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Mendocino County Today: January 29, 2021

Rest Day | 41 New Cases | Sandbar Breached | Noyo Rainbow | Willits Snow | Gardening Workshop | Burn Workshop | Stop Yelling | Ten-Mile Bridge | Student Sports | Owl Rescue | Vaccine Conversation | B Meltdown | Anchor Label | Yesterday's Catch | Flabby People | Slipping Punches | Downstairs | Education Banishes | Winter Scene | American Authoritarianism

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AFTER BRIEF QUIET WEATHER on tap for most of today, light rain and light higher elevation snow will return tonight. Saturday night, a stronger system will begin a prolonged period of moderate to heavy rainfall and high elevation snow through Tuesday. (NWS)

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41 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County on Wednesday and Thursday bringing total 3363. 36 deaths due to covid. 

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NAVARRO RIVER HWY 128 UPDATE THUR 1/28/21

The Navarro River sandbar breached sometime last night or this morning, dropping the water level in the estuary several feet and eliminating any chance of Hwy 128 flooding in the next several days.

It looks to me from the USGS charts that the breach happened this morning around the time of high tide. Because of the high tide the outflow is more gradual than last time it breached, and the outflow is still happening as we approach today's low tide of -0.64 at 5:19 PM.

The river flow has created a wide but shallow channel centered more or less on Pinnacle Rock. I think the channel will stay open longer this time than the time before, when it closed in again only two days after it breached on 1/19/21. Due to recent and forecasted rains I think there will be enough river flow to keep the sandbar open.

The NWS forecast chart predicts another surge of water expected to crest at 13.3 ft around 11 PM Monday Feb. 1. If the sandbar channel stays open from now until then there will be no problem with flooding 128.

Nicholas Wilson

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RAINBOW OVER THE RIVER

(photo by Dick Whetstone)

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STORM DUMPS REPORTED 14 INCHES OF SNOW ON WILLITS IN MENDOCINO COUNTY

by Kaylee Tornay

The Mendocino County town of Willits saw some of the most dramatic snowfall during this week’s winter storm, with members of the National Weather Service’s community precipitation network reporting 14 inches in one area, 10 inches in others, said Scott Carroll, meteorologist with the Eureka office of the National Weather Service.

Someone reported 16 inches Wednesday morning near Dos Rios, northeast of Laytonville.

Areas of Lake and Mendocino County above 3,500 feet continue to face the possibility of additional snowfall late Thursday, said Carroll.

Lake County residents reported Wednesday morning 8 inches of snow near Soda Bay and 6 inches near Cobb. In Sonoma County, the Mayacamas Mountains were also draped in a blanket of white Wednesday.

Carroll said Thursday that he wasn’t certain as to whether the snow levels were unprecedented, but that “it was quite a bit of snow, particularly at some of those lower elevations.”

Hwy 101 at Laytonville

Caltrans Wednesday afternoon reopened all areas of Highway 101 in Mendocino County that were previously closed off due to snowy conditions and downed trees after the heaviest night of snow Tuesday.

(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

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VIRTUAL GARDENING WORKSHOP

Sunday, February 7, 2021 at 4 pm the AV Village, AV Foodshed and AV Unity Garden Section are jointly hosting a Zoom Workshop on starting vegetables from seed. This one-hour workshop will begin with two short videos of local seed starters that demonstrate starting seeds in the ground and in a greenhouse. Seed starting resources will then be shared, followed by a three person panel to answer questions from workshop participants. Learn from local, experienced gardeners.

LandLine/Flip phone: 1 669 900 6833 

Smart phone: +16699006833,,86084264970#,,,,*789934# US 

Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86084264970?pwd=bTlxcitzVWFTSEVyQVRnSGw5SjVjUT09

Time: 4-5 pm, Date: Sunday, February 7, 2021 

RSVP to help us anticipate who’s coming, ask any questions you have, and receive other details! https://tinyurl.com/RSVPVeggieStarts

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MIND YOUR MANNERS, YOU ANIMALS! 

Supervisor Williams writes: "Please be kind to the staff at the various clinics. The scarcity of supplies is creating frustration. Clinic staff, especially front desk workers, are doing their best to follow the vaccine allocation schedule. They are not responsible for the supply chain. Please do not yell at them."

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Ten Mile Bridge

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GET PREPARED FOR SPORTS!!

Our league has approved the following sports for students while in the Purple Tier: track & field, tennis, and golf. Baseball & Softball have been approved to play in the Red Tier but can start conditioning now in the Purple Tier.

Students - get cleared through athleticclearance.com. starting Monday, February 1st! You are allowed to participate in ONE sport, not two, no Club or conditioning in another sport.

Parents - join us for a virtual Q&A meeting on Tuesday, February 2nd, from 5:30-6:00 PM. Please email jgardner@fbusd.us for the meeting link.

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OF OWLS & PLAYBOY BUNNIES

by Cat Spydell

It was Halloween inching toward the witching hour of midnight, as two young women navigated the dark and winding Highway 128 through Anderson Valley. As their car lights illuminated the black asphalt before them, they saw an object in the middle of the road. 

