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Off The Record

THE BASSLER MATTER continues to create an undercurrent of vague recriminations. Bassler, you will certainly recall, was the young Fort Bragg mountain man who shot and killed Matt Coleman and Jere Melo in the fall of 2011. Bassler, after the Melo shooting, managed to elude law enforcement for more than a month before he was shot to death by a Sacramento swat team. It then developed that both Bassler's mother and father suspected that their son may have murdered Coleman near Westport but failed to report their suspicions to law enforcement. Bassler's mother had dropped her son, armed with a rifle, at the gate of the property where Coleman would soon be killed. Aware of the Coleman murder, Bassler's mother, at a family picnic about two weeks after Coleman's death, mentioned to her former husband that she'd deposited their disturbed, rifle bearing son in the vicinity of Coleman's murder. Neither parent reported that fact to the police who were, at the time, mystified by what appeared to be the absolutely senseless, and perhaps random, shooting of Coleman. Bassler subsequently shot Melo to death. If the cops had known that Bassler, armed and in precarious mental health, often isolated himself in the forests between Westport and Rockport, and roamed even farther north into Southern Humboldt County, he could have been stopped long before he killed Melo.

BUT FISH AND GAME had Bassler down among a number of suspects in the shooting of an elk in the Usal area a month before the Coleman murder. Elk range north of the Usal campground but seldom south of the campground. And we should pause here for a word about that campground. Two words. Don't go. Or if you do go, hike up the Lost Coast Trail a ways if you desire a wilderness experience sans wild drunks and loudmouthed party dudes and dudettes. All kinds of drunks and nuts, gun nuts among them, are found at the Usal campground because it is mostly unsupervised. The awful people at Usal, of course, are mostly sedentary. They don't walk far from their tents and vehicles. You can elude them simply by hiking north up the Lost Coast Trail and throw your sleeping bag off the trail somewhere, out of the hearing of the depraved oafs below. Knowing that Bassler was an isolate, it is unlikely he spent time in the area of either the campground or the elk shooting. And he was not known to be a hunter.

USAL is a hard slog from where Coleman was shot, and the elk range north of Usal is a harder slog yet, but Bassler, as we now know, was very fit and certainly capable of moving great distances very fast on foot. At one point while he was the subject of the huge manhunt that finally resulted in his death, he appeared at Four Corners at the north end of the seldom traveled Usal Road, far to the north of where the police were looking for him.

FOR FISH AND GAME to associate the shooting of the elk north of Usal with the subsequent shooting of Coleman near Rockport wouldn't necessarily be an association Fish and Game might make, especially in a suspect pool that includes people from the campgrounds just south of elk habitat. But Fish and Game wardens based in Fort Bragg did know that Bassler, whom they regarded as odd, camped in the wild country from Westport north to Usal, and they did talk to Bassler's father about the shooting of the elk. And cleared Bassler.

DID FISH AND GAME tell the Sheriff's Department at the time of the Coleman shooting that this strange young man was known to them, that they suspected him of shooting the elk even though Bassler was not known to hunt game? Yes, but that information included other people and Fish and Game was certain that Bassler had not shot the elk. The cops had no reason to red flag Bassler when Coleman was murdered on the basis of the broad information supplied to them by Fish and Game.

THE UNHAPPY FACT remains, that if Bassler's parents had reported their suspicions that their son might be responsible for Coleman's death, Jerry Melo would still be with us; the Sheriff's Department would have had a month between Coleman's shooting and the shooting of Melo to bring Bassler in, dead or alive.

AN ANONYMOUS READER WRITES: “Your attack on Gary Hudson is unwarranted. Gary was one of the most intelligent, dedicated and hard working employees that Mendocino County will ever see. He was blindsided when Craver retired early. He went to the Board meeting expecting to be appointed interim Sheriff, but he did not know Allman already lobbied Wattenberger, Delbar and Pinches to appoint Broin, so Allman would have a better chance of getting elected. His life got even more fucked up when Allman took over. The stress did him in, and it was caused by the job, Allman, and dirty politics. The drinking, depression and domestic violence came later, and were symptoms of his stress, not the cause of it. The stress did Broin in too, but manifested itself as physical problems. Your claim that deputies go to doctors willing to write false diagnoses in exchange for office visits is pure tripe, and below even you. The problem is a sheriff that is a master at deception and manipulation who mistreats his people, especially the ones that will not give up their integrity for Allman. My guess is he made sure you got the story he wanted you to get, in hopes you would publish it. And you know what? You did exactly that. You’re a patsy Bruce. Wake up and smell the coffee.”

PATSY REPLIES: Excuse me, but are you saying the election of Allman so traumatized Gar that he stressed out? Please. I tried to make the basic point that stress leaves are often abused by cops and firefighters. In fact, fifty years ago stress outs were unknown because it was assumed that when you signed on to the job you understood that you'd be stretched physically and emotionally. And for the record, the AVA supported Broin for Sheriff. Also for the record, what you might call the “law enforcement community,” including the DA's office and even Bozette's half-arsed public defender's operation, has always kept us at arm's length and, for long periods of time over the years, has refused to talk to us period. The idea that Allman would confide in us to make Hudson's life difficult is laughable. No one on our end, incidentally, has strong feelings either way about Hudson, and less idea of his problems with the present leadership. I think a lot of the internal problems you imply at the Sheriff's Department have a very simple cure — make it a position filled by appointment by the Supervisors rather than an elected one which, as it stands, often puts cops at each other's throats when they divide behind this or that candidate to become their boss. That said, I think Allman and Eyster are doing a good job, and I think cops generally in Mendocino County do a good job in an ever more impossible political-social context. But I wouldn't trust a psychiatrist to make me an edible cheese sandwich, let alone evaluate someone for so-called “stress.” From them, as anyone who's ever been in a courtroom knows, you get the opinion you pay for.

JOHN SACKOWICZ hosted a lively debate on his KZYX radio show, All About the Money, a couple of Friday's ago. Gadfly financial analyst John Dickerson and County Supervisor John McCowen went mano y mano. Dickerson is the pugnacious former head of the Mendocino County Promotional Alliance (MCPA). He famously stonewalled the Grand Jury when they wanted to see how MCPA was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money. Judge Richard Henderson, a reliable go-to guy for the local entitlement class (who tried to unseat Dan Hamburg in a failed recall attempt 30 years ago when Hamburg first served as Supervisor) ruled that how Dickerson and the MCPA spent the public's money was none of the Grand Jury's business. But Dickerson went too far by constantly antagonizing the Board of Supes, who had the power each year to decide whether or not to continue the sweetheart deal that transferred $300,000 in public money with no accountability. The Promo Alliance first banned Dickerson from speaking to the Board of Supes ('every time you speak, we lose money', said one board member) and finally canned him. Dickerson still blames the Board of Supes and Jim Andersen, the CAO at the time, for his demise, but it was his own hubris that did him in.

