MENDO IS AWASH IN MOOLAH, according to Tuesday’s “third quarter” budget presentation. Not only does the County have the $22.6 million in a PG&E settlement windfall which everybody and their sister now wants a piece of, but the Supervisors were told that Mendo stands to also get about $16 million in CARES Act (aka Biden Bucks) over the next two years. Eureka! And all this time you thought we were just this broke-ass little county somewhere north of Frisco.
RETAIL SPENDING appears to have more or less rebounded and sales taxes are up from the covid low — even more so since California now gets sales tax on out of state, on-line purchases. Next year looks rosy too, the budget team says.
THERE ARE CERTAINLY legitimate things to spend all this windfall on, but some of these people should not be making the spending calls. For example, the Library wants over half a mil for backup generators for all its branches during power shut offs. Is that a priority? The Supes seemed downright giddy at the prospect of giving the half mil to the libraries which, ahem, can simply close when the power is off. What’s next, backup generators for the Air Quality District?
SUPERVISOR JOHN HASCHAK’S latest Supe’s report reminds his constituents that he’s on the Board’s “drought emergency ad hoc committee” with Supervisor McGourty. Haschak’s “first task”? “Ensure that all the water agencies are communicating and receiving proper information. (We live in hope) With 40 water agencies in Mendocino Conty, this hasn’t always been the case. We will be reconvening the Countywide Drought Working Group.”
TRANSLATION: Supervisor McGourty is hoping to delay major winewater cutbacks as long as possible by using the Farm Bureau’s tried and true “Talk & Pump” tactic, which Supervisor Haschak is clearly a perfect choice to be a dupe for. By the time the “Countywide Drought Working Group” issues its “voluntary” recommendations after listening to the lawyers and grape growers from all of Mendo’s little water districts, Lake Mendo and most of its rivers and creeks will be dry. If Haschak and his ad-hoc were serious, they’d already be demanding immediate cut backs by issuing a drought regimen order to the water districts.
THE SUPERVISORS also sit as the County Water Agency, and, although they don’t hold any legal water rights, they can issue conservation orders to the individual water districts now that an emergency has been declared.
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$500k For Library Generators?
Lew Chichester writes:
Regarding backup generators for county libraries-
The Round Valley Public Library has a back up generator, new this year, and has already been put into service a few times due to PG&E outages. We have a special situation here in Covelo. Everybody is on wells, when the power goes out anyone with a pump hooked up to the grid is out of water. The Friends of the Round Valley Public Library, the local nonprofit which supports the library in a number of ways, also OWNS THE BUILDING. We, not the county, secured funding for a back up generator. The Friends have a commitment to the community and now have the ability to provide a commercial kitchen, an air conditioned refuge, free wi fi, public restrooms, plus one of the finest libraries in any small town in America, all remaining functional during any extended power outage. I don’t know why the other libraries in the county, which don’t provide these kinds of services, need public money for back up generators. Maybe a good idea, maybe not. We financed ours without any county help.
Excellent points. The way the Covelo community came together to create a space for the library (which also functions as a Community Center) was very inspiring. It made it easy for the Board of Supervisors to welcome Covelo into the library system.
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I recall my father helping found the Round Valley library. At that time, he was volunteering as a library page. When the self-appointed librarian had to move out of Covelo, my father, George J. Dorner, kept the library running single-handed. When I kidded him about becoming the librarian, that humble and modest man declined the title.
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THE NEWLY HIRED AND TRAINED worker for the Crisis Van (aka Mobile Response Unit) starts work this week, Sheriff Kendall said Wednesday. The Measure B Committee approved the funding for three crisis positions last June, but Mendo being Mendo, we’re only now seeing the first one and there’s no one else in the recruitment/training pipeline at the moment.
THE PLAN is for two more crisis workers, one for the North County and one on the Coast. The idea is simple and should not have taken decades to arrange: A trained county crisis worker rides in a deputy’s patrol car and responds with the deputy on calls involving mental health; many of those calls are for people known to law enforcement.
RECRUITMENT for crisis workers is moving at a snail’s pace — finding the right candidates isn’t easy, and so far only thhis first one has been approved. 911 emergency protocols have been adjusted to accommodate the new unit’s availability which, we’re told, will be most weekends and late night.
IF A 911 call involves a formal 5150 designation (or the possibility of one) we expect that the number of mental health cases ending up in emergency rooms will be reduced, and here's hoping someone will keep track.
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THE COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION has come up with a sensible compromise for the 10% of your parcel for pot proposal the Supes are trying to sell to a mostly skeptical local populace. Among several other adjustments to the Supervisor's pot expansion proposal to allow up to 10% of your parcel for pot cultivation (i.e., 16 acres on a 160 acre parcel), the Planning Commission says, OK, but in no case more than two acres — a hard cap but still a pretty big grow by Mendo standards. They also want to limit hoop house size and require proof of water on top of the Supervisors limitations that these expansions can only be done where the land was already in recognized ag production. The PC’s proposals now go back to the Supes for reconsideration before being made official. So far the libertarian idea that telling pot growers — or grape growers for that matter or anybody else — that they can grow as big as conditions permit has dominated the Board’s unpopular approach, as exemplified by Supervisors Williams’ statement that limitations on size such as those proposed by the more deliberative Planning Commission “reeks of a communist cannabis model.”
