Last Tuesday, The Supervisors were generally supportive of several spending requests for the $22.7 million PG&E settlement windfall. Predictably requests included more fire safety funding, improvements in emergency medical services, dispatch and local agencies, and improvements of the County’s Emergency Operations Center, including a permanent emergency management facility (instead of setting one up for each disaster). County Transpo Head Howard Deshiell had some road improvement proposals as well. More proposals are expected in the next to Board meetings, including some from the affected areas of the 2017 wildfires in Potter Valley and Redwood Valley which Supervisors Mulheren and McGourty are assembling. Presumably, given the positive response from the Board these first proposals will be fleshed out and brought forward for separate consideration in the weeks ahead.
CEO Angelo had her own idea for at least some of the money saying that although the County is in good financial shape at the moment, the Board should consider putting some of the $22.7 million into reserves.
It’s not clear at this point what it will all add up to. Roadwork in the affected burn zone could get costly. Each proposal was broken down into increments so that when the list takes shape the Board can trim some of the spending so that smaller and priority projects get funded first.
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Supervisor Maureen Mulheren maintains an official website (maureenmulheren.com) with a feature entitled “Weekly Updates,” although some weeks go by without an update. For March 30, Supervisor Mulheren reported someone asking her what she does besides go to meetings. “I read a lot of emails, research topics the Board is discussing, prepare for my meetings and most importantly talk to people, on the phone, distanced outside, whatever it takes to make sure I hear from the community about what they are interested in and how I can help.”
Unfortunately, Ms. Mulheren takes pains to avoid actually saying anything about any issues, choosing instead, like former Supervisor Carre Brown, to rattle off places she’s gone, meetings she’s attended and general subjects.
For example, on Friday, March 26, Supervisor Mulheren reported, “I had a long conversation with a vineyard owner that had questions about Phase 3 (cannabis) and what it could possibly mean for traditional agriculture in Mendocino County.”
Really? Indeed, what could it mean to the “vineyard owner” who claims to represent “traditional agriculture”? Your public wants to know, Supervisor. What DOES it mean to vineyard owners? Was the vineyard owner interested in switching to pot? Adding pot to the vineyard? Etc.
There’s not much point in posting info-free topics and meetings and activities unless there’s at least some actual content and take-away included.
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A Loaded Supes Agenda Monday
The Supervisors Agenda for next Monday’s Board meeting has several important issues for the Board to deal with.
Agenda Item 5a) “Discussion and Possible Action Including a Workshop on Water Supply Conditions in Mendocino County; and Approval of Implementation of a Drought Preparedness Campaign administered by the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District (Sponsors: Supervisor McGourty and Supervisor Mulheren). Recommended Action: Conduct workshop on water supply conditions in Mendocino County; and approve implementation of a Drought Preparedness Campaign administered by the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District.”
We’re in an obvious drought and what does Mendo do? Does Mendo consider a drought declaration? Of course not. They prefer the much softer approach: a workshop, and a “Drought Preparedness Campaign,” the details of which are yet to be determined, but they probably won’t include a drought declaration nor will any kind of mandatory conservation be brought up. (Nor will grapes, of course; pot water might be discussed though.)
Remember seven years ago, in 2014 when we were in less of a drought than we’re in in 2021, Mendo didn’t hesitate to declare a drought. At the January 2014 Supervisors meeting when the drought was declared no one, not even the vineyard controlled water districts in the Ukiah Valley, complained; in fact they supported it. The 2014 drought declaration meant that all the districts in the unincorporated areas of the County had to prepare their own conservation proposals and submit them to the County Water Agency. It’s not clear why in 2021 the same approach isn’t on the table.
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Agenda Item 5b) “Discussion and Possible Action Including Presentation by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Regarding Current and Future Impacts of Legal and Illegal Cannabis Cultivation in Mendocino County (Sponsors: Supervisor Haschak and Supervisor Williams)
In the accompanying charts the State Fish & Wildlife people declare:
“The proposed [Phase 3 cannabis] ordinance would permit cultivation on up to 10% of a given parcel over 10 acres in size in Rangeland (RL), Agricultural (AG), and Upland Residential (UR) zoning districts.
