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Off The Record

WILLITS CROOKS maybe ought to stay in Willits. Ferndale police officers arrested two men from Willits early Sunday morning inside a bank in Ferndale. Sylvester Loren Vansickle, 56, and Larry Daniel Rodriguez, 39, were trying to blowtorch their way into an ATM cash box when the cops appeared outside the bank. One of the two tried to run through the bank's reinforced glass door, but bounced off the door and, eventually, into the warm embrace of responding officers. Vansickle and Rodriguez were booked into the Humboldt County Jail on $100,000 bail each. The two Willits safecrackers have lengthy legal histories.

OBAMA'S IMMIGRATION REFORM will, if it becomes law, look like this:

• A path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here, contingent upon securing the border and better tracking of people here on visas.

• Reform of the legal immigration system, including awarding green cards to immigrants who obtain advanced degrees in science, math, technology or engineering from an American university.

• An effective employment verification system to ensure that employers do not hire illegal immigrants.

• Allowing more low-skill workers into the country and allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can demonstrate they couldn't recruit a U.S. citizen; and establishing an agricultural worker program.

COMMENT OF THE DAY from Jim Kunstler: “I'm not even sure what to call the current disposition of unreality in the USA, though it is clearly tinged with different colors of grandiosity ranging from the plain dopey idea of “American exceptionalism” to the wishful claim that we're about to become “energy independent,” to the lame assertion so popular in presidential addresses that “together we can do anything.” Speaking of the inaugural, in all the Second-Coming-of-Lincoln-Meets-MLK hoopla of the grand day, with the national mall lined by gigantic flat screen TVs (an Orwellian nightmare), and the heartwarming displays of ethnic diversity, and the stridently inoffensive songs and poem, there was the genial Mr. Obama at the epicenter of the huge ceremony delivering a bouquet of platitudes so stale and trite that it could have been composed in a first-year Harvard Law School ethics skull session at a back table of Wagamama. Despite all the blather about his graying hair, and the wisdom of age, and the supposed music of his rhetoric, I couldn't detect a single idea in Mr. Obama's inaugural address that wasn't either self-evident, or devised to flatter some “identity” bloc, or an imitation of old tropes out of the “Great Speeches” book.

THE HUMBOLDT COUNTY CORONER, David Parris, has released the identity of yesterday’s Shelter Cove drowning victim was taken out to sea by a killer wave. According to Parris, Susan Kay Archer, age 32 of Shelter Cove, was walking the beach with her boyfriend and dog as they did almost every morning. At the foot of Dolphin Drive, which runs towards the ocean, there are rocks that go right down to the water. They waited for the waves to go out. Archer went around a large rock followed by her male companion. A wave came in knocking them both over. Parris believes that this was not a sneaker wave but “a typical wave action that caught them off guard.” Archer and the dog were swept into the water while the man was slapped against the rock. According to Parris, he sustained “lots of lacerations” on his stomach and arms. The man managed to pull himself up the rock and called 911. Even though local rescue crews and the Coast Guard believed at times that they might have to arrange a rescue from the rock, the man struggled to the top of the cliff where he met with rescuers. The Archer’s body was found floating about 300 feet offshore. The dog eventually made it to shore and ran back to his home.

A HUMBOLDT COUNTY MAN calling himself Surfer Mike clarifies: “Black sands beach is no normal beach it is all massive shore break because it drops off very deep 10 feet out. ALL lagoons have this same feature, it can happen anywhere but those beaches are the worst. Places like camel, state beach can all rush in as well but usually its not quite as bad. go to this site and check the surf size before you go to the beach. I would say surf under 5 feet has the least danger of sweep in while 6 to 10 feet their is a moderate danger and over 10 feet, esp. over 15 feet it is very dangerous to be closer than 50-100 yards from the water line. longer interval swells also tend to increase the tide surge chances ( its the part that says seconds, as in 10 feet @17 sec.).Tides are a factor to , try to go on a low tide , still going lower. Incoming tides can create surges. IF you happen to get swept in, the first rule is to relax, and if you can , remove shoes and jackets. Let it take you out past the break and then try to body surf in on a wave when the tide surges in . It may take several tries .You have to try to relax even though you are freezing and scared. IF help is near by and you cant make it in , try to swim out just past the break and float on your back, conserving energy till they can pluck u out w a copter. Be careful fam. 1 love.”

DRIVING NORTH on 101 Sunday, I couldn't help see the redwoods Caltrans has slaughtered to make way for a new freeway interchange at Airport Boulevard just north of Santa Rosa. Caltrans claims the trees, some 600 of them, which have been in place for forty years, will be used to restore fish habitat in Dry Creek and Mark West Creek. In other words, a thriving redwood grove on the now redwood-free Redwood Highway, has been clearcut for a freeway ramp. Way to go, Big Orange!

OF COURSE you know that four of Mendocino County's newspapers are owned by an outside media chain. The interchangeable Fort Bragg Advocate and Mendocino Beacon; the Ukiah Daily Journal and the Willits News are the lucrative properties of an outfit called Media Group based, based, based way far away. But rumors drifting out of the north say a group of Willits business people are poised to start a paper aimed straight at competing with the long established Willits News. Still in the talking stage, but Willits could soon be enjoying an old-fashioned newspaper war.

A FEDERAL appeals court ruled 2-1 Tuesday that marijuana should stay on the dangerous drug roster. A medical marijuana group, Americans for Safe Access, had sued to have weed removed from the danger list. Safe Access vowed to appeal the dangerous drug designation all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.

AMERICA is 9th in the world in internet speed, and Mendocino County is undoubtedly lower in the rankings because many outback residents are still on dial-up. Fast internet connections are said to be linked to improved business and educational opportunities. As it stands, we're much slower than South Korea, our ranking falling between Latvia and Czechoslovakia.

