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Mendocino County Today: June 13, 2012

THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS VOTED UNANIMOUSLY Monday to partially “de-Teeter” the Brooktrails Community Services District. The County will no longer pay to Brooktrails the assessments for sewer, water, and fire, which amount to $120 per vacant lot unless the payments are actually received by the County. The County will continue to pay the taxes assessed on the Brooktrails lots because the Auditor Controller's office staff and the Treasurer Tax Collector said it was too much work to un-Teeter the taxes. In fact, the Auditor's staff (the auditor was not present) and the Treasurer seemed downright miffed that the scam was coming unraveled and blissfully unconcerned about the financial impact to the County. Their original recommendation, when McCowen brought the issue up in March, was to do nothing. Having had three more months to think about it, and increasingly under scrutiny for their mishandling of Teeter (the Grand Jury just released a report on Teeter) they recommended the in between step of de-Teetering the assessments, but not the taxes.

COUNTIES THAT OPT INTO THE TEETER PLAN are required to pay up front all taxes and assessments due to Cities, Schools and Special Districts, and are supposed to benefit when the delinquent taxes are paid back with fees and penalties with 18% annual interest tagged on. The plan is a money maker everywhere but Mendocino County where Dennis Huey and Tim Knudsen served as Auditor Controller and Treasurer Tax Collector since approximately the end of the last ice age. Huey and Knudsen, who ran the retirement board for decades, were also the architects of the non-existent "excess earnings," an audacious fiction that defrauded the retirement system out of tens of millions of dollars that the County is on the hook for.

INSTEAD OF USING TEETER PROFITS to pay off the original Teeter debt, (the buy out of the then existing 5.5 million in delinquent taxes), the Teeter revenues were dumped into the General Fund where they were used to fuel a year end spending spree, with the result that the Teeter debt doubled in size to over $11 million. It should have been paid off at least a dozen years ago. Except the so-called financially responsible people at the County, the aforementioned Huey and Knudsen, were not doing their jobs.

THE CURRENT BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, who have been tasked with cleaning up the financial wreckage created by their predecessors, insisted several years ago that all Teeter revenue be directed to paying down the Teeter debt, which has been reduced several million dollars.

COMPLICATING TEETER is the Brooktrails CSD, a sprawling rural subdivision of 6,000 lots with water for only 1,500. The lack of water and the steadily increasing assessments for sewer, water and fire, compounded by the financial downturn, have convinced many Brooktrails lot owners to discontinue making payments on their property. And when they let the payments go they also let the taxes go. After five years the County can sell the tax delinquent properties at auction to recover the back taxes, penalties and interest. Historically, the lots have been purchased by speculators who turn around and market the lots to unsuspecting urban buyers who think water comes out a pipe while sewage disappears down another. It never occurs to the new buyers that they have bought a lot that lacks basic infrastructure like water and sewer.

HISTORICALLY, everyone benefited from this serial scam, except the unsuspecting Brooktrails lot owner. Brooktrails got the full amount of its taxes and assessments paid up front; the County sold the lots at auction to recover the delinquent taxes with 18% interest; and the speculators got to buy the tax defaulted properties back at auction and resell them to the next wave of unsuspecting marks.

SUPERVISOR JOHN MCCOWEN drew attention to the scam last year when he pulled a routine item from the consent calendar authorizing the sale of tax delinquent properties, including scores of vacant lots located in Brooktrails. McCowen objected to the County's complicity in what amounts to an ongoing fraud, insisting that the County needed to at least disclose that the lots were mostly unbuildable. The Board turned a deaf ear to McCowen's concerns and approved the item 4-1. McCowen raised the issue again this year, augmented by some very good reporting by Linda Williams of the Willits News, who revealed that the tax defaulted Brooktrails properties were no longer selling at auction and hadn't been selling for several years. After fifty years the Ponzi scheme had Ponzied out, as even the speculators were no longer interested in buying the Brooktrails vacant lots.

