THE WILLITS BYPASS, AN EXCHANGE
THE BYPASS IS GREAT…
You know, for the entire 40 years or so that I have been lucky to call this county home, I’ve been struck by the absurdity of the perpetual traffic jam on 101 as it passes through Willits, where the interstate narrows down to two slender lanes as they cross the railroad tracks that once served the long abandoned toxic ruin of Remco hydraulic, where, besides injecting unknown amounts of chromium arsenate deep into the water table, they once produced the enormous hydraulic rams for Reagan's absurd “peacemaker” nuclear missile installations; supposedly a defensive weapon system, even though the only threats it ever deterred were the ones in Reagan's Alzheimer-tainted brain, afflicted by its virulent anti-commie mania.
As uncomfortable as I find it too concur with just about anything written by my old friend Tommy Wayne Kramer, I've got to admit that I wholeheartedly agree with his view on the Willits bypass project, the subject of his column in last Sunday’s Journal. I too am mystified by the bizarre opposition to this godsend, the Willits bypass project, which has been SO sorely needed for at least the last 40 years, and now, at long last, free money from the state is available to build what could never be afforded by our humble, impecunious county.
What is with so many people who have a knee-jerk impulse to march in lockstep behind anyone who dons the green mantle and starts to protest something? Like the opposition to the Harris Quarry blacktop plant, where classic NIMBYism led people who had deluded themselves into thinking that they were pro-environment to protest tirelessly, even after it was made clear that NOT allowing that plant to be built would simply mean that much larger amounts of petroleum would have to be burned elsewhere (in both the production and delivery) than would be consumed locally. Clearly, building the asphalt plant was way the greenest option.
Likewise, how can anyone in their right mind believe that having the thousands of big diesel trucks slowing to a crawl, then endlessly idling through Willits is more environmentally correct then building the minimal first world infrastructure to allow such vehicles to maintain highway speeds and bypass Willits humble business district? Okay, a certain number of beautiful old oak trees must go, and the right-of-way will forever change that narrow strip of wetlands it must traverse, but surely all the benefits of having a sane, non-third world traffic situation in Willits forevermore more than justifies that modest environmental impact. I mean, Mendocino County has about a gazillion acres of beautiful old oak trees, and half a gazillion acres of wetlands. I'm sure that 101, at the south end of Ukiah Valley, must have been built on wetlands. Should we tear it out to restore the wetlands? As the old saw goes, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
As for the moaning Minnies in Willits business community, fretting about potential loss of business; their counterparts in Cloverdale expressed the same concerns before their bypass was built, and from what I hear, Cloverdale is now considered one of the nicest small towns in the country. I'm sure that they are crying all the way to the bank at how things have worked out for them. Imagine how much nicer, people and bicycle friendlier Willits will be post-bypass! I might actually want to go up there sometime for a meal and a movie!
Think it through, knee-jerk protesters! You're looking the richest of gift horses in the mouth! It will truly be a tragedy, not only for Willits but for the whole economy of the North Coast of California, dependent on trucks to bring in goods and take out products, if the protesters succeed in shutting this vital project down.
The highway system does not exist to serve the needs of each little town that it goes by; it is for the utility and mobility of the larger society, and that society will clearly benefit from the construction of the Willits bypass!
…UNLESS YOU’RE IN WILLITS
As is often the case, comments made by people outside of WIllits about the Caltrans bypass around Willits aren’t based on reality. I mean, I’m told by his friends that Tommy Wayne is meant to be a parody, but Mr. Arteaga? Apart from exaggeration (“perpetual traffic jam?” “thousands” of trucks?) Arteaga is clueless about the main reason most people in Willits in the know are unhappy with the Caltrans bypass (and that includes pro-bypass City Council members), which is exactly because it will not relieve the in-town traffic problem in Willits hardly at all.
The Willits City Council fought hard for a Highway 20 interchange, but failed. Without a Highway 20 interchange, not only will, of course, the heavier-in-summertime traffic heading to the Mendocino coast still come right into Willits through the bottleneck to turn west on Highway 20, but locals heading almost anywhere in town will find the bypass not worth using either. At best, Caltrans has acknowledged (and that was in the past, before traffic studies for the Harris Quarry project showed a 20% reduction in traffic and while there was still hope of a Highway 20 interchange) 70-80% of the traffic currently on Highway 101 will remain there even after a bypass is built. Willits deserves traffic relief, and this bypass will not provide it.
In fact, there is local money that could build the Railroad Avenue in-town “truck route” that locals have advocated for years: MCOG (Mendocino Council of Governments, the Countys’ transportation planning agency) is holding onto $20 million in Willits’ “share” of RTIP (Regional Transportation Improvement Program) funds that has been squirreled away over the years as a local match for the bypass project. Spending a bit on restriping the bottleneck to turn the almost-always empty middle lane into a left lane for Highway 20 traffic would be a cheap fix, too. The Willits City Council is continuing to work on the Railroad Avenue through route, which they understand will be needed bypass or not, but funding will not be easy to find after so much money has been spent on this boondoggle of a bypass.
