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Mendocino County Today: September 24, 2013

RICHARD PETERSEN has died. The famous Ukiah-based criminal defense attorney had been ill with cancer for some time, and passed away Monday in Belvedere, Marin County.



AUGUSTIN ALVAREZ PENA, 42, has been the one and only suspect in the October, 2009, shooting death of Cloverdale resident Santos Alvarez, 24. Pena, a former resident of the Anderson Valley and Potter Valley, was discovered early this year living in Jalisco, Mexico, and has now been extradited to Sonoma County where he is awaiting trial on murder charges. The shooting occurred at a warehouse on Cooley Lane, Cloverdale, where Alvarez worked. Cooley Lane is about a mile north of downtown Cloverdale. A witness identified Peña as the shooter. When police arrived, they found "dozens of pounds of marijuana ready for street sale" and the dead Alvarez not far from a handgun assumed to be the murder weapon.



GOVERNOR BROWN has signed a bill that makes it illegal for drivers to come within three feet of a bicyclist on state highways. Assembly Bill 1371, or the “Three Feet for Safety Act” requires motorists to keep three feet between their vehicles and any cyclist before they pass. Penalty for first-time violators is $35. Hmmm.


A CALLER was indignant that when he tried to sign up for the master gardener program at the Botanical Gardens near Fort Bragg, he was asked to fill out a background check. He said he had a minor legal history incurred when he was very young and would not “humiliate myself” trying to explain it “to a bunch of old ladies” when all he wanted to do is refine non-criminal gardening techniques. “Why does a gardening class need a g-d background check?” he wondered. Probably, I opined, and as he had guessed, because the Gardens prefers not to train marijuana personnel, but I was only opining.


THIS WEEK’S COUNTY CEO’S REPORT had a couple of newsworthy items:

“SEIU PICKET LINES: Mendocino County's Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 1021 Chapter, voted last Wednesday, September 18, in favor of a strike by its union members. The union representatives authorized a strike to occur on Tuesday, September 24, and are expected to hold picket lines outside County buildings, and especially the County administration center. The attorneys in the District Attorney's office will be supporting SEIU's picket lines. Mendocino County's Courts, including 10-Mile will remain open but will only be handling cases involving private attorneys. DA David Eyster is committed to keeping his operations open as much as possible during this time. Department heads have also been busy working on contingency plans to continue service to the public where possible.”

“LITTLE RIVER AIRPORT TIMBER HARVEST PLAN UPDATE: Since the July 17, 2013 update on the Little River Airport Timber Harvest Plan, a few important follow up items have occurred. Surveys were done on the Marbled Murrelet and the Northern Spotted Owl, with none of either species detected. An assessment of Marbled Murrelet habitat was made by wildlife biologist Scott Butler, who indicated that the proposed timber operations were unlikely to affect those birds. Additionally, Save the Redwoods League has indicated they will not be exploring a conservation easement on 5-6 acres of the timberland containing the largest trees. Finally, GSA plans to issue bids for the logs sometime in February 2014 for a harvest in August 2014.”




Re: Senior Center Debacle

I wish to address the unfortunate events going on at the Redwood Coast Senior Center.

It appears that a disgruntled few on the Senior Center Board are unhappy with Executive Director Charles Bush and wish to fire him. I have read a three-page letter, distributed widely, from one of the board members containing allegations against Charles. I find the allegations to be troublingly inconsequential, especially in light of going to the extreme measure of firing Charles — not to mention that the letter itself was inappropriate in that it contained other information that should rightfully have remained confidential.

I also am aware that board meetings at the Senior Center have been conducted in a very unprofessional if not downright undemocratic manner, that Robert's Rules of Order are consistently ignored as well as the Senior Center by-laws themselves.

