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Mendocino County Today: March 21, 2013

WILLITS BYPASS? Hard to understand. The traffic through Willits is an embarrassment always and impossible on weekends. You can avoid through-town traffic by turning right at Brown's Corner and going over to Center. Can short-cut to CA-20 by turning left on Holly — just before the hospital — and follow the traffic to 20. O yea? How about southbound?


YOU DON’T THINK cops earn their pay? Monday evening, a little before 7pm, a mentally ill, or severely drugged-out 39-year-old man, fled the Ukiah Valley Medical Center the instant his restraints were removed. Nude as he sprinted out of the hospital, the berserk patient yanked out his catheter which, of course, caused what the police described as “profuse bleeding” from his groin. The first cop on the scene said the crazed man did a kind of dead-eyed zombie walk towards him, at which point the officer zapped the man with his Taser. He fell but removed the Taser’s probes and again ran off. A second cop appeared and Tased the man a second time. Still struggling despite the all-out Tase blitz, it took a half-dozen officers to finally subdue the fellow, by now a bloody, squirming, freaked-out mass of pure psychosis.

EARLIER in the evening, the Tase-proof guy had been taken into custody by Sheriff’s deputies “as a danger to himself and others.” According to the Ukiah Police Department, “the patient had been detained after threatening to kill someone, and was being accompanied by a mental health worker while being medically cleared by UVMC staff for incarceration at the Mendocino County Jail.” The patient had been restrained earlier, but apparently the restraints were removed because "patients are required to remain unrestrained for a certain period of time before being transported to a separate facility for treatment."

TO WHICH William David French Jr. responds: “That thing about having to be unrestrained for a certain amount of time is a lie. There is no excuse for this incident. No one was doing their job. UVMC has never been willing to do its legally mandated job when it comes to dealing with people with severe mental illness. And we all know that mental health is a joke. Everyone should be ashamed of how terrible the system in Mendocino County is. I was the main mental health advocate in the County for six years before moving to San Francisco. I was sick and tired of nothing every changing. And it appears things are only getting worse.”


THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE has identified the Fort Bragg man who shot himself in the parking lot outside the Mendocino Coast District Hospital Sunday morning as Thomas Henry Burnap, 64. We understand that Mr. Burnap had lived on the Mendocino Coast for some time but we know nothing more about him.


MUCH UNHAPPINESS at the Cloverdale City Council’s decision to raise water rates 55% and sewer rates 20%. The combined water and sewer bill for a typical residence, now $58.92 per month, will increase to $85.79, rather than the $91.21 previously proposed.


DOWNSTREAM DRAWS on the finite waters of the overdrawn Russian River are becoming ever more obvious, and the need to meter those draws upstream from Potter Valley to Healdsburg, should become ever more urgent. Yes, Cloverdale also taps its water table, but most of that growing burg’s water comes from the Russian, and the Russian is dependent on the South Fork of the Eel, which is diverted through an essentially 19th century redwood-timbered tunnel at Potter Valley, and from there into Lake Mendocino just north of Ukiah. The water thus diverted and stored at Lake Mendocino is mostly owned by Sonoma County which, although Sonoma County too is tapped out because it hasn’t tapped into the plentiful waters of Lake Sonoma, sells a lot of diverted Eel River water to Marin County at a premium price. The entire water supply for several million people from Potter Valley to Sausalito is precarious in the extreme, and Cloverdale is lucky to be paying under a hundred bucks a month for water and sewage disposal. The next big earthquake will probably turn everyone’s taps off for some time, especially those taps fed by an ancient tunnel in the hills of Mendocino County.


FOR ALL THE CELEBRATING of free enterprise we hear in this country, commercial rents in Mendocino County make it almost impossible for mom and pops to make a go of small businesses. There are Ukiah landlords who can afford to sit on vacant storefronts for months, even years in one School Street case, thus assuring the deaths of downtowns in struggling communities like Ukiah everywhere in the land. San Francisco rents are even more egregious, which comes as no surprise, but even I was startled to learn that one of my favorite bookstores, Adobe Books in the Mission, pays an extortionate $4,500 a month. It’s businesses like Adobe that give the town the charm it markets to tourists. The City’s “progressive” board of supervisors is unlikely to enact or even discuss commercial rent control at a time when landlords are demanding a rollback of the dwindling number of rent-controlled apartments because, well, because the owning classes have always called the tune in SF, and they’ve never called it as loudly as they do these days.


EDITOR: Bypassing the Issue

Where are the Willits Bypass bandwagon protesters while bulldozers blade thousands of miles of destructive roads throughout the mountains of this county? Who is stepping in front of the big yellow cats as they flatten the tops of ridges and terrace the hillsides for grow scenes, sending piles of sediment into our streams and rivers? Why haven’t there been cries of outrage as outsiders have raped and pillaged this beautiful land in the greedy pursuit of cash and materialistic gain?