DICKERSON, a self-proclaimed 'life long Democrat' (and whenever anyone feels compelled to say that you know they vote Republican every chance they get) later became head of the Employer's Council of Mendocino County (ECMC), a front group for the extremist views of a handful of wealthy wahoos who include Ukiah real estate honcho Dick Seltzer, John Mayfield, Jr., Margie Handley and Paul Clark. County businesses are 'invited' to join up and contribute dues, (with the implied threat of a boycott from the uber rich if they don't), but are not allowed to have a say in any positions the ECMC takes or who sits on the board of directors, all of which is decided exclusively by the board of directors, who only select wealthy, right wing carbon copies of themselves to run the organization. Dickerson, who sees himself as a big picture kind of guy, was fired from this sinecure when he couldn't be bothered to pay the utility bill and the lights got turned off for non payment, much to the embarrassment of the ECMC wanks. Dickerson also embarked on a failed winery venture, acting as the Chief Financial Officer until the firm dissolved in bankruptcy. One might conclude from this cv that the guy's financial analyst credentials are shaky.

DICKERSON has since become the chicken little of local government finance, constantly sounding the alarm that the County is on the brink of bankruptcy and will soon be unable to provide services, pay its current employees or meet its obligations to its retirees. There is certainly reason to sound the alarm. Government financing at all levels is a house of cards, with virtually all public pension systems heavily dependent on the Wall Street Ponzi, which hasn't been working out so well lately. The whole system could, and almost did, come down in an instant, taking several trillion dollars of government pension funds with it.

PREVIOUS BOARDS OF SUPES, putative conservatives and lib labs alike, made a series of bad financial decisions that either increased County long term debt or drove more cost onto the retirement system. They issued Pension Obligation Bonds and Certificates of Participation (a real estate financing scheme). They botched the Teeter Plan. They dramatically increased wages via the Slavin study without calculating the impact to the retirement system. Tom Lucier, the supposed conservative businessman from Willits, was the driving force behind the completely unnecessary and grandly titled “Willits Justice Center” and “Willits Integrated Service Center.” The so-called Justice Center sits empty on land owned by the City of Willits. The County can't sell the building or even give it away without approval from the state controlled Administrative Office of the Courts which is in no hurry to act. Meanwhile, the County is forced to continue maintaining the building and making the payments. (That structure, incidentally, is the ugliest structure ever erected in Mendocino County and ought to be demolished.)

HERE IN MENDO, the fiscal problems have been compounded by the manipulations of former long time County Treasurer Tim Knudsen and long time former County Auditor Controller Dennis Huey. They ran the County retirement system as a closed corporation for thirty years, including nutty calculations that claimed the pension systems had racked up excess earnings that did not exist. The phony excess earnings were used to fund retiree health insurance, a benefit that Knudsen and Huey were happy to take advantage of, but for which a legitimate funding source had never been identified. Dickerson helped focus attention on the excess earnings scam, which probably drained $50 million or more out of the retirement system, but his over the top rhetorical approach brings more heat than light to the on-going problem.

DICKERSON BEGAN his stint on the Sackowicz show with the usual doom and gloom by claiming that changes by GASB (the Government Accounting Standards Board) were going to decimate the ability of the County to fund its retirement system without shutting down services and laying off hundreds of employees. Dickerson predicted County pension costs for 2011 would increase from $15 million to a GASB required amount of $40 million. Dickerson then claimed the County was about to get hit with a double whammy as Moody's Investors Services, a major credit rating firm, was about to adjust the way it determines government credit ratings for purposes of calculating interest rates.

MCCOWEN countered that the new GASB rules only require changes in how information is reported, makes no change in funding requirements, and will only become effective for financial reports issued beginning in 2016. McCowen also questioned the assumptions and calculations that Dickerson used to create what he claimed was a model of the GASB changes as applied to Mendocino County. This led to a lengthy exchange with Dickerson defending his claims that Mendocino County has the highest per capita government debt of any county in the state and that the Mendocino County Employees Retirement System (MCERA) has the lowest rate of return on its investment of any of the 21 counties (including Mendo) that participate in the 1937 Act Retirement System. McCowen pointed out that an independent review of all 37 Act counties rated MCERA fifth from the top, a fact confirmed by Sackowicz, who sits on the retirement board. Dickerson then said that was for a different year and that he no longer rated MCERA. McCowen got in a nice dig when he observed that MCERA deserved credit for its stunning turnaround, going from last to near the top in only one year. But if Dickerson is so sure of his numbers, why would he blandly accept the independent survey?

THINGS HEATED UP a bit when McCowen quoted from Dickerson's blog that “Moody's new calculation is that Mendocino should have paid $42 million into the pension fund in 2011,” instead of a measly $15 million, and that “Moody's new calculation is that Mendocino's unfunded pension liability is really $267 million,” which is more than double the currently reported amount of $125 million. McCowen, apparently aware that no such report exists, pointedly asked to see a copy of the Moody's report for Mendocino County. Dickerson admitted there was no such report and apologized for not making that clear. McCowen drove home the point that neither the current GASB changes or Moody's proposed changes will set the funding requirements for public pensions; that the GASB changes don't take effect for several years; and that it is a disservice to the employees and retirees to make them think their pensions will be cut off tomorrow.

SACKOWICZ, who generally talks as much as his guests, largely stayed out of this one, only cutting in at the end to ask each of his guests to take a minute to sum up. Dickerson, not surprisingly, stood by his prediction that Mendocino County and the retirement system were about to be hit by a ton of bricks. McCowen frankly admitted that everyone should be concerned about the financial health of the retirement system and the County, but that it was irresponsible to engage in fear mongering.

DICKERSON'S THEATRICS are calculated to create the impression that the retirement system is about to go over the cliff and take the County with it and that the people in charge at the retirement board and the County are too dumb to take the obvious steps that are needed to avert disaster. But Dickerson himself never says what the solution is. The main prob is that the retirement system, based on a series of bad decisions over the last couple of decades, is already over the cliff and has entered into a sort of slo mo free fall, (much like the Social Security system), and will bottom out years down the road. But current projections, even assuming a zero return on the investment, are that the retirement system can meet its current and future obligations for the next twenty plus years.

DICKERSON is unlikely to admit it, but the retirement board and the Supes have limited options and there is no silver bullet. The current Board of Supes, led by Pinches, Brown and McCowen, (who all have real world financial experience), have mostly made smart budget decisions, including reducing wages and numbers of employees and acquiring the right to adopt a new retirement tier for new hires. But state and local governments nationwide (who have mostly made their own bonehead financial decisions) will continue to struggle to pay past obligations incurred when the economic outlook was a lot rosier than it is now. And increasing numbers of them will continue to fail. But from what we understand, there will be plenty of examples of what public sector bankruptcy looks like before Mendo is forced to take its turn.

THE GOVERNOR'S so-called pension reform package (that passed the legislature on Friday) might address the worst cases of pension spiking and may offer genuine reform for new employees, but it does little or nothing to address the basic prob, which is that current employees have been promised retirement benefits that are simply not affordable for state and local governments without large tax increases and just try to raise taxes in a political climate dominated by greedheads and demagogues. The courts have so far held that public sector employees are entitled to the full slate of benefits that are offered as of the day they are first hired. Since today's employees, on average, will retire in about 15 years, that means they will continue to earn unaffordable retirement benefits well into the future. San Jose and San Diego voters recently passed initiatives that will reset the clock for future benefits that have not yet been earned, provided they survive the inevitable legal challenges. If San Jose and San Diego prevail, expect Mendo and everyone else to scramble to get on board. Without the ability to reduce unearned future benefits for current employees, the slo mo free fall will continue.

