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Mendocino County Today: March 13, 2012

A LAYTONVILLE WOMAN was killed Monday morning when her car collided head-on with a semi-truck on Highway 101 about a mile north of Willits, the California Highway Patrol reported. The deceased is identified as Gloria Lockett, 61. Ms. Lockett was driving a 2009 Chevrolet Impala southbound on Hwy 101 at 8:20 a.m. Monday morning.. For unknown reasons, Lockett allowed her car to cross the centerlines and collide head-on with a flatbed truck being driven by Jason Walker, 31, of Willits. The truck ran off the west edge of the road before coming to a stop, spilling approximately 25 gallons of diesel fuel. Walker was not injured. Lockett's vehicle stopped on the west shoulder, partially blocking the southbound lane. She sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. Emergency personnel from CalFire, the Willits Fire Department, CalTrans and Mendocino County Environmental Health responded. The highway was under one-way traffic control until 1:30pm.

MENDOCINO COAST HOSPITAL Foundation, WineSong. The Coast Radio (KOZT) and Visit Mendocino County PRESENT A SPECIAL EVENING WITH CHRIS HILLMAN AND HERB PEDERSEN — A BENEFIT FOR THE MENDOCINO COAST HOSPITAL FOUNDATION. Saturday, May 26, 2012. Cotton Auditorium, Fort Bragg. Doors at 7:30pm / Show at 8pm. Visit for details. – The Hospital Foundation has raised over $6 million in Winesong generated funds which has enabled the Hospital to purchase essential medical equipment and improve services.

A READER WRITES: “Supervisor Hamburg's comments about the failed 'War on Drugs' were right on the money, but he showed a lack of sensitivity. Sure, Madeline Melo could choose to focus the forum on mental illness, but Jere Melo, at no small risk to himself, did spend a lot of time trying to reclaim the forest from trespass marijuana grows. We are not talking medicine for the sick and dying, but pure greed with no regard for the rights of people who legitimately work or play in the forest. Unfortunately, Supervisor Pinches managed to get caught up in the anti-federale rhetoric and went along with Hamburg. When the Supervisors went to Covelo a couple of years ago and got an earful from the locals about the atrocities committed by the trespass pot growers in the Mendocino National Forest, including being shot at, Pinches pushed the Board to adopt an emergency declaration. County Counsel shot that down, but the Sheriff came back with 'Operation Full Court Press' involving everyone from the Willits Environmental Center to all the state and federal narco agencies. Pinches called for checkpoints at every main entrance to the forest to stop the inflow of black plastic irrigation pipe and was indignant when the Forest Service gave him the brush off. The failure of the war on drugs is self evident, but deciding to do nothing on the local level is not much of an option either. In the year 2000 Mendocino County became the first, and only, County in the nation to 'legalize' personal use of marijuana, with the allowance for anyone to grow 25 plants whether or not they had a so-called medical condition. Pot growers from everywhere in the world — you guys even reported on some Bulgarian growers — immediately began migrating to Mendocino County. With the pro-pot Craver and Vroman installed as Sheriff and District Attorney, the growers were soon 'card stacking' dozens of physician recommendations to justify grows of hundreds and even thousands of plants. The neighborhood and environmental impacts eventually led to the Measure B backlash to repeal Measure G and put Mendocino County back in line with state law. But the genie was already out of the bottle with wannabe marijuana millionaires continuing to flock to Mendocino County. The Supes, Pinches included, unanimously supported Operation Full Court Press (before Hamburg joined the Board). Sheriff Allman said at the time he hoped to repeat the program and extend it to private lands that were also plagued with trespass grows. The forum sponsored by the Jere Melo Foundation is an effort to raise awareness of the extent of the problem, always a challenge here in Mendoland, where most people view the world through glasses tinted with one shade or another, if not totally obscured with a heavy cloud of medicinal grade marijuana smoke. Jere Melo's widow, Madeline, has chosen the Foundation and the forum as a way to honor Jere Melo. The fact that Melo (and Matt Coleman) was murdered by a deranged personal use opium farmer does not lessen the very real problems caused by trespass marijuana grows. We agree with everything Hamburg had to say about the so-called 'War on Drugs.' Ten editions of this paper would not be enough to chronicle the failings of this ruinously expensive federal boondoggle, and we also suspect the forum will be an echo chamber of like minded people saying that something has to be done. Melo had evolved into a genuine community leader who sought to bring all sides together, for instance trying to mediate the bad feelings between the Coast Humane Society and the Coast Animal Shelter volunteers. And he quietly led efforts to build the new high school football stadium and firehouse, showing up early and staying late to do the work of a man half his age. Same for the annual salmon BBQ and lots of other events. By all accounts, Melo matured in his approach to community issues, while his adversaries are stuck firmly in the past. Instead of using the pot forum to score debating points on the war on drugs, Hamburg could have shown some real moxie, and avoided the perceived slight to the Melos, by showing up at the forum and engaging in some good old fashioned debate. Tommy LaNier, head of the White House funded National Marijuana Initiative, is advertised as one of the main speakers. Instead of voting against the forum, Hamburg should have offered to debate Mr. LaNier, who likely played a role in the federal takedown of the County's successful 9.31 marijuana permitting program. LaNier was quoted in an interview by PBS reporter Michael Montgomery as saying that Mendocino County was 'on the list' to do in early January, and sure enough, Mendocino County got the federal threat, delivered personally by US Attorney Melinda Haag in early January. Instead of voting against the forum, why not show up and hold Mr. LaNier accountable for his role in the failed war on drugs?”

