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Off The Record

AS PREDICTED, Mendocino County Superior Court judge Ann Moorman has tossed the state's feeble attempt to bring some order to the wholesale plunder of the Russian River's overdrawn waters by inland Mendocino County's grape and wine industry. Judge Moorman, in an opinions that went on and one — you can't say the kid doesn't do her homework — said the state rules, which allowed the industry to write their own guidelines for frost protection, were “constitutionally void” and “invalid,” adding, “There is not substantial evidence in the record to show the regulation, as enacted, is necessary.” Except a hundred yards of dead fish in a dry riverbed, as has happened when the industry, late spring, simultaneously turns on defrost pumps along the Ukiah and Hopland stretches of the river. The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors is silent on the water issue and there's no word if the State Water Board will appeal the ruling.

ACCORDING to a lengthy piece by Andrew Becker of Bay Citizen, "As California's outdoor marijuana growing season nears its end for 2012, drug officials are reporting a sharp decline in crop seizures for the second year in a row. The latest figures show that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are on track to eradicate an estimated 1.5 million plants from outdoor gardens – mostly on public land – down from a decade high of about 7.3 million plants in 2009. This year's seizures would be the lowest since 2004, when a little more than 1.1 million plants were eradicated, according to Drug Enforcement Administration statistics. Some attribute the drop to a federal crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries and illegal grows on public land and political losses in California, such as voters’ defeat in 2010 of the pro-legalization Proposition 19. At the same time, fewer counter-narcotics teams hunted for California pot this year due to the elimination of a three-decades-old state eradication program. Others say growers have retreated to smaller garden plots on private land and gone back underground to wait out what legalization advocates have deemed the last throes of prohibition. They also point to a glut of marijuana that depressed wholesale prices and burst the state’s so-called “Green Rush” to capitalize on the relaxed attitudes toward the drug."

ON THE BASIS of a few anecdotes in Saturday's Los Angeles Times, reporter Joe Mozingo, concluded that lots of Mendo’s long-time pot growers are giving up out of despair at what they say is a more heedless contemporary grower. “Pioneering marijuana cultivators in the hills of Mendocino and Humboldt counties are being pushed to the margins by the legalization they long espoused, the sub hed explains. “There’s just been this huge influx of folks who have money on their mind, instead of love of the land,” said veteran Mendo pot grower Tom Evans. “What was once a relatively peaceful garden project in the earlier decades which helped pay the mortgage, has become a marijuana culture dominated by outlanders and criminals, punctuated by robbers, thieves, guns, nasty pit bulls, diesel generators with still the risk of a visit by camo-clad pot eradicators.” The older growers Mozingo interviewed blamed the debased pot culture with its huge gardens and large greenhouses on “liberalized” pot laws which have “ruined our business.”

NONE of this stuff is new, but it is true that what began as a means for back-to-the-land hippies of the late 1960s and early 1970s to pay their mortgages quickly degenerated into an outlaw culture complete with guns and pit bulls, much of it introduced by the sons and grandsons of the first generation hippies. (Hipnecks, as the second and third generations are known. The children of the hippies married the local 'necks and a whole new mutant breed of outlaw was born.) But marijuana has always been a mostly harrowing way of "living off the land," and peace loving mom and pops largely myth.

MEANWHILE, here at the dope industry's ground zero, it's high anxiety time. The Redwood Empire's number one cash crop is being harvested, trimmed, packaged and, as thousands of growers keep their green thumbs crossed, will soon be sold for big chunks of cash money. If, that is, growers can elude raids by an array of local, state and federal narcs who increasingly seem to be working independently of each other, and if they can fend off the many small groups of armed thugs who cruise the Emerald Triangle this time of year looking for easy prey.

OR TOUGH PREY. When I pointed out to a thug acquaintance that most growers are armed, he laughed, “You don't think we've got guns?”

THE HAZARDS of confiscation and robberies, added to this season’s large-scale fires that presumably wiped out any number of large scale grows in the Mendocino National Forest, have the price per pound back up around $2,500, at least that's what we're hearing in Boonville, the Anderson Valley being home to at least several hundred pot plantations.