MANBEATER OF THE WEEK: Ladies and germs, introducing Ms. Alicia Maria Campbell, 28, of Willits, 5'5” and 125 pounds. If Alicia popped ol' whatshisface one, or even two, she doesn't seem exactly crippled from remorse. Next time hit him harder, Alicia. We all know he's got it coming.

RICHARD WHITE, the new county retirement administrator, showed up at the Board of Supervisors last week to ask the Supes to reconsider their decision not to approve a full time accountant for the retirement board. White claimed the retirement board was perplexed by the denial of a position the retirement board had approved “and will fully pay for” at a rate of less than $50. dollars per hour for wages and benefits. Which adds up to around $100,000 a year to be subtracted from the retirement fund, thereby increasing the unfunded liability and reducing the funds available for investment or to pay pensions. Supervisor Pinches, in arguing against the position, pointed out that the job description for the new position was nearly the same as White's job description, making it clear that White, a former Orange County cop, does not intend to overwork himself during his stay in Mendo and seems even less inclined to do the work he was hired to do. He says in his letter that “the retirement board may now be required to contract out its accounting services for a much higher fee.”

THE COUNTY COMMUNICATIONS PLAN, as previously noted, was also on last week's consent calendar for a progress report. Boiled down, the progress report is that there is no progress to report, except that the contractors sent out a bunch of questionnaires and talked to a bunch of people who mostly like their jobs but don't like the people they work for. They needed a survey for that? SEIU has been critical of the decision to spend the $8,000 on a communications plan without checking with them first. The hawkeyed union has also been critical of the survey and claims they have a lot of questions to ask about the process. But just like Mental Health, County budget discussions, and a lot of other issues SEIU claims to be interested in, no one from SEIU showed up to address the Supes about the communications plan.

THE SEIU leadership, after ignoring the interests of its members during the botched labor negotiation process, has come to the conclusion there is room for improvement with their own communications. Sources within SEIU say the union has begun a monthly newsletter, is trying to organize committees to work on areas like communication, health benefits and the budget and has been holding worksite meetings to find out what the members think. Except some people showed up for the scheduled meetings only to find a sign on the door saying the meeting was canceled. But it's no mystery that many employees think the County and SEIU are mutually indifferent to the day to day reality of coping with an ever expanding work load. A workload consisting mostly of increasingly desperate and frustrated people who are being slowly crushed between a collapsed economy and steadily rising prices for the necessities of life. County workers, like most Americans, are anxious about their futures and don't see the union doing anything to make their lives better.

SEIU's most recent local rep, Carl Carr, who introduced himself to the Board of Supes several months ago, has been seldom seen since, and not at all for the last couple of months. Which leaves Paul Kaplan as the public face of SEIU in Mendo. We are told that Kaplan has now been given the title of “field representative,” which kind of sums up the demise of SEIU as a true union local. Until just a few years ago, SEIU was represented by a locally-based business agent who was hired and fired by the local members. SEIU shot callers based in Oakland probably concluded that Kaplan and Carr combined were costing too much money. Besides, why pay two people to go through the motions if you can get away with only paying one? And the local SEIU members seem not to notice or care that they are getting ripped off for their dues and getting next to nothing in return.

A READER WRITES: “I was surprised to see Sheriff Allman buying into the far right agenda of the 'Constitutional Sheriffs,' who leave no doubt they intend for local law enforcement to become their dream militia to overthrow the authority of the federal government. The only complaints Allman could come up with was the feds don't notify him of road closures and cancellation of grazing leases in the national forest. And why should they? Did the feds notify him before they removed the historic mural from the old post office building in downtown Ukiah? Should they notify him when they want to raise the price of stamps? Am I the only one who thinks the Constitutional Sheriffs are a bunch of nut pies and Tom Allman should distance himself from them as fast as he can?”

POINT ARENA will field eight candidates, including two incumbents, for three open seats on the City Council. They include incumbent Brian Riehl, aka Hoolis C. Nation, (hallu-ci-nation - get it?) who chose not to file for re-election. Riehl recently launched an unhinged attack on the City Clerk, demanding that she be fired because she had not completed a state required technical report on the sewer system. Except the report is to be filed by the sewer plant operator, not the City Clerk who can not be expected to have expertise in the field. The Council engaged in a lengthy discussion of the issue before the City Attorney finally stepped in to say there was no point in putting the issue on the next agenda because the vote would be 4-1 against firing the City Clerk. Which means the City Attorney should have shut the discussion down well before the Council all weighed in on it. It is clearly a Brown Act violation to deliberate on an issue and decide it when the issue is not on the agenda. Ironically, a technical violation of the Brown Act, which Riehl himself participated in, was one of the issues the re-callers used in their successful overthrow of the previous Council.

ANOTHER COMPLAINT by the re-callers was that some members of the Council were appointed instead of elected. But when no candidates step forward what else do you do but appoint the next warm body? Two members of the current Council, ironically, are appointed, including incumbent Jim Koogle, who replaced re-caller Lloyd Cross who resigned when he moved out of town. Incumbent Trevor Sanders, another re-caller (and a drinking buddy of Hoolis C. Nation/Riehl), is also running for a full term. Rounding out the field are David Liebenstein, Richard Marino, Phil Burfoot, Brian Murphy, Leonard Ochs and Jennifer Iversen. And if the re-callers are doing such a good job, why are so many people running to replace them?

LAUREN SINNOTT, former Mayor and ten year council veteran, aka the “Art Goddess,” and a victim of the re-callers, was the only candidate to file for the position of City Treasurer. If the incumbent re-callers are elected to full terms they will be required to serve the next four years alongside the former object of their political ire. Meanwhile, the Safe Routes to Schools grant, that Sinnott prepared on her own time while she was Mayor, is moving forward, including a mural for the newly designed retaining wall that is part of the project. The winning design was submitted by inland ceramic artist and muralist Elizabeth Raybee who specializes in projects that involve the community, like the mural in downtown Ukiah on the State Street side of the Family and Child Support building.

IN TURNING DOWN LAURA'S LAW a couple of months ago, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to return with a report on alternatives, including the possible creation of a mental health/homeless court. Reliable sources say two planning meetings have been held and another is scheduled. The meetings are convened under the tattered umbrella of the County Mental Health Department, but major players are Judge Ann Moorman and Public Defender Linda Thompson. The DA and Probation are also represented along with the usual “caring professionals” who regard the homeless and mentally ill as their personal funding units. The first meeting concluded that everybody needed more info about what services everyone else provided. Everyone was requested to prepare a short info sheet for distribution to the group, but almost no one did. So the second meeting was taken up with everyone tediously explaining what they did. So far, this is shaping up as the usual lib lab gabfest where issues are constantly discussed but no action is ever taken.