“Stop!,” said the passenger, Cassidy. The driver, Sofia, pulled the car over. There before them in the center of the highway, they saw a tiny owl, unable to move. 

“Is it alive?” asked Sofia. This is as good a time as any to mention that the young ladies happened to both be dressed as Playboy bunnies, as they were on their way home from a socially-distanced outdoor haunted house in Ukiah. 

Cassidy (left) & Sofia Bunnies

The friends assessed the tiny screech owl in their skimpy matching costumes. The bird looked dazed and its wing was stretched out awkwardly. Sofia picked it up in her jacket. Cassidy, who is my 25-year-old daughter, had been raised in our home that ran a private animal rescue called Pixie Dust Ranch, so she knew what to do. They brought the unfortunate being into the car to save its life.

As they continued driving back to Cassidy’s house in Comptche, the tiny owl revived somewhat. In an unexpected move, the owl came out of its daze and flew out of Cassidy’s hands. It attempted to land on the driver Sofia’s face! Bugs rained down on Sofia as she tried to re-maneuver the little bird of prey off of her. She pulled over and after the girls laughed at the startling event, they put the owl back into Cassidy’s hands, and she held it tighter. The girls brought it home to Cassidy’s country cabin she shared with her dad.

Cassidy sent me a text message asking about how to help the injured owl. This kind of midnight communication was certainly not the first, or last time, I would be dealing with some critter needing help in the middle of the night. I texted back: Put the owl in a box on a towel in the bathroom with the heater turned on, but not aimed directly on the box. Don’t bother the bird, don’t feed it or give it water, I will be over first thing to check it out. 

I have rescued numerous animals over the past decades, hundreds in fact. In Southern California our backyard was a small word-of-mouth volunteer animal rescue that took in every kind of animal from hermit crabs to horses. Our move back to Mendocino after a long absence, to the deep Philo woods, took the community element out of our humble Pixie Dust Ranch. I moved up here in a van hauling a horse trailer containing the last of our elderly animals that we were still caring for permanently: A large pony, a pig, two pygmy goats, a famous peacock who is an education bird, a feral cat, and an extra-large polar bear dog. Averaging around 20 permanent animals living at our rescue, a moment of foresight caused me to start rehoming new rescues instead of keeping them a few years back, so when I moved, I only had 7 critters to contend with on that very long journey from our closed-down family’s home in a rural suburb of Los Angeles.

I kept thinking of the irony of that little owl recovering in the bathroom in the Comptche cabin. I used to live there with Cassidy’s dad Mike when we first got married. We had moved to Comptche from the Los Angeles beach cities to build a retirement home for the Chisholms, his mom Joyce and step-dad D’Arcy, out of an existing hippie shack with an outhouse: no phone, no electricity, no running water. I went from being a dressed-in-black Long Beach poet working on my master’s degree at CSULB to becoming a country wife, in one day. The experiences I had on that land over the next two years were profound and life changing. I learned so much about the country life, and myself. We were living in that Comptche cabin when I became pregnant with my son Kodiak, who is now 28. 

We moved out right before Kodiak was born, but by then the house had: two bedrooms, running water, a bathroom (the one the owl was in). A kitchen, stove, oven, lights, heat, and even a Jacuzzi. It was ready for retiring parents and not meant for a young family, so we left and our firstborn was birthed nearby on Marsh Creek Road in another Comptche abode. 

Meanwhile, just before we vacated the Chisholm’s, a huge owl swooped down across the porch as we were standing outside. I had a feeling that the owl was somehow a message of protection for my unborn son. I continued to see and hear owls often. Years later I would help write a proposal and edit a book called ‘Wesley the Owl’ for my fellow writer friend Stacey, that would eventually become a best seller. The way of the owl was a consistent part of my life. Apparently now, the owl was a totem for Cassidy and Sofia too. Leave it to the fates to offer up an owl around midnight on Halloween.

That night I felt anxious for the injured bird, hoping it would make it through the night. It wasn’t my first night holding vigil for an animal. During college I worked summers for animal control. I rescued numerous orphaned bottle-fed kittens, then exotics (everything from fish to snakes to pygmy hedgehogs to tortoises). In L.A. I had all the contacts I needed at my fingertips. People often called me (if they could get my number, I don’t advertise), to help with wild animal rescues too, because I knew how to catch them and what agency to take them to if needed. I have rescued numerous owls over the years, mostly by returning baby owlets to their nests with the help of local fire department ladders. In fact my last owl rescue was three days before I moved out of L.A.! There I had on speed-dial the nearby wildlife rescue center, and all the registered helpers: the squirrel lady, the skunk and raccoon lady, the hummingbird lady, the possum person. 

