UKIAH'S FOREST CLUB, the famous bar and retreat on State Street opposite the Courthouse, has been closed by the ABC for 30 days because an underage kid, dispatched by the ABC on a sting mission, got himself served a drink. As if the owner, who tends bar himself, doesn't have enough to do simply riding herd on whomever wanders in off the street, and in Ukiah, as everywhere in the land anymore, that often means people who are extremely difficult to deal with short of a baseball bat, which is the way the obstreperous used to be dealt with in Boonville's drinking establishments. Few small businesses can afford to be put on hold for a month. It doesn't seem fair to penalize the struggling owner of the Forest Club, a guy who tries to run the place right, simply because the government has nothing to do but run sting ops. And I'll bet the “kid” looked like your grandpa, the one who runs marathons.
LITERARY NOTE from R.W. Johnson: “Hemingway's famous terseness, his determination to get the maximum impact from the minimum number of words, and when the journalists who heard him demanded a six-word story competition, Hemingway won it easily with, 'For Sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.'“
MENDOCINO COUNTY'S smallest incorporated town, the City of Point Arena, is taking declarations of candidacy for 3 city council positions and treasurer position. Candidates must have their paperwork in by August 10th to get themselves on the November ballot.
MITCH DELFINO of Cloverdale has signed with the Giants. A third baseman for Cal Berkeley, Delfino is the most recent Cloverdale athlete to go big time, although he'll start out with the rooks in Arizona. The Rowland family saw dad get to the bigs as a catcher while his two sons move steadily in the direction of the major leagues from the minors.
DA DAVID EYSTER'S sensible pot enforcement strategies were recently featured in the Daily Journal Legal News, a newspaper for the legal profession. “Under new policy, some offenders can pay restitution and plead to a misdemeanor” by Henry Meier went on to explain how Eyster had “redefined” the pot prosecutions that have clogged the Mendo justice system for years under his predecessors. Eyster has deployed “an obscure law to collect restitution from defendants in exchange for lighter sentences.” Under California's Health and Safety Code Section 11470.2, part of a 1983 law that makes it possible for the district attorney's office to recoup law enforcement costs from a criminal defendant. “It allows us to file a petition in the original criminal complaint asking for restitution from the defendant,” Eyster said. “If they agree to pay restitution and accept the other terms of a settlement, felony charges are dropped and they can plead to a misdemeanor that keeps them out of jail.”
A DEFENDANT typically will end up on probation for two to three years and have to agree to law enforcement searches. They are also allowed to continue to cultivate medical marijuana as long as they comply with all state and local laws.
EYSTER, however, has always made it clear that he'd pursue the big, public lands trespass grows as the felonies they are. No deals for these guys. The DA told the Daily Journal that marijuana-related cases used to take about 15 months to prosecute. Under his approach, those 15 months have shrunk to an average of 70 days. “It's working very well for us,” Eyster said. “We have put deputies on the street paid for with this money.” Eyster said that he” personally looks at the cases that are prosecuted in this manner - more than half the total marijuana cases brought in the office are resolved by settlements under 11470.2 - and makes exceptions for indigent defendants when warranted.”
MAN BEATER OF THE WEEK: Ms. Sarah Bermudez, 28, of San Francisco. Height: 5 feet even. Weight: 138. Details aren't known, but the male vic called her in from somewhere in the Ukiah Valley and Deputy Massey, of the Sheriff's Department, must have concluded Sarah needed to be run through the system. Her bail was set at $25,000, an amount indicating that whatever she did to lover boy it was fairly serious. The unserious domestics see bail set at $10,000
THE SUPERVISORS have muttered-mumbled Laura's Law off to die a silent death. As some of you will recall, Fort Bragg City Councilman Jere Melo and property manager Matthew Coleman, were gunned down last year by a man widely assumed to be mentally ill, Aaron Bassler, also of Fort Bragg. Lots of Mendo people have since agitated for Laura's Law, a non-mandatory strategy that they think may have headed Bassler into therapy before he killed people.
THE PROB with Laura's Law is its non-compulsory stipulation, and, of course, it's expensive to implement because it requires the usual array of highly paid helping professionals that fiscally squeezed local jurisdictions can no longer afford.