NPR LISTENERS were traumatized last week when Terry Gross, interviewing a man who'd written a book about the history of the popular use of the handy noun ‘asshole,’ deployed the word on-air as she introduced the author. Years ago, during an on-air anniversary tribute to ‘Howl,’ KZYX bleeped out the forbidden passages, nicely nullifying the point of the tribute. But if Terry Gross sends an amplified “asshole” reverberating through the hills and valleys of Mendocino County… well, it was a heckuva shock to all us assholes out here in Radio Land.

WAR, PESTILENCE, ECONOMIC COLLAPSE? Don't bother Mike Thompson with the little stuff. Here's our fearless solon's latest piece of pure demagoguery. Thompson, by the way, claimed he was spat upon when he returned from Vietnam, a straight up lie he has trotted out for the more maudlin (and non-combat) sectors of veteran's groups. Sociologist Jerry Lembcke debunked that insidious, omnipresent lie in “The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam.”

“DEAR SPEAKER BOEHNER, Leader Cantor, Leader Pelosi, and Whip Hoyer: We request that you include language into the Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government into Fiscal Year 2013 to require all U.S. flags purchased by the federal government to be made in America, by American workers, using American-grown and manufactured materials. Wherever an American flag is flown, it is a symbol of the freedoms men and women throughout our history have marched, fought and died to secure. There is no greater symbol of our country, our unity, our freedom, and our liberty than our flag. There is precedent to implement these requirements – the Department of Veterans Affairs is already required, by law, to purchase 100 percent American-made flags of American-made materials to drape the casket of each deceased veteran. We believe that it is important that every American flag the federal government buys should be made in America, by American works, and with American materials; and urge that language to this effect be included in legislation funding the federal government for FY2013. At a time when our domestic manufacturing sector is struggling and millions in our country are out of work, it is a slap in the face to all Americans to have their tax dollars spent on U.S. flags that are made overseas. Thank you for your consideration to this matter. We look forward to working with you. Sincerely, Congressman Mike Thompson. Congressman Thompson is proud to represent California’s 1st Congressional District, which includes the Counties of Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa, and Yolo. He is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Rep. Thompson is also a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition and sits on the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Wine Caucus.”

ARE REGGAE EVENTS safe for young women? An exhange:

“I GREW UP going to Reggae (“Sex Assault Rumor Worries Reggae Organizers,” July 31 blog item). As a Mendo local, Reggae was what we looked forward to every summer, and as I and the festival grew, I would hear of an increasing number of sexual assaults occurring. I began to feel frustrated that I should fear for my safety at what used to feel like home to me. Reggae on the River morphs into Reggae Rising, and my crew and I continue to join the yearly campout. As I head back to my camp late one evening, we get stopped at the entrance and are told that no one is allowed to enter due to an “attempted rape.” The next day, no announcement is made about the incident. This year I volunteered on Sunday at Reggae on the River. As soon as I arrive a friend informs me that there had been a rape the night before in Cooks camp. Throughout the day no one onstage mentioned it, and most attendees are most likely still unaware. Reggae on the River is now being moved back to French’s Camp, the original site and a much larger space. The Mateel needs to acknowledge that sexual assault is a problem every year. They should make participants aware that violence of any kind will not be tolerated, and we the patrons should demand a safer, more respectful atmosphere for women, so that “one love positive vibrations” really can exist. When the festival keeps quiet about incidents of sexual violence, they give the message that sexual violence is condoned. When the safety of attendees becomes a priority of the festival, we the patrons become empowered to look out and speak up, and Reggae on the River will become a better show. Reggae Against Rape, 2013. — Natalie Engber, Eureka.”

THE MATEEL Community Center would like to respond to the “Make Reggae Safe” letter in the Aug. 9 North Coast Journal. The letter refers to an alleged sexual assault at the Cooks Valley Campground, but links it directly to us and our event, Reggae on the River. We were appalled and dismayed when we learned of the possible assault. Our hearts go out the woman involved. The safety of attendees at our events is a top priority. Although we had no oversight of Cooks Valley Campground, which held its own, separate music event the same weekend as ours, we did include it in a list of local accommodations on our website. We have not received a report of sexual assault occurring on any location under our control since Mateel resumed producing the event five years ago. Every year we do our best to keep our festivals positive, safe, fun and problem-free. We train our coordinators in non-violent communications. We do not condone sexual violence or any violence. Strict procedures are in place to deal with violent offenders, including law enforcement intervention and expulsion from our events. We have open, ongoing communication with the local sheriff’s office. Far from covering anything up, we actively seek out and address any problems within our control. As we go forward, we are strongly considering taking the precaution of not listing any campground on our website unless that campground agrees to the Mateel’s safety standards. We need to be certain that any campground we list for our ticket holders has a level of security that people would be as comfortable with as the security we had this year at the Reggae on the River campground in Benbow Lake State Park. We sincerely appreciate feedback and welcome people to contact us at the Mateel Community Center with any concerns. Thank you, on behalf of the Mateel Community Center. — Cathy Miller, Mateel sponsorship director

FROM HANK SIMS' crucial blog, North Coast Outpost: “The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors just unanimously voiced its support for a feasibility study on the brand-spanking-new multi-gazillion-dollar east-west railroad line that will finally bring back the cargo. After much public testimony and a presentation from Eureka City Manager Dave Tyson, who assured the board that his proposal will involve expenditures of staff time but no dollars from the county’s budget (yet), the board voted 5-0 to hop on board. Many questions surrounding the east-west train are still unanswered. Such as: How much it will cost, who will pay for it, who would want to use it, where it would go, how the land would be acquired, and what economic benefit might it be expected to provide for the county were it to be built? But great public frenzy over the phantom train, combined with the assurance that the action would technically be a freebie for the county, propelled the feasibility study to success. “This is a real thing without any money attached and people who know way more about it than we do, and they’ll tell us if it works,” said Supervisor Rex Bohn. The sentiment carried the day. Even Arcata-area Supervisor Mark Lovelace, now the board’s only train skeptic, lent a tepid thumbs-up. Perhaps he finally concluded the most expeditious course is to let the bubble play out to its inevitable end. He asked a few pointed questions of Tyson and then called it a day. Meanwhile, still no word from the county or anyone else on the Sims Mega-Humbo-riffic Superdevelopment Strategy proposed in these pages several months ago. Sad to say, the failure of local agencies to even investigate the possibility of this potentially 11-figure boost to the local economy is proof positive that they all hate jobs and actively want our children to move as far away as possible.”

EMILY HARRIS of Californians United for a Responsible Budget alerts us that the California Senate has passed AB-1270 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a kind of back-to-the-future, pre-1996 measure when state corrections made it very, very difficult for us journalo-scum to report on prisoners and prisons.

“WE'RE NOT JUST WORRIED about reporters,” Ammiano said. “The lack of good information is also a danger to the prisoners, the employees and the public at large. It was under these closed-door conditions that prison health conditions deteriorated to the point that the courts stepped in. When it comes to prisons, what we don’t know can really hurt us.”

THE LA TIMES AGREED. “California's prisons are notoriously off-limits to the kind of scrutiny that is routine for most public agencies. The bill deserves the Governor’s signature.”