ODD GOINGS ON at the Humane Society's Mendocino Coast animal shelter. When two cats, Frankie and Mow, were discovered missing, the Shelter filed a theft report with the Sheriff's department, and the next thing she knew, 78-year-old Lizette Weiss, a volunteer at the Shelter, was accused of cat-napping. Ms. Weiss describes what happened: “Dear Sheriff, For the record, I don't have the cats and don't know who does. September 4, I had an unpleasant visit from a sheriff's deputy … who accused me of stealing cats from the Humane Society's shelter. His manner was intimidating and threatening. I told him that I knew the two cats in question: Frankie and Mow, both females. I truthfully said I do not know who has the cats. I invited him into my home and introduced him to my cat. I also told him it was inhumane to release domestic cats into the (woods) to be preyed upon by … wild animals and for them to prey on the birds in the forest. The officer told me he would not stop looking until those cats were found and that the person who stole the cats would go to jail. I have volunteered at the Shelter for more than a year and a half to socialize cats who are waiting for homes. I have been quite dependable, coming every Monday unless I was ill or out of town. I have told staff about problems I found with the cats (worms, coughs and upper respiratory illness, skin conditions, hairballs and cats throwing up for unknown reasons). Since the Humane Society released these cats into the wild, there has been a flurry of letters to the editor on this subject. The e-mail circuit has been kept busy with ideas for making the Humane Society more open to the community and to suggestions for democratizing its operations. This is particularly important since the group receives $2500 a month in taxpayer funds from the City of Fort Bragg, leases public land where the shelter is located for $1 a year, receives City dog license fees, and enjoys many thousands of dollars of donations from the public. The public also supports the organization by shopping at its resale shop, The Ark. On September 10, I went to the shelter for my regular stint socializing cats. First I found two dogs running unleashed in the area holding the outside cats' feeding station. So much for taking care of the outside cats, euphemistically called 'barn cats' by the shelter (although there is no barn for them to find safety in). After I signed in, Sharon Felkins, the Humane Society director, told me I was no longer welcome at the shelter and to leave immediately and never come back. I asked her why and she said, ‘You are a troublemaker.’ I also asked her who made that decision and she told me the board of the Humane Society (only one of whom I have ever met) voted unanimously. There is no way to know if this is the case as the staff has a long history of being ‘veracity challenged.’ She said she had called the Mendocino Sheriff to report the two outside cats had been stolen and had given them my name and address. I told her that I did not appreciate being called a thief and that she had no right to do so and had overstepped the bounds of normal behavior. One has to wonder why the Sheriff would feel an animal abandoned to its fate in the wild could be ‘stolen.’ I left the shelter when Sharon Felkins (picked up the phone to call) the Mendocino Sheriff to have me forcibly removed. I left for my own health and mental well-being … (but) of equal importance, I feel that public safety personnel are a very scarce resource. I feel this resource was being employed in a frivolous manner to assert one person's sense of importance. The Humane Society, as a 501(c)(3) charity, has a board of directors that currently has six regular members, four of whom are two married couples. Sharon Felkins and Alberta Cottrell also serve on the board. (It is highly) irregular to have two paid employees serve on a policy board since their work is overseen by the board. It is like having a boss boss herself. This is a situation that … has led to an abuse of power. The board could have a total of eleven ‘'regular’ members which would make it more representative of the area it serves and less like a ‘private club.’ The Mendocino Coast Humane society is not a small operation. They reported to the IRS on their 990 form for the year 2010 submitted this past February that they had a total revenue of $477,000 and assets of just under $789,000. For this small community, this is quite a large charity. Yet the Humane Society keeps asserting that it is a private organization and they certainly strive to keep their meetings and deliberations private. As near as observers can tell they have not held a public meeting in more than nine years. When questioned they assert that the last meeting they held, the public complained and criticized (them). You think?! I wish I had a solution. I feel sad that the cats, who craved my attention when I visited, no longer have … volunteers to pet, groom and play with them. In good conscience, I could never recommend the shelter as a place to volunteer as it is hostile and unpleasant to spend time there if one is at all sensitive to normal human interactions. Simple things such as saying ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ to a visitor are in short supply. There is no sense of collaboration with the volunteers and woe beware the individual who disagrees with any decision or points out a problem situation. I could have written about these problems months ago but did not because I know good hearted people are trying to come up with ways to make the Humane Society more humane. Frankly, with the present leadership, I doubt it is possible. Lizette Weiss Fort Bragg."

ACCORDING to the Sheriff's log, animal welfare advocate Carol Lillis also received a visit from a Sheriff's deputy on Sept. 4th, but was not home to receive him.

