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Off The Record

5TH DISTRICT SUPERVISOR Dan Hamburg's wife, Carrie, has died. Mrs. Hamburg had been ill with cancer for some time. An unfailingly kind and friendly person active in a range of liberal causes, she was much admired by many people in Mendocino County.

THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT is investigating a woman who seems to be responsible for Monday morning's Fircrest apartment fires in Ukiah. She may also have set structure fires in Merced, as many as a dozen fires altogether, with perhaps as many as 13 more arsons occurring in the Ukiah area (two of which were vehicle fires). The suspect, estimated to be between 25 and 30 years old, had been a resident of Fircrest where she was evicted from the apartment complex on South State Street shortly before the place went up in flames. Some 50 residents were displaced. Ms. Assumed Torch has an uncanny record of not only being present at arson fires but is often the first person to report them.

AS PREVIOUSLY REPORTED, Mendocino County has engaged Fitch Associates (the go-to consultant for emergency medical issues) to explore the feasibility of establishing an Exclusive Operating Area (EOA) for ambulance services in Mendocino County. Fitch did a previous assessment two years ago that arrived at the obvious conclusion that emergency services in our geographically expansive county — 87,500 eccentrics spread over 35,010 square but mountainous miles — were a patchwork of critical services supported by inadequate resources. An emergency services EOA, as we understand it, would grant an exclusive right to operate to a single company, based on an RFP process. We are told that ambulances currently operating in the outlying areas would be allowed to continue, but it is not clear to us how independent ambulance service, such as that which serves Anderson Valley, would fit into the idea of an exclusive operating area.

RURAL EMERGENCY SERVICES have been chronically underfunded for at least the last quarter century. Every few years, the discussion of how to adequately fund outback emergency services arises and the County goes in search of a solution so long as the solution does not include County money. It may be coincidental, but it seems odd that the contract to explore an EOA comes on the heels of the City of Ukiah discontinuing its ambulance service. If the study concludes that an EOA is feasible for Mendocino County, the next step would be to issue an RFP, basically a bidding process. We are already hearing concern that a mega corporation, specializing in emergency medical services, could respond to the RFP with a low-ball price, get the contract, run at a loss for a couple of years, and then threaten to pull out unless the County comes up with more funding. At that point, the company, having eliminated all the local competition, would be in a position to call the shots. According to information included in the March 12 Supe's agenda, the consultants will meet with the cities, fire districts, hospitals, ambulance providers, dispatch centers, the "community, " and whatever other "stakeholders" might be identified by the County. And all this is going to take place in time to present a final report and recommendations to the Supes on May 15. Which makes it seem more likely than not that the report has already been written by Mega Meat Wagon Inc.

THE CITY OF UKIAH, at its meeting last Wednesday (March 6) continued its discussion of "strategic planning," a futile gab session that occurs in the context of no strategy other than to stumble on from disaster to disaster. Ukiah has been talking to itself for the last four or five years. Mercifully, there was no further mention of the wacky "process enneagram" that City Manager Jane Chambers tried to explain a couple of meetings ago. According to the staff report, the City of Ukiah: 1) Maintains the historic downtown as a regional center of civic and economic activity, which also serves nicely as Delusion Number One given the condition of central Ukiah, especially its crumbling anchor building the Palace Hotel where the owner has struggled for a year to prove that she owns it — the decrepit Palace plus and the empty storefronts lining School St., some of which have been gathering dust for years; 2) Promotes valley wide planning based on sound principles - there is no mention of what the "sound principles" are and there is no, and never has been any evidence of any planning in the Ukiah Valley; 3) Developes a prioritized plan for maintaining and improving public infrastructure - again, there is no evidence of any planning or prioritization, especially in the City of Ukiah, except for chasing after a new courthouse, which will not even be located in the "historic downtown"; 4) Creates a responsive and effective workplace environment, council and staff together - which ignores the basic reality that the city administration, with no complaint from the Council, has targeted line staff for layoffs and wage cuts while protecting their own highly paid positions; 5) Facilitates creation, retention, and expansion of local jobs, local businesses, and new business development for a vibrant city and regional economy - which also ignores the reality that the City of Ukiah has done nothing to create jobs or create a vibrant economy (unless you count the $27,000 outdoor dining platform that they directed be built to help their favorite restaurant).

THE UKIAH CITY PLANNING COMMISSION is currently in the process of reviewing an Environmental Impact Report for Costco, which might actually be serious about opening a store in Ukiah after teasing inland bulk buyers with the idea for the last 15 or 20 years. Last year the Planning Commission turned down the proposed conversion of the existing WalMart into a Superstore because, they claimed, the traffic impacts would be too great and the expansion would hurt downtown business. The proposed WalMart expansion, which faced organized opposition from the existing grocery stores and horrified shrieks from Inland Lib, would have consisted mainly of grocery items and would only have generated a small increase in sales tax. Costco will also offer lots of grocery items, but is expected to generate $500,000 or more in annual sales tax for the city, so even if the Planning Commission objects, it is a slam dunk that the City Council will rubber stamp the Costco EIR. And everyone wants a CostCo. It would be a brave civic entity that got in the way of a CostCo, and whatever other virtues the Ukiah City Council might possess, flipping off majority public opinion is not among them. In fact, the city is already committed to spending between $4 million and more than $6 million in traffic infrastructure improvements as an inducement to Costco, a nice gift of public funds to a corporate monolith, making approval of the EIR a mere formality.

