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Off The Record

A FIFTH TREE-SITTER had joined the protest late last week against the Caltrans bypass around Willits. There were five as of Monday night, none as of Tuesday (April 2nd) when all five, including The Warbler, the senior tree protester, were removed by two men in a cherry picker. The following is a wrap of events through Easter Sunday. The newest tree-sitter, Travis, said: “These oaks are hundreds of years old. They cannot be “mitigated’ for because they can not be replaced.” Travis has put up a large “Save the Old Growth” banner, which can be seen from the highway.

THIS IS THE FIFTH day the Warbler has been on hunger strike. Warbler lowered her remaining food to the ground in buckets last Thursday, at a press conference marking the beginning of the third month of her tree sit. Willits Weekly’s calls to call Warbler this afternoon went to voice mail, but Sara Grusky of Save Little Lake Valley said Warbler is getting such a flood of phone calls offering support and concern, that her solar charger is having a hard time keeping up. Grusky talked to Warbler this morning: “She’s on the fifth day of her hunger strike and she is feeling it,” Grusky said. “She’s committed, but it’s difficult. We are concerned, and we are trying to get some health counseling to her to get her through it.” Warbler got a break Easter Sunday, as Caltrans contractors cutting trees around her took the day off.

Tree-sitter “Falcon” – sitting in a large oak on the west side of Highway 101 south of the Warbler tree sit -- told Willits Weekly news today he had discovered a pair of white-breasted nuthatches inhabiting a hole in a neighboring oak tree. The nuthatches are bringing in lichen to make a nest. Falcon pointed out the nuthatches to a biologist and bird surveyor for Caltrans contractors SHN Consulting Engineers, who tagged the tree for continued observation and a 100-foot protection area around the tree. “She’s a real bird lover,” Falcon said. An SHN bird surveyor told the Willits Weekly News on the ground Saturday morning near the #2 tree-sit off East Hill Road that other trees along the bypass route have also been tagged and protected.

The Environmental Protection and Information Center’s Andrew Orahoske told Willits Weekly News opening briefs from the groups who’ve sued to stop the Willits bypass will be filed this Friday. The lawsuit names the Federal Highway Administration, Caltrans, Malcolm Daugherty in his official capacity as director of the California Dept of Transportation, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as defendants.

State Senator Noreen Evans, who wrote a letter on March 5 raising “pointed questions” about the Willits bypass is scheduled to meet with Caltrans Director Daugherty tomorrow afternoon in Sacramento. — Jennifer Poole (Courtesy, Willits Weekly)

THE NEWSPAPER WAR is on! The Willits Weekly is ready to go, says the enterprise's lead organizer, Jennifer Poole. “We have assembled a great crew; we have a print quote from a high-quality color web press; and for the last six weeks, we have been giving the community a taste of our news and feature coverage on our Willits Weekly Facebook page, www.Facebook/ (you don’t need to have a Facebook account to enjoy our stories or our readers’ comments). If you haven’t heard about Willits Weekly yet, it is a new locally owned and operated newspaper planned by a group of newspaper veterans with experience reporting the news in Willits. We have received a huge outpouring of support for our idea – and for the coverage we’re doing on our Facebook page – and now we are asking for community sponsors to help launch the print version of our “community-supported newspaper.” Willits Weekly will be distributed for free at local businesses every Thursday. We’re planning our first edition in April. You can pick up Willits Weekly for free, but if you like it, chip in to help pay the bills. Any level of support is highly appreciated.

Checks can be made out to “Willits Weekly” and sent to P.O. Box 1698, Willits 95490. Our “under construction” web site also has a PayPal button for those who prefer to show their support with an online contribution.

— Jennifer Poole, editor and reporter / 459-2633; Maureen Moore, designer, reporter and photographer / 972-7047; Eric Hoggatt, advertising manager / 841-0374; Mike A’Dair, reporter; Zack Cinek, reporter; Cat Lee, reporter and features writer; Natalie Mayo, sports reporter.

THE BROOKTRAILS COMMUNITY SERVICES DISTRICT board voted 5-0 to endorse the Willits Bypass Tuesday evening, the same day the Board of Supes took up the issue to also, on a 3-2 vote, support the Bypass. In contrast to the packed house at the Board of Supes earlier in the day, not a single member of the public spoke to the issue at the Brooktrails meeting.

TONY ORTH has been on the Brooktrails board for twenty-five years. Orth has been Brooktrails representative to the Willits Bypass Project Development Team for at least half that time. As a member of the “PDT,” as Bypass insiders call their Project Development Team, and purporting to speak for the general public, Orth has always steered the conversation away from a Hwy. 20 interchange and in favor of a northern interchange, which would become a handier 'second access' to Brooktrails.

THE WILLITS CITY COUNCIL, and much of the Willits business community, also collaborated in an effort to shut down discussion of a Highway 20 interchange off the Bypass to guarantee that traffic to and from the Mendocino Coast would continue to pass through the gauntlet of gas stations, motels and fast food restaurants that characterize the Willits “Miracle Mile.” (If south Willits is a miracle then Sam Walton and Ronald McDonald are Jesus and Mary.)