NO PAROLE FOR CAMERON WHITLOCK. According to a press release from the DA's office, the Point Arena man will remain in prison for at least another five years for the 1990 murder of well-known Mendocino Coast contractor Wallace Herbert Kuntz. Cameron Whitlock lost his bid for parole following a hearing last week in front of the state Board of Prison Terms at Solano State Prison in Vacaville. Assistant District Attorney Paul Sequeira and chief DA Investigator Tim Kiely appeared at the hearing, and argued against Whitlock's release. Also appearing was Kuntz's widow and the contractor's two sons. Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster said Tuesday that he was pleased with the prison board's decision to wait for five years before allowing Whitlock to renew his bid for parole. Whitlock was convicted in May 1990 of second-degree murder, robbery and vehicle theft. Kuntz's killing was “tragic and senseless,” Eyster said. Kuntz was at a construction site 22 years ago on the Point Arena Indian Reservation when he was killed. Kiely and other investigators said Kuntz was sitting in his pickup truck getting ready to drive home when Whitlock walked up to the driver's side window and shot him in the head. Whitlock then climbed into the truck and shot Kuntz again, before driving the victim's truck about two miles with the body still inside. Investigators said Whitlock pulled over, dragged the contractor's body from the vehicle and covered it with brush. Whitlock then torched the brush, engulfing Kuntz' body in flames.

I THOUGHT the Obama inaugural was thoroughly over-the-top grotesque, relieved only by the nut in the tree who kept screaming, “Democrats are baby killers!” The whole show was an insult to the memory of Martin Luther King who, of course, was constantly invoked but whose unyielding real life scared the white wine and cheese out of Obama-style conservative liberals. Beyonce, a person I'd never heard of, apparently lip-synced the national anthem, providing us with the perfect state of the union statement at this sorry juncture of our heavily rewritten history.

THE NUT in the tree was intriguing for lots of reasons: You mean a fanatic can get the drop on a presidential inauguration? Where was the vaunted Secret Service? I'm sure they belatedly had a dozen snipers on the guy if he even looked like he might have a gun. But how did he get up in the tree that close in the first place?

THE FOLLOWING LETTER appeared in a recent edition of the Ukiah Daily Journal. It's an archetypal Mendolib passo-aggresso document: “I would like to compliment Tommy Wayne Kramer for being the only regularly published contributor to your pages who, as far as I know, has never written it's when he means its, an error most recently observed on Jan. 13. I credit Mr. Kramer less for his practice of criticizing public figures for attitudes and motivations that they have not in fact demonstrated. It is easy for Mr. Kramer to find fault with others when he begins by exaggerating, distorting, and even fabricating the behaviors that he then deplores.” (Benj Thomas)

THOMAS is a Ukiah city councilman. Apart from revealing himself as a pompous ding in his Masterpiece Theater-inspired prose, Thomas never does tell us what specifically his beef is with “Mr. Kramer.” If he did, we'd see that Thomas can't handle criticism and doesn't know opinion when he reads it. Of course “Mr. Kramer's” opinion is that Thomas and the people he represents are insufferable, an opinion “Mr. Kramer” expresses on a weekly basis, hence the popularity of his Sunday column, as he speaks for many of us.

THE FOLLOWING PRESS RELEASE from the Willits City Council is maybe the all-time Mendo passo-aggresso document: “The Willits City Council announces the departure of Paul Cayler, city manager since 2008. Mr. Cayler joined the City of Willits at a challenging time in its history. The “Great Recession' was approaching its peak. City revenues and expenditures were out of balance. Additionally, the City was in the midst of a number of significant capital improvement projects that required renewed focus and leadership. Throughout this period, Mr. Cayler was able to handle a multitude of complex matters with competency and skill while demonstrating the highest ethical standards and honesty. The Willits City Council has chosen to pursue a different direction with regard to the City Manager position. Enacting the separation agreement outlined in the City Manager's contract, the Council will appoint an interim City Manager to facilitate the transition of leadership. Paul Cayler can be proud of his accomplishments at the City of Willits and the Council thanks him for his service to this community. For further information, contact Mayor Holly Madrigal....”

WILLITS was firing the guy. But you'd never know that from the statement. Even more bizarre, we understand that Cayler helped draft the thing, in which case the ladies who wanted him outta there should have kicked him a few times on his way to the door.

JEFF COSTELLO chips in: “The profile you present for Mendo liberals is pretty much universal to describe the breed. I send this from Marin, a highly rated place on the scale of smug, although real human beings can be found anywhere, even here. A quick memory, my first encounter with political correctness: In 1977 we were in Nashville TN, of all places, and hired a young couple to babysit. The woman told me very earnestly that she did not discriminate against children, and therefore called them “small persons’.”

CORRECTION: DA spokesman Mike Geniella said last week that the DA has not received any complaints from Sheriff's investigators regarding neglected horses in either Redwood Valley or Laytonville. No complaint, no prosecution. Can't have the latter without the former. Mendocino County's horse people are complaining mightily at the lack of an official crackdown on the two parties the horse people say are not properly caring for their animals.

