AS PREVIOUSLY REPORTED, The County Of Mendocino (and Auditor Controller Meredith Ford acting in her official capacity), is being sued by the cities of Ukiah, Fort Bragg and Willits. All counties in California charge a Property Tax Administration Fee (PTAF) for collecting the property tax owed to cities and special districts. In 2004, the State Legislature, as part of it annual budget flim flam, adopted two programs called “the Triple Flip” and the “VLF Swap” which had the unintended consequence of putting cities and counties at odds with each other.
THE TRIPLE FLIP, in a series of moves that would make a riverboat gambler blush, diverted local sales tax dollars to pay bonds that were issued to pay off the state's structural deficit; re-directed school property tax revenue from the Education Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF) back to cities and counties to make up for the loss of local sales tax; and made up for the loss to schools of ERAF funds by backfilling from the state General Fund. The VLF Swap reduced Vehicle License Fee (VLF) revenue to cities and counties and once again the state redirected property tax revenue from ERAF back to the cities and counties.
THE NET RESULT was that the cities (and counties) were receiving considerably more revenue from property tax than previously, although much of the increase was in lieu of local sales tax and VLF. The state also said the counties could not charge additional PTAF for the first two years of implementing the new programs. Starting in 2006-07 most counties began charging additional PTAF based on guidelines issued by the State Auditor's Association. Because the funds diverted from ERAF were from property tax, the guidelines treated them like property tax and charged PTAF accordingly. A group of cities sued L.A. County alleging they were being overcharged. Cities and counties around the state agreed to hold off on additional legislation until the L.A. case was resolved. The trial court sided with the county, but the appellate court ruled that the counties had been miscalculating the PTAF. In November the State Supreme Court agreed that the cities had been overcharged.
CITIES & COUNTIES around the state are negotiating agreements to refund the amounts overcharged, but despite its reputation for love and peace, things are seldom so simple here in Mendoland. In addition to the law suit, the city councils of Fort Bragg and Ukiah have also written public letters to the County Board of Supervisors complaining that for years they have had to fight off state attempts to take “their” money and now the County is doing the same thing. So nine years ago the State Legislature engaged in its usual budgetary sleight of hand and now the cities and counties are left squabbling over the crumbs. The cities say in their lawsuit that they had to sue because the county was not coming to terms, but reliable sources say that discussions were already underway. In fact, the AVA has learned that the City of Willits has already reached a compromise settlement with the county. The item was considered in closed session by the County at a special meeting on Monday but no action was reported out of closed session.
DANIEL HAMBURG v. MENDOCINO COUNTY was also a subject of the special meeting closed session, but again, no action was reported to have been taken. Hamburg is sueing the County for alleged violations of his “fundamental rights of Liberty, Property, Safety, Happiness and Privacy, Due Process of Law; Equal Protection of Law; and Civil Rights.” Hamburg is seeking an order from the Court directing Mendocino County to issue a burial certificate and death certificate for his disceased wife, Carrie, and is also seeking in excess of $10,000 in legal fees as of June 10, the date of the filing. Most people agree that state law needs to be updated to free our dead from the greed based strictures imposed by the death industry, but it is unseemly for a sitting supervisor, and chair of the board, no less, to be suing the county he represents. Oddly enough, Hamburg's own lawsuit cites two examples (Jay Baker in Gualala and the Tebbuts family in Anderson Valley) where petitions were filed with the local Superior Court requesting the right to private burial. Both petitions were granted the same day they were filed. Speculation is that Hamburg is getting bad legal advice since the case would be over if he had simply filed a petition with the court instead of suing the County. And if the local judges, notoriously shy of getting embroiled in local controversy, pass the buck, Hamburg can rely on his old pal, visiting Judge Kossow, to sign off on the petition
I KNOW ETHNIC identifications can be sensitive, but either this guy is an extremely disoriented Mexican or he's an extremely disoriented Arab. But Mr. Ghafarisaravi says he's Hispanic, and he oughtta know.
“SHORTLY before noon Monday, a trench on the Holmes Ranch near Philo caved in, injuring a man. No details yet.” That was all we had yesterday. Further investigation reveals the site as the Duckhorn vineyard pond under construction in the hills due east of Floodgate near Navarro. A workman was standing on the lip of a trench when it gave way, burying him. A man working nearby saw what had happened and quickly managed to pull away enough earth for the buried man to breathe as equipment operators also on site began extracting the victim, a process later described by one witness as “a textbook trench rescue.” The rescued worker, still not identified, and may be from the out-of-area construction firm doing the work, never lost consciousness. Although he seems to have suffered an injury to his leg, the man is expected to fully recover, if one ever fully recovers from being buried alive.