A HUMANE SOCIETY VOLUNTEER reports that “People are just dumping animals everywhere. A forest ranger told me there are over 300 cats in MacKerricher State Park alone. Many are friendly and many are not spayed/neutered. There are kittens everywhere. And our crazy Humane Society imports kittens from kill shelters outside our county.”

COMMENT OF THE DAY: “‘The police can see the defeat in our eyes. They know they've beaten us,’ an Occupy Wall Street organizer told me a few days after the 2012 May Day demonstration that marked the movement's fizzled attempt to stage a spring resurgence. ‘They used to look at us as adversaries. There was a certain respect. Now we're objects of contempt, an excuse for them to get paid overtime. A safe, live-action game.’ This account of Occupy's self-image was telling. In the space of seven months a galvanizing national protest movement had dwindled to the status of a policing problem before disappearing almost entirely from public view. Part of the blame can be attributed to Occupy itself; its inviolable purity of principle (‘We don't talk to people with power, because to do so would be to acknowledge the legitimacy of their power’) eventually became its own form of corruption. More established left-leaning organizations that sought to support Occupy Wall Street were regarded by many in the movement with suspicion, if not outright paranoia. In April, Adbusters, the anticonsumerist magazine that put out the original call to occupy a space near Wall Street in the summer of 2011, sent out an e-mail blast identifying, The Nation magazine, and Ben & Jerry's ice cream as the most dangerous threats to OWS's survival. This ‘cabal of old world thinkers of the old left,’ as Adbusters put it, with its ‘insidious campaign of donor money,’ was on a mission to defang OWS and turn it into a handmaiden for President Obama's reelection campaign.” (Michael Greenberg, New York Review of Books)

RICHARD SALZMAN has won his lawsuit against the City of Arcata for its Targeted Panhandling Ordinance. The Superior Court agreed with Salzman that most of the City of Arcata's targeted panhandling ordinance was unconstitutional under the US and California Constitutions and that the City of Arcata was wrong to conclude that the simple act of holding up a sign can qualify as aggressive. “I think it's important for people to consider that if you believe in the protection of free speech and in defending our Bill of Rights, then you need to be willing to defend the rights of people you don't agree with, or find annoying. Or, in the case of the ACLU defending the Nazis' right to march in the predominantly Jewish town of Skokie, Illinois, even people you find repulsive,” said Salzman. Both this lawsuit and one brought by Janelle Egger against Humboldt County for its ordinance restricting protests on Courthouse property are supported in part by the Humboldt Civil Liberties Defense Fund (HCLDF), of which Salzman is a member. Salzman went on to say, “I was pleased with the ruling on September 24th in our favor by the Superior Court of California. The Judicial branch has corrected the overreach of this legislation by a City Council when the court found it to be an infringement on the Constitutional Rights of free speech. I along with the other members of the HCLDF intend to stay vigil in our ongoing defense of the Constitution of The United States. If you wish to support our efforts, please go to”

THE ODD CONVICTION OF KENNY ROGERS, now 54, once of Westport, now moves to federal levels of appeal after the California Supreme Court last week upheld the 2010 jury verdict that Rogers had hired a hit man to try to murder Alan Simon, 53, a political foe on the Westport Water Board.

IN MARCH of 2010, Rogers, former chairman of the Mendocino County Republican Central Committee, was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, i.e., the hiring of a tough guy named Richard Peacock to kill Simon. Simon had replaced Rogers on the water board in an August 2004 recall election aimed at Rogers by Simon. After defeating Rogers in the recall, Simon also voted to fire Rogers as Westport's assistant fire chief.

RICHARD PEACOCK the 54-year-old alleged hit man, was an employee of Rogers' auto detailing business in the Sacramento area. He was convicted of shooting up Simon's door in 2005 during which Simon was hit by flying glass. No evidence was presented that Peacock was either paid by Rogers or encouraged by him to try to kill Simon. Peacock went off to state prison for attempted murder without a word about why he'd riddled Simon's front door with handgun fire. Rogers was not competently represented during his jury trial in Ukiah and had refused an offer to settle the case with County Jail time.

MENDOCINO COUNTY will certainly want to know, as per a press release last week from the Mendocino Unified School District, that management and its trustees are going on a retreat. Where are they retreating to? Down the street to the Stanford Inn conference room. Why is Mendocino's edu-brain trust meeting in space a quarter mile from their own free space on the Mendo school grounds? To discuss “Increase learning and achievement for all students and all staff”; to “maintain fiscal integrity”; to discuss “current facilities projects and continue to address needs of physical plant”; and to “develop and expand community partnerships and communication.” In other words, nothing that couldn't be addressed without retreating.