PHIL DOW, Executive Director of the Mendocino Council of Governments (MCOG), which is the local transportation and funding agency for the County, with representatives drawn from the County and all four of the County's incorporated cities, was the only member of the public to speak in support of the Bypass. Dow says the Bypass has been the top priority of MCOG for thirty years. Which means that Dow, who has been the boss at MCOG for more than thirty years, has spent most of his life working on what he calls his “career project.” Which means if the Bypass is derailed Dow will have been spinning his wheels for the last thirty years, not that Dow's career disappointment wouldn't be good news for Willits.

AND HERE'S the Bypass rub: Every affected agency has signed off on the thing for many years, and signed off on whatever version of it was proposed by Caltrans.

MANY OF THE BYPASS opponents spoke with great eloquence as to the folly of the final Caltrans Bypass plan, but there was also an air of menace in the room as emotions ran high, with several speakers moved to tears and others crazy-mad. Most of the crowd was peaceful but turned ugly when Naomi Wagner, a holdover from the Judi Bari Cult of the Redwood Summer period and still active in the ongoing effort by the Bari Cult to block resolution of the “mystery” of the Bari Bombing, paced around the room, seemingly psyching herself up for whatever nutball stunt she was contemplating, before she finally arrived at the speaker's podium where she held up her cell phone as it emitted cyber-squawks. Wagner then screamed, “They're cutting the trees now!” And hurried out of the room and back to the Bypass site where she was promptly arrested for trespassing.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY DAVE EYSTER has declined to file charges against anyone arrested thus far, including Tara Dragani who has been arrested twice, the second time being charged for assault on a peace officer. Dragani allegedly bit a CHP officer as the cops attempted to subdue her when she threw a screaming meemie. We wonder how long Eyster will play catch-and-release with repeat arrestees?

THE INTERCHANGEABLE DEFENDERS OF LITTLE LAKE VALLEY and Earth First! announced the beginning of an Action Camp for Saturday March 29 with an all-day training on Sunday. The purpose of the training is to instruct people in the methods of non-violent civil disobedience like tree sits and gate blockades. Look for more Earth First! style demos in the Little Lake Valley soon. The announcement of the Action Camp was carried on the Save Little Lake Valley website, although SLLV disclaimed any connection. In reality, the groups are the same people by different names, with one group focused on education and outreach and eligible for tax deductible donations (with no public accounting ever, of course — these crooks are still dunning the unwary for Headwaters! — and another group focused on non-violent civil disobedience in response to a “higher law.” We're talking a core group of maybe 25 people — max, and if Naomi Wagner is typical, and she is, they're about as wed to the principles of the Mahatma as Seal Team Six. The more serious opponents, the core people who have fought the Bypass for years, have to struggle to prevent their effort from being demeaned, and even undermined, by crackpots and exhibitionists.

BUT CALTRANS and the CHP could be in for a very long four years if things drift inconclusively along, giving professional protesters of the Wagner type plenty of time to drift in from other areas of the state and the country. The strong CHP presence, estimated at 50-60 people at peak demos, surely comes with a hefty price tag, but it will come out of the CHP budget, not Caltrans.

MEANWHILE, State Senator Noreen Evans, who emboldened the protestors by being the first ranking official to question the wisdom of the Bypass, is scheduled to meet with Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty on April 2 and the next court hearing on the lawsuit to stop the bypass is scheduled for June 7. Evans is already distancing herself from the protests.

SAVE LITTLE LAKE VALLEY also plans a “Warbler Support Bike Ride” for April 6 from Redwood Valley to the Warbler tree sit over 14 miles of Highway 101, including some pretty steep climbs. The riders are encouraged to attach signs to their backs and bikes to alert passing motorists to their cause. One bike on the Willits grade is a rare sight. A semi-organized mob of bikes with signs and banners is not particularly wise on that hazardous stretch of 101.

HELEN OCHOA of Leggett called to offer a dissenting perspective on the Bypass protests. Helen's husband, the late Bill Ochoa, was a former head of the Mendocino County Chamber of Commerce. Helen is highly annoyed at the protests. “Why doesn't someone ask those people to move down to the bottleneck? You know what would happen if they did? People would be driving past flipping them off. I'm a respectable person, but I just might be one of them! My advice to the protesters? Get a job!”

MANBEATER OF THE WEEK, Ms. Kim Garcia, 28, of Ukiah, perhaps the most unrepentant Manbeater yet to grace our turbulent pages. “So I popped the punk in his pork chops and he starts to cry so of course I popped him again. And what does sissy boy do? He calls the cops!”

