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Mendocino County Today: July 28, 2013

THE RECENT WILLITS NEWS editorial about last week’s arrest of the paper’s photographer, Mr. Eberhard, at the Willits Bypass construction site, says the Bypass is needed to relieve the overload on Willits streets from Highway 101 traffic — “traffic which keeps downtown Willits backed up so badly that locals all generally acknowledge it's a serious problem.”

BUT THE OVERLOAD is mostly local traffic that backs up at “the bottleneck,” which few people would describe as “downtown” Willits; downtown Willits is north of the bottleneck. People who think the Bypass will significantly reduce traffic in Willits itself are in for a surprise. They talk about how wonderful Willits is going to be, “just like Cloverdale” when Cloverdale was bypassed 30 years ago. Cloverdale lost 80% of its traffic, but Willits is likely to keep 80% of its traffic because, for one major reason, there are no off and on ramps at the always busy Highway 20 junction to and from Fort Bragg, and the unchecked Willits sprawl north and south of the bottleneck will continue to back up much of the day every day.

StephenEberhardANOTHER MINOR POINT: “The only person arrested was the photographer for The Willits News.” The protesters, except for the two locked to equipment, left the site when the police told them to leave. Eberhard lingered. The video shows the demonstrators with the banner backing up, and when they slowed down or went the wrong way, the cop says: “If you stop again I’ll arrest you,” and they left. And, of course the two who were locked-down were in fact arrested later in the day.


THE MASONITE CORP’S attempt to reverse the County of Mendocino's approval of a proposed gravel mine north of Ukiah has been successful. The California Court of Appeals has found in favor of Masonite, which still owns land north of Ukiah adjacent to its old manufacturing site.

MASONITE had appealed a local ruling denying the corporation's petition to set aside the County's approval of a 65-acre terrace mining operation Granite Construction had proposed to build on Kunzler Ranch Road. Masonite claimed that the County should have “recirculated” the EIR because the approved mine project “had significantly greater impacts than the one originally proposed,” according to the Appellate Court's decision.

MASONITE, suddenly a defender of the natural world, also claimed that the County “erroneously determined that conservation easements and in-lieu fees were not feasible ways to mitigate the loss of prime farmland due to the project”; that the EIR didn't correctly assess the project's “cumulative impacts on agricultural resources”; that the County's mitigation measures for truck traffic on a private road were inadequate; and that the EIR didn't adequately evaluate alternatives.

THE COURT said that a reconsidered EIR would provide for comment “on possible mitigation measures” to protect a rare frog (a mutant created by years of formaldahyde baths?) and also found in favor of Masonite on agricultural easements, cumulative impacts on farmland and traffic mitigation.


THE OLD MASONITE site is owned by Developers Diversified Realty. DDR had hoped to build an 800,000-square-foot shopping mall and housing development on those now vacant and forlorn acres.

Abandoned Masonite Site, looking south toward Ukiah
Abandoned Masonite Site, looking south toward Ukiah

AN ODD DISPUTE has lately arisen between the County and the City of Ukiah over where to place a proposed CostCo outlet. Supervisor Pinches would like to see a CostCo on the DDR-Masonite site, which is north of the Ukiah city limits. Ukiah wants CostCo and its big sales taxes to be placed inside the city limits in an area already given over to big box stores.


MENDOCINO COUNTY will hand another $325,000 to the Mendocino County 
Promotional Alliance next week like they’ve done every year since the early 90s. In spite of the County’s self-described (and really) 
precarious financial situation based on flat revenue projections and 
steadily increasing costs of operations, healthcare, and pensions, County staff has put
 two related spendthrift items on Tuesday’s agenda:

1. “Pursuant to Mendocino County Code Section 5.140.250 ‘The County and 
Mendocino County Lodging Association (MCLA) shall enter into a contract 
(agreement) prior to the expenditure of Business Improvement District
 (BID) funds by the MCLA for the services, activities, and programs 
authorized by this Chapter.’ This contract also designates the Mendocino
 County Promotional Alliance (MCPA) as the recipient of the County’s 50% 
match to the BID Assessment funds. As recommended by the BID Advisory
 Board in its Annual Report to the Board, this Agreement requires an annual
 financial review of MCLA, with a full audit triggered by any noted 
irregularity. This Agreement also stipulates that Visit Mendocino County 
(as a subcontractor of MCLA and MCPA that is now receiving most of the
 promotional funding for actual implementation of the marketing workplan) 
is to receive an annual financial audit. A copy of this Agreement is
 available for review at the Executive Office.”

