at this time due to the Sheriff's Detectives ongoing investigations.
Once additional information becomes available, it will be disseminated via Mendocino County Sheriff's Office press release.
The Sheriff's Office would like to thank the following public safety agencies for their assistance in this ongoing investigation:
Mendocino County District Attorney's Office, Round Valley Tribal Police Department, California Department of Justice Eureka crime lab and the California Department of Justice Santa Rosa crime lab.
The Mendocino County Superior Court plans to begin an electronic filing program of court documents on or after Feb. 7, 2021. The court invites public comment on its proposed standing order which describes the mandatory e-filing program, electronic document format requirements, exemptions from e-filing and documents that will not be accepted electronically.
The proposed standing order is posted on the court’s website at www.mendocino.courts.ca.gov. The public comment period is open until Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 at 5 p.m. Public comments may be submitted to the court at email@example.com on or before that date.
Electronic filing will be mandatory for most case types except initial filings of criminal complaints and information and any criminal documents that pre-date the filing of the case. All other case types and related pleadings and other documents will be subject to provisions in the e-filing proposed standing order. Self-represented litigants are not required to e-file their documents, although e-filing is strongly encouraged.
For more information, contact Kim Turner, court executive officer, 100 N. State St., Room 303, Ukiah, CA 95482, 707-463-4664.
UKIAH STREETSCAPE PROJECT CONSTRUCTION UPDATE
Sidewalk work is paused for the holiday season, and weather will determine when that work gets restarted. On the south side of the project, between Church and Mill Streets, underground utility work continues. Water service is being “tied in”—connected to the buildings—and preparations are underway for the electric lines to be placed underground in the next few weeks. Good news--once the water work is completed, we'll be able to get more of the street and parking opened up!
South Side: Church to Mill Street
Wahlund Construction continues the installation of the water infrastructure between Mill and Seminary.
Monday: Patch paving will occur near Church Street.
Monday-Friday: New water connections will be made between Church and Clay Streets. As of the printing of this flyer, a detailed schedule was not available. During the water connection process, there may be brief interruptions to water service (typically less than two hours). If this is to occur, businesses will be notified individually in advance and every effort will be made to work around business hours.
Construction work will begin at 6am this week, and no night work is planned.
What Will Ukiah Look Like In The Next 20 Years?? We’re Looking For Your Input!
The City of Ukiah is beginning the process of updating the General Plan, which is essentially the “blueprint” for our community for the next 20 years.
The General Plan has sections for traffic and circulation (think Streetscape Project!), housing, energy use, economic development, safety, parks and recreation, and more—and we want to hear YOUR thoughts and ideas on what you want Ukiah to look like in the future!
Two virtual workshops will be held next week. They’re the same, so pick the one that works best for you: Monday or Tuesday, December 7th or 8th, from 6:30 – 8:00 pm. For more information and log-in details, please visit www.ukiah2040.com
As always, feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions or concerns! Otherwise, have a great weekend--
Shannon Riley, Deputy City Manager
City of Ukiah, 300 Seminary Avenue, Ukiah, California 95482
w: (707) 467-5793
CATCH OF THE DAY, December 4, 2020
JONATHON DELBELLO, Willits. Protective order violation, failure to appear, probation revocation.
JOSHUA DENNEY, Laytonville. Probation revocation.
LEOBARDO GARCIA-ONTIVEROS, Bakersfield/Ukiah. Pot possession for sale.
RYAN GRIMM, Potter Valley. DUI with priors, probation revocation.
AUDREY HERNANDEZ, Ukiah. Inflicting injury etc. on child (sentencing).
JEREMIAH LUNA, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, parole violation.
MICHAEL MUNOZ, Santa Rosa/Ukiah Domestic abuse with corporal injury, false imprisonment.
ERIC OLECIK, Redwood Valley. Protective order violation.
FRANKLIN PATTY, Wilits. Probation violation.