If Mr. Arteaga doesn’t care about the potential of highway construction sediment killing off salmon in the five salmon-bearing creeks in the Willits bypass footprint, or impact to the Ryan Creek/Outlet Creek/Eel River Coho salmon run, the longest in California of Caltrans’ plan to “relocate” those fish during the 4-5 years of construction, that’s his prerogative, so I won’t argue that point. If he doesn’t care about the precedent that inadequate review of economic and environmental impact of loss of farmland would set, I won’t argue that either, because the Farm Bureau already has that covered, by joining in with the enviros’ lawsuit against the bypass. If it doesn’t impress him that Caltrans’ plan to use thousands (reportedly 55,000) “wick drains” to de-water the Little Lake Valley might be sketchy, I’m sure it’s because he doesn’t know about such plans. Sketchy, especially after Caltrans planners already demonstrated they didn’t know the Little Lake Valley flooded every winter (Caltrans had designated acreage in the valley to turn into wetlands as mitigation for their take of existing wetlands along the route, and it took the Army Corps to explain to them those acres could not be used for mitigation because they were already seasonal wetlands.) And then there’s the issue the AVA’s Mark Scaramella has written about: the hundreds of feet of loose sediment that highway contractors, following Caltrans’ design for an unsafe 2-lane elevated freeway with no access/egress for 6 miles will be trying to set pylons into. Cloverdale is not a good comparison for many reasons, but especially because: according to the Press Democrat, there were 25,000 cars/day on Cloverdale Blvd. before the bypass and as of 2011, there are 5,000. 80% of the traffic is not going away in Willits, but is likely to remain, as previously discussed. If Mr. Arteaga wants a real-time indication about how few vehicles will benefit from the Willits bypass, all he has to do is check out the Caltrans web cam 1 mile north of Willits, which continually shows an empty, or almost empty highway: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist1/d1tmc/1_cam.php?cam=27
Even if through traffic on Highway 101 tripled in the summer, which it doesn’t, there’s plenty of capacity for through traffic right now. The traffic problem is in-town traffic, and if Mr. Arteaga ever blesses us with his presence in future years, he will be able to experience it himself. While a few big trucks and tourists fly by (unless they collide head-on) on an almost empty Willits bypass.
…UNLESS YOU’RE IN WILLITS II
Caltrans is set to spend approximately $357 million on a Willits Bypass project on Route 101 that will not safely serve the people of this community. We all agree that Willits has serious traffic problems. Divisive attitudes are growing as the Bypass project looms over us with all of its realities. The current Bypass plan for one lane in each direction, with no median barrier is unsafe! This will result in numerous serious accidents. There will be no emergency access between interchanges for six miles of freeway.
All vehicles headed for Highway 20 will still have to travel through town. There won’t be an interchange for Highway 20! There won’t be an exit into central Willits. Most of our local traffic problems could be addressed by adding alternate north-south routes, which would be far less costly than this Caltrans project.
This Bypass may benefit long haul truckers and Building Trade Unions by moving goods along the highway as fast as possible, but the environment will be damned. Little Lake Valley is home to bears, cougars, bobcats, foxes, coyotes, Tule elk are coming back, amazing birds like scarlet tanagers, mountain quail, bluebirds, thrushes, raptors, even bald eagles. The wetlands provide habitat for migratory birds. We are so lucky to live in a place where this still exists. This Bypass jeopardizes the future of the ecosystem here. This is the largest wetlands fill permit issued in California in over fifty years. California once had five million acres of wetlands and that number has been reduced to 370,000. Much of the original wetland here was drained for ranching. Now, this plan will even take that pastureland away from the ranchers.
We will endure pile drivers for years, thousands of dump trucks moving millions of cubic yards of dirt, skimmed from nearby hills, even in the area of our new Hospital and Hospice Garden. They will bury the wetlands and try to move it somewhere else. They will drain and lower the water table. The oaks will die, the animals will leave. This must affect the people in the valley who depend on wells for water. What if the funds dry up before they finish? We could end up killing the valley and getting nothing. Please help us find an alternative.
* * *
Mark Scaramella replies: Mr. Arteaga: Why don't you deconstruct a couple of the 19 reasons against the Bypass for me so I can be enlightened. Such as
1. the "it will sink" item. But before you do that, you might want to refer to the backup for it, including,
2. The "it's not much of a bypass without the Highway 20 interchange." Perhaps you can cite some Caltrans study that shows how much traffic will actually "bypass" Willits with the current design.
No hurry. Take your time. We'll run your letter as is.
Thanks, Mark Scaramella, AVA-Boonville
* * *
Hey Maj. Scaramella,
Thanks for the response, and the archived article. I just read it, and find it less than convincing; deep sediment or not, if there is one thing that the US in general and Caltrans in particular has a great deal of experience with, it is building roads. I have a lot more faith in Caltrans engineers to design a reasonably durable highway, even though there will always be problems like that clay layer underneath 101 down by Squaw Rock, which keeps popping the road up, and will eventually require another multimillion dollar subterranean dam alongside the highway at some point, like the one they did up the road from there.
As erudite as your article is, I really don't think that Caltrans would be proposing spending hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars on the bypass if they were not convinced that it will work. I have yet to see a completely failed Caltrans project, though the new Bay Bridge has had me on the edge of my seat for years, wondering if they could really pull it off.