A LOCAL MEDIA person received a note saying that the SF Giants, as an organization, was supporting Governor Brown's tax initiative, Prop 30. Disbelieving, and speculating that the writer must have heard Kruk and Keip or Jon and Flem mention it on a broadcast or telecast, the local media person called the Giants for confirmation. Mr. Baer, not Larry but another Baer, said, Yes indeedy. The Giants were for Prop 30 but no official announcement had been made. But the Giants' primary owner, Mr. Johnson, has invested a cool mil in defeating Prop 30.

THE MYSTERIES of trash disposal. Ukiah's garbage is the province of outside interests whose owners live in Nevada and Santa Rosa. Ukiah recently agreed to a long-term deal ensuring that Ukiah's captive ratepayers will pay more than they should for trash disposal for many years to come. A Potter Valley guy should have gotten the work but didn't. And he isn't licensed to handle biosolids (lightly processed turd cubes, basically) either. The turd cubes will now be hauled outtahere by one of the two outside disposal companies bidding for that contract. But the Potter Valley guy can legally handle as many as 25,000 “chicken mortalities” and a rotting whale, so why not turd cubes?

A HEADLINE in a recent Ukiah Daily Journal asked, “What makes Ukiah special and worth visiting?” The Ukiah City Council, believe it or not, is paying Walnut Creek's “Z Group” (probably one guy and his answering service) $21,000 to answer back: “Nothing.” Well, almost nothing, but the Walnut Creek guy and his answering machine will surely think of something.

AN HONEST ANSWER might be something like, “Ukiah itself is the usual unplanned, unsightly sprawl that any visitor with even a residual aesthetic would avoid. That said, the town does have a half-dozen places where it's possible to get edible food, and one can spend a productive 90 minutes or so at the Grace Hudson Museum. If you're into cheap drunks, there are also several wine tasting rooms in the Ukiah area where you can get loaded on the freebies. A few blocks of Ukiah's westside still possess the grace and style once characteristic of the entire town, but so does Redding and Modesto, and even Willits, Ukiah's identical twin twenty miles up the road.

BUT UKIAH, like Willits, has long since been abandoned by the kind of wealthy civic leaders who once cared about what their towns looked like while Fort Bragg, alone in Mendocino County, still has a kind of civic esteem fostered by the town's leadership that makes it the only coherent, attractive community in Mendocino County. The "village" of Mendocino is a kind of outdoor theme park struggling for identity beneath an avalanche of espresso machines and ice cream cones. No sir, America the beautiful, since the end of World War Two, has been systematically uglified by, and we're speaking both specifically and metaphorically here, Charlie Mannon of the Savings Bank of Mendocino, an archetypical outback moneybags who clearly doesn't care what his hometown looks like.

UKIAH is, however, more or less convenient for its cheap lodgings from which the visitor can venture out to Mendocino County's more encouraging vistas, most of them to the west but many to the northeast out of hidden outback communities like Potter Valley and Covelo, not that the visitor should stray far from the pavement at any time of the year in any part of Mendocino County because of the aggressive territoriality of our independent agriculture industry.

NO SOONER HAD UKIAH paid out $21 thou to figure out ways to gull passersby into swerving off 101 for a visit, than they got invited to a "regional transition conference down in the delightful drive-by city of Richmond with blah-blah artists from such NorCal jive hubs as, "Meet and network with other Transition initiatives from the region, including Sonoma, Sebastopol, Berkeley, Albany, Santa Cruz and more! –– Be inspired by successful community resilience projects –– Help take your Transition efforts to the next level; learn innovative organizing tools and methods. Engaging more diverse communities in Transition — Engaging community diversity of all types, including communities of color, youth, income levels, etc. Creating practical projects — Successful community resilience projects and what has been learned Transition messaging that appeals to the masses — Messaging strategies and use of media to reach a wider audience and build a more cohesive Transition movement."

AND SO ON. But I'll bet three of Ukiah's city councilmen — Rodin, Thomas and Landis — will have to be physically restrained from attending.

