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Off The Record

CALTRANS has been ordered by a federal judge to correct its carelessly drafted environmental analysis that would widen and realign Highway 101 through the ancient redwoods of Richardson Grove State Park in Humboldt County. Southern Humboldt environmental groups went to court in 2010 to stop the project, which is designed to make it easier for big rigs to get through the grove a few minutes faster. Naturally, Caltrans thought the destruction of ancient redwoods to accommodate WalMart was a terrific idea.

JIM MARTIN WRITES: “Saw your item on DFG wardens and questions about a quota system on handing out tickets. To my knowledge there is no such deal; in fact, there are plenty of opportunities during the abalone season for handing out tickets. Easy pickin's, in other words. One thing I do know (as President of the Mendocino County Fish & Game Commission) is that fine moneys in the court system for Fish & Game violations are significantly reduced from what we've gotten in years past. These are the fines that fund our county's Fish & Game grant program for restoration projects, etc. I'm hearing that the courts' fine revenues in general (traffic, etc) are down across the board. Not sure whether people are behaving better, or the economy has people staying home or what. Bottom line: fewer tickets are being handed out for Fish & Game violations in Mendocino County, not more. PS. Everyone's looking forward to the recreational salmon opener on Saturday, April 7. I can't remember a year when the state biologists have predicted such strong returns on both the Klamath and Sacramento rivers. Usually these two runs will converge off our coast starting in June. There will be a lot of four-year old fish in the ocean - big ones. I can't wait!”

RARELY do we celebrate County appointments, but we're pleased to see Karen Wandrei appointed to the second-in-command position at the Welfare Department. We very much admired Ms. Wandrei for her firm stance against dope in her old position as boss at the Youth Project. We remember one event where she alone in a room stuffed with the usual wafflers and closet stoners was clear that marijuana use among the young should be steadfastly discouraged. Around here, that kind of clarity is Profiles In Courage material.

PLEASE. There are no paupers sitting on the Council. They can buy their own gadgets, and stay in touch with the Home Front by telephone while they’re conferencing at Asilomar or biking downtown to Patrona for a decaf latte in the grim after hours emptiness of downtown Ukiah. The alleged benefits are purely alleged, and don’t justify the expense even if the benefits penciled out, which they don’t appear to.

THE GOLDILOCKS REPORT: A caller says, “I saw her last week in Mendocino. She was with some scumbag but didn't look as drunk as she usually looks.” Later in the week Goldie, aka 'Pixie,' was cited for drunk in public.

PERK CREEP. As expected, the Ukiah City Council will reimburse its five members $600 each for “electronic agenda equipment.” If the hardhitting quintet possesses tax-funded gizmos, you see, the City will save money on paper and communication prep time. (And will leave no paper trail, of course, making it harder, if not impossible, to trace bad decision making.) Another theoretical benefit of the $3,000 outlay supposedly enhances the Council’s ability to stay in touch with headquarters.

THE COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD has postponed discussion of a second raise for Superintendent Paul Tichinin this year. One trustee was absent so the other four put the matter over until the May meeting of the board.

THE VETERAN. He just turned 21, and he's just back from a year in Iraq with his combat medal and all the good conduct badges. I've known him for his forever, all the way back to his grandparents. A tall, good-looking, intelligent guy with a facility for languages — the Army wanted to send him to their language school at Monterey — he could be a recruiting poster. The Army wants to keep him but he's getting out. He's a relative, and we were all very worried about him his entire four years in the Army, which he joined when he was still in high school. While he was “in theater,” as they say, he didn't tell us what he was doing, but now that he's back and talking, well, these kids they send over there for repeated tours are being terminally sinned against, a fact most Americans now seem to understand. A year of it is more than enough. He said that “it got up to 138 degrees in all his gear in his armored vehicle one day, so hot a medic had to rehydrate him with a neck IV because it was too dangerous to stop. “They catch you in the right place and they just rain down fire on you.” Although this kid doesn't exhibit any of the trauma signs from his multiple life-threatening adventures, from his stories he has grounds. He was posted to an area not considered particularly dangerous, but his year-long tour was a constant barrage of random mortar rounds, attacks by dissidents with new armor-piercing Russian-made rockets, daily sprints through serially arrayed improvised explosive devices or IEDs. It was a heavy combat zone through which he drove this monster armored vehicle that he said pulled down crudely strung power lines along with the walls of the homes they served. “Hearts and minds,” he said with a rueful laugh, adding, “They have plenty of reasons to hate us.” The most bizarre story he told was about the ex-soldiers from Sierra Leone the Army had contracted to man watchtowers. “These guys were so undisciplined, so inclined to fire at anything, that they couldn't be trusted to be up in the towers alone. We always had to be with them. They were paid about $300 a month, and the whole program was a wash because we still had to do the towers.” The kid didn't re-up, and we're very happy he didn't.

