Biggest Boondoggle, Ongoing — The Willits Bypass has been allocated hundreds of millions of public dollars but will not only be built with no on and off ramp at Highway 20 to Fort Bragg, meaning Coast traffic will still have to negotiate half of congested 101 as it passes through Willits, but the entire Bypass is erected on the geologically and seismically unstable shale floor of Little Lake Valley.
Deadbeats of the Year — Ukiah Sativa Morrison and his consort Callie Ashe. Having lost a jury trial during which they claimed they were exempt from paying rent because they grew medical marijuana, the Morrisons have just obtained a temporary restraining order against a Hopland woman who offered them a place out of the winter rains but had to call the police on the Morrisons when they behaved badly and repeatedly.
Silliest Public Discussion — The Supervisors debate on whether or not pot stinks and whether or not pot odor constitutes air pollution.
Here's Your Hat, What's Your Hurry — The merciful retirements of 4th District Supervisor Kendall Smith and MTA manager Bruce Richard. The former narrowly eluded indictment for stealing public money, the latter, for nearly four decades, provided an alleged public transit system, subsidized by the County at about $11 per rider, that ran empty buses to nowhere at inconvenient times, his last act being an expensive double transfer of contaminated dirt still being sorted out but likely to cost the taxpayers upwards of a million dollars. Smith also gets the Most Corrupt Public Official Award: Departing Supervisor Kendall Smith who spent eight years in office enriching herself by fudging on her travel claims and gleefully voting to cut everyone's pay but her own. Ms. Smith remains the only County employee who has not taken a 10% pay cut.
Highest Paid To Do Nothing Employee (three-way tie) — Bruce Richard (again) of the Mendocino Transit Authority which exists only to run empty buses around the county at times when no one can ride them; Richard White of the County Retirement Board who immediately after he was hired started recruiting for a consultant to prepare all the reports previously done by the retirement administrator and, of course, Superintendent of Mendocino County Schools, Paul Tichinin, sole occupant of first place for thirty consecutive years, even before the voters of Mendocino County elected him and re-elected him Superintendent of Schools.
Exploded Political Myth of the Year — That the Northcoast is politically progressive, i.e., to the left of the corporate Democrat national party. It isn't. Norman Solomon, a genuine progressive, was easily defeated in the Democratic Primary by a blandly opportunistic career officeholder from Marin named Huffman.
Phoniest Public Meeting — Seven of Mendocino County's Eight Superior Court judges suddenly called and appeared at a meeting in Fort Bragg to assure Coast residents they wouldn't close Fort Bragg's Ten Mile Court after Coast residents mobilized to recall all eight of them if Ten Mile did not continue to operate unchanged.
Homeless Person of the Year — Jacqueline ‘Pixie’ Audet who also nicely serves as a living symbol of a young person being permitted to die a public death from alcoholism because this state and this country allows persons unable and/or unwilling to care for themselves to kill themselves in public places.
Most Effective CEO — In a while, anyway. Carmel Angelo, who took over from the hapless Tom Mitchell when the County was mired in debt. Whatever else you might say about them, Angelo and the Supervisors have managed to balance the budget, increase reserves and improve the County’s credit rating.
Least Effective CEO — Ukiah's City Manager, Jane Chambers, who keeps burning through the City of Ukiah’s reserves at a million dollar a year clip but found the money to spend $21,000 to “brand” Ukiah. The City's slogan? “Far out! Nearby.” Which works out to a nice $7,000 per word.
Least Effective Labor Union — The Local Service Employees International sub-local which bumbled their way to a 12.5% pay cut for County employees when the County would have settled for 10%.
Least Effective Labor Union Reps — SEIU's outside visiting hired guns who show up just long enough to give bad advice, botch negotiations, then leave.
Biggest Union Saps — Mendocino County's public employees who collectively pay SEIU hundreds of thousands of dollars a month for incompetent-to-non-existent representation.
Most Corrupt Public Works Project (Ongoing) — The new County Courthouse in Ukiah that will house only courtrooms and judge's lush chambers as Ukiah-area lawyers and developers buy up adjacent parcels where they will erect private ancillary court offices and charge taxpayers top dollar in lease-backs. The new Courthouse will, of course, be a major eyesore along the lines of the now abandoned County Courthouse in Willits.