Here in Mendocino County, even though I have lived in Philo almost two years now, I didn’t know who to call. The next morning first thing I searched online to find a place to take the owl. I found a wildlife rehab facility in San Rafael (125 miles away) and one in Humboldt (almost 200 miles away). Finally after several phone calls and much Googling, I found a place in Santa Rosa, closest at 100 miles away. I got dressed and made the 20 mile trek to Comptche to load the bird and get the girls up for a daylong road trip to bring the owl to safety.

Of course the girls were tired and still in bed looking a bit wrecked after their late night, but I rousted them and we started discussing logistics. I had the phone number, address, and bird protocol written down, and the rescue knew the owl was coming. I assumed we would all go in my truck. I expected a six or seven hour day to get the owl sussed and to get back home again. 

I checked on the screech owl in the bathroom and he seemed calm but a bit overwhelmed. He was on top of a good blue lap blanket, so I suggested we put a rag or old towel under him that the rescue could keep. I was able to hold him for the amount of time it took for the girls to change the bedding. He was so tiny, so frail. I held him close to my chest and he relaxed as I sent him a mental message that he was safe and all was well. 

There is something so unique and beautiful when you connect with wildlife. It’s such a rare opportunity. Even when just rescuing a lizard from a cat, or freeing a squirrel stuck in a bin, or giving a tired bee a drop of water, there is a deep connection between species. This little owl was so trusting and brave. 

As we discussed logistics, it turned out that the girls, before owl spotting, had already made plans to go to Santa Rosa that day to get some needed supplies. I suddenly found myself out of the equation; no sense bringing two vehicles, and I didn’t want to linger there, so going with them seemed silly. Cassidy had been on several rescues with me over the years. She knew the drill. (We have a funny family story about two wild baby ducks we rescued out of a pool that we took to the bird sanctuary. The problem? The only box we could find to put them in was a large tampon box. As teenaged Cassidy handed the box of birds over to the employee, it turned out, of course, to be a handsome young man who received the ducklings in their awkward container).

I realized as I explained over and over to the girls how to handle the owl and what to do, that I had somehow “retired.” This was not my rescue. Pixie Dust Ranch had existed in another town, another time. It hit me: I was officially passing the baton to my capable 25-year-old daughter. She and Sofia rescued the owl, that I called Bub, I didn’t. I may have found where to take him, and held him and checked on him, but it wasn’t about me this time. 

The girls went to Santa Rosa and got Bub the owl (the girls had nicknamed him “Bunny”) to the wild bird rehab facility. The employees told Cassidy and Sofia that they would call them when they released Bub back into the wilds.

During the next couple of weeks, as if the universe needed to confirm the fact to me that these two young women could do it, they both stumbled upon other animal rescue situations. They found two lost kittens and were able to find the frantic owner. They rescued an older cat that needed a new home, and found a good and loving place for that one too. Watching Cassidy and Sofia both be so capable with the animals they found needing help, I felt ‘done’ with rescue, and completely okay with that. Along with needy animals, the owl totem continued to find the young women as well. On as random items as T-shirts, restaurant signs, books, and coffee cups, the owl motif winked at them, keeping the magic going.

Months passed, and the bird rescue didn’t call. Cassidy and Sofia assumed that the facility had already released Bub. But a couple weeks ago as Cassidy and I shopped together in Fort Bragg and planned a post office stop in Philo on our ‘errand day,’ the call came. A rescuer was driving to Boonville, could Cassidy meet up and point out where she had found Bub? They wanted to make sure the owl was within a mile from where he was found before releasing him.

Sofia couldn’t get there on short notice, but Cassidy and I, since we were already together and on our way back to the Valley, hurried to meet that sweet owl again at Lemon’s Market. By the time we drove from the coast, we waited only 15 minutes before we met up with the bird rehabilitator. She followed us toward Boonville, and Cassidy easily found the right spot. We drove off the main highway behind some trees, away from traffic.

The bird of prey rescuer was professional and no-nonsense and I could tell she cared. She told us about how she had to be firm with Bub so he would be rehabilitated, and how he wasn’t a fan of her because of it. I pictured her to be like a stern headmistress with good intentions, making the tiny owl student able to fly free once again.

We ducked into the brush by some trees to the west of us and Cassidy and I said hello and goodbye to Bub. There on the side of the road, he was unceremoniously released. Though there was a dazzling sunset shimmering behind the ridge that framed the scene to make it picture-perfect, the rescuer lifted her gloved thumb that was holding his tiny talons, and the bird spread his wings, freed himself from his rescuer’s hand, and flew. He made a quick U-turn into the thick bushes, so we never saw where he landed. It’s just as well. We knew he was safely home again, and so did he.

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THE MEASURE B MELTDOWN

by Mark Scaramella

WE JUST WITNESSED a video of the worst public meeting we’ve ever seen — and we’ve seen several Green Party Meetings, numerous KZYX Board meetings, contentious school board meetings, several LAFCO meetings, and even a Climate Change Advisory Board Meeting! Badly prepared, badly run, rambling, aimless, pointless discussions about the most mundane things that a committee could conceivably discuss and even that was botched so badly that one committee member withdrew their simple motion in disgust when the discussion of it got so muddled as to be unintelligible. 

