MS. MEREDITH SEIFERT of Willits appeared as Man Beater of the Week a few issues ago. Meredith called Tuesday. She was justly unhappy. Charges had been dropped but her gallant ex was cyber-casting our item about Meredith to his friends. As often happens, Mr. Seifert was the aggressor. The former Mrs. S says she bit him out of self-defense “to keep him from crushing me.” But he was able to show the responding officer a bite mark and off she went to jail. I tried to explain to her that we run the Man Beater feature in defense of victimized women whose slobbo mates start these domestic beefs then call the cops to have the innocent, or less guilty, woman arrested. The DA is sorting out the Seifert affair, and it looks like Mr. S will have some explaining to do.<!--sell price="25" recurring="1Y" group="101"-->
MONDAY AT THE WILLITS BYPASS, by Jennifer Poole, Willits Weekly www.facebook.com/WillitsWeekly.
Caltrans contractors continued work along the bypass route over the weekend in Willits, felling trees and clearing brush in multiple locations. All three tree-sitters are still in their trees, although California Highway Patrol officers are preventing any access to ground support crews, to re-supply water and food. Save Little Lake Valley's Sara Grusky said she was very concerned about what she called “very dangerous” activities by Caltrans and the Highway Patrol, including a CHP helicopter circling around each tree sit at a low height this afternoon, taking pictures of the tree-sitter. Caltrans contractors on Saturday and Tuesday also felled trees “dangerously close” Grusky said, to tree sitters “Caspian” and “Celsius” who are up in a grove of pine trees off East Hill Road. CHP Capt. George Peck told Willits Weekly: “We brought our copter over so we could check on the safety of the tree-sitters.” Peck said there was no backwash wind from the copter on the tree-sitters, that all of the force was projected downwards. Peck said he was at the pine grove this afternoon when trees were being felled, and he didn't see any hazards. “I stood way back,” he said. Asked about the issue of food and water for the tree sitters, Peck said: “We are not prohibiting the tree sitters to come down and get food and water. We would never ever want them to suffer from lack of food and water.” The Highway Patrol has no specific formal procedures for dealing with tree-sitters, but Peck said: “We always have the ability to adjust to any situation, and we are adjusting to the tree-sitters. I think the best option is just to sit and wait and see what happens.” Grusky said protesters were looking into FAA regulations about how near helicopters could fly to people. She described the tree felling and low circling helicopters as “intimidation without any concern for safety.” Grusky also said Caltrans was blatantly disregarding environmental laws. “We are continuing to explore a variety of legal avenues,” she said, “and we'll have an announcement on that soon.” Tara Dragani of Redwood Valley, who was arrested for trespassing with seven others Thursday, was arrested again Saturday, as contractors were felling an ancient valley oak. At least four of the big oaks were taken down that day. Dragani was booked on a felony count of “removing or taking any weapon other than a firearm from the person of, or immediate presence of, a public officer or peace officer.” She was also booked on a misdemeanor count of trespassing and a misdemeanor count of battery against a peace officer in performance of their duties. Bail was set at $15,000. Save Our Little Lake Valley is calling for supporters to attend the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday (yesterday, 26 March), where North County Supervisor John Pinches has placed on the agenda a letter to Caltrans Director Malcolm Daugherty expressing continued support for the Willits bypass. The Caltrans letter is not a timed item, but Save Little Lake Valley expects it to be heard around 10:30am. Members of Friends of Outlet Creek, a group fighting the proposed Grist Creek Aggregates concrete batch plant in Longvale, right next to Outlet Creek, also plan to attend Tuesday's board meeting, speaking during the public comment period starting at 9am.
THE FOLLOWING are items related to last week's Bypass protests:
CALTRANS HAS ANNOUNCED 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 willitsbypass.wordpress.com, will include news releases, multimedia content, and will address trending questions and common misconceptions about the project."
MISCONCEPTIONS? $300 MIL to route 5-6000 cars a day around the Gateway to the Redwood Empire on six miles of two-way viaduct sunk in a lakebed? How could anyone possibly misconstrue this thing?
AT 7 LAST THURSDAY MORNING 20 CHP officers took up positions at access roads leading to the tree sit and related protests at the proposed Willits Bypass site. Seven arrests ensued, including that of AVA reporter Will Parrish and protest leader, Sara Grusky, a resident of Willits. Caltrans fenced off the area of the tree sit where a young woman calling herself “The Warbler” remains unmolested.
THE INEFFABLE CALTANS spokesman, Phil Frisbie, issued the following statement Thursday afternoon: “This is a safety issue. We respect the rights of citizens to express their opinions but when they trespass on land or put themselves in harm’s way and in front of our equipment, we are going to rely on CHP to handle the situation.”
WILLITS WEEKLY'S CAT LEE reporting from the CHP press conference last Thursday regarding the Willits Bypass and related protest(s): Eight arrests, no violence, no resistance, no destruction of equipment or damage to land. Protesters transported to Mendocino County Jail. About 20 CHP officers brought in from out of Mendocino County; here “as long as we’re needed.”
THE STATEMENT from Steve Krul, Public Information Officer, Ukiah CHP, regarding Thursday's arrests of eight protesters: “There are No Trespassing signs posted throughout the project, and our intent is to enforce that. So what we’ve done with the people who are trespassers is we’ve given them many opportunities, many dispersal orders and many opportunities to do that on their own. If they refuse to do that, then they’re being arrested for trespassing... The seven that I know of have all been for trespassing. I understand there has been an eighth arrest, but I don’t have any information on the eighth arrest.”
ARRESTEES INCLUDED: Tara Dragani, Redwood Valley (Tara did a screamer as she was dragged off and was charged additionally for her show biz exit); Jamie D. Chevalier - Willits; Matthew J. Caldwell, Willits; Sara L. Grusky, Willits; William E. (‘Will’) Parrish, Ukiah; Elizabeth K. Riegle (sp?), Forestville; Sandra E. Marshall, Redwood Valley.
ASKED “what provided the tipping point for you [CHP] to start arresting today,” Krul responded: “They’re here to work without being interfered with. We respect the right of protesters to exercise their first amendment but if what they are doing exceeds what is intended by those rights or the right to demonstrate or if violence were to ensue, we would take action to protect lives and property.”
