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Mendocino County Today: July 7, 2012

ONLY IN MENDOCINO COUNTY could you screw up big time and get yourself a big raise. Bruce Richard is the long-time boss of the Mendocino County Transit Authority, basically a fleet of heavily subsidized, little used buses. Richard is responsible for Dirt Gate, his decision to haul contaminated dirt from MTA to the Ukiah Fairgrounds, from where, at huge expense, it has had to be hauled outtahere. The dirt came from an MTA construction project, a combination bus barn and lavish suite of offices for Richard.

ITEM 11 on the MTA's board meeting for June 28th reads merely, “General Manager’s Contract and Salary.” Which is where Richard's annual take was boosted to $106,000. Of course MTA's board of trustees consists of other public agency and non-profit drones who include former supervisor Richard Shoemaker and former Ukiah Mayor Jim Mastin. Mastin distinguished himself last year with a Kim il Sung-like tribute to Richard that set a new local record for the most laughably untrue praise for an incompetent local official.

RICHARD'S BLUNDER in foisting off fuel-contaminated soil on the Ukiah Fairgrounds from where it has had to be shipped to the landfill at Vacaville, should have gotten him fired, but Mastin and Shoemaker got him a big raise instead.

MTA'S WEBSITE claims that MTA ridership “has increased to 401,000 trips per year in a county of only 90,000 residents.” And, “Today, MTA operates nine fixed bus routes running five to seven days (one of which runs trips every 30 minutes), two Dial-A- Ride services and two flex routes.”

LET'S DO THE MATH: 401,000 trips per year with about 360 operating days per year (after holidays) translates to about 1100 trips per day. About five of the routes are only once per day which, assuming (generously) 15 people each way, could be as high as 150-200 trips per day for those routes. So the other 950 rides per day would have to be over the remaining 4 urban routes and dial-a-ride. That translates to 950/5, or about 190 trips per day per route. If they operate eight hours a day that would be about 190/8 or 24 people per hour per urban route. If they operate 12 hours a day that would be more like 18 people per hour per urban route. (On average; probably varies a lot which would explain why they seem empty so many hours per day.)

IT'S POSSIBLE that these numbers are more or less in the ballpark, but since they're Richard's figures, Buyer Beware.

AT THE ANNUAL love-in among so-called transportation professionals last year, Mastin puckered up to say, “Bruce has led the Mendocino Transit Authority with vision, courage and leadership. This award is recognition by his peers of his work and spotlights the MTA as a well run, forward looking agency.”

A DEMONSTRABLY untrue statement as anybody who has ever tried to go from, say, Boonville to Ukiah, between the hours of 8-5, and don't even try to go to and from Laytonville or Covelo.

"LEADING THIS AGENCY is not hard,” Richard responded, “with a progressive, intelligent Board of Directors and 60 other employees who are professional and care about our passengers."

NOT TO GO to metaphysical on you here, but doesn't this get you one of the lesser berths in Dante's Circle of Hell?

SOME INTERESTING ITEMS on next week’s Board of Supervisors agenda:

ON JULY 10, 2012, The Board of Supervisors is slated to auto-approve another $80k per year consulting contract with Rick Haeg of Nickolaus and Haeg (based in Humboldt County) for “Labor Consulting Services.” Haeg’s “fee schedule” for July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013 is: $150 per hour for consulting services provided off-site; $150 per hour with a guarantee of a minimum of eight (8) hours of pay per day for any day worked on site in Ukiah, and $50 per hour travel time for travel to and from Ukiah for on-site meetings.” If you like the way the Board handled last year’s labor negotiations, you’ll love paying another $80k for another year of “labor consulting services” on a month to month basis.

HERE’S ANOTHER GREAT EXPENDITURE slated for consent calendar approval on Tuesday: “On August 2, 2011, the Board approved agreement with HealthyRoads, Inc. to provide Wellness services in conjunction with the County’s current Wellness Program. Effective July 1, 2011 at an amount not to exceed $137,475 for the fiscal year for "Biometric Screening Services.”

FOR THE $145k (the “not to exceed” amount) the County will get about 565 “fingerstick screening” blood tests providing: (i) Total Cholesterol, (ii) High Density Lipoprotein (“HDL”), (iii) Low Density Lipoprotein (“LDL”), (iv) Triglycerides, (v) Coronary Risk Ratio, (vi) Fasting Glucose, (vii) blood pressure, (viii) weight, (ix) height, and (x) calculated BMI (body mass index) at $52 per screening. If a doctor does the test already, the county will pay $12 per patient for that data to be included in the report.

WHY NOT just put all County employees on a weight loss program for $0,000 per year?

CONTINUING IN THE TRADITION of spending like there’s no budget crisis, outgoing County Counsel Jeanine Nadel “is requesting that the allowed amount of $115.39 per pay period be granted to the position of the current Interim County Counsel,” for Doug Losak, recently popped careening around at 2am with a couple of joints-worth of dope and a gun in a lock box concealed under his seat. Losak says he needs to carry a gun because a former County employee is after him.