OF COURSE, WE ARE TALKING ABOUT Wednesday afternoon’s Measure B Mental Health Advisory Committee meeting. 

FOR ALMOST AN HOUR they blathered on, free associating inarticulately about the possible use of Old Howard Hospital in Willits as a Psychiatric Health Facility. Never mind that that idea had been thrashed through at length almost four years ago, ending up with a pointed letter from the Willits City Council saying that they had a number of serious questions about the facility and that it would have to go through the full Willits City planning process. That letter was addressed to the Board of Supervisors who referred it to now-long-departed County Counsel Kit Eliott who, after months of deliberation, issued forth her official opinion she couldn’t answer even Willits’s most basic questions because there was no actual proposal to use the Old Howard Hospital on the table. 

LAST WEDNESDAY, after the hour-long Old Howard Blatherfest, the Committee sort of concluded that 1) the stigmatization of the mentally ill is bad (as if that was the primary motivation behind the Willits letter), and 2) the question of using Old Howard is a matter for the Board of Supervisors, not the Committee! “If the Supervisors want to run with it, let ’em!” exclaimed Committee Chair Donna Moschetti at the end of the discussion.

MOST OF THE SECOND HOUR was spent in a discussion of — get this — what kind of lighting should be installed in the Training Center Nobody Wants in Redwood Valley! 

THE ONLY TEENSY BIT OF USEFUL INFORMATION to dribble out from the meeting was Mental Health Honcho Dr. Jenine Miller’s’ brief report that a little — very little, but some at least — progress has been made on the Mental Health Crisis Response Team, aka Crisis Van. Miller said that they now envision two county operated teams and one Ukiah[based team and that they have indeed put the three mental health crisis van positions out for recruitment and they’re indeed using the “Butte model” and that they “hope” to have some people hired and ready to “train” — “soon.” And they accomplished this giant step forward in only six months!

THE SUPERVISORS would be well advised to disband this embarrassingly dysfunctional committee and reappoint new members who can take their roles seriously. At the moment, besides the County employees who apparently must be retained, only Mark Mertle, Shannon Riley and former Sheriff Allman seem to be familiar with basic committee functions and roles and who seem to put in some time of their own time besides just showing up (or lately zooming) and babbling. Or alternatively, short of that, just let them keep meeting but formally ignore them as the obstacles to any progress they are and remove the pretense of needing any input or recommendations from them. They don’t want to make any decisions anyway. Except maybe the lighting in the training facility, that took an hour of mush-talk.

AM I EXAGGERATING? Was it really that bad? Here’s a transcript of the last few minutes of Wednesday’s meeting. (Complete with some very ungrammatical sentences that were both odd and meaningless.) The subject was the oh-so difficult question of whether to install sprinklers, and two different kinds of lighting in the Training Center Nobody Wants. (And if you’re wondering what this has to do with “mental health,” you’re not alone.) 

YOU BE THE JUDGE:

Project Manager Alyson Bailey: We would need to add if we did all the C and the cost would be a request for $19,154.

Moschetti: I don't know if I can officially make the motion.

Riley: No you can't. But --Commissioner Allman lighted up.

Former Sheriff Tom Allman: To be quite honest Chair, Ross [Liberty] was making a motion and got right down to the third one and he was cut off by you and he was going on with a motion so with all due respect I would like Ross to finish what he was saying before he was interrupted.

Moschetti: Well, you could be exactly right. I just wanted to make sure that we were on the same page.

Allman: That's okay. We are past the meeting. Let's just ask Ross if he's willing to make that motion.

Ross Liberty: Yeah. I would say -- I think do – wait on the, the alternate C until we see exactly how much we are going to use this facility and then we can decide of a page [?] Let's wait until we have all the numbers. We don't have that right now.

Moschetti: Okay, that's --

Liberty: Maybe that takes no motion but I, I, just, just --

Moschetti: But we still need to do the fire suppression. There's three components to this.

Liberty: I thought I covered them in my earlier remarks.

Moschetti: We need to deal with all three components.

Liberty: I covered that already.

Moschetti: No, no.

Allman: Can I make a motion? That we – the motion is, let's start with this one at a time, that we do not approve the sprinkler system. That's my motion right now.

Moschetti: Okay.

Mark Myrtle: I second.

Moschetti: This is beautiful. This is the way it has to happen. It's perfect! Any community -- any committee comments? None? Thanks. All those in favor. Roll call. Really quick.

[All members say yes individually.]

Moschetti: Thank you. Let's just get down to say no on the lighting. And that's it, we're done.

Allman: Allman makes the motion that on option 2 we do nothing.

Myrtle: I'll second it.

Moschetti: Number two is tabled or we are not in control. Tabled?

Bailey: I'm sorry, but we can't table it. It has to be yes or no.

County Counsel Christian Curtis: Madam chair, if I may.

Moschetti: Yes please.