WARBLER, THE TREE SITTER, plus two others freshly aloft nearby? Krul said: “Our hope is that they will self-evacuate themselves. We will give them plenty of opportunity to do that. If that doesn’t happen, then we have plans in place to address that.” I asked him about the gate that was reportedly installed which would separate Warbler and the tree she is in from her supporters, and he responded, “I am not sure what they installed at that end. I’m not down there.” I asked if there was any resistance from those arrested. Krul said, “The seven that were arrested, no resistance at all. First and foremost, above all, we want people to be safe. We’re here to provide a service. We’re here to make sure the public is made safe. The equipment out here is dangerous. The contractors out here have a job to do. The Highway Patrol respects lawful demonstrations, and they have the right to protest.” I asked if there was any evidence of the trespassers doing anything destructive to equipment or to the land.” He said: “Not to my knowledge.” I followed up with, “Then it was just trespassing?” He said. “The first seven … they were arrested for trespassing, no destruction of property, no violence, no resisting arrest, nothing like that.” When asked if the demonstrators would be allowed to legally stand on the outside of the fenced-in area [between the fence and the road by DripWorks], Krul said he would have to refer that question to Caltrans: “I don’t have the answer to that.” One of the PD reporters said she had heard that the seventh arrestee had been dragged off kicking and screaming, and asked if he had heard that or had any information on that, and he said: “I have not.” I asked him where all these CHP officers came from today, and if this was going to cause a shortage of officers in other areas. He said: “We are a statewide organization. We are trained to respond to many different events throughout the state. Because of that, we have similarly trained officers that are able to respond when needed. This is one of those cases where not everyone that you see here is from here. The motoring public is still being protected. There are still officers working the road doing other duties, other daily duties that would normally be done…”
OUTTA THE WAY, HIPPIES! From the March 26 BOS agenda packet. Sponsor: John Pinches draft of letter to Malcolm Dougherty, Director, Caltrans Re: Continued Support for the Willits Bypass Project. “Dear Director Dougherty, Despite 14 years of environmental studies and six years to obtain the necessary permits from resource agencies, the U.S. 101 bypass of Willits remains a controversial project within a small segment of the local community. This letter is intended to remind you of the local need and commitment to the conclusion of this project. Since the first studies were underway, the Mendocino Council of Governments, the Willits City Council, and the County Board of Supervisors have each consistently endorsed the Willits Bypass. Additional backing has come from counties to the north. Furthermore, the California Transportation Commission unanimously supports the funding for this project. At this time, the public process for the Willits Bypass has concluded and the construction phase has begun. Please work with the appropriate agencies and take the necessary actions to allow the contractor and their employees to move forward without further delays and additional unnecessary costs to the taxpayers. Sincerely, Dan Hamburg, Chair Board of Supervisors."
CALTRANS was doing site-prep to begin construction on the Willits Bypass most of the day Friday. Three tree-sitters, including the senior sitter, Warbler, aka Ms. Amanda Senseman, have been warned that they face arrest. The tree sits are cordoned off behind a hastily-erected but stout fence. How the sitters will be extracted from their trees is not known. 8 people were arrested yesterday.
THE AVA'S WILL PARRISH was scooped up in the Bypass arrests yesterday. He writes: “I got out around 2pm. Thanks for checking. I woke up this morning (Thursday) under the tree at about 7 with about 15 CHP officers surrounding me. The amount of officers they deployed in Willits today was insane. I estimate about 30 squad cars and 50 officers. It felt like a military occupation, with them even setting up checkpoints along East Hill Rd. and Center Valley Rd. Most of them are sticking around for another day apparently and guarding the construction work. Fortunately, my experience in jail wasn't bad at all. I got cited and released with a misdemeanor.”
YOU DON’T THINK cops earn their pay? Monday evening the 18th, a little before 7pm, a mentally ill, or severely drugged-out 39-year-old man, 6'5” and also very large horizontally, 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.” It gets worse. The first cop on the scene said the crazed man did a kind of dead-eyed zombie walk towards him, at which point the cop zapped the guy with his Taser, knocking him briefly off his feet. But Berserkers jerked the Taser’s probes out 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 secured earlier, but 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, a well known artist who'd lived on the Mendocino Coast for some time. According to his website, “Mr. Burnap was born to American parents in Osaka, Japan in 1948, and spent his childhood in Texas and Southern California. His mother, a successful commercial artist, encouraged his artistic exploration throughout his formative school years. He commenced his own career as a licensed sign painter and freelance artist, but eventually refined his fine art style attending California State University at Fullerton. The beauty of Northern California drew him to the coastal area of Fort Bragg in Mendocino County in 1970, where he resided until his death."
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 in their finite-ness, and the need to meter those draws from Potter Valley to Healdsburg should become ever more urgent, not that they are. Yes, Cloverdale also taps its water table, but most of that growing burg’s water comes from the Russian River, 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 is also pretty much tapped out because it hasn’t dipped into the plentiful waters of Lake Sonoma, sells a lot of diverted Eel River water to Marin County at premium prices. 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 and in this County from Chamber of Commerce groups, commercial rents in Mendocino County make it almost impossible for mom and pops to make a go of small businesses. There are Ukiah landlords, for instance, 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 egregiously exploitive, 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. You've got to sell a lot of books to make that nut, and book buyers are a dying breed. But 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. Ditto for Mendocino County.
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. 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.
SUDDENLINK SABBED AGAIN. FOR THE THIRD TIME IN A MONTH. Suddenlink Out Again, Report Customers All Around the County News On Wednesday afternoon we saw reports from Ferndale, Eureka, McKinleyville, Fieldbrook, Arcata … more or less everywhere. Best guess would be that the Suddenlink Saboteur has struck again, but we’ll see.
