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County Notes (June 23, 2021)

REMEMBER THAT SILLY DISCUSSION the Supervisors had on Tuesday, June 9th about holding department heads personally responsible for budget-overruns in their departments? 

AT THE TIME, SUPERVISOR TED WILLIAMS wanted the Board to simply adopt the idea on the spot since state law requires it. CEO Angelo agreed, but added that there should be some kind of appeal process. The CEO offered the example of the Sheriff being overbudget by $1.6 million, so he would get a memo from the Auditor saying that Sheriff Kendall owed the County $1.6 million, due and payable to Mendocino County forthwith. But the Sheriff should have an opportunity to appeal his $1.6 million invoice. After bouncing the idea around a while, with the vague awareness that it wasn’t as simply as just sending a bill to the offending department head, Board Chair Dan Gjerde “directed” that the question of billing the department heads for budget overruns and devising an accompanying appeal procedure be referred to the Board’s standing “General Government Committee” which, coincidentally, is made up of Supervisor Williams (chair) — the same Supervisor Williams who wanted to implement the personal responsibility for department heads policy immediately — and Supervisor Maureen Mulheren.

BY FURTHER COINCIDENCE, the General Government Committee met Monday, June 14 and guess what was NOT on their agenda: That’s right, the personal responsibility for department heads policy question. In fact it was never even mentioned. After a ho-hum discussion of the County’s entirely irrelevant and purely academic “legislative platform” and a decisionless review of the County’s “social media policies,” the meeting was abruptly adjourned without discussion of the personal responsibility for department heads policy, nor a mention of it being on the next General Government Committee agenda — which won’t meet again until August 9, if then. (The General Government Committee has a habit of cancelling its meetings fairly often.) 

OF COURSE the idea of holding Sheriff Kendall or any other department head responsible for departmental overruns is idiotic and an indication of how poorly Mendo and particularly CEO Angelo and the Supervisors manage and report on their budgets. But you’d think that at least if direction was given to refer it to “General Government,” that “General Government” would acknowledge that direction and start working on it, or at least realize how stupid it is and refer it back to the full Board. But Mendo has never taken “board direction” seriously and keeps very little track of their own “directives,” to the point that they accumulate on a list maintained by the CEO herself which has no due dates and almost all of which are listed as “in process.”

* * *

Mendo Proposes An Urgency Ordinance “Establishing Water Use Requirements For Discretionary Cannabis And Other Permits During The 2021 Drought Emergency”

(AVA’s Short version: No new discretionary permits “without (A) considering the anticipated water use of the proposed development and (B) imposing conditions of approval related to limiting or phasing any expansion of water use, as deemed appropriate by the reviewing authority.” Key phrase: “considering the anticipated water use” — i.e., not the source, just the amount “anticipated” by the applicant (who might be inclined to “anticipate” less than he anticipates using and which may or may not have anything to do with the actual use.

This tough-sounding Whereas blizzard [full text available on our website] needs a close reading for what's NOT in it. There are still no quantitative water use restrictions in the Russian River watershed — no cutbacks, reductions, or metering. And although "over 900 junior water rights holders" have been notified by the state "that there is not enough water in the watershed, and that diversions must be reduced immediately," no one has specified how much "reduction" or whether this means a volume reduction, a volume cap, or a percentage reduction. Nor have the many (but unspecified) "senior" water rights holders (most of them in Potter Valley which are pre-WW2/pre-Coyote Dam-Lake Mendocino) been notified of any new restrictions or cutbacks besides the obvious fact that there’s not much water available.

In other words, this "urgency" ordinance, like the previous urgencies is toothless, late and ineffectual. 

* * *

Agenda Notes

WHY DOES THE CEO want to buy a Redwood Valley home?

Next Tuesday Supervisors Closed Session Agenda Item 9a): 

“Pursuant to Government Code Section 54956.8- Conference with Real Property Negotiator; Property/Physical Address: 2170 E. Road, Redwood Valley, CA. Parties: County of Mendocino; Agency Negotiator: Carmel J. Angelo and Janelle Rau; Under Negotiation: Price/Terms of Sale. Property Description: Single Family Residence / Townhouse, 0.6 acres.” 