Curtis: I would suggest that we just clarify between what would be no action and possibly no recommendation by the commission versus a recommendation for or against that particular option. I understood Commissioner Allman’s last motion was a recommendation against the sprinklers. Or against approving the contract with the inclusion of the sprinklers. If the commission wanted to take no action then the board would essentially have to decide in the absence of a recommendation from the commission whether or not to take up the particular alternative and so, there's been some talk about no action meaning it doesn't happen. I just want to clarify that this is a recommendation to the decision-making body. They are going to have to figure out whether or not -- whether they are receiving no information in terms of a recommendation or whether they are receiving a recommendation against the particular option.

Moschetti: Gotcha. Mr. Allman, I'm sure you understand all that.

Allman: Well, I do. So I'm -- as far as lighting goes, I make a motion that we do not approve, but we do not recommend, make a recommendation to approve the lighting as submitted.

Moschetti: Got it. Do I have a second on that?

Myrtle: I second that.

Moschetti: All those in favor? I'm going to assume that if there are no big nays that we got everybody.

Liberty: I say no. I vote no.

Riley: Also, I specifically requested at the beginning of the meeting that we have the names of the each of the people voting please.

Moschetti: I'm going to let county staff -- this is unfair. Completely unfair! And I'm going to put it down in writing -- unfair! But yes, Shannon, I agree.

[Somebody laughed.] What?!

Moschetti: No, it's unfair because I'm not doing it. And I'm in charge of this and I'm not thinking very straight.

Allman: Okay.

Moschetti: Okay. That's where we are. I would like to get community comments and then we will go on. Thank you for going over and hopefully in the next few months we will get everything done and if we open up we will do Fort Bragg and Willits like we planned. But who knows? Thank you everyone --

Myrtle: Are we voting? Are we not voting?

Moschetti: I’ve been meaning to call the roll. And—

Bailey: Donna [Moschetti], I'm so sorry, but there's just three. Two different lightings. Addles [sic] . You have to wait for— 

Moschetti: Sorry. My bad.

[Laughter in the room.]

Moschetti: So what's the motion on the floor?

Bailey: The issue is to — not to recommend the option B for LED lighting, so option C is the one that we have outstanding and option C., the not to retrofit the full replacement at $19,154.

Curtis: Madam Chair, could we ask for clarification from the maker of the motion?

[crosstalk, muddled reception]

Allman: The maker of the motion says this: this conversation has gone on way too long. I am withdrawing my motion. That simple. Because we make motions, they're clear, and every time clear motions are made someone wants to clarify the motion so the maker of the motion has withdrawn his motion.

Moschetti: Thank you Commissioner Allman. That makes it very easy for us to do this. So we will move on to item 4a committee member reports. If anybody wants to --

Allman: To be quite honest, Chair, you should ask if anybody else has an alternative motion.

Moschetti: And to be honest, I should. I'm going to be honest with you. I am very sorry. Very sorry. I'm being very bad and you are absolutely correct. Does anybody have any problem with Chair [sic, Moschetti is the chair] Alllman’s motion? I understood we went through the motions and if there's no alternative motion then we'll go on.

Allman: If anybody else wants to make a motion this is the time to do it if I understand correctly.

Moschetti: Yes you are absolutely correct.

Myrtle: I would like to make a motion that we approve alternate C as we are remodeling this building and it's a one-time expense and we need new light fixtures for our new behavioral health training center in order, so I would like to approve alternate C for the $19,154.

Moschetti: So your motion on the floor, Commissioner Myrtle, if I'm not incorrect is for lighting only, not -- not for fire suppression.

Myrtle: Alternate C only.

Allman: Allman will second Myrtle's motion.

Moschetti: Do I have any committee comment? Or sorry, community comment? Do I have any public comment? Hearing none, give me a roll vote please. 

[All committee members but Liberty vote yes.]

Moschetti: Okay. Now. Unless I have messed anything else up we will go to 4a. committee reports and can we please --

Riley: I know there were some no votes. Can we please get what the count was please.

Liberty: I was the no vote.

Moschetti: Sometimes I've been by myself. You know how it is, Tom.

[Laughter.]

Bailey: I have the counts if I may. This is Alyson. We have six for and two against. And that was for the Addall [sic] C.

Allman: Wait. I'm sorry. Who was the other against? I only heard one.

Moschetti: I only heard one, that was Rossie [Moschetti’s cute nickname for Committee member Ross Liberty, famed Ukiah industrialist]. 

Riley: I don't think she counted Dr. Miller who was absent.

Moschetti: Okay. So Dr. Miller abstained, she doesn't — she wasn't here.

Liberty: She would have voted with me.

Bailey: I will re-watch the video when I do my minutes.

Moschetti: Alright guys. I would like to hear from each of you just as to what you are going to do -- I don't care about Measure B! I want to know what's happening in 2021! Come on guys! This is our report time! Let's go! Call on them, Lily! [The newly hired Measure B administrative assistant.]

Riley: Nothing to report.