MENDO'S Veterans Service Office is now issuing identity cards to veterans. The new ID cards will allow veterans to get discounts from 5-25 percent at participating local businesses. Interested veterans are asked to bring in their DD-214 form in order for county staff to proceed with issuing the cards. Many businesses have already agreed to offer discounts to those holding the cards. We encourage all business owners to contact us and offer to participate in the program too. Mendocino County Veterans Service Office, 405 Observatory Ave., Ukiah. (707) 463-4226.

PIXIE UPDATE: Jacqueline Audet, aka Pixie, aka Goldilocks, is headed to the east coast and won't be back until fall, according to a reader who chatted with Ms. Audet as she was hitchhiking out of Ukiah with her four- footed dog and a pair of two-footed road dogs — Mr. Donald Jordan who has joined Pixie in the booking logs a number of times — and an equivalently disheveled younger man. Their itinerary, they say, is to head south for a while before heading for the east coast where Pixie intends to visit her family, which she hasn't seen for several years. (We're pretty sure she's from the Lake Shasta area but have been unable to find anyone who can confirm.)

WE WORRY about Goldie here at the AVA. Odds are that most jurisdictions along the way, on the off chance Miss Locks and Friends actually get underway — we're not talking long-term planners here — are not likely to be as indulgent as Mendoland, where many former hippies and hip-symps comprise a majority. But times are a lot tougher now and east of I-5 authorities are much less indulgent of aberrant behavior than the Left Coast tends to be.

MS. AUDET, who may or may not have a future, drifts aimlessly from one urban fringe parking lot to another — she's been spotted at supermarket and shopping center parking lots in Ukiah, Fort Bragg Garberville/Redway, and Ashland — and from fringe cluster of drop-fall drunks to another. The only constants in Pixie's young life seem to be her dog, her booze and, lately, Mr. Jordan who doesn't strike us as an upwardly mobile kind of guy. Prior to the encounter with Pixie and her friends on the southbound 101 on-ramp, our informant spotted Pixie at the Ukiah Wal-Mart parking lot, knocking back shots of communal vodka straight from a big plastic bottle.

FOR THOSE WHO QUESTION the attention we devote to the doomed Ms. Audet, now 22, we do it because to us she symbolizes everything that has gone terribly wrong with the country, so terribly wrong that short of revolution it can't be fixed. Here we have a vulnerable young woman — we became aware of her via the booking logs when she was 19 — drinking herself to a premature grave while we all look on.

FORT BRAGG began a program last year called “Handouts Aren't Helping,” which offers posters to business owners in an effort to remind people that if they really want to help the homeless donations to local organizations that provide food, housing, counseling, and other services are a better bet than placing cash directly into the hands of dope heads and drunks. Donations to a local organization are also more likely to benefit needy local people than handing cash to “travelers” just passing through or hoping to catch on with the marijuana trade. We understand Willits, another community beset by drug and alcohol-fueled transients, is also adopting the “Handouts Aren't Helping” campaign, an effort that ought to be adopted countywide. Operations like Hospitality House and Love In Action in Fort Bragg, Willits Community Services and Our Daily Bread in Willits, and Plowshares, Ford Street Project and the Community Center in Ukiah, and the local food bank, are always much in need of donations and volunteers. And they do so on the proverbial shoestring and with minimal administrative overhead.

LAKE COUNTY SHERIFF FRANK RIVERO has responded to the allegations contained in the recall petition recently filed against him. Rivero, according to a story in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, says the recall petition is “based solely on inaccuracies and mistruths” and “unjustly nullifies the will of the people and your vote to end corruption.” Rivero contends that he is the target of a “good old boys” network that is out to thwart his efforts to root out corruption. Rivero is particularly incensed at Lake County District Attorney Don Anderson who recently issued a report that concluded Rivero lied to investigators in discussing a case where Rivero fired a shot (and missed) at a retreating suspect armed with a can of pepper spray. Rivero says Anderson's report is “politically motivated, violates due process and has serious negative implications for law enforcement.”

RIVERO PAID FOR HIS OWN REPORT back in 2011 when he was being investigated by the District Attorney. Not surprisingly, the report commissioned by Rivero claimed to have uncovered wrongdoing by DA Anderson and his investigators. Rivero's supporters have published the report online and say they will ask the state attorney general and the FBI to investigate. Rivero and Anderson both ran for election in 2010 as outsiders, but Rivero has since repeatedly accused the DA of corruption. Anderson professes to be honored to be among the long list of public officials that Rivero calls corrupt. Anderson told the PD: “I want to know what his definition of 'corrupt' is. Everyone who disagrees with him is corrupt.”

RIVERO, who once tried to bar the Hell's Angels from entering Lake County, says in his response to the recall petition that he is combating drug and street crime and paints a flattering picture of his administration: “Under my leadership, the Sheriff's Office has assembled a professional and senior staff equal to any in the United States. My administration performs at the highest level of ethics and accountability.” Now that Rivero has issued a response, the recall proponents can begin collecting the 7,000+ signatures of registered voters that are needed to put the recall on the ballot.

