THE LITTLE TRAIN THAT’S BANKRUPT
To the Editor:
The North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) is an independent state entity in charge of the 310-mile freight rail line between American Canyon and Humboldt Bay. NCRA's Board members are appointed by local Boards of Supervisors and do not answer to any authority. Virtually all of its funds come from taxpayers, including $60-plus million it recently spent rehabilitating the southern 61 miles of line to Windsor. NCRA does not have a comprehensive strategic plan with measurable goals and objectives. Its management is badly in need of an outside review, before it follows in Vallejo's footsteps and declares bankruptcy:
Due to NCRA's past actions, Caltrans considers NCRA as a High Risk Agency and does not let NCRA touch public funds under Caltrans' jurisdiction without proof that the funds are properly spent. This has continued for the last decade and caused NCRA to incur over $500,000 in extra expenses.
NCRA has had substantial budget deficits for years. Its financial situation is precarious, at best, yet its private freight operator (NWP) uses the line without paying a trackage fee.
NCRA gave NWP a “no bid” $1 million contract to do repair work outside Caltrans' purview that was to take five months. It ended up costing over $2.5 million and was finished a year late.
NCRA's lease with NWP can last a century, without meaningful oversight, conceivably without trackage payments, while taxpayers underwrite much of the risk.
There is no indication that the NCRA/NWP relationship is, or will be, fiscally prudent.
A prompt, comprehensive, outside evaluation/audit is required for the good of the taxpayers and to properly revive freight rail in northern California. Otherwise a viable freight rail service envisioned when taxpayers purchased the line out of bankruptcy might never be.
Bernie Meyers, NCRA Board Member
COIME IN TO MY CHAMBER…
Chamber music lovers will be delighted to hear that on Sunday, Feb. 17, starting at 3pm, Deep Valley Chamber Music Series will offer a rare opportunity to enjoy three magnificent string quintets. The Yokayo Chamber Players will perform Luigi Boccherini’s String Quintet in D Major, Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major and George Onslow’s “The Bullet”. The Yokayo Chamber Players is composed of professional musicians from the Bay area, lead by Ukiah resident Joel Cohen. The concert will be held at the Space Theatre at the corner of West Perkins and Dora. Tickets are $25 ($10 students under 18). Available at Mendocino Book Co and at brownpapertickets.com.
Linda Malone, Board member
OUT TO GET A-MOD
I have been here in the Mendocino County Jail for a few months and I have noticed some unsanitary conditions. You published my last letter and named it “Lighting Up D-Mod.” This letter is about A-Mod and how this jail wants me to be sick.
Let me start with a man who I will call “Staph.” He got that nickname when he came in because he was infected with a staph infection. I was informed by the jail nurse that he had the highly contagious MRSA infection (which is resistant to most antibiotics). It took them three days before he was locked down slightly away from the rest of us. If this inmate was any other inmate in any other jail he would have been locked down in 400 block.
Another problem I have come across is the lack of care we receive. There's a man in A-Mod with me I will call “Protein Deficient.” He requires a special diet and without it he is basically dead. Tell me, why do they willingly let this man go without his treatment? Only to have Protein Deficient throw-up after every meal? To me it looks like everyone is out to get A-mod.
I will be writing more. Thank you.
PS. Call the jail and ask them to send medical masks.
THE PRICE OF EXISTENCE
Clancy of the overflow gone a droving,
Hoppitty-go-kick doggerel. The thorn birds.
Aussie dust and Aussie flies. No more
bullockies, but the wondrous glory of
everlasting stars. Hoity-toity. A battered
old sulky stayA-put in the Drogheda
PS. The thorn bird singing among savage Australian branches impales itself upon the longest, sharpest spine. And dying, it rises above its own agony to out-carol the Lark and the Nightingale. One superlative song, existence the price.
YOU CAN LOOK IT UP
Set the record straight.
My name is Wilson 'Josh' Tubbs. I would like to set the record straight on the article in the Ukiah Daily Journal on January 19. The District Attorney has not checked my background or he is lying, plain and simple. You would think that the DA would be able to get the laws right which leads me to think he is lying and trying to give me a bad name in the public eye. The truth is I did not plead guilty to any felony. I was not ordered to any drug diversion program for a year. If I had pled guilty it would be on my record and it's not. My record states that I was arrested and charges were dismissed. All that Mr. Sequeira has done is endangered the lives of myself and my family. One last thing, he states my older daughter was not home. Well, she was. She was in her room. So if I had done what the DA claims, I'm sure she would have heard.
Thank you for your time.