PHILLIP WINTERS, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
STUDENT LOAN HORROR STORIES: BORROWED: $79,000. PAID: $190,000. NOW OWES? $236,000
by Matt Taibbi
(Part of a new series.) Thanks to the good folks at StudentLoanJustice.org.
Whether it’s CNBC telling us what issues mattered to the young in the presidential election, or Yahoo! Finance telling us the big winners in the 2020 election were “young people and student voters,” or Forbes telling us “young people with student loan debt have a harder time reaching financial milestones,” the student loan controversy is almost universally presented as a “youth” issue.
This is the first of many deceptions baked into coverage of one of the more misunderstood and misreported issues of our time. Student loans matter to older people, too. In fact, that’s the problem. They matter far too much, to too many older people.
“People who are 45 years and older, that's where the student loan problem is a real issue,” says “Chris,” who took out his first loan in 1981. “Because those are the people who normally would have the highest balances.”
Now 59, Chris asks to tell his story under a pseudonym, to protect the service industry career he’s built in part with the hope of someday escaping his student debt.
“In the realm I'm in now, I don't really advertise the fact that I owe $236,000,” he sighs.
It’s often argued that forgiving student debt would unfairly punish other groups, particularly those who “did the right thing” and paid off their loans. In truth, political changes have already punished plenty of student loan holders. Chris is a prime example.
He grew up in the Midwest, and began studying philosophy and political science at Southwest Missouri State (now called Missouri State) in 1980. He began paying for his undergrad studies upfront, a decision that would have fateful consequences. He entered school just as Americans were electing Ronald Reagan, who wanted to dramatically re-order federal spending priorities. Among Reagan’s first acts: raising the interest rates for some federally-guaranteed student loans from 7% to 9%.
“What’s really ironic,” Chris says, “is that if I hadn't paid cash the first year and a half that I was in college, my loans would have gotten locked in at a much lower rate.”
Paying the Reagan rate instead of the pre-Reagan rate was Chris’s first political misfortune. The second kicked in years later, in the mid-eighties, by which time he’d transferred to the University of Missouri-Columbia, graduated with a B.A., entered and completed a grad program there, and moved on to Joe Biden’s Alma Mater at Syracuse law. He left graduate school owing $14,000, and left law school with a total balance of $79,000.
He thought he’d be graduating with a law degree, and expected to be able to make his payments. Part of his calculation involved the fact that student loan interest was once tax-deductible, much like mortgage interest. But the Tax Reform Act of 1986 began a see-sawing journey for the student loan deduction, essentially eliminating it as a personal deduction for a time.
“I looked at education as a capital expenditure,” Chris says. “Part of my strategy was, is that the interest would always be tax-deductible. So that would at least give me a little bit of a [cushion] in making my payments, because, I would have that tax deduction.”
After they changed the law, “It was like, ‘Wow, this is going to be difficult, this is going to be interesting’.”
The loan system we have now is predicated on a few key assumptions, all unrealistic. One is that people graduating with higher education degrees will be immediately employable in their chosen fields. Even with the sort of professional credential that once meant nearly guaranteed income in America, like a law degree, this is no longer true.
Job markets tighten, economies hit recessions or worse (in the years after the 2008 financial crisis, for instance, the number of law school grads still looking for jobs a year after graduation nearly tripled, from 4.1% to 11.2%), and technological or cultural changes can lower the value of degrees.
The other assumption is that people with higher degrees will stay in their fields, and avoid accidents, illnesses, personal problems, and other detours. In the nineties, Chris became disenchanted with the law, and went through a “riveting” divorce that hit him with a slew of unexpected costs (including, ironically, legal fees). He missed a few payments, and then began missing them altogether, beginning a period of years when he paid nothing at all — in part because he was underemployed after leaving his law practice, and in part because he just handled his loans “in a cavalier, stupid way.”
“I'll take ownership of the fact that my stupidity bought me a [ton] of interest and penalties,” he says now.