In my view Charles Bush has been nothing but a boon to our Senior Center. He is well-loved by the community which is evidenced by the numbers of people who have come forward to support him, and he is well-loved by his staff, give or take one or two. His energy, enthusiasm and creativity is an invaluable gift to all of us. As a matter of fact, recently, he and the Senior Center were given accolades by a representative from the Regional American Act on Aging Board as being an great example of how a senior center should be run!

I am incredulous that a small group of people — for whatever reason — and that reason is not at all clear to me — are intent on bringing down an important member of our community and thereby causing such a deep divide in the community and potentially doing great damage to our important and vital senior center.

The amount of support for Charles has been tremendous but I do implore folks to be mindful of causing any more damage by agressively attacking the board members who have perpetrated these difficulties. This does not serve except to widen and deepen the discord. This is a frustrating situation but I am convinced it will be and SHOULD BE resolved with strong, purposeful, disciplined actions, and with peace in our hearts.

Thank you, Meg Courtney, Vice-Mayor, City of Fort Bragg



by Debra Keipp

I bought an old ’67 Volvo Sedan for $75.00. It belonged to a fella dock mate at the Berkeley Marina, a Pagan witch named Eldrie, who lived on our former boat, the Desiderata. Eldrie had, since I’d last seen her, installed ceramic caps on her eye teeth sharpened like canines: vampire fangs. To this day, she remains the best spontaneous story teller I have ever heard.

Gathered late one night around a Beltane bonfire, Eldrie reluctantly channeled a small poem, or so we thought. Eventually, however, what unfolded, meagerly coaxed from her lips one line at a time, was a 25 stanza epic. Leading us to believe the story was over with each turn; we’d applaud and move our attention to the next storyteller. Eldrie would intercept and recapture us in her web, retrieving our attentions while adding the next stanza, better than the first, strained yet luring us one after the other, deeper into her story, making us want more with each breath she drew, inspiring the next string of words. Excitement filled the air until we begged for more of her poetic Elizabethan tale of love, betrayal, confusion, trickery, magic, sin and redemption. By the end, we all jumped to our feet in applause, pounding the air with our fists, hooting and screaming like a bunch of wild Pagans, …because we were… wild Pagans.

When I once again bumped into Eldrie on E-dock, I was surprised she‘d just moved from the 40 Pagan acres known as Annwyn behind Fetzer Vineyards in Calpella. She told me she was selling her old Volvo, “Martha, Daughter of Yahweta, Mother of the Sea.”

“Martha has a big heart,” she said. “Her engine runs good; trouble might be something with the clutch or transmission, though. Things are starting to go on Martha and I don’t have the energy to keep her going now that I’m a city mouse and don’t have my country mouse mechanic around.” Eldrie handed me her car keys, telling me Martha hadn’t been started in a loooong time. It was then that Eldire left on foot to have one of her fangs reshaped.

It took another dock mate, Barb, to start Martha. A great Volvo mechanic with a love of twin carbs, Barb’s mechanic’s motto was “Leave No Engine Unturned.” The fuel line needed a prime. We gave her a kicker. She gulped and started. I pulled the choke out a bit, stepped from the car, stood at the gaping mouth of her engine as Martha sang a song like nothing I’d ever heard before from a car. She had a hum that sounded vaguely like a Tibetan bowl. Barb and I put our hands on the engine without a word, feeling the vibration as we listened. “I’ve never heard an engine do that,” I said. “Any engine.” Barb caught my eye; I hers. I said, “Eldrie… It’s Eldrie’s car, remember. Strange could be regular.”

We let her warm up and then took her for a spin around the Marina. The song ended the minute we put her in gear and rolled.