There are many dysfunctional government bureaucracies out there, but in my humble opinion, Caltrans is not one of them. Generally they take care of business pretty well.
Thanks for printing the letter, keep up your always excellent work, best wishes to you and your esteemed editor in chief,
John Arteaga, Ukiah
PS. Acknowledging all of the things that concern you in your research on this project, I don't know why that makes you feel that that gives you the credentials to believe that your opinion of what will or will not work on this highway project is superior to those professionals who were educated in the field of civil engineering and highway construction.
I know of at least one elevated viaduct built in recent years, almost right across from Squaw Rock, designed to span over a creeping layer of clay, which can now pass underneath it. Seems to be holding up just fine.
Best wishes, John
* * *
MS Replies: Dear Mr. Arteaga,
It's natural for some people to find themselves on the opposite side of the tree-sitter and people like Naomi Wagner, an obvious opportunist, although others there are well-meaning if belated, naive or ill-informed. I don't think the lawsuits or bird's nests will stop it.
Too bad, it's not a good project; it's been watered down and bounced along without serious technical review and lots of people are actually surprised that it got approved by the Transportation Commission.
Caltrans's construction record is actually very bad, as even a casual look at other big projects in recent years will show (e.g. the Bay Bridge, to name a few). In the case of the Willits bypass they've been so pre-occupied with getting the (very expensive and extensive) enviro paperwork done and the rights of ways procured and through, that they've neglected basic planning and engineering.
I've looked far and wide for another example of an elevated viaduct, even on relatively solid ground -- in vain. And if you look at the annotated core samples and the pylon cross-sections (as I have after downloading their entire huge bid package), you'd see that the pylons only go down about five feet, nowhere near enough, so you'll be forced to conclude that no serious old-school construction engineer has reviewed the plans. It's as if the geologists did the study, but if the engineers really accommodated the geology, they'd have to raise the (low-balled) cost estimate beyond what anyone would approve. So they just said, screw it: go ahead.
Show me one other Caltrans project in the last few decades involving an elevated roadbed. It's unheard of. They have no experience with them and they have clearly underestimated the degree and depth of instability in Little Lake Valley.
One other thing to consider: look at the way the cost estimate breaks down: there's nowhere near enough money set aside for actual construction, even if this were just a simple nine-mile paving project (which it clearly is not).
If you've followed the conventional news coverage on the project going back to the time when the Caltrans engineers first visited Willits to tout the project, you'll see that there's not one hard-hat wearing, grizzled old butt-cracked road builder among them; they're all young, pretty recent college grads who obviously have no experience with a tough project like this in a place like Little Lake Valley. This is one big boondoggle that's going to come a cropper.
And that's just the construction problems.
Unfortunately, most people I try to explain this to have the same trusting view of Caltrans that you do. How could they screw this up? Believe me, they have; they will.
I'm not against the bypass in principle. The Ukiah and Cloverdale bypasses are ok and hard to object to. But Willits is not Cloverdale or Ukiah. This Willits bypass is simply unbuildable and unsupportable. So far nobody's provided a single example of where of where I'm wrong about the major construction problems. (I can send you the core sample charts and the pylon plans if you like.) Willits residents know full well what the Little Lake Valley soil is like and they usually reluctantly agree that there's a problem there. Most of the comments I've seen since I started harping about this have been like yours: Let's hope he's wrong.
I just hope I live long enough to see how this all plays out.
Tell you what: I'll put up $100 bucks right now that says the project will bog down and slow to a halt and Caltrans will be forced to submit a major new cost estimate of at least twice the current construction cost estimate before the end of 2015.
* * *
Sure, I'll bet even money on the wager you propose, it will increase the entertainment value of the project far each of us, whichever way it goes.
Best wishes, John
MS Replies: Mr. Arteaga,
Allow me to quote a small section from the Caltrans Willits Bypass “District Geotechnical Design Report” which is part of the bid package Caltrans put out on the project (available for on-line download) (page 11): “…settlement will be significant for portions of the project. The immediate settlement is expected to occur during the loading process, the primary settlement will occur during the loading and settlement waiting period, and secondary settlement is expected to occur for many years after construction is complete.” This is a description of the entire bypass route. Settlement is expected (conservatively, it must be noted; it could be much worse) to take between 30 days (minimum to ten years (maximum) depending on which spot along the route. But nowhere in this lengthy technical report will you find any specific mention of how the shallow pylons holding up the elevated viaduct section of the proposed bypass (where weights and pressures are the greatest) will be kept from sinking into what the report calls “Medium dense to dense silty to clayey sand (0-3 meters); Very stiff to hard silty clay with interbedded seams of medium dense to dense silty to clayey sand (3 to 20 meters); and Dense to very dense silty to clayey sand (20-30 meters). (Note that the cross sections of the pylons holding up the viaduct show that they are in the top two or three meters of this “sand.” (Below which is mostly more sand plus some clay.) The wick drains described by Ms. Poole above are supposed to keep the sand dry and therefore less subject to settlement. But wet or dry, it’s still sand that several dozen of these pylons will sit in.