THE VERY DEFINITION of mentally ill is that crazy people don't know they're nuts. Bassler would not have volunteered for help. In fact, he hadn't reported in a timely manner when the federal courts ordered him into therapy prior to his Mendo rampage. Local cops knew Bassler was dangerously out of control but, whenever he was arrested for something, Ten Mile Court predictably sentenced him to, basically, nothing, and off Bassler went, back into the hills, a mountain man, isolated and crazier by the day.
BUT IN JAIL, Bassler was a model inmate, indicating that his murderous rampage last August may have been fueled more by methamphetamine than mental illness. Or mental illness exacerbated into violence by methamphetamine. Lots of otherwise sane people do crazy stuff under the influence, but incarcerated, and caught up on their sleep, eating regular meals, they're fine. The state hospital system dismantled by Reagan in the late 1960s, used to incarcerate and re-tool the disturbed psyche, and if it couldn't be re-tooled the crazy person stayed permanently in the bin where he was at least safe and could not harm others.
USED TO BE, the 5150's went straight into the state hospital system; they weren't invited to report to the bin because they didn't know that it would be in their best interests to voluntarily present themselves for the straitjacket, or its therapeutic equivalent. But those of us who enjoy a more or less plausible mental health functioning, also used to understand that it amounted to cruel and unusual indifference to allow the insane to wander around unsupervised, untreated, a clear and present danger to themselves and everyone else.
BUT THE SYSTEM of systematic help for the mentally ill was dismantled in California, and most of the rest of the country, 40 years ago, hence the Basslers of Mendocino County, of whom there are a dozen or so wandering the County at the present time, a fact you can confirm with the people who deal with them — law enforcement and the court system. They're in and out of the County Jail all the time, these ticking timebombs, and there's nothing that can be done with them.
NO ONE WANTS to simply say, “In the present political context there is nothing we can do to get the Aaron Basslers the help a rational society would help them get.” Instead, we have these endless conversations about what to do with them without addressing the underlying problem — the absence of the mandatory, unilateral incarceration, in a hospital setting, of the mentally ill.
THE SUPE'S Laura's Law discussion contained some startling revelations, including Supervisor Hamburg's statement that there is no record that anyone at the County ever received the warning letters that James Bassler, the father of dual murderer Aaron Bassler, says he sent prior to his son's murders of Coleman and Melo.
JAMES BASSLER also says he told “Fish and Game” about his suspicions that his son may have been involved in the killing of Matt Coleman, which occurred almost a month before Aaron Bassler shot and killed Melo, but there is no record with Fish and Game of that letter.
DA DAVID EYSTER appeared before the Supervisors during the Laura’s Law discussion to say he had concluded his investigation of the Bassler shooting and that Bassler was not a candidate for Laura's Law because he didn’t meet the criteria. Nothing in the jail, medical or court records support the idea that Bassler qualified, Eyster said. When arrested prior to committing the two murders, Bassler had been under the influence of drugs or alcohol or both. When in jail he was given no meds and was a model of compliance. Bassler did not appear to be clinically insane even after the shootings of Coleman and Melo. He knew enough not to shoot the homeless guys he encountered, and he knew enough to elude an intense manhunt for 35 and a half days.
AFTER ALL THE PUBLIC hubbub about how implementation by Mendo of Laura's Law might have prevented the murders of Melo and Coleman, and the intense full court press networking by Sonja Nesch and others, only about 15 people bothered to show for Tuesday's showdown meeting with the Supervisors. In the end, the Board basically directed staff to keep doing what they are doing. The Powerpoint presentation is on the County's website under “items of interest” along with other documents, including a couple from Disability Rights California and another advocacy group that are opposed to Laura's Law.
SEIU is complaining that Sakowicz sand bagged them into appearing on his show with Carmel Angelo. After discussing the show with Sakowicz for weeks, so the story goes, Sakowicz suddenly told SEIU that Angelo would be joining them on the air. SEIU, which had been planning to focus on the hardships the county wage cuts had caused to their members, was taken aback and said they wouldn't go on the show if Angelo was included. Sakowicz then sent an email to SEIU saying he was going to publicly rip them if they didn't show up, by saying they were afraid to face Angelo. SEIU, which had already sent an email to their members announcing the show, decided to take their chances and go on with the show.