“THE COUNTY Executive Officer,” (aka Carmen Angelo) “has approved this raise for Losak,” which amounts to $3,000 more for the Midnight Rambler, (the $143k per year salary the County Counsel gets just isn't enough to cover job related travel.

SUPERVISORS Hamburg and Pinches, in a weird story by Glenda Anderson in Friday's Press Democrat, said Losak's misdemeanor 2am adventures shouldn't be held against him. Hamburg went even further, saying lots of County officials have run afoul of the law. Glenda Anderson dutifully listed a few neglecting, of course, her love interest Mike Sweeney, the County's lead garbage bureaucrat and still the only viable suspect in the car bombing of his ex-wife, the late Judi Bari.

THEN THERE’S THIS dead-ender from Supervisors Hamburg and McCowen: “Strengthening our local economy, including local government, is a priority for the Board of Supervisors. While ‘buy local’ efforts have become more popular [not to mention completely ineffective], untold millions leave our county (including newspaper advertising revenues to chain-owned corporate papers) to pay for things that we either don’t produce or don’t produce in sufficient quantity. Purchases for food and energy are major contributors to this outflow of dollars and efforts are underway [unidentified efforts, of course] to keep more of this money circulating locally. Another part of this outflow is capital, a large amount of which leaves Mendocino County seeking greater returns and more security through banking and investing with large financial institutions, many of which are based on the east coast and abroad. The Public Banking Institute (PBI) was formed just a year and a half ago with the mission of facilitating the implementation of public banking at all levels — local, regional, state and national. PBI’s vision is to establish a distributed network of state and local publicly-owned banks that create affordable credit, while providing a sustainable alternative to the current high-risk, centralized private banking system. This network will act in the public interest, using its counter-cyclical credit-generating capacity to stabilize potential credit crises, maintain a floor against threats of asset devaluations, build infrastructure, and fund expansion of critical industrial productive capacity. Most important, public banking will create jobs, by partnering with local banks to fund local business, advancing credit for public infrastructure, and augmenting government revenues. The Board will receive a presentation by Marc Armstrong, Executive Director of PBI, and ask any questions it deems appropriate.”

SO? WHY NOT place the County's money with the Redwood Credit Union?

FUKUSHIMA SPEAKER IN UKIAH JULY 30 Mr. Yastel Yamada, a retired engineer and founder of the Fukushima Skilled Veterans Corps, will speak in Ukiah on July 30 about repairing the failing cooling system at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. He will be joined by local advocates who will speak on the status of nuclear power and anti-nuclear activism in California. The event will be held at the Ukiah Unified Methodist Church social hall, beginning at 7:00pm. A question and discussion period will follow the presentations. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was heavily damaged by the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011. In addition to the uranium fuel rods that were in use at the time of the disaster, the plant also stores hundreds of used fuel rods in water-filled cooling chambers that are beginning to fail. Mr. Yamada, 72, is eager for the chance to help. After seeing hundreds of younger men on television struggle to control the damage at the Daiichi plant, Mr. Yamada struck on an idea: Recruit other older engineers and other specialists to help tame the rogue reactors. Not only do they have the skills needed, but because of their advanced age, they are at less risk of getting cancer and other diseases that develop slowly as a result of exposure to high levels of radiation. Their volunteering would spare younger Japanese from dangers that could leave them childless, or worse. “We have to contain this accident, and for that, someone should do the work,” said Mr. Yamada, a retired plant engineer who had worked for Sumitomo Metal Industries. “It would benefit society if the older generation took the job because we will get less damage from working there.” The Japanese government has so far refused the offer of help from the Skilled Veterans Corps. Mr. Yamada’s United States tour is being sponsored by Fukushima Response, a group of concerned individuals working together to demand an international response to the dangers currently posed by the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. His appearance in Ukiah is being co-sponsored by the Ukiah United Methodist Church, the Mendocino Environmental Center, and Occupy Ukiah. The event will be broadcast live on KMEC 105.1 FM and streamed live at It will be videotaped and shown locally on Mendocino Access cable television. Go to for program information. Mr. Yamada and the Skilled Veterans Corps represent the most noble aspect of humanity - those who are willing to risk themselves to save humanity from its own mistakes. The people of Mendocino County are likewise ennobled by our efforts to help. The Ukiah Unified Methodist Church social hall is located at 200 North Bush Street. The event is free; donations graciously accepted.

MEMORY FADES by John Wester

Memory fades, the fear subsides;

Pain’s forgotten, the future rides

On such words as nevermore,

Stronger than they were before.

* * *

I went to the 2012 San Diego County Fair at Del Mar with Katheryn and we wandered through the fine arts exhibit. There was a picture I like very much and I put in a $200 bid for it, which was what it was selling for at the time. It is a mixed media picture of a woman’s face, and called, Memory Fades. It looked like pastels or watercolor, and let us say it moved me. What I saw was no doubt more than the artist intended me to see, but this was what I saw: the picture is dark; the woman had a face that reminded me of Angela Davis from the 70s; her hair is an abstraction, if not an Afro, but I saw images of wild dogs of the African savannahs, or perhaps police dogs from Birmingham. Katheryn didn’t see any of that, and thinks I’m nuts. I do the same with Jasper Johns’ Flag.