THE UKIAH UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT will be millions in debt by the 2015-16 school year, according to Sandra Harrington, Chief Business Official for UUSD. And whatever happened to CFO or Chief Financial Officer? Ms. Harrington, according to a story by Justine Frederiksen in the Ukiah Daily Journal, tried to spin a deepening of the district's deficit spending by smacking up to her bosses. The millions of debt, according to Ms. H, showed “the huge level of respect this board has for the employees of this district,” adding “these are the risks the board has been willing to take to show respect for the bargaining units.”

HUH? The “board” referred to is the Ukiah School Board, now calling itself the Ukiah Unified School District Board of Directors. These fiscal daredevils recently increased teacher salaries nearly 10% by agreeing to wipe out the district reserves. Board member Anne Molgaard explained: “Of course we're concerned [about the lack of reserves], we just don't know what's going to happen three years from now,” adding that she didn't “want it to seem as if the old board were misers and the new board is not.” Another word for “miser” might be “prudent,” which the old board probably was and the new one is not. Not knowing what will happen in three years (closer to two years, actually) is an argument for building a reserve, not draining it.

BOARD MEMBER Gail Mon Pere was elected along with Molgaard on a teacher-backed slate, always a sign that the inmates are running the educational institution. The candidates duly promised to raise teacher salaries by tapping the reserves, and Mon Pere said she was very pleased to throw the district's reserve fund to the people who'd elected her. (Incidentally, the reserve money is known as Fund 17. A lot of budgetary confusion occurs by not calling things by their right names.) According to Harrington, Fund 17 was a “special reserve” for money not designated for a particular purpose which could be used to offset shortages in other areas, like big raises for your political supporters. Mon Pere, on hearing that the reserves will soon be depleted, exclaimed: “I wanted nothing more than to hear that Fund 17 was empty, so that people would stop asking about it.”

MOLGAARD IS GENEROUSLY compensated to preside over the government-funded First 5 program, an annual $1 million boondoggle funded out of the cigarette tax. Former Ukiah Superintendent of Schools, Lois Nash, incompetent as she generally was, had at least guided the previous board to build the reserve precisely because it is unknown what the future may hold.

ACCORDING TO MS. HARRINGTON, the future will see a $2.25 million dollar shortfall by the fall of 2015, a little more than two years from now.

SUPERINTENDENT DEBRA KUBIN stayed with the upbeat party line, commenting that the new salary schedule was already helping with recruiting, adding “It feels good, knowing we'll be able to attract some really good applicants.” And then lay them off when the bad news arrives.

UKIAH CITY COUNCIL WOMAN MARI RODIN claimed during a recent meeting that fellow councilman Benj Thomas' suggestion that the city hire a “pastor/ombudsman/ethicist” had been taken out of context. “I'm pretty sure that Mr. Thomas doesn't want the city to hire a priest; the idea was presented out of context. When the news media takes our comments out of context, it makes our job not only not rewarding and not fun… it is just not helpful for the newspaper to cover our in-depth conversation in a superficial way.”

JOIN US, PLEASE, in the shallow end of the pool while we deconstruct Mari's Lament:

AFTER DENOUNCING the Ukiah Daily Journal's coverage as bad reporting, Ms. Rodin admitted that she hadn't read the offending story, so she must have intuited that it was superficial and out of context. But Thomas' inane comments were covered in two in-depth articles in the Ukiah Daily Journal, which reported his original comment verbatim. When Thomas was asked what he meant, he explained he was concerned that budget decisions could become a struggle between “values and the bottom line. I don't want to lose track of our values.” (Fatuity is a value?)

K.C. MEADOWS, Editor of the Ukiah Daily Journal, and a bona fide smart person, couldn't resist responding: “We believe that what Ms. Rodin really objects to is not superficial coverage, but the accurate coverage she and her council-mates get, in which they often display a complete lack of any sense of reality, or vision beyond their own tightly-enclosed West Side universe.”

TRUER WORDS… etc. And Ms. Meadows is relevant to the rest of us, too, because West Side Ukiah pretty much calls the tune for the entire County, what with judges, lawyers, the better paid public bureaucrats, the non-profit drones and, of all people, their only known antidote, Tommy Wayne Kramer all living west of State Street, south of Low Gap Road.

RODIN also blamed the media for a lack of city council candidates, to which Meadows responded, “If no one is running for city council we suspect it's the thought of working with people like Ms. Rodin and the atmosphere of self-imposed desperation in which the city finds itself that is the culprit.”

THE CITY OF UKIAH is running at an annual deficit of $1 million plus, not because the city council lacks an on-staff pastor/ombudsman/ethicist/handholder/massage therapist, but because their elected leaders lack the will to make the hard decisions that need to be made. When the state called a halt to the kinds of abuses typified by the Ukiah Redevelopment Agency (RDA), which milked redevelopment for $1 million annually to pay city administrative salaries. But instead of cutting admin expenses the city proposed to lay off cops, firefighters, public works and parks workers. In other words, keep the suits employed and lay off the worker bees. The council also approved spending $27,000 of RDA funds to take out three parking spaces and build a “dining platform” on public property to benefit the restaurant, Patrona, favored by Rodin, Landis and Little Benj. No other downtown business got benefit one from the redevelopment money.