HANK SIMS of the essential Lost Coast Post writes: “Confused about the East-West railroad-building mania that has washed over large segments of the Humboldt County populace? You and the Lost Coast Outpost both. From the outside, you just have to read it as a well-intentioned but “roided-out impulse to ¡DO SOMETHING ABOUT JOBS!, mostly among people for whom the term “job” necessarily implies the lifting of heavy objects. It’ll cost untold billions of dollars and we’re not sure who’s going to pay for it or what benefit it’ll actually bring, but we simply HAVE to pursue it. For the CHILDREN! Well, you can read it as cargo cult, as the LoCO tends to do, or you can read it as conspiracy. Or maybe some combination of both — some people believe the road to salvation leads through Red Bluff, others simply see a chance to make a buttload of $$$. If you’re looking to flush out the latter theory, you probably want to take a look at a report published by Mother Jones yesterday. Datelined from the Port of Morrow — yes, that one — MoJo Climate Desk Reporter Tim McDonnell takes a peek at the hellacious fights happening all over the Pacific Northwest over the subject of coal exports to the Far East. MoJo calls it “one of the biggest climate fights of 2013.” It’s the next giant leap forward for the US coal industry, which has in recent years turned increasingly to the East as domestic demand dwindles and Obama-era clean air regulations make it next to impossible to build new coal-burning facilities at home. But Big Coal’s ability to sell its wares overseas is increasingly bottlenecked by maxed-out export facilities, most of which are on the Atlantic-facing East Coast, anyway, better situated for shipments to Hamburg than Hong Kong. So, says Brookings Institute energy analyst Charles Ebinger, building the new West Coast terminals could be a matter of life or death for US coal. So, yeah — maybe you could read it that way: Eureka kazillionaire East-West backer Rob Arkley, perhaps in spiritual communion with various Vanderbilts and Goulds and Stanfords of yore, believes he can lay track fast enough to get in on this action.

COMMENT OF THE WEEK #1: The reason there have been no efforts made to criminally investigate [Wall Street fraud] is obvious. Former banking regulator and current securities Professor Bill Black told Bill Moyers in 2009 that “Timothy Geithner, the Secretary of the Treasury, and others in the administration, with the banks, are engaged in a cover up to keep us from knowing what went wrong.’ In the documentary “Inside Job,’ the economist Nouriel Roubini, when asked why there have been no such investigations, replied: “Because then you'd find the culprits.’ Underlying all of that is what the Senate's second-highest ranking Democrat, Dick Durbin, admitted in 2009: the banks “frankly own the place.’ — Glenn Greenwald

DEMOCRATS, led by Dianne Feinstein, have listed the guns they want outlawed. Feinstein and Co. also want to ban magazines that carry more than ten rounds. The proposed bill would prohibit 158 combat-inspired rifles, including that Bushmaster XM15 that Adam Lanza used in the mass shooting of children in Connecticut. Feinstein introduced the original assault weapons ban, which became law in 1994 but expired in 2004. The proposed ban contains no sunset provision and protects 2,258 hunting and sporting rifles and shotguns, a provision aimed at undercutting gun-owner fears that Congress is intent on seizing legal guns in the aftermath of Newtown. The legislation also would ban any military-style weapon with a detachable magazine and a single military-style feature, such as a pistol grip, a flash suppressor or a bayonet lug or grenade launcher. The 1994 ban barred weapons with a detachable magazine plus two military-style features, which gave gun manufacturers too much leeway in refashioning weapons to comply with the law, Feinstein said. If the new proposal were to become law, a legal weapon could have a detachable magazine but not a pistol grip, for example. Under the previous law, such a weapon would have been allowed.

THE ACLU CLAIMS that more than a quarter of the school districts in California, including three on the Northcoast, fail to provide English language instruction to all students who need it. The ACLU said more than 20,000 students in California did not receive any language instructional services, as mandated by state and federal laws. The organization threatened to sue the state Department of Education if the situation isn't remedied. Windsor, Geyserville and Ukiah are alleged to have between 9 and 12 percent of English learners not being served, according to the report. At the Ukiah Unified School District, more than 12 percent of the 1,469 students who needed English language instruction did not receive it, according to the report. Maria Armstrong, Ukiah's director of curriculum and instruction, told the Press Democrat that she was confident “that we are providing appropriate programs for our students.” The ACLU's press release did not say exactly how Ukiah and the other districts were out of compliance.

COMMENT OF THE WEEK #2 From Sports Illustrated: “Last weekend, as the 49ers eked out a win over the Falcons, I was doing what most Bay Area residents do on a Sunday: riding a cable car with my gay, vegan friends. We were sporting ironic mustaches and drinking sustainably sourced microbrews. It's hard to remember much more, on account of all the weed we smoked. Anyway, word filtered back that Colin Kaepernick had played admirably for the local professional football team, which made us happy — even if his tattoos are a little Bible-y for us. (We prefer our ink agnostic and/or esoteric.) To celebrate, we considered storming a local coffee shop. Truth is, though, we're a bit tired of celebrating here in the Bay Area. You know, what with the Giants winning the World Series, the A's making that unreal late-season run, the climate being temperate for the 7,457th day in a row, Mitt Romney losing the election. Not to mention the Warriors sitting in second place in the Pacific Division, the equivalent of first place for any other NBA franchise. In these parts, we're not good at wallowing — we possess none of the capacity for bleak despondency of, say, a landlocked hellhole like Philadelphia… — Chris Ballard”

MONICA FUCHS WROTE on Thursday: “We have known for some time that Mental Health services in Mendocino County are understaffed, underfunded and poorly managed. But since Monday night the building on 1120 South Dora Street in Ukiah is literally under water. A pipe burst (deferred maintenance issue?) and flooded the offices of Mental Health, Alcohol and other Drugs program and Public Health. County employees arriving Tuesday morning found their offices flooded up to 10 inches and started immediately trying to save client files, computer equipment and personal items. Later the same day a disaster clean-up company arrived and started to vacuum out the water, put up giant fans to circulate the air. In the meantime employees continued to evacuate their offices. On Wednesday morning the disaster clean-up company arrived to remove all their equipment telling the staff that they had been ordered to leave because they are not the company contracted with by the County insurance. No new clean up crew has arrived as of today, Thursday. As usual, no guidance from upper management, which gives lots of room for speculation and rumors. I feel that at this time the building is a health hazard, especially to employees and clients who have pre-existing conditions. So far no word if our offices will be moved, when the next clean up crew will arrive, if and when mildewing, molding carpeting will be removed.”

