IF CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE HUFFMAN has any friends in Mendocino County, that person might want to let him know that his list of endorsers including Supervisor Smith and Superintendent of Schools Tichinin will cause voters to scream and run directly to another candidate.
LAST WEEK'S ugly evictions of mostly women and children at Lake County’s Robinson Rancheria, Lake County, are being described by the Robinson Tribal Council as simply a matter of five households of deadbeats not paying minimal monthly rent of $175. In fact, the dispute seems hydra-headed, beginning with tribal council elections lost by the evictees and, going farther back, to the on again off again formations of the Northcoast’s reservations. Tuesday’s evictions at Robinson began with the election of the present tribal leadership, with the winners soon declaring the families opposed to them to be non-tribal members.
THERE IS NO question that the evictees, among them a number of small children and a dead woman, are Indians, and that’s where a lot of these terrible arguments, lately exacerbated by casino money, begin, with claims by dominant tribal councils declaring that this or that Indian cannot legitimately claim membership in this or that tribe because his or her ancestors had not lived in the area.
HISTORICALLY CONSIDERED, Tuesday’s Robinson reservation deracination, you might call it, negates an old agreement that homeless Indians could always claim a home on the new reservations, many of which formed in the fairly recent past. But since the advent of casino income, the question of who belongs and who doesn’t belong to this or that tribe, has been suspiciously arbitrary, often coming down to ancient feuds between families lately expressed in bitter tribal elections.
THE ROBINSON REZ lies astride Highway 20 between Nice and Upper Lake. Reservation housing is located near the casino, both of which are visible from the highway and neither of which are what you might call architecturally seductive. The casino seems to do a big business, especially in bingo.
THE NEWLY HOMELESS at Robinson said they’d already been kicked out of the tribe and now they’ve been removed from their homes of many years. Currently, there are 477 members of the Robinson tribe, of whom 166 live on reservation land.
TONIA RAMOS, speaking for the evicted, among them her mother, said the families had been removed from the rez simply because the present tribal council desires more casino income for themselves and their supporters — smaller tribes, more casino dough for fewer people.
IN ANOTHER TUESDAY catastrophe, the destructive Artesa timber-to-vineyard conversion near Annapolis, the largest such conversion in state history, has won state approval. It will convert 324 acres of second-growth forest and meadow to wine grapes and vineyard support structures. Artesa is owned by a Spanish conglomerate called Grupo Codorniu with offices in Napa.
A LARGER, even more destructive wine grape and McMansion project is proposed for the same neighborhood. It’s the work of CalPERS, the state pension fund. Cynically called Preservation Ranch, the CalPERS monstrosity would level 1,769 acres of meadow and forest for vineyard and homes for the insensate spread over 19,652 acres.
ALL OF UKIAH has wanted something done for a very long time about the abandoned three-story Palace Hotel in the center of town. Some city officials have said it’s beyond rehab and should be torn down. Outside opinion, as expressed in a letter to the editor by a long-time Ukiah architect, Robert Axt, says the building is structurally sound and might again, as it did for nearly a hundred years, anchor a vibrant downtown.
EMPHATIC that the Palace’s owner, a scattered Marin County woman named Eladia Laines, was doing nothing to either reboot or otherwise properly care for the Palace, the City of Ukiah has declared it a public nuisance.
THE PUBLIC NUISANCE declaration was, it seemed, a large step towards demolishing the old hotel. But Ms. Laines, to everyone’s astonishment, hired a local contractor, Norman Hudson, to get to work cleaning up the premises, which Hudson has efficiently been doing, but not, it seems, to the satisfaction of the City of Ukiah, which has now red tagged the building, meaning Hudson must stop work because, the City says, he doesn’t have a permit to do inside work. That permit must now clear bureaucratic hurdles not easily hurdled.
BOTTOM LINE: A typical Mendo snafu. The city wanted something done about the Palace, the owner finally begins to do it, the city says stop.
DIRT GATE. When fuel-contaminated earth from construction of the Mendocino Transit Authority’s lavish new bus barn and office complex at the south end of Ukiah was moved to the Ukiah Speedway on the Ukiah Fairgrounds at the north end of town, it soon developed that somehow MTA and the race track’s proprietor had arranged to move the dirt outside normal processes, and the dirt, at huge expense to whom is still not known, has subsequently had to be trucked outtahere to distant landfills licensed to take contaminated materials.
THE UKIAH FAIRGROUNDS is now in a hassle with Blair Aikin, the man who runs the popular racetrack, which remains closed while the dispute between Aikin and the Ukiah Fair Board is sorted out.