On line info: This Single Family Residence is located at 2170 Road E 309, Redwood Valley, CA. The estimated value of this home is currently priced at 419,795. A Company called Mountain Work Services, incorporated in March of 2021 is listed for that address and the agent name of this company is: JOSEPH CHARLES COOPER, and company's status is listed as ACTIVE. 

IS THIS ITEM on next Tuesday Supervisors agenda a concession to the critics of the Pot Permit Expansion Proposal?

Agenda Item 5g: “Discussion and Possible Action Including Direction to Staff to Draft an Ordinance Making Amendments to Chapter 22.18 of the Mendocino County Code, Including, But Not Limited To, Imposing a Phased Cap on the Size of Cannabis Cultivation Sites Initially of One or Two Acres Per Parcel [our emphasis] (Sponsor: County Counsel)”

Final Budget Notes

FINAL ADOPTION of the County’s 2020/2021 Budget is on Tuesday’s Consent Calendar but will it stay there? On June 9 the Supervisors directed CEO Carmel Angelo to meet with Sheriff Matt Kendall to try to reach agreement on two key issues. How much money does the Sheriff need for a realistic budget? Can the Sheriff’s Office IT department merge into the County’s IT department?

WE PREVIOUSLY REPORTED the dispute between the Sheriff and the CEO last week.

THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE claimed they were being underfunded by $1.5 million, primarily for replacement of high mileage patrol cars that are overdue for replacement. The Sheriff also insists that law enforcement confidentiality requires a separate IT department for law enforcement for security reasons. 

DID THE CEO AND SHERIFF meet? Did they agree on funding for vehicle replacement? Did they agree on any merger of IT? Tuesday’s consent calendar item is silent on this significant budget dispute. The only apparent issue was adding additional funding for the uncontroversial Fire Safe Council. 

MOST PUBLIC JURISDICTIONS post the entire proposed budget for everyone to see. But in Mendo the CEO keeps the detailed line item budget info under wraps. And the CEO keeps the Supes and the public in the dark. What is the budget for expensive outside legal counsel? What is the budget for acquisition of property for CEO Angelo’s secret deals? Without making the line item details of the proposed $346 million budget public there is no way to know. The budget is whatever the CEO says it is. 

ALSO LEFT UNANSWERED is the legality, not to mention the stupidity, of the Supes sending a bill to Sheriff Kendall if he goes over budget. The CEO’s budget presentation quoted State law saying department managers could be held personally liable for budget overruns. Supervisor Williams was surprised and wanted to know if that was true. County Counsel Christian Curtis, after engaging in his usual verbal obfuscation, finally concluded yes, the County could send a bill to an allegedly overspending department head. Williams wanted a handshake from the Sheriff’s Office that they would stay within budget. Undersheriff Brewster, subbing for Sheriff Kendall who was in Sacramento that day, said he’d like to but couldn’t when he knew the Sheriff’s budget was underfunded from the start. 

WILL ANY SUPERVISOR question the CEO’s selective account of Board direction from June 9? Will anyone ask if the CEO met with the Sheriff? Will anyone ask why the Supes and the public are not allowed to see the proposed $346 million dollar budget in full prior to voting for it? Or will it sail through on consent with no questions asked?

Small Is Beautiful Referendum, An Exchange

The tactics by supporters of the Drell referendum, are so unfortunate as it undermines both and could actually allow the expansion . The Small is Beautiful Mendocino referendum strikes only 38 words in the cannabis ordinance. One line that approves the 10% expansion of grows ,with at least 10 acres, to cultivate 10% of the parcel size. NOTHING ELSE. No caps , no other provisions in the phase 3 ordinance, only the most contested , that being expansion. The referendum signing process begins June 23. After this process is complete an initiative is being prepared that will rewrite the cannabis ordinance. The BOS have not done their job even though they have spent more money and time on that issue than anything else in 5 years. The initiative will be written by residents, ranchers, small farmers, business owners, non growers, the community, not county policy makers who have been more concerned about revenue than the people they work for. But we need your help. Look for and sign the Small is Beautiful Mendocino referendum, take a petition and gather signatures share posts, talk to friends and family. For more info, email, call the observer office at 7079846223, go to FB page Small is Beautiful Mendocino. Thanks

* * *

Drell supporter email:

Hi Everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying summer! Many thanks to our firefighters, who have been expertly putting out small fires and keeping our world smoke-free. As you’ll see in a photo below, I had a too-close personal experience with fire recently when a burn pile someone thought was out flared back up. 