THE LOCAL BRANCH of the National Women's Political Caucus held their 30th annual event in honor of Women's History Month at the Saturday Afternoon Club in Ukiah last Saturday. The event was well attended with SoCo Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey on hand to receive a well deserved award for being a woman of courage and conviction. Unlike Congressman Corktop, who seldom takes a strong stand on anything, Woolsey has always been willing to buck the powers that be, including her own party leadership, once convening an unsanctioned meeting on the Iraq war when she was unable to get it assigned to a committee for a hearing.

ANDERSON VALLEY'S VAL MUCHOWSKI was honored as one of the founder's of NWPC, Mendo branch. Muchowski and Joe Louis Wildman, of course, run the NWPC as an adjunct of the local Democratic Party apparat. They decide which women are worthy of endorsement and which are not. Most flagrantly, the two of them, speaking for the NWPC, endorsed Green Party candidate Dan Hamburg for Supervisor over Wendy Roberts, a woman and a Democrat.

THE BROOKTRAILS BOARD OF DIRECTORS has approved a fire tax increase for the June 5, ballot. The tax will go from $65 to $100 for single family homes and from $40 to $100 for unimproved lots. With only about 1,500. occupied dwelling units and over 4,000 vacant lots in the subdivision northwest of Willits, it is easy to see that the costs of running Brooktrails are born disproportionately by people who do not live there and who will never be able to build houses on lots which will never have water and sewer available to serve them.

LISTED ON THE BOARD OF SUPES CONSENT CALENDAR for this week is an item to approve selling tax-defaulted properties at auction. Supervisor McCowen, who first called attention to the ongoing Brooktrails scam a year or so ago, can be expected to pull the item for discussion. And why does the County Treasurer think this is still a non-controversial item of the type suited for the consent calendar? Probably because Linda Williams, the excellent reporter for the Willits News, has revealed that the scam is far worse than anyone, McCowen included, could have imagined. And just like the so-called Teeter Plan, which now plays into the Brooktrails ripoff, the people who should have been safeguarding the financial interests of the County were either complicit in the scam, or did nothing as it unfolded.