I don't want to see an expansion of a highway system that supports our addiction to petroleum, but Highway 101 Willits is a nightmare. Cal Trans should try to get the polluting diesel trucks out of the stop-and-go traffic of downtown Willits.

The Willits bypass seems like a big wasteful project, but CalTrans must go through every legal, bureaucratic, engineering, and environmental hoop in the book to get a project like this off the ground. On the other hand, Cowboy Cat Drivers, many of whom are unregulated, unscrupulous, and unaccountable, are doing the dirty work of big time growers, who are leaving sections of this county and region with a legacy of pollution, sedimentation, and scarred landscapes. This is all being done in the name of the cannabis industry, to which so many in this county are indebted. It’s much more convenient to turn a blind eye to the annual assault and destruction of rural Mendocino County, and instead put the focus on a CalTrans project. After all, CalTrans is the Man, and we'd rather fight the Man instead of the "entrepreneurs" who come and take our resources and leave us with their trash.

We should all acknowledge the protesters for standing up for what they believe will make a better tomorrow, and please, let’s not forget about the every-day destruction of our forests, valleys and riparian corridors that dwarfs the impact of the Willits bypass.

Philip Keary, Northern Mendocino County



I've got to agree with Alex Rohrbaugh in his recent letter about the amazing statement by Phil Baldwin about possibly involving the city of Ukiah in the ruins of the Palace Hotel. I guess he was quoted as saying something about 60% of the people in Ukiah want to see the Palace rebuilt, so... What exactly that has to do with the price of beans I have no idea; that same percentage of people probably believe in angels too, but that does not change the reality of what may or may not be economically feasible.

I have long believed that the Palace is simply too far gone for there to be any possibility of an economically rational reconstruction of it. If it made economic sense to have such a building there, the simplest, least expensive and certainly most structurally sound solution would be to raze it and build a modern steel frame structure, perhaps reusing the same brick for the façade; it could be made to look exactly the way it looks now, but with a modern seismic structure. Of course, it would cost eight or $10 million, I imagine, probably about the same as rebuilding what is there now, and good luck finding an investor to put up that kind of money in a town like Ukiah, with as many empty storefronts as we have here.

No, the only sensible solution today is the one originally suggested, years ago, by local legal elder statesman Jared Carter, who suggested that the city condemn it and tear it down at public expense, then put a lien on the property for that cost (which would probably zero out the value of the parcel), then put in a public parking lot for the downtown. If, years down the line, someone comes forward with a worthwhile project and the money to build it, the city could sell it to them at that point.

Any work performed on that building in its present form is simply money thrown down the drain; it WILL eventually be torn down.

Sincerely, John Arteaga, Ukiah

PS. This thing with the Willits bypass, to me, is kind of an indicator for whether or not people accept the basic ideas of democracy. I mean, though many of our institutions have failed us miserably in recent decades; departments of education who seem to try to impede the educational process, Department of Labor that is openly hostile to labor, financial regulatory agencies who are in bed with the folks that they are supposed to be policing, etc. Nevertheless, in theory at least, we, as a society, have set up all kinds of agencies; Fish and Game, Water Quality, Air Resources, etc. whose job it is to make sure that any and all projects take all these things into consideration before they are approved.

After at least 40 years of planning, during which time all of the relevant agencies have had plenty of opportunity to make sure that the Willits bypass is designed in the least harmful possible way, once the long-awaited highway funds finally come through, and they are ready to break ground, suddenly hundreds of folks who had never seen the inside of a meeting room during 40 years of planning suddenly become self-appointed highway design experts, telling Caltrans how wrong they are about everything.

There is a reason why California has such high land values compared to most of the country; it is these very planning and regulating agencies that we, in a democratic system, have created, to prevent willy-nilly sprawling development everywhere, and make sure that things that are built make some kind of sense. It is this acceptance of citizenship in a democracy that it seems to me is being rejected by these folks, who, I think, have more in common with an insurgency, like true believers in 'the party', in this case, the idea of green-ness ubber alles.

I may be cynical about many public departments and agencies, but it seems like Caltrans and all of the California regulatory agencies that had to sign off on this project are well-intentioned, non-corrupted and basically doing the job that each was designed to do. For gods sake, let them do their job; the whole North Coast needs this piece of infrastructure, and it would be a boon to Willits as well. I think that even today's

naysayers will have to admit that once it is done.