FREDDY CHAMPAGNE of the Champagne Racing Team told the Ukiah Daily Journal, “The decision to delay or suspend operations at this track has cost all of us in the community many dollars in preparation of our race season. The promoters are losing money, the fair is losing money, and the racers and sponsors are losing money.”
AIKIN LEARNED that the Fair Board was poised to terminate his lease from the Board’s meeting agenda, prompting him and more than a hundred racing fans and race drivers to show up at the meeting to complain that this was a heckuva underhanded thing to do to Aikin, a long-time NorCal fixture on the stock car circuit and a productive Fairgrounds tenant for many years.
RACING WAS SUPPOSED to start at the end of March, but the whole annual show at the Fairgrounds Speedway is on hold because of this wacky Dirt Gate interlude. As Aikin and his supporters point out, before Aikin stepped forward to revive racing, the track at the Fairgrounds had been unused for years. The Ukiah-based entrepreneur created a valuable and popular business where there had been none, but then here comes Dirt Gate and the rug is suddenly pulled out from beneath the guy.
AS IT STANDS, Ukiah Fair officials and the feckless management at MTA each claim they didn’t know (1) the dirt was contaminated (2) who authorized it being trucked from one end of town to the other (3) who’s going to pay for it being trucked from the Fairgrounds to distant landfills. The Fairgrounds people claim they didn’t even know the dirt was being hauled to the racetrack from MTA.
EVERYONE ELSE wonders, so what? Fuel-laden earth packed beneath a racecar track? It’s not like atomic fuel rods had been plunked down in an organic garden.
SO, WHO ARRANGED for the soiled soil to be hauled from MTA to the racetrack at the Ukiah Fairgrounds? Glenna Blake sits on the Ukiah Fair Board and she’s a long-time employee of MTA. Someone might ask her.
THE COMPLICATED plan to prevent the closing of 50 state parks freshly devised by state senators Joe Simitian and Noreen Evans seems unlikely to fly. It would route funds from a federal water quality program, state transportation and another state parks account to provide the millions needed to keep the parks open. A lot depends on the forthcoming state budget Governor Brown presents next week, and the Evans-Simitian plan is on hold anyway pending a vote that may never come. Meanwhile, in Mendocino County, community-based groups, such as the one formed in Anderson Valley to keep the economically essential Hendy Woods up and running, are working on their own plans to spare local state parks.
A BAY AREA MAN named Joe Reiter, attempting to build a house in Covelo, is preparing to sue Mendocino County for meanie-facing him. Reiter alleges that during March and April of this year, Chief Building Inspector Chris Warrick was “verbally abusive” during phone calls, and had mentioned “threats of consequences if I were to complain to Mr. Pinches [Covelo area supervisor] about problems with the building department.”
REITER SAYS his telephone exchanges with Warrick pained him to the tune of $250,000. Reiter also claims that he is owed another $101,837 because of “refusal of building inspector [Guy Parry] to attend scheduled inspection…” and “including voice mail left on claimant’s phone, were vulgar and abusive.”
OK, SO NOW WE’RE up around $350,000 for Parry’s alleged non-appearance and the alleged voice mail insults. We have no idea what Warrick or Parry may actually have said, but we can’t imagine them going off message to the tune of $350,000.
BUT REITER wasn’t finished toting up his injuries. No sir, $350,000 was not enough for the verbal abuse he’d suffered and the insult of the no-show. Reiter, who talks like a lawyer, says Interim Planning Director Roger Mobley, Warrick and Parry then triple-teamed him by “retaliation by Building Department officials for reporting their previous retaliatory conduct. Threats to cause damage to project, actions that caused damage.”
THIS THIRD ALLEGED assault by Mendocino County Planning and Building is valued at $275,000 because Reiter says he has suffered “monetary loss of project estimated, intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
BY THE TIME Planning and Building was finished verbally abusing him and not showing up to sign off on Villa Candy Buns, Reiter says he’d been insulted and stood up to the tune of $931,938.
UKIAH’S SCHOOL BOARD handed off responsibility to an expensive team of edu-talent (sic) scouts to find Ukiah a new superintendent, and you’re excused if you wonder why the Ukiah School Board had to pay someone else to do the job they’re elected to do.
GLEN McGOURTY of the Ukiah school board told the Ukiah Daily Journal that the hiring search he and his fellow trustees had paid someone else to do had been “exhaustive and exhausting.” But, despite his pudgy little fingers having been bloodied to the bone — to the bone! — at the pure effort of paying someone to find — ta da! — Deb Kubin at Willits Unified 20 miles up the road, McGourty soldiers on.
