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Mendocino County Today: June 23, 2012

“CALIFORNIA will close its projected $15.7 billion budget deficit by restructuring the state's welfare program, streamlining health insurance for low-income children, and reducing child care coverage and college aid, as part of a deal Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders announced Thursday,” reads the opening line of an AP story on the reactionary terms of a Democratic Party engineered California budget deal announced Thursday. (Governor Brown had pushed his fellow Democrats to make bigger cuts than they originally wanted and they rolled over for him.) The specific amounts of the individual cuts are not yet established, but they’ll be substantial if they’re supposed to make up the lion’s share of the $15.7 billion shortfall. And even if Governor Brown’s sales tax and minor increases on taxes on the wealthy are approved by voters in November, these steep cuts will stay in place. The new money — if it’s approved; a dicey question at best these days — will only go toward avoiding further cuts in schools and law enforcement, not to restore these social safety net program cuts. Republicans, of course, denounced the Democrats’ deal as inadequate. The so-called health insurance “streamlining” isn’t clear either, but if it’s anything like the managed care boondoggle Mendo recently joined, it’ll mean big cuts in actual care for children too, especially those for children of families who make over the artificial MediCal poverty cut-off.

LET’S TAKE ONE FINAL LOOK at the Supervisors reluctant decision Tuesday to approve Sheriff Tom Allman’s participation in a six-part reality series on marijuana eradication on the Northcoast. Specifically, the final remarks of all five Supervisors before the 3-2 vote to approve.

McCowen: “Probably all of us have questions and concerns. One of the biggest concerns that I heard is, Will this contract expose Mendocino County to bad publicity? Well, we already have nationwide and worldwide bad publicity regarding marijuana. Although I am not confident that we will get a positive result out of this, I do believe that, as the Sheriff has said, it's an opportunity to hopefully be able to tell some of our side of the story and get out some accurate information about how we are actually trying to deal with marijuana in Mendocino County. Although I think there is a lot to be wary of and I think there are legitimate criticisms that could be directed at this contract, on balance I am willing to support it and trust the Sheriff's judgment which I believe is predicated on Sheriff Allman believing that these producers are sincere in wanting to tell a more balanced story than we sometimes get subjected to without any approval or input. So I am willing to support it.”

Pinches: “I want to support the Sheriff on this, although he said I don't have a dog in this fight and then he said he supported it. But I just wonder how much we have, or the sheriff, or anybody has the ability to control what the news media puts out. Yesterday, I certainly agreed with what the Sheriff said, but I kind of disagree with what the producer said in his comments. Sheriff, I personally probably wouldn't like this. But it's something that you seem to think is important and you think it's going to end up with a positive result for this county. And certainly we need some more about our side of the story about what's happening rather than talking about how the drug cartels have taken over Mendocino County which makes my blood boil. ...  I will go with this but I wish you luck in trying to control the media.”

Hamburg: “I am not going to support this. If I really thought that our Sheriff had editorial control I would supported this in a minute. But particularly after hearing from the producer yesterday and again after looking at the website of Studio Lambert I think it's going to be the same old, If it bleeds it leads. I don't believe we will get an accurate portrayal from Studio Lambert. I think the producer showed yesterday that he has a lot of preconceived notions about what is going on here. I know there is some danger to our not participating in how they might portray Mendocino County — "…who refused to be a part of this…" — it's almost like we're hiding something. I just don't trust these phony news docudramas. It seems to me looking at the website that that's pretty much what Studio Lambert specializes in. Again, if I thought the Sheriff was in charge here I would not have any hesitation. And I'm not particularly swayed by the argument of the company itself.”

Brown: “I am going to support the Sheriff on this. I think it's a real opportunity to show that we do enforce the law against the illegal growing of marijuana. I think it will send a message demonstrating law enforcement on both public and private lands and encourage visitors. It will also give county residents a feeling of security. I don't watch those shows as a rule. I prefer the Discovery Channel or Channel 9 or those types of programs. I will give one example and that is Fish and Game. A Potter Valley boy who grew up in Potter is now a Fish and Game warden. I forget what they call his show.”

Allman: “Wild Justice.”