PS. Mr. Arteaga, Looking back over your many interesting contributions to these pages over the years, I see that you were among the critics of the MTA’s new $6 million bus barn back in 2010 when you wrote: “Wouldn't it make a hell of a lot more sense for MTA to acquire a transit hub property, such as the rotting hulk of Fjords, where they could interface with Greyhound etc.? Oh, I remember, they already tried that, and their effort at eminent domain attachment (probably the most reasonable example of that type of action I had ever heard of) was turned back by a foolish court, socking them with ruinous legal fees for the owners of that blot on Ukiah's face to the world; still rotting away a decade later, it is still the sight one is greeted with when one takes the main off ramp into our homely little burg. Is there any way to rescind this spectacularly foolish squandering of public funds?! or at least fire whoever made such a foolish decision?”
You question my “credentials” in doubting that Caltrans has properly or adequately accounted for the unique geology of Little Lake Valley in their design of the elevated portion of the Bypass. Does that mean that we can dismiss your criticism of the fully vetted, designed, approved and funded MTA Bus Barn as coming from someone with no transportation planning, much less legal, credentials?
FAIR PLAY FOR WING 1
Dear People of Mendocino County,
We the inmates of Wing 1 at the Mendocino County Jail have seen/experienced a few things we feel you (the people who pay the taxes to run our County jail) should really know about. We are hoping perhaps this will help change some of these things for the better. If not at least you will all know how things really are here in the County jail.
Let's begin with the ever important "healthcare." Many inmates come to county with their prescriptions with them. Even though many have legitimate reasons for these medications or have taken them for years, they are put on your property. The "jail doctor" doesn't see you, you see a nurse. The "jail doctor" decides that your doctor has been wrong. He then either changes your medications or completely cuts you off of your medications. You can put in requests to see the "doctor," but good luck with that, as you will only see a nurse who will tell you that the doctor said No Medications. We women here need pap smears and mammograms every six months to one year. There is no HIV or Hep-C testing here. You are told to go to Public Health whenever you get out. Basically, the medical care here consists of band-aids, cold medications, Icy-Hot, and Tylenol if you are lucky. We can only hope we don't have HIV or breast or cervical cancer!
Let's move on to Mental Health. Mental Health consists of a "nurse" who screens you to decide if you are worthy of seeing the "doctor in the box." If you're lucky, a month or two later you will have a "teleconference" with the psychiatrist. This is also who you see for trouble sleeping. Antidepressants are given for sleeping trouble to inmates who don't have mental health problems. Some inmates who should be on lithium or trazadone are refused. We have inmates who really need to be in a mental health hospital, yet they are here as our County cut our mental health budget long ago. They are on lockdown 23.5 hours of the day. Many of them are released only to come right back two or three days later. It would cost the county less to treat their illnesses than it does to have them keep returning jail. So on top of the overcrowding, county jail is now "Little Napa" as well.
Let's now talk about GED class, church and NA/AA recovery meetings. We are told these things are a privilege, not a right. And as so, only minimum-security inmates are the only ones who have access to these. These things are for helping inmates "rehabilitate" themselves, yet only a select few get that option. Many of us need church or NA for our spiritual peace and recovery from drugs or alcohol. It's no surprise that many return again and again.
Moving on, let's talk about clothing. We are given two jumpsuits, two t-shirts, two bras, two socks, and four pairs of underwear. We have laundry once a week. We must keep a set of clothing to wear and so we can wash only one set. Many of us hand wash our bras, underwear and t-shirts, but we have limited places to hang them to dry. Our shoes are falling apart and often they are not the right size. Even shoes that were "new" in December now have holes in them.
Now the ever important "food." We get three meals a day. It is processed crap. Frozen veggies, pressed meat, canned fruit, basically like eating a TV dinner. We can order food from the canteen but it's junk food too. Candy, chips, Top Ramen, donuts. All this does not make for a healthy inmate.
A few more things: women are not allowed to work in the garden. Here in Wing 1 we have a leaky roof when it rains hard. Our shower/drinking water is hard. We have dry skin and scalps. Drinking it is horrible. It smells like a sewer.
We know we are here as a punishment but as people we should also have basic rights. We feel that you, the people of Mendocino County, should know about how things are here at the County jail. It will take more than just us inmates complaining or grieving these things to change them. We need the people of Mendocino County to stand up and ask why these things are like this. Together maybe we can make a change for the better and maybe get some much-needed medical, recovery and spiritual help to people who really need it. Thank you.
Signed: Rachel Sutherland, Jessica Bruce, Renee Fox, Nanci Hage, Tina Patty, Cheri Martin, Samanth Cain, Bridget Maple, Janet Owens, Amanda Duman, Sandy Cooper, Elizabeth Dockins, Eraina Davis, Joni Dearing
IF IT WOULD RAIN…
Wars are not about freedom but oil and global control. Christian peacemaker teams walk in Palestine and Columbia. Nuclear weapons are from hearts of stone. Save the trees and plant more please. Trees are the air we breathe. Close your eyes, make a wish, snap your fingers and all nuclear weapons on earth disappear. Do not buy Kelloggs, General Mills, Safeway ("O" Organics), Kraft bocaburgers or Back to Nature. No Coca-Cola or Pepsi. These companies funnel large sums of money to Monsanto to defeat the November 6 GMO labeling initiative. Do not buy these brands. They bankroll the industry opposition to GMO labeling. Let us know if our food is dirty. This monetary offense could lead us to death. Yes.