WAS SEIU AFRAID CEO Angelo would show them up? They needn't have worried. By the time Sakowicz was done patting himself on the back for bringing SEIU and management together “for the first time in history,” the hour had passed and KZYX seamlessly shifted from spoken word to music. Concerns that Sakowicz might ask hardball questions of either side were misplaced. Sakowicz alluded to the County hiring “outside attorneys and outside negotiators” but never asked Angelo how much that cost or where the money came from if the County is so broke. And he missed the opportunity to ask the SEIU leadership why they were missing in action when the Supes discussed the county budget or the RFP for mental health services. Or about the widespread grumbling among the rank and file who feel caught between an indifferent county administration and bumbling union leadership.
LOCAL SEIU PRESIDENT Louise “Weezer” Gonyo (and someone should have asked where she got the nick name) made the usual call for budget transparency. SEIU political organizer Paul Kaplan called for restoring the 10% cut in wages that SEIU just recently agreed to. All the other county bargaining units took the cut at least a year ahead of SEIU, and most of them have extended the cuts for at least another year. Only SEIU seems to think the county has money to restore wages. Or maybe they just want to make a show for their members. If SEIU really can't understand the budget, or if they really think the county is sitting on a pile of cash, they can do like other unions and hire experts to analyze the budget. Or they can just keep mouthing rhetoric about not balancing the budget on the backs of the workers when they know there is no money to do anything else. And there won't be any money locally as long as Washington is focused on missile diplomacy and corporate bailouts.
SAKOWICZ, who sits on the county retirement board, asked CEO Angelo if she was in favor of doing a “CAFR,” a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Sakowicz recently pushed the retirement board to do a CAFR and claims something like 57 out of 58 counties in California do one. Only Mendocino does not. Why? It is up to the County Auditor who so far has refused. When asked why, she simply says “we have never done one.” A CAFR would supposedly provide a longer range view of county finances than the budget which is really just a one-year projection for cash flow and spending. A CAFR might better identify trends and highlight problem areas. Angelo says she is willing to work with the Auditor to produce a CAFR, but the Auditor doesn't want to do one so it doesn't happen. A CAFR might reveal that the chief financial officers of the county, the Auditor and the Treasurer-Tax Collector, were asleep at the wheel for the last twenty years while county finances drifted onto the rocks. Meanwhile, Randy Goodman, who works for the county (and sits on the retirement board) has just finished doing a CAFR for the retirement board in his spare time. He could do one for the county too, if he was given direction to do so.
THE COUNTY SENT A NOTICE from the Auditor updating County employees on the “Retirement Contribution Correction Project.” Like anything else coming out of the Auditor's office, the notice provided as little information as possible. The notice says “retirement [meaning the retirement board staff] has recently completed a spreadsheet that lists all members' correction amounts” and expresses the hope that the corrected amounts will be distributed “within the next few weeks.” We are told the Auditor's office has been sitting on the spreadsheet with the corrected amounts since March.
REFUNDS should have gone out within a week or two of getting the spreadsheet, but that's not how things are done in the Auditor's office. The notice said nothing about when the error began (July, 2009), when it was corrected (January 2011), how much in over contributions will be refunded (slightly over $500,000), or how much in under contributions will be billed (about $30,000). The notice also neglects to say that the retirement board settlement with Buck requires Buck to reimburse the retirement board and the county for the cost of making the necessary corrections. So there is no excuse for the Auditor not to do the work needed to process the refund checks and get them out to the employees, including hiring extra help, if necessary.
STEVENSWOOD SPA and Resort at Little River, just south of mega-tourist magnet Mendocino, is being advertised as up for auction, meaning the present owners have defaulted. The property is advertised as located on the Mendocino Coast and in wine country with a “"stabilized income.” The ads also say it has “ocean views,” which it may have if you climb up on the roof. And wine country, of the alluring type, pretty much begins and ends in Anderson Valley, 45 minutes away.