THE CITY COUNCIL can be expected to point to a new Costco as evidence of their commitment to economic development and business expansion, which ignores the reality that most of the business for Costco will come at the expense of existing county businesses, many of which will go out of business. Costco does pay better wages and benefits than WalMart, but it is equally effective at undermining local stores, which simply can't compete with the retail giants. But the purplish libs who dominate the Ukiah City Council will anoint Costco, based on the sales tax it will generate, as a "good" big box store, unlike WalMart, which epitomizes "bad" big box. The distinction will be lost on the local merchants driven out of business by Costco, which also intends to install a 16-20 pump cut rate gas station. The extra traffic drawn in by cheap gas insures that traffic on Airport Park Boulevard, once Costco opens, will slow to a crawl, when it moves at all. And, of course, the increased sales tax flow to the city will fund more blah-blah people shuffling around Ukiah City Hall with their coffee cups.

THE COUNCIL spent two hours discussing a list of "supporting strategic statements" that purportedly further the "strategic plan" (which is just a list of concepts, and really no plan at all). The list was pared down from a longer list developed by the Council at an earlier strategic planning meeting. Councilmember Benj Thomas' suggestion that the city hire a "pastor/ombudsman/ethicist" failed to make the final cut. Thomas previously expressed concern that city budget decisions could become a struggle between "values and the bottom line. I don't want to lose track of our values." (Er, what values?) Thomas thought having a pastor (of the We-ness, Us-ness type, You-ness type, of course) on staff would help the council make morally sound budget decisions, or at least that layoff notices would be delivered with compassion. The State Street "road diet," which would reduce State St. from four lanes to two lanes in the most congested area of town, was not included on the short list, at least not by name, but sources say the city is determined to move forward with the plan. Included on the list was negotiation of a tax sharing agreement with the County, which is required before annexation can occur. Several councilmembers said the process was so well underway that it could be removed from the list. Which is odd since the County disbanded its ad hoc tax sharing committee in December. CEO Angelo has reported that the city and County continue to meet but has publicly stated that she does not favor bringing back the ad hoc at this time. Which doesn't exactly sound like an agreement is near.

MEASURE S RENEWAL, the half-cent sales tax for public safety, was kept on the list. Measure S was approved with a ten year sunset clause and was supposed to give the city time to get its financial house in order. Instead, the city has continued on with a business as usual attitude. The mid-year budget report, which was presented to the Council at the same meeting, shows that the City of Ukiah is on track for over $1 million in deficit spending this fiscal year, with million dollar deficits forecast for several years into the future. Loss of redevelopment funding was a heavy blow to the city budget, since Ukiah was diverting $1 million dollars a year to pay for administrative salaries. Without renewal of Measure S, the city will sink even further into a sea of red ink. Measure S was supposed to pay for additional police officers, but one of the "strategic statements" was to consider funding for one or two additional police officers. Now that Measure S is coming up for renewal, it looks like the City Council wants to show the voters that they are getting something for their money.

THE UKIAH CITY COUNCIL, without any apparent sense of irony, also approved a resolution in support of Zero Waste Week (March 17-March 23). Back in 2011, and over the vocal opposition of community members, the council approved a 15 year sweetheart deal with its waste hauler, Ukiah Waste Solutions, which claimed it was losing money. But because of the way garbage companies are organized it is virtually impossible to track their finances. In the case of Ukiah, one company picks up the garbage and recyclables, and pays to dump them at the Ukiah Transfer Station, which is owned by a second company and operated by a third, which then pays double the market rate to take the green waste to a fourth company, and sells the recyclables to a fifth company, and all of the above lease their trucks from a sixth company. (Got that?) And just by coincidence all six companies are owned by the same three people. With so many "related party transactions," cooking the books to show a loss is child's play. The company also got over on the Ukiah City Council in a number of other ways that enriched the company at the expense of the residential and commercial ratepayers of Ukiah. As if the financial windfall handed to the company wasn't enough, the city council prevented implementation of the immediate diversion of food waste from the landfill!

COLD CREEK COMPOST, based near Highway 20 at Potter Valley, a locally-owned business, offered to take 100% of the Ukiah food waste two years ago. The Ukiah waste hauler, for reasons too involved to go into here, is required to deliver the equivalent of the green waste collected annually in Ukiah to Cold Creek. The green waste, fittingly enough, is collected in green plastic bins, or toters, from the collection routes in Ukiah. Cold Creek offered to take the food waste, right along with the green waste, in the same cans that already get picked up each week. Empire Waste Management has been accepting food waste in the green cans for years in the unincorporated area that surrounds Ukiah, and trucking it to Cold Creek to be recycled into compost. And Ukiah could do the same thing, starting tomorrow, or starting back in 2011, if the city council had wanted to, just by telling their waste hauler to start accepting food waste in the green can. What could be greener? What could do more so simply to promote zero waste? Such an action should be a slam-dunk for the inland libs who dominate the Ukiah City Council. Except for just one thing: the Ukiah waste hauler wants to keep the food waste for itself. And what the Ukiah waste hauler wants, it gets. At least from the city council.

THE GRAND JURY last year noted the Ukiah garbage contract give-away. Commenting on the food waste flap, the Grand Jury concluded: "The grand jury wonders how much longer it is going to take the city to assess its options. Its current option - and the best it is ever likely to find - sits underused in front of its face." The Ukiah waste hauler claims it intends, someday, to convert the food waste into energy, and that if people start putting food waste in the green bin now then it will be too hard to tell them in the future to put it into a different container for separate collection. First, it is nice to know the level of contempt the local garbage company has for the intelligence of the people it serves, and second, since two thirds of the food waste is generated commercially, if only half of the residential customers are smart enough to be retrained, the company will still be able to collect about 85% of the food waste. Which means the stated reason for not putting food waste into the green bin right now, today, is bogus. The real reason is that the Ukiah waste hauler competes with Cold Creek Compost and has its own composting operation (which is not permitted to accept food waste). And the attitude seems to be, if they can't have it, no one can, (or at least not their competitor). And the Ukiah City Council, which refuses to implement an obvious zero waste milestone, is congratulating itself on being "green" because they passed a resolution saying they are in favor of the very kind of thing which they refuse to do.