Diana Wood Duck Vance
If it would rain, Dead Tree, Mendocino
PS. Ah Louis S. Bedrock and fellow AVAers: Dan? That's my father, General Vance. And my brother, FBI headquarters. Call me Eugene. Righto.
It is good to see Flynn Washburne's name on the front page of a newspaper again for his profound writing. But I will bet you dollars to dimes the public relations writing he did for the Bank of America that put him on the front page of the Ukiah Daily Journal paid more. Like $5000 a word. Notwithstanding "In God We Trust."
I have heard he has been around the block! Do you mean the cellblock?
Flynn, see if you can parole to Thailand as in Phucket. Just joking or is it jocking or maybe Johnson!
Flynn, why did you do it? Such talent going to waste! You tried to teach me how to make a rue? It bounced back and became a kangaroo! I am a wallabe cook. Listen brother, get it this time! Punk rockers rule.
Carry the word, keep the faith and In God We Trust.
To: Terry Murphy, chief nursing officer at Mendocino Coast District Hospital
Dear Ms. "Murph,"
Well, what an incredible disappointment your return to MCDH has developed into at this point. Let me begin by stating that I was among many who originally welcomed your rehire. Your reputation of being organized, efficient and holding staff accountable on an equal playing field was going to give this facility the facelifte it needed. We had the attitude that change would be difficult, but necessary, and collectively as a staff we were willing to work hard for you. What a difference the decades have made toward your prior reputation, and how quickly did your song and dance pony show from your interview be proven false.
Let's start with the fact that you made rounds to the different departments for maybe the first several weeks and introduced yourself by walking up to employees with demands of patient care information. Was this a test of HIPPA to see if we would reveal such information without knowing who you are, requesting your position or reason for requiring this information? Or were you just trying to make it clear that you are incapable of offering professional mutual respect and common communication skills by introducing yourself first? Name and handshake is not too much in the way of expectations. You returned to us with a chip on your shoulder and a defensive attitude. We wanted you here; you were given a welcomed clean slate. Shelley and Jeanna had been working themselves into the ground seven days a week because they cared! They reciprocated their appreciation to the employees as well. They were much more effective as interim CNP job sharing than you will ever be able to hold a candle to. By the way, you forgot to thank Jeanna at the board meeting for her hard work when you thanked Shelley, but that's typical of your behavior to not appreciate someone else's extra efforts. Let's take it a step further by having expectations that you might actually offer appreciation of nurses who have been working above and beyond expectations to make sure patients and coworkers were cared for in a safe environment. It has been difficult, but we were in it together and pulled together. Yet you continue to threaten your nursing staff with punitive actions if even so much as a name badge is accidentally forgotten at home (never mind they worked a 14 hour day prior and were exhausted). Keep yourself locked away in your office and completely unapproachable.
You still do not have any grasp of how dire the situation actually is with regard to patient care areas in the hospital. How could you understand when you do not bother to communicate on any level with the charge nurses of the departments or the supervisors, and you have completely stopped making any effort to communicate or check in with any of the departments and staff? There are many rumors as to your punitive new rules, but yet none have been placed in writing. Has anyone ever explained effective communication to you? There again, you seem to think that we are breaking these fictitious rules of yours on purpose. Believe me we are only trying to get through the hour 12 hour shifts without causing harm to the patients or ourselves as you (and Wayne) have created such an unsafe work environment. Most employees still do not know who Wayne Allen is or what he looks like as he certainly has never made rounds to departments. The same could be said with our human resource director, Scott Kidd. He has files on employees that he is not even capable of putting a face to when shopping in his leisure clothes at Harvest Market during the middle of the weekday. I expected more from you Ms. Murph.
So let's get to the specifics.
As of recently, you made significant cuts in our staffing. You announced to the newspapers the plan to downsize and layoff employees before you gave us the respect of notification prior. You announced to the public that these cuts would not affect patient safety and you are able to say this with a straight face? You (the newest administrator who cannot put even a quarter of our faces to a name) and a CEO (who never enters patient care areas) decide without advice from charge nurses or supervisors who should be let go. How irresponsible of you both. When injuries occur to patients and staff members (and they will), it will lay on your shoulders. Not unsafe working conditions?
1. You fired all the nursing aides from the night shift. Tell me how it is possible for a nurse to administer total patient care when several patients who are in isolation (just about every patient admitted has history of MRSA), most are weak, elderly, and have dementia, patients with mobility restrictions were deemed to be at fall risk, incontinent of liquid stool and urine, and your threatening messages to punish nurses who do not complete the new requirements for the NexGen computer system. Who is accountable when patients have to lay in their feces and urine because the nurse cannot leave another patient's side? That would be you and Wayne, Murph! How can you possibly make morale any worse than by punishing nurses for not having enough time to chart "meaningful use" when you have physically exhausted them with a staffing crisis? I heard a rumor that when we do not have nurses available for emissions, you will not allow patients to be transferred to other facilities. Your solution, burden the nurses with too many patients, be out of compliance with mandated state law, then you will "self-report us" to the state officials? Well, you really do know how to operate an acute care hospital.