PRESENTLY, journalists can't interview a specific prisoner for his take on conditions in the tax-funded facilities, but prison officials freely offer one or another of their carefully selected prisoners to regurgitate the prison's party line. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to investigate, say, the 2011 inmate hunger strike, nevermind suspicious deaths, riots, illegal behavior by prison staff and so on. The Governor has until September 30 to sign the measure.

HUMBOLDT STATE'S hazing scandal continues to rage. The mommies and daddies of the affected male and female soccer players have mounted a counter-attack, claiming, among other crimes against their little darlings, that the penalties are too “draconian,” and that the school's president won't talk to them. An attorney named Swartz, father of one of the male soccer players, is leading the charge.

HSU'S MEN'S soccer season was cancelled, the women's truncated when their after hour parties, in the eyes of school administration, veered off from the usual heavy drinking into dangerous hazing. What exactly that hazing consisted of has not been revealed, but yesteryear's HSU jock festivities have included drop-fall boozing and penis pacifiers. (There don't seem to be any intellectuals on these teams.)

THE MUMSIES AND POPPSIES have even stooped to dragging up an unhappy episode from Peg Blake's past, as if Ms. Blake, HSU's vice-president of student affairs, had forced one of the over-indulged “scholar-athletes” to bong tequila and run around the room naked with a replica penis in his mouth. Or whatever dangerously moronic funsies the soccer players were engaged in. Ms. Blake, it turns out, was once arrested for drunk driving with her kid in her car, an episode which has translated to this Swartz character, the lawyer-parent of one of the suspended athletes, as rendering Ms. Blake a hypocrite so large she couldn't possibly pass moral judgment on Swartz's little angel.

OF COURSE if Little Angel had died at the party Swartz would be suing the university and whining to the media about how irresponsible the school had been for not properly supervising Little Angel.

THE HSU CONTROVERSY seems to this moralizing old wheeze emblematic of the way so many young people have been raised — it's everyone else's fault but yours, honey bunch.

IN MENDOCINO COUNTY, only 40% of households have access to cable broadband and only 11% can get a high-speed DSL connection. But according to the Press Democrat's Martin Espinoza, “a grassroots consortium in Sonoma and Mendocino counties that includes high-speed Internet advocates, county officials and economic development experts is crafting a proposal to build a 122-mile, 72-strand fiber-optic ring that would connect the North Coast to the telecommunications backbone along Highway 101. The ring would run west from Petaluma to Bodega Bay, north to Fort Bragg and east to Willits.

REMEMBER back about 15 years ago when that fiber optic cable was laid from somewhere east of Lake County all the way to Manchester on the Mendocino Coast where it now crosses the Pacific for Japan? Our roads were torn up for a year while the cable was buried. What did we get out of all the inconvenience? Nothing but a permanently damaged County Road to the Coast that was trenched right down the middle, weakening the roadbed. Our then Supervisors ignored demands that Williams Communications, who was installing the cable, provide the County with a few on-ramps to the info superhighway. The Supes didn't, and here we are with no high speed internet available to a large majority of Mendocino County's 90,000 residents.

KARIN WANDREI, recently appointed Assistant HHSA (Health and Human Services Agency) Director and Social Services branch director sent the following terse email last week to a wide circle of friends and associates: “I hereby submit my resignation effective immediately. My leadership skills are not compatible with MCHHSA. Karin E. Wandrei, Ph.D, LCSW.” On Tuesday, Dr. Wandrei showed up at the Board of Supervisors and gave the same reason for her abrupt resignation. She emphasized that it had been her pleasure to work with an “amazing” staff and wanted everyone to know that her resignation had nothing to do with anyone she supervised. Translation: Ms. Wandrei's abrupt resignation had everything to do with those who supervised her.

DR. WANDREI came to the County from the Mendocino County Youth Project, where she had been Executive Director for nearly 20 years. Many social service department insiders were unhappy that the position was filled from outside, but others were hopeful that Wandrei would bring real leadership to a department that was notorious for cronyism and a lack of accountability, not to mention gross incompetence at the leadership level. No doubt the County has many “amazing” employees although most of us would settle for simple competence, leaving the “amazing” to Lois Lane and Clark Kent. Many unhappy and marginally qualified people have been hired over the years by the County, and many of them have risen through the ranks to supervisory positions based simply on longevity or palsy-walsyism, a big problem in public employment, schools included, in this County for many years.

SPECULATION within the welfare department is that Wandrei, after calling the shots for nearly twenty years at the Youth Project, found it frustrating to work in a system where even routine decisions require a sign off from higher authority, prompting the comment that her leadership skills were not compatible with the agency. Which is unfortunate, because the County could use the skills of a smart, hardworking, capable person like Wandrei, who had had to secure funding, balance a budget and deliver agreed upon work products to her funders for years before going to work for Social Services.

MS. WANDREI has lived east of Willits for the last quarter century; we understand that she has sold her house, split from her partner of many years and moved to Cloverdale, all of these major life changes occurring since signing on with Quicksand County.

HERE IS THE FULL, if no less cryptic, statement Dr. Wandrei made to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning: “I am literally transitioning between Willits and Cloverdale at this very minute. I recently resigned my position as Assistant Director of the HHSA agency because I found that my leadership skills were not a good match for the agency. I am here today because I want to make sure I have a chance to tell you how impressed I have been with the county employees I have worked with, especially the ones in Social Services. My resignation has nothing to do with the staff I supervised. I want you to know that and I want them to know that. While I found significant personnel problems, I found many employees who are doing amazing things working long hours for little pay with limited resources. They get lambasted in the press and by the public a lot. You are unbelievably lucky to have so many outstanding employees who are working under extremely stressful situations. I truly regret I will no longer be able to work with them. I have incredible respect for them. They continue to work hard on behalf of the residents of the county despite the many challenges that they face every day in their work. They are truly my heroes.”

WE ARE NOT AWARE of any “lambasting” of any HHSA employees “in the press.” There simply is none. (“lambaste, v. to beat or whip severely; to give a thrashing to; to scold sharply; to reprimand or berate harshly; censure; excoriate.”) The local chain papers go out of their way NOT to lambaste anyone. And the two other local independent weeklies besides the AVA are even less likely to lambaste anyone. And if Ms. Wandrei is referring to the AVA grandly as “the press,” we would challenge her to cite a single example of lambasting of HHSA management or staff, although there certainly is the occasional critical observation. Ms. Wandrei's reference to mysterious “significant personnel problems” makes us think that some of the HHSA management might well deserve some “lambasting” (not to say replacement) if Ms. Wandrei, who always struck us as a serious and competent person, might give us a hint what those “significant personnel problems” are.