AS DOCUMENTED BY MS. WILLIAMS, the number of Brooktrails lots unsold at auction steadily escalated in the last several years. The number of unsold lots reached 67 in the latest auction. If the lots never sell the County will never recover the taxes and assessments it has already paid out. The 67 unsold lots, which have been in the pipeline for five years, the time needed for tax delinquent property to become eligible for sale, are just the tip of the iceberg. The total number of tax delinquent Brooktrails lots stood at 589 in 2010-11. The only mystery is why the other 4,000 or so vacant lot owners are still paying the taxes and assessments when there are water connections for less than 1% of that total.

BROOKTRAILS WAS UNDER A WATER MORATORIUM for years until they convinced the state they really had enough water for another couple of dozen homes. When the state agreed, the Brooktrails Board of Directors promptly raised the water connection fees to around $20,000., which guaranteed that no one would apply for a hookup. But as long as the 24 prohibitively expensive hook ups are on the books, Brooktrails can say their is no water moratorium, thereby allowing all 4,500 lot owners to think that they too can someday build their American dream home on their Brooktrails lot.

BASED ON THE SUPES ACTION, the County is still on the hook for taxes paid out up front; Brooktrails will no longer be paid the fire, water and sewer assessments up front; no one will buy the tax delinquent Brooktrails properties at auction and more and more lot owners are likely to quit paying the taxes and assessments as they realize they have bought a lot that is unbuildable.

THE SUPES ALSO VOTED UNANIMOUSLY to deny the rezone of 17 acres on Lovers Lane in the Ukiah area. The land is owned by Pinoleville Development, LLC, a shadowy subsidiary of the Pinoleville Pomo Nation, which is trying to build a casino at the former site of Ken Fowler Motors on North State Street. The Planning and Building Department was sponsoring the rezone to satisfy a lawsuit settlement with Legal Services of Northern California which uses lawsuits against the County to fund their operations. The settlement called for the rezone of 24 acres within the boundaries of the Ukiah Valley Area Plan (UVAP) to allow a density of up to 24 units per acre. The end of the road 17 acres in question, remote from services, and bordered on two sides by ag land, was an unlikely candidate for multi-family housing, but would have met the criteria of the lawsuit settlement. The Planning Commission voted 5-2 against the rezone. And after hearing from a dozen or so neighboring land owners who were opposed, the Board unanimously followed suit.

QUOTE OF THE DAY from Anon: "Yes, the Euro-peons have been set up to take the first major hit. And yes, the Chinese will be peeing on them as they roll in the gutter; but not for long. The Chinese will have a consequent financial paroxysm, as will USA. They might even go first. Afterwards, the oligarchy hopes to rule a world composed almost entirely of peons. The financial oligarchy controls all the central banks, all major political parties, all western governments and most major western corporations including all of the major financials and media. There appears to be collusion because they all serve the same masters. Conflict, when allowed, is directed to profit the oligarchy, and/or reduce participants to enhance their control. This situation cannot be "reformed", as anyone in a position to do so is part of or subject to the control group. This system is not sustainable, because limited resources cannot expand and the parasites are killing the hosts by demanding more for each "fix". The oligarchy is well aware of the required contraction. Their current task is to slow and direct the collapse, seize as much real wealth as possible, and obsfucate their role, so their designated survivors are in position to control the remnant population through what arises to rule it."

DIVINE FEMININE: Warmest spiritual greetings, I am going to the demonstration tomorrow to oppose the H.E.A.T. conference at Oakland's Marriott Hotel at 11th & Broadway from 1-3P.M. I am supporting sex workers! I am condemning the psychotic patriarchal plutocracy, which would like to criminalize the Divine Feminine in the guise of sex workers. This is aside from my own inadequate social life in postmodern America, which needs more love (including sexual expression). I invite everyone who is sufficiently sick of living in this reactionary, ultraconservative, culture-of-stupidity, to show up and support the sex workers tomorrow afternoon. Love, Craig Louis Stehr Craig Louis Stehr Address: 593 62nd Street, Oakland, CA 94609-1246 Email: Blog:

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