EMBATTLED LAKE COUNTY SHERIFF Frank Rivero, who has recently been labeled "a liar" by the Lake County District Attorney, has agreed to settle a lawsuit with the Lake County News, an on-line news service founded by Elisabeth Larson and John Jensen. The husband and wife team alleged unfair treatment, discrimination and the illegal withholding of information after Rivero blacklisted them from receiving Sheriff's Office press releases and other public records. (The AVA has had the same problem periodically over the years, but presently enjoys a mutually satisfactory relationship with the forces of law and order.) According to the settlement, which outlines the laws governing state public records act requests, Rivero can be held in contempt of court if he illegally attempts to withhold information in the future. Rivero maintained he had done nothing wrong and said the settlement, which he characterized as a draw, just confirmed existing law. But if it was that simple, why did a take a lawsuit to get the Sheriff to agree to follow the law? A future hearing will determine if Lake County has to pay legal fees related to the lawsuit for the Lake County News.

SEIU SONOMA COUNTY, after more than a week of study, has decided that "yes" means "yes", at least in terms of the contract negotiated with Sonoma County. The membership voted 52-48% in favor of the contract, but only two of six bargaining units within in SEIU voted in favor. According to the current bylaws of SEIU 1021, the "local" that embraces much of Northern California, majority rules. But the bylaws of SEIU 707, which was eliminated in a corporate style merger in 2007, each unit had to vote approval. SEIU honchos, following extensive consultation with a battery of lawyers, finally decided that the current bylaws prevail. The prevalence of a situational ethics approach to serious issues among the posturing "left" inevitably leads to a delusion that the bylaws of an organization that ceased to exist in 2007 would trump the bylaws of the successor organization that is in operation today.

THE CLOSE VOTE signals an increasingly militant mindset, at least on the part of SEIU, which represents a majority of the county workforce in both Sonoma and Mendocino. The Sonoma County contract provides for a 3% cost of living increase (after an initial freeze), a one-time lump sum payment up to $2,700, and an increase of several hundred dollars a month in the county's contribution to healthcare costs. The agreement is expected to set a benchmark for Sonoma County's ten other bargaining groups. Critics say the agreement does not go fast enough or far enough to achieve the savings necessary to pay for critical services, like roads and long-term unfunded pension liabilities, currently at $353 million and growing. The county says the increased benefits are more than offset by pension cuts, but the nature of those cuts has not been clearly spelled out. Here in Mendocino County, SEIU is reportedly gearing up for an effort to restore the 10% wage cut agreed to last year, but unless SEIU can identify some currently unknown revenue stream to fund an increase, it seems likely that this year's negotiations will make last years look like a June school picnic.

"ON THE DAY HUGO CHAVEZ DIES, the top US law enforcement official declared that the US has the right to kill US citizens on US soil without trials and that the banks are too big to indict for fraud. But look at all the numbskulls posting here, so agitated by the 'tyrant' Chavez." (On line comment, SF Chronicle)

DESCRIBED as “a bald-face liar” by a Willits Bypass protester, Caltrans' spokesman Phil Frisbie, a bald-faced booby, posted the following reply: “Speaking as a native of Mendocino County, born and raised in Ukiah, from my own home computer, the following is MY opinion, and not that of Caltrans. As a California employee I swore an oath to uphold and protect the California and U.S. Constitutions. I respect the right for people who are scared or angry to use inflammatory language in an effort to express that fear and anger. Those who personally know me, both professionally as a Caltrans employee and in my personal life, know I have unquestionable integrity, and nothing that is said here or to the media will change that. If anyone wishes to ask questions about ME, and not about the Willits Bypass, they can easily find my personal email at my software company, Hawk Software, named after the birds I have loved since my youth that I would watch for hours soaring over the western hills of the Ukiah valley. Phil Frisbie, Jr.”

CALTRANS CONTINUES to take down young redwood trees along 101 from Petaluma to Windsor for, Big Orange claims, "road widening and off-ramps." CalTrans says they may take as many as 900 trees along that stretch of 101, already a dismal commercial tunnel of backdoor shopping centers from North Marin to Healdsburg. Incredibly, Caltrans has yet to secure funding for the widening and off-ramp projects, but by golly when they get the money at least they'll have all the trees out of the way. Ultimately, there will be no redwoods on the Redwood Highway.

MARILYN DAVIS of Sebastopol comments: “The removal of the redwoods in Petaluma and Windsor sickens me. These trees are the life and breath of Sonoma County. As far as I am concerned, any highway improvements (if that is what you want to call turning our freeways into San Jose or LA) should be built around the trees.....not cutting them down! Cal Trans should take a look at Santa Barbara and see how trees, flowers and nature can live in harmony with the asphalt jungle that we create. The Redwood Highway no longer exists. Its name is a joke."

THE FOLLOWING FOUR bills wending their way through the state legislature may make it easier for counties to adopt Laura's Law: SB585: Clarifies that the Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63) funds may be used to implement Laura's Law.

SB664: States that counties may implement Laura's Law without a special vote by supervisors. AB1265: Allows individuals under Laura's Law to receive treatment for up to one year instead of the previous six-month maximum. AB1367: Almost identical to SB585.

AB1213 WOULD BAN the trapping of bobcats for the sale and export of their pelts, a business that has apparently developed mostly in Modoc and Siskiyou counties. Coats made from bobcat skins are quite popular in China. No reports yet of this appalling practice occurring in bobcat-rich Mendocino County.

DESPITE THE 6.5% stock market rally over the last three months, bellwether billionaires are quietly dumping their American stocks. Warren Buffett; John Paulson, who made a fortune betting on the subprime mortgage meltdown, is clearing out of US stocks too, as is George Soros who recently sold nearly all of his bank stocks, including shares of JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs. According to moneynews, “It’s very likely that these professional investors are aware of specific research that points toward a massive market correction, as much as 90%."