AND BY GOLLY, here's Ms. Wandrei herself, appearing Monday on our website: “I am writing to clarify a few items in your piece on my resignation from the county health and human services agency. I don't have much to say about the circumstances of my resignation except to say that my public expression at the Board was probably my swan song to Mendocino County politics. I've been deeply involved through my work for over sixteen years in a variety of efforts to try to bring about positive changes to the County and, frankly, I'm tired. There are some great people involved in these advocacy efforts and there have been small but significant successes over the years. Now that I've moved to Sonoma County time to pass it on. BTW, I have heard that my newly hired replacement at the Youth Project is great and Youth Project is doing very well and doing some fantastic things. At a time when other agencies are struggling, Youth Project is growing. They deserve your financial and other support. The clarifications I want to make pertain to my personal life. The paragraph you wrote makes it sound like I suddenly dumped my long-term partner, sold my house, and moved to Cloverdale. In reality, while it may look that way, it's a little different than that. And while I am a somewhat uncomfortable discussing the details of my relationship in the press, both Linda and I are tired of people assuming that our decision to live apart means something more sad than it is. We live in a world of wanting to simplify everything You are married or you are single. I am interested in new models of relationships. Linda and I love each other dearly and are family and have been for 29 years. Linda is fourteen years older than I am. Several months ago, before I quit my job, we had decided that staying living together in a defined primary relationship (a registered domestic partnership), was interfering with both of us needing to explore different paths in the years to come. So while we won't be defining ourselves as being in a primary relationship or live together, we anticipate continuing to be involved deeply in each other's lives. She is also planning on moving to Cloverdale. We had decided to move to Cloverdale about four years ago. We felt a lack of stimulation as a couple without children living in such a small community and over the years have both developed interests that are better met down here. We put our house on the market once before and it didn't sell so we took it off the market. This July, before I quit my job, we put it back on the market and the very first day the very first person who saw it offered us $7000 above our listing price. We were shocked and had no idea it would go so fast this time. Fortunately for me, living frugally I have enough money from the house proceeds to live for about six months without working. Since in forty years I've only not worked for three months when I won a sabbatical award and six weeks recovering from surgery, this is a true gift. I have decided to use this time to do at age 59 what I wanted to do at age 65, which is to develop more teaching and consulting opportunities to support myself. Maybe even start a therapy practice again. I've never left a job without another job but I actually feel excited and blessed by this series of events. Doug Rosoff's death occurred a day before I resigned and it had an impact on me of why stay in a job that didn't turned out to be the way it was supposed to be and postpone what I really want to do? I wish my friends and work associates in Mendocino the best and hope to be able to do some work in the future up in Mendo. To find out more about my professional background, go to .”

THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS spent all day Monday and half of Tuesday in closed session interviewing applicants for County Counsel. Following a late afternoon return to closed session, the Supes reported out that no action was taken but “direction was given to staff,” which could mean anything from a suggestion to go out and get drunk to find someone for this job who isn't totally nuts. The position was left vacant by the elevation of former County Counsel Jeanine Nadel to the Superior Court bench. Doug Losak, chief deputy, was appointed interim County Counsel only to be pulled over for speeding within a week or so, then found to have a gun and a small amount of marijuana on board. Losak submitted his resignation from the interim position but said he still intended to apply for the County Counsel position. Terry Gross, another senior lawyer in the office, was then named as the interim County Counsel. Losak and Gross are assumed to be among the 15 or so applicants for the job.

AN IMPROMPTU Memorial for Dr. Douglas Rosoff, killed last week when his bicycle was hit by a truck, was held Thursday at the corner of East Gobbi Street and Orchard Avenue in Ukiah, the scene of the accident. Upwards of a hundred people are estimated to have shown up to remember the doctor, some adding to an impromptu memorial of flowers, a bike frame and other mementos placed at the base of the large oak tree on the corner.

DETAILS have not yet been released, but indications are that Dr. Rosoff and the truck were both traveling west on East Gobbi as they approached the intersection where both turned right onto Orchard. Except the truck was pulling a long trailer which reportedly caught Dr. Rosoff when the truck's driver cut the corner too tight. The truck was hauling debris from the McDonald's at that intersection, which has been demolished to make way for a new negative food value emporium at the same site. Dr. Rosoff had been the chief psychiatrist for the County for 17 years before resigning last year to work for the Veteran's Administration at their clinic on Orchard Avenue.

WE'VE ALL WONDERED at the number of pot grows consumed by the Pass Fire northeast of Covelo, but the following is about a guy who consumed his own garden, so to speak. From the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department, the details: “Suspect: Veda Bennett-Swank, 21, Santa Rosa. — On 8-30-2012 Mendocino County Sheriffs Deputies were dispatched to the area of the ‘North Pass Fire complex’ in Covelo regarding a firefighter who had been threatened with a firearm. Upon arrival deputies contacted a CalFire firefighter who reported he was on a vacant lot of land, in the ‘Blands Cove’ area, involved in fire suppression duties and documenting fire damage, when he came across a small marijuana garden. The firefighter, who was driving a marked CalFire vehicle and wearing firefighter protection gear, ignored the marijuana garden and proceeded with fire suppression efforts. As the firefighter was continuing with fire suppression efforts, he noticed a vehicle drive up to his location. The vehicle approached him and pulled up next to him. The male subject inside the vehicle told the firefighter that he, the firefighter, needed to leave the area. When the firefighter attempted to explain to the subject that he was engaged in fire suppression, the male subject told him that he needed to leave immediately, the subject, Veda Bennett-Swank, then looked down at an object that was between his legs on the floorboard of the vehicle. As the firefighter looked into the vehicle he could see that a shotgun was between the subject’s legs, and that the barrel was pointed directly at him. In fear for his life, the firefighter left the area immediately. Swank was soon arrested for brandishing a firearm in a rude, angry or threatening manner, interfering with emergency personnel or a firefighter at a fire and criminal threats. He is currently being held at the Mendocino County jail on $20,000 bail.”

THE WPA-COMMISSIONED mural called “Resources of the Soil” had graced the old Ukiah Post Office since 1939. When the Post Office on Ukiah's Westside closed recently in favor of a move to its present bunker-like structure on Orchard Avenue, the old post office, with the painting still mounted inside, was put up for sale. Would the new owner of the old Post Office appreciate a left-inspired tribute to working people by a radical called Ben Cunningham, a bosom buddy of Diego Rivera, a straight-up commie? Would the new owner now also own the painting as part of his purchase? Could a valuable and much-loved work of art fall into the barbaric clutches of, say, the Ukiah-based Employer's Council?

BUT DARNED if the Post Office didn't alert Mr. Dallan Wordekemper of the “federal preservation office” who has since dispatched the mural to an art restorer in Chicago with a promise to Ukiah that it would be returned to Ukiah and put on public display, the most likely sites being either the Grace Hudson Museum or, possibly, the County Museum in Willits.

ON FRIDAY, the highly regarded Berkeley historian Gray Brechin wrote this letter to the Ukiah Daily Journal: “To the Editor: Why would the supposedly insolvent US Postal service waste its meager resources removing, restoring and relocating the Ben Cunningham mural in Ukiah's now closed downtown post office except as a favor to its exclusively contracted selling agent, CB Richard Ellis? Such legally public art has served as an obstacle to quick sales at other commercially, architecturally and historically significant post offices that CBRE is throwing on the market around the US with as little concern for community input as the USPS gave Ukiah. Senator Feinstein should know your concerns about losing your post office along with so many other towns and cities, although her husband owns CBRE. — Gray Brechin, Berkeley”

JOHN COLE WRITES: “I know I swore not to watch any of the Republican National Convention, but I had to walk down the street and take my parent's dogs home and put them to bed (I was watching them while my folks were at the game), and when I came back my local CBS network had broken away from the Steelers game to the RNC, and I saw Dirty Harry rambling to an empty chair. Did this really happen or did I hallucinate the whole thing? Is this what an acid flashback feels like? I almost feel obligated to put on the Grateful Dead's Blues for Allah and go into the bathroom and stare at my face in the mirror for ten minutes while the four different cigarettes I lit in different rooms all burn out. Am I supposed to start giggling now and spend a half hour looking at my hands? I'm so f'n confused. This is like Koyaanisqatsi meets a Klan rally.”