PETE'S SOLAR (aka Advance Power Inc. of Calpella) has made Boonville an offer Boonville (and Mendocino County) would be nuts to refuse. He has offered to install, free, a solarized power system at the County Fairgrounds. Needless to say, solarized power would save our financially precarious Mendocino County Fair a very large amount on its monthly power bill. We've passed this enormously generous offer on to Fair Manager Jim Brown and to Morgan Baynham of the Fair Board. Also known as Advance Power, Pete's is based on deep North State Street, Ukiah, Mendocino County's oldest and, in our opinion, most reliable solar power company.
ANDERSON VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL, a look back. As a victim of American public schools my knowledge of the world is hazy at best. In algebra class I learned the sacred geometries of chalking the baseball foul lines and putting hash marks on the football field. In physics and chemistry some arcane bit of knowledge was surely gleaned from the astute Steve McKay, if only by genial osmosis. At some critical moment in life, like trying to pay for gas by the liter in a Swedish town taken over by ruffians and Burning Man casualties, perhaps Steve’s good natured patience will manifest, and I will be slightly and not completely confused. A fond memory from Steve’s class was the day when a hand-written love letter from a popular 9th grade girl to her female teacher/mentor/choreographer/lover was discovered on the floor. Surrendering to our desperate pleas for transparency and pre-Homeland Security eavesdropping, Steve read the first page like the narrator from Masterpiece Theater. The missive was the standard adolescent “I can’t live without you. Your lips are like plums that should stay in the icebox to chill. When you stand in front of the chalkboard sometimes I dream that I am the eraser, and also that I am a magic kind of chalk that lasts forever plus some more, a pink chunk of literary combustion that leaves poetic symbols that scream without raising its voice: I am a Panther, but my claws are tender hooks of scratch-worship designed to make you purr. And also for ripping the young throats of any losers who disapprove of God’s merciful rope as it binds my wrists and ankles to the pommel horse hidden behind the stage curtains in the gym. The ball gag is a caring touch. To feel your tenured mouth on my triple flip dismount is to know the techniques of the great East German gymnasts, in the days before gender testing and when the more respected coaches had handle-bar mustaches and synthetic trousers that made a hopeless romantic dream of the day when the curtain separating our Cold War love would turn from cold iron to tight but soft lycra.” Steve blushed and put the letter away, though not without a chorus of boos and blushing croaks from titillated scholars. Another unforgettable moment in science class was the afternoon when two lunatics in full camo and armed with crossbows walked into the classroom. It was like Robin Hood meets Mall Cops. They had a neighborly question for Steve: could they use the high school lab to build explosives? Specifically, they needed dynamite to blow up stumps from a field they were clearing, though the true motive was likely something like taking out the Little River Inn or derailing the Skunk Train (which jumped the tracks years ago). Consulting his teachers’ union manual, Steve replied honestly: school property was for clandestine love affairs and making bongs, not weapons of mass destruction. The two archers were named Leonard Lake and Charles Ng, who would become two of California’s most loathsome (yet industrious) serial killers. Lake’s girlfriend at the time went by the name of Cricket, and managed the Philo Pottery Inn and was also a teacher’s aide. I don’t know if such visits are standard for other schools, but A.V. High in those days was anything but typical. In fact, you could call it an MK-ULTRA mind experiment designed to test the effects of rampant adult selfishness, serial killers, cherry lip gloss, Miller Lite, and the music of Hall and Oates on theoretically impressionable minds.
BESIDES Lake and Ng’s request for an independent study demolitions course, an even bigger mass murder named Jim Jones taught 4th grade in Boonville several years before my sentence began. But more lively were a couple of fun-loving Australian moonies, bleach-blond brothers who kept their socks full of grape bubble gum. The moonies were tough little bastards, as opposed to the Macintosh twins, who were tough giant bastards. The Aussies were about five feet tall and 105 pounds. Clayton and Richard Macintosh were about 6’4”, 250 as freshmen (and much larger now). One recess I watched in awe as the moonies ambushed one of the Macintoshes: one leaped onto the victim’s back and put the robust American into a platypus chokehold, while his brother fired out at the backs of Macintosh’s knees. Even with the element of surprise, Macintosh didn’t go down, managing to list and sway like a tall redwood feeling the first bite of a Pardini chainsaw. The Aussies threw everything they had, but it wasn’t enough, and nonchalantly took their beating. Gradually a teacher put down her burrito and coffee and restored order. Apparently it was a dispute over bubble gum. The Aussies felt unfairly taxed by Macintosh’s daily demands for a free piece. Or maybe they just did what Aussies do and sent the message: Down Under, matey. Get bloody used to it. (Next week: Bud Sloan, and why UK roundabouts are the devil’s spawn.) (—Z)
Michigan levies $700,000 in fines against a small farmer and veteran for raising healthy hogs
After serving his country for 20 years in the military and ten years as a farmer, Mark Baker is “at the end of his rope” and is asking Americans for help.
Baker’s Green Acres is an idyllic, bio-diverse, sustainable farm in Marion, Michigan. Baker, his wife and his six children raise pastured poultry, grass-fed beef, goats and dairy, and a heritage breed of hogs called Mangalitsa.