FROM LAST WEEK'S NORTHCOAST JOURNAL: "We want to give readers an update on an incident that happened Feb. 22 in the parking lot of the Humboldt County Library, reported in last week’s paper, especially since it has become the topic of much discussion on the Journal website and in this week’s letters to the editor. Journal Editor Carrie Peyton Dahlberg was returning books that day when she came upon a crime scene. It was well after a suspect was in custody, cuffed and in the patrol car. Three Eureka PD officers were searching a vehicle and pawing through several large garbage bags of, possibly, pot. There appeared to be no imminent danger. There was no police caution tape and officers were allowing other library patrons to come and go. Carrie pulled out her cellphone camera and went to work. It was then a Eureka police officer told her, 'No photos' — which she took as an order.

Carrie, who had worked as a reporter and editor for the Sacramento Bee for 23 years before moving to Humboldt, knows it is perfectly legal to take any picture in any public place — as a reporter or a member of the public — so she began to protest. It escalated from there. She was ordered to step back and she was threatened with arrest for interfering with an investigation. When she requested the names and ranks of the officers to file a complaint, she was initially met with refusal — in the form of silence. Later, she announced she was going to move in close enough to read their name badges. Eventually one officer complied with her request for identification in what can be described as a sarcastic, demeaning and unprofessional manner. On Wednesday, Feb. 27, Carrie filed a formal complaint. Police were video recording the incident — we’ve requested a copy — and there is an internal police investigation in progress. We should know those results soon and what actions the city will take. We know what actions we’d like the city to take. Whichever officer told a reporter, 'No photos,' needs further training. ('Step back' is OK; 'No photos' is not OK.) We’ve requested information on what regular training EPD officers receive on handling photography at a crime scene, and we will have a follow-up story soon. There’s also the matter of bullying and intimidation. If you don’t get it, pretend you’re 5‘1” and female. You’re facing three large, physically fit, far younger men — all in uniform, with badges, carrying weapons. One of them tells you not to take photos. Another orders you to step back, threatening you with arrest. He refuses to comply when you first ask his name.

Because they are big, strong and are wearing a uniform, and they speak in a commanding, authoritative voice — that doesn’t mean they are right. The officers involved need to be reminded of the law, have Carrie’s complaint placed in their personnel folders and most importantly — get some retraining on how to treat members of the public and the press. And an apology would be nice." — Judy Hodgson, Publisher, the North Coast Journal.

A VACANT ALBION house was destroyed by fire early Saturday night. The structure, which rests on a twenty-acre parcel and is owned by out-of-county residents, was fully engulfed in flames when the Albion Volunteers arrived.

THE COOLEST STORE in all of San Francisco is......the Tai Yick Trading Company on the northeast corner of Broadway and Stockton, a fascinating collection of ceramics, jars, wild permutations of the Buddha and, oddest of all, Maoist tableaus so conceptually peculiar I've been mulling over the political implications of them ever since I first saw them. (The store's been there for years.) For instance, and I noticed it had been sold the next time I visited Tai Yick, on a glazed platter there appears a clothespin-size miniature couple, man and wife presumably, both in Red Guard uniforms complete with red star caps. The man is seated while the woman cleans his teeth. The seated man was not The Great Helmsman to whom that kind of devotion might be considered by a ceramics artist of the Red Guard period worthy of artistic rendering. The Great Helmsman himself, complete with prosperous paunch, appears in mini-statues throughout the store. I bought a ten-incher for thirty bucks that has the old boy holding a ping-pong paddle, his lips painted a bright red. There's another, larger ceramic with Mao, Chou En Lai and, I think, Lin Piao, laughing in a careening jeep. The artist has tilted the jeep to one side to simulate motion. Most of the store is given over to jars and decorative items, heavy on lions, samurai-like warriors, fish (many of them smiling), and the Buddha forever merry. I suppose the jars are knockoffs of antiquities, but they're all intricately and beautifully done, and every square inch of the store up to the ceiling is covered with everything, it seems, in varying sizes. The most beautiful thing in the store is a four-foot sign featuring ceramic Chinese characters on a length of old wood, or facsimile thereof. I asked the proprietor, who could pass for a Buddha himself, what it said: "Welcome to my home, good wishes and so on," he replied.

ACCORDING TO A REPORT issued by the California League of Cities, the California State Association of Counties, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Mendocino and Lake counties are among seven counties rated as home to “poor” pavement conditions on a scale from zero to 49. Mendocino scored a 37 — second worst in the state behind Amador County. Lake County roads came in at 40. It would cost Mendocino County, including its incorporated towns, some $617 million to bring our roads up to speed (sic), the report said.

DEPARTMENT OF EUPHEMISM: The Mendocino County Jail, according to the Fort Bragg Advocate, is now called the "Mendocino County Adult Detention Facility in Ukiah."

THE ONGOING REHAB SAGA of Ukiah’s Palace Hotel, once Mendocino County’s grandest is, well, ongoing. There have been all manner of, as the libs say, issues with the stately and long abandoned structure in the center of town, ranging from who exactly owns it to the search for an authorized asbestos contractor to begin work on the place. It has apparently been established that the premises are owned by Unique Properties, and a unique Marin County woman named Eladia Laines is authorized to speak for Unique. Ms. Laines once claimed that a mysterious team of acrobatic female vandals had hacked into the Palace from the roof and had done some additional damage to the old hotel.

LAST WEDNESDAY, according to the Ukiah Daily Journal’s Justine Frederickson, “The [Ukiah City] council discussed whether to keep the building on its list of goals for the coming fiscal year, which included ‘Determine the city's future role related to long term vacancy of (the) Palace Hotel.’