2. Next example, you decided to let go a full-time float nurse who is experienced in critical care/emergency room. Brilliant decision. The one person who could actually work in any department during this critical staffing crisis that you created, you decided was disposable. Nevermind that you were completely unaware of the fact that the emergency room only has one nurse at night after 8pm until 7am, and the float nurse was the second ER nurse between 7pm and 11:30pm. Never mind that you were unaware that the ICU was already lacking two full-time nurses and the emergency room has permanent vacancies in its schedule every other weekend nightshift. Nevermind the fact that the full-time float nurse you decided could be cut worked beyond her 12 hour shifts frequently because it would be considered patient abandonment to leave as she never had relief at the end of her shift. You actually thought the float shift should be downsized to eight hours? Who would give meal breaks to the now overworked nurses? Is it your expectation that the supervisors should be doing that job? How exactly are they supposed to respond to other areas of the hospital in the emergent situations if the house supervisor is "taking patient assignments"? Not to mention all the additional tasks you've placed on them. Wasn't it your idea that supervisors should not be doing direct patient care? You have created such a shortage that there was actually no qualified emergency room nurse this past Saturday after 8pm at night until 7am, and the night supervisor had to be the emergency room nurse and try to manage the entire hospital for 12 hours. Did you report that to the state? Your ignorance has caused tremendous grief to the nurses remaining. Thank goodness you had a moment of clarity to at least rehire that float nurse back (but to nightshift in the ICU?)! Now her shifts are uncovered and yet again, the emergency room is out of compliance without qualified nurses as backup.
3. Next point, influenza season is in full force. The emergency room experiences most days with all eight beds full, patients on the gurneys in the hallway, and multiple patients waiting to be seen. You cut a full-time, experienced critical care nurse who could be pulled to help autonomously in this type of situation and now several times the emergency room is left without assistance or sent a nurse from med/surg for OB who are not trained in emergency/critical care. Apparently appropriate cross training and orientation is not of importance to you. Do you think that people do not have heart attacks, become unresponsive, unable to breathe for themselves, or have traumatic accidents in this community simultaneously? Or do you just not care about the safety of the patients or staff? I do, and I take pride in my job and hospital. I know that my coworkers and supervisors care because their actions speak louder than words. Supervisors are exhausted by your demands and staff demands, but at least the nurses know how to give mutual gratitude and respect. You have not thanked any members of your staff for their extra efforts, but you continue to threaten and devalue them daily. Shame on you! I understand that you are continuing to harass your experienced employees who are remaining such as a full-time ICU nurse who has over 30 years of experience and a full-time working manager in respiratory therapy, not to mention the med/surg nurse who actually holds her head up high and will not tolerate your disrespectful tone for no other reason than to enforce your "power." When will you learn that patient care will suffer when you do not pay attention to the experience of the employees you are letting go? Pay attention to where they are crosstrained and all the different areas they are able to help out. A med/surg nurse who was crosstrained to not only oncology/infusion (only one of two other nurses who can actually float to that department), but she also is a relief house supervisor. You were not aware of this and almost let this valuable employee go. You look at their department title and do not speak to your peers; hence, you now have an unsafe patient environment. Your ignorance must be bliss for you and you alone.
4. Explain why the majority of employee cuts came from direct patient care areas? Nurses and CNAs should have been the very last. North Coast Clinic had zero cuts (a person retiring does not constitute a cut). Secretaries and full-time back office employees should have been downsized first. Dr. Graham can put his own patients in a room and take their blood pressure when he does decide to hold office hours. I'm sure he would agree that it is more important than firing hospital nurses to give total care to his inpatients. North Coast Clinic staff are all paid the same wages with benefit packages as the rest of us. Why was no one let go in Mr. Wayne's Department (a recent fired employees for unrelated issue does not count)? Accounting and billing employees should work 12 hour days, nights and weekends. Instead, you let go a part-time patient registration clerk who could cover efficiently in any department; especially the emergency room? That must have saved the hospital a fortune. Who is paying attention to the decisions that you are making? I urge the Board of Directors to speak to the nursing staff. You and Wayne are making unsafe and irresponsible decisions. Your rude and condescending attitude will undermine the few employees who actually try their best for you; it has destroyed what little spirit that is left. You created a situation that is absolutely exhausting and impossible to sustain without as much as a "thank you for hanging in there during this difficult time." I personally heard you tell someone that you shortened your name to "Murph" because it made you more approachable. You are no more approachable than a coiled rattlesnake ready to strike. By the way, please remove that obnoxious sign about "having flying monkeys and you're not afraid to use them" from your desk. You don't put something like that in public view when you are destroying families and lives.