DAVID TORRES of the ICO nicely fleshes out the armed robbery at Redwood Credit Union in Point Arena last week in this week’s ICO. Here are some excerpts: “…Meanwhile, plumbing contractor Jerry Moyles and local educator Randall Babtkis were at another teller's window when the armed suspect brushed by Moyles who saw the guy had a gun.”

“TELLER Heather Morrison hit the floor and screamed, 'I have kids! I have kids! Please don't shoot! Don't shoot!' Babtkis was in Morrison's line and found himself side by side with the robber.”

“…NOW BEHIND the counter, the man pointed his gun at Moyles's face and told him and Babtkis to back away from the counter and sit down…”

“MOYLES said the gunman warned, 'If anyone pokes their head out of this door I am going to blow their fucking head off,' as he and his accomplice rapidly left the building. 'It was very scary for all of us while we stood back there in that little room,' said Babtkis, adding, 'Moyles was very calm and unflappable during this stressful siege.'

“…DEPUTY ESPINOZA, with the assistance of CHP Officer Solomon, conducted a felony vehicle stop on the suspects' vehicle at Milemarker 17” (as they fled on Fish Rock Road).

RANDALL BABTKIS is a very fine poet married to the equally talented writer Carolyn Cooke. Jerry Moyles is baseball coach at Point Arena High School.

MILE MARKER 17 on Fish Rock is not quite halfway to Highway 128 at Yorkville.

THE OTHER DAY in a report from CalFire on the big blaze northeast of Covelo, which remains almost two weeks away from full containment, the press release mentioned a “pyro cloud,” which I thought was maybe a cluster of fire bugs driving down a hot, dry country highway throwing lit matches out the window.

NOPE. According to NASA, CalFire was talking about Pyrocumulonimbus, the fire-breathing dragon of clouds, an “anvil-shaped tower of power reaching five miles high, hurling thunderbolts, wind and rain, but add smoke and fire to the mix and you have pyrocumulonimbus, an explosive storm cloud actually created by the smoke and heat from fire, and which can ravage tens of thousands of acres.”

IN COVELO? Wow! The Pass Fire is worse than we thought.

ONE WAY TO TELL you're in Mendocino County is the pure number of workshops and vision statements. The workshops shop and shop and shop until the guy in the white, drawstring hemp pants, finally says, “My fellow visionaries we've envisioned.”

LITTLE OR NO WORK in any known sense of honest labor is done at a “workshop,” but visionaries and their visions, never quite 20/20, have always been quite the thing here Behind The Green Curtain where life does tend to be kinda blurry.

ACCORDING to the much put upon Justine Frederickson who has to sit through these things as a reporter for the Ukiah Daily Journal, “at a workshop Wednesday, the Ukiah City Council and a handful of staff members discussed whether the city needs an overarching Vision Statement to help guide its future.”

OVERARCHING or fallen arches or no arches, simply driving from one end of State Street to the other, the future of Ukiah is evident in that six miles of post industrial distress.

THE MAJOR DIFFERENCE between Obama and Romney is that Romney will accelerate the decay. Both are beholden to the forces who have brought us to State Street, but Romney will make things worse a lot faster than Obama. There is, however, a huge diff in what we might call the aesthetics of Obama-Romney. Obama is smart and articulate and, I would think, wants US to do well so long as he doesn't have to take on Wall Street to do it. Romney, the kind of guy who wraps himself in the flag while he stashes his money in offshore banks, is simply preposterous, beyond consideration by any American with even a residual sense of affection and loyalty to our tattered land.

MATT TAIBBI explains in the current Rolling Stone how Romney and the people like him have destroyed the lives and hopes of million of US: “…Everyone knows that he is fantastically rich, having scored great success, the legend goes, as a ‘turnaround specialist,’ a shrewd financial operator who revived moribund companies as a high-priced consultant for a storied Wall Street private equity firm. But what most voters don't know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality… Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on Planet Earth.”

AND PARKED huge amounts of his money in overseas accounts so he doesn't have to pay taxes on it. And wraps himself in the flag, and hauls a bunch of his vacant-eyed “friends” on stage to say how wonderfully charitable he is, and chooses a straight-up nut as his vice-presidential pick, and tops off the spectacle with a drunk muttering to an empty chair. Even by the degraded standards of the time, it's hard to believe that a plurality of voting Americans would choose these people to run the national government — hard to believe until you remember that this same plurality twice elected George Bush.

HUMBOLDT COUNTY GROWERS call Highway 101 from Laytonville to Willits “The Gauntlet” because so much dope is interdicted on that stretch of road. The latest bust, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department, went down like this: “Last Wednesday (August 29), at approximately 10pm, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputies conducted a traffic enforcement stop on Highway 101 near Laytonville. Upon contacting the occupants of the vehicle, it was learned that the driver had no California driver’s license and that his driving status in the State of Wisconsin was suspended. During this contact the deputies were able to detect a very strong odor of marijuana coming from within the vehicle. When the occupants were questioned regarding the smell of marijuana they admitted to having less than 1 ounce of marijuana and no large quantities of cash in the vehicle. During a subsequent search of the vehicle, deputies located three one-pound bricks of processed marijuana, wrapping materials and approximately $9000 in US currency. Suspect Kyle Gundrum, of Trinidad, Humboldt County, was placed under arrest and booked into the Mendocino County jail for possession of marijuana for sale, the sale, transport and furnishing of marijuana and operating a motor vehicle with a suspended driver’s license. He is currently being held on $15,000 bail. In addition, the cash located in the vehicle was seized as assets obtained by illegal activities.”

MOODY'S has downgraded the City of Ukiah's sewer district bond rating from A2 to BAA1 and its bond outlook from positive to negative. $71.9 million of outstanding debt having been amassed by this particular small town's waste disposal system is repaid through sewer fees. Which are not only finite — Ukiah's pretty much built out, having reached max water supply — but inadequate to keep abreast of the bond payments. Which, we understand, are now being made out of Ukiah's rainy day sewage district reserves.

FROM HUMBOLDT COUNTY SHERIFF MIKE DOWNEY on his request for federal assistance with marijuana eradication: “We’ve got enough large scale industrial grows in Humboldt County to keep me busy for years. I know there are still a lot of mom and pops out there making a little bit of money to pay their taxes and maybe go on vacation — I’m not going to get to those people. It’s just not within the realm of possibility considering what we are seeing out there in the field. I’ve never seen marijuana cultivation to the extent we’ve seen it now.” Downey said a recent bust in the Panther Gap area of HumCo netted a gang of Bulgarians. (Bulgos have also been active in the Covelo area. Mendocino County's legendary lawman Peter Hoyle busted a nest of them two years ago.) Sheriff Downey said a huge Hoopa grow where more than 26,500 plants were pulled up seemed to be the work of a Mexican cartel. “I believe there is a moderate influx of organized crime coming in to Humboldt County because they see the opportunity to make money and make it quick, so that is why I’ve asked the feds to help.”