Brown: “Wild Justice. I want to tell you I have heard more about that from people, watching that show, because of the fact of wildlife — what are they doing to protect our resources and wildlife? So I do know that it has a lot of followers and I did watch that show obviously. I also think it will send a message to organized crime and criminal land squatters that we mean business here. I think it's a positive message and therefore I will move to support it.”

Pinches: “You mentioned that show Wild Justice. They do a lot of filming in Mendocino County without a contract.”

Smith: “I can't support this. I think it's unfortunate that we have traditional — basically,  situations like this sort of marginalize traditional journalism and it's getting harder and harder to find because Americans more and more want this steady diet of this sensationalism which is linked to the news and those become their sources and I think that's unfortunate and I don't think we should really play a role in that. I think that we have and can seek out responsible journalists in Mendocino County and beyond to tell what would be our story and I agree with Supervisor Hamburg that if I felt like the Sheriff was the one guiding the content, the storyline, here, I would be supportive of it. But I think externalities will actually be driving it. We don't know what will be driving it. We don't know what the outcomes will be. I also don't like the concept of obtaining a police dog through this contract and this studio has the naming rights to it. I just don't think that sets the right tone for a policy. I think it's really going to be the studio that's going to focus on the content and the story and how they decide to portray the story they want to tell. I'm sure there will be some influence. But I really don't like the whole tone of it. I don't think it's a good idea. I'm very concerned about officer safety. I don't think on very dangerous maneuvers that are going on in Mendocino County that it's appropriate to have TV crews being given a heads up and following them going on these unannounced raids or visits into territory in Mendocino County. I just, I think it's not a good idea. I'm sorry that we are going in this direction. I think it does tend to then marginalize the true journalistic reporters of quality that we have and that could be drawn to Mendocino County. This is clearly, the more that I delve into it, a freelance situation. This group is trying to come up with a storyline that they are then going to sell to the Discovery Channel. On so many points I just think it's a really bad direction to go in.”

Allman was at his masterful best in applying thick layers of sweet compliments to people he wants to butter up: "I appreciate the wisdom that's coming from this board and Supervisor Smith, I want you to know I appreciate what you're saying and in my conversations with the studio, your thoughts will be my thoughts because I can agree with every one of your points but I assure you that at the end of this year, or whenever they show these things, one side or the other is going to say I told you so. And we will see who is going down the right --

Hamburg: “Your side —”

Allman: “I hope it's the right side, but I want you to know that shedding a good light on the County of Mendocino is my number one priority and making people understand that moving to Mendocino County for the purpose of illegally growing marijuana is not something anyone should do and it's not something that we want, and with Marijuana Inc. (the CNBC show on marijuana a couple of years ago) it was just the opposite. People came here from different countries because they had seen this widely broadcast TV show. I hear what you're saying. I will listen. I appreciate you both speaking today because your wisdom is going to be carried on to the producers.”

Allman had succeeded in calling Smith and Hamburg's critical remarks “wisdom” twice in one comment!

Board Clerk: “Motion passes 3-2 with Smith and Hamburg dissenting.”

McCowen: “Thank you Sheriff — we will cross our fingers.”

Pinches: “If you don't like what they put out, Tom, you can always shoot them.”

McCowen: “That will probably be the lead-in for their show.”

Brown: They will probably feature you all weekend.

McCowen (trying to move on): “Item 5a, the Chief Executive Officer's report.”

Hamburg: “Can we have that stricken from the record?”

CEO Angelo: “Thank you Mr. Chair, I really don't know what to say.”

McCowen (pretending to cut Ms. Angelo off): “Fine. We will accept the report.”

Everyone laughed.

A COUPLE DAYS after the vote Supervisor Hamburg still harbored hope that the Mondo-Mendo Marijuana reality show could be nipped in the bud. “I work closely with Supervisor Pinches on lots of issues and have to admit that his vote surprised me a bit. I spoke with the Sheriff yesterday [Thursday] about the contract and he said that if the board didn't support it, he wouldn't go forward. It's possible that Studio Lambert will balk at some contract language insisted upon by Supervisor McCowen (as a condition of securing his vote). This might cause the contract to be brought back before the board in which case Supervisor Pinches could get another bite at the apple. … A supervisor who voted in the majority could bring it back for reconsideration on July 10 or the applicant could decline to sign the contract (because they don't like some part of the new language in the contract).”

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