“The Mendocino County General Plan EIR states that both RL and AG zoning districts are commonly associated with oak woodlands, as well as other habitat types.
“Rangeland alone is estimated to make up approximately 735,000 acres of Mendocino County.
“Allowing development on 10% of large RL parcels poses a risk of significant cumulative habitat loss, based on this provision alone.”
The the F&W people also quote Mendo’s General Plan. (Apparently the State people are under the silly impression that Mendo’s General Plan is something more than an expensive, ignorable pile of paper the County had to pay a consultant to prepare but which has no discernible impact on County or Board decisions.) “Develop and implement a methodology to determine the supply and use of water in all the County’s watersheds.”
Oh right. Mendo has never moved a nanometer in the direction of “a methodology to determine the supply and use of water in all the County’s watersheds,” which would involve preparing a gaging ordinance (as they promised to do a few years ago but never took the necessary steps) and require all water districts and users to gage their pumps and wells so that conservation plans can be developed and then measured. Mendo will NEVER do anything like that, even in a severe drought.
The F&W people propose a “scaled down Phase 3” for cannabis, but do not specify what kinds of downscaling they’d prefer. The implication in their presentation is that there should at least be restrictions on the size of pot grows on rangeland, less than the controversial so called “10% rule” now being planned.
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Agenda Item 5c) “Discussion and Possible Action Including Acceptance of Presentation Regarding Crisis Intervention Trainings (CIT) Provided in Mendocino County and Direction to Staff Regarding Possible Future Participation in Crisis Intervention Team International. (Sponsor: Health and Human Services Agency). Recommended Action:
Accept presentation regarding Crisis Intervention Trainings (CIT) provided in Mendocino County and provide direction to staff regarding future participation in Crisis Intervention Team International.”
Will the HHSA people bring real numbers to the Board? Will the Board require such training to reduce legal liability for the next excessive force lawsuit?
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Agenda Item 5f) “Discussion and Possible Direction Regarding Phase 1 Cannabis Permit Applications Including: (1) Encouraging Denial of Non-Compliant Phase 1 Cannabis Cultivation Applications; (2) Approving Increased Scope of Work for Existing Outside Counsel Abbott & Kindermann to Assist with Phase 1 Cannabis Cultivation Denials; (3) Obtaining Satellite Imagery Subscription for Cannabis Program and Code Enforcement with Budgetary Request Returning on Consent; (4) Requiring Phase 1 Cannabis Permit and Embossed Receipt Holders to Demonstrate State Provisional License or Attest to Non-Cultivation Within 45 days. (Sponsor: Supervisor Williams)”
Most of this is rehash. Except for “Satellite Imagery Subscription for Cannabis Program and Code Enforcement with Budgetary Request Returning on Consent.” Previous Boards have been reluctant to use satellite imagery for code enforcement citing privacy concerns. But given the current political climate, the Board may be serious this time. The agenda item does not mention the cost of the satellite imagery subscription nor the cost of proceeding with code enforcement wherever the satellite imagery leads.
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Item 5g) “Discussion and Possible Action Including Direction to Staff Regarding Funded and Vacant Positions at the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office; and Sheriff Presentation on Specific Cannabis Enforcement Outcomes Board of Supervisors Can Expect with Positions Filled. (Sponsors: Supervisor Mulheren, Supervisor Williams, and Sheriff-Coroner)”
The last time a version of this came up (last year) Sheriff Kendall asked for $1 million to cover ten new deputies over the next three years. After some aimless discussion, the Board set up an ad hoc committee that was supposed to work up some data and charts which, Supervisor Williams claimed, would justify the additional positions that the State might fund. No charts are needed to make the obvious point that Round Valley needs additional law enforcement coverage. (Williams has stopped demanding data and charts for mental health before approving no-bid extention after no-bid extension of the Schraeder mental health contract; he said he had “capitulated” after CEO Angelo refused time and again to provide meaningful outcome information for the Schraeders’ mental health contract approval. But he seems to think asking the Sheriff for justification is a priority.)