CHRISTINA AANESTAD WRITES: Hi friends and colleagues, I'm moving closer to the Bay Area and am looking for work and a home. While I'm most adept at radio news and production, I'm open to work outside of the field, that my communication skills will complement. Part time, contract or temporary employment is good too. As some of you may know, I'm currently producing and anchoring the evening news at KMUD in Humboldt County every other week on a contract basis. That contract ends April 1st and due to financial constraints may not be renewed. And, I'm looking for more work closer to the Bay Area. I'm also looking for a simple home in Sonoma County in the $600 or $700 price range. A large studio or 1 bedroom water tower or cottage in a country setting is ideal. It's for me and my cat. I have excellent work and rental references. If you have any suggestions or leads, I'm open to them, so feel free to email or call me at (707) 355-0183. Thanks for helping, Christina Aanestad, Publisher, Mendocino Country Independent (707) 355-0183


WATER DAY III: Exploring Solutions to Improve Eel River Flow and Water

Quality — The third annual Water Day community forum will be held on Saturday March 30 starting at 9 AM and running all day at the Mattel Community Center in Redway. The subject of the meeting is the health of the Eel River and how people can change their land and water use practices to allow it to recover. The program will feature brief presentations and more lengthy panel discussions that are aimed at answering community questions and giving people enough information so they can take action to implement water conservation and reduce pollution.

The day will begin with presentations on the health of the Eel River. Keith Bouma-Gregson is pursuing a doctorate at UC Berkeley and assisting the Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP) with 2013 algae monitoring. He will talk about why the river has become susceptible to toxic algae and how we might be able to combat it. ERRP Volunteer Coordinator Patrick Higgins will summarize 2012 water quality, flow and Chinook salmon population assessment results and then he and Keith will join a panel of other experts and volunteers to field audience questions.

Water conservation is going to be central to getting the Eel River back in good health and the presentation and panel on this topic in the late morning will discuss technology transfer of the successful water conservation project in the upper Mattole River to the Eel River basin. Humboldt State University graduate student Sara Shremmer will frame the issues and then join a panel that includes water conservation experts, a hydrologist and someone with knowledge of California water law.

WATER DAY II at the Mateel Community Center*

Kristin Nevedal of the Emerald Growers Association will chair a session on sustainable agricultural practices with the aim of reducing water pollution. Science now is confirming what many observers have noticed: forest and watershed health profoundly impact water yield. During a forest and watershed health session, those in attendance can ask experts how they can help increase water yield, reduce erosion and decrease fire risk through improved management. Getting shade back on Eel River tributaries would help to cool water, which improves habitat for salmon, but also reduces algae blooms. A panel of riparian restoration experts will talk about how people get stream-side trees back and possibly acquire grant funds for large scale projects.

The Eel River Recovery Project is the primary sponsor of Water Day III. Co-sponsors include the Trees Foundation, Mateel Community Center, Sanctuary Forest, Redwood Forest Foundation, Friends of Van Duzen River, EPIC, Friends of Eel, Institute for Sustainable Forestry, Salmonid Restoration Federation, CalTrout and KMUD Radio. Chautauqua Natural Foods, Pacific Watershed Associates, Bioengineering Associates and the Emerald Growers Association are underwriting the forum. Los Bagels, Eureka Natural Foods and the Lost Coast Brewery are supporting Water Day with donations.

Doors will open with coffee and bagels at 8:30 AM and the program begins at 9 AM. There is no charge for admission, but donations for lunch will be accepted. For more information or to volunteer to help on Water Day, call the Eel River Recovery Project at 223-7200.



EUREKA — Caltrans announced today that a new website is available offering the latest official news and information regarding the Willits Bypass Project. The Willits Bypass Project News, located at, will include news releases, multimedia content, and will address trending questions and common misconceptions about the project. It is mobile phone friendly and has a subscription feature which allows subscribers to receive an email notification of new posts. The Willits Bypass Project will relieve congestion, reduce delays, and improve safety for traffic and pedestrians along US Route 101 through Willits in Mendocino County. This $210 million highway improvement project is funded by $136 million in Proposition 1B funds, the 2006 voter-approved transportation bond. Please direct comments or content suggestions regarding the Willits Bypass Project News to Phil Frisbie, Jr., Public Information Officer, at 707-441-4678 or .


  1. James Marmon March 21, 2013

    On the mentally ill patient who fled the hospital

    According to the Ukiah Daily Journal article, “another case worker from the Mendocino County Health Department was called to respond as the first case worker had left.” Did the first mental health worker leave the hospital before or after the man fled the hospital? Who left UVMC first, the mental health case worker or the mental health patient?

  2. wineguy March 21, 2013

    We need the bypass! Willits will become a quaint little town like 1954 again, and folks heading North can keep on truckin’ and save 30-45 minutes of aggravation and gas too…not sure what these people are doing but they should move on to something more productive…watershed monitoring with the wineries sucking the water out of all the rivers, creeks and ground…that is something worth protesting!

  3. John Sakowicz March 21, 2013

    Good luck, Christina Aanestad. We miss you!

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