UKIAH'S DEARTH of capable city council candidates, if that's true, more than likely stems from the dread of working with the current set of incumbents who more often than not function as bots in a caricature of local governance. Phil 'Red Phil' Baldwin occasionally questions staff from a left/progressive perspective and the fiscally sensible Doug Crane questions the majority's budget decisions, but their three colleagues are, well, not reality based.

HIGH ON UKIAH'S “wish list” is borrowing $4-6 million dollars to satisfy the infrastructure needs of mega-corp Costco while the rest of the city infrastructure continues to crumble. Also high on the wish list is working a deal to locate the proposed new County courthouse at the old railroad depot site, which will remove most of the remaining business out of the old downtown. Lawyers, judges and cops will not walk two blocks to have lunch at Schat's Bakery, one of the few viable businesses remaining in the downtown. (Sodden thought: If Willits and Ukiah were in Nebraska, they'd already be ghost towns.)

SUPERVISOR PINCHES will be widely viewed as the villain in the ongoing Willits Bypass saga, but it should be remembered that it was Pinches who suggested years ago that the Bypass be built along the abandoned rail line's right of way east of town. Pinches' commonsense pitch for the existing, most direct, most ecologically viable, already engineered, cheapest route bypassing Willits would be the rail line, was ignored. And opposed by the railroad people supported by the Northcoast Democrats. The Demos, backed up by influential hobby rail groups like the Willits-based Roots of Motive Power insisted, and still insist, that rail service will one glorious day again chug up and down the tracks between Eureka and Marin, a fantasy that ignores the impassable conditions of the Eel River Canyon.

IT WOULD BE HELPFUL to the overall effectiveness of the Bypass protests if exhibitionists like Jack Gescheidt and his traveling freak show, TreeSpirit, were discouraged. He's the guy who shows up with a bunch of people who shouldn't even take their clothes off in the dark let alone before an embarrassed Mother Nature. (“I did this?” Ma demands.) But here they come, and soon their sagging flesh is wrapped around undefended trees. They were in Willits the other day before stripping down and proclaiming, “This bold demonstration of support for woodlands, wetlands, wildlife and community was held March 23. As with all TreeSpirit events, it was peaceful, inspired by the trees themselves.” It's this kind of thing that has discredited protests of all kinds for years, going back to 1967.

A READER WRITES: “You've written about Bob West before, the guy who is in charge of the county's maintenance people (buildings and grounds). He's little loved amongst his colleagues. Got fired last week, official confirmation was Tuesday. A grounds crew guy I know said West is “a 12 on the bleep scale.” He and co-workers went to the Forest Club to celebrate last Friday after work.”

THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE toll takers are gone as of Tuesday midnight. Traffic has mostly moved smoothly in the hours since. The following are random remarks about the Bridge going all-electronic:

(1) They are going to be wasting a lot of time and money on postage. I know that I'm not the only one who doesn't use Fasttrack, nor do I ever plan to. It'll be a cold day in hell before I use a credit card for anything, much less an online payment for a bridge toll. So, every time I and people like me cross the bridge, envelopes will have to be stuffed with the bill and sent through the mail. How is this less wasteful? Other than in being one further major blow to public employees?

(2) So I must not understand — just scan your credit card or stop first and get some sort of ticket.

(3) It works like this: A camera scans all license plates as they pass through the toll area. Those who have already paid will have the toll deducted from their account. Those who haven't paid will have a bill sent to the address the vehicle is registered under. If you don't return payment within a certain period of time, you pay a fine. You can pay your toll ahead of time online, although I don't have the link bookmarked to include it here.

(4) So it's the honor system? If you have a new car with no license plate, and you don't have FasTrak, you have to prepay somewhere. What happens if you don't? Or you sell your used vehicle to someone and you keep getting billed because they haven't prepaid? How easy will it be to send the sale info to keep you from being billed? Rental cars? Will Bay Area rental car companies charge more as a reserve in case you're a tourist who will be crossing the Golden Gate, or will they now have to have employees to research who rented the car at the time it was recorded crossing the toll area so they can bill the renter? Seems as if there may be a few holes in the plan of operation.

ONE OF THE PROBLEMS at the Toll Booth area during initial phases of no-toll-takers is that some of the signs leading up to the booths are confusing. Mary Currie, spokeswoman for the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District, said the district had considered “tweaking the signs,” but they chose not to because “it could take months to get CalTrans approval to do so.”

THIS IS THE SAME CALTRANS that is trying to build the “bypass” around Willits.