WE ASKED SUPERVISOR McCOWEN what was happening. McCowen quickly replied: “My understanding is that all employees who were flooded out have been re-located. It was also my understanding that the employees were being informed. If this is not the case then someone is dropping the ball. If people don't have info they will make it up. (They might make it up anyway, but at least we could say we tried.) The call to pull out the original restoration service company was made by the insurance company who did not think they had the capability. The replacement company was supposed to be on the job today. Because ins. will be covering most of the cost, they get to call the shots. I doubt the pipe burst from “lack of maintenance” but I do not know the cause. The bldg is not that old. Fifty years? Once the water is extracted, the damage will be assessed. I think you are wrong about the ins. company not looking out for the staff or the County. The insurance company was insisting that testing be done for air quality, etc. At the point at which more than 160 square feet of material is to be removed, asbestos clearance will be required. I know there is a great temptation to go with the first wave of hysterical reports, where uninformed people co-validate their worst case scenarios.”

WE WROTE BACK to McCowen: “We’re not sure “re-located’ is applicable to some of those MH workers. I understand some of them were just sent home because their computers and files were inaccessible during the flooding and the response. That'll have to be evaluated day to day as the damage is assessed and repairs/recovery made. We’re certainly not trying to blame anyone for the plumbing problem. Just making sure you're aware of what we're hearing and hoping that management is on top of it to the extent possible. HHS isn't exactly in great shape management-wise these days. We still think an official press release is in order. It's common knowledge to a lot of people anyway. The public should at least be aware of whatever the situation is in that building in case they had appointments, friends or other business there. To know that it's been dealt with would be helpful to all concerned, and cut down on rumors.”

TO WHICH McCowen responded: “Am told that the new company was on site today and that GSA and HHSA higher ups had a Q&A with the new company and staff. The level of communication to all staff is not yet clear. Which indicates it could have been better. Trying to confirm if the new company showed up today. I am also trying to confirm the level of notice to our employees. At a minimum, those working in the Dora St. facility should be kept in the loop, but why not everyone in HHSA? Will let you know as soon as I hear anything back. And no, it has not been four days. Monday was a holiday, so the flood was discovered Tuesday morning. That means it was two days as of this morning when you recd the email from your informant. Again, it was the ins. company, in the form of the adjuster, who ordered the original cleanup company off the job because the ins. co. said they did not think the original company was up to the job. However, once the size of the job became apparent, it would have been prudent to extend the evacuation to other people in the building to guard against the employees thinking they were being exposed to airborne toxic mold, etc. I agree a press release would have been in order. I am also suspicious that we did not do as much as we could have to inform our employees, including those who were not impacted. We don't seem to have many people who understand the concept of getting out in front of things. K. McMenomy did come to the Board Tuesday for an off agenda item to declare the situation an emergency but how many people were watching? By the way, what ever happened to that $8,000 communications policy the County paid for?”

DORA BRILEY of Public and Mental Health issued the following press release Friday morning: “On January 22, 2013, Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency staff arrived to their offices at 1120 S. Dora Street in Ukiah to find that overnight, a one-inch water pipe in the ceiling had burst and water filled the north west to north east section of the building. On site staff immediately called the County General Services Agency and help was dispatched to turn off the water, repair the pipe and begin clean up operations of the building.

County leadership met with all involved and devised a plan of action to mitigate the damage, keep staff safely housed, keep services running and the community served with the least amount of interruptions possible. Public Health and Mental Health staff are to be commended for their fast actions to preserve equipment and files. Their positive attitudes and willingness to adapt to an immediate disaster situation within their very offices is admirable. Their skills and dedication to not only their co-workers but to their clients and the general public to continue business as usual in an adverse situation is simply amazing. Affected staff offices were moved to available space within the building, as well as client treatment areas. Public lobbies are condensed into one entry point with all services represented. The County’s first and foremost concern is the safety of their staff located at this site as well as the general public visit the office daily. First responders to the building from General Services Agency stopped the flow of water and immediately began to remove water from the building. An immediate contractor was able to begin the drying process to mitigate further loss to the office. These services occurred Tuesday and Wednesday. The Board of Supervisors approved a state of emergency for the site on Tuesday afternoon. This allows the County to bring in restoration services immediately without having to go through a bidding process. The County’s insurance company, Alliant, has a restoration company, Belfor on site as of early Thursday morning. An industrial hygienist toured the facility and took samples of the entire area to test for any hazardous materials prior to doing any structural work. Results from those tests are due pending. Thursday the site was assessed for immediate needs to keep staff safe, services flowing and clients served. Work will continue through the weekend 24/7. The public will see activity at the site in the form of moving trucks, county work trucks and Belfor equipment. Occasional inmate workers will also be visible as we pull every resource available to remedy this loss. A temporary modular structure will be installed on Sunday in the north parking lot of the facility. This modular will allow the WIC program to have adequate space to continue serving their clients. WIC services for Monday, January 28 have been canceled and clients were notified. WIC will be open for business on Tuesday, January 29. An immediate and orderly plan of restoration has been devised in cooperation with Alliant, Belfor and County General Services Agency /Risk management and HHSA leadership. As of Friday morning, January 25, Belfor has installed barriers to the affected portions of the damaged building. This allows for control of odors from water damage, lessens the noise of the work being done, and assists with the drying process. 24/7 security has been installed at the site as required by State and Federal mandates for such offices. At this time, all services located at the Dora Street Public Health and Mental Health office are up and running. The public is being served despite the mess from the flood. Please be patient as you visit the office as operations are somewhat different due to the situation. Thank you for your understanding during this time. As test results come back and information is available on the next steps, there will be updates to media.”


MS. FUCHS summed up the fiasco: “The latest info is that the new (and improved?) disaster clean-up company as of yesterday was assessing the damage and subsequent health hazards. Verdict? Building might be inhabitable within the next 48 hours or it might take 3 months or more! That sounds like they REALLY know what they are doing. Doesn't it?”