UPDATE, 5:21pm Wednesday: People are saying that they’re coming back online. Short one. (Courtesy, Hank Sims, LostCoastOutpost.com)
STATEMENT OF THE DAY: “I could not bear the humiliation of being an unpublished novelist in a country where bad writing, as it seemed to me, had become institutionalized.” — Greg Baxter
THE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION announced Wednesday that officials will postpone collection of a controversial fee designed to pay for fire prevention work in areas where Cal Fire is responsible for protecting the state's wildlands. State officials reported that the high volume of appeals have created a heavy workload for state officials and a delay may give Cal Fire more time to make sure officials are using accurate billing information. The fire prevention fee is a $150 charge to be levied on homes within the “State Responsibility Area,” where Cal Fire is tasked with preventing and fighting fires. The area includes several places up and down the state, including much of the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountains. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the fee. The group argues the fire prevention fee should be regarded as a tax. The bill that created the fee passed both houses of the Legislature by a simple majority instead of the two-thirds majority required for taxes, so the Howard Jarvis group is contending the bill never really became law. “Until the Courts decide the constitutionality of this legislation, it remains the law and the Board has no alternative but to follow the law which gives Cal Fire the authority to direct the board to delay the collection of the fee. Time will determine whether these funds were necessary to help prevent and manage fires in certain areas, and whether the law is constitutional. If the law is found to be unconstitutional, we will not permit these fees to further burden feepayers,” Board of Equalization chairman Jerome E. Horton said in a news release. The courts are not the only venue where the fee is being challenged. Multiple lawmakers, including Assemblymen Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, and Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia, have introduced bills seeking to eliminate the fee.
THE FRIENDS OF OUTLET CREEK are planning a formal objection to the Grist Creek Aggregates proposal to add a concrete batch plant to their Hwy 162 gravel yard. Grist Creek just re-opened the dormant gravel plant on Highway 162 about 2 miles east of Hwy 101. A neighbor of Grist Creek explains: “A concrete batch plant will virtually destroy the return on the salmon run to Outlet Creek and the tributaries up in Little Lake Valley. Also cause great harm to the other creatures. My guess is after this is approved they will request the addition of supplying asphalt. Besides objecting to the concrete batch plant we feel the owners should, at a minimum, prepare an EIR to expose and address the concerns this operation will bring to this area. We have made comment and the decision has been delayed. We have decided to make an appearance at the BOS meeting Tuesday. March 26.
JUBA LEE KENYON JR., 34, of Fort Bragg, is being sought in connection with what seems to have been a one-stop tweek shop located in Kenyon's home on North Harrison Street between East Alder and East Redwood. According to Lt. John Naulty of the Fort Bragg Police Department, “officers found a room outfitted like a drug store with supplies and a significant amount of methamphetamine in four chunks, each about three inches long and half-inch thick.” Police were at the home to conduct a routine probation search because Kenyon is on probation for a theft conviction. Kenyon was not at home, but Naomi Elysia Mendez, 32, was. She was arrested on charges alleging possession of marijuana and methamphetamine for sale.
CONDALEEZA RICE and George Schultz are two blood-drenched imperial personages who pop up as honored citizens all over the Bay Area, not to mention the rest of the country and the world they preyed on. They live in the Bay Area, and of course they're affiliated with the global menace of a university at Stanford. Condi helped destroy Iraq, and still says the transparently false claim that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction was the best information she and the rest of the Bush Gang had at the time. They just had to act fast before Bin Laden popped US again, you see. But thousands of Bay Area people knew that the WMD pretext was untrue, and had been reported as untrue by British journalists, and thousands of protesters were soon in the streets, and a couple thousand arrested, so many arrested most of them were herded into the warehouses on the Embarcadero, held for a while and released. Ten years later, Iraq remains in the state of civil war that had been predicted if the U.S. invaded, thousands of Iraqis have been killed and Iraq pretty much destroyed as a functioning entity. 4,300 American troops are dead, many more wounded and we've spent something like $2 trillion without even securing the oil fields for Standard. Way to go, Condi! Atta boy, George! It's as if a mass amnesia has infected this country, and on we go murderously interfering everywhere on the globe, while here in the land of the free we're coming apart at our civic seams.
FOR GROSS INCOMPETENCE of the relentless type, KZYX station manager John Coate is tough to beat, even in target-rich Mendocino County. Coate's latest blunder? The tax-exempt station is, of course, in theory owned by everyone. In practice it's owned by Coate, Mary Aigner and its captive board of directors, the last functioning for a quarter century now as a rubber stamp for whomever happens to be functioning as station manager. (Coate, we understand, prefers the title “Executive Director.” Yo, big boy, if it makes you feel better about yourself, how about “Your Excellency” or “Generalissimo"? So out go the ballots for a rare election to the station's cringing board of directors, an election held to keep incumbents in and insurgents like King Collins out. The cover letter accompanying the ballot says the ballot's got to be in by April 12th; the ballot itself, however, says it's due back by March 31st. Not a huge deal, but for a guy whose daily duties seem to range from invisible to opaque one would think Coate could at least get the basics correct on what might yet someday become a democratic process.
KYLE EDWARD STORNETTA, 32, of Manchester-Point Arena will plead guilty in Ten Mile Court, Fort Bragg, to poaching steelhead from the Garcia River where the Garcia runs though Stornetta family property near Manchester. The fish were found in his freezer during a marijuana raid on Stornetta's home in March of 2012. Stornetta, represented by Keith Faulder of Ukiah, faces fines and restitution payments for the marijuana charges of some $40,000. Poaching on the Garcia threatens to undo ongoing efforts to restore the once lush Garcia fishery.
AT THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS meeting on March 12, Transportation Director Howard Deshield reported that the Mendocino County 2012 Pavement Condition Index (PCI), which is updated every three years, shows that approximately 20% of the County’s 660 miles of paved roads are in good condition — that means the other 80% are less than good — some in very poor condition. The PCI scores in Mendocino County (PCI 37) are worse than the state average (PCI 66). [In fact, Mendocino County has the second worst roads in the state.] The conditions in Mendocino County stem from deferred maintenance. Deferring maintenance works for a while but studies show that in the end it costs more — it’s much more costly to rebuild roads than keep good roads in good condition. We, along with everyone else, have fallen into this trap and now perform triage on roads — placing our limited resources on repairs in areas in the worse condition or that pose a safety hazard. The County Engineers Associations of California (CEAC) is leading an effort to define the problem statewide and have been joined by the League of California Cities. Mendocino did contribute our share and we have provided our information to this cooperative effort. To view the updated, full report please visit: http://www.savecaliforniastreets.org/reports.html.
