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Mendocino County Today: September 6, 2012

ALICE BERNICE CARRISON, 62, hometown not confirmed, died Wednesday at about 11:30 when she jumped, mid-span, from Fort Bragg's Noyo Bridge to the river mouth below, a distance of nearly 100 feet. Ms. Carrison's body was floating face down when a US Coast Guard rescue boat, summoned from its base close by in Noyo Harbor, pulled her from the water and attempted resuscitation to no avail. The Fort Bragg Police said the apparent suicide is under investigation.

CALFIRE REPORTS that the North Pass Fire, burning northeast of Covelo, is 65 percent contained as of Wednesday morning, having consumed 41,983 acres, mostly in the National Forest, so far. “The fire is staying inside its perimeter and firefighters were mopping up the south and southeastern edges of the fire,” CalFire announced. Smoke visible east of Ukiah Wednesday morning is probably coming from both the North Pass Fire and a new fire burning in the Rumsey Canyon area of Colusa County.

A FATAL ACCIDENT Tuesday about 9pm took the life of an 80-year-old Lake County woman, seriously injured her 87-year-old husband and badly injured Maria Vega, age not listed, of Ukiah. The accident occurred when the 87-year-old suddenly swerved from the fast lane to the slow lane, causing Ms. Vega to drive off the side of 101 about a mile north of Ukiah. The 87-year-old's Camry also veered off the roadbed and into a tree. All three victims had to be cut from the wreckage of their vehicles, with the 80-year-old woman dying after being airlifted with her husband to the John Muir Medical Center in Concord where he remains in critical condition. Ms. Vega was airlifted to Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa where she remains in the intensive care unit but, the CHP said, is in stable condition.

CALTRANS ANNOUNCED TUESDAY that DeSilva Gates Construction (Sacramento) and Flatiron West Inc/ (Denver) have been awarded $107 million to complete the first phase of the Willits Bypass. The bypass is about nine miles long, beginning about a mile south of the Haehl Creek Overhead and veering back to 101 a mile and a half north of Reynolds Highway. The $210 million project is funded out of $136 million in Proposition 1B funds, the 2006 voter-approved transportation bond.

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 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 workload with fewer staff. 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 members 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 recallers 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 recaller Lloyd Cross who resigned when he moved out of town. Incumbent Trevor Sanders, another recaller (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 recallers 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 recallers, was the only candidate to file for the position of City Treasurer. If the incumbent recallers 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.

NONE OF THE POT measures have qualified for the November ballot. All six initiatives failed to get enough valid signatures to put them before the voters, an estimated half of whom are in favor of some form of decriminalization. Dale Gierenger, state director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, said the initiatives' sponsors didn't have the money to pay the necessary professional signature gatherers. Gierenger said it costs between $2 million and $3 million to garner the 500,000 signatures required within the state’s 150-day deadline.

DATE: August 31, 2012

TO: Richard Henderson, Presiding Judge, Mendocino County Superior Court, 100 N. State Street, Ukiah, CA 95482

RE: Request to Establish County-wide Abalone Poaching Penalty Guidelines

Dear Judge Henderson:

Mendocino Abalone Watch is a grassroots volunteer organization that was formed about three years ago. It presently consists of about 30 volunteers who freely give of their time (and vehicles) to patrol the coast largely to combat the increasing abalone poaching problem. MAW’s goals are to:

• Observe diving and rock picking activity in the Fort Bragg/Mendocino area

• Report suspicious taking of abalone to DFG wardens

• Record observations for use by DFG

• Be visible at key locations to discourage or deter poachers

• Be visible so as to encourage compliance with the law

• Offer diver education about regulations and penalties

• Watch for unsafe diving situations and alert divers or others

Volunteers work in pairs, at least once a month in a three-hour weekday or weekend shift, equipped with good spirits and highly-visible jackets, caps, vehicle signage, binoculars, camera or video-recorder, and cell phone or two-way radio. Volunteers are trained by DFG in terms of forms of suspicious taking, methods of observing/recording/reporting, and applicable regulations. Volunteers are selected based on equanimity, aptitude, completed training and lack of conflict of interest. All volunteers certify in writing that they participate without a conflict of interest and in support of resource regulation by DFG. We are quite mindful that presenting a petition to the judiciary is far different from sending a petition and delegation to a legislature. The judiciary obviously must remain neutral and outside the political process. At the same time, we also recognize that the judiciary does have something to say about its own internal practices and procedures, and that this would extend to sentencing guidelines. Accordingly, we are presenting these signatures as evidence of strong citizen support for firmer and uniform punishment for poaching by residents of the Mendocino Coast. Please be mindful that these signatures were gathered by a handful of volunteers spending just a few hours at public gathering spots. We offer the sample reform guidelines as merely that, i.e. a suggestion that we hope might inspire our judges to rethink how poaching cases are handled. One possible set of new guidelines might alter the existing coastal ones as follows and be applied county-wide:

Current Overlimit Guidelines (TMC) Possible Revised Guidelines

1 = $1385 + penalty asmnt = $1678 1 = $850 + penalty asmnt = $1143

2 = $1499 + PA = $1793 2 = $1550 + PA = $1843 = 2 days/susp.

3 = $1613 + PA = $1906 3 = $2350 + PA = $1643 + 2 days jail

4 = $1727 + PA = $2020 4 = $3350 + PA = $3643 + 5 days jail

5 = $1841 + PA = $2134 5 = $5000 + PA = $5293 + 10 days jail

We greatly appreciate any time you and the other judges might be able to give this matter and certainly also your consideration of our request for reform. Of course feel free to contact us if we can provide any information or background useful for your deliberations.

Sincerely, Bruce Leaman, Coordinator & Rod Jones, Coordinator

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