FRED GARDNER assesses the relationship at the “center” of Oliver Stone's new flick: “Savages is vapid, hackneyed, racist, kinky, and politically deceitful. (No Mexican cartels are offing Laguna Beach dispensary operators because they have a 33% THC strain.) The DEA saves the day in the end, flying in just like the cavalry of old. The one corrupt agent is likable John Travolta who enables the happy ending by identifying the heroes as his confidential informants and then the menage goes off to a tropical island to be at one with the surf. The ostensible moral of the story is that the war on drugs turns people into savages, but the real moral is that Mexicans are money-mad murderers and gringos use marijuana as medicine. Fleeting product placement for the letters CBD (our heroes have a little GC/MS thingie that prints out curves and numbers). Recruiters for the military will love Savages —skills learned in Iraq and Afghanistan enable the dispensary guys to hold their own against the despicable spics until the DEA seals the deal. Smug Yalie motherfucker on the cover of High Times— oooh I can't stand it!”
A HUMBOLDT COUNTY JURY found Wednesday that Occupy's most innocuous expressions are ok on the steps of the Humboldt County Courthouse. Three people who lit kumbaya candles outside the HumCo courthouse after 9:30pm did nothing illegal and were cleared of charges that they violated a city ban on protests between the hours of 9:30pm and 6am. The judge had instructed the jury that if the people holding the candlelight vigil truly believed they were exercising their First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly, then they could not have the mental state required to commit a crime. (Now there's a slippery slope of judicial logic!) The law against overnight protests was drafted at the height of Eureka's Occupy protests that saw a host of street people and straight-up nuts set up permanent housekeeping on the HumCo courthouse lawn and steps.
TOM WODETSKI WRITES: “The Mendocino County effort to pass an amendment to the US Constitution that would help remove corporate money from our elections got a big assist last week. The California Assembly passed a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the US Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United decision. That unpopular decision allows corporations to anonymously spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. California became the sixth state in the nation to oppose Big Money's takeover of elections, joining Hawaii, New Mexico, Vermont, Rhode Island and Maryland. The goal of the local efforts is a constitutional amendment to clarify that corporations do not have the same constitutional rights as humans, corporate spending is not protected “free speech,” and citizens have a right to limit special interest money in elections and government. Co-chair of the Mendocino County Move to Amend effort, Tom Wodetzki, said “Residents right here in Mendocino County will have the opportunity to vote this fall on a ballot measure advocating a constitutional amendment to help get money out of politics. Ours could be the first county in California to pass such a citizens initiative, and thereby join the growing number of counties, cities and states nationwide expressing a strong desire to restore real democracy.” “Our federal and state representatives are not acting to end this outrageous corruption of our elections,” continued Mr. Wodetzki, “since they benefit from the status quo. So only an ever-growing demand from the grassroots will get the legal change we need, which has to be in the form of a Constitutional amendment. It would need three-fourths of the states to ratify it to become law. The Constitution has been amended 27 times to date.” Residents wishing more information about or wanting to help with this Mendocino County Move to Amend effort should contact Tom Wodetzki, 937-1113, firstname.lastname@example.org.”
PABLO SANDOVAL, the Giants third baseman, will not be arrested in connection with an alleged sexual assault at a hotel near Santa Cruz. A young woman, whose name has not been released, filed the complaint at 4:25am the morning of June 1st. Sandoval, 25, was questioned at the Seascape Beach Resort in Aptos that same morning with his attorney present. The attorney has characterized the incident as a “consensual, personal relationship of a sexual nature,” and the police apparently agree, although their investigation has been forwarded to the DA's office for review. The woman met a small group of people that included Sandoval in downtown Santa Cruz on May 31 and went with them to the Aptos resort. She said the alleged assault had taken place there.
EVEN IF YOU AGREE with the Obama administration’s apparent policy that marijuana dispensaries sell marijuana for other than medical purposes, the Feds’ latest threat to seize the building where the big Oakland-based Harborside Dispensary operates seems heavy-handed. Federal authorities said Wednesday that they plan to seize the Oakland property used by Harborside Health Center, which is believed to be the nation's largest medical marijuana dispensary.
THE US ATTORNEY'S OFFICE for the Northern District of California posted a notice on Harborside's door Wednesday that it intends to seize the property under federal laws prohibiting the distribution of marijuana. Not even a notice to Harborside’s attorney? The landlord? Nope. Just a notice on the door that the government was taking it.