Mendocino County Jail, Ukiah
GATOR THINKS NOT
The land of the free? I think not. I don't feel free. Freedom of speech, yes, without fact or proof. Here one can say anything about you and have it believed as the truth as long as it's in Mendocino where justice is more like just less guilty until proven innocent. All men are equal? I think not.
If not for sports, this County would not remember the national anthem. How many have recited the Pledge of Allegiance in elementary school?
I am an American. I have been in jail since my birthday, October 27, 2012, on false charges. The District Attorney knows his witness is lying and a second witness is not credible. He is hoping I and my codefendant will plead out. I think not. Your alleged Fort Bragg kidnapping is not a 25 to life case. The District Attorney is asking for a prison term. Penal Code guidelines call for three years or five years or seven years. But it's not aggravated, so no seven years. So your District Attorney is willing to spend $80,000-$100,000 of your money with only a 35% chance of winning or getting a conviction. His only hope is if he can get me to take a deal before the trial date. I think not.
But my apologies go out to the people of Mendocino County and Fort Bragg for recklessly placing the District Attorney in office. He will not win this case and he knows it. What he doesn't know is I will not plead to anything I have not done. In fact, at my last court date everyone was crying from laughing so hard except the District Attorney when his witness spoke of everything but aliens.
James Gator Lawson
Mendocino County Jail
You will be pleased to know that subscription renewal time this year appears to find the Post Office back on top of their game. The last six or seven issues have arrived in sequence, on schedule (one week after the publication date) and in excellent condition.
Unfortunately, what the Post office has not delivered are any more contributions from Flynn Washburn. At the conclusion of his fine “Half Hour Adventures of the Disappearing Boy” last October, he implied that future installments would be forthcoming. I sincerely hope so. He's an outstanding writer.
Congratulations to all on the 49ers' ascension to the SuperBowl. I will be rooting for you. I hope when Colin Kaepernick gives his Hall of Fame acceptance speech he remembers to acknowledge the invaluable contributions of our Chicago Bears to his career. Not only did we donate one of our former players to be his head coach (the right former player, this time), but we also allowed him to begin his career with a confidence-building 32-7 Monday Night shellacking.
Downers Grove, Illinois
FAIR PLAY FOR LIZZY
J. Biro moved in with Lizzy. Lizzy had a bunch of cats that were regularly mauled by the big tomcat owned by a redneck neighbor. J. Biro ambushed the cat and put some lead into it. It ran away. Days later he heard some sad moaning. The mortally wounded cat had not died yet, but had crawled into the top of Lizzy's root cellar, which was the hottest root cellar in West Virginia because some moron had built it into a south facing slope rather than a north facing one. J. Biro extracted the animal and filled it full of lead and planted it under a big poplar tree. The redneck knew somehow that Biro had shot his cat and said to Biro, looking meaningfully seriously at him, “Ah think someone blowed his head off,” which was close enough, but Biro clammed up.
Biro was wary of these rednecks because the Lobelia area had a bad reputation of unsolved murders of people like Biro. There was a newcomer like Lizzy who banned hunting on his land, which was seriously bad form in a region where the settlers had no money and never had had money and had survived for centuries on bush meat and expected everyone to allow free passage. This guy disappeared and his bones turned up years later underneath a tree limb way the hell back up the creek. The rotting rope he had been hung from still swung from the tree.
This particular redneck, named Arnie, had his own dark secret that emerged eventually. The Rainbow Family, a bunch of hardcore hippies who held a big camp meeting every year somewhere in a national forest, elected to have their camp in the Monongahela Forest. A couple cute little hippie chickies hitched up 219 through Pocahontas County and got a ride from a bunch of drunk rednecks who drove them up the Briery Knob Road where Lizzy lives and murdered them when they wouldn't surrender the pink. They dismembered the corpses and went so far as to take the vehicle out of state and dismantle it and scatter the parts. Arnie was a witness, at least, to these murders, if not a participant.
Naturally the cops blamed the hippies who lived around the area and tried for years to trap a neighbor of Lizzy's into incriminating himself. Eventually something turned up and someone ratted someone else out and the perps went to trial and the biggest perp got slapped on the wrist with something like 5-10 years which he didn't even complete because family connections pulled strings with the law enforcement and courts, corrupt there like everywhere.
Lizzy is still pissed that these assholes are walking around, free men.
Thank you for the item about bisphenol A, a common component of plastics, which the State of California is now declaring “harmful to fetuses and infants.”
Add bisphenol A to a long list of compounds found in plastics that are toxic, many of which find their way into the human food chain via the degradation of marine plastic debris.