SAN FRANCISCO is undergoing its annual coyote scare. About a year ago, a woman's illegally off-leash dogs encountered a coyote near the buffalo pens and the coyotes ever since have gotten the blame for missing pets. The Grunge People's pitbulls are the biggest hazard to Frisco park life, including two-footed life, but that's another story. In living coyote fact, there seems to be about a dozen of the crafty little critters in the city, two of which I've seen myself on early morning walks through the very west end of the Presidio. The Presidio coyotes aren't about to jog up to you for a biscuit, but they don't take off at the approach of a human either. They fully co-exist. One morning a sleek 70 pounder (I estimated) trotted across a street right in front of me, then sat on a dune staring at me staring at him, the second time that's happened to me with a coyote, the first time being in Boonville when I got into a lengthy stare down with a coyote sitting nonchalantly at the other end of a big drain pipe. I love the humor in these animals. They will definitely mess with you in that uncanny way of theirs. You hear coyotes night-yowling in Mendocino County more than you see them, and when you do see them in their rural habitat, it's clear from their scraggy appearances they're working for a living. City coyotes are fed by animal lovers, and they are also assumed to help themselves to unattended cats and dogs, although I'd need some proof of that before I'd blame the coyotes. Stop me if you've heard this old coyote joke: Conservationsts committed to humane management of coyotes got together with sheep ranchers to discuss the problem sheep ranchers had with coyotes preying on sheep. A conservationist asked, "Cant you catch the coyotes, neuter them and let them go?" A rancher stood up and replied, "Lady, the coyotes are eating the sheep, they ain't screwin' them!"

BILLY NORBURY'S MURDER TRIAL is set to begin. Norbury, 34, is alleged to have shot and killed his Redwood Valley neighbor, Jamal Andrews, 30, the night of January 24th this year. Norbury is white. Andrews, black. Andrews was a well-known reggae musician whose many friends assume the shooting was racially inspired. DA Eyster has said the shooting occurred for other reasons while Norbury's attorney, Al Kubanis, seems to be arguing (1) that Norbury is crazy, and (2) Norbury was drunk and crazy at the time of the shooting. In July, Norbury changed his not-guilty plea to not guilty by reason of insanity. Judge John Behnke is presiding.

COVELO O COVELO! Joshua Clayton Hanover, 24, was stopped in Covelo at 9:45pm Thursday night and soon under arrest when a tweek pipe, more than one baggie of crank and a loaded rifle were found in his vehicle. As an indication of just how ho-hum routine these busts are in not only Covelo, but everywhere in the County, Hanover's bail was set at a mere $10,000.

BERNIE MEYERS nicely deconstructs the ongoing railroad scam. "There is good news regarding the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA). Its freight hauler, NWP, has been providing rail service to customers between Lombard (near Napa) and Windsor, since July 2011. Major shipments include loads of concrete ties and rail cars holding 1600 feet of continuous rail for SMART. But there is ample bad news. First, NCRA has awarded a 'No Bid' contract to NWP that ballooned in cost and came in a year beyond the supposedly strict four-month deadline: In March 2010 NCRA was told that the 62-mile Lombard to Windsor repair project was substantially complete. All that was needed to pass inspection by the feds was a four-item 'punch list' of repairs. It would cost less that $1 million and be completed quickly. Ordinarily this would require bidding, but in April NWP was awarded a contract to complete the work 'at cost' by September 1, 2010. The award was 'capped at $1.1 million.' By August the contract 'cap' was increased to $1.9 million and the completion date became October 1, 2010. The feds inspected the line in January 2011 and allowed operations. Yet hundreds of thousands of dollars were supposedly spent on the 'punch list' work for seven months after the inspection was completed. In October 2011 there had been no change to the August 2010 contract. Yet NCRA was presented with a summary of NWP’s expenses: $2.5 million. Then there is the Lease between NCRA and NWP: The initial Lease of September 2006 had the potential of handing the line to NWP for a century after NCRA spent over $60 million taxpayer dollars to repair the first 62 miles (out of about 310) and yet under the Lease NWP could conceivably not pay a dime to NCRA once trains were running. Some of the egregious provisions were deleted by a June 20, 2011 Amendment. But in October 2011 NWP demanded a reversal of those June 20 changes, plus new onerous provisions. For example, NWP had paid $20,000 monthly advance lease payments to NCRA. They were explicitly without interest and were to be credited to NWP once operations started. Suddenly, in October 2011, NWP demanded prompt repayment of all the funds and retroactive interest! NWP demanded that NCRA sell its Ukiah Depot property [the site for the proposed new Ukiah courthouse — Ed] and that NWP have first rights to the proceeds to cover all of what NWP perceived as its due. NWP would loan NCRA operating funds until the Ukiah Depot sold, or July 1, 2012, whichever came first. The NCRA Executive Director stated, 'A new track rental fee will be renegotiated prior to the disbursement of funds from the sale of the Ukiah Depot Property.' (The Ex. Dir. has refused to place the October 2011 Lease amendment on NCRA’s website.) July 1, 2012 came and went. However, no Depot sale had occurred and no new fee had been negotiated. NWP now refuses to pay NCRA for NWP’s use of the right-of-way. Meanwhile, NWP is seeking new funds to extend the line northward. Before proceeding further, NCRA should embrace both transparency and fiscal prudence. It should not expend additional millions of taxpayer dollars until it knows how, if at all, the public will benefit. [Bernie Meyers is a Novato attorney who represents Marin County on the board of directors of the North Coast Railroad Authority.]