It wasn’t until thousands of miles and several years later, that Martha died at the peak of the hill south of Mendo-Coast’s Mote Creek. I coasted to the side of the road, attempting to roll into place under the shade of a roadside cypress. Oddly, I could hear footsteps running behind me. A stranger came to our assistance, augmenting momentum by pushing her off-road into place. Small world, the guy was from Calpella and recognized Martha, thinking I was Eldrie whom he knew; so he came to our rescue. After thanking him and bidding farewell, I sat back in the driver’s seat assessing my next move when I noticed my ten-year-old daughter, Ruby, sitting silently next to me, big-eyed with the realization that our old car had finally died for good. I reassured her we were so near town, it’d be easy finding a ride back with someone familiar. Ruby had poor balance, leaving her pretty unathletic. I assessed the “hike” ahead of us.

My girl was born with a congenital health condition which affected every facet of our lives. Although she was intelligent, humorous, and high-functioning, I threw out expectation with the bath water each day. It improved my parenting skills tremendously, living one day at a time. Strangely, it can be awfully freeing know­ing there is no promise of tomorrow. Often I let her run the show, because she was thoughtful and kind about it. She made it fun. We respected each other.

On this day it would be her balance which she’d need for our walk back to town. I looked at her little feet and noticed she had dressed in her dreaded clip-clop high heels. Previous to this day, I’d looked at them as an odd form of physical therapy. To complete the ensemble, she chose an antique heavy floor-length pink satin lingerie fashionably belted at the waist, and a turn of the century seal fur jacket with matching muff/purse clutched in her lap. I smiled at her appearance, so well assembled. Ruby never went out without “dressing.” Lipstick never out­side the line of her thin rosebud lips, her motto, “When you’ve got somethin’ really important to say, nothing gets it across like a lot of RED lipstick!”

I return my gaze to her high heels and consider the possibilities. More than the break-down of the car, I ago­nize how to deal with those clip-clop heels on Highway One. I imagine the sound of their hollow plastic clacking on the rough pavement, and wince.

Ruby could easily read my mind. She knew what I was thinking. Without either of us uttering a word, I noticed her wee chubby toes curling, clutching those darned clip-clops tight to her little feet. She and I, already at silent war over jettison of her high heels, we find ourselves once again at the cross-roads of reality vs. denial in an emergency situation, regarding the function­ality of her footwear, this time on our rugged Pacific Coast Highway. We’ve had this discussion before. Even though it sounds like she was dressed up “princess style,” we didn’t use the word in our home. In fact, she referred to princesses whom she endured as, “the p-word”. Ruby simply had a classic sense of style, starting with the way she assembled herself each day.

I tender my suggestion with the kindest of ease, hop­ing she wouldn’t take offense. It is my hope she will see the reality of our situation and make her own sensible decision to leave her high heels behind with our dead car. I open by saying, “It’s at a time like this that I wish you had a decent pair of walking shoes in one of your bags for just such occasions.”

She responds, “I know.” Somberly, we look at her high-heeled tootsies. I sigh. Ruby reaches for my hand in friendly reassurance hoping for a piggy-back ride out of here. Then she looks beyond her feet to see her plastic Burkies on the floor of the car. “Look, Mom! My Burkies!” she cries. Like water in a dry dessert lake bed; relief! She shucked the clip-clops and stood there in her little plastic Burkies outside the car; her satin dress, 1940’s crystal ear rings sparkling in the sun, seal fur coat with muff, hair, and all billowing in the wind corridor through the hollow of Mote Creek. Ruby… always so vintage classic, I thought to myself. Especially in the wind – She gave me gratitude. She’s so unlike so many other kids her age who’d be wearing a decent pair of walking shoes at a time like this. We were, after all, only on our way to Surf Super for groceries.

We walked down the narrow roadway with no shoul­der; just the brown ditch where Cal-Trans usually sprays weeds. “Don’t walk there,” I say. “Looks like they’ve sprayed. Could just be that time of year, though. To be sure, don’t go there.” She searches for a safe place to walk, seeing nothing but a ditch with no shoulder. I say, “Walk right on the white line on the edge of the pave­ment, Ruby. That’s the only place to walk. There’s no room anywhere else until we get to the bottom of Mote Creek.”