As I posted to the 22 January 2013 “Mendocino Today” blog, the prevention and clean up of marine plastic debris is an issue near and dear to my family’s heart. My sons, Ryan and Austin, have both sailed with Project Kaisei, whose mission is to research the reclamation and remediation of the Plastic Vortex.
In fact, both sons were recognized by proclamations by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors for this work with Project Kaisei. In December, my younger son, Austin, was recognized by the Board for a "heroic act of bravery" in saving the life of a fellow crew mate who had fallen overboard during night watch in 10-12 foot seas and 30-knot winds. The Kaisei, a 151-foot brigantine, had been sailing off of Vancouver, Canada.
Indeed, the Kaisei does important work.
The Plastic Vortex is a gyre of marine litter in the central North Pacific Ocean located roughly between 135°W to 155°W and 35°N and 42°N. It extends over an indeterminate area, with estimates ranging very widely depending on the degree of plastic concentration used to define the affected area.
My sons tell me the Plastic Vortex is characterized by exceptionally high concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge, and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre.
Despite its size and density, the Plastic Vortex is not visible from satellite photography, since it consists primarily of suspended particulates in the upper water column. Since plastics break down to even smaller polymers, concentrations of submerged particles are not visible from space, nor do they appear as a continuous debris field. Instead, the Plastic Vortex is defined as an area in which the mass of plastic debris in the upper water column is significantly higher than average.
Not being visible makes the Plastic Vortex especially dangerous, because it is not generally perceived as a public health threat. However, plastic marine debris degrades and breaks down into tiny confetti-sized pieces.
Unlike organic debris, which biodegrades, the photodegraded plastic disintegrates into ever smaller pieces while remaining a polymer. This process continues down to the molecular level.
Yup, you read right. The molecular level. Where it poisons fish in our food chain.
As the plastic flotsam photodegrades into smaller and smaller pieces, it concentrates in the upper water column. As it disintegrates, the plastic ultimately becomes small enough to be ingested by aquatic organisms that reside near the ocean’s surface. In this way, plastic may become concentrated in neuston, thereby entering the food chain.
Some plastics decompose within a year of entering the water, leaching potentially toxic chemicals, such as bisphenol A, PCBs, and derivatives of polystyrene…all nasty, nasty stuff.
Former Mendocino County Supervisor, Kendall Smith, is right to focus on work in this area at the National Association of Counties (NACo).
An estimated 80% of the plastic garbage that gets broken down comes from land-based sources and 20% from ships. Throw a plastic gallon milk jug off the Golden Gate Bridge, and it eventually finds its way to the Plastic Vortex. Meanwhile, ship-generated pollution is also a source of concern, since a typical 3,000-passenger cruise ship produces over eight tons of solid waste weekly, a major amount of which ends up in the Plastic Vortex.
Plastic garbage ranges in size from abandoned fishing nets to micro-pellets used in abrasive cleaners. Currents carry debris from the west coast of North America to the gyre in about six years, and debris from the east coast of Asia in a year or less.
An international research project led by Dr. Hideshige Takada of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology studying plastic pellets, or nurdles, from beaches around the world may provide further clues about the origins of plastic garbage (also called “pelagic plastic” by researchers).
We can prevent this problem. We can fix this problem.
Knowing that Kendall Smith got a resolution passed at the NACo that commits all the states on the West Coast to strong environmental measures makes me happy. Very happy.
As a member of the Environment, Energy and Land Use Committee, Kendall Smith introduced the item to the full Committee at the National Association of Counties.
This was a collaborative proposal involving the states of Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, and California. These Western states were pleased that after introduction and discussion, the Committee vote to support this timely resolution was unanimous. The resolution was then approved as official NACo policy by the full voting membership at the Annual Business Meeting.
The resolution gives national policy support to local jurisdictions, states, and federal agencies to advocate for enhanced resources for marine debris cleanup, including tsunami debris, and support for passage of local bans on single-use plastic bags.
Again, the resolution may be found on the NACo website. Additionally, recent press coverage on the growing tsunami debris problem is included. Interested persons will find this information useful especially as it relates to pending or future legislation and as an advocacy tool to assist in funding strategies for marine protection efforts.
Interested persons may also contact NACo directly for additional information. You may contact also contact Kendall Smith directly at her home in Fort Bragg.
Readers of the AVA should be thankful to NACo for its historical and future support for marine habitat protection efforts, including the acknowledgment to the significant challenges marine debris presents to local government.
THINGS GO BETTER WITH COKE
According to several sites on the internet there are over 400 billionaires in the US. Astonishingly, most are rather obscure. I can name only two: Buffet and Gates.