HARBORSIDE'S attorneys insist that Harborside requires doctor’s recommendations and is in full compliance with California and Oakland laws.
ACCORDING TO A STATEMENT from US Attorney Melinda Haag, “The larger the operation, the greater the likelihood that there will be abuse of the state's medical marijuana laws and marijuana in the hands of individuals who do not have a demonstrated medical need.”
SO, WHERE'S THE BEEF? The evidence that Harborside was selling outside the state and local rules?
THE FEDS shut down Oaksterdam, another Oakland-based pot operation that was apparently in compliance with state law three months ago, and last year they shut down Northstone Organics in Mendocino County, the latter widely viewed as in total compliance with local laws.
BUT OBAMA'S Attorney General Eric Holder told the House Judiciary Committee in June that federal agents were only targeting large-scale growers and dispensaries “that have come up with ways in which they are taking advantage of these state laws, and going beyond that which the states have authorized.”
BUT NEITHER Holder nor Haag have provided any specifics about what those ways are. In previous administrations the Feds would at least try to run a sting on doctors or dispensaries to find out how they operate and whether abuses were occurring. It seems the Obama administration doesn’t bother with such legal niceties as investigations, warrants, evidence. Just put a note on the door and close them.
AND ALL THIS from an administration headed by a guy who was a well-documented stoner in his youth. Obama wrote in his biography that he used alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine during his teenage years in Honolulu to “push questions of who I was out of my mind.”
DAVID MARINESS, in his Obama biography, describes Obama's technique of “roof hits” while “hot-boxing” — concentrated pot smoking inside a closed vehicle. “When the pot was gone, they tilted their heads back and sucked in the last bit of smoke from the ceiling,” Maraniss wrote.
IF BUSH, a cocaine and beer man in his youth, was closing these dispensaries, there'd be serious pushback, but…
ATTENTION FORT BRAGG ADVOCATE: The Advocate's comment line, like all media comment lines, needs tending to. Remarks like this one by “Jason Hayter,” who claims to be writing from the California Culinary Academy, is allowed to comment: “More Gooks with Ab's over the limits when will all you faithful rednecks just start shooting them before they get in the water.” Unless comment lines are continually babysat, these fools take over.
TERRI GROSS has been appointed interim county counsel by the Supervisors.
SHE REPLACES Chief Deputy County Counsel Doug Losak who was named acting head of the department after former County Counsel Jeanine Nadel was elevated to the Mendocino County Superior Court.
LOSAK resigned as interim County Counsel after he was stopped at about 2am, July 3 by Sheriff's Department deputy Massey for speeding and having a faulty license plate light. The deputy smelled marijuana and searched the vehicle. Losak volunteered that he had an unloaded pistol in a locked firearm box under the driver's seat, ammunition in a magazine in the glove compartment and three to four grams of marijuana, about enough for two joints. Losak subsequently stated that he was in the process of applying for a concealed weapons permit because he'd been threatened by a former County employee. He said the gun was in his car when he was stopped because he didn't want to leave it at his house with his two small children present.
LOSAK has issued a public statement apologizing for the incident. In his July 9 resignation letter to the Supervisors, Losak said he wants “an opportunity to show you that I am more than capable of performing the job and of rising above this situation.” And, “I very much believe in serving the public good and have always taken pride in my work.” He remains a staff attorney and says he will apply to become permanent County Counsel.
MS. GROSS, a resident of Elk, hasn't said yet if she will apply to permanently occupy the top job.
SEVEN PEOPLE were arrested Tuesday morning (July 10th) in the Blue Rock Road area west of Bell Springs Road near Laytonville where more than 4,000 marijuana plants were seized along with three guns and more than $8,000 in cash.
SHERIFF'S deputies with the County of Mendocino Marijuana Eradication Team (COMMET), along with Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force agents and Bureau of Land Management officers, served a search warrant at 8:25am on five parcels in the area. They found 4,086 marijuana plants growing in a storage container, in greenhouses and in outdoor gardens. Victor Sanchez Padilla, 24, a Santa Rosa transient who was at the site, was allegedly found in possession of a loaded .45-caliber pistol and a .22-caliber rifle. Also present and arrested was Jose Javalera-Navarrette, 32, of Santa Rosa.