Most Effective Candidate — 1st District Supervisor Carre Brown who ran unopposed for re-election. Runner-up: Supervisor-elect Dan Gjerde who was almost unopposed, facing only a quixotic write-in challenge.
Least Effective Candidate — SEIU negotiating team member Andrea Longoria who f-bombed the Board of Supervisors in open session while negotiations dragged out, then ran against 2nd District Supervisor McCowen because, ah, because McCowen irritated her. McCowen won re-election in a landslide despite SEIU's well-funded campaign against him.
Most Effective Candidate, Write In — Caitlin Riehl who, in what is probably a first in Mendocino County, successfully ran as a write in for City Treasurer against the previously recalled Mayor of Point Arena, Lauren Sinnott.
Fraudulent Appointments of the Year — Obama Administration's naming of Mike Thompson and Joe Biden to shed the lead crocodile tears over gun control.
Poacher of the Year — Bob Ng of Willits arrested for abalone poaching again this year after being caught last year with 70 abalone and 50 wetsuits when he was described by Fish and Game as “a one-stop poaching shop.”
Mendocino County's Wildest Public Official Since Norm Vroman — Former Interim County Counsel Doug Losak who was forced to resign from the interim post after he was pulled over for late-night speeding with an unregistered gun and a stash of marijuana on board. (Mendocino County after dark! You don't want to know.)
Most In Your Face County Employee — Air Pollution Control Officer Chris Brown who slapped a $108,000 fine on the County for a technical oversight then turned the case over to the EPA where the fine got reduced to nothing since the public was never at risk. Brown was miffed for perceived slights to the majesty of his authority.
Assimilationist of the Year — Anthony ‘Thundercloud’ Gambini of Willits. Arrested for an indoor grow in Brooktrails, Gambini declared he was in fact a Native American and, as a Native American exempt from local, state and federal laws.
Most Hats On One Head — John Sakowicz, financial advisor and former County corrections deputy who simultaneously serves on the Grand Jury, the County Retirement Board, the County RDA Oversight Committee, hosts a show on Radio KZYX, and appears at nearly every BOS meeting to offer his financial advice.
Hey! Can't Anybody Around Here Take A Joke? Award — Jordan Luna of Covelo. Luna walked up to the driver of fuel tanker truck topping off the underground tanks at Redwood Gas and said, “Dude! What happens if I flick my Bic?” The driver replied that he, Luna and half of Covelo “will go Boom! big time.” Luna said, “I'm gonna make you an honorary Indian and we'll both go Boom! together,” at which point Luna was grabbed, wrestled to the ground and arrested for making a criminal threat.
Luckiest Public Official (Tie) — Former County Treasurer Tim Knudsen and Former County Auditor Controller Dennis Huey who continue to escape accountability for looting the county retirement fund of tens of millions of dollars in phony “excess earnings” to pay for retiree health care, driving higher costs onto the County and undermining the financial stability of the retirement system.
Conservationists Of The Year — The wine and grape growers of inland Mendocino County whose massed quiet riot in Judge Ann Moorman's courtroom seems to have led to Moorman's subsequent ruling that the unregulated, florid-faced cry babies can continue to help themselves to the overdrawn waters of the Russian River, fish be damned.
Feminist Of The Year — Luke Breit, because campaign money for his phony non-profit was raised at “cash-only mixers” where, according to Madam Breit, “working ladies would come and, you know, the guys would come to meet them.” Fair Political Practices Committee chair Ann Ravel tweeted that it was “the most amazing case involving improper use of campaign funds this year,” a statement only a life-long resident of a remote convent could make, but I guess we all have to at least pretend we're surprised at government hijinks. Luke Breit also gets Democrat Of The Year, with a Viagra oak leaf cluster.
Most Entertaining Supervisor: Johnny Pinches. Third District.