THE ISSUE OF PERMIT TERMS compliance or enforcement is still unaddressed with the current focus on enforcement on outright illegal grows. Since permit terms are not “code” requirements, all these new-ish permit conditions the County wants to impose on marijuana use permits, whatever they may end up being, still won’t mean much unless the “code enforcement” process also includes compliance with permit terms, or at least requires the permittee to provide independent proof of compliance as part of their initial permit approval.
THE STATE WATER BOARD doesn't enforce water permit rules on anybody either. Back in the late 90s the late Dr. Hillary Adams filed a complaint about the Goldeneye Vineyard in Philo, complaining that Goldeneye was illegally pumping and storing riparian water in one of their big vineyard ponds and then illegally trucking it to another of their vineyards elsewhere in the Anderson Valley.
THE WATER BOARD’S COMPLAINT PROCESS is complicated, costly and slow, but Ms. Adams stuck with it and presented a solid complaint with plenty of evidence of Goldeneye's water trucks trundling up and down Highway 128. But when the Water Board people finally arrived for an in-person investigation months later — the first time in the history of Anderson Valley that the water board had investigated a vineyard/water complaint — Goldeneye shrugged it off, blithely lying that the water in the pond was “run-off” — it hadn’t rained in weeks — and denied that the water trucks were delivering water from that pond to their other vineyard.
THE WATER BOARD STAFFERS, faced with a she-said/he-said situation — nobody could “prove” the creek water wasn’t run-off water (how could anyone prove that?) — gave up with nothing more than a hand-slap warning to Goldeneye.
As part of her complaint, Ms. Adams wrote:
“In their document dated July 15, 1996, the Division of Water Rights refused to take its responsibilities in determining unlawful diversions seriously, placing that burden on the public.
“Section 1825 of the Water Code states that: ‘It is the intent of the Legislature that the state should take vigorous action to enforce the terms and conditions of existing permits and licenses to appropriate water and to prevent the unlawful diversions of water.’
“Unlawful reservoirs such as that which are being built and filled without permits to pump creek water could have been fined as much as $500 per day. To our knowledge, no such fines have ever been imposed on the Navarro watershed. This, in our opinion, not only fails to satisfy the intention of the Legislature of the State of California, but sends a clear message that the permitting process can be ignored without harm.”
And that is still the case: the public (aka neighbors) are expected to compile their own evidence — no trespassing allowed —and then file these complicated bureaucratic complaints, neighbors who themselves may be on shaky water permit grounds and who can not be expected to prepare these highly technical complaints (like Dr. Adams was). So, as Dr. Adams noted, the permit rules are simply “ignored without harm” which is bad enough in a wet year, but downright dangerous in a dry, fire-prone year.
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A RETIRED Santa Rosa Police officer named Paul Henry has been hired by the City of Ukiah to conduct an “independent” investigation of the Magdaleno incident where Ukiah cops subdued Magdaleno as, tweaked to insensibility, he dangerously romped nude in the middle of South State Street. Mr. Henry recently told the Ukiah City Council that his investigation might take months, by which time the public’s attention will have shifted to the next incident or issue.
AS WE'VE NOTED before, since there’s a mental/behavioral health/medication component to this incident —Magdaleno was off his psych meds and on street drugs — this approach of having cops investigate cops conveniently avoids the obvious mental health services failures because the investigator doesn’t have any background or qualifications in mental health and because the County and its mental health services and contractor are not included in the City’s investigation.
MAGDALENO'S attorney who plans to sue the City (and not the County) has not mentioned County-level mental health factors in his complaints about the incident — so far
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COME & GET IT! CEO Carmel Angelo’s staff has put itself first in line with several dozen inflated-looking ways to spend the $22.6 million in PG&E Settlement funds. Proposals gathered up by County staff totalling over $38 million will be presented to the Supervisors on Tuesday, May 12. Several more million worth of firefighting equipment requests are being submitted by the Potter Valley and Redwood Valley fire departments.
ONE OF THE REQUESTS is for about $2.6 million to put a new roof on the dIlapidated Whitmore Lane rest home (also being talked about as a possible psych facility backfilled by Measure B sales tax millions). The Library’s request for $580k for backup generators is also still on the wish list. Only $1.5 million is being sought for road work.
WE REMEMBER a few years ago when the Supes announced about $180k for a few local community projects in each Supervisorial District, but with the proviso that allocations would come only after a highly competititve process where each Supervisor would pick from his own district’s proposals. $180k seemed like a lot then, since the County historically has been very stingy with community spending, preferring to hoard our property tax money for themselves. But now, with this whopping $22.6 million available (and another $16 million to come from Biden & Co. in the next two years), the CEO’s staff is skewing the process to favor the County’s pet projects while community proposals are few and far between. There hasn’t even been a call for proposals from local agencies or groups to share the windfall like there was for the measly $180k. Will the Supervisors dare overrule Angelo and staff and devise a more equitable spending plan?