HOW BAD is the economy? A reader writes: “The workers at the Willits Senior Center Thrift Store have been trained to spot shoplifters, and the try-on booth has been closed due to 'layering.'"

DIRT GATE. We're informed that the Ukiah Fair Board was told back in October that there was something wrong with the contaminated soil hauled from an MTA construction site on deep South State Street to the racetrack at the Fairgrounds on deep North State Street. MTA boss Bruce Richard has been unavailable for comment while one of his directors, the ineffable Jim Mastin, is doing the talking for MTA. The Fair people say they didn't know the dirt was being hauled to the track on their premises, which they rent to a private contractor.

THE ODDLY ORGANIZED, heavily subsidized transit authority is on the hook for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in clean-up costs as the soil is shipped from the Fairgrounds to distant landfills at Novato and Vacaville. Janice Goebel of the Regional Water Quality Control Board's project is adamant that MTA is the responsible party, while MTA is now claiming the dirt deal was made between one of the sub-contractors, identified as Northwest General Engineering of Santa Rosa, and the race track's manager Blair Aiken. The sub-contractor was working on MTA's construction of its $5 million maintenance facility and administrative offices. The Santa Rosa sub-contractor is shaping up nicely as Richard's and Mastin's fall guy. 300 dump truck loads are in the process of hauling the dirt south.

THE ONLY POSSIBLE hope for restoration of the County seat to something approaching attractive viability is the proposed new County Courthouse, supported publicly only by its sole beneficiaries, our eight Superior Court judges. It should go without saying that the thing will be a monstrous eyesore. How do you know that Mr. Negative? I know because we have 70 years precedent in the transformation of the national landscape to slurburbia and strip malls, and locally we have it in the now abandoned Willits Courthouse. The Willits Courthouse revealed for all time the local judicial aesthetic. The proposed County Courthouse for Ukiah will be the Willits Courthouse. Squared.

SOME OF US will recall that the Willits Courthouse was also sold to us by the royal family of the Superior Court as absolutely hurry-up necessary, only to be abandoned 20 years after it was erected. It remains, however, a crumbling, Stalingrad-like concrete excrescence in the center of Willits, dooming any attempt by that hopelessly blighted town to regain even a semblance of its old charm.

THE PROPOSED County Courthouse is not of concern only to Ukiah. It will belong to all of us, in theory anyway, and all of us will visit it at some time or other, many of us in custody if we make under 40k a year. It will be Mendocino County’s cornerstone structure, emblematic of our civic pride, and will also anchor Ukiah until doomsday, which is probably sooner than we think if contemporary architectural standards are any harbinger. (Here are a couple of examples of the kinds of monstrosities Ukiah might expect: The Amador County Courthouse, built in 2007, the Butte County Courthouse, built in 1996.)

EVER ASK YOURSELF why some of the most beautiful buildings in the world were designed and constructed before Christ? That ancient Mesopotamia was a visual banquet of inspirational public buildings? That America, before World War Two, was honeycombed with attractive, coherent communities coast-to-coast? What happened?

SO HERE COME the Magnificent 8 of the Superior Court with plans, design as yet unrevealed, for a huge new County Courthouse. It will be inconveniently — fatally for what’s left of central Ukiah — located on West Perkins where it will join the Adventist Hospital’s piles of cancer-causing structures already in place on the north side of the street, the whole show dooming Ukiah and Mendocino County to a kind of welcoming LA-like squalor, reducing Ukiah to a single attractive large-scale structure, the abandoned Palace Hotel, which is only attractive because it's composed of red brick and ivy.