RETIRED Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Ronald Brown has died of cancer. Brown was elected in 1996 and assigned to the Ukiah courthouse, where he at first presided over family law and juvenile cases. He was re-elected for two subsequent, six-year terms, when he presided over criminal matters and helped his colleagues with civil and traffic cases. Brown graduated from Sonoma State University, received his law degree from Empire School of Law and began his legal career in 1977 as a research attorney with the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office. He served as a Mendocino County deputy district attorney from 1979 to 1989, and as a county public defender for the next eight years. Brown has been married to his wife, Carolyn, for more than 30 years and has four adult daughters: Tiffani, Michelle, Megan and Kelsey.

THE BUYER of Ukiah's old post office building, according to the Ukiah Daily Journal, “is a woman who plans to turn the building into an eating establishment. She reportedly has hired a chef from another downtown restaurant. The buyer is listed on county records only as Steam Studio, LLC. Its representative, Fort Bragg attorney Sean Hogan, declined to divulge his client’s name.” (Sean Hogan is also a trustee of the Mendocino Coast District Hospital.)

THE SOUTHCOAST'S POPULAR Bones Roadhouse Restaurant was till-tapped again Saturday for $323. Right in the middle of the lunch rush here come the cops with a Sonoma County court order to grab what they can on behalf of a rival Gualala restaurateur called Erik Price.

THE PATTERN developing here seems to be that Price will swoop down on Bones every few weeks, grabbing whatever cash is in the register, causing maximum disruption to the business as he goes. But he doesn't go himself. He's got Mendocino County deputies doing his dirty work, and they're none too happy about it.

THE SONOMA COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT says Bones owes Price more than $200,000 so it's obvious these raids are not aimed at retrieving that amount a few hundred dollars at a time but are intended to harass Bones' popular owner, Mike Thomas, out of business as Thomas tries to work out a rational payment schedule with Price's attorney.

PRICE also distinguished himself Saturday when he appeared in the bushes across the road from the Gualala Famer's Market with a video camera, recording Thomas in the sinister act of setting up for the morning.

PRICE finally stormed out of the bushes and ran aggressively up to Thomas as if to assault Thomas, veering off at the last second to pretend to be eager to shake the hands of nearby persons who withdrew from Price as if they were about to be bear hugged by a terminal leper.

THE FOLLOWING, I HOPE, explains the background of the Bones dispute.

WHEN THE HIGHLY popular Bones Road House and Restaurant burned down in September of 2009, Bones, aka Mike Thomas, had a liquor license he’d leased from the family of an uneven newcomer to the South Coast called Eric Price.

THE FIRE, to put it gently, was suspicious, and it became even more suspicious when Price, funded by his wealthy parents, built his own restaurant on the site of, you could say, Mike Thomas’s Bones. Price’s new restaurant and the accompanying motel Price erected are as unpopular with locals as Price is himself. Locals are critical of everything from the food at Price’s Shoreline Restaurant to the architectural aesthetics of the thing. And then they assess Price’s unfortunate personality, which South Coast people characterize as rude, arrogant, ruthless, and at least partly chemically enhanced in a way that doesn’t make Price, a veteran of drug and alcohol rehab programs, any more beguiling.

MIKE THOMAS is a long-time resident of the area. He's highly popular with locals not only for his personal charm but for the quality of his enterprise. He’s also one of these essential community guys who quietly does a lot of good for people apart from employing 23 of them. The South Coast is unanimously in support of Thomas and hopping mad that he's clearly the victim of, in Thomas's description, “a demon.”

THOMAS managed to get a new Bones Road House and Restaurant up and running only to be slowly garroted by Price who clearly resents the popularity of Thomas’s revived business, which is in direct competition with Price's, especially for local business upon which local businesses depend, especially in the non-tourist winter months.

WHEN THOMAS RE-BOOTED BONES, Price said Thomas’s liquor license had reverted to him and his parents. Logic would indicate that the license went on hold while Thomas re-built. But Price insisted the license had reverted to his family. He went to court and somehow won a judgment against Thomas in Sonoma County, a very large judgment which, with the usual attorney's fees, interest and mysterious add-ons, has driven the judgment from $80,000 to $214,842.98. That amount is impossible for Thomas to pay. That amount would be difficult for most Mendo businesses to pay, unreal for Thomas as he rebuilds after that Price-convenient fire put Thomas out of business in 2009.

VIA A THUGGISH LEGAL STRATAGEM called a “Keeper's Levy,” good for eight-hour periods on a day-to-day basis, a posse of deputized till tappers has three times now swooped down on Bones and grabbed all the money in the till, $529 on their initial raid, another $430 the next day and whatever they got last Saturday. Price is rumored to observe the badged till tappers through binoculars as they looted his rival’s business in a way that's designed to put Thomas out of business, not recover money owed.

IF THESE “KEEPER'S LEVY” RAIDS on Bones continue on a regular basis, Thomas will be put out of business, which would suit Price just fine. To that end Price's Keeper of the Levy has court-ordered Thomas's books and bank records.

COMMENT OF THE DAY from Constant Reader: “The whole pension system is hanging by a thread because not only is CalPERS [the state employee retirement system] projecting unrealistic future returns, nobody is even talking about what happens if the market crashes again, which is very likely. Nothing has been resolved regarding crushing debt throughout the world. Look at Japan and most of Europe. And we are seen as a safe haven? Nobody has a real solution to this. There are only varying degrees of pain that politicians are unwilling to be realistic about. The average person simply does not understand the gravity of the macro-economic situation. Pension funds are going to get crushed when things go south again as they stretch to meet their unrealistic return goals. It will happen when it is least expected. People with money are trying to find ways to stand clear of what they know is coming eventually. The pension funds are forced to seek ever worse risk adjusted returns in the government’s artificial ZIRP environment. California politicians are beyond clueless and proven they are utterly incapable of making realistic and tough decisions. The train to nowhere will ultimately be the symbol of the folly.”

THE LARGEST POT RAID of the 2012 season (so far) occurred last Thursday just up the road from Sheriff's Department headquarters on Low Gap Road, Ukiah. On one of the properties visited on Low Gap, the raid team found more then 230 large plants and processed marijuana, as well as $5,471 in cash. Taken into custody were senior citizens Susan Applebaum, 58 and Sidney Sittig, 61. Max Rapaport, 26, and Jonathan Sells, 27, of Hawaii were also arrested.

AT A SECOND PROPERTY, the pot team confiscated 280 plants and arrested Edward Husiar, 55. A search of nearby fields turned up 335 marijuana plants in five gardens. More gardeners believed to be affiliated with these particular ag projects are being sought. State fish and game wardens are investigating illegal water diversion to some of the gardens.

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