But I recently heard a story about a J. Gordon Holmes III. He was one of those quiet, below-the-radar billionaires who never made the news He’s gone now. I don’t know if this story is true. Judge for yourself.
Obviously, billionaires can afford good medical care. They probably have a life expectancy that exceeds the average. But ultimately they suffer the same weaknesses and illnesses that get us all.
But Mr. Homes had a unique problem. He really liked the soft drinks. And not the diet kind. He drank huge quantities of sugary sodas. He was particularly fond of Pepsi.
As expected, this fondness, this addiction, led to health problems. He was obese, had diabetes and suffered hip problems. He tried many doctors. They quickly discovered the source of his trouble and advised him to get control of his addiction.
He tried, but like an alcoholic, kept falling off the wagon.
He finally gave up. He resigned himself to an early death, but decided to go out happy.
He purchased a small uninhabited island in the Indonesian archipelago. It had a little water, coconut trees and some high ground in case of cyclones. It was large enough to sustain a few people, but not a village.
He hired a small freighter to ship him some food supplies and a boatload of Pepsi to the island. There was a crew to build a beach shack and a covered space for his food and supplies — the 7,000 cases of Pepsi.
It took a couple of weeks to erect the shelters and unload the supplies. But the tasks were finally completed and he waved goodbye as the ship’s silhouette receded over the horizon.
He was alone with his Pepsi.
A few days went by and he found out the island was not uninhabited. There was a small group of natives — cannibals — living in the interior. They were poor, undernourished and not very friendly.
For them, Mr. Homes’ arrival was a gift from the gods.
One night they attacked and killed him. They took his body and 300 cases of Pepsi back to their village. They put him in a huge pot, filled it with Pepsi and cooked him until he was falling-apart tender.
The village feasted on his body for several days. They ate everything but the hard parts. Well, almost everything. They didn’t eat his — how shall I say this? — his thing. You know why they didn’t eat his thing? Things Go Better With Coke.
TULE OR ROOSEVELT?
Hello Bruce & AVA crew.
Re your notes about elk in our area, I think the Sinkyone elk are not tule but the larger Roosevelt elk, like those further up the coast. Tule elk are smaller and were most numerous in the Central Valley until extirpated by while folks. They've been brought back from near extinction and are probably the elk in most of the inland coast range. I don't know which kind make up the Laytonville and Covelo herds. I hope someone more knowledgeable than I will clear up this confusion.
I greatly enjoy reading the AVA, learn more from it than all other local reads combined, and greatly appreciate all the effort and good writing you and your crew put into each issue. Thanks so much.
THE AMTRAK BUS
There we were, three women in one car parked at the Amtrak bus stop in Laytonville so as the bus would have to pull in somewhere behind us to board passengers.
Cloudy, but, mild, the rear door was open to accommodate last minute nicotine boosting by our passenger to be. Time was passing, the bus was late. We'd arrived early and were getting antsy, i.e.: paying a lot of attention to traffic flowing by.
At 9:23 by my car's clock, a Preferred bus flew by, I reacted (not knowing if it was “our” bus or not) and managed to get a honk off just as the rear of the bus passed the front of my car.
The three of us were stunned. “Was that the bus?” It took about three minutes for us to digest that Amtrak does use Preferred and it actually really might have been what we'd been waiting, since 8:30, for... it's posted arrival was supposed to be 9:10, we had taken great pains to not miss it...
Fortunately, our passenger-to-be had her cell phone and the Amtrak number to hand and placed the call. It took about 10 minutes to exchange info with the lady at ControlCentral. We came away with the info that the bus was running 15 minutes late and had not stopped in Laytonville.
Now, mind you, you can't just get on a bus anymore. Amtrak demands reservations, you get a number. It's all very HomelandSecurity at this point. The driver and ControlCentral are in communication sync, GPS dots the map. No surprises allowed.
OK, so, ControlCentral gives our passenger- to-be a new reservation number and we head south 60 miles to catch the bus at the Burger King rest stop in Ukiah. (We're about 15 minutes behind as we pull from the curb at Pick and Pay.)
Needless to say we're pretty pissed, but, it's a beautiful day in paradise and we enjoy the eventless drive south. Fortunately, the bus is parked at its usual place in the BK parking lot and I pull up and park directly in front of it to await the return of the driver.
A working man with a van needed a jump, and I pulled over to get him started with my jumpers. Made it back to my spot in front of the bus before the break was over.
I was leaning against my car, facing the bus, away from BK. Our passenger-to-be quickly informed me that the driver was one she had ridden with before — and had gone out of her way to thank him for a safe ride, to which he had rudely grunted) as he headed back to his bus — our way.