Due to Saturday’s heat forecast, we are changing the time and place of the next signature-gathering training. It will take place on Saturday morning from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Low Gap Park (June 19). The spot has good shade and there is often a breeze. Temperatures should be manageable––in the low 90’s. Look for us at the tables in the entry area, near the play structure. (Directions: From N. State Street, go west on Low Gap Road. Cross Bush St, go past the cemetery on your right. Look for Low Gap Park on the left, just past Ukiah Player’s Theater, and opposite Ukiah High School.) Bring hats, water, and maybe spritzer bottles? 

Also, in case you’ve heard about a possible second referendum and want a reality check: yes, there is one, and it is supported mostly by cannabis growers who want larger cannabis fields than are currently allowed but don’t want the big corporate-sized grow allowed in the ordinance, and/or legacy growers who have been scared by county staff into believing they can’t get their state licenses under our existing cannabis ordinance (NOT true––if they have been responsive to communications from the county and otherwise qualify). This other referendum is called, "Small is Beautiful,” but “Small" is a LOT bigger than you think (one-acre grow sites as big as football fields instead of the 1/4-acre grows currently allowed.) 

For now, I hope you will trust my judgment that the referendum I am working on night and day, Save Our Water, Wildlife, And Way of Life (SOWWW, pronounced “soh"), is the best choice for our county. We want to repeal the entire new Cannabis Expansion Ordinance in order to stop our county planners and supervisors from letting cannabis proliferate in the county without a countywide environmental impact report. We want to keep the beautiful, wildlife-rich, and water-poor rangelands that surround our inland valleys free of new cannabis grows and all the human impacts that come with them, and we don’t want to put even more decision-making power into the hands of an inexperienced planning staff and an overworked and under-qualified planning commission. In a future email I will say more and will correct misinformation put out by the supporters of the new referendum, but I just wanted to get this much out today.

John McCowen:

It's ironic that the backers of one potential referendum are complaining about the tactics of the other. Both have consistently fed the public a steady stream of misleading and false statements about Chapter 22.18 and the impact it will have on neighbors and the environment. Chapter 22.18 will require a Major Use Permit, notification to neighbors, referral to about two dozen state and local agencies for review and comment (including local fire agencies, local water districts and CDFW), site specific environmental review, analysis of cumulative impacts and a Public Hearing where everyone may be heard. At the end of the Public Hearing the Planning Commission may approve the application as submitted, deny the application outright or approve it with additional conditions to protect the environment and/or the community. Anyone not satisfied with the decision has the right to appeal. Anyone not satisfied with the outcome of the appeal has the right to challenge the decision in court. Finally, the applicant will not be able to begin growing cannabis until they have received a permit from the County AND a State Annual License. NONE of these protections exist in the current ordinance. 

The opponents don't even know what they are objecting to. Chapter 22.18 is not a "Phase 3 ordinance" but an entirely new ordinance that adopts a stringent Use Permit system for legal cannabis cultivation. The current unworkable ordinance has 3 phases. Implementation of Phase 3 of the current ordinance has been put on hold while the Board considers adoption of the proposed Chapter 22.18 which will replace the current ordinance, including Phase 3. If Chapter 22.18 is NOT adopted it will mean that Phase 3 of the current ordinance with all it's faults, including no notice to the neighbors, no referral and comment by agencies, and no Public Hearing, will take effect. 

In addition to replacing the current unworkable ordinance with Chapter 22.18 which has real protections for the neighbors and the environment, the Supervisors have also directed dramatically stepped up oversight and enforcement and are providing the resources necessary to fund it.