MORE THAN HALF of America's rivers and streams are now unable to support life after decades of pollution, it was revealed last week by the EPA. The bulk of the damage has been done by agricultural fertilizers such as phosphorus and nitrogen washing from fields into waterways. 55% of rivers and streams were classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as being “poor,” with only a fifth in good health. The agency sampled nearly 2,000 locations in 2008 and 2009 —from rivers as large as the Mississippi River to streams small enough for wading. The study found more than 55% of them in poor condition, 23% in fair shape, and 21% in good biological health. The most widespread problem is high levels of nutrient pollution, caused by phosphorus and nitrogen washing into rivers and streams from farms, cities, and sewers. High levels of phosphorus — a common ingredient in detergents and fertilizers — are found in 40% of rivers and streams. Another major problem is over-development, as land clearing and building along waterways increases erosion and flooding, allowing more pollutants to enter waters. “This new science shows that America's streams and rivers are under significant pressure,” said Nancy Stoner, from the EPA's water office. “We must continue to invest in protecting and restoring our nation's streams and rivers as they are vital sources of our drinking water, provide many recreational opportunities, and play a critical role in the economy.” Conditions are worse in the East, the report found. More than 70% of streams and rivers from the Texas coast to the New Jersey coast are in poor shape. Streams and rivers are healthiest in sparsely populated Western mountain areas, where only 26% were classified as in poor condition. The EPA also found some potential risks for human health. In 9% of rivers and streams, bacteria exceeded thresholds thought to endanger health. The toxic chemical mercury was found in fish along 13,000 miles of streams at levels exceeding health-based standards. Mercury can enter the environment from coal-burning power plants and from burning hazardous wastes. The Obama administration finalized regulations to control mercury pollution from coal-burning power plants for the first time in late 2011.

PLEASE JOIN Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman and Steve Sparks on Sunday April 7th at the Mad Dog in the Fog, 530 Haight Street, San Francisco. The event starts at 3 pm with the Book Signing and Q&A discussion following at 5:30 PM. The Q&A discussion will cover such topics as Mental Health, Gun Control and the Marijuana culture of Northern California and promises to be a thought provoking event. To view this invite, copy and paste this link into your browser:

SUPERVISOR DAN GJERDE, scrupulously precise in his public remarks, told us on Wednesday that what he said regarding the County’s travel reimbursement policies and his own travel required a bit of clarification, a sensitive subject since his predecessor, Kendall Smith, stole hers: “The travel allowance, unlike a reimbursement, also counted toward retirement,” explained Gjerde, “which 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. Likewise, California's pension reform law, PEPRA, has now kicked in, and car allowances do not count towards pensions for people like Gjerde, who became County employees after December 31, 2012.

THE SIERRA SNOW PACK is 52% of normal for April 1, and the last three months are just about the driest on record, according to State Water Resources. The amount of water in the snowpack at this time of year is crucial because the largest proportion of the ice that melts in the Sierra after April 1 is captured in nearby reservoirs. That water used to irrigate millions of acres of farmland and quench the thirst of most of California's 37.8 million people. Paltry precipitation has been a statewide issue over the past three months, which is unusual because those 90 days are normally the wettest. The unusually dry weather was caused by a ridge of high pressure that has lingered over the West Coast, pushing storms north of California and over the eastern half of the country. It is also why the Plains and Eastern United States have been pounded by storms and, in some cases, record cold. Mendocino County is, well, tending to the parched side of the weather vane, but Lake Mendocino is at 75.82 percent of capacity, which should be enough to keep fish alive in the Russian River between Ukiah and Healdsburg.

SCOTTY WILLIS often slugs it out with his ladylove, Miss Kalisha Alvarez. The two lovebirds are what the cops call “frequent fliers,” meaning they are constantly in and out of the Mendocino County Jail, often for “domestic violence.” But add the fun couple to the roughly hundred other frequent fliers of Mendocino County and you have a constant drain on public time and money.

IN THE FEW days Scotty spends in the County Jail before returning to the iffy embrace of Kalisha, he will meet the following FF's. Like Scotty, these people are arrested many times every year. (Miss Colberg, some readers will recall, has described herself as “Fort Bragg's Dominant Female.” She was the victim of that gruesome ax attack two years ago in a gang-inspired mêlée in Fort Bragg.)

CARRIGG (Willits); Holmes (Fort Bragg); Litzen (Ukiah); Donahe (Fort Bragg); Verville (Ukiah); Halvorsen (Fort Bragg); Hensley (Ukiah); Colberg (Fort Bragg); Hoaglin (Covelo).

ALL OF THE ABOVE are drop/fall drunks. Miss Colberg? Ornery, but too young and attractive for full Battle Ax status. She has, however, been through the system a bunch of times already.

FATTEST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD REVEALED: Kuwait is top of the list with the highest average body mass index. UK is 26th in the list with America second. Bangladesh is bottom along with some of the poorest countries in world. But the US is pipped to first place in the body mass index chart by Kuwait. This beats America in second place. The UK which has worrying rising obesity levels, particularly among children, is 26th in the list. Other countries which appear to be heavier than the UK include Germany, Greece and Argentina. Despite its reputation as a sport-crazy outdoor country, Australia is also higher than the UK —11th on the list, which was complied by It is unsurprising that some of the world's poorest countries in Asia and Africa feature as the countries with the lowest BMI. People from Bangladesh have the lowest BMI. Other countries close to the bottom include some which have been riven by war and famine including Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya and Eritrea. Some countries like Jamaica also have wide discrepancies between men and women. Men are thinner. Similar trends are also noticeable in Lesotho, Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti.