WHEN THE NINERS win the Super Bowl this Sunday, the people who use sports as an excuse to riot and rob can expect beefed-up police presences in the places where concentrations of troublemakers are likely to congregate — a few blocks in the Mission, and lower Haight Street especially. The mayor's office says police will be monitoring crowds and bars at multiple hotspots in San Francisco. More than 400 officers will be on duty, triple the number on a normal Sunday. Mayor Ed Lee is suggesting that bars limit liquor sales or at the very least serve alcohol responsibly, as if bartenders, in the celebratory crush, have the time and the ability to cut people off. There will be no public viewing of the February 3 game in the Civic Center similar to when the Giants clinched the World Series in October. Inviting drunks and hooligans in the thousands to one area turned out not to a good idea. Also, the NFL told The Mayor that it was illegal to set up big screens. Something about the NFL having exclusive rights on game day, sorta like the gods of television not allowing more than a few replays on the big screens at major league baseball parks. Police say 36 people were arrested during postgame celebrations that got out of control after the playoff win over Atlanta. Things got way outta hand when the Giants clinched, and outta hand again when they won the World Series with a couple of buses being torched and lots of assaults and vandalism in various areas of the city.

TODD WALTON WRITES: “I wanted to remind you of another Tule Elk comeback story, the herds in the Tule Elk Reserve at Tomales Point in Point Reyes National Seashore. Here's the blip from the official Point Reyes web site. I would only add that the presence of the elk there has brought back mountain lions to the area, and since Tomales Point is one of the few parts of the park off limits to cattle, the natural vegetation has returned magnificently, the rodents have thrived, and the raptor population has made a big comeback, too. “The tule elk herds had virtually disappeared by 1860, 13 years before the state awarded them complete protection. In the spring of 1978, two bulls and eight cows were brought in from the San Luis Island Wildlife Refuge near Los Banos. The elk were contained within a temporary, three-acre enclosure to allow for adjustment to their new surroundings. That summer, 6 of the cows bore calves. In the fall, 17 elk were released from the enclosure on Tomales Point to 1,050 hectares (2,600 acres) of open grassland and coastal scrub. By the summer of 1988, the population was at 93 animals. The population census taken in 2000 counted over 400 elk. In 2009, over 440 were counted at Tomales Point, making the Point Reyes herds one of the largest populations in California’.”

AND TOM WODETSKI is correct that the Sinkyone elk are Roosevelt elk, which are a lot bigger than their tule elk cousins.

29TH ANNUAL WHALE RUN & WALK. Fort Bragg, Saturday, March 16, 2013. One of the most beautiful fun runs in the whole world Join the fun and run with the whales on the Fort Bragg scenic Haul Road along the beautiful Pacific in Fort Bragg, California. 7:40 am ~ Kiddie Race! One quarter to one half mile, depending on age. 8:00 am ~ Main Races (10K Run, 5K Run, 5K Fun Walk) Start & Finish West Laurel Street

ANOTHER DELAY. The County had been due in federal court San Francisco next Tuesday, January 29th to try to quash the feds demand for Mendo's pot records, but the matter will now be heard on February 19th, also a Tuesday, at 2:30 p.m. in Courtroom 3 of the Northern District Court in San Francisco, which is on Golden Gate at Larkin.

MENDOCINO COUNTY was subpoened on October 23rd by the U.S. Attorney's Northern District Office for medical pot records the feds believe are held by Auditor-Controller Meredith Ford, Sheriff Tom Allman, former Sheriff's Office Financial Manager Norman Thurston, Sheriff's Capt. Randy Johnson -- who oversaw the county's erstwhile medical marijuana garden inspection program -- and the “custodian of records.” They asked for “any and all records” -- having to do with the County's medical marijuana cultivation ordinance. Since then, the feds unhinged crusade against Mendo has been editorially denounced by the LA Times and the Sacramento Bee.

UNDER THE COUNTY'S 9.31 ORDINANCE -- developed in 2008 -- medical marijuana collectives were once able to get permits to grow up to 99 plants from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office, an exemption from the County's limit of 25 plants per parcel. The program started in June 2010 and ended in March 2012, after the U.S. Attorney's Office threatened legal action against the permitting program.

THE SUBPOENAS also asked for all types of communication regarding 9.31, including with third-party medical marijuana garden inspectors and the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors. The medical marijuana industry has of course urged the County to fight the subpoenas and protect the information.

SF ATTORNEY William Osterhoudt will represent the County; he has filed the motion to quash the subpoenas on the grounds that they are “overbroad and burdensome” in scope, and are an “improper intrusion” on the County's and the state's ability to govern its citizens.

DA EYSTER announced Wednesday that Alexandra Khoury has been hired as Mendocino County's newest deputy prosecutor. Khoury, 25, has been sworn in by Eyster Tuesday afternoon as a deputy district attorney, and has been assigned to the Ukiah misdemeanor trial team. It is expected that Khoury will also be doing appellate advocacy work as one of her additional assignments. She earned her Juris Doctorate degree from Chapman University School of Law in Orange County, where she was a Merit Scholarship recipient. Eyster also announced the filling of two vacancies in the Victim Witness unit of the DA's Office. Melanie Wagner and Jessica Rodriquez, both Ukiah natives, will act as courtroom advocates supporting and working with witnesses and victims of crimes. Wagner, 36, and Rodriquez, 32, are both former employees of Project Sanctuary, a Ukiah-based women's shelter.

THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA'S Environmental Protection Agency is poised to list the compound bisphenol A, a common component of plastics, as harmful to fetuses and infants. Manufacturers would have to include warning labels on products with hazardous amounts of BPA.