TO WHICH COUNCILMAN BALDWIN responded, “I think it's going to get demolished unless the city participates in its ownership, so I don't think it can be a significant priority for this year. We should bring in the wrecking ball, or look into (the options we have) to borrow the money and invest, because I'm convinced now that 70% of the citizens want it saved.”

PEOPLE do indeed want the Palace restored, but restoring it would take lots of money the city doesn’t have to bring it back to even a semblance of its lost glory, and even if it's brought back, will it be economically viable.

IN OTHER NEWS from the County seat, Ukiah Police Chief Chris Dewey said his department is beset by a “homeless influx” whose violent minority forces the cops to make several arrests a day.

A BOLD EDITORIAL in Sunday's Ukiah Daily Journal by editor KC Meadows urges that something be done about the large number of..... what? Respectable people down on their luck? Outdoor drunks? Fresh air dopeheads? Petty crooks? Crazy people? Harmless vagabonds, songs in their hearts?

RESPECTABLE PEOPLE down on their luck tend to live in their vehicles while they search for work and a permanent place to live. They are fairly numerous in urban and suburban areas but are generally invisible. The difference between them and the kind of people who alarm or dismay much of the settled part of the population is that the bona fide homeless are trying. They aren't lurching up and down State Street drunk or cranked out of their minds committing misdemeanors and making nuisances of themselves. There are a whole lot of people on the streets who aren't trying, among them full-time criminals of the cruder type, who live out their days with one ambition — to stay loaded. Used to be these people went straight out to Talmage where they were pleasantly housed in separate rehab units for drunks, for drug people, for incompetents, for the criminally insane. They even had a baseball team and a working farm. People unable or unwilling to care for themselves were not permitted to live on the streets, and that's where any meaningful discussion of today's problem should begin.

BUT IT DOESN'T start there because there's no real strategy, let alone the leadership that would be required to do something about the pure numbers of free range Thanatoids roaming our fading republic. That strategy would have to come from the top, at the federal level. Anybody see the possibility of that happening any time soon?


THERE ISN'T a state hospital system in California, thanks to Ronald Reagan, and there won't be a restoration of a state hospital system thanks to the bipartisan servants of the oligarchy presently defunding all the civilized amenities we used to take for granted, a state hospital among them.

SIMPLY ROUSTING street people only propels them to some other undeserving community. And rousting them, as a glance at Willits, Ukiah and Fort Bragg makes clear, would require a couple of full-time cops in all three communities who would do nothing but rousting. Yes, there's that many Thanatoids. But for now, it would be a giant step towards clarity if we stop describing life style derelicts as "homeless."

A SAN FRANCISCAN OBSERVES: "After years of observation, I've concluded there's a whole lot of reason why the homeless are homeless and it goes beyond addictions, laziness and indifference. In the long run it has a lot more to do with a lack of common sense, not considering the ramifications of one's actions, failing to take personal responsibility for oneself and being just plain stupid. All of the above is the difference between getting oneself off the street or making the streets one's permanent address. The enablers in this city are additional factor. They have created an industry."

A STATEMENT seconded by Pete Wilford, also of San Francisco: "After getting out of the army I knocked around the country for a few years, staying in rented rooms and working odd jobs. I would come to town, get a room and, neatly dressed, go down to the rent-a-drunk outfit or employment office. I invariably got a job immediately. I wasn't fussy - took whatever was offered. When I had enough cash I was off to the next town. In all that time I never met anyone who was homeless because he was 'down on his luck' or mentally handicapped. They ALL had simply chosen a lifestyle of not working - begging for a living. To this day I have no sympathy whatsoever for 'the homeless'. Give them nothing. People like to say 'It's different now'. No, it isn't. Anyone who really wants to work can find a job."

AND A THIRD SAN FRANCISCAN OBSERVES, "The discussion of street people in America is important, but I don't agree with comments that try to heap blame on the victims. The reasons people end up on the street are as varied and numerous as their number. Instead of trying to discern some common defect among the members of this rapidly growing group, the larger view would include context. This condition is the fruition of "Mourning in America," where greed is good, and taxes and representative government and regulation of capitalism's excesses are bad. If you are avaricious, it's a great place to be; if not, it's Welcome to Trickle World. Consider this: from 1932-1981 the top tax rate in this country was kept well above 50%. This kept a lid on excessive greed and allowed the middle class, and the country as a whole, to grow and flourish. Wealth was shared. Since 1982 the top tax rate has remained well below 50%, and we are living with the results, a winner-take-all society where the number of losers continues to grow. In this healthcare-for-profit country, all that stands between most of us and the street is a misstep in health. As of last year, six Walmart heirs owned more wealth than 40 percent of Americans. The terrible irony in this fact is the Walton business plan thrives when large numbers of people have to scrimp. Walmart is the perfect icon for our time."

FROM DAVID HELVARG’S new book, “The Golden Shore,” an AVA recommended read: “North of Gualala is Anchor Bay and its beach where rumrunners used to drop their loads during Prohibition. Another half hour up the road is the town of Point Arena, a place author Stephan King would appreciate. There’s something insular and vaguely threatening about what some tourist books call ‘this sleepy hamlet.’ I remember a night my late love, Nancy Ledansky, and I couldn’t find a place to stay driving south down Highway 1 on a foggy Saturday night and finally we found a cheap motel here. The town was empty, cold and clammy and the taciturn innkeeper acted insulted when we pointed out there were no towels in our room and we walked under the marquee of the empty theater to a café where we were the only customers and a waitress who’d been crying served us soup from a can. Today Point Arena’s population is around 450 and its local politics have turned toxic as a result of a two-year campaign to recall the mayor and city council. Main Street is a hilly affair with the only movie theater for about one hundred miles….”