THE RAID TEAM found a third firearm in the home on one of the parcels and another estimated $3,500 in cash, according to the MCSO.
WITH POLICE SWARMING the area, Rafael Moreno, 58, of Santa Rosa, Victor Siqueiros, 36, a transient, and Jose Ramirez-Lopez, 32, of Willits, drove onto the property and into the waiting embrace of the raid team whose agents found $1,400 cash on Ramirez-Lopez. These three new arrivals were found to have ties to the Blue Rock pot op.
AS THE RAID TEAM departed, they discovered Efren Guzman, 34, of Rodeo, and Febronio Sanchez-Perez, 28, of Santa Rosa, in a stalled vehicle on Bell Springs Road. Inside the vehicle were 312 marijuana plants in grow trays. Guzman and Sanchez-Perez were also found to be involved in the Blue Rock Road grow.
ADDITIONALLY, Guzman was found in possession of a small amount of methamphetamine and $3,375 cash.
ALERTED BY THE RAID TEAM that the Bell Springs pot farmers were linked to a Santa Rosa home in the 1000 block of Temple Avenue, the Santa Rosa police raided the Temple Avenue address where they found 64 marijuana plants, about two ounces of methamphetamine and $3,600 cash.
THE SEVEN MEN arrested were charged with cultivating marijuana, possessing marijuana for sale, being armed in the commission of a felony, conspiracy, and possessing a controlled substance. They are being held in the Mendocino County Jail.
DEPARTMENT of Unintentional Humor (from a Friday report about Petaluma’s attempts to license and regulate “illicit” massage parlors, which are apparently proliferating in Sonoma County): “Petaluma Police Lieutenant Tim Lyons pointed out that in February a man in an illicit massage parlor in Santa Rosa strangled his massage therapist and proceeded to kill himself by running out into traffic. ‘That's the kind of crime we are trying to prevent here,’ he added.
IN MAY OF 2010, 15 Congressmen, including Ron Paul and Bay Area Democrats Pete Stark and Zoe Lofgren, asked Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, to “assure financial institutions (banks) whose account holders are involved in a business ostensibly operating in compliance with a state medical marijuana law” that the feds leave them alone. The previous year, Attorney General Holder had instructed US Attorneys throughout the land that they “should not focus federal resources in your states on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”
WHAT HAPPENED? Why the federal crackdown over the last year on dispensaries, with another widely publicized raid last week on the largest medical marijuana outlet in Northern California, Harborside, over an IRS complaint claiming that Harborside had not only been trafficking in an illegal substance, but had also been operating in violation of workers comp laws and generally cooking the books? Those are the federal allegations anyway.
BUT THOSE ALLEGATIONS, followed by federal raids on the most prominent clinics, have meant that the state and locally legalized dispensaries are forced into doing business the same way street dealers do business — cash, thus nullifying the wider benefits of legality such as safe transactions, orderly taxation and so on.
YOU'RE GETTING to be a Mendocino County old timer if you remember Sebastian Coe running the Penofin Mile in Ukiah. Coe is presently the man in charge of the forthcoming London Olympic Games and was, for a time, the fastest distance runner in the world. So, what was he doing in Ukiah? Penofin, a wood preservative, was founded in Ukiah where it still makes its headquarters. The boss, as I recall, was a great fan of the sport, and darned if he didn't lure Coe and a bunch of other world class athletes to Ukiah for a weekend of distance racing in, if memory serves, and it seldom does anymore, 1986.
SHERIFF ALLMAN might be interested in adopting a power strategy generated (sic) by a Brazilian prison. Prisoners held in the Santa Rita Do Sapucal jail ride stationary bikes hooked up to the town's electrical grid, thus helping to illuminate the town. For every three eight-hour days they spend on the bikes, inmates get a day shaved off their sentences.
THERE WILL BE 11 PROPOSITIONS on the November ballot, numbered 30 through 40:
• Prop 30: Governor Brown's tax initiative which would raise the sales tax and raise the income tax on the rich. We're already opposed for lots of reasons beginning with the paltry tax on the wealthy while at the same time raising the sales tax, which everyone pays.