PREDICTION: As the Willits School Board now commences its own “national search for educational excellence,” Ms. Kubin will be paid slightly more than the Socrates of Talmage, Paul Tichinin, County Superintendent of Schools. Tichinin will surely now turn to his board of trustees to demand that as Mendocino County’s senior educator he simply can’t endure the niggardly $120,000 he makes a year plus and a free car and fuel to commute back and forth to his Fort Bragg home in. He will need more because he can't possibly make less than the superintendent at lowly Ukiah Unified.
THE UKIAH SCHOOL BOARD hired, at a fee not yet revealed, Jim Brown and Mike Escalante, “consultants” from the “firm” of Leadership Associates to locate Debbie up the road in Willits.
LEADERSHIP ASSOCIATES advertises itself as “Providing the highest quality candidates to meet the needs of your district.” They say they are “California’s premier executive search firm,” which “has assisted school boards in their selection of superintendents in more than 200 California school districts and organizations since 1996.” They go on to talk about their own “integrity” and blah blah, honkety honk, bleepity bleep.
THE POMPOUS hi-ho’s of the McGourty type get their jive selves elected to Mendocino County school boards where they buy this consultant bushwah for top dollar rather than assume hiring responsibility themselves, spending classroom dollars on outside consultants. It this same consulting firm that inflicted mega-feeb Lois Nash on Ukiah Unified, and one would think they wouldn't have been hired again, but....
GOVERNOR BROWN SAID SATURDAY the state is looking at a $17 billion deficit. The Governor has made a career of talking left, acting right and, true to form, his initiative goes heavy on ordinary Californians, light on the rich.
BROWN SAYS if voters don’t approve his November tax initiative he will take revenge on the children of the state, aka schools, higher education and social services.
THE GOVERNOR CLAIMS he can raise $9 billion by a “temporary” quarter-cent increase of the state's sales tax and by imposing a tiny tax on incomes of $250,000 or more.
A SECOND initiative led by wealthy LA attorney Molly Munger is a little more fair. It would raise income taxes on a sliding scale for everyone.
IF BOTH INITIATIVES fail or, as expected, are combined into one and still fail, Brown says it would mean the K-12 school year would be cut by several weeks and college tuition fees would be again raised. Public schools, including the state university system, would be cut nearly $5 billion. And there would be reduced funding for courts.
WHICH COULD be a good thing for Mendocino County if it puts an end to the palatial new County Courthouse our eight judges and a magistrate yearn for but is undesired by nobody but them. The state deficit might also result in a whack to the overlarge Mendo judicial contingent itself, which would be another desirable local outcome of cuts to the state’s judicial budget. But Brown’s proposals are mostly bad for everyone except, of course, the One Percent, in whose interests America is run by co-conspiring Democrats and Republicans.
OPPONENTS of an expanded rock quarry on the Ridgewood Grade between Ukiah and Willits off Highway 101 have filed suit to prevent it from operating in expanded form.
THE LAWSUIT brought by neighbors of the quarry maintains that the environmental impact report for the project, approved by the Board of Supervisors last month, is inadequate and that a county zoning change to allow asphalt plants at existing quarries on rangeland is illegal. Opponents contend the expansion would create noise, water and air pollution and create traffic hazards. They say an expanded quarry operation and asphalt batch plant proposal is inconsistent with the County’s General Plan.
AL KUBANIS, attorney for accused Redwood Valley killer Billy Norbury, said last week he’s having trouble getting Norbury’s files from the Public Defender’s office. Norbury, 33, is accused of shooting to death Jamal Andrews, 30, also of Redwood Valley. The case has attracted widespread attention because, many friends of the popular Andrews allege, the murder, which occurred on the night of January 21st this year, was committed out of Norbury’s racist rage. DA Eyster says there is no evidence that Norbury shot Andrews because Andrews was black.
NORBURY was initially represented by Public Defender Linda Thompson, whose slovenly record keeping and poor trial preparation is widely assumed in the County Courthouse. Judge Behnke has had to order Thompson to turn over Norbury’s files to Norbury's private attorney, Al Kubanis.
THOMPSON REPLIED to the judge’s order with this whopper: “I just want to make it very clear on the record that this is the first time a private attorney who is substituted in ... has indicated that there was a question about whether everything was present in the record.”
NO IT ISN’T. In 2010 Thompson had to be ordered to hand over the files belonging to defendant Glen Sunkett, and later in the year, ordered again to turn files over to Sunkett’s new attorney, David Eyster, just before Eyster became District Attorney. Sunkett was eventually convicted of a brutal Fort Bragg home invasion, but while Thompson functioned as his attorney he complained that he was basically unrepresented, and that when Thompson finally gave him his files so he could briefly represent himself, “She just threw them all over the place in a cardboard box,” Sunkett said. “I never did get everything.”