THINGS DO SEEM inclined to the sinister when the fog rolls in, but just up the road at Elk, even in the full glory of King Sol, I’ve always had to suppress an impulse to scream, “I don’t care if Charlie Acker does live here! There’s something fishy about this place!” Ferndale, a larger version of Elk, does that to me, too. Creeps me out. I’m not sure what it is about these places that’s so infuriating. Maybe it’s the tidiness of everything, the precious architectural exhibitionism, the suffocating smugness one senses in the residents. Of course anywhere that the Northcoast’s groove-ocracy comes to dominate, as it has in Point Arena, Arcata, Elk, the entire English-speaking population of Anderson Valley, the West Side of Ukiah, a silently screaming civic pathology takes hold and intense little wars are always breaking out, wars about nothing at all beyond personalities. That’s why at election time the different sides take out newspaper ads with all the names supporting their candidate, just like back in the 7th grade when Donnie ran against Debbie for class president. Natch, the groovies dominate public employment — the whole show — from schools, to public bureaucracies to municipalities, to the courts, where blandly liberal opinions prevail as unvarying as the suburban incubators that hatched them. Tricia and Bruce Patterson, recently relocated to Oregon east of the Cascades, prompted Tricia to comment, "It's nice to live in a place where everyone doesn't think alike." West of the Cascades is pretty much West Ukiah. Squared.

HIGH SPEED GANG GIRLS, Tracy Lynette Cox, 34, of Redwood Valley, and Kamara Marie Page, 24, of Ukiah, have been arrested in connection with the recent high speed chase that saw one fugitive shoot at a pursuing Sheriff’s Department deputy. Miss Cox, a veteran of many rides in the back seats of police cars, is looking at charges of suspicion of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit a crime. She’s also charged with harboring a fugitive and committing a crime while free on bail.

THAT’S QUITE A LOAD of charges for simply being in the car when Walter Kristopher Miller, 42, of Ukiah, and Christopher Skaggs, 30, of Redwood Valley, sped off after being stopped for no registration tags and, it seems, were soon shooting out the radiator of Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Brewster's patrol car during the ensuing high speed chase.

MILLER AND SKAGGS were at first assumed to be the only persons in the fleeing vehicle, but Miss Cox was in the car, too, when Miller, a Third Striker, is believed to have leaned out the window of the car to crank off a few rounds at the pursuing deputy.

MISS COX and Skaggs were strolling down South State Street the next day when they were arrested. Miller surrendered a day later after a tense four-hour standoff when he walked out of a Ukiah motel with his hands up. Sheriff Allman himself arrested Miller and drove him to jail. Skaggs, incidentally, is lighting up the facebook pages with vows of undying love from several inland ladies. Well, the guy certainly does seem to be an exciting date. Not many local girls can look forward to high-speed chases and shootouts with the cops when they depart their front doors. “Good night, mom. Good night, dad. Chris will have me home early.”

MISS PAGE comes into the high-speed chase picture because she allegedly drove into the hills west of Ukiah to give Miller a ride back to town when he, Skaggs and Miss Cox bailed out of their car and ran into the woods off the Boonville-Ukiah Road. She’s charged with suspicion of violating felony probation and aiding a fugitive from police.

THE CALIFORNIA COASTAL COMMISSION has rejected the Navy's cockamamie scheme to test underwater sonar and explosives off the Southern California coast. Friday's Commission ruling to leave the whales in peace was unanimous.

WHILE WE'RE at sea, Saturday morning as I walked down the Immigrant Overlook stairs above Baker Beach in the SF Presidio, about 40 commando-looking dudes were hiking up the stairs, several of them carrying comrades fireman-style. As any veteran of the regular military can tell you, everyday troops come in all shapes, sizes and, these days, genders, few of them in sizes identical to those of NFL running backs. But these guys were obviously an elite force of some kind with the athlete physiques that go with Seals, I guess. I've only met one Seal and he wasn't weightlifter burly like these guys. I've seen smaller mystery groups like these paddling into the beach in the early morning in inflatable rafts with no sign of a mother ship, but this is the first time I've seen a platoon of them. They all stood aside as I walked past, which I thought was excessively courteous in the circumstances considering they were working and I was simply out for some early morning sweat. “At ease, corporal,” I said to the guy at the foot of the stairs. “Captain, actually,” he said, with a laugh.

RAND PAUL'S a crank, and so's his old man, but Rand did us all a big favor with his filibuster last week, pinning down the Obamaniacs on the use of drones on Americans on American soil. Paul had written to Attorney General Holder specifically about that question, and Holder had written back: “It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.” But after Paul's day-long filibuster had smoked out Holder and the President on this most crucial issue, Holder wrote to Paul again: “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil? The answer to that question is no.”

ODD INSTANCE OF VANDALISM, if that's what it was, is being investigated by the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office. Early last Friday morning, thousands of HumCo Suddenlink customers lost cable, telephone and Internet services when vandals broke into underground vaults and cut fiber optic lines in Ferndale and Trinidad. First Ferndale then, two hours later, Trinidad. Customers in Big Lagoon, Trinidad, Scotia, Ferndale, and parts of McKinleyville and Rio Dell were affected but back on-line by Friday afternoon. The damage is estimated at $10,000.There's no known market for internet cable, so the episodes seem to amount to vandalism for the heck of it.

SPRING FORWARD, fall back. If I hadn't been listening to NPR last Saturday morning I wouldn't have known I had these two tick-tock options: "Don't forget that Daylight Savings Time begins Sunday. You can put your clocks forward an hour at 2am Sunday or you can do it before you go to bed Saturday night."

PIE IN THE SKY THEATER Presents a pair of John McNamara comedies Banned in Potter Valley* directed by Phil Baldwin march 15, 16, 20, 22, 23 Saturday Afternoon Clubhouse, Church & Oak streets, downtown Ukiah, 8:30pm, $10 General & $5 Students. Advance tickets on sale at Mendocino Book Company (*After six sold out performances in 1998 and 2000, under two PVHS administrations, a third administration disallowed production of “Personal Effects” in 2008. This will be the first Mendocino performance for “Present Tense.” Both John McNamara one-acts are presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York. Intermission Refreshments on Sale by Ukiah High School Environmental Club.)