LEFT OUT of this report is the amount of money that the Mendocino Council of Governments (the County’s Transportation Planning Super-Organization) has diverted to the local share of the Willits Bypass all the way back to the 1970s when MCOG type agencies were first formed in every county in the state. Every other year the MCOG board has voted to apply most of the “STIP” (State Transportation Improvement Program) funds to Bypass, undermining its original intent which was to supplement County road maintenance funds. It’s no panacea, of course, and the funds have been dwindling in the last few years during the state’s budget crunch, but the millions that are shifted from local road maintenance are millions that could have gone to 1. Local road improvements and 2. Willits area road, traffic and safety improvements which would have reduced or eliminated the need for the Bypass for a lot less money. Technically, MCOG funds are supposed to be used for “transportation improvement” (paving unpaved roads, improving alternate routes to reduce congestion in high-traffic areas, etc.), not road maintenance, but obviously if money is spent on improvements, that means primary roads are better and need less maintenance, traffic is reduced thereby lowering wear and tear, and more local money is available for necessary local repairs.
NOW THAT CALTRANS has done their clever bait and switch (by selling the public a “bypass” that won’t bypass very much and won’t improvement congestion in Willits very much), not only will local road maintenance budgets be further squeezed (because the non-bypassed roads in the greater Willits area will now have to be maintained by local funds), but Mendocino County roads in general have effectively been made worse by the badly designed Willits bypass.
BRUCE PATTERSON WRITES from Prineville, Oregon: The AVA is back to arriving either a week or two late (got two issues at once last week). Ain't often my ditties get bumped from the pages by better articles on the same subject. In this case I'm tickled. My kingdom for a fish. Enclosed is a letter of appreciation and a humble attempt to keep the ball rolling. Anyway, was reading Off the Record and, while wondering at the length and breadth of it, it occurred to me that Bruce is starting to sound like Herb Caen (?). Not the 3 dot style but in the variety of content and the way it's put together. Getting better with age, I reckon. I haven't been writing much at all. Pain's finally subsided enough to where I can concentrate some, and I keep telling myself I'll get back to work but, hey, I am retired and in no hurry. Plenty of other stuff to do. I happened upon your quote from Trish about the folks up here being diverse. It's a blue-collar cowboy/logger/mill worker town and big enough so that's there's all kinds; not as insular as AV's old timers were but a lot has to do with numbers. Anyway, have met so many friendly people (and some unfriendlies) that I'm starting to feel at home. Then — this here's the best part — once you leave town you're outtatown. The country is big, very big, and the roads so empty folks sometimes wave at each other as they pass by. They're downright civilized next to the crazies now clogging 128 and 253 — driving is relaxing. I also read a while back your notice of my old friend Katy's (Tahja) new book on the logging railroads. I promised her I'd write a review but, until now, haven't been able to focus. Hope to come up with a little something soon if you don't mind. My best, Pat.
AS A BOY, I was an early newspaper reader. Well, I read the sports pages anyway, because sports, especially the 49ers and the old San Francisco Seals, captured my imagination early. Major League baseball still hadn't arrived on the West Coast. For a baseball fan, then, the Seals and the Pacific Coast League were it. But one day, I read my first news-news story and, like everyone else in Northern California, I kept reading that story as it unfolded over the next two years. It had begun with the kidnap and murder of a 14-year-old Oakland girl, Stephanie Bryan, by a 27-year-old U.C. student named Burton Abbott. The story ended with Abbott's execution at San Quentin two years later. Stephanie was grabbed in 1955, Abbott was executed in 1957. Justice had been swift and maybe not always so sure in those days, but if you killed someone you could count on the state killing you in a matter of months. Abbott maintained to the end he'd been framed, that Stephanie Bryan's purse and undergarments found in the crawl space beneath his house had been placed there by a relative who didn't like him. But the girl's body had been found on Abbott family property in Trinity County; if Abbott was framed, it was about as thorough a frame job as could be devised.
STEPHANIE BRYAN was only a couple of years older than me, which may have diverted my attention from the sports page to the front page. I could relate to her, more or less, as a peer. But I wasn't the only one diverted. For two years, Bay Area papers ran the Abbott case on their front pages every day. I can still remember one story that said a girl, presumably Stephanie, had been seen struggling with a man in a speeding car headed north. With every edition of the four dailies out of San Francisco you could almost feel a collective chill go up the Bay Area's collective spine. (My best friend's father used to pack up his family for Sunday outings to Alameda just to stare at Abbott's house; so many horror tourists showed up every day the police had to cordon off the street.) A young girl walking home from school snagged in broad daylight? It was the Bay Area equivalent of the much earlier Lindbergh kidnapping. This kind of thing never happened. Now, of course, much more spectacular criminal events occur on a daily basis.
JUST LAST WEEK in Mendocino County, a rural area assumed to be beyond the primary psycho zones, saw two babies almost killed out of parental fecklessness; that happened right here in the bucolic Anderson Valley. Over the hill, a man running naked and bloody down a central Ukiah street required a whole defensive backfield of cops to restrain him, and there were two episodes classified as “elder abuse.” In one of those a 60-year-old woman caring for an 80-something-year-old woman bit the 80-year-old so severely the old lady scuttled out her Fort Bragg door for help. In the other, a daughter in her forties simply hauled off and slugged her 80-year-old mother in the face, hospitalizing the old lady. And there was the usual sea-to-sea scumbaggery, of course, everywhere in the land, all of it non-occurring a short half-century ago.
THE POINT? Couple of points: The first is that the country is unraveling faster than even us pessimists have expected. Aberrant, even murderous behavior, has become so prevalent we barely notice the media accounts but can't help but notice it the instant we step out our front door. We now live in a daily envelope of insanity which, to finally get to the trite point I'm making, is that it's the chaos the feeds the fear in the gun people, but the gun people's sense of reality is much more accurate than, say, Dianne Feinstein's, sense of reality. A Mendo gun person's sense of reality is much more realistic than Mendolib's sense of reality.