Committee member (a new woman from behavioral health), a Ms. Rich: On the mental-health services front, the providers shortage is acute in that it does impact facilities down the line. So that's important to keep in mind.

Lloyd Weir: Nothing to report.

Liberty: Nothing.

Myrtle: Nothing to report. I don't want to keep you any longer.

[Laughter]

Jared Diamond: My report is that we work really hard together as a committee and a community under some difficult circumstances. So I just want to appreciate everybody and specifically our Chair today who has had to chair a meeting under really hard circumstances so I just want to appreciate this group that works hard and it's difficult sometimes. That's all.

Ace Barash: Nothing to report.

Allman: Nothing to report.

Moschetti: Wonderful! I appreciate everyone! Everyone!

* * *

THE ANCHOR BEER LABEL ARTIST

One artist drew Anchor's beer labels for 45 years. Here's what the 93-year-old thinks of the controversial redesign

by Esther Mobley

The reactions to the redesigned Anchor beer labels, unveiled on Monday, have been passionate. On Twitter, fans of the San Francisco brewery expressed their displeasure, comparing Anchor Steam’s new blue-and-yellow palette to the coloring of Ikea, Twisted Tea, Long John Silver’s and “a detergent box.” (According to my colleague Peter Hartlaub, however, it’s still not the most unpopular S.F. logo change; that belongs to the 49ers in 1991.)

But as much as I was interested in the reactions of local beer drinkers, there was one person whose opinion I felt I really needed to seek out. That’s Jim Stitt, the 93-year-old illustrator who hand-drew all of Anchor Brewing’s labels for 45 years before retiring in 2019.

Stitt, who lives in San Rafael, had been aware that a redesign was in the works, but hadn’t seen the final product until this week. When I asked for his reaction, he was very diplomatic. “Of course I can’t be critical of them,” he said. “I expected them to make some major modifications, and they did. I think it’s OK. It’s not bad, it’s just different.”

What struck Stitt was that the labels seem designed to stand out in a store. “I saw a very strong shelf impact,” he said. “I think what they’ve done is probably correct for the current audience.” Anchor, which has been owned by Japanese beer company Sapporo since 2017, tapped San Francisco design firm R/GA to work on the rebrand, with help from the firm Swig and artists Steve Noble and Nathan Yoder.

Jim Stitt (photo by Mike Kepka / The Chronicle 2009)

By the time Anchor’s then-owner Fritz Maytag tapped him to illustrate the Anchor Porter label, in 1974, Stitt had already led a remarkable life. The Seattle native had served in the Navy in World War II (“bootcamp was a living hell for a skinny little 17-year-old”) and in the Marines during the Korean War. He’d worked as a technical illustrator for Boeing, then spent three decades with an advertising agency in Los Angeles before moving up to San Francisco and going freelance.

In addition to Anchor’s beers, Stitt drew the labels for many of the Anchor Distilling products, including Old Potrero whiskey and Junipero gin. He was also a prolific designer of wine labels, working for wineries including Kendall-Jackson, Rodney Strong and Franzia, whose bag-in-box packaging he did in the 1980s.

He recalled his first encounter with Maytag, who came to Stitt’s office on Stockton Street in order to vet him as a prospective label artist. “I laid my book on the floor and Fritz looked at it and said, ‘mm-hmm,’” Stitt said, “and then I didn’t hear from him for another four months.”

Yet that meeting would go on to determine the aesthetic that defined Anchor Brewing for its next four decades. The labels that Stitt designed — beginning with the porter, then Liberty Ale and Old Foghorn in 1975 — have a homespun, old-fashioned feeling to them. Many feature an anchor at the center of the oval-shaped label, often garnished by some combination of hops and barley. Although a version of the steam beer’s label was already in place when Stitt came on board, he modified it in small ways over the years. (In 2019, I compiled a timeline of all the beers Anchor had ever made along with their labels, which provides a nice view into Stitt’s style.)

Most of the articles written about Stitt revolve around his work on Anchor’s Christmas Ale, introduced in 1975. Just as the beer’s recipe changes every year, the label changes too, featuring a different California tree each time. The process would usually begin with Maytag choosing a tree, discussing it with Stitt and longtime Anchor historian Dave Burkhart (often on the Sausalito yacht where Stitt lived for 35 years), and then sending Stitt out to Muir Woods, or Golden Gate Park, or Maytag’s Napa Valley ranch — wherever he could find a living subject. He said Maytag always gave him total creative liberty.

“I grew up in the age of illustration,” Stitt said. “I was pre-computer. Of course, I didn’t have a computer. Everything was hand-drawn.” That included the labels’ borders and lettering, which Stitt always did by hand. When speaking about Stitt, Maytag liked to use the catchphrase “handmade beers require handmade labels.”

Stitt’s favorite Anchor label remains his first, Anchor Porter. He likes the blue shadowing on the word “Anchor” and the way “Porter” is amplified at the bottom. He still hasn’t seen the newly redesigned Porter label.