IT COULD HAPPEN HERE. According to a story in the on-line newspaper Lake Tahoe News, 14 members of that County’s Grand Jury resigned en masse last month, and then the presiding judge disbanded the Grand Jury out of existence as an entity because replacements could not be found and they could no longer conduct business. El Dorado officials are not saying what exactly the problem was that caused the mass resignation, but it probably had something to do with…

LAKE TAHOE NEWS reporter Kathryn Reed wrote, “Sources close to the situation told Lake Tahoe News one member of the grand jury was regularly meeting with former El Dorado County Supervisor Jack Sweeney to tell him what the grand jury was doing. This violates state Penal Code. That individual essentially became a poison pill within the group, creating distrust and disharmony, and prevented others from doing the job they were tasked with. Sweeney is good friends with Supervisor Ron Briggs. On Dec. 18, 2012, John Briggs, father of the supervisor, was before the Board of Supervisors representing the Briggs Family Trust. On a 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Briggs recusing himself, the others agreed to purchase 5.2 acres from the trust on which a future courthouse is likely to be built. Judge Bailey is the brother-in-law of the supervisor and son-in-law to the elder Briggs. And it is Bailey who watches over the grand jury, which looks into county matters, which his in-laws are intricately involved in.”

NO ONE IS SAYING, however, what the Grand Jury was investigating or what the suspect juror was informing the Supervisor about. Nor is there any mention of charges being considered against the juror who spoke out of school.

THE COOLEST STORE in all of San Francisco is… the Tai Yick Trading Company on the northeast corner of Broadway and Stockton, a fascinating collection of ceramics, jars, wild permutations of the Buddha and, oddest of all, Maoist tableaus so conceptually peculiar I've been mulling over the political implications ever since I first saw them. (The store's been there for years.) For instance, on a glazed platter there appears a clothespin-size miniature couple, politically correct Maoist man and wife presumably, both in Red Guard uniforms complete with red star caps. The woman is cleaning the man's teeth. The seated man is not The Great Helmsman to whom that kind of devotion might be considered by a ceramics artist of the Red Guard period worthy of artistic rendering, hence the mystery. The Great Helmsman himself, complete with prosperous paunch, appears in mini-statues throughout the store. I bought a ten-incher for thirty bucks that has the old boy holding a ping-pong paddle, his lips painted a vivid red. There's another, larger ceramic with Mao, Chou En Lai and, I think, Lin Piao, seated and laughing in a careening jeep. The artist has tilted the jeep to one side to simulate motion. Most of the store is given over to jars and decorative items, heavy on lions, samurai-like warriors, fish (many of them smiling), and the Buddha, forever merry and well-nourished. None of that Hindu self-denial for buddy-boy. I suppose the jars are knockoffs of antiquities, but they're all intricately and beautifully done, and every square inch of the store up to the ceiling is covered with two or three of everything, it seems, in varying sizes. The most beautiful piece in the store is a four-foot sign featuring ceramic Chinese characters on a length of old wood, or facsimile thereof. I asked the proprietor, who could pass for a Buddha himself, what it said: “Welcome to my home, good wishes and so on,” he replied. It goes for more than two grand.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: The Gatekeepers, a documentary film featuring six former heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli equivalent of the CIA. These guys aren't liberals, as they make clear with their occasional recollections of knocking off this or that guy, one with an exploding telephone, but all agree that their many tactical successes have occurred in a strategic vacuum, and all six are for a long-term goal of accommodation with the Palestinians out of the very real fear that without an accommodation millions of people on both sides are doomed. The film ought to be required viewing for Americans, many of whom haven't the faintest idea of the political Middle East. Along with The Gatekeepers, we suggest a book called "The General's Son — Journey of an Israeli in Palistine" by Miko Peled, introduction by Alice Walker. Friends gave me the book, which I found a fascinating account of the transformation of a famous Israeli general, Matti Peled, from hawk to advocate of a two-state solution. Author Miko Peled is the General's son.

I FOUND a new movie called "Compliance" much more disturbing than The Gatekeepers, probably because The Gatekeepers, apart from some vague battlefield shots, is six very smart old guys sitting around talking, while Compliance — "inspired by true events — is a vivid account of a sadistic prank that ends in a rape, all of it graphically depicted. I thought the depiction of working-class people as easily duped was unfair, especially when you consider all the upscale "smart" people in this country who are duped by the millions every four years at election time. In a nation of dupes is it surprising that a fake cop can persuade a teenage fast food worker into humiliating herself? This thing is, however, very well written and brilliantly acted, but it's a painful 90 minutes watching the horror unfold.

THE DAFFODILS are up but where's Glenda? Glenda Anderson, the Press Democrat's own golden daff of the paper's "Ukiah Bureau." Hasn't been heard from in months, but Mike Sweeney, Glenda's explosive love interest, carries on every day as Mendocino County's chief garbage bureaucrat. A welfare check by the Ukiah PD may be in order here. Glenda lives on Hortense.

THAT'S A GOOD thing Mirla Gaxiola of the high school is doing. Mirla's senior project is a men's league basketball tournament whose proceeds benefit Oakland Children's Hospital.

ACCORDING to the local Farm Bureau's Devon Jones, the recent decision regarding the Inland Wine Mob's frost protection draw down of the springtime Russian River in Mendo Superior Court (Judge Moorman) is interpreted this way: "The State Water Board argued that quantifying the Sonoma County Water Agency's and other diversions was not necessary because the rapid draw down in stream flows that allegedly impacts salmonids 'is only a problem identified with frost protection diversions....' The Court found that this claim lacks any evidentiary support in the voluminous evidence that comprised the administrative record upon which the State Water Board relied in adopting Section 862 and the EIR. Instead, the ruling holds that 'to conclude that the cumulative instantaneous draw downs by farmers (sic) are the cause of salmonid strandings without also taking into account the effect of the Sonoma County Water Agency's diversion of water upstream and the failure to release sufficient water during that same dry time, is not reasonable.'"