The Sheriff’s department is down to 25 deputies on patrol for round the clock shift coverage over the entire county. In the north sector — Willits, Laytonville, Covelo, etc. —and on the coast and in central Ukiah, there are two deputies and one sergeant per shift. Response times can be quite long.
Now the Sheriff’s staffing request has somehow morphed into some kind of “presentation” of “specific cannabis enforcement outcomes,” which again seems unnecessary. The outcomes we want are less crime in Covelo. Is Williams implying that he needs proof of that obvious problem? Is he saying that if the “outcomes” are not forthcoming he won’t support the increase later? Why not simply tell the Sheriff that they’ll fund his initial request and see how it goes? If the Sheriff can find a few new cops and house them in Round Valley, that would be a pretty good “outcome” right there.
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Magdaleno’s Attorney Announces Impending Lawsuit
Sebastopol attorney Izaak Schwaiger describes himself on his website as:
“…an advocate and champion for the rights of regular people. A decorated veteran of the United States Marine Corps, a former Sonoma County prosecutor, and a respected presence in the courtroom.”
Mr. Schwaiger “has devoted his practice to defending the criminally accused and upholding the civil rights of those who have been wronged by the police. Following ten years of service to his country in the Marine Corps, Izaak enrolled in law school at the University of Wyoming, where he did not graduate with honors, but was named ‘most likely to become a rockstar’.”
“Called the ‘go-to lawyer on police brutality cases’ by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Izaak’s successes in cases others have called ‘hopeless’ are as numerous as they are unequalled. Izaak has successfully defended hundreds of clients in cases ranging from simple misdemeanors to first-degree murder, and his accomplishments in police brutality cases have made headlines across the nation and the world. Izaak holds the record for the largest jury verdict in a civil rights case in Sonoma County history.”
Mr. Schweiger now represents Gerardo Magdaleno, the Ukiah man who was tased, pepper sprayed and punched several times last Thursday, April 1 during an arrest on South State Street in Ukiah, videos of which have been widely viewed around the County. Schweiger told KZYX reporter Sarah Reith this week that he will file a federal civil rights case against the City of Ukiah and the officers involved soon. He will be asking for monetary damages based on “excessive force” and federal disability law, as well as “injunctive releif,” mainly having to do with insufficient officer training, violation of Magdaleno’s Fourth Amendment rights, violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and “likely some other claims along with that.” Schweiger said, “The lack of training is the city’s fault, that’s the chief’s fault.” (A reference to Ukiah Police Chief Justin Wyatt.)
Ukiah City Manager Sage Sangiocomo told the press recently that the City of Ukiah would be holding an independent investigation into the beating, to be conducted by a third party not employed or affiliated with the City “in a timely manner.” Asked if it would be someone from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office of Mendocino County District Attorney he said that would be “unlikely.” So, presumably, the City of Ukiah has not yet selected the “independent third party.”
Family members of Magdaleno have said that he “has been off his prescription meds for some time.”
Ukiah Police Officer Saul Perez was the first responding officer visible in the videos, who approaches Magdaleno, orders him to do something, pepper sprays him and tases him to not much noticeable effect. Other officers involved have not yet been named.
In his formal statement, City Manager Sage Sangiocomo also alluded to the mental health and drug factors that are still, years after the passage of Measure B and the seemingly endless discussion and planning still underway. More than three years now and no Measure B services are being provided: “We are hopeful that the funding resulting from County Measure B can be used to help provide those resources,” said Sangiocomo who had not made public statements about Measure B delays that we know of.
Sangiocomo might be referring to the crisis van which has been funded by Measure B and the County more than eight months ago and still being implemented at a snail’s pace. So far very little progress has been made: one crisis worker has been hired and the recruiting and training process is still underway with no deadline, no recent updates, and no statements from any of the County’s many helping professionals and mental health staff.
In addition, no one has mentioned whether Mr. Magdaleno was or has been under the care of the Mendocino County Behavioral Health Department nor whether that angle had anything to do with last week’s incident, although the claim that he has been off his meds for a while would imply that he is.