MAN BEATERS OF THE WEEK: Ms. Rhonda Motts of Fort Bragg, 5'7" and 210, undoubtedly could do some damage, especially if she got a running start. And from the look of her, Rhonda seems ready to bull rush the guy again. Sure enough, bail was set at $25,000 meaning Rhonda did some fairly serious damage. Then there's Ms. Jennifer Nielsen of San Francisco, distraught and disbelieving to find herself being booked into jail for smacking old whatshisface. With bail set at a mere ten grand, not a big deal.

GOVERNOR BROWN has shot down open carry, making it a misdemeanor to display an unloaded firearm outside of a vehicle (with a bunch of exemptions for hunters and rural Californians). As a sop to the gun brigades, he also rejected a measure that would have required gun owners to report stolen or missing firearms to authorities within 48 hours of discovering them missing, although it isn't at all clear why a gun person wouldn't want to immediately report the theft of iconic items. The Governor also knocked down a useful initiative that would have allowed police to fine parents $100 if their children were caught with bb guns in public places. A kid with a bb gun is always on the hunt for targets of opportunity — other kids with or without bb guns; windows; birds; inviting passersby. At least that's what I did with a bb gun when I was ten. Since the cops do so much community parenting anymore, it's probably a good idea to give them this particular tool.

THE GOVERNOR also signed a bill that protects breastfeeding in the workplace. The bill was inspired by a 2009 federal Fair Employment and Housing Commission decision that found an employer who fired an employee for nursing her infant during her lunch break had denied that employee a right to a discrimination-free work place.

COMMENT OF THE DAY from Norman Finkelstein talking about Occupy: “A good political activist — yes, he or she has to be well read. I don’t think there’s any getting around it. You have to have some sense of history. The world isn’t an easy place; it’s not a transparent place. Trying to make sense of the economics is not an easy task. So you have to be well read. But no matter how well read you are you are never going to be successful in politics unless two things are obtained. Number one, you have to have deep roots in people. You have to be among the people. Politics is about moving people to act. That’s our politics. When you’re in positions of power or you’re at the levers of power — and there are many levers you have that don’t involve people — you have repressive forces, you have economic forces, you have lots of levers. When you are a people’s movement you have one thing. Your only asset is people. And you have to deal with real people. Not the people of your imagination. Not the people you wish people would be. But people as they exist actually out there in the real world. So you have to be among the people. Hear what they’re saying, know what they’re thinking, and then you’ll be able to figure out what is a realistic demand and what is not. Having said that I also think politics is a knack. It’s not something you learn in books and not necessarily something you are going to acquire by being among people. There is something to be said for this completely impalpable thing called good political instincts, good political judgment. I think Gandhi had very good political judgment. He knew the people, which he had to. But he also had good judgment. I think professor Chomsky has very good political judgment.”

WE NOTICED in a recent District Attorney website update that a Mr. Johnny Jackson was found “not guilty” on a charge of “escape/run away.” Which raises the question: Did he run away or not? How could someone be found “not guilty” of running away or escaping? We asked the District Attorney’s office about the verdict.

PROSECUTOR RAY KILLION EXPLAINED: “A neighbor of the Woodland Fire Station called the camp commander at Chamberlain Creek and said he'd run off two inmates from his property, which is about 300 yards from where an inmate crew was working. The neighbor identified Johnny Jackson and fellow inmate Noe Aguilar from camp identification cards. Aguilar pled guilty before trial and was sentenced to three years consecutive to the sentence he was already serving. At Jackson's trial, the Cal-Fire captain in charge of the work crew that day testified he performed a head count every 15 minutes and never noticed Jackson missing. Also, the neighbor testified when he looked through the ID cards that day he saw two black inmates among the 13 cards; in fact there were four. I didn't get a chance to speak with any of the jurors so I don't know if they relied on these discrepancies or if they just figured no harm-no foul (since Jackson made it back to camp without anybody noticing.) At any rate, they deliberated for about 45 minutes before coming back with the not guilty verdict. Note that the legal definition of ‘escape’ is ‘an unlawful departure from the limits of an inmate's custody.’ In this case he was charged with escape even though he was only alleged to have been gone from his assigned work area for 15 minutes or less.”