Who’s Responsible for the Pot Permit Mess?

FORMER COUNTY HYDROLOGIST Dennis Slota, who is one of the sponsors of the more extreme “repeal it” cannabis referenda now being circuated in response to what his group says is an unwarranted expansion of pot grows in Mendocino County was interviewed in Sunday’s Ukiah Daily Journal about the cannabis permit program and how Mendo got itself into the very bad situation it is now in. While there are a variety of public perceptions about what should or should not be done to try to correct the situation — from focusing primarily on “Phase 3” to more tinkering with the current ordinance to a cap on the expansion to the outright repeal — there’s pretty broad agreement that the current mess is hopelessly beyond repair.

Slota told Rifkin: “Prior to Carmel Angelo becoming CEO in 2010, when I worked for the County, there was stability. County Counsel had been there for decades; the planning director, the ag commissioner had been there decades; there had been overall stability within the county. Taking into account the financial crisis of 2008, there still remains a heightened level of instability. There has been pure incompetence in the cannabis program. Previous to the program coming to the ag department there had been a long record of one commissioner [Dave Bengston — ms]; afterward there were multiple commissioners in just a few years. Illegal permits were issued without site reviews, with no review for sensitive species. When the cannabis program was later moved to the Planning Department, there was a constant turnover at the director level and within staff. Kristin Nevedal was recently hired as the County’s new Cannabis Program Manager. It has taken over four years of turmoil to finally move in this direction. With this record of failure and ineptitude, no one is held accountable. In my mind, the buck stops at the top. I would have to say Carmel Angelo is responsible for this debacle. By definition and by the work chart, she’s in charge. If outside corporate interests want to change county policy, I presume they would talk with her. Ultimately, this is about getting more money for the county. I believe there should be a county employee survey to ask how many county employees have confidence in CEO Carmel Angelo as a leader, how many enjoy working for her.”

Rifkin: “With an unprecedented coalition of agencies and individuals working in opposition to the board’s proposed cannabis ordinance, those working on the referendum are confident it will succeed.”

Slota: “It’s so unpopular with the residents and the incompetence of the county is so obvious, we believe this referendum will easily pass. Citizens are upset with how poorly the county has managed the program to date and we believe they have no capacity to pursue a major expansion, especially considering how they haven’t been able to handle what we already have. How does adding an additional work load improve performance? Right now, the board is on a blind rush to expand before an EIR is required. However, when this referendum passes, they will automatically have to do one.”

Rifkin: “[Slota’s repeal-referendum group] SOWWW [Save Our Water, Wildlife, and Way of Life] is still hoping the Supervisors will change their minds on the 22nd but, if not, they have a fully trained team of signature-gatherers ready to go on the 23rd and multi data bases with which to work.”

Slota: “Maybe the next step will be a recall of supervisors who decide to vote with outside corporate interests rather than with their constituents. That is now an ongoing conversation.”

* * *

A READER WRITES: “No matter what the Supervisors do, the process is still way too cumbersome and time-consuming which they should relax for smaller growers. But Mendo has a history of not enforcing permit conditions so these supposed fancy rules are mostly academic paper exercises which won’t make much difference. I don't expect the overall landscape to change much with most growers staying in the black market. Some ‘legalization’.” 

ANOTHER READER WRITES: “I think Supervisor McGourty highjacked Phase 3 to help the grape growers convert to cannabis because they over-planted vines. Supervisor Williams was a willing participant because it helps his agenda against the small farmers. Word has it that he advocated for a small farmer constituent, who burned him and he got pissed. The cannabis program is slow in reviewing current re-submittals and there has been no formal announcement of when the County’s ‘Portal’ will be online, so that current Phase 1 applicants can do the county's work for them by re-applying and providing a regurgitation of documents that were previously submitted. Williams’ 90% failure rate prediction [a reference to the number of current applicants who Williams says could never get a permit], can only come true if staff is directed to make it so. A close reading of Phase 3, virtually eliminates the traditional cannabis farming areas and concentrates it into the Valley floors. I doubt that vineyard owners will have the knowledge to grow quality bud. More than likely, they will grow for the extraction [concntrates, oils, ingredients, etc.] market. I predict that you will see cannabis extraction facilities pop up like wineries.”