From the UPD Statement:
“The Officers issued numerous verbal instructions to Magdaleno and he continued to ignore those instructions. They then resorted to multiple taser deployments and multiple bursts of pepper spray. These hands-off measures were ineffective and Magdaleno continued to resist and repeatedly got back up to physically confront the Officers. Eventually Magdaleno was brought to the ground by several Officers but he continued to resist handcuffs and ignored verbal commands to stop resisting. The Officers then attempted to gain compliance by delivering numerous distraction strikes to the suspect’s head. This allowed the Officers a brief opportunity to place Magdaleno into handcuffs, and then the technique was ceased.”
Mr. Schweiger also represents Christopher Rasku who was beaten up in 2018 by then Officer Kevin Murray, later Sergeant Murray, later inmate Murray.
According to court filings in the Rasku case:
“On October 13, 2018, at about 7:00 p.m., the plaintiff [Christopher Rasku] left a note on his neighbor Joni Wellington’s door about her dog, who had been barking all day in Ms. Wellington’s absence. Around 10:30 p.m., Ms. Wellington returned home drunk, found the note, and confronted another neighbor about it. The plaintiff heard the commotion, came out of his apartment, and explained that he had left the note. Another neighbor announced that she had called the police, who were on their way. The plaintiff returned to his apartment and was standing inside the doorway behind a partly closed door when Officer Murray arrived. The plaintiff recognized Officer Murray from an earlier encounter when Officer Murray accused him of egging someone’s car, entered the plaintiff’s apartment, searched his refrigerator, and claimed that his eggs ‘matched’ the eggs found at the scene. That time, the plaintiff called Officer Murray a ‘punk’ and told him to leave his apartment immediately, and Officer Murray ‘has had it out for Mr. Rasku’ ever since.
“When Officer Murray arrived on October 13, he told the plaintiff to take a seat on the ground outside his apartment. The plaintiff refused and said he would stay in his doorway. In response, without any exigency, Officer Murray charged at the plaintiff’s door with his shoulder causing the door to fly open into the plaintiff’s head and face, knocking him unconscious. Officer Murray entered the home and began punching, kneeing, and kicking the plaintiff. The plaintiff woke up with his left arm cuffed, his right arm under his body (rendering him immobile), while Officer Murray kneed him in the ribs. Officer Murray repeatedly punched the plaintiff in the face and delivered ‘numerous further knee strikes to his lower ribs.’ Officer Murray was wearing a body camera during the encounter, but in violation of department policy, did not activate it.”
When charges were filed and Rasku later went to court, Judge Ann Morman threw the case out after seeing some video taken by the neighbor showing that Officer Murray’s account was false.
Nevertheless, Murray was later promoted to Sergeant, and after that was arrested for sexual battery and methamphetamine possession, a fact that Schweiger implied would play into the background of the Magdaleno case.
Mr. Schweiger told KZYX’s Reith that it is common for police to arrest people for “resisting arrest” because the Supreme Court has held that if a person is later convicted of resisting arrest then the police are exempted from civil liability.
According the Supreme Court case called “Heck v. Humphrey” “a prisoner seeking damages for unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment must have the conviction or sentence reversed on appeal or otherwise declared invalid before his claim can proceed.” The applicability of that ruling in the Magdaleno case remains unclear.
Either way, however, Mendocino District Attorney David Eyster will also play a key role in this case because he will have to decide if 1) Magdaleno was resisting arrest (it certainly looks like he was), and 2) whether any charges will be filed against any of the Ukiah police officers. Attorney Schweiger said he thinks the videos demonstrate that charges should be filed against the cops.
Which brings us to Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting which opened with Supervisor Glenn McGourty’s wife Jan, former Chair of the Behavioral Health Advisory Board, urging the Board and the County to formally institute “CIT Training,” CIT standing for Crisis Intervention Team. The Board agreed with Ms. McGourty and asked that the subject be put on a future agenda, perhaps as early as the upcoming April 12 meeting, including a report of how many (County) people have been trained and how it’s paid for.