FISH AND GAME has issued a weasel-lipped amendment of its earlier, and much more forceful warning to the Wine Mob, that fish need water to survive, that the wine gentry can’t suck the upper Russian River dry to frost protect their grapes. “The department wishes to acknowledge it inadvertently omitted from its March letter that enforcement of the (Water Demand Management Plans) by the (State Water Resources Control Board) is currently under court stay. We apologize for that omission.”

WHY? Probably because the wine gentry wouldn’t stop crying until Fish and Game was forced to point out that Judge Anne Moorman of the Mendocino County Superior Court, also succumbing to orchestrated sniveling by the wine people, had stayed enforcement pending a hearing.

A HEARING on what? That bringing some order to the draw on the Russian is unreasonable? That it’s somehow burdensome on this wealthy minority of heavily subsidized vineyard owners, who, under the proposed water management plans they’re allowed to draw up their own conservation schemes?

ALTHOUGH DARRYL CHERNEY won more than $2 million in a bogus lawsuit against the FBI and the Oakland Police, he and the co-producer Mary Liz Thompson of his self-celebratory bio-epic still want the public to pay $25k for their film promotional costs. tells us: “Who Bombed Judi Bari? needs to raise $25,000 for travel to festival fees and travel, publicity costs, poster printing, legal fees and post-production costs which will enable us to meet theatrical standards for screening.”

ANGELA PINCHES seems to be getting bad advice from her attorney, Don Lipmanson, himself a thrice-convicted marijuana entrepreneur prior to his re-make as a lawyer. Givens the givens of her case, she probably ought to plead out, but Lipmanson, who doesn't work for free, is taking Ms. Pinches' non-case to a jury.

JUDGE BEHNKE bound Ms. Pinches over for trial last Thursday on possession, cultivation and “maintaining a place for cultivation” stemming from a Task Force raid on her Redwood Valley home last September, and a prior incriminating visit from the Sheriff’s Department earlier in the summer.

MS. PINCHES is the daughter of Supervisor John Pinches, a fact that may account for law enforcement’s ongoing interest in her. Talk to a cop off the record and you’ll hear them say that they’ve long assumed Pinches himself produces large quantities of marijuana at his remote ranch in the Eel River Canyon. Which also begs the question: If you know he's doing it how come you can't catch him? The assumption that dad is in the pot business has never been verified by police, but his daughter has been cited before this latest go-round for marijuana-related offenses. As a Supervisor, Pinches has been an outspoken advocate of legalization, which also probably rubs the cops wrong.

DEPUTY GUPTA and former Task Force honcho Robert Nishiyama testified Thursday that Ms. Pinches told them all kinds of incriminating stuff. She said she’d combined her plants in tied bunches so they wouldn’t look as numerous from the air. “I assume,” she candidly informed the police, “if a plane flew over and saw my plants it would look like only 20 plants and I would be in like Flynn.” Nishiyama testified that if Ms. Pinches were truly growing medical marijuana as she claimed there’d be no need for aerial subterfuge.

THE MENDOCINO Major Crimes Task Force, at the time led by Nishiyama, had returned to Pinches' property two weeks after the initial raid by Sheriff’s deputies and seized another 132 plants from an indoor grow. There was too much dope for the combined personal use and medical production claimed by Ms. Pinches. The cops also confiscated notes that they said indicated Ms. Pinches was calculating sales at a projected price of $3200 a pound, which is about what growers hope to get from distant buyers.

LIPMANSON didn’t argue any of the facts at Ms. Pinches’ prelim. He told Tiffany Revelle of the Ukiah Daily Journal he will make “a medical marijuana defense,” but the prelim “wasn't the appropriate place” to do it.

THE COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD has already raised Superintendent Paul Tichinin’s pay once this year, and now they’re poised to raise it again, although our sources say the board vote will be 3-2 against. Tichinin says the 2.5% increase he got in March isn’t enough, doesn’t keep him up with other County superintendents of schools. He's right. It doesn't keep him up with the other superintendents. He's a lot dumber.