A EUREKA MAN was arrested Monday (Sep 24th) for attempted kidnapping after allegedly threatening and following a woman on Talmage Road, the Ukiah Police Dept. said. According to the Ukiah PD, a woman was walking to work around 10am on September 24 in the 300 block of Talmage Road when a man headed in the opposite direction snapped at her, then turned and began following her, shouting, “I'm going to get you.” When the woman walked faster the suspect did as well, so the victim ran across the street. The UPD learned later that two people had been watching the interaction and were preparing to intervene before the woman crossed the street. A description of the man was broadcast and responding officers located a suspect, identified as Jesse D.C. Cooper of Eureka, in the Walmart parking lot on Airport Park Boulevard. Cooper was booked into Mendocino County Jail on suspicion of attempted kidnapping and criminal threats.

SEVERAL THINGS WERE MISSING from the recent AP story about California dairies going broke because costs are going up while prices aren’t. The main thing missing is why California’s price supports for milk coming directly from the state’s dairies are so low. All the story offered was this misleading quote from a California Department of Food and Agriculture named Steve Lyle who said “the reason for lower prices is that milk supply exceeds demand in California.”

WRONG, STEVE: Section 62062 of the California Food and Agriculture code says that milk is an essential commodity that must be priced to make sure it’s available, healthy, and ensures that milk producers don’t go out of business. (I happen to know this because my father, Gene Scaramella, was a career cooperative creamery manager who specialized in milk price stabilization and price supports.) “Each stabilization and marketing plan shall contain provisions whereby the director (of CDFA) establishes minimum prices to be paid by handlers to producers for market milk in the various classes. The director shall establish the prices by designating them in the plan, or by adopting methods or formulas in the plan whereby the prices can be determined, or any combination of the foregoing. If the director directly designates prices in the plan, the prices shall be in reasonable and sound economic relationship with the national value of manufactured milk products. If the director adopts methods or formulas in the plan for designation of prices, the methods or formulas shall be reasonably calculated to result in prices that are in a reasonable and sound economic relationship with the national value of manufactured milk products. In establishing the prices, the director shall take into consideration any relevant economic factors, including, but not limited to, the following: (a) The reasonableness and economic soundness of market milk prices for all classes, giving consideration to the combined income from those class prices, in relation to the cost of producing and marketing market milk for all purposes, including manufacturing purposes. In determining the costs, the director shall consider the cost of management and a reasonable return on necessary capital investment.”

AND SO ON. For more particulars, see the CDFA’s own website which breaks down the prices and price supports. IF, as the AP article says, the prices are too low for milk producers to stay in business, something’s gone seriously haywire in the price support process, which includes the producers, the milk-buyers, the state regulators, and the state legislature.

MY FATHER managed a milk cooperative — Danish Creamery and later Challenge Cream & Butter Association — for several decades going back to the 50s. Many ag cooperatives began in the 1930s because producers couldn’t get decent prices from commercial creameries during the depression so they formed cooperatives run by elected members (dairymen) of the cooperative. Milk and milk products are considered essential to public health. But, as with timber or wine, the producer or grower is at the mercy of the buyer (be it the timber mill, the winery, the creamery…) when it comes to the prices the producer is paid.

ALSO DURING the 1930s, thanks to old-school FDR-style liberals, besides cooperatives, government price supports were established for milk because milk shortages were considered to be a threat to public health. Every year since then, using something like what is now called for in the California law quoted above, industry and government would negotiate and set the minimum price supports for milk.

WHEN MY FATHER was in the business, he — being hired by the coop members to manage the cooperative’s creamery and thus to manage the prices the creamery paid to the producers — made a point of going to Sacramento to make sure that the price supports kept his coop members from going out of business.