MISS AUDET wrote from the County Jail early last week where she was briefly incarcerated for the umpteenth time for drunk in public: “Dear People of Concern and Interest, God Bless you all! We all live our lives according to what we've learned and picked up throughout it all. For me I have a kinda rebellious manner, with the only wish to live off the land and my group of close friends and family, outside of this too populated and corrupt system. If I could share anything of importance to anyone it would be about love and goodness through the Christ and Great Spirit or whatever you may believe in; it is the love and forgiveness that we've been given that I'm proud to know in myself and proud to see it throughout this community. I've lived here for the winter and living here and experiencing the good and the bad is what I needed to learn and keep myself strong to continue on in my life as I leave and continue on in my journey that God has given me. Many people help me out every day with money or food or even concern. Thank you. I can't offer the same, but I would love to give you encouragement. I encourage everyone throughout the good and bad. Everything happens for reasons in life and I pray for you to learn and get stronger through these things. Don't let the world break you down. Thank you Great Spirit for another day to be with you. — Jacqueline Audet (Pixie), Mendocino County Jail, Ukiah.”
PIXIE WATCH, A READER WRITES: “Driving into Fort Bragg Saturday, south end of town, near Hare Creek Bridge, I was shocked to look left and see Ms. Audet calmly strolling along the highway with a large dog. The experience was much like the shock of spotting a celebrity, or an animal in the wild, where the actual sighting doesn't quite match up to the pictures one’s seen, where the real thing actually seems a little larger than life (more true for wild animal spottings, less true for celebrities, who often seem smaller than their reputation). The big dog/petite waif visual brought to mind Little Orphan Annie, although Ms. Audet looked neither drunk nor angry but, rather, quite happy and content. This morning I read that she had recently written you from jail, which makes me wonder if she has a twin or doppelganger roaming the area.”
ACCORDING to the Fort Bragg Police Department, Pixie, 22, becomes belligerent when she's been drinking, forcing them to take her into custody. She was in and out again last week. She's one of about 30 Mendocino County drunks who routinely spend a couple of days in jail sobering up. Pixie is also the only young woman among the habitual local drunks. Before Reagan gutted the state hospital system, alcoholics could be confined for much longer, systematic rehab stays at Talmage, just east of Ukiah. And before that, the habituals could be sentenced to the County Farm out on Low Gap Road. These days, it's simply catch and release and, in Pixie's case, a rolling tragedy. She's too young to be this lost.
CALLING the allegations in the recently filed lawsuit to stop the Willits Bypass “misconceptions and misinformation,” Caltrans issued a press release last week to “clarify” things. According to Caltrans District 1 Director Phil Frisbie, the bypass will “relieve congestion, reduce delays, and improve safety for traffic currently passing through Willits.” Well, duh. That's what bypasses are supposed to do, Phil. Frisbie says the lawsuit filed by Willits-based enviros “has not put the project on hold.” In fact, “this important project,” Frisbie insists, is right on schedule with bids going out this very week on May 14, and a “Mandatory Pre-Bid Meeting” on June 13 “for all contractors who wish to submit bids or participate as sub-contractors.”
FRISBIE says the proposed Bypass has been “thoroughly investigated,” and that Caltrans has conducted “rigorous analysis by traffic engineers,” that the 2006 EIR has been “revalidated and supplemented” and that the entire project has received the blessings of the California Department of Fish and Game; National Marine Fisheries Service; North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board; US Environmental Protection Agency; US Army Corps of Engineers; and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
WE DON’T DOUBT that Caltrans has its enviro paperwork in order. After all, Big Orange has spent millions of taxpayer dollars on it over several decades. And some of the so-called mitigations — new culverts, wetlands protections, fencing, and so on — are standard for highway projects anyway. But to call their “clarification” a response to their critics is a stretch. Traffic is down and there’s little likelihood, given the price of fuel and the general decline of the economy, of a significant increase to justify a four-lane bypass upgrade.
IF CALTRANS really wanted to expedite traffic around Willits, they’d use the money earmarked for possible expansion to four-lanes (which will never happen) to reinstate the Highway 20 interchange, which they deleted for budget reasons, effectively routing Coast traffic back through downtown and largely defeating the purpose of the Bypass.
AND CALTRANS still hasn't addressed the huge issue that the pilings supporting the overhead viaduct are likely to sink into the Little Lake Valley fill, thus costing more millions to retrofit and maintain.