I HAD TO READ the above twice before I got it, but I think I finally got it. In other words, the baby fish, already an endangered species, were swimming merrily in the river and stream water that "voluminous evidence" seems to indicate they need to live when suddenly one frosty morning, grape growers began pumping directly from feeder streams and the Russian River, stranding the fish and killing them. But, the judge says, because no one knows how much water was flowing out of Lake Mendocino, most of which is owned by Sonoma County, the sudden disappearance of the water the fish live in can't be blamed on the Grape Mob who just happened to turn all their unmetered pumps on up and down the Russian River from Redwood Valley to Hopland at the same time.

WILD LIFE UPDATE from Fish and Game: "Hair loss syndrome of black-tailed deer was first seen in Mendocino around 2005. The County geographical distribution of hair loss syndrome has steadily expanded since its first appearance and can be observed in black-tailed deer groups along the coast and inland valleys of Mendocino. The condition is caused by a heavy infestation of individual deer with a Eurasian louse. The normal hosts in this area of this louse are Fallow deer which are not seriously affected by the lice but continue to be a reservoir. Eurasian louse are believed to have been introduced into Washington State with Asian or fallow deer farming in the early 1990’s.When black-tailed deer become infested, they tend to develop a hypersensitivity\allergic reaction to the lice, which causes irritation of the skin and excessive rubbing by the deer, leading to loss of the guard hairs and their sides leaving the observed yellow or white patches. Observations of this louse infestations are the heaviest and most visual during late winter and early spring, and many affected deer, especially fawns, die during this time."

PAINFUL LAYOFFS FOR WILLITS SCHOOLS reports Jennifer Poole of the Willits Weekly (

THE WILLITS SCHOOL BOARD OK'd issuing pink slips for 11.5 teachers at its meeting last night — well, the equivalent in hours of 11.5 fulltime teachers. Some of these layoffs may be rescinded if the state Legislature includes Governor Brown’s proposed local control education funding formula in next year’s budget or through negotiations with the Willits Teachers Association. But layoffs for the following school year are required to be issued by March 15.

POSITIONS eliminated include: nine full-time-equivalent elementary school teachers; 1 FTE high school English teacher; 1 FTE middle school Science teacher; and .75 FTE middle school Physical Education teacher. The names of individual teachers who will be receiving pink slips are not yet public information.

THE WORKING BUDGET for the 2013/14 school year assumes a $634,673 savings from the elimination of 10.5 fulltime teachers and another $102,500 savings from the retirement of one fulltime administrator who will not be replaced.

OTHER PINK SLIPS will go to 2 FTE certificated administrative services staffers and 1 part-time Special Education instructional assistant, as well as to fulltime facilities project director Wayne Basehore and fulltime BRONCO director Pat Sanborn. The “Safe Schools, Healthy Students” BRONCO grant is just about completed, and Interim Superintendent Debbie Pearson told school board members Wednesday night: “The building project is coming to a close, and we expect to be finished up with all the figures by the end of next week.”

“FIGURES” refers to the total final costs of all the completed construction work, with all extra expenses and change orders added in. That’s an important figure, because it will finalize the original estimate of $3.7 million remaining in the bond construction budget, which will likely need to be used to repay a nearly $5 million bond anticipation note loan due in July 2014.

BUSINESS MANAGER Katie Aguilar told board members that Brown’s proposal, if adopted as is, would guarantee a 10.25% increase in funding for Willits its first year. The “local control” formula would provide more funding to districts with a high percentage of free lunch students, like Willits, and also to districts with many English language learners. But next year’s budget must be based on current funding, not on a proposal that has not yet been passed.

WILLITS WEEKLY looked at the list of estimated increases for school districts released by the CA Dept. of Finance two weeks ago, and that list shows state funding for Willits schools could go from $6,940 per student annually to $11,171 over seven years. It’s not clear what already existing state-funded programs are included in those figures.

FEDERAL “sequestration” — or across-the-board cuts to federal programs instituted March 1 — will mean an 8% cut in Willits school funding next year, or $65,000, Aguilar told the board. The district also underestimated the loss of students to the Willits charter schools this year by 26 students, so next year’s budget will have to be adjusted downward to account for that, too.

RELOCATING THE DISTRICT OFFICE from its leased location on Pearl Street to somewhere on a school campus is projected to save $30,000. Another savings is $11,445 from a district office clerk who has taken another job, and who will not be replaced.

A TOTAL of $778,618 in reductions is built into the proposed 2013/14 school budget.

IN JANUARY, the Mendocino County Office of Education told the Willits school board the level of deficit spending in Willits in recent years was unacceptable, and the district had to reduce its budget by at least $750,000 this year, with another $750,000 in cuts likely to be needed next year.

THE DISTRICT has already been reducing its budget: $500,000 in school cuts have been made every year since 2001, but cuts in expenses have not kept pace with cuts in funding and lower funding due to declining enrollment.

COUNTY OFFICES of education are required to review school district budgets and intervene whenever the county superintendent determines that a school district may not meet its financial obligations for the current or subsequent two years. In the worst-case scenario, a district facing insolvency can be taken over by a state administrator.

SCHOOL BOARD trustees expressed their unhappiness with the “unavoidable” budget cuts. “I’m not happy,” trustee Saprina Rodriguez said, “but it’s a necessary part of our job to do this.”

“NONE OF US want to see cuts,” said trustee Alex Bowlds. “In many cases we know these people: There are names to these cuts.” But, Bowlds continued, voters have entrusted the school board with the job of keeping the district solvent."

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