SO, MR. PONTIFICATOR, what's your solution? There might not be one in any conventional sense because the economic apparatus is also collapsing from its own ongoing criminality, but I'd start by reversing the flow of the money upwards to establish a social floor consisting of guaranteed work, housing, medical care, free education through the college level, and everything else that would remove the national fear and anxiety. Won't happen, of course, because the limo people of both political parties are simply couriers for the money, but it's the only way to stabilize life for the ever more millions who have been destabilized and are now going crazy every day everywhere in the United States. The gun people are as unlikely to go for socialist strategies of psycho-social remediation as the libs are. The system has de-stabilized itself, and here we are on the slippery slope to national ruin, and all the untied people, millions of them, are going crazy.
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS AGENDA ITEM TITLE: Discussion and Possible Direction to Staff Regarding the Teeter Program Debt Mitigation or Elimination Activities Related to the Brooktrails Township Community Services District
PREVIOUS BOARD/BOARD COMMITTEE ACTIONS: March 27, 2012: the Board of Supervisors heard an item on the discontinuance of the Brooktrails Township Community Services District from the Teeter Program and opted to schedule a public hearing in the future; June 11, 2012: the Board held a noticed public hearing on the discontinuance of Teeter Plan privileges for the Brooktrails Township Community Services District (BTCSD) and opted to discontinue the special and direct assessments of the BTCSD from the Teeter Plan. The Board further directed staff to develop and bring back to the Board a method to cost-effectively discontinue the Teeter Plan’s relationship with the Ad Valorem property tax for the BTCSD.
SUMMARY OF REQUEST: The Board of Supervisors will be provided an update on the progress made from prior Board direction regarding discontinuation of the special and direct assessments of the BTCSD. The Board will also be provided an update on the current status of the discontinuation of the ad valorem of the BTCSD from the Teeter Plan. Updates on this issue will be provided by the Treasurer Tax-Collector and the Auditor-Controller.
THE NUMBER of tax-defaulted properties within the Brooktrails district boundary is increasing dramatically. Many of these properties are vacant and are “unbuildable” lots of a low value. Continued efforts to liquidate the properties at auction have produced negligible success. Brooktrails is primarily composed of these lots — with 4,216 vacant out of approximately 6000 parcels in Brooktrails. The County is required to liquidate the properties that become delinquent over time in order to collect on various property assessments and fees. Liquidation of these properties has become problematic due in part to the poor economy, but also because of the disclosure that the value of these parcels may not in fact outweigh the delinquencies and ongoing costs associated with owning such parcels.
COMPLICATING THE PICTURE is the County’s Teeter Program which authorizes the distribution of property tax assessments without regard to the actual collection of tax payments. The County Auditor-Controller pays out the full assessment to all taxing entities even when certain properties become delinquent. The County benefits through use of its taxing authority leverage to liquidate tax-defaulted properties and eventually collects late assessments plus any interest, penalties and fees associated with such delinquencies. However, when these properties are no longer marketable either due to reputation or actual fair market value (properly and openly disclosed to potential buyers), the Teeter program becomes a County General Fund liability that can no longer be sustained.
THIS SITUATION has been reviewed by the County’s Debt Committee, and recommendations have been made to the Board during its June 11, 2012, meeting to address this issue. The Auditor-Controller recommended the discontinuation of the special/direct assessments of the BTCSD, and the Board of Supervisors and County Debt Committee concurred with this recommendation. The Board also directed that staff return with a “method to cost-effectively de-teeter all of Brooktrails Community Services District for fiscal year 2013-2014.” If the Board chose to direct the discontinuation of the Ad Valorem tax from the Teeter Plan for the BTCSD, it would need to do so at a future noticed public hearing.
TUESDAY (26 March), the Supervisors discussed The Teeter Plan, which has become more Totter than Teeter because, in a staggering economy, spending money you aren't likely to have inevitably leads to no Teeter and all Totter. Mendocino County, like the rest of the American economy (straight-up robbed in 2008 by Wall Street and its elected gofers) is now more Totter than Teeter.
LOCALLY, the strategy called the Teeter Plan began in 1993, before the financial collapse of 2008 caused by high-level thieving. In 1993, via the Teeter Plan, Mendocino County could pay certain large expenditures in convenient advance because everyone was still able to pay their property taxes. County income was predictable, as was capitalism, a system of social organization that promises more stuff for more people forever. Millions of Americans are now re-thinking that assumption.
WHEN MORE FOR EVERYONE FOREVER prevailed pre-2008, the County could distribute money to community services and school districts, upfront, on the safe fiscal assumption that property taxes would roll in to Ukiah as they always had in predictable amounts. And the County would get the penalty and interest when the delinquent taxes rolled in. But suddenly, beginning in 2008, lots of people defaulted on their mortgages and property tax returns to the County were less, much less. And the squeeze was on. It's still on.
THE COUNTY did pretty well pre-2008, sailing along on the insecure knowledge that the few properties in default would get out of default, and delinquent taxes owed on them would be paid, with interest. And property values would remain artificially high. But then there was a huge downward readjustment and suddenly the Teeter Plan was a liability, and not a stable or even viable method to advance cash-money. The County was spending money that it assumed would come in with interest, but didn’t — effectively borrowing against future revenue that didn’t get reimbursed.
NOW IS NOW, and the overall economic picture has changed from serene optimism to worst-case scenario. Mendocino County is more on the pessimistic, or realistic, end of the optimism-worst-case scale because “when these properties are no longer marketable either due to reputation or actual fair market value ... the Teeter program becomes a County General Fund liability that can no longer be sustained.” Which has happened big time at Brooktrails (where properties which are supposed to be sold for back taxes are not sold) leaving the County holding an empty tax bag just in that one development. Add Brooktrails to lots of property defaults around the County plus property devaluations and Teeter is definitely Tottering, hence the discussion this Tuesday.
HUEY P. LONG: “How many men ever went to a barbecue and would let one man take off the table what’s intended for 9/10th of the people to eat? The only way to be able to feed the balance of the people is to make that man come back and bring back some of that grub that he ain’t got no business with!