TICHININ certainly distinguished himself from his fellow educators three years ago in a public letter describing the word “niggardly” as a racist term. And local parents’ faith in the County’s educational leadership wasn’t reinforced when the County’s superintendents of schools signed on to Tichinin’s failed adventure in linguistics. You might say the guy is emblematic of Mendocino County’s educational effort. Tichinin worked his way to his present eminence by silently watching old colleagues marched off to prison for crimes great and small, biding his time in a County where few people even know what the multi-million dollar agency does. By keeping his mouth shut and the idiot grin on his simple puss that passes for sincerity in Mendocino County, Tichinin's colleagues fell one by one, and Tichinin eventually got himself the big corner office, the three hour free lunch, junkets to Vegas edu-conferences (“It's for the kids. I have to go!”), a telephone that never rings, a big screen computer to play video games on all day, and Vicky Todd fixing the books just like she has all these years.

HIS MARCH RAISE put Tichinin at $123,142 for the 2011-12 school year, up $3,003 from last year. If he gets the second raise he’s whining for, he’ll make $143,632 for the 2013-14 school years.

KC MEADOWS WRITES: “When is [County Superintendent of Schools Paul] Tichinin, and more importantly the [County] board of trustees, going to realize that he is not worth half the salary they are already paying him. Much of what MCOE does is unnecessary and what is required could be carried out by two or three mid-level managers. This nonsense about having to raise salaries to compare with other counties doesn't hold up when you have a lifetime superintendent who is going nowhere until he retires on his hefty tax paid pension (not that any other county would have him). Shut this move down now is my advice.”

GARRETT MATSON, Fort Bragg, of the Matson Construction family, has been arrested again, this time for a violation of his probation. Last month, Matson managed to drive off Highway 20, trapping the woman with him in the wreckage. That matter is pending. Matson remains the sole suspect in the death of his former girlfriend, Katlyn Long.

MISS LONG, succumbing to a request from her ex-boyfriend Matson for a final visit, was found dead in her Fort Bragg home on May 29th of 2009, from an overdose of methadone, a drug she did not use. Matson had spent the night with her. He has not been arrested or even questioned about Miss Long’s death, having arranged through his attorney, Richard Petersen, to speak only through Petersen or in his company. Matson was 31 at the time of Miss Long’s death, she was 22. He has been in constant trouble since.

SALES of the nation’s most popular prescription painkillers have exploded in parts of the US, including California. DEA figures show dramatic rises between 2000 and 2010 in distribution of oxycodone, the key ingredient in OxyContin, Percocet and Percodan. In the Riverside area of the state, police say methamphetamine users much prefer oxycodone-based drugs if they can get them. Mendo junkies may not be switching, but the oxycodone-based drugs are much in demand here, too.

OUR RESIDENT drug expert, Jeff Costello, explains: “Oxycodone (and other synthetic narcotic analogues) is not a downer to an experienced drug addict. ‘Downer’ is a term misapplied to everything that isn't crank or cocaine. Narcotics, painkillers, do not belong in the category. Sleeping pills, valium and its cousins, tranquilizers, barbiturates, thorazine etc., are downers. Thorazine and Mellaril are supposed to be heavy-duty anti-psychotics, sometimes given to acid freakout cases. They also pretty much paralyze the body. Oxycodone can have a stimulating effect without the over-the-top nuttiness that comes with speed. It has the added value of killing pain, and according to a recent article in one of the major media outlets, ‘releases a sense of well-being.’ Pretty hard to argue with, but for that pesky narcotic-addiction thing with its nightmarish withdrawal experience. The Brits have done the right thing — if they still do it — by just letting junkies have prescriptions, which eliminates the ‘crime’ factor altogether, both illegal sales and robberies to get money to score. Not here in the USA, where we thrive on moral judgment and punishment. Across the board national drug legalization would cause a wholesale reduction in crime and prison population but what fun would that be for the cops, lawyers, judges, etc. Not to mention the rest of the ‘war on drugs’ apparatus and politicians using fear of crime to get votes?”

THE APRIL 10TH Supervisors Agenda packet includes this intriguing item: Ukiah attorney Pano Stephens has filed a claim against Mendocino County for unspecified damages described as “assault, battery, sexual molestation and exploitation, the nature and extent of which are presently undetermined due to the young age of the minor,” caused by an unidentified County social worker “who negligently placed the minor with a known sexual molester in a [foster] home” in Willits.

THE FIRST SHOWDOWN on the Harris Quarry occurred. Monday, April 9th. The Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve the Quarry's environmental impact report and rezone, a precedent if not modified would permit asphalt plants in any area of the County where aggregate is mined from rock. The EIR had been unanimously approved by the County Planning Commission. There is substantial opposition from neighbors, however, who are reinforced by ‘Seabiscuit’ author Laura Hillenbrand. The famous racehorse spent his retirement years just down the hill from the quarry.