2. “Section 5.140.250 of the Mendocino County Code states, in part, ‘The
 County and MCLA (Mendocino County Lodging Association) shall enter into a 
contract prior to the expenditure of… (BID assessment funds) … by the MCLA 
for the services, activities, and programs authorized by this Chapter…
 This contract shall provide for a fifty percent (50%) County match of the
 assessment collected… for the purpose of countywide promotion. This 50%
 match shall be directed to the Mendocino County Promotional Alliance 
(MCPA) and/or MCLA…’ As required, the agreement with MCLA (also before the
 Board today) provides clarity with regard to the County match by
 specifying that it be received by MCPA for Countywide promotion and 
marketing. As recommended by the BID Advisory Board in its Annual Report 
to the Board, this Agreement requires an annual financial review of MCPA,
 with a full audit triggered by any noted irregularity. This Agreement also 
stipulates that Visit Mendocino County (as a subcontractor of MCPA and 
MCLA that is now receiving most of the promotional funding for actual 
implementation of the marketing workplan) is to receive an annual 
financial audit. A copy of this Agreement is available for review at the
 Executive Office.


YIKES! TALK ABOUT TOP HEAVY! MCLA is its own organization. MCPA is its own 
organization. Another organization, the “Business Improvement District” 
takes in $325k from its members with its own “advisory board.” The County 
and its staff and officials takes in $325k more from local taxpayers. Then 
it’s all mushed together and handed over to Visit Mendocino County as a 
“subcontractor” to both organizations. By their own budget, about 40% of their “expenses” are for “personnel” (i.e., themselves), and “operations” (i.e. office space, lunch with wine, desks, computers and internet hookups, etc. for themselves)

 the County then has to insert separate fig-leaf “annual financial reviews”
 of both the Promotional Alliance and the Lodging Association (who are all
 the same people), and a “full audit” if any of these palsy-walsys “note” any “irregularity” in their own operations.

VMC1VISIT MENDOCINO COUNTY (also more of the same people) will also get its own “annual financial audit.”

THE PROMOTIONAL ALLIANCE receives the County’s half of the $650k “promotional” budget.
 With that $325k plus some other donated funds the Promotional Alliance is supposed to “cooperate with 
the Mendocino County Lodging Association, Chambers of Commerce visitor
 services locations — a laughably over-engineered kiosk in Boonville is one — the Arts Council of Mendocino County, Visit Mendocino 
County, Inc., restaurants and to provide the services, activities and programs to pimp Mendo to the great unwashed. The great cooperative effort to lure tourists “shall include, but is not limited to, assisting Visit 
Mendocino County, Inc (VMC) in the development of their annual marketing
 plan and the implementation of activities as outlined in the Marketing 

ADDITIONALLY, the Promotional Alliance “shall be solely responsible for the 
timely maintenance of any and all visit Mendocino County ‘Gateway Signs’ 
to be erected along major highways in the County. Maintenance shall 
include, but not be limited to, repair, graffiti removal, clearing brush
 which impedes visibility, and removal or restoration as appropriate.”

TRANSLATION: Maintain the signs and go ahead and give away the rest of the money 
to whomever you want so long as you call it “marketing” to satisfy the auditor.

TO GET A FEEL for what these people are about, take this one sentence from their “marketing plan”: “Baby boomers are interested in exotic places, but they don’t want to ‘rough it,’ they expect some luxury.” (So Mendo taxpayers have to subsidize it.)

LuxuryTHE LODGING ASSOCIATION takes in $325k from local restaurants,
 tasting rooms and B&Bs from their BID, then mixes in a few more hundred thou from the “North Coast Tourism Council,” the “Mendocino Winegrowers Inc. Sublease,” and “other income” totaling just over $1 mil. They then do pretty much the same (no)thing, plus
 “cooperate” with the Mendocino Wine Grape and Wine Commission to do more 
of the same (no)thing.

bother with the road signs, but they do have to pay for the wine and cheese at the grin and grope meetings these people enjoy, and prepare the 
reports about which of their friends they plan to give the money to.