In 2002, Chris got a middle-level job with one of the world’s larger service-industry companies. His first position paid him $28,000 a year, but he didn’t see much of that money. In 2004, his wages began to be garnished. A single federal lender can garnish up to 15% of “disposable” pay, i.e. what’s left over after mandatory withholdings. If there is more than one lender, they may garnish a maximum of 25% of wages.
Chris’s pay was garnished at 15% from 2004-2011, and at 25% from 2011 on. He paid, but didn’t gain ground, thanks to another painful quirk of the system, involving the order of obligation.
“They apply your penalties first, then your interest, then your principal,” he says. “So really they're guaranteeing that you're never going to pay down your loans.”
Into his second decade of garnishment, Chris was paying pure penalties, fees, and interest, not touching a dollar of principal. Although the government had since re-introduced some student loan interest deductions, these were capped at $2500 per year. “At the height of my garnishment, I was paying $900 every two weeks,” he says.
Career advancement didn’t particularly help his cause, as raises just meant he was able to pay more in fees and interest on an inalterably enormous core debt. Through 2020, when student loan obligations were halted due to the coronavirus, he paid $190,000 on an original debt of $79,000. His current balance? The aforementioned $236,000.
When they talk about student debt, politicians usually talk in terms of amounts owed, but the dirty secret is the American system is about streams, not sums. The tension in this game is between borrowers trying to chop their debt into finite, conquerable amounts, and lenders who are incentivized to make the balance irrelevant, turning people into vehicles for delivering the highest possible monthly bill, without the real possibility of repayment.
Having some business experience, Chris tried multiple times to renegotiate his debt with the company that ultimately ended up servicing his debt after all of his loans were consolidated. No dice. As he advanced in age, his appeals began to contain a mixture of desperation and amazement, as he realized how completely disincentivized his lenders were to compromise.
“I've even used the argument, ‘Look, you know, I'm 59 years old right now, my life expectancy is 15 more years. At this rate, you're not going to get very much.’” He pauses. “I told them, ‘I'm probably going to retire in nine years. And my income is going to go down.’ And their responses is, ‘So?’”
Like a lot of student loan holders, Chris no longer expects that he will ever pay off his loans, or even begin touching the principal. He’s heard the stories of people having their Social Security payments garnished and wonders if that is in his future. While he understands that the reaction of some hearing his story will be that he brought his problems on himself, he has now paid two and a half times his initial balance, and is scheduled to pay it at least five times over, if he doesn’t die first. Even accounting for his “stupidity,” he figures, “I paid my student loans.”
Chris’s experience is by no means unusual, something he feels politicians either fail to understand, or consciously ignore. “Whether it's Elizabeth Warren, or Biden, or even Trump — whoever — when they talk about student loans, they throw around numbers like $10,000, or $20,000, or $50,000,” he says. “Those numbers are basically applicable for people who have really low amounts of student loans. And it doesn't take into account loans that are in a distressed condition.”
Chris made mistakes, but as he’s noticed, so have other types of borrowers. “It doesn't appear that we seem to hesitate much in giving money to Ford or Chrysler, or a collection of banks,” he says, citing bankruptcies, bailouts, and other programs.
“They have tools,” he says, “the individual does not.”
Is the church above our Supreme Court? Again I ask, Why? So much to ask with so few answers.
On the evening news recently it was announced that our Supreme Court voted in the majority not to impose a maximum capacity on churchgoers. Why?
Reduced numbers in theory reduces new covid 19 infections. Knowing this, why is the Church population untouchable?
Maximums for bars, gyms and dance halls are and should be eliminated for the sake of their and others’ health. Is there anyone out there who believes the churches are immune from covid 19? Why do pastors and priests encourage all to come indoors? Wake up all you who runneth over with blind faith. It's not working. I have seen extremely large numbers of churchgoers enclosed side by side with no masks singing their little hearts out. Look at those factual reports large and small. Church attendees are followed by Pray, pay and obey. But they will not keep death away from your doorstep. Ask your God, my God, why? Good church people are not saved. When you have the true answer to why thousands of good people who are allowed to die send me a short note.
Gran says, We are not going indoors to our church but we are sending cookies. We pray for those who do.