5. Bottom line is that you are now recognizing the error you have made with all the nursing layoffs so your solution is to hire traveling nurses/registry?! Double the cost and out of area staff who are not familiar with any of our policies and operations. Again, an unsafe decision. Good luck finding quality "travelers" willing to come to this remote area under the work environment you have created. You fired local people who were vested in his community and took pride in their work and now you have to hire outside nurses to fix your mistake. The staff members you let go begged to remain per diem as they would rather give up benefits and continue to receive a paycheck. Per diem employees cost the hospital zero overhead yet is the paperwork too much for human resources to handle? Can't "create" a position for those loyal employees you so willingly cut off at the knees? Safety for the patients and nurses is not your priority. You really screwed up! You affected real people with real families. I wish the same hardship on you. Shame on you! Shame on Mr. Wayne for hiding behind his closed/locked door as well.
6. Pay attention board members and public. You have people making decisions for this facility who do not have a clue as to the actual patient care operations and real people will be hurt as a consequence.
A remaining employee at Mendocino Coast District Hospital (for now)
JUST ONE REFORM
Dear Mr. Anderson,
The selection of a new Pope could be an important turning point for the Catholic Church. We desperately need to put the priest abuse scandal behind us and to move forward with the central mission of the Church. One commonsense reform, as suggested by Roman Gardini in his book, "Semen on the Rosary," is to allow priests to marry. This small change could revitalize the church and perhaps now is the time to seriously consider it.
WHO’S MORE PRO-PALESTINIAN?
When you write a letter to the editor of any newspaper in the US, they will actually occasionally publish it in the case of most of the press, so long as you don't name any zionist person or organization by name. You don't have to be a personal acquaintance of the editor or anything like that.
You'll VERY rarely get published in ANY left press if you aren't personally known to the clique of mostly Jewish editors and insiders by contrast. And if you're associated with USQuagmire in any way. you can pretty much forget it.
Naturally there is an organized corps of zionists who will immediately be published in the next issue of any mainstream publication, and you'll be called an anti-Semite, etc., quite predictably. There will be at least three such letters printed in response to yours, and you'll not be published if you write a rejoinder to their slanders.
Of course none of the zionist letters will never the issues in any reasonable way. That goes without saying.
But when you get published in any “left” press, you'll be greeted with much worse slanders. When the editor of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, Bruce Anderson, published a couple of my letters about MECA and other “liberal” zionist organizations, I was greeted with explicit accusations that I was an “ADL agent,” and subsequently these allegations were republished on Mazin Qumsiyeh's blog and then published again in the Anderson Valley Advertiser. This was to lend the stupid slander a “Palestinian” imprimatur.
The same screed has been published twice now in the Anderson Valley Advertiser, and of course I'm not permitted to reply. The editor there is just as much a zionist tool as anyone in the offices of the NY Times or the SF Chronicle.
THIS will never happen in the mainstream press. Yes, you'll be called names, but you will NEVER be targeted by the carefully cultivated “Palestinian” stooges on the “liberal” zionist string, like Qumsiyeh or Jess Ghannam.
The zionists are smart; they know it's only on the left that they will eventually face real opposition. They aren't too worried about establishment periodicals where their big brothers in Israel already maintain monitoring and response networks for them.
Ed reply: Truth to tell, I pay very little attention to insider disputes among the left, especially this one, where there's only one guy, you, claiming people like Jeff Blankfort are faking their support for Palestinians. I like Blankfort, and I admire his work. I listen to his program on KZYX and invariably learn something from it. Blankfort's views are a much more sophisticated, much more knowledgeable version of my own, which are pro-Palestinian and have been pro-Palestinian for years. I also think Blankfort's stands are very brave given the overwhelming media preponderance of blind support for Israel. I don't see any point in printing vague attacks from you on people like Blankfort and Lubin that clearly aren't rooted in any real issue other than your personal dislike for them.
OVERHAUL STATE PARKS
To The Editor,
I enjoyed Mark Scaramella's breakdown of all the offenses by the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Here's a personal anecdote about the time the State Parks and Recreation Commission held a meeting in Fort Bragg five years or so ago.
Local fishermen were angry that State Parks staff were lobbying hard in support of the options for marine protected areas proposed by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Of particular concern to us were the proposed closures of public fishing access at state parks in Sonoma County and Point Arena - State Parks was proposing to shut out abalone divers from some really important sites.
We put out a call for fishermen to show up at the Parks Commission meeting in Fort Bragg's town hall, and ask commissioners why their staff were supporting these closures off state parks along the coast. We hadn't been informed of any opportunity for the public to comment on the Parks Department's position on the Marine Life Protection Act.
The executive director of the Commission called me, and he sounded freaked out. The commission, he explained, didn't really get into details about specific regulations. They only had the power to approve or amend the management plans for individual parks, and the staff took it from there. He told me flat out that there would be no real discussion at the Commission level about the MLPA. He was right. I testified, I was ignored along with the other fishermen who spoke.
As it turns out, most if not all of the regulations promulgated by the California Department of Parks and Recreation are "underground regulations" - illegal rules set up by staff without adequate notice, public review and discussion.
At the meeting I asked a Deputy Director at DPR if he understood that shutting down shore fishing and abalone diving at state campgrounds like Horseshoe Cove, Fisk Mill Cove and other areas would mean less revenues to the state from campsite fees. "We don't make decisions based on revenues," he said.
No wonder why they don't know the operating expenses of individual park units. These people have their heads in the clouds. The state legislature needs to start holding hearings on how to reform DPR and give its Commission real authority over the staff. Decisions need to be noticed, publicly discussed and voted in.