THERE’S ALSO this odd requirement: “this Report shall include any information regarding the board activities of MCLA, MCPA, and VMC that were deemed by its members to be positive or negative outcomes of actions taken by those boards in the preceding year.”

DEEMED, kemo sabe? Positive or negative outcomes…? Huh? The Lodging Association is supposed to report on what its members “deem” to be “negative”? Why? Could there possibly be a prob? (Hint: Yes. Lots of tourist-based businesses don’t like paying for pricey wine and cheese events in San Francisco.)

VMCExpensesBY THE TIME ALL THESE top heavy agencies which have somehow inserted their hustling selves into this “promotional” mumbo-jumbo, and the auditors and bookkeepers all get their cut, how much money will be left to bribe wine and food writers to come up to Mendo to eat and drink for free at Mendo’s fine dining establishments? (John? John Bonné? Time for your annual Mendo freebie-weebies.)

THIS WHOLE “PROMOTIONAL” IDEA was a bad idea to begin with, especially given the County’s fragile budget. Now it’s been taken over by self-serving, ever-expanding bureaucracies who do nothing but pay themselves to tell the Board they’re doing a great job at producing no tangible results whatsoever.

CalendarTHEREFORE, expect the Board of Supervisors to rubberstamp the $325k on Tuesday with minimal discussion.


THE JUDGE said to a double-homicide defendant, “You're charged with beating your wife to death with a hammer."
 A voice at the back of the courtroom yelled out, “You bastard!”
 The judge said, “You're also charged with beating your mother-in-law to death with a hammer.” 
The voice in the back of the courtroom yelled out, “You rotten bastard!” 
The judge stopped and said to Paddy in the back of the courtroom, “Sir, I can understand your anger and frustration at these crimes, but no more outbursts from you, or I'll charge you with contempt. Is that understood?” 
Paddy stood up and said, “I'm sorry, Your Honor, but for 15 years I've lived next door to that arsehole, and every time I asked to borrow a hammer, he said he didn't have one.”


OUCH! The Atlantic Magazine Talks Humboldt Pot—Badly

by Kym Kemp

“While those hippie outlaws are still around the Emerald Triangle, come harvest time you’re just as likely to see a new breed of grower around town, standing on the side of the road holding cardboard signs looking for work ‘clipping and bagging’ marijuana plants,” writes Jesse Hyde in an article about the environmental impact of marijuana grows for the well respected Atlantic Magazine. He is seemingly unaware that the trimmers who stand alongside roads asking for jobs are not the growers. Trimmers, whether transients or locals, have little to do with the practices — such as water depletion, grading inappropriately, and putting chemicals on the crops— that are concerning environmentalists about the burgeoning marijuana industry.

The article also warns that “Today, at least one third of the marijuana grown in the state is produced indoors, which accounts for 9% of California’s annual electricity use.” But, Evan Mills study, the only one this reporter is aware of, says “In California, the top-producing state, indoor cultivation is responsible for about 3% of all electricity use or 8% of household use.” This is a relatively easy mistake to make but still painful. Californians do expend a lot of electricity on indoor grows but there is a difference between 8% of household use and 9% of all electricity consumed including industrial use.

The photograph of “marijuanahumboldt,” may be the most unforgivable of all. That isn’t Humboldt marijuana anymore than an image of crushed grape skins is a picture of a fine Napa wine. It’s as if someone posted a picture of Angelina Jolie’s toenail clippings instead of her face. If only our local growers could sue for defamation and misrepresentation…

The article begins with a compelling tale from Scott Bauer, a local Dept. of Fish and Wildlife staff environmentalist. Bauer’s first encounter with the impact of marijuana grown insensitively on public land is told in heartbreaking detail — “Towering pines and Douglas firs, some over a century old, had been leveled, and a bulldozer had dumped several tons of sediment into a nearby creek, choking it off.”

The article ends with Bauer returning to the site of his first encounter to find “sacks of pesticides that hadn’t been there more than a few weeks. The growers were back, expanding their operation.” The story could have been compelling… but, the egregious mistakes took credibility from the entire piece.


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