POST OFFICE BLUES: After several AVAs addressed to long-time subscriber Ken Ellis in New Bedford, Massachusetts were returned marked “NSN” (No Such Number) by the US Postal Service, we emailed Mr. Ellis to verify that his address was correct.

MR. ELLIS REPLIED: Yes, that is the correct address, and the house has not once ever gotten up and moved to a different part of the city since it was built, and my family moved in, way back in 1954, just in time for Hurricane Carol to try to whack us, and whose high waters came up to the edge of the house before receding. It can be nice living near the coast, most of the time. The incompetence of the mail carriers is amazing, but I may finally have figured out what the problem might be. I live on a corner, but every other house on my block is numbered less than 100. My house is the only anomaly, in that respect. To reach a house numbered HIGHER than 101, a busy street must be crossed, and the next block proceeded to. The trouble with the carriers is that they ASSUME that every house on my block MUST be numbered less than 100, simply because every other house on my block is thus numbered. So, because my house is numbered the way it is, and they simply are too lazy to do any research, they therefore regard my mail as undeliverable. Things were fine in the distant past when a carrier could be counted on to do a regular route for years at a time, but nowadays the carrier looks different just about every day, almost. Perhaps my only recourse is to move to a different house in the MIDDLE of a block somewhere. Thanks for letting me know about the problem. Perhaps I will have to put up a big sign on the house, one with a big 101 on it. Maybe you Californians could send me a good used “Highway 101” sign. The size that graces a Hwy 101 overpass ought to be big enough to catch the eye of a semi-alert carrier.”

A SANTA CRUZ SUBSCRIBER sings his Post Office blues: “Received my 3/13 edition (vol 61 no. 11) in the mail today (3/26). At first I thought you missed my renewal (last edition was 3/6), but it looks like the post office is conspiring against you again.”

AT THIS POINT with the Post Office there's no one left to complain to. They're taking everyone down with them.

IT'S BEEN MANY YEARS since I've read On The Road but take it from me the movie just out bears only a tangential resemblance to the book, and you've got to pay real close attention to even catch the tangent. It's a worse than terrible treatment of a seminal American novel which, as I recall it, conveyed the excitement of a country so various, so open to possibility that young people who read it, young people like me, wanted to jump into a car and drive off to see it all. In fact, Kerouac's road epic so inspired me I answered an ad to drive a car from San Francisco to Seattle and took off in a 1960 Buick with twenty bucks, if that. Some other time for that adventure, but On The Road was a big jolt to the youthful imagination, an inspiration to get out there and see America at a time when you could still travel from one distinct place to the next distinct place, not from one WalMart to maybe a CostCo in an unchanging vastness where the only thing that changes from offramp to offramp is the weather. Even lives are now scripted. Someone dies you know what to say and how to behave from the movies. The movie version depicts vaguely estranged young people hugging each other every few minutes as if they'd been somewhere since the last hug. The only way you know they're a step up from morons is the occasional line from the book or, of all people, Proust. (I don't remember a Proust ref in On The Road but, as I said, it's been a long time since I read it.) This movie is by people who don't get it about a time they wouldn't have got even if they'd been there. Hollywood doesn't do intellectuals well and, like it or not, the early beatniks were intellectuals, and On The Road is a great book. The film is a kind of blasphemy.

INTERESTING how overt racism is making a kind of comeback. This ad has appeared lately on the side of SF Muni buses: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

THE IMPLICATION is, of course and obviously, that all Muslims are jihadis bent on flying airplanes into infidel high rises, or whatever they can get away with.

A WOMAN NAMED Pamela Geller represents a nutball Israeli group. She's the front person for the ads which, apparently, also run on New York City buses.

I WONDER if, say, someone or a group of someones paid Muni to run an ad saying “The Chinese are coming” with that quote from Mao tse Tung about political power emanating from gun barrels. Or, “Jews are murdering Arabs and stealing their land.” Pick an ethnic group and add a slam. And watch how fast the ad comes down, if it ever goes up.

THE WAY THE CITY has handled Crazy Geller's ad? First the City said nothing can be done, then the City donated $5 thousand to its own phony Human Rights Commission to puzzle out if Geller's ad amounts to defamation.

THERE AREN'T MANY Muslims in SF, not enough anyway to stop blood libel, but the ad is a tiny example of how this kind of thing is tolerated, so long as the people libeled aren't numerous enough or organized well enough to effectively complain.