Now we got a barbecue. We have been praying to the Almighty to send us to a feast. We have knelt on our knees morning and nighttime. The Lord has answered the prayer. He has called the barbecue. “Come to my feast,” He said to 125 million American people. But Morgan and Rockefeller and Mellon and Baruch have walked up and took 85% of the victuals off the table! Now, how are you going to feed the balance of the people? What’s Morgan and Baruch and Rockefeller and Mellon going to do with all that grub? They can’t eat it, they can’t wear the clothes, they can’t live in the houses. Giv’em a yacht! Giv’em a Palace! Send ‘em to Reno and give them a new wife when they want it, if that’s what they want. [Laughter] But when they’ve got everything on God’s loving earth that they can eat and they can wear and they can live in, and all that their children can live in and wear and eat, and all of their children’s children can use, then we’ve got to call Mr. Morgan and Mr. Mellon and Mr. Rockefeller back and say, come back here, put that stuff back on this table here that you took away from here that you don’t need. Leave something else for the American people to consume. And that’s the program.”
WHERE’S Kingfish now that we need him?
MIKE WHITNEY COMMENTS: “Americans are generally pragmatic people who judge a system by its results not by the public relations blabber issuing from the business channel. ‘Show me the beef,’ that’s what the average working slob cares about, not some horseshit about ‘the wondrous symmetry of the self-correcting market.’ What a load of malarkey. If we’d applied the theories of the market fundamentalists after Lehman Brothers collapsed, the 10 biggest banks in the country would have been euthanized (as they should have been) and we’d be well on our way to a true recovery. Instead, the economy is still hopelessly mired in a long-term slump that shows no sign of ending. The only thing that’s ‘corrected’ is the profit margins on Wall Street which are at record highs. Get a load of this from the WSWS: ‘As the US government prepares to furlough 1 million federal workers and slash hundreds of billions in social spending, corporate executives in the United States are receiving among the highest payouts in history. USA Today reported Thursday that at least ten CEOs took in $50 million apiece in 2012, largely as a result of cashing in stocks that have soared in value with the rising market. According to the newspaper, “Early 2013 proxy filings detailing 2012 compensation show a growing number of CEOs reaping $50 million or more, gains that could prove unmatched in breadth and size since the Internet IPO craze enriched tech company executives more than a decade ago… ‘Among the top pay packages according to preliminary calculation is that of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, which included stock options valued at $103.3 million this year, on top of $30 million in other compensation and stock, as well as $10.2 million in vested shares, according to USA Today.’ (“US corporate executives cash in”, World Socialist Web Site) Geez, I sure hope Mr. Starbucks can make ends meet on a measly $130 mil a year. He might have to cutback on his trips to Walmart, don’t you think? The whole thing is laughable. This is a free market? Give me a break! The Fed is pumping $85 billion per month into financial assets pushing up stock prices, while everyone else faces the grinding deprivation of austerity. Who can support a system like that? Everything about it is a lie.”
MORE TRUE THAN NOT: A San Franciscan comments: “SF has a reputation for being soft on crime. Hoodlums from outside the city know they can come here, create mayhem, sell drugs and basically act like savages with no threat of arrest by the city cops. Take a walk up Taylor Street just north of Market and observe the open-air drug market running 24/7. The city ramps up Muni inspectors to write tickets for fare cheats, starts a program to give dogs to homeless people and extends paid parking times while police patrols and prosecution of street crimes are obviously made a low priority. City drones like their fat pensions and gravy benefits that let them live in Atherton or Tiburon while we inner citizens are living in a filthy war zone. Even the dumbest tourists can see that the streets are dangerous at all times. Enjoy!”
THEAVA.COM is now up to an average of about 2,000 hits per day, or an average of about 60,000 hits per month. Back in 2009 when our website was launched, it was running about half that and the trend has been increasing each month. The spike in hits in November of last year was primarily due to our initial breaking of the big Kansas-Mendo marijuana-connection busts story, cases which are now being sorted out in Federal Court in Oakland. According to the blogosphere, any website that gets over 50,000 hits a month is considered a smashing success. Considering that theava.com is based primarily in relatively small Mendocino County, that’s pretty darn good.
STATEMENT OF THE WEEK: Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.” — George Orwell
POINT ARENA CITY ATTORNEY Joe Brecher was granted a new contract during a closed session special meeting earlier this month. As previously reported, Brecher submitted a letter of resignation after he learned that a city council committee was looking into what other city attorneys did and how much they were paid. The committee members said they were just doing their due diligence in exploring options, but at least some on the council are known to be upset that Brecher advised them that the lawsuit brought by former City Administrator Claudia Hilary for wrongful termination was groundless since she was an at will employee. The council ignored Brecher's advice and agreed to pay Hilary $90,000. to settle the lawsuit. (Libs throw public money around like confetti, their own like manhole covers, and you've got to marvel at city with 600 citizens that can't competently manage itself.) The effort to off Brecher, if that is what it was, or even to have a serious discussion about his performance, backfired when a motion to accept his letter of resignation failed on a 2-3 vote. The closed session special meeting was then called and Brecher's contract was renewed with no public discussion of his performance or other options that might have been available. Brecher will continue as City Attorney, but with the knowledge that at least two council members were more than happy to accept his letter of resignation.
LAKE COUNTY SHERIFF FRANK RIVERO, the subject of a unanimous vote on March 19th by the Lake County Board of Supes calling for his resignation, now faces a recall campaign. Rivero, who previously said he would step down after one term, vowed to fight for re-election in response to the vote of no confidence from the Supes. But the recall may remove him from office before his term is up. Rivero's problems mounted recently when the Lake County District Attorney released a report saying he had “clear and convincing” evidence that Rivero lied to investigators regarding a shooting incident that Rivero was involved in back in 2008. The investigation was sparked by information recently supplied by one of Rivero's former colleagues. The determination by the DA means that in any case where Rivero is a material witness, it must be disclosed to the defense that Rivero has a history of lying.
SUPPORTERS OF RIVERO claim the recall, the DA's report and the call for his resignation, are all payback for Rivero's efforts to break up a corrupt power structure in the County. Rivero, who was elected on a reform ticket following a series of scandals and management problems that plagued the Sheriff's Office under previous Sheriff Rod Mitchell, says he is the target of a vendetta by an entrenched good old boys network.