• Prop. 31: Requires a two-year state budget plan and limits expenditures. (Budgets are presently adopted annually.)
• Prop. 32: Restricts political fundraising by unions, the rightwing's canard that unions are responsible for the state's deficits.
• Prop. 33: Allows insurance companies to set rates based on driver's history of coverage, not a good idea unless you think insurance companies should have even more freedom to set rates than they enjoy now.
• Prop. 34: Abolishes the death penalty for life in prison without the possibility of parole.
• Prop. 35: Increases penalties for human trafficking.
• Prop. 36: Revises the three-strikes law to impose life sentences only when the third felony is serious or violent.
• Prop. 37: Requires labeling on raw or processed food that has been made from genetically modified plants or animals.
• Prop. 38: Molly Munger's much more fair tax initiative that would boost taxes on everyone except the poor.
• Prop. 39: Requires multi-state businesses to calculate taxes owed based on one formula, and uses the diff for energy efficiency and clean-energy projects.
• Prop. 40: Challenges state senate redistricting, but this one already seems abandoned by its backers.
BILLY NORBURY, 33, the Redwood Valley man accused of shooting and killing his neighbor, Jamal Andrews, 30, has changed his not guilty plea to not guilty by reason of insanity. Norbury faces a murder charge with a special allegation that he used a gun in the killing of Andrews the night of January 24th. Norbury's attorney, Al Kubanis, persuaded Judge John Behnke to postpone trial until September while Norbury's mental functioning is assessed. The argument about who chooses Norbury's psychiatric evaluator will be held in Behnke's court next Wednesday.
SERGIO FUENTES has resigned from his prosecutor's job with the Mendo DA's Office. He may also face cultivation charges because police found a pot garden on the Fuentes family property in Redwood Valley where Fuentes lives. Fuentes, 33, was hired by former District Attorney Norm Vroman in the DA's Victim-Witness program. Fuentes, a graduate of Ukiah High School, subsequently went off to law school, became an attorney, and went to work for the DA's office.
IN OTHER NEWS from the DA's office, Jared Kelly, 34, has resigned to move back to Boston, his city of origin. Kelly had been working as a prosecutor at Ten Mile Court, Fort Bragg. Brian Weisel, 28, replaces Kelly at Ten Mile. Weisel had previously worked as a public defender in Ukiah. Prior to arriving in Mendocino County, Weisel worked as a prosecutor in Shasta County.
THE SILENCE coming out of the labor-management impasse at Mendocino Coast District Hospital is becoming more silent and more tense by the week. Earlier this month, CEO Ray Hino told employees that he intended to “suspend” the 3% raise that employees were due this year under last year's contract. “Although we have seen improvement in our finances during the past three months, we still have a long way to go to be a financially healthy hospital,” Hino explained in a memo to hospital employees. HINO went on to say that pay increases for management and non-union employees would also be suspended.
HINO attributes the hospital's financial difficulties to the bad economy; he emphasizes that the hospital has already cut other costs, but omits any mention of the hospital's contracts with doctors, which in previous statements Hino has said would be renegotiated when they came up.
FOR ITS PART, according to what we hear, the union believes that Hino's “unilateral” decision to suspend the 3% raise is a violation of the union's contract with the hospital and that the hospital's plans to enter into mediation are also unilateral. Therefore, it's not clear whether any mediation will go forward or whether the union (United Food and Commercial Workers based in Sacramento) will take hospital management to court to fight the suspension of the 3% pay increase.
MENDOCINO COUNTY’S TOURIST OFFICE wants its funding doubled and its contract reviewed every five years instead of annually, a startling request aimed at job security for its poobahs sure to be rejected by the Supervisors. Visit Mendocino County's “president,” Scott Schneider will make his pitch at the July 18th (Wednesday) meeting of the Ukiah City Council. It was established in 2009 and receives 1% of the countywide transient occupancy tax (TOT) via the county's business improvement district (BID) ordinance. Under the ordinance, lodging operators assess themselves 1% of gross room or rental receipts, raising an estimated $550,000 to promote tourism in the county. The county provides 50% matching funds.