In December of 2011, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources informed Baker that his hogs were an “invasive species of wild boar” that needed to be exterminated in order to protect wildlife and other farms.
The agency said he had until April of 2012 to destroy all of his pigs or else it would destroy them for him. Baker refused and filed a lawsuit asking for relief.
He was hoping to get his case heard that spring, but the state attorney general – who is acting as a prosecutor on DNR’s behalf – has been successful in stalling the trial until late this summer.
Fortunately the agency did not follow through on its promise to shoot Baker’s pigs. Unfortunately, it decided to levy $700,000 in fines against him last week for “harboring” them on his property.
That’s $10,000 per hog or per “violation” of the state’s Invasive Species Order.
As of Food Riot Radio’s interview with him last week, Baker had 67 hogs. The state was unaware when it issued the fine that he recently “put down” four hogs because he couldn’t afford to feed them.
Starving them out
When the state tried to get Baker’s trial pushed back to 2014, Baker wrote a letter to the judge saying he’d be out of business and homeless by then. His current trial date of August 27 has been a stretch for him.
He’s been feeding the hogs, without being allowed to sell their meat, for a year and a half now, which he says is extremely difficult because “these pigs eat a lot everyday.”
Normally at this time of year he’d be breeding the pigs in order to have more to sell, but he can’t now, because it would just make “more mouths to feed.”
Add $140,000 spent in legal fees so far to his lack of pork sales, and Baker says his family is on a very tight ship right now.
“My boys are butchering pigs today so we can get them in the freezer, and so they’re not out on the field, where they’ve got to have food,” Baker said. “The nature of pigs is if they see green grass on the other side of fence and they have nothing to eat on their side of the fence, they’re going to figure out a way to get through. We can’t allow a bunch of pigs to get out and get in our garden because that’s our food.”
Baker’s resorted to “scrounging” scrap food for them at local restaurants, but says they’re not getting what they need nutritionally.
“I’m not being fair to the animals…” he paused, voice cracking, “… but I didn’t think it would take this long.”
Had Baker known he’d have to wait a year and a half for a court hearing, he might’ve just killed the hogs in the beginning.
“But what I’m up against now is, if I kill all these pigs, number one, I’m doing what they wanted me to do, and number two, I’d lose my standing in court because I don’t have the animals.”’
Why the state’s stalling
Baker believes the reason the state has tried so hard to stall his hearing is because it doesn’t have a good defense for what it’s doing to him.
Baker argues that DNR wrote an intentionally ambiguous description of “feral” pigs in its Invasive Species Order, so it could use the law against any hog farmer it wanted to shut down.
“They’re saying any pig with a curly tail or a straight tail is an illegal pig … any pig with floppy ears or erect ears is an illegal pig,” he said. “I think they’re going to have a rough time with that testimony in court. That’s why they don’t want the case to move forward. They want to starve us out.”
“Basically they’re saying any type of pig outside of these confinement-style operations is illegal to have,” added Radio Host Brad “the Butcher” Jordan. “If you have a pig outside, you can’t have it.”
“Exactly,” Baker said.
Baker seeks to prove in court that it is “Big Ag” – especially the Michigan Pork Producers Association – that initiated the law classifying all non-CAFO pigs as a “feral” invasive species.
He believes big agribusiness sees the growing popularity of heritage-breed meat and poultry as a threat to their factory-farming model, and will stop at no end to eliminate the competition.
“If they can issue a declaratory ruling that says anything with a straight tail or curly tail is an illegal pig, and neither the governor, the legislature or the courts say ‘hey wait a minute,’ then what’s to stop them from issuing a declaratory ruling that says any cow that is brown is feral and must be disposed of, or any chicken that is not raised in a hen house is a feral chicken?”
“Industrial agriculture wants all the market share,” he added. “They want all the small farmers off the land, and they want to own the entire food production model.”
Baker asks for “ammunition”
“They’re putting me out on the street and they’re not blinking an eye about it,” Baker said. “I need American people to get fired up about this. And I need wealthy Americans to come alongside us and join our legal team, so we can start going after them [DNR officials] individually and putting them out on the street.”
Baker said there is much more at stake than his farm. “Our little pig thing is a microcosm of what’s going on nationally.” If we let Big Ag win, he said, it will be a grim future for our children and grandchildren. “We’re all in this together.”
“There are plenty of us [farmers] that are fighters, perpetual warriors, but we don’t have ammunition to put this fight on. So we’re looking to other Americans and saying please give us some ammunition, and that’s money, U.S. dollars. You can pray for me and pat me on the back and that’s great, but if I can’t pay lawyers to do their job, it doesn’t happen. And I’m at the end of my rope right now, and I need help. There it is – I need help.”
(Brad Jordan hosts a podcast called Food Riot Radio where this article first appeared. He and his co-host Sara Burrows work to expose how a collusion between government, big agriculture, big pharma and big food has determined what ends up on our plates and offer ideas for how to fight back.)