I imagine he was about 20-foot away when he called out, “Hey lady, wanna move your car over there to the parking lot?” I didn't turn, but, as he rounded the back of my car and came into sight, I replied, “Not until you let her (pointing to our Passenger-to- be) on the bus! You passed right by us in Laytonville!”
“Where were you?", he replied. “I stopped.” “No you didn't,” I interjected. “Behind that truck", he continued to lie. “You're lying!” I continued to respond.
“That truck” was 15 feet behind us. If a bus had pulled in behind it, um, we would have noticed.
Son of a bitch got us flabbergasted again.
“You did not stop!, “I exclaimed, “We were right there!” “You went flying by, you did not stop!” (Thinking about the difference between stopping and making up time as I tried to imagine how to deal with this blatant asshole.)
He called to returning passengers to validate his statement that he had stopped in Laytonville. No takers. Folks sorta arranged themselves in a large loose semi circle, milling with big spaces between each one 15-20 feet away from the door of the bus.
As I was relentless, he turned to our Passenger-to-be and said, “I don't have you in my system, when did you make your reservation?” She had her old reservation number, her new reservation number, they were going back and forth.
It became clear our Passenger-to-be would get on the bus, Driver John, bus 901, had no interest in more of me, so I yelled a final, “Liar, liar pants on fire!” into the air, slid into my seat, and the remaining two of us headed to every thrift store we could find to put a new taste in our mouths.
OK, so, when it was apparent that the driver was not going to cop to the truth, The damnedest dynamic happened: my carmates began questioning their reality!
This nearing-retirement-age-angry-white man asserts an impossible lie, and these women try to accommodate him!!! “Could he have stopped and we didn't see the bus?” Denying their eyes, ears, and all other senses. I could hardly believe the transition from anger to, to, I don't even know what to call it.
I mean it was sick. Geezus H., mi amigas, not even Harry Potter's newest. largest, soundproof invisibility cloak could have made it happen. John wasn't stopping, he wasn't even slowing down as he made up time speeding through town.
When I was talking with my witnessing-but-cowed friend the next day, she was disturbed to reflect on her physical reaction to the confrontation which was to shrivel, staring at the ground, unable to speak. She'll be chewing on this one for a while.
Passenger-to be just wanted to get where she was going.
It's lonely on the front line.
NOT A LOVERS QUARREL
Of the depressing events in Willits last November 21st, I don’t know anything but what was in the account in your own paper, but assuming even half the things in that account are true, I have no idea how you can proceed to describe it as “basically a lovers’ quarrel” for which the assailant should get “no more than two years.” What were you thinking?
Here are the allegations, according to Bruce McEwen's article: A woman breaks up with a man. He then stalks her, drops by her house at night to threaten her family when she’s not there, tells her he’ll kill her parents if she stops answering his obsessive calls and texts. She gets a restraining order against him, but he continues to harass her, then he finally forces her into a car at gunpoint, physically assaults her, destroys her phone, and drives her around the county, with her having no idea whether she’ll ever see her family again. We’re not even talking about a one-time crime of passion, but weeks or months of obsessive harassment and intimidation, by an armed man who has memorized his victim’s route to work. It is difficult to imagine such a spree ending without tragedy. For this, “no more than two years”?
How many years in prison would you have recommended for a total stranger who suddenly, randomly abducted and beat this victim?
And now, I love the AVA, but hear a reader’s imprecation to for God’s sake go lighter on the LQ. The epithet is a uniquely tempting one — at once racy and dismissive, allowing us the simultaneous pleasures of euphemism and sophistication — but “lovers’ quarrel” does not describe this alleged crime. Putting aside the fact, which should be obvious, that the term no longer applies to people who are no longer lovers (How about if a guy car-bombs his ex-wife? Lovers’ quarrel?), it trivializes arguments, which of course is why people use it in the first place.
The term “lover’s quarrel” implies that every relationship has its tempests but love will eventually smooth them out, which is true, when (1) the parties are actually in a relationship together, and (2) neither of them is a mentally disturbed obsessive person with a gun.
Most violent crimes against women are committed by men they know. Indeed, about three American women are murdered by an “intimate partner” every day. In many cases, a community has plenty of warning that a disastrous crime is about to occur, but chooses “not to meddle” in “a lovers’ quarrel” or “a family affair.” We insist on believing that the real threat is some masked stranger who will burst upon us when we least expect it.
For this collective fantasy, over a thousand women pay with their lives each year.
Other than that, great paper.