A READER COMMENTS re bisphenol A: “There has been a series of revelations about the hazards of chemical components of plastics that build up in our bodies from food and drink that has been in contact with plastic materials in original packaging or storage containers. Some of these hazards, like BPA, are better known than others, but the list of plastics that are considered safe for contact with food and beverages is getting shorter and shorter. It's quite plausible that revelations of hazards will be forthcoming for more plastics, including those currently considered safe. Given all of this, it seems reasonable to take a guilty-until-proven-innocent perspective with respect to plastics in contact with food and drink. This is part of the larger highly disturbing reality that, for the first time in human history, our bodies carry a wide range of chemical contaminants. In addition to chemicals from plastics, this includes pesticides, flame retardants, ingredients from beauty products, gasoline additives, components of non-stick cookware and others. Over 200 different chemicals have been found to reside in our bodies. The consequences are unknown. I don't remember signing up to be a guinea pig. Do you?”

SHERIFF TOM ALLMAN belongs to an outback police organization called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Police Officers Association. Its membership consists of conservative rural cops, of which there are no other kind. The Southern Poverty Law Center is housed in a huge new building sitting on a huge endowment derived from scared people who fear the Klan will ride again. Which it might given the terror inspired in dumb white guys (white women are generally more, ah, centered) by the abrupt changes in the American demographic, what with blacks, browns, same-sexers, and gun-grabbing liberals not only having “taken over the country,” they got one of their own damn selves elected President! And when Obama’s over, these people are gonna shove Hillary down our throats! Hell, we can’t all move to Redding or Idaho.

ANYWAY, the Southern Poverty Law Center says the Constitutional Sheriffs and Police Officers Association is an “anti-government, patriot group,” which is vague unto meaninglessness, and applies just as well to everyone to the left of Obama, not only the camo mobs of slo-mo diabetics wrapped in American flags.

SHERIFF ALLMAN grew up in Southern Humboldt County as HumCo was transitioning to Northcoast headquarters for hippie back-to-the-landers. The hippies began the marijuana industry those first summers of “69-'71 when they realized they had to have some kind of income if they hoped to make full moon boogies a way of life. The Sheriff probably grew up with guns, but he also grew up with the first wave hippies who had a liberalizing effect up and down the Coast north to Crescent City, where liberalization stopped at the city limits. Like most Americans, Allman is liberal on some issues — he’s positively avant garde on pot — conservative on others. He’s also a cop, and cops, almost without exception, believe deep in their bones that there’s them and then there’s the scumbags, i.e., everyone who isn’t a cop. Cops believe in guns, especially for them.

THE WAHOO organization of rural cops the Sheriff belongs to says it will not enforce any new laws that attempt gun control. That’s a radical stance any way you cut it since cops swear an oath to uphold the laws of the land. It’s also a stance that’s not reality based. I mean really, do these guys really think they might be ordered to confiscate certain guns? Or any guns at all? Cops might be directed to arrest gun dealers who are selling automatic weapons and military ammo clips, but even that’s a long shot, a very long shot. Military-style weapons probably won’t even be banned at the federal level given the influence of the gun lobby and the cowardice of our officeholders; but any cop who thinks it’s a good idea that these guns go unregulated is a cop who doesn’t work in an urban area.

ALLMAN told the Press Democrat, “Just because I'm a member of an organization doesn't mean I believe everything they say.” He also said he didn’t think the federal government should “micro-manage what we do.” Allman told the paper he would not seize guns if he were ordered to, an eventuality unlikely to ever occur, and if it were to occur it would be carried out by federal marshals or some other militarized arm of the federal government, at which time a general would be in the White House and the country would be under martial law.

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT’S wacky “What If” story on the Sheriff did contain an interesting statistic. “Last year, Mendocino County gun stores sold 4,249 pistols, shotguns and rifles. As of December, more than 1,200 residents had permits to carry concealed weapons. By comparison, Sonoma County gun stores sold 9,965 firearms. Residents had just 77 permits.” (Sonoma County's population is 488,000; Mendo's is 90,000. Sonoma County has about five times the population but sold only about twice as many guns, and about 6% of the concealed carry permits.)

SAN FRANCISCO issued exactly one concealed weapon permit last year. The Sonoma County and Frisco gun stats mean that the closer you get to the city the more sensible law enforcement is about gun control. Urban cops say the fewer guns in circulation the better because they often get shot at.

ALLMAN’S MOST SENSIBLE statement on the gun issue was to point out that in far-flung Mendocino County — 90,000 people distributed over 35,010 square miles — many people live far from police help. Lots of rural residents keep guns out of the realistic fear that their safety might well depend on their ability to defend themselves while they wait for the cops to appear.

MATTHEW GRAVES of Laytonville was in the Mendocino County Courthouse Friday morning facing charges that he had violated his probation by having a marijuana grow on his Bell Springs property. Graves has been on probation since his sensational marijuana trial two years ago when a jury acquitted him of all the charges but one, being a felon in possession of ammunition. Since that near acquittal, no marijuana cultivation cases have gone to trial in Mendocino County. Graves' grow was the biggest on record at the time, and the feeling at the DA's Office seems to be that Mendocino juries are no longer inclined to convict marijuana growers in Mendocino County. Federal prosecutors, however, are indeed pursuing Graves, and he has a court date set for March 5th in Federal Court in San Francisco.

MENDOCINO COUNTY DA David Eyster told Judge Leonard LaCasse that he, Eyster, would wait and see what the federal court decided before taking any action against Graves, whose jaunty insouciance seems to enflame prosecutors but charms juries. Defense attorney Keith Faulder, who represented Graves in Graves' triumphant jury trial in Ukiah, said that Graves had leased the property to a third party whose medical marijuana was legal in every respect, but that he, Faulder, did not represent Graves at the federal level. “My suits are from the Men's Warehouse,” Faulder joked. “And you have to have Brooks Brothers suits to work in a federal courthouse,” adding, “The rules are much different; and the penalties much harsher in federal court. Mr. Graves will be represented by attorney Elizabeth Falk of San Francisco in the federal case.”