ALSO ON THE CONSENT calendar this week is the Fort Bragg leachate issue. The City of Fort Bragg and the County are jointly responsible for the Caspar transfer station and post closure costs of the capped landfill. Back in the day everyone dumped their trash, including toxic wastes, into shallow, unlined pits in the pygmy soil at Caspar. After buying a couple of neighboring properties whose wells had been polluted by the nearby unregulated dump, the County installed a collection system to intercept the subsurface water and trucked it to the Fort Bragg Sewer Plant for disposal. Last year Fort Bragg made the unilateral decision to charge the County for disposal of what amounts to rainwater and sent the County a post dated bill for some $150,000. When it was presented to the Board, on consent, natch, Supervisor Pinches pulled it for discussion. It turned out Fort Bragg hadn't bothered to adopt a valid fee schedule until 2011, so they voided the earlier invoices. After a lot of back and forth a compromise has apparently been reached that will have the County pay about $50,000., a savings of $100,000. over the original bill. The Supes previously directed staff to begin work on a long-range solution to get out from under the ongoing disposal costs. How this stuff winds up on the consent calendar remains a mystery.

ON THE SUPES REGULAR CALENDAR was the annual report and renewal of the “Business Improvement District,” or “BID,” to have the lodging owners continue to assess themselves 1% of the room rate to be used to promote the County, but in reality to create a few jobs that are reserved for themselves and their friends. The BID raises about $600,000 annually which receives a 50% match from the County. And if the County was really serious about a balanced budget they could start by reclaiming the $300,000 that is handed over to the lodging boys and girls.

THE MENDOCINO COUNTY PROMOTIONAL ALLIANCE (MCLA), which has some sort of ill-defined, quasi-incestuous relationship with the old Mendocino County Promotional Alliance (MCPA), was supposed to spend no more than 10% of the BID funds on administration, but when that proved inconvenient, MCLA and MCPA formed another organization, made up of themselves, called Visit Mendocino County, Inc. (VMC). Now MCLA can truthfully say they spend less than 10% on administrative costs because the admin costs have nearly all been shifted to VMC. Continuing objections to MCLA/MCPA/VMC surfaced last year in what is referred to as “the Allegation document.”

THE ANNUAL REPORT CRYPTICALLY SAYS “The Board has found that the majority of the claims are false. Therefore, the committee recommends that these allegations be deemed unfounded. A full outline of the committee's findings is available by contacting any MCLA Board Member or VMC staff. The MCLA Board of Directors strongly rejects these allegations and the method in which they were collected and communicated to lodging members, government officials and the public. The Board regrets any inconvenience that document may have caused to any of the named individuals.” If a majority, but not all, of the claims are false, then at least some are true, so why not put them in the report? Instead, people have to chase down anonymous Board members and VMC employees, who are nowhere listed in the report.

THE CITY OF UKIAH IS MOVING FORWARD with a plastic bag ban. Garbage czar Mike Sweeney, Mendocino County's most interesting man, has prepared bag ban EIRs for Ukiah, Fort Bragg and the County, Sweeney was present to introduce the EIR and hear public comment. The only negative comments were from an industry front group called the “Save the Plastic Bag Coalition” who have conceded that plastic bag bans are legal as long as they go through the CEQA process, hence the need for an EIR. Normally, an EIR would cost $50,000 to $100,000 each, so the public is clearly getting its money's worth out of Sweeney, who remains the primary suspect in the bombing of his ex-wife Judi Bari in 1990.

THE UKIAH CITY COUNCIL has pulled the plug on the last of four controversial projects being put forward by Honeywell corporation. The Council, despite the obvious shortcomings of the deal, only decided to kill it after City Manager Jane Chambers signaled she was not in support. The company originally said they would guarantee that switching out all the water meters for smart meters would yield enough new revenue (from more accurate metering of water actually consumed) to pay for the project over 13 years. But last week Honeywell said they were only willing to guarantee the meters would be accurate. So Honeywell would take all the profit, the City would take all the risk and the ratepayers would pay all the bills.

WHY DON’T THEY take bids on the BID?

Does anyone know what they did?

Free bottles of wine

for me and mine.

Can they admit they do nothing? God forbid!

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