Mendo’s Crisis Residential Treatment Facility, An Exchange

James Marmon: Why does the CEO want to buy a Redwood Valley home? My suspicion is that it’s the home the Schraeders have been using in Redwood Valley the last couple of years as a temporary Crisis Residential Treatment (CRT) facility until they could get the Orchard Street facility built. Measure B funds will most likely be tapped into eventually and the Schraeders will use it for supportive housing. Just a wild guess.

* * *

Pam Partee (retired County Social Services employee): A couple of grant fund/Sales Tax Measure project rhetorical questions: How is that the Orchard Avenue CRT facility is costing $5 million sales tax measure dollars? Driving by, it is very small for such a huge sum. And, why is it that Ukiah was allowed to divert sales tax Measure Y street funds to supplement the grant-funded Downtown Street Diet while no other city streets are being repaired?

* * *

James Marmon: We in Lake County are happy to have the Orchard St. CRT, we’ll make sure to keep it full so the Schraeders can bill Medi-Cal for full capacity. It’s going to be a big savings for Lake County Behavioral Health. Thank you Mendocino County voters and Measure B Citizen’s Oversight Committee.

* * *

Mark Scaramella: Is this more Marmon sarcasm? A reference, perhaps, to the number of reimbursables in Lake County? Funny, though, I don’t remember Lake County being mentioned in Measure B’s text. The CRT only has eight beds in four bedrooms anyway, so I don’t think it will make much difference to Lake County. And it certainly won’t make any dent in the kinds of street mental health/drug cases Measure B was sold on.

* * *

Marmon: Miller has been telling the [Measure B] Committee for months that she is working on a regional plan with Lake County to make sure these facilities (PHF, CRT) can operate at full capacity. Gal Pals, Angelo, Schraeder, and Lake County CEO Hutchinson would love to go that way. The only reason Lake hasn’t gone completely privatized is because of Adventist Health who the Schraeders would have to compete against. AH already has a presence here [in Lake County] with their Behavioral Health Program. Most of the Children’s System of Care is already provided by the Schraeders. I worked in their office in Lakeport, 20 years ago. You’re right, it isn’t what the people voted for, but it is what they’ll get. PS. Finding 8 severely mentally ill clients to volunteer to be housed in the CRT on any given day is going to be difficult. The facility will lose money if they can’t keep it full. The Schraeders will be accepting Lake County clients at the Orchard CRT, I shit you not. They will not operate it at a loss. They are only going to put reimbursables in the CRT, not “street mental health/drug cases,” and it’s totally volunteer. If someone refuses housing there they will be sent to a PHF out of County, which isn’t that bad, they will be back on the street within 72 hours. Allman sold Measure B to the public without knowing what he was talking about.

* * *

Scaramella: Dr. Miller’s presentation to the Supes next week says that in 2019/2020 there were a whopping 8522 “total unduplicated persons served by MHSA” (MHSA, Mental Health Services Act, aka Proposition 63 passed in 2004 which imposed a 1% tax on incomes over $1 million for “new” Mental Health Services.) Mendo has been getting over $1 million a year from this proposition which goes to the usual nebulous services for the usual suspects.

According to Dr. Miller the MHSA money “supports and supplements the Specialty Mental Health System which Promotes recovery and wellness for adults and Promotes resiliency for children and youth. Including: Community Services and Support Programs, Prevention and Service Early Intervention Programs, Innovation Programs [sic] and Full Service Partnership (FSP).” Which tells us nothing about the “service,” of course.

Dr. Miller claims that these services have produced “a decrease in Impairment/Symptoms” in 79% of cases — according to them, and their obviously subjective self-assessment.

In addition, Dr. Miller says that in 2019/2020 3362 “unduplicated persons were served by the Mental Health Plan.”

So, are you saying that out of all those “unduplicated persons” — at least 3362, maybe over 12,000 — they’ll have trouble finding eight Mendo people to accept a few days in a gold plated motel on Orchard Avenue?