“TO THE BOARD of Supervisors: I am an historian and author of the book, “Seabiscuit: An American Legend,” which was the basis of the 2003 seven-time Oscar-nominated film “Seabiscuit,” much of which was set in the beautiful rangeland around Willits. I am distressed to hear of the proposed expansion of the Harris Quarry and the construction of an asphalt plant on that site. Aside from my concerns about the new construction's impact on the environment and on public safety, I am distressed to think of this historic and pristine rangeland being forever marred by a pollution-belching eyesore. Ridgewood Ranch, from which the plant will be highly visible, is a major tourist attraction for the region, as thousands of fans of Seabiscuit journey there to see where so much of the horse's historic life took place, and where his body now lies. Please vote no on this project, and preserve this historic treasure. — Laura Hillenbrand, Washington, DC.”

NEIGHBORS complain that the project would not only triple the amount of aggregate produced at the quarry, the asphalt produced on-site would make the whole show so noisy and generally noxious that the rural peace of the area would be disturbed on a much larger scale than it is disturbed now.

THERE IS ALSO concern about the traffic hazard on 101 presented by slow moving trucks entering and exiting the quarry from busy Highway 101.

ASSUMING the Supes approve the EIR and rezone, the next question will be the permit itself, which will be Showdown Two. It will probably be crafted to at least partially mitigate the many objections raised by the expansion of the quarry's operations.

EXACTLY how large the upcoming Willits Bypass looms in the quarry operator's plans is unclear, although many speculate the obvious — that the owners hope to sell a lot of their product to Caltrans for the Bypass, a huge project just over the hill, which is just now lumbering into site-prep mode.

NORTHERN AGGREGATES, the quarry's legal name, presently extracts up to 75,000 cubic yards a year from the mountainside on the west side of 101 at the crest of the Willits Grade. Northern wants to increase that volume to 200,000 cubic yards. The company, owned by Randy Luccheti and Frank Dutra of Willits, have also requested permission to install an asphalt plant, which would require rezoning about 18 acres of their land from rangeland to industrial, and open the door to similar operations in other areas of the County.

THIS JUST IN: AFTER THREE HOURS of passionate argument Monday from a standing room crowd, the Mendocino County supervisors postponed a decision whether or not to amend a county zoning ordinance that would allow Northern Aggregates Inc. to increase mining and add an asphalt plant to its rock quarry on the Willits Grade.

RARE as they are here in Mendocino County, and on the off chance any of them dare read this fine publication, the County Republican Central Committee will meet Saturday, April 14, 2012, 10am-noon at the Henny Penny Restaurant, 697 S. Orchard Ave (corner of Gobbi), Ukiah. For further information contact: Stan Anderson, 707-321-2592.

STATE PARKS is belatedly considering the true costs involved in closing certain parks. As the State attempts to save $22 million in annual operating costs it's clearly going to cost Parks more than a few million in storing, for instance, the rare crystalline gold nuggets at the California Mining and Minerals Museum in Mariposa, painting masterworks showing early 20th century San Francisco street scenes and coastal landscapes at Shasta State Historical Park, and Jack London's home and writing memorabilia in Sonoma County. This stuff not only has to be catalogued and carefully preserved, it has to be done by museum-trained people who know how to do it.

RECOMMENDED READING: “Killing the Messenger.” A rather terrifying read but a well told one by Thomas Peele about how a racist Oakland cult, an offshoot of the Black Muslims, itself a racist cult, terrorized that reeling city for 30 years, passing itself off as a self-help operation called Your Black Muslim Bakery. It was a latter day descendent of the utterly corrupt founder of the group, Yusuf Bey, who murdered Chauncey Bailey, a black reporter whose investigations into the group could be stopped only by his murder. The cult lasted as long as it did because of the usual politically correct cowardice of East Bay politicians, including (of course) Jerry Brown and Ron Dellums. Although lots of people, including the cops and the DA, not to mention the politicos, knew the Beys were murderers, rapists, thieves, and welfare program chiselers, the alleged good they did was seen as somehow outweighing their long reign of inner-city terror.

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