On Tuesday, Stitt went to the store to try to see the new bottles and cans up close. His local liquor shop hadn’t yet switched over. He bought two six-packs, still with their original labels: one of Anchor Steam and one of Anchor Porter.

* * *

CATCH OF THE DAY, January 28, 2021

Attanasio, Ayers, Barth, Cook

MYQ ATTANASIO, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

KYLE AYERS, Willits. Probation revocation.

KARL BARTH, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.

THOMAS COOK, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

Gilchrist, Laplaunt, McCoy

TAMMY GILCHRIST, Willits. Failure to appear, probation revocation.

CAROLYN LAPLAUNT, Laytonville. Domestic battery.

JODY MCCOY, Covelo. Failure to appear, probation revocation.

Sanudo, Simpson, Vinson, Williams

JORGE SANUDO-ZAVALA, Ukiah. Possession of narcotic/controlled substance for sale, failure to appear, probation revocation.

DAVID SIMPSON JR., Yuba City/Ukiah. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, failure to appear.

WINDY VINSON, Redwood Valley. DUI, suspended license (for reckless driving), probation revocation.

WILLIAM WILLIAMS JR., Willits. County Parole violation.

* * *

ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY

Saw a photo of several Indian farmers sitting/standing in a paddie harvesting rice. Nothing unusual for third world, from Vietnam to China. Anyone here ever sit in muddy water collecting food? Walk a mile with a gallon or so of water in a rusty bucket on your head? To think even 30 million have the physical stamina to last ONE week, without Tylenol, hot baths, cheeseburger cheeseburger, is laughable. Has anyone here exercised 4/5 days weekly for years? Walk 10,000 steps outside in all weather? Yet some of you think 30 million will survive a societal breakdown necessitating a degree of physicality most gym rats do not evidence. I personally do not see near future events slingshotting our obese, weak (physical from mental), unfocused society into a situation that will cull this diseased herd, but nothing is impossible.

For anyone who wishes to physically improve: Above all else – how much, what equipment, how hard – identify a daily exercise timeframe and make it sacred.

* * *

I USED TO TAKE THREE PUNCHES TO LAND ONE, because I didn't know how to do it any other way. These are things you have to learn through experience. After a while, you find yourself making the right moves to slip punches or to feint a man off balance; you find yourself recognizing the other man's feints and countering certain punches very effectively.

It's a hard thing to explain because what you learn is in your muscles and your reflexes as much, and maybe more than, your mind. Anybody who doesn't mind getting hit is crazy. It's part of the business, though. A professional fighter accepts it and thinks about it as little beforehand as possible. He just tries to get away from as many punches as he can.'

— Carmen Basilio

* * *

* * *

EDUCATION BANISHES THE DISTINCTIONS, old as time, of rich and poor, master and slave. It banishes ignorance and lays axe to the root of crime. — William Seward

* * *

* * *

TRUMP MAY BE OUT OF OFFICE, but Republicans are still angry and ready to do his bidding

"The Republican leadership has jettisoned its commitment to democracy and the rule of law. For them, the will of the people is no longer the same thing as the will of their people, and it is the latter that counts. Populism should not be equated with fidelity to vox populi. Rather, authoritarianism has found a political home in the US."

theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jan/28/trump-may-be-out-of-office-but-republicans-are-still-angry-and-ready-to-do-his-bidding

9 Comments

  1. Marmon January 29, 2021

    “Deplatformed. Silenced. Threatened. Defamed. Rules changed in the middle of the game — all in order to preserve the global elite.

    Dear Robinhood investors/WSB: we know how it feels.”

    -Trump supporters

  2. Harvey Reading January 29, 2021

    Solar Scam

    These wind (and solar) “farms” are the biggest scam foisted on the public since the refusal to disarm nuclear weaponry after the Soviet Union (finally) fell apart during the late 80s and early 90s. The “farms” are simply a way of ensuring that public utilities remain in private hands, for private wealth generation, and the effects they have on the landscape and wildlife be damned.

    If this country was serious about solar (which includes wind) energy, it would have begun–long ago–a massive, publicly funded program requiring installation of solar panels on every existing and new structure built in the country. There was talk about converting war-materiel plants (“defense” plants) to production of solar panels, also at the time the Soviet Union fell apart. But, of course, it did not happen. In fact, there was no “peace dividend” at all. The robber barons of “investor owned” utilities, along with “defense” contractors, saw to that.

    It’s not too late to implement such a program, if only we have the will to demand it from our currently wealth-serving “representatives” in the congress, state legislatures, and in state and federal executive branches. A good, healthy, income and wealth tax on robber barons and their wealthy lackeys would get the ball rolling. Such a program would provide Americans with high-paying, permanent jobs in manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and eventual replacement of solar panels.