* * *

Marmon: Yes. I bet you 95% of unduplicated persons served did not meet severely mentally ill criteria and just received an assessment, and it is most likely over 60% percent of those unduplicated persons served were children who can not be placed in the CRT. I’m not here to argue with you, but Miller is blowing smoke up everyone’s ass.

* * *

Scaramella: Haven’t you forgotten that Schraeder & Co do their own assessments? Isn’t it fairly easy for them to fudge the definition of “severely mentally ill clients” so that the numbers remain at least enough to fill the CRT facility? It’s kinda like Special Ed, right? If MCOE have staffing for x number of Special Ed/SELPA kids, it’s not that hard to find that at least that many are declared Special Ed, even when you can’t tell a lot of them from ordinary slow learners.

Holding Department Heads Personally Responsible for their budgets — an exchange:

Supervisor Ted Williams:

“At the time, Supervisor Ted Williams wanted the Board to simply adopt the idea on the spot since state law requires it.”

Not exactly. There is nothing to adopt. The BOS is bound by state law. California Government Code provides:

29121 Except as otherwise provided by law, obligations incurred or paid in excess of the amounts authorized in the budget unit appropriations are not a liability of the county or dependent special district, but a personal liability of the official authorizing the obligation.

29122 The board shall not approve a claim and the auditor shall not issue payment for any obligation in excess of that authorized in the budget unit appropriation, except upon an order of a court, for an emergency, or as otherwise provided by law.

Are you [Mark Scaramella] arguing that county departments should have the right to spend beyond budget? The budget becomes a soft guideline?

* * *

Mark Scaramella: Sure, but with explanation and presumably authorization.. And with advance notice so that the budget can be changed if reasonable. But you, the Board, don’t get timely budget reports, you don’t get annotated line item expenses, so you don’t know of pending or recent overruns until after the fact. If the Board got routine monthly departmental budget reports, as you should (and as is done everywhere else that I know of), you’d have either a heads up on budget problems and why, or you’d hear the explanation and adjust the budget. (Why do you have reserves?) All routine. If a department head goes over budget by spending on unapproved or unauthorized things, yes, that’s a problem. But if the budget is managed properly, that doesn’t happen. Budgets are plans, not guarantees, not promises, and plans have to be flexible. Further, if you take this state code literally, then you will be pressuring departments to hide stuff in their budgets or operations (like Budge Campbell and Dennis Denny used to do), and the budget no longer would reflect reality. Department heads could inflate costs and staffing for example to give themselves private reserves, or they could delay or underspend on necessary expenses so that they artificially stay under budget. It’s a formula for mistrust and mismanagement. You don’t want to encourage fooling around with budgets. Fix the budget process, don’t create a gotcha culture with the department budgets. It’ll backfire.

* * *

“K.H.” — Supervisor Williams is conflating two different ideas there. Just because the budget is a guideline doesn’t mean that every department should spend beyond it.

No citizen would argue that departments should spend beyond budget. But a budget made a year (or more) prior seems like it would be a guideline, yes.

Aside from having a large reserve, how does a department respond in an emergency situation which wasn’t budgeted for?

I have a monthly budget – house payment, food, insurance, taxes, utilities, communications, discretionary spending. If my car breaks down, I revise the monthly budget.

* * *

Lazarus of Willits: When the previous Sheriff was in office, he said on numerous occasions that his department did not exist to save the people money. It existed to provide services. And I would suspect the current Sheriff feels similar, and perhaps many other County officials and department leaders do also. I heard a Supervisor say years ago that he could not believe how much money rolled in every day…Perhaps with that attitude, the budget issues are understandable.

* * *

Supervisor Williams: I fully support funding public safety at the level necessary to meet public expectations. That’s not the issue. The issue is whether state law is to be followed. Can departments spend beyond budget at their discretion or must they come forward to request budget adjustment?

(To be continued… — ms)

One Comment

  1. Rye N Flint June 24, 2021

    Ted may “fully” support funding public safety at the level necessary to meet public expectations… but does he support funding Public Health?

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