CEO Angelo said that some CIT training has already been done and that she had spoken to Mental Health Director Jenine Miller about it. We’ve heard that a majority, but not all, of Sheriff Matt Kendall’s deputies have completed some form of CIT training.
Supervisor Williams quickly picked up on the liability question when it comes to law enforcement CIT training, a factor in the Magdaleno lawsuit, saying that the County should require the training because if something like what happened to Magdaleno occurred involving a County law enforcement officer, “We’re going to be picking up the tab of any settlement.”
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Facebook was humming with misinformation about the Magdaleno arrest. The charges against him for alleged child molestation were dropped, and he was not injured during his takedown. I think fortunate people with no direct experience of violence, will always be shocked at films of it, but here we had a large, strong young man, raging incoherently, naked in the middle of South State Street, which left the cops no alternative but forceful suppression. The skinny young cop’s seemingly ineffective punches to Mag’s head, however, may have seemed pointless, but training manuals say punches to the head are delivered to get the alleged perp to close his eyes long enough for another cop to get the cuffs on.
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The Ukiah City Council press release on the Magdaleno incident talks about their plans for doing an independent investigation at some length and then adds:
“…we believe this incident demonstrates the critical gaps that exist in the community regarding mental health and addiction resources. Despite the fact that the City of Ukiah does not receive funding for or have jurisdiction over mental health or addiction support services, our Police Department is called upon to respond to crisis situations involving these issues. We believe there needs to be community-wide solutions for addressing these challenges so that police engagement can be avoided where possible. Citizens countywide overwhelmingly passed Measure B specifically to improve the County’s mental health programs and facilities – we look forward to collaborating with the County to utilize Measure B funds to directly support first responders throughout our county. We acknowledge the attention on this challenge and will be pushing for more meaningful and expedited solutions.
“Our desire to seek better mental health resources in no way undermines our commitment to a full, fair and independent investigation of the police conduct on April 1st. We are committed to accountability and transparency, including a review of the procedures that are in place for our police department, as we move through the next steps with that investigation.”
Every so often, particularly when some incident occurs, the City of Ukiah fires off a letter to the County, complaining about the County’s failure to provide County-level services that cities are not funded or authorized to provide such as homeless, mental illness or drug rehab.
Last April, for example, in the wake of the oversized homeless encampment near the Airport in South Ukiah which observers thought might be a covid hot-spot, Ukiah City Manager Sage Sangiacomo told the Supervisors that the County’s “piecemeal approaches are not enough. Without Public Health oversight, there is a strong possibility of more harm.” Sangiacomo asked the County to appoint a point-person for homeless services that the City could work with and establish an ad hoc committee of City Council members and Supervisors. Nothing was done. The homeless people were herded over to the Ukiah Fairgrounds where Supervisor McCowen personally arranged for a porta-potty and a hand-washing station. Supervisor Carre Brown at the time went so far as to blame Ukiah cops for the homeless camp expansion, saying that Ukiah cops should have broken it up sooner before it got to approximately 60 or so people.
If the City of Ukiah was serious they’d make a constant and ongoing issue of the County’s many failures which do in fact leave Ukiah cops to deal with the many unhelped persons on the streets of Ukiah, including the Magdaleno incident. Ukiah could invite mental health director Dr. Jenine Miller to one of their meetings and put her on the spot about the “critical gaps” that they say they’re worried about and which lead to the crises on Ukiah streets that the cops have to deal with. Ukiah’s representative on the Measure B committee, Deputy City Manager Shannon Riley, could require meaningful and urgent status reports on what’s taking so long to get the crisis van (aka “mobile crisis unit”) up and running.
It’s kind of like gun violence in America. Everybody bemoans it when it occurs, but even minimal improvements are somehow beyond our current officials. The 35-member “Continuum of Care” wobbles on as usual, worrying more about their own funding than the homeless people they’re supposed to be helping. Measure B might even get Camille Schraeder’s little $5 million Crisis Residential Treatment motel going over on Orchard Street that might help a few clients, but not the unreimbursable street people. The “critical gaps” will remain, and when the next “crisis” hits Ukiah, they’ll write another letter trying to shift as much of the blame as they can to the County and its failed helping agencies.