Gramps says, Fools rush in where wise men (and women) fear to tread!
Gran said, Not nice. True but not nice.
I said, Eat your peanut butter cookies, take a pull on that special cold medicine and say a prayer and go to bed.
God bless America, the Donald, peanut butter cookies and Jerry Philbrick. love you, Gran.
Old and Angry
MIGHT AS WELL STAY HOME
So cafes are no longer tolerable hangout places for me during the pandemic. Some independent cafes in Marin have been allowing indoor seating but are unappealing to me either because of unfriendly baristas or a couple of overanxious college-age male baristas I had to endure. I figured they might have been on speed. Then there's a cafe that for some reason (I asked but forgot why) charges a tax on their coffee drinks. Starbucks at Safeway is an option as there is almost never a line. But wandering the aisles browsing merchandise while drinking coffee is pretty sad.
Fact is that before the pandemic began in March I was coming to the conclusion that hanging out at coffee houses and reading, usually a newspaper, no longer holds any appeal. Starbucks has accomplished a transformation of turning cafes from Bohemian places to mainstream ones.
That means that now there are a lot of people in cafes engaging with their laptops and smart phones who either have no interest or no capability of socializing with strangers.
I began hanging out in coffee houses during the early 90s in my late 20s. In the 90s and 2000s there were some cafes and periods where I enjoyed hanging out. In the mid-90s there was a rather bohemian cafe in downtown San Anselmo staffed mostly by teenagers where one or two nights a week there was live music. For example, Drake High School jazz musicians. It was open until 10 PM. That spot was taken over years ago by a cafe that has a bourgeois clientele and shuts down at 6 PM.
In downtown Fairfax I hung out at an independent cafe where around the start of the Iraq war into 2003 I had felt some sense of kinship with some regulars in some of the teenage and twenty-something staff. That lasted about six months.
Less than 100 feet away, from about 2004-2008, there was a bookstore/café where I went for iced lattes and to read the paper and sometimes buy inexpensive books. On Sunday nights jazz musicians performed there. I attended a number of times even though I don't normally listen to jazz.
I never felt a part of the community there which was epitomized by my relationship with the middle-aged male owner who never learned my name even though I was a regular customer and always addressed him by his first name. I never did fit in in Fairfax but before I owned a car it was the most appealing destination by foot or bus.
Even after getting a car I still found myself going to Fairfax because when on large doses of psychiatric medication my feelings told me that I did not belong in Fairfax were much harder to access than after I went off them several years ago.
I can always stay home all the time, not to conform to covid restrictions but because there is no better place to go.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
History is full of opportunities to miss opportunities, fully taken advantage of and not in a good way.
Going back not too far, Palestinians had a decent chance at their own country in the West Bank. But, when it seemed that the long process of negotiation and bribery and arm-twisting by the US was about to bear some fruit, Arafat called out the intifada and that was that.
So, what have they got now? A wall built by Israel (which proves that walls do work and do solve problems) and no country but instead a shit-hole dominated militarily by Israel and the prospect of steadily diminishing life-chances for Palestinians for the foreseeable future.
Britain and France had a good chance to shorten the Great War by means of bold action in early 1915 against Turkey by way of the strait leading to Constantinople and the peninsula alongside the waterway. If the Royal Navy and French ships had appeared in the Sea of Marmora the post-war consensus was that Turkey would have sought terms. Enver Pasha himself said that if only Britain had had the courage. And, early in 1915 Turkish fortresses in the peninsula, though heavily gunned, had limited ammunition, Turkish troop presence in the area was small, and with some quick action, Britain and France could have pulled it off.
But the initiative, though started, was delayed by weeks by hesitancy, second thoughts, reluctance by the Royal Navy to take risks, until “no” took root in the higher echelons, and then when action was finally started, the Turks had massively increased their forces, the Brits in the area got one third less than what they needed and a month late at that and the opportunity was missed.