• Pinches (to Supervisor John McCowen): “I watched your complete meeting in Humboldt County.” McCowen: “You’re just a glutton for punishment, aren’t you? You don’t hear enough from me down here on the Board?” Pinches: “I wanted to make sure what you say in Mendocino County is the same thing you say in Humboldt County.”
• “This presentation reminds me of the airplane pilot who was flying at over 30,000 feet. The pilot comes on the microphone and says, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have some bad news for you. If you look out the left side of the aircraft you’ll see that an engine is on fire. If you look out the right side, you’ll see that engine has fallen off. The good news is that we’re right on schedule.”
• Responding to Supervisor McCowen who implied that Pinches position on social programs was akin to social Darwinism: “I didn't know Darwin personally.”
• On local marijuana growers: “My personal view is that I don't think anybody who grows marijuana is an outlaw. Everything I thought about this and say is centered around that. Supervisor Hamburg points out that we are kind of out there. We can't even get our local congressman, both our lame-duck congressman, or any of our future congressional candidates that's going to represent from Marin County to the Oregon border, the federal legislation that is proposed, for one of these state legislators — nobody will support us in our position. We are hanging out there. This marijuana issue has been going on for over 40 years. 40 years! Think about it! And we are still throwing people in jail over it. They're getting stopped in their cars and getting their money taken and their medicine taken. These are the same incidents that could have happened 40 years ago. Where have we really progressed in this?”
• On the proposal to eliminate the County’s groundbreaking marijuana cultivation ordinance because of threats from the feds: “We're just about to call up the federal government and say, Well okay, we're not going to do the 99 plants anymore. So we're just going to do the 25 plants, so stay away from us. It's kind of like telling a bank robber, Well, you can only do part of it… I think we should be consistent and tell the federal government, You know what? We tried to develop this process. We came up with a 9.31 ordinance that you didn't like for all the different reasons. Didn’t like our numbers. Didn’t like the money going to the Sheriff's office… But now, federal government, what I want to tell you is we're dropping the whole thing. You do what you think’s best. You're in charge. If you come— Because there is a violation of states rights here.”
• On CEO Angelo’s “consultation” with the credit rating advisor: “I think it's very disappointing that we spent $28,000 basically for a telephone conference call. I rest my case.”
• On Kendall Smith’s personal junket to the National Association of Counties convention in Pittsburg: “I don’t support this. I don’t know NACo’s specific track record but it’s pretty bleak. These organizations are all about themselves, not about the members. What would Mendocino County gain? What would be pushed for at this convention? It’s not worth the money or the membership.”
• After a performance by a local harpist demonstrating the benefits of the local arts council: “You are a lot more entertaining than we are.”
• On the County Pension system’s declaration that there was a 54% chance that the system would return 7.75% over the long run: “I just have a question, it says MCERA [the Mendocino County Employees Retirement Administration] projects a return rate of 7.75% which has a 54% probability of fulfillment over the next 28 years. I read where our retirement system indirectly or directly basically hires 33 different consulting firms to get to this. Basically, what this is saying is, Well, we are half right and we are half wrong. 54%. Is that what you are paying 33 different consulting firms to give you half right answers and half wrong answers? Is that the best you can do, 54% probability? … Is that — am I reading this correctly? I mean, hell! I can get three guys off the street to get me a half right and half wrong answer! … I don't know if I would be willing to invest $350 million [the approximate size of the County’s pension reserves] in something that has an almost 50% chance of being wrong.… I'm sure a ouija board could produce a number not much under 54%.”
• Supervisor John McCowen (speaking to County Counsel Jeanine Nadel): “Your Honor [it had recently been announced that Nadel had been appointed Superior Court Judge], would you like to strike that last statement from the record?” Nadel: “No! I would like to strike him” (pointing at Pinches). Pinches: “Hey, if I am going to be accused of being a large marijuana dealer then I might as well play the part!”
• Upon hearing the predictions of the County’s consulting actuaries regarding the stability and viability of the County’s pension fund: “Now I know the difference between a fortune teller and an actuary.”
• On how to deal with complaints that marijuana stinks: “Can we direct our Air Pollution Control Office to develop marijuana plants that don't smell?”