I could be all wrong. With a name like Memory Fades and a darkened face of a woman staring out at the viewer, it could be her remembering the good times as best she can, but memory fades. Her eyes actually don’t seem to look at you as past you, or when you stand directly in front of it, through you.

I filled out a form that will be passed on to the artist, Michele Jackson, with my email address. Other paintings at the Fair were selling for thousands. Her asking price was $200 because it was a print.

In the room where I write I have the print of the US flag on the wall painted by Jasper Johns. It is also mixed media, hot wax painted over newsprint on plywood. The flag looks faded and dirty. I got it from the computer college where I used to teach. Actually, Katheryn who worked in the college’s Financial Aid Department got it for $2 from the college’s founder who was getting rid of it. The college had been furnished with expensive prints of abstract art. One of the students complained about the Johns’ Flag painting which was hung in one of the classrooms. Many of our students had been in the military and one student thought it was disrespectful to the flag. I think Katheryn knew I’d like it.

Some of my “ultra-left” friends feign shock when they see the American flag hanging on my wall. One of my friends, more of a Zen jester than anti-patriot, hangs a pirate flag on Flag Day. Those are my kinds of friends so I’m not surprised. The Flag painting by Johns is one of a series. It was painted in 1955 before Alaska and Hawaii became states and has 48 stars. I can distinguish faces and animals in the stripes, and ghosts in the stars, which is caused by the newsprint bleeding through. Some of the faces are bizarre or monstrous, some look like animals. On the John’s print that Katheryn bought, it’s hard to see beneath the paint to see what newsprint Johns had chosen to paint the flag on, because it was reduced in size from the original painting which was 42x60. But it looks like your average Daily with news of the stock market, advertisements and stories. Katheryn can’t see any of the faces that my over-active imagination conjures up, but she can see a snatch of one piece of newsprint bleeding through that reads PIPE DREAM. Turns to be from an ad for the Rodgers and Hammerstein, musical, Pipe Dream. (The musical was based on John Steinbeck’s novel, Sweet Thursday, which was a financial flop on Broadway in 1955, when Johns was painting the Flag.)

Before the County Fair closed on the 4th, I got an email from Michele Jackson about her painting, Memory Fades telling me that if I wanted it she was still selling it at $200. I’d already written what I wrote above for the Rhyme Alert, so I sent the comments and rhyme to her and told her I’d buy it. She emailed back to tell me she was picking the picture up from the Fair on the 5th when it had closed and she could deliver it to us on her way back home.

After I met her I changed the rhyme from the one I sent her. Katheryn had read what I wrote about the picture and she hadn’t seen any of what I thought I saw. Michele was tall, athletic, in her late forties and shook hands with a grip of a sailor. Turns out she’d been 30 years in the military, 6 in the Army and the rest with the Navy. Michele came with a friend who told us Michele was just beginning as a professional artist, and that she was very good at it. We thought so, too. This was one of the few paintings I’d ever bought. Michele uses mixed medium, Photoshop plus. She told us that when she learned Photoshop she could do anything (with her imagination). She brought her art work on an iPad for Katheryn and me to see. She had submitted two pieces to the Del Mar Fair and one, Memory Fades, was accepted. Then she told us that after she sold me the print, the Fair gave her an award for it. I have print #1 of 25 and now she’ll be able to ask for more. She said this was all new to her, selling art, that is. Her friend she brought with her seemed to know the business end of it.

I’m glad Katheryn was there because I’m usually tongue-tied around strangers and Katheryn’s the opposite. Katheryn even had to remind me to pay Michele before they left. After I had sent her the rhyme and comments she emailed me back to say the face was not Angela Davis. That she had done the face from memory. She said she was flattered by what I wrote and when she was here she asked if she could quote me. I didn’t know if she meant the rhyme or the comments. But Katheryn asked her straight out what the picture was about and Michele did her best to not disabuse me of my illusions. She said she couldn’t explain it, that it was just a woman in a dream-like state. I wasn’t disappointed my interpretation was off, I’m sure I’m just as wrong about Jasper John’s Flag.

Memory Fades now hangs on the opposite wall where Katheryn’s Flag by Jasper Johns hangs. My computer is up against the window between the two, so I have a choice of where to explore my subconscious, Memory Fades or Pipe Dream.

One Comment

  1. John Sakowicz July 6, 2012

    On my next show, Friday, June 13, at 9 AM, on KZYX, I hope to have a few representatives from SEIU.

    This show is, in part, apropos of the news item discussed above, which states, “The Board of Supervisors is slated to auto-approve another $80k per year consulting contract with Rick Haeg of Nickolaus and Haeg (based in Humboldt County) for Labor Consulting Services.”

    And which concluded, “If you like the way the Board handled last year’s labor negotiations, you’ll love paying another $80k for another year of “labor consulting services” on a month to month basis.”

    Stayed tuned for the roster of guests, once confirmed.

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