Fort Bragg, CA
In disputes with Christians, the Koran, in chapter 29, verse 46, tells Muslims to say: "We believe in the revelation which has come down to us (the Koran), and in that which has come down to you (the Books of Moses, the Psalms and the Gospel of Jesus). Our God and your God is One and it is to Him we bow in Islam."
Given that the scriptures of the Jews and Christians are considered by the Koran to have been messed with a bit by theologians, still this is quite a declaration of Christian-Muslim unity on the part of the Koran. Certainly on reading the Koran recently, I did not expect anything like this.
US penitentiary, West Virginia
WHO? WHAT? WHEN? WHERE? HOW? WHY?
Whatever happened to Who, What, When, Where, How, and most importantly, Why? As a resident with no children in school, reading your screed on trustees' failure to renew high school principal Tomlin's contract leaves me in the dark. Especially coupled with the parallel, referenced but unreported, story of Tomlin's aborted suspension? termination? of Ben Anderson as baseball coach. Perhaps your famous mast-head homily “Editors should have no friends” should be changed to “Editors should have no families.”
Why did trustees Lemons, Sanchez-Mendoza and Anderson decide that things needed to change at the high school? What are the serious issues which would require such an abrupt, public, and disruptive action? Are parents in revolt? Which, how many, over what? What is the issue which caused two anti-Tomlin letters from Sanchezes (and one from our usual “pusillanimous and anonymous in Boonville”). What is the “controversial discipline matter of the previous year” which the principal “defended”? Or is the teaching staff in revolt? Your editorial denunciations of a supposed entrenched teachers' cabal argues to the contrary (and is somewhat contradicted by your long-term prior extolling of the cabalists, Borst and the Coxes in particular, now apparently out of editorial favor). Is this a fight over academic standards or over how the athletic program is run? What will the school look for in program changes on either front? Will you have some answers from the new trustee majority?
Ed reply: One more time for the kids in the back row: Who? Tomlin. What? Fired. When? 25th of March. Where? High school cafeteria. How? 3-2 vote of the school board. Why? Not getting it done. I thought I'd touched all the Journalism 101 bases, but people do tend to read and hear what they need to read and hear. One more time, slow and bouncy: I reported on the meeting, Mrs. Herr, during which the trustees, on the advice of their attorney, were not permitted to speak. I made it clear, I thought, that the next day Tomlin fired the baseball coach, Superintendent Collins immediately un-fired the baseball coach and Tomlin went away and has been away ever since. Because all that happened last Tuesday, our deadline day, and because the communications to the board on the matter are also sequestered, you know what I know. The meeting, incidentally, was called by Collins and trustee Bradford because Collins, who always sits in on closed sessions, had run directly from a prior closed session to inform Tomlin three trustees did not want to renew Tomlin's contract. If you think it's appropriate, to invoke the preferred local ethical adjective, that an employee of the district not only sits in on closed conversations of his employers but rats them out, say so. You might also walk down your Holmes Ranch Road to ask your neighbor Collins why he thinks three trustees want a new high school principal and report back to the rest of us. I'm not going to re-hash last year's discipline cases. If you were paying attention at the time you'd know that it involved an off-campus fight whose disciplinary upshot was botched by Tomlin. “Long-term prior extolling”? You really aren't paying attention. Is this a fight over academic standards? I hope so. The State Department of Education, whose study was cited in last week's article, says our students don't meet UC admission standards. That finding ought to alarm parents and the taxpayers who fund the local education effort, and that finding alone is more than enough evidence that the high school needs new direction. But the teachers who spoke last week, emitting a palpable cult vibe unfelt in the Anderson Valley to say they do an excellent job at an excellent high school, that they and their principal are therefore excellent. Most years I see the scholarship applications my nephew receives. I would say very few graduates of the local schools are getting a high school education. I think a school board that doesn't move to improve school performance should be removed. I also think the school board, at least three of them, have taken a major step in the right direction of at last installing an intelligent, energetic person in the principal's chair. PS. The correct Joseph Pulitzer quote is “Newspapers should have no friends.”
IT TAKES TEAMWORK
I was shocked and saddened, as were so many people, by the decision of the Anderson Valley School Board to not renew Principal Jim Tomlin’s contract. It is clear that the three members of the board came in with an agenda that was personal and had no intention in listening to the over 100 people who showed up at the HS Cafeteria last Monday to express their support for Mr. Tomlin.
It is also clear that these three board members have no idea of the impact that this decision would have on a school midway through the school year- affecting the daily lives of the teachers, staff, students and parents who all share a deep commitment to creating a caring school community at AVHS with the positive support and leadership that Mr. Tomlin provides. This impact was obviously immediately felt following last Monday’s decision and will undoubtebly have a negative effect on school morale, discipline and academic performance.
I am mostly surprised that the two board members who are coaches and, of all people who are most likely to know this, did not seem to honor the importance of teamwork and how a good team is built on hard work, good communication and working together towards a positive result, not by booting out a team member.
I am very discouraged by the actions of our elected board members.
AVES and AVHS Physical Education Teacher