ALSO IN COURT Friday morning was Charles Merritt Osborne, who has retained defense attorney Justin Petersen. Mr. Osborne was supposed to set a trial date, but he needed a few more days to come up with the amount of money Mr. Petersen requires for a retainer. Judge LaCasse was reluctant to grant the continuance to Tuesday, January 29th because the trial has been postponed so many times already,  and Osborne has gone through so many lawyers. “It's time to either fish or cut bait,” LaCasse said irritably. The judge retired two years ago to devote more time to flyfishing, but he gets called in when other judges are absent, as was the case this week with Judge John Behnke, who has been on sick leave this week.

AT MR. OSBORNE'S PRELIMINARY HEARING it was revealed that Osborne had tried to buy a large quantity of marijuana with counterfeit money on a side road just outside of Piercy (in northern Mendocino County near the Humboldt County Line) the night of June 17, 2011. One of the growers held a $100 bill up to the headlights and saw that it was counterfeit; guns were drawn, shots were fired and Osborne fled with the marijuana in a brown Range Rover. Mr. Petersen contends that this is all rumor started by an anonymous phone call, but what is known is that a high-speed chase ensued down Highway 101 with speeds topping 100 mph in places. A rookie CHP Officer (Talbot) had tried to throw a spike strip in front of the Range Rover, but hit the wrong car by mistake. A seasoned Willits PD officer threw a spike strip further along — down by the Weighing Station north Willits — and after his vehicle was disabled, Osborne fled on foot. When Officer Talbot arrived he parked his patrol car and went after the fugitive who was thought to have gone into a field nearby. “I noticed that the cows in that field were not spooked and from my experience on farms, I figured the subject was hiding in some blackberry brambles by the fence. I drew my weapon and ordered him to come out, and sure enough, he did.”

JUDGE LaCASSE was incredulous that Osborne would have money on Tuesday that he did not have on Friday. The judge said, “I find it hard to believe — unless you are expecting some large dividend check from General Motors or something like that — that you can't afford a lawyer today, but that you can next Tuesday.” Mr. Petersen explained that his client's finances were complex, but that the money would be there on Tuesday. It was also revealed at the prelim that Mr. Osborne had a rapsheet containing some questionable financial dealings in Los Angeles County, where he lives. Judge LaCasse ordered Osborne to see if he qualified for the public defender before he left the courthouse, so that he would not have the excuse of not having counsel when he returned on Tuesday to set a trial date.

MEMBERS of the Mendocino Defense Bar, mostly public defenders, are demonstrating their angst at the looming dismissal of Deputy DA Rayburn Killion, who is being “let go” for performance reasons. The defense lawyers, however, contend that Killion is being laid off for reasons not having to do with his competence. But if the defense lawyers are saddened by Killion's pending departure, the many women who work at the courthouse are absolutely devastated. A fit and trim gent of about six-three and slightly under 200 pounds of lean meat, Killion is known as The Courthouse Hunk by tithe ladies who work there, and there has been much figurative dumping of ashes on heads and metaphorical tearing of hair at the prospect of his absence.

JESSICA BRUCE was sentenced last week to a total of four years in state prison for the transportation of cocaine, and seriously injuring someone, her co-defendant, while attempting to evade a police officer last November. Ms. Bruce apparently made a high-speed getaway attempt, rolled her vehicle and her passenger severely injured his shoulder in the crash. This was a plea bargain and as such, the details of the case did not emerge in open court. Talking to the defendants or prosecution is useless in these cases, because the latter tend to exaggerate the nature of the crime and the former will always minimize their guilt or culpability. The truth can only be guessed at, and so the parties “stipulate to a factual basis.”

BLISS FISHER, the Mendocino County Director of Animal Care, has resigned. She has been out on administrative leave for the past several months. Ms. Fisher succeeded the inanimate Greg Foss who had been roundly criticized by animal rights activists as quick to implement the final solution for stray animals. Ms. Fisher succeeded in winning the confidence of the disparate animal rights groups but apparently offended the tender sensibilities of the people she supervised. The final straw seems to have been Ms. Fisher sharing candid shots with a subordinate of her topless self at Burning Man. (Burning Man began as a celebration of the creative arts by real artists but has since become a promoter's cash cow mob scene dominated by untalented artists and as many sexual exhibitionists, the whole show convened annually in environmentally sensitive areas of the Nevada desert.) There is no allegation that Ms. Fisher suggested or attempted anything untoward, and it is hard to believe that an adult female would be all that distressed at her supervisor's breasts. But the photo of the topless Bliss became the catalyst for a series of complaints and an investigation ensued that documented other princess and the pea type transgressions allegedly committed by Ms. Fisher. County higher-ups are said to have wanted Ms. Fisher to stay based on her success in quieting the animal rights activists, but a majority of her subordinates were said to be adamantly opposed to her continued supervision of their work.

MS. FISHER has now officially resigned. She'd been on paid administrative leave since September.

THE FATE of Ms. Fisher aside, the whole episode seems to reinforce an unhealthy pattern at the Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) of which animal care is a small part. Subordinates and rivals have learned that they can off their supervisors and/or rivals simply by filing complaints and getting enough co-workers to sign on to the complaints. HHSA dutifully investigates the complaints, often putting the target out on administrative leave, where they are paid to do nothing pending the outcome of the investigation. But once the investigation is complete no decision is made. Two well regarded members of the social services upper echelon were put on admin leave last year based on allegations from a member of the fiscal team that they'd mismanaged a couple of grants. The County shelled out big bucks for an investigator from San Diego, of all places, there apparently being no one else between San Diego and Seattle who could perform the task. Once the investigation was complete the County sat on the results, which have still not been disclosed. After several months of limbo (and collecting high dollar salaries for doing nothing) both of the higher-ups took jobs elsewhere. So the County spent a bunch of money on admin leave and the investigation, two highly regarded employees left under a cloud, and there was no resolution of the beef. We are told that some highly qualified HHSA employees refuse to apply for administrative job openings that they qualify for because they don't want to risk being hung out to dry like so many before them.