    The only question is this: do we have the will to demand that it happen? Or, do we prefer to continue our long sleep-walk that began in the early 1970s? A sleep-walk, fueled by lying propaganda that we allowed to be imposed upon us as our real wages and benefits declined dramatically; while “our” country waged wars based entirely on lies around the planet, using as cannon fodder our children, forced into military service by an economic draft; as new robber barons arose, with wealth, and greed, shaming those of their 19th Century predecessors.

  3. Harvey Reading January 29, 2021

    I hear and read that the howls amongst us commoners–the chorus led by our “kindly”, if a bit stupid, rulers–for “unity” and its bastard cousin, “bipartisanship”, are on the rise. Whenever I hear such terms, I think of the Third Reich, groupthink, or, “…no dissenting opinions allowed.”

  4. Marmon January 29, 2021

    RE: KEMPER’S PROJECTED BUILD COST FOR A PHF.

    “Not including the cost of the land, the estimate for the cost of construction a new PHF facility is between $5 and $6 million. This estimated cost range is based upon interviews with representatives of Heritage Oaks Hospital and Telecare, two PHF providers in the State of California and in the Northern California region. We also contacted Butte County, which owns and operates its own PHF, but county officials were unable to provide build costs because the county’s building is over 20 years old.

    The cost of remodeling a county-owned or other building is estimated at a minimum of $300 per square foot. This estimate is based upon an interview with Restpadd, which operates PHFs in Shasta County and Tehama County. It is important to note that this cost estimate of $300 per square foot is subject to volatility because it is strongly influenced by the specific conditions of a potential site, the site’s compliance with current building codes and its readiness for construction, including environmental conditions. In our research, we found current PHFs range in size from 7,500 and 14,000 square feet. With a square foot cost of $300, we project a cost range of $2.25 million to $4.2 million for a remodeled building.

    We note that this cost projection for remodeling is considerably less than that provided by Heller & Sons Inc., contained in its proposal to the Howard R. Hospital Foundation to remodel the old Howard Hospital building for a psychiatric health facility on that property. That proposal contained a cost range of between $11.2 million and $14.9 million. To test the relative competitiveness of these various cost estimates, a formal PHF Request for Proposals process would need to be undertaken by Mendocino County. Taking all of the available information into consideration, for the purposes of developing a new PHF facility construction cost estimate, we have set a cost of $7.5 million as reasonable. This assumes a base cost of $6 million (top-end of $5 to $6 million range identified by PHF builder-operators) plus 25% for contingency.”

    https://www.mendocinocounty.org/home/showpublisheddocument?id=23372

    Marmon

  5. Craig Stehr January 29, 2021

    It is 5:00AM in Redwood Valley…the sound of the generator outside the window…no power on yet…no water…lit incense and am chanting Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare continuously…the pig, two roosters, one duck, one Mexican street dog and Chomsky the german shepherd Magic Ranch dog are asleep…I can light the burners on the stove with a match…coffee available anytime…this is great, right?

  6. Marmon January 29, 2021

    RE: MEASURE B

    “In our research, we found current PHFs range in size from 7,500 and 14,000 square feet.”

    -Lee Kemper

    The “Ole Howard” building is slightly over 70,000 square feet. My question is, what will the County do with the rest of the building?

    Marmon

    • Marmon January 29, 2021

      correction the building is only 35,000 square feet. The lot size is 138,000 square feet.

      Marmon

  7. Lee Edmundson January 29, 2021

    Seems from reporting the Measure B committee isn’t worth a cup of cold spit. I wholeheartedly agree it should be disbanded and replaced by the BoS, who may empanel an advisory committee. But BoS has to take charge. Which idiot doesn’t want the old Howard Hospital for a working facility? Please advise.

    Really enjoyed the owl story. Hooray for happy outcomes. Humanity, compassion, what conditions, what concepts!

    I once had a barn owl bounce off my windshield on my way home from a show late at night. It stood on the road in my headlights for a bit, stunned (duh). When I got out of my truck to see if it was all right, it scurried off into the pygmy brush. I pulled over and parked. Put on my emergency flashers, got my flashlight, and spent the next 20 or so minutes searching for the fowl. Found it, it was still a bit stunned and dragged a wing. Cradled it in my jacket back to the truck and home, Boxed it, gave it water (oops?) and resolved if it was alive in the morning I would do something further about it. It was alive next morning so I called Ronnie James who told me of a veterinary clinic in Ukiah that treated wild animals. I phoned, them up, explained the situation and they told me to come on over with the bird. Which I did.
    When waiting my turn with owl, there was a younger fellow with his dog, all wrapped up in bandages. He explained the fella was leashed in the back of his truck and had fallen out of the bed. Dragged him for about a block or so before he noticed the howls and pulled over. I first thought ‘stupid’. then recalled a line from Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince. “When you tame something, you are responsible for it.”

    Clinicians diagnosed a broken wing. Said they call if they fixed it. They did, and brer owl was released back into the wild.

    Happy Endings. There’s nothing like ’em.

    • Lazarus January 29, 2021

      Before you go running your mouth and calling people names, you should get educated on the ole Howard situation. There is much more than this latest report.
      As always,
      Laz

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