AS IN the cretinous and, needless to say, popular movie called End of Watch, which purports to be about LA cops and seems to have the approval of the LAPD. It's about two young cops, former Marines (as a former Marine I don't remember us being so witty, so all-round cool), who patrol a tough area of LA, encountering improbably evil Mexicans and a cartoon black thug and his “crew.” Black people are so relentlessly depicted as thugs and criminals that black anti-defamation groups only get around to the most egregious depictions. Mexicans are coming on strong as all-purpose villains, all for the entertainment, I guess, of the white suburbs.

THE COAST HOSPITAL BANKRUPTCY HEARING has been postponed from April 12 to April 26, and may be postponed again. Meanwhile the Hospital continues to operate as usual and bills are still being paid. Hospital management said they were insolvent last Fall, but it appears that the Hospital has been able to maintain operations (albeit with 20 less employees and a number of resignations and retirements since the bankruptcy was announced) without any bankruptcy relief. The doors are still open, patients are still being admitted. Employees, at least those who can, driven by uncertainty, are jumping ship for jobs elsewhere.

OVER THE PAST two months, Coast Hospital has spent $100k on lawyers; the money could have been used to finance medical care, but..... Rumors among hospital staff are that CEO Wayne Allen wants to downscale the Hospital's services to only those that can be paid out of cash revenues. This would mean that all other revenue (such as the parcel tax that goes to the Hospital District, property taxes, grants and bonds) would go toward debt financing and capital equipment. This in turn leads to speculation that the Hospital would become even more attractive for sale to a for-profit hospital chain such as the Adventists, since it would no longer be operating at a deficit.

A FEW YEARS AGO, the Hospital reconfigured itself into a “Critical Access Hospital” (CAH) so that it would qualify for a Medicare reimbursement “bonus” at the end of each fiscal year. But that bonus (5% of basic Medicare billing) is only provided if the Hospital turns Medicare patients (i.e., the old and infirm) out the door in an average of under 72 hours per admission. In other words, in America's distorted medical financing structure, small hospitals are encouraged to push the elderly out the door in the shortest possible time to allow the hospital to maintain even a minimally balanced set of books.

ANYONE driving Highway One near Elk will have noticed that the 56-year old picturesque old Greenwood Bridge just south of town is being replaced, with one-way traffic on the old bridge. So far, the northbound lane of the bridge has been removed and a retaining wall built while the concrete base of the new bridge is poured and installed. Caltrans estimates that the new northbound lane will be ready for traffic by the end of summer. Of course being a Caltrans project, the construction is behind schedule, but Big Orange still expects to be finished by the summer of 2014. The new bridge was estimated to cost $20.5 million, but will now cost a lot more because of the delays. The new bridge will be wider and include a five-foot-wide pedestrian walkway, an amenity certain to please tourists.

THOUSANDS MORE AMERICANS will lose their homes this year with 1.5 million properties taken by banks - up 9% from 2012. The number of foreclosed or bank-seized homes has risen by 9% already this year — with 1.5 million properties currently being lost by homeowners who can no longer afford them. RealtyTrac says a further 10.9 million American homeowners are at risk because they owe more than their property is worth. Of the 1.5 million properties currently in the seizure process more than 300,000 are stuck in limbo — not yet sold on but abandoned by cash-strapped owners. Such situations occur when a bank notifies the owner of foreclosure but fails to go through with the sale — simply because they do not think it's worth their while. If they don't sell the property banks get insurance and tax from documenting the loss, which can often earn them more than the profit made on the house sale. According to the Christian Science Monitor, it also means they can sell debt to debt collectors. The house then becomes a so-called “zombie property.” These properties tend to fall into disrepair because absent owners remain responsible for their upkeep but have moved on and don't realize that they're still the owners of record. Florida was the worst state for such deserted properties with 301,874 zombies. Illinois and California were ranked second and third for zombies, with Kentucky having the highest percentage of zombies per foreclosed properties. “These people have become like indentured serfs, with all of the responsibilities for the properties but none of the rights,” former Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Professor Kermit Lind told the Monitor. The record of foreclosures peaked in the midst of the financial crisis in December 2010 with 2.2 million homes seized by banks. More than 60% of the homes currently seized had loans worth less than $200,000 outstanding on them, with 30% with loans between $200,000 and $400,000, according to the research.

AARON HARDING ZANDERS, 32, of Ukiah, was arrested Saturday on charges that he tried to kill his mother. Mom called police at 3:55 p.m. to report that her adult son was trying to kill her, according to the UPD. She said she'd locked herself in the bathroom, but that her son had broken through the bathroom of the home in the 300 block of Cooper Lane door and had hit her head against the floor. Mr. Zanders was previously arrested in Willits for battery back in May of 2011. On his Facebook page, Mr. Z expresses contempt for mental health counseling, likes Marilyn Manson, says his mom gave him a bum Tuna recipe, changes his look a lot, has had a couple of civil suits filed against him (right after the May 2011 arrest in Willits), and generally presents as an uneven-type dude with Mommy issues. Zanders was booked at the Mendocino County Jail, where he was still in custody Monday morning under $300,000 bail.

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