ADD ARMENIANS to Mendocino County's international roster of marijuana entrepreneurs. These two guys — Mr. Bekaryan and Mr. Gevorkyan of North Hollywood — join ethnic Russians, Bulgarians, Chinese, Spaniards, Italians, Irish, Jewish, and English nationals arrested over the past five years for variations on the pot theme.

ANONYMOUS says it hijacked the website of the US Sentencing Commission early Saturday morning to retaliate for the suicide death of Aaron Swartz, the internet activist facing decades in prison for… “illegally” downloading millions of academic articles. Swartz, who helped create Reddit and RSS (internet search and update features), was being pursued by federal prosecutors. The hacker-activist group said it hijacked the website of the Sentencing Commission to avenge the death of Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist who committed suicide on January 11. The website of the commission, an independent agency of the judicial branch, was taken over early Saturday. Hackers replaced the homescreen with a message warning that when Swartz killed himself two weeks ago “a line was crossed.” Anonymous says they've infiltrated several government computer systems and copied secret information that they now threaten to make public. The message on the sentencing website partly read: “Citizens of the world, Anonymous has observed for some time now the trajectory of justice in the United States with growing concern. We have marked the departure of this system from the noble ideals in which it was born and enshrined. We have seen the erosion of due process, the dilution of constitutional rights, the usurpation of the rightful authority of courts by the “discretion’ or prosecutors.”

LARRY LIVERMORE ASKS: “Is there anything in the Constitution that would prevent Biden from serving a third or fourth term as VP under Hillary?”

AMERICA is ninth in the world in internet speed, and Mendocino County is undoubtedly lower in the rankings because many outback residents are still on dial-up. Fast internet connections are said to be linked to improved business and educational opportunities. As it stands, we're much slower than South Korea, our ranking falling between Latvia and Czechoslovakia.

JEFF COSTELLO COMMENTS. “KQED is now hawking Anderson Valley as a wine destination. Almost makes one nostalgic for Wavy Gravy, doesn't it? Why are the winelibs so consistently, blandly devoid of personality? Maybe because it's such a dishonest form of drinking. No one with a real sense of self could tolerate the pretense.”

HUMBOLDT COUNTY, THE MOVIE (2008) Netflix description: “After his father (Peter Bogdanovich) fails him, med student Peter Hadley (Jeremy Strong) spends a night drowning his sorrows and awakens in a tiny community on Northern California's Lost Coast, where his hosts, Jack (Brad Dourif) and Rosie (Frances Conroy), live off the grid and grow marijuana. Peter's totally out of his element in this town of counterculture horticulturists, which could prove to be the reality check he needs.”

• ANONYMOUS REVIEW: “We live in rural Mendocino County (below Humboldt County), where pot gardens are more common than rose gardens. The only thing that rang true about this movie was that here local law enforcement concern themselves only with large operations and care nothing about neighborhood pot growing as long as the garden cannot readily been seen from the road. The point being that in Northern California you don't have to live off the grid in deep forest--as did the characters portrayed in the movie--to make a living as a small grower. Many people here supplement their income as growers with little or no paranoia. Indeed in rural Mendocino County where good jobs are scarce, you pretty much have to grow pot just to keep up with the Joneses. Therefore in relation to the reality of Northern Calif. pot growing the movie was pretty laughable. Not that it was a comedy--it wasn't--it was laughable in the sense that it was kind of stupid. So much so that I apologized to the guests that I had invited over to see a comedy about growing in our area. Stoned or straight--this movie is only mildly entertaining. In other words--Not Recommended.”

• Another Anonymous Reviewer: “This movie is so bad it made me almost want to quit smoking weed. I also hate hippies due to this movie. The acting and dialogue is laughably lame and extremely over acted! It's so cliché and predictable too! Absolutely awful movie! Awful awful movie.”

• And Another: “There are two levels of dealing with this movie. First as a film, which many people have done well in reviews here. Then there is the pesky matter of “reality.” Whose? I lived in Humboldt County for over twenty years before relocating to my home state, and those people who gripe here about how the culture in this movie doesn't ring true are only showing their insular inability to take a glimpse outside their narrow little realities. This IS the Humboldt County I knew living “behind the redwood curtain,” as we called it. I wasn't involved in the dope-growing economy, but it existed much like it is depicted here. Some reviewers are more interested in trumpeting pet social and political theories than discussing the film. They remain outside the movie like the catatonic Peter who we meet in the beginning, and they miss their chance to cross the bridge to empathy with the Other. Putting aside the setting of Humboldt County (which functions in this film as a character in its own right), this is a story of change, growth, redemption. If those matters bore you, watch something else.”

MENDOCINO COAST TRANSITION TOWNS will be holding a public discussion about local investing on Sunday 17 February at 630PM at the Community Center of Mendocino, in the town of Mendocino. They will discuss why local investing makes sense, and also have an open forum where both entrepreneurs looking for capital, and investors looking for local investors, can also make brief statements. For more information contact Barbara Fishelson at 707 937 2834.

One Comment

  1. Cass January 30, 2013

    Regarding the Public Health/Mental Health building evacuation, management has been onsite, we have regular meetings and updates. The restoration company has done an amazing job. They have a large staff who helped us pack up and move our office contents. From what I see they are taking every step necessary to restore the building and ensure it is safe structurally and environmentally.

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