What does this have to do with anything? The USA is presently all a-bristle with opportunities to reset the clocks if only skillful and resolute action is taken by Trump people with respect to this farce of an election.
It’s not just chances in the short term but longer-term also. What this last five years showed was that what the America First movement needs is institutional back-stopping because what we saw was a determined though incompetent effort to get rid of Trump, and a better effort to legally harass officials working in his administration. That cannot go on if the America First movement is to take root and become effective. It’s no good just to have a bunch of guys in camo doing target practice in the backwoods, what it needs is people embedded in the unelected machinery of government, in investigative and intel agencies, in the Pentagon, the DOJ, in the foreign affairs Blob etc, to counteract those working in concert with Democrats and Republicans.
But it seems that all these many openings will get whiffed the same as did the Palestinians and the Brits and the French. Failure to see clearly, failure of nerve, failure to think things through, this could be the death of it, giving a chance to nastier alternatives. Because there are always alternatives.
A HALL OF SMOKE & MIRRORS
by James Kunstler
If the drawn-out election melodrama were a movie, think: Seven Days in May meets Six Days in October meet Burn After Reading. You get a nice serving of treason in high places with a side-dish of Cuban Missile Crisis end-of-the-world existential angst, and for dessert, a comic fiasco of bumbling government depravity as served up by the Coen Brothers. The Democrats, you understand, are the party of chaos, yet President Trump’s attempt to impose order on the scene has the quality of clown car driving to put out a fire.
It’s almost impossible to see through the smoke-and-mirrors of all news media. The captive Left media won’t cover, or even pursue, legitimate news stories that counter its precooked, self-serving narratives, while much of the alt.news on the Right seems to emanate from TinFoilHatLand. Fact and emotion corrupt each other until truth itself is cancelled, disgraced, and deplatformed. Meanwhile, authority hides offstage wringing its hands, affecting powerless impartiality.
Case in point: Mr. Barr, the Attorney General, who told the Associated Press on Tuesday, “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.” A curious remark, with all the weight of DOJ authority, in a week that featured many broadcast spectacles of sworn testimony of ballot fraud before swing state committees plus videotape of vote-counting irregularities vividly in action. Perhaps Mr. Barr is just stalling so as to not taint whatever case Mr. Trump’s lawyers bring before the Supreme Court. But Mr. Barr must also be implying that his FBI — the investigative arm of his DOJ — suffers epic incompetence, Coen Brothers style, with a tinge of malice. Of course, that state-of-things has been obvious for four years in the long, dirty epic of RussiaGate — another enormous, legitimacy-killing mess that Mr. Barr has appeared reluctant to resolve, even though he anointed US Attorney John Durham a “special prosecutor” this week. Since his appointment two years ago, Mr. Barr has expressed more than once in formal speeches his keen concern for institutional integrity, yet he appears to be playing games with it at a crucial moment in political history.
Then there was the weird event on Wednesday in Alpharetta, Georgia, featuring freelance lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood before a so-called rally, at which they told the rowdy crowd to boycott the January Senatorial runoff election – say, what…? There was a lot of whooping and hollering, though Miz Powell seemed a little unnerved by the lack of decorum. One infers that they’re pissed off at Republican candidates Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue for not taking a public stand on the Georgia voting mischief, and especially for not rebuking Republican Governor Brian Kemp and SoS Brad Raffensperger, who failed to do anything about all that in the month following the election. But, really, what did it serve their case to go down that rabbit hole?
The bigger questions for Mr. Wood and Miz Powell surround what kind of evidence they will bring into a courtroom. Miz Powell, especially, because of her relationship with General Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, appears to have inside Department of Defense (DOD) information that goes deep into the Dominion vote tabulation company’s origins, history, and abnormal activities in the 2020 election. That includes the seizure of Dominion servers at the giant US military complex outside Frankfurt, where the CIA maintains its chief cyberwarfare IT center outside the USA. General Flynn has been bottled up since 2017 in a corrupt prosecution eventually dropped by the DOJ, but stalled for half a year by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan even after he was ordered by the DC Circuit to dismiss the case.