RIVERO has the opportunity to respond to allegations in the recall petition before recall organizers can begin collecting signatures to put the recall on a future ballot. According to the Lake County Registrar of Voters, organizers will have 120 days to collect the signatures of 7,026 registered voters, equal to 20% of the total registered voters in the county. Lake County Assistant Chief Probation Officer Brian Martin, who resigned from the Sheriff's Office as a Lt. in 2011, has joined retired Clearlake police chief Bob Chalk as candidates to replace Rivero, either in a recall or in the next general election in 2014.
THE SONOMA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPES, as expected, gave final approval on March 19th to two contracts, one with SEIU (which includes the lowest paid county workers) and the other with the Administrative Management unit (which includes the highest paid employees, including Department Heads and the Supes themselves, and why management gets a bargaining unit is one of those questions no one asks anymore).
LAST AUGUST, the SoCo Supes adopted a “Resolution of Intent” specifying cuts for Admin Management, but said they would only take effect after agreement was reached with SEIU. But once SEIU came to terms, the Supes sweetened the deal for themselves in a closed-door decision that was kept under wraps until SEIU signed off on their contract. The Supes gave a 3% raise to the Admin Management group and reneged on a promise to end the deferred compensation match for Dept. Heads and the Supes themselves.
RIGHT ABOUT HERE, let's consider a recent media program in the Bay Area that lamented the absence of coverage of local government. The same program also moaned at the absence of “investigative reporting.” Local government requires reporters. Newspapers can no longer afford reporters to do it. Ditto for investigative reporting. Hooey, we say. We say the demand for thorough reporting on complicated issues, of which there's never been more, although you've got to search it out, is virtually non-existent among the gizmo-frazzled reading public, most of which can't focus on much of anything more complicated than the adventures of the Kardashian girls.
ANYWAY, SONOMA COUNTY is touting the contracts as a successful effort to rein in runaway pension costs, which have resulted in a pension-related debt of nearly a billion dollars, including an unfunded liability of $353 million plus more than $600 million in Pension Obligation Bonds (POB). The County of Sonoma claims it needs to save $150 million over the next ten years, and that the two approved contracts equal 75% of the necessary savings. Which seems to ignore the nearly one billion-dollar hole the County has already dug itself. The projected “savings” amount to less than half the current unfunded liabilities and ignores the more than $600 million in POBs. The County claims the new contracts will result in savings of 2.5% from SEIU, 5.1% from managers, 6.8% from Dept. Heads and 8.5% from the Supes. Except no one is taking a pay cut as a result of these deals, which instead provide for a 3% cost of living increase for everyone but the Supes. The deal with SEIU also provides for one-time cash payments of $2,000. and health care allowances of nearly $1,000 a month. The savings are supposed to come from reductions in such things as vacation cash-outs, but the Supes, the County and SEIU have failed to clearly explain the pension-related savings or how they will offset the enhanced salary and benefits.
THE STAFF ANALYSIS also fails to distinguish between savings that are attributable to the new contracts and those that are required by the Public Employees Pension Reform Act (PEPRA). For instance, Sonoma County previously had a sweet deal for Department Heads who automatically received a 5% pay raise upon announcing their retirement, and the Sonoma Supes, already the third highest paid in the State of California, had half their retirement cost paid for by the taxpayers. Including giveaways like these, which are clearly outlawed by PEPRA, skews the calculations of the projected savings to make it look like the Supes and Dept. Heads are taking a much bigger hit from the new contracts than they really are (if they are taking a hit at all, considering the 3% pay raise and the continuation of the deferred comp match).
SEVERAL SEIU MEMBERS AND RETIREES told the Supes how hard it was to make ends meet on pay and benefits that are generous by private industry and non-profit standards. Supervisors Susan Gorin, Mike McGuire and Shirlee Zane, who were all backed by SEIU for election, all shed crocodile tears on behalf of the employees and called for the board to revisit the continuation of the deferred comp match, then voted in favor of the contract. Which is odd, since the three SEIU-backed Supes are a majority and could have refused to go along with continuing the deferred comp match. Except that would have come out of their paychecks. Staff helpfully explained that the real reason to continue the deferred comp benefit is because staff has so far been unable to find a legal way to grant a corresponding benefit (in the form of a health care allowance) to the Dept. Heads and Supes. So the Supes will continue to receive $134,000 in base salary, plus additional pay and benefits (including the infamous deferred comp match) that push their total compensation to around a quarter of a million dollars each per year. If you've missed the point of all this it is that Sonoma County is not viable as a long-term entity and may not be viable even as a short-term entity.
BY CONTRAST, the Mendocino County Supes, over the objection of the eternally grasping Kendall Smith and Dan Hamburg, cut their base pay 10% last year, in real dollars, from $68,000 to $61,200. Hamburg, along with everyone but Smith, was also voluntarily taking the 10% pay cut, but sided with Smith on the vote out of some odd sense of loyalty to the Fort Bragg bunco artist. Smith argued that her pay was already 25% undermarket, and she would gladly take a 10% pay cut after she first received a 25% raise. Smith, along with Colfax, were also the only Mendo Supes who received a deferred comp match, another “me first” benefit finagled by Smith. (If you ask under what market are people like Smith and Colfax undervalued, you won't be invited to Democratic Party wine and cheese functions.)
NEW FOURTH DISTRICT SUPE DAN GJERDE, who forced Smith's retirement simply by announcing he would run against her, was also an advocate for the 10% pay cut, which looked like a no-brainer to everyone but Smith if you're asking struggling line workers to take pay cuts. Gjerde has also taken it upon himself to correct another of Smith's many flagrant abuses of office. After Smith got dinged by the Grand Jury for cheating on her travel reimbursement claims, she pushed through a change to pay each of the Supes a set monthly amount for in-county travel, instead of having each Supe submit claims for actual miles traveled. The travel allowance for each Supe varied based on the size of their district and the mileage from their home to the County Admin Center. Smith also pushed through an allowance to allow only her to charge the County for two motel nights every week the Supes met. This allowed Smith to double dip by billing the County for her motel stays while also collecting the travel allowance for the travel she was not taking. Because it is an allowance instead of a reimbursement, she could pocket the money with no consequences. The travel allowance, unlike a reimbursement, also counts toward retirement, which has allowed Smith to pad her retirement income by several thousand dollars a year. In contrast, Gjerde pays for his own motel room, rightly reasoning that the taxpayers should not be expected to pay both the travel allowance and the motel cost. Gjerde could take it one step further, as the Grand Jury has recommended, and go back to the system of reimbursement for miles actually traveled, a system that seemingly worked well until Smith, and her partner in crime, former 5th Dist. Supe David Colfax, began abusing the policy. Colfax was equally remiss, but was smarter at stonewalling the Grand Jury.