SCHNEIDER will describe VMC's marketing strategies and, it seems, try to persuade Ukiah's pliable City Council that it's a good idea to increase the BID assessment by an additional 1%, in addition to the previously mentioned raises for himself and the extended five-year contract for VMC's dubious services.
AFTER ALL, it's not as if people in the great outside world don't know we're here, and it's always seemed off to us that taxpayers pay half the advertising costs for the private wineries and tourist spas whose splendors get advertised. And Ukiah? A resident of, say, Merced, is hardly going to be persuaded to visit his civic country cousin when he can stay at home to enjoy an unpleasant swathe of fast food franchises swimming in macadam. The big bucks people of the San Francisco Bay Area staked out their fave Mendo venues years ago, bringing in fresh touri by word of mouth. We don't need advertising.
THE ANDERSON VALLEY northwest up through Westport, with maybe a side trip to Point Arena, are the only areas of the County that appeal to visitors, and everyone already knows how to find us. Ask me, and I'd say Fort Bragg is a wonderful place for a weekend and, for the more adventurous, Covelo, located in Mendocino County's isolated beauty spot, Round Valley, offers river rafting and hiking and camping in an area where it's still possible to find natural solitude. Boonville? You're welcome, but you must dress appropriately. No old guys in Greek seamen's caps and shorts, please.
WHERE HAS SHE GONE? Last seen in Garberville two months ago with a scurvy male companion of the low type she seems to prefer, Miss Jacqueline Audet, aka Goldilocks, may have permanently departed Mendocino County. We hope her flight wasn't caused by the attention we focused on her. But we al-ways felt she was on the run from a family who missed her, that she could be turned around and somehow set right, and we all knew that her drop-fall drinking at her young age, combined with her association with Mendocino County's outdoors community, would surely mean an early exit from this life for Miss Audet. She was safer here than she's likely to be other places, because here she'd become a kind of minor celebrity, with lots of people looking out for her.
ACCORDING to the meticulous Linda Williams of the Willits News, DeSilva Gates Construction, of Dublin, has partnered with Flatiron West to become the low bidder for the Highway 101 Willits Bypass at $107.97 million. The project was estimated at $112 million. Granite Construction of Mendocino County bid $113.3 mil, just out of the running.
THE FIRES still raging in the Mendocino National Forest have burned an estimated 40 square miles. Full containment is expected by Friday, predicts CalFire.
THE GREEN PARTY has selected Jill Stein, MD, as the party's presidential candidate. Ms. Stein, a 62-year-old internist from Lexington, Mass, is already being denounced by Democrats as working for Romney, the same canard the middle-of-the-road extremists used in the Bush-Gore election, although Gore couldn't manage to win his home state of Tennessee and failed to challenge the Republican's election theft in Florida.
THE PROB the Greens have is hydra-headed, of course, given the reigning corporate duopoly's funding advantage, and that duopoly's fading commitment to even a pretense of political democracy. Ms. Stein won't be allowed into the “debates” and, if she even dares show up, like Ralph Nader, the cops will be called and she'll be escorted out of the arena. The Greens are ballot-qualified in only 21 states, but Stein says she's shooting for 40 by election time in November. The doctor is very brave. If Obama loses to the blandly sociopathic Romney she'll get all the blame.
AN AUTOPSY has confirmed that Mark Maples, found dead Friday night in a pick-up truck beside Sherwood Road, was beaten to death, dying from “blunt force head trauma,” according to the Sheriff's Department. Maples, 53, of Ukiah, was discovered near death by his girl friend on whose nearby property a large marijuana grow was subsequently discovered. She'd returned to the home she shared with Maples on Third Gate Road west of Brooktrails where she found Maples unconscious and near death. She managed to get him into her truck in a frantic effort to get Maples to the hospital but, by the time emergency services appeared on Sherwood Road, Maples was dead.
MAPLES' COMPANION has not been identified because, Smallcomb said, “At this point, I don’t want the possible suspects to know her name.”
A BASEBALL FAN reminds us that the regional Babe Ruth League playoffs commence this week at Anton Stadium in Ukiah. “You won't believe how good some of these kids are,” he says, “and most of them are only about 15.”