But now General Flynn has been liberated by presidential pardon to speak and act, and he’s doing both in startling terms. On Wednesday, he joined with retired three-star general Thomas McInerney in calling for the president to declare martial law in order to use military tribunals to investigate and prosecute treason in the election. They’re not the only ones chattering about that. They allege that Dominion Systems — which is not an American-owned company — invited meddling by several foreign nations and, in fact, enabled it through connections to the Internet. There is evidence that Chinese companies linked to the CCP are majority investors in the holding company out of Switzerland, UBS Securities, that owns Dominion. And lurking in the background of that is the evidence exposed from Hunter Biden’s laptop, of multi-million dollar deals for the Biden Family to represent Chinese companies affiliated with China’s Intel service.
Is it outlandish to wonder if Joe Biden is a national security risk? Is it, at least, worth looking into, considering the evidence trail? Many people on the Left, who read and view only the captive Left news media, may know nothing about Hunter B’s laptop and the tales it told because social media blacked out all the news about it and the mainstream media went along with the blackout. Meanwhile, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gave $350-million to a “safe elections” project run by the non-profit Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), that was chiefly active in setting up Democratic vote-harvesting operations. Could he be liable for prosecution in enabling ballot fraud? Has the FBI asked him any questions?
Another story ‘out there’ says that behind the election hijinks a war is underway between the DOD and the CIA. On Wednesday, acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller announced that all special operations run by the CIA would henceforward report to the SecDef. In effect, the President has ordered the dismantling of the CIA’s troublemaking capabilities, reducing the agency to the task of intel analysis. This means, for instance, ending the CIA’s ability to foment “color revolutions” (coups d’état) in foreign lands — with the implication that irregularities around the Dominion System may have amounted to an attempted color revolution in the USA. Is it worth wondering whether former CIA Director John Brennan, a leftist activist and probably an architect of RussiaGate, was involved in any of the election ops? If the FBI won’t question him about it, who will? (Answer: The Department of Defense.) Ditto Gina Haspel, current CIA Director. After all, what were the Dominion servers doing at the CIA’s server farm in Germany?
Events are moving quickly under the plodding surface of the ongoing swing state hearings, which are largely concerned with on-site mail-in ballot fraud shenanigans. Will the Supreme Court take a case in the few days left before the state vote certification deadline next Tuesday? Will Mr. Trump intervene with some extraordinary measure — martial law, the Insurrection Act? — to actually abort the election and bring about some kind of do-over? Will the country survive its own feckless inability to hold a credible vote? Stand by with me on all that.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page.)
WHY SO CALLOUS ABOUT OLD PEOPLE?
To the Editor:
I see comments online about Covid and I am horrified by the comments beginning with, “old people” die of the flu. Is anyone, anywhere, protesting for the group “old people”?? Anyone in front of court house, with signs that “old people’s lives matter”? Anyone in our country that is censoring blatant statements that somehow group “old people” as exspendable lives, that get other diseases, so why stop our lives and stay home, for “old people”?
I find the hypocrisy of our times, that if you were to put “white” or “black” or “latino” in a sentence stating “dying of the Flu”…and ask, so why is society staying home, because of Covid? it would seem very discriminatory. And it is sometimes that way too. But the label “old people” is considered a appropriate discrimination, ok to say, ok to write, against a group of humans??
SARs is Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome, much more lethal and this strain, much more contagious. And Covid, affects all ages and races, because a virus does not discriminate against a race or age, but attacks where there is weakness. And birth defects, diabetes, heart and lung issues, will be it’s pathway. Genders, age and nationalities, are not in this virus’s mission.
How can uneducated Americans, comment that because the flu kills, that Covid is no different and life should not be changed (only altered), to kill or lessen the virus??
Knowledge is power, older people deserve life as much as anyone. And can people please stop stereotyping comments on a horrible disease that can kill anyone? Including the lives of some hospital staff and possibly their family members? Undiagnosed defects exist in many bodies, young and old.