SEIU IN MENDOCINO COUNTY continues to gear up for new contract negotiations. SEIU settled for a 10% pay cut last year after first bungling their way to a 12.5% pay cut for their sorely put upon membership. The inept SEIU leadership is aware that many of their members are questioning the value of paying SEIU to consistently misrepresent them, and seems intent on convincing the members that if they show a united front they can win back the 10% wage cut. Except all indications are that County revenue has remained flat for the last four years at the same time that costs for medical care and retirement keep going up. And unless SEIU can show where the money is coming from to pay for a raise, the present members of the Board of Supes are unlikely to vote for a pay raise after struggling to balance the budget with cuts and layoffs for the last four years.
SEIU has put out a lamebrain flier proclaiming Purple Power! Demanding Respect since 1921. For nearly 100 years — since the first SEIU janitors in Chicago — till now with SEIU 1021 workers in Mendocino, the issue has always been respect. We earn that every day as we serve the people of our county. And it's never more important than when we are at the table negotiating a contract. To show our united support for our bargaining team, join us in wearing something purple and/or your SEIU t-shirt every Tuesday. PURPLE UP 4 PURPLE POWER! Every Tuesday till we have a contract.
ASIDE from the somewhat fanciful comparison to Chicago janitors of 90 years ago, many of whom were radicals and not purplish lib-labs, SEIU appears to have learned little from the last round of contract negotiations. SEIU portrayed the County, symbolized by CEO Carmel Angelo and the Board of Supes, as mean oafs intent on crushing the spirit of American labor! It was time for County employees to show the Supervisors who's boss. SEIU sought to rally support from other unions, the local business community and the general public, but fell flat on their uncomprehending purple pusses, which is what happens when you have an overpaid labor union leadership making decisions from view window offices in Sacramento.
THE BASIC PROB for SEIU is that County revenue sources are flat and expenses are up. Almost everyone in the community except the SEIU leadership seems to understand these basic facts. The SEIU leadership usually fails to show up when the Supes are discussing budget issues, and when SEIU does show up they invariably display a miss understanding of budget basics. And the SEIU leadership shows no interest in understanding budget basics because that would undermine their argument for a restoration of the pay cut. If SEIU really wants to see a pay increase, they should become advocates for smart budget decisions, like ending the Teeter Plan general fund subsidy of Brooktrails (which was on the agenda for March 26). Or SEIU could get behind Supervisor Gjerde who wants to see the County Assessor step up efforts to collect property tax for all the un-permitted improvements that scofflaws have erected everywhere in the unincorporated areas of the County. For the last thirty years or so, there has been little discernible effort on the part of the County to make sure everyone is paying their fair share of property taxes, resulting in a situation where normally honest people are encouraged to skip the permitting and assessment process. But in place of strategic thinking, the best the SEIU braintrust can offer is a purple flyer encouraging a high school pep-rally type mentality.
SEIU IS ALSO SUING in a quixotic effort to prevent the County from contracting out mental health services. Mental Health has been a budgetary and service delivery black hole for the last twenty or more years. Repeated efforts to “fix” mental health have come to naught. Finally, the County, with the active encouragement of the Mental Health Board and mental health advocates, including the Mendocino County chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), decided to put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for adult mental health services. The thinking seems to be that a private operator could not do any worse than the present failed system and might actually do better, maybe much better, because the private operator will be accountable to meeting performance standards in ways that the publicly-run mental health system is not. The RFP has been in the works for going on two years, but SEIU only got around to suing last month, right when the County is in the process of evaluating the proposals that have come in, at least one from the local cadre of caring professionals.
SEIU INTERIM LABOR REP Sandi Madrigal, in response to questions from the Ukiah Daily Journal, wrote that the fact that the County currently contracts out for over 60 percent of mental health services “shows that the county has a tendency to shed itself of responsibilities for its residents and to funnel public funds to private entities.” The “private entities” to whom public funds are being funneled are local non-profits like the Youth Project and Redwood Children's Services who manage to deliver the needed services within budget and without generating complaints. Madrigal also asserts “the County has given up on trying to deliver the proper services. It's not a matter of money - the County is paying private companies to do the work. It's a matter of having the will to do it right.” Which seems to make the case for the County contracting out - because the fact is - the local non-profits are getting the job done in a way that the County was not able to do, despite years of trying different strategies and different managers.
MADRIGAL DODGED THE QUESTION when asked if the SEIU lawsuit was about preserving union jobs, saying that the union is just making sure that the County carries out its responsibilities (please, Sandi), adding “we are of and for the community, we can do it, and it's the right thing to do.” All of which ignores that they, the County employees, have not been doing “it” for some time now, hence the RFP. Diane Zucker, a NAMI member and self-described union person is quoted as saying the County is doing “very poorly” and looks to the non-profits to deliver services that have not been available, including adequate crisis response, supportive housing, improved case management and an employment program. Zucker agrees that government jobs should be preserved, as any true liberal would, but concludes that “the important thing is that the services are there for the people that need them.” And right now, all too often, the services are not there for mentally ill adults.
SONYA NESCH, in what seems like an odd twist, has been hired by the County Mental Health Dept. (now euphemistically called the Dept. of Behavioral Health) to teach a series of classes in Gualala titled “Shedding Light on Mental Illness.” Nesch has been a harsh critic of County Mental Health, the Supes, and the CEO for not implementing Laura's Law which she sees as a panacea for the treatment of the mentally ill. Among many points of disagreement between Nesch and the County are whether or not Mental Health Services Act funding can be used to implement Laura's Law in Mendocino County (it can't, which is why that authority is contained in one or more bills now before the state legislature). And whether or not it would have prevented the tragic murders of Matt Coleman and Jere Melo and the death of Aaron Bassler, who gunned them down without warning (it would not have, as clearly documented in DA Eyster's report on Bassler's death, because Bassler, based on all the known facts, did not qualify for Laura's Law).