THE BOARD of Supervisors is taking another crack this week at convincing Caltrans to make the eastbound turn off Highway 20 to Potter Valley, the site of many accidents over the years, less hazardous. According to the meeting agenda summary, “County residents living and traveling in the area where State Highway 20 has a highway at grade intersection, located at the Potter Valley Road turnoff, have experienced horrific and unsafe travel conditions since the reconstruction by the State of this particular roadway. Highway 20 is a major connector between Highway I-5 and Highway 101."
FROM THE LONDON EVENING STANDARD: “France's new Socialist president owns three holiday homes in the Riviera resort of Cannes, it emerged today. Francois Hollande, 57, who ‘dislikes the rich’ and wants to revolutionize his country with high taxes and an onslaught against bankers, is in fact hugely wealthy himself. His assets were published today in the Official Journal, the gazette which contains verified information about France’s government. To the undoubted embarrassment of the most left-wing leader in Europe, and a man who styles himself as ‘Mr. Normal,’ they are valued at almost £1 million. It will also reinforce accusations that Hollande is a ‘gauche caviar,’ or ‘Left-wing caviar’ — the Gallic equivalent of a champagne Socialist.” And our limo libs.
AN ITEM on this week’s Supervisor agenda, as the leadership convenes in Mendocino, is The Mendocino Town Plan, part of the Coastal Element of the County’s General Plan. Adopted in 1992 “to preserve the historical character of the Town and maintain the historic residential community character… maintaining “a balance between maintenance of the historic residential community with limited commercial services and the Coastal Act’s high priority placed on visitor-serving uses…”
ONE MIGHT WONDER why it’s taken 20 years to “review” and update the Plan. The answer to that one is right there in this week's agenda. “If there is general community consensus…” the Plan can be amended.
THERE WOULDN'T BE “'CONSENSUS” on a guarantee of eternal life from this gang, but the nut of the prob is “Visitor Serving Facilities.”
VSFs ARE DEFINED as hostels, hotels, inns, b&bs, motels, student/instructor temporary housing (at the Art Center), single unit rentals, and vacation home rentals, which pretty much covers most structures in Mendocino's seaside themeless theme park. But the County collects bed tax on these little rental money machines so the County has a direct interest in knowing how many of them there are — ka-ching! ka-ching!
BUT, AS WE KNOW, Mendocino Village is also home to a small permanent population of relentless pickers of microscopic nits. These people will spend hours on how thick an asphalt patch on a sidewalk should be and what color to paint a window frame. Define a rental unit? The Council of Trent was simpler.
SO ASKING THESE PEOPLE to reach “general community consensus” on which units are B&Bs and which are vacation home rentals and which are some petty chiseler's spare bedroom that he occasionally rents out to touri is like trying to get Bill Clinton to define a sex act.
AN EARNEST YOUNG WOMAN out of the Fort Bragg Planning Office tried to inventory Mendocino's rentals a few years ago and was roundly denounced by nearly everyone at the first Supes meeting when the poor thing presented the fruit of her labor.
A PROVISION in the 1992 Town Plan says, “The total number of rental units allowable, 234, shall remain fixed until the plan is further reviewed and a plan amendment is approved and certified by the California Coastal Commission.”
SO WHAT do people do who want to rent out their garage or that extra bedroom when the number of rooms has been fixed at 234 since 1992? They rent it anyway but they don’t list it, which means the County gets no bed tax.
THE MENDO Grand Jury wrote the County up back in 2008 for failing to update the Mendocino Town Plan, the Fort Bragg planner’s valiant attempt to enumerate rentals having gone nowhere. The Grand Jury's 40-page report was called “Byzantium By The Bay,” that title nicely summarizing the prevailing political reality. The GJ went on to say that its investigation had found that “the County of Mendocino has failed, since 2001, to administer licensing of Vacation Home Rentals and Single Unit Rentals in the Town of Mendocino as required by the Mendocino Town Plan.” In other words, a whole lotta people were renting off the books.
THE COUNTY asked the same Fort Bragg planner to respond to the Grand Jury's criticism, but not being much of a writer, she ended up making things murkier.
NOW A NEW BOARD OF SUPERVISORS has decided to take another whack at the Mendocino Town Plan. We suggest that all of Mendocino Village become a “Visitor Serving Facility” with every third structure designated as one.
ANOTHER OPTION might be to urge the Town of Mendocino to incorporate, thus ensuring in perpetuity an objectively crazy dispute that only the town's residents can enjoy.
MAN BEATER OF THE WEEK, Ms. Marie Nicole Brogdon, a three-peat man-whacker. Ms. Brogdon, 34, apparently rides down out of the Sierra foothills every three months or so to slap around a love interest who, three times now, has called the cops on her. We're totally on her side and are delighted to see she is unrepentent.