Empathy, is a virtue. Practice empathy and make comments, unprejudiced. Become educated.
IT WAS THE TIME OF THE YEAR when Berenice Pann became conscious of the earth's dark turning, not a good time, she thought, to be starting a job, especially one as depressing as caring for elderly ranch widows. But she took what she could get. There were not many men in the Mellowhorn Retirement Home, and those few were so set upon by the women that Berenice pitied them. She believed the sex drive faded in the elderly, but these crones vied for the favors of palsied men with beef jerky arms. The men could take their pick of shapeless housecoats and flowery skeletons.
— Annie Proulx, Family Man
“I can quit anytime I want!”
NURSES ON THE COVID FRONT
Message from an ICU nurse…
I am passing on, with permission, the emails a friend recently received from her daughter, an ICU nurse in Oakland. Please share if you wish. Friends I am passing on this information from my daughter, an ICU nurse in Oakland. She urged me to share ...with my friends. I know all of you are very careful with regard to Covid but it doesn't hurt to be reminded again....and again.
I am adding my own preface based on her email to me.... One nurse in The ER at her hospital has recently died of Covid and many nurses have been exposed to it. Many of the other nurses are so burned out and depressed by the covid situation which they have been dealing with since March, that they are cutting back their hours to half time just as the number of patients is ramping up. This is true of all hospitals throughout the country. Also, many front line medical workers have died of Covid. My daughter has described to me in detail the horrific treatments and lonely, painful deaths of several Covid patients of all ages...nothing like flu whatsoever.
(Her) hospital is seeing not only an upswing of Covid patients but more suicides and injuries due to violent crimes as people lose coping skills under present circumstances. The medical staff are silent, unsung heroes of this crisis. They do their jobs day after day, dealing with horrendous, relentless, personal medical tragedies that most of us have absolutely no awareness of.
Here is (her) message: Could you spread the word that if people want to support us on the front lines, supporting us by making social sacrifices. I know its hard and people have been already doing that to an extent. With the cold weather driving us indoors small gatherings indoors need to stop (even amoungst people who think they have been safe). Stick to outdoor visits at most. Masked outdoor walks. Occasional out door small dinners (masks on when not eating). Any flying get tested before hand and wear a mask and face shield.
If you could encourage people in your circle to make this winter commitment it will help us survive the next few months. They are estimating over 400k dead by spring. Northern California is a hot spot.
Haven’t seen people in denial. I think it’s generally accepted as real in this part of the country.
What I do see is intense fear and grief. The ones that really hurt your heart are the young people or couples. We've had a few young men who took a turn for the worst and had to be intubated. They ALL cry and look at you with fear and desperation. Some call their mom or family to say good bye. The crying and gasping goodbyes before being tubed is heartbreaking. Some stay sedated and even chemically paralyzed for weeks. And if they die, that moment before sedation, when they are crying and praying and saying goodbye to their mom or asking you to hold their hand and not leave them alone because they are scared.,.that was their last interaction of their life. Which is so profoundly tragic and a waste. Because it was preventable.
I find it gross that people don't believe the virus is real. That rests at the feet of this administration, the GOP, and Fox. They created this disconnect from reality. They knew their audience and knew exactly how to manipulate them into a narrative that served their needs. The ignorance and susceptibility predated covid. But the leaders of these people knowingly fed them disinformation causing people to act in ways of self harm. And now people are dying of disbelief. Coming to the hospital in crisis and on the verge of death.. .What an awful moment to have an epiphany that Covid is real.
via Annie Lee<firstname.lastname@example.org>
ON-LINE COMMENT: Hey neighbors, let’s try hard to be gentle and kind to one another. I promise I will. This morning, a lady in Mendo who wasn’t wearing a mask lectured my elderly mask-wearing parents about how they needed to be sure to properly dispose of their masks so as to not harm animals. Unsolicited lecture that bordered cray-cray is how they described it - and this person was not one of our homeless friends. We are better than that Mendo. Let’s all be nice. Nice is so nice.