BUT NOWADAYS (basically since the Reagan era and broadscale “deregulation”), most producers are stuck with vertically integrated production schemes which are controlled by retailers — i.e., the big grocery store chains, most with their own milk brands who either own the dairies outright, or own enough of them to set their own artificially low prices for the state’s remaining independent dairies. So the producers (the independent dairies and the dairymen), if they’re organized at all, have very little political clout when the time comes to set price supports. The retailers obviously don’t want to pay more for milk and they don’t really care if dairies go out of business. They assume, wrongly, that there will always be some place to buy raw milk — a classic example of one of the many contradictions of capitalism.

AND WE CAN TELL very easily from that one very dumb statement from the CDFA “spokesman” that the big retailers are calling the shots when it comes to milk pricing. In my father’s day, the regulating agencies would never say anything so ridiculously simplistic as “milk supply exceeds demand in California” to explain pricing. Because in those days, the regulators and politicians cared about public health and the dairymen who produced the milk, and they listened to people like my father who represented the dairymen and knew what they were talking about. (— Mark Scaramella)

COMMENT OF THE DAY: “Last time I was in Garberville, looking for abandoned VWs, I turned around at the south end and headed back through town and saw about 10 or 12 people sitting on the edge of a planter near a coffee shop. I couldn't believe how tweeked they all were, typical meth folks talking to themselves, yelling at each other and two of them (apparently a couple), actually injecting something — right there on the street with people driving and walking by. As someone who frequents Eureka and sees freaky stuff all the time, I was shocked by my experience in G-Ville." — Phillip Hooker”

THE TWO PERSONS DEAD in Saturday morning's Potter Valley fire have been identified as Earl McDaniels, a grandfather in his 80s, and his son Wes McDaniels, a developmentally disabled man in his 50s. The fire started around 7:30 Saturday morning in the McDaniels home opposite the Potter Valley Volunteer Fire Department on Main Street. The structure was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. The cause of the fire remains under investigation and is described as of "suspicious" origins.

MORE ERRORS are being discovered in the bills being sent to rural property owners by CalFire for “fire prevention.” The controversial “fee,” which many are calling an illegally engineered tax, is based on dubious data collected by CalFire via a combination of assessor records, Community Development records, aerial photographs, and GIS (computerized Geographical Information System) compiled by a third party “designator fee administrator.” Not only do the bills reflect taxable “habitable structures” which are clearly not habitable, but they are based on data which is months if not years old causing the bills, in many cases, to be sent to the wrong people.

ADDING PENALTY TO INJURY, the burden of correcting the errors is the responsibility of property owners who get the erroneous bills. People with inaccurate bills can file a “redetermination petition” within 30 days of receiving their bill. The petition and directions can be downloaded from the Fire Protection Fee Service Center or the State Board of Equalization Websites. To protest a fee the property owner must “attach all documentation to prove your case and make copies for your records before mailing the petition to Fire Prevention Fee Service Center, Attn: Petitions, PO Box 2254 , Suisun City CA 94585.” (And you better send it “return receipt requested.”)

THE STATE RESPONSIBILITY AREA/Calfire board is supposed to review the petitions within 60 days and notify the property owner of the decision, which may or not be the one the property owner expected. Theoretically, a corrected bill will be issued, or a decision for reimbursement if the bill has already been paid. The property owner has 30 days to pay the bill or apply for a reimbursement from the Board of Equalization.

IF THE BILL is not paid, penalties are incurred. If a fire protection fee is not paid within 30 days, penalties of up to 20% of the bill can be added every 30 days the bill goes unpaid. Liens are attached to the name listed as the property owner, not on the property itself, so an unpaid bill will show up against the owner’s credit, even if they don’t now own the property.

INFO ON THE FIRE PREVENTION FEE can be obtained from the website or you can try calling the Fire Prevention Fee Service Center at 1-888-310-6447. (And good luck with that.) For questions about payments contact the State Board of Equalization at 1-800-400-7115. For questions about parcels, contact the County Assessor’s Office which in Mendocino County is reachable at 463-4311 or check the County assessor’s website.

SUPPOSEDLY a guide to the fee process called the “SRA Definition Guide” is available on the website. But according to the note on the site Sunday afternoon it’s “coming soon” — after the bills are sent.

OH, and did we mention that the money won’t really go to increasing CalFire’s fire prevention services? Instead, when the dust settles, an amount of money more or less equal to what the state collects in fire prevention “fees” will be taken from CalFire’s overall budget to help balance the state’s budget. A more cynical, not to mention convoluted and underhanded, way of balancing the state’s budget would be hard to imagine.

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