She improvised by sticking out her little thumb. She loved to engage her hitch-hiking thumb whenever we walked up from Arena Cove. Once a local fisherman saw her stubby bit of a thumb, stopped and gave us a ride in the bed of his pick-up truck. We hopped in and laid down, face up to the sky, until we got to Highway One. She was thrilled with the idea that she had comman­deered a ride for us. She beamed pride as we bounced up the road counting clouds.

Ruby began to weep as we walked away from Mar­tha, now road kill at the top of Whiskey Shoals. She was sad to lose Martha, and didn’t want to let the car go. She always grieved collectively when anything died. Every dead kitty, bird or rodent we ever had, became like yes­terday’s experience to be lived all over again, in one fresh moment. I tell her Martha was an old car and had a good long life as Volvos go. She had over 400,000 miles on the original engine! You can’t beat that! “It’ll be okay,” I tell her. “We need to get a new car anyway. Maybe a newer Volvo for the next 400,000 miles!”

As we neared the bottom of Mote Creek, a pick-up slowed behind us. It was our friend George and his dog Moussa. Ruby, dramatic when it mattered most, screamed, “My prayers have been answered!” George pulled over at Mote Creek turnout and gave us a ride back to town.

The next morning, we awakened and Ruby had her­self all ready for school 45 minutes early. She seemed preoccupied. I lay in bed trying to get the sleep out of my eyes. She waited a few moments before she hesitantly mentioned that her favorite non-school footwear at the moment, the clip-clops, were still in Martha. Can I, espe­cially, retrieve them for her when I tow Martha from Mote Creek, she asked?

From bed I viewed the top half of her body as she pulled accessories from various parts of her room. She seemed appropriately dressed for school, but while I could hear the ominous clomping of her unfortunate sounding footwear on the linoleum floor, I couldn’t see her choice for the day. “Are you wearing a decent pair of walking shoes today, per chance,” I ask? It had become a running joke with her – the decent shoe routine. “It’s P.E. day.” I rise up out of bed. We look at her feet. White mid-calf cowgirl boots with slick plastic soles, blue glitter inserts like angel wings. “Can you run in those,” I ask? …” without hurting yourself?” She leaves the room.

I hear her brushing her teeth in the bathroom as she talks through rinsing, “Mama, I don’t wanta hurt your feelings, but somebody’s gotta tell ya. You’re losin’ your 'fashion." All you wear is that Point Arena layered look, which according to pictures up at that school, has stayed the same for the last 100 years in this town: jeans, plaid shirt, several layers of tee-shirts under that, optional hoodie, and that decent pair of walking shoes you’re always so worried about! You need to get your fashion back! I recommend you start with a new sense of style.” She kissed me on on the cheek and told me the bathroom was all mine. ¥¥



by Chili Bill Eichinger

Marlo Rathgaber came to us from New York City. In those days, people from New York City were considered to be exotic, like peacocks or two-headed babies. Marlo was doubly exotic, being half black and half Jewish (those of you who want to argue about Judaism and ethnicity not being connected, let me put you on hold). A lanky, light-skinned, very hyper fellow with bad acne and a frizzy afro, he reminded me of a cross between Jerry Lewis and Bob Dylan, the delicate delinquent and mad poet rolled into one. Marlo never looked straight at you, but always with his head to one side, his eyes shifting about and occasionally landing on you. Sitting down was not a habit of his — pacing seemed to be the norm. I had the feeling that he might fly apart some day if he wasn’t careful. Because of this wired intensity, Marlo was inclined to drink copious quantities of almost any alcohol that was at hand, and smoke dope if it was there. And then, of course, he would entertain, as only a manic personality can entertain.

Marlo and his girlfriend Julie, a rather plain and quiet blonde, were famous in the world of junk collectors. The first part of any visit to their apartment, after weed and alcohol consumption, was a display of newly acquired treasures. Like the stereo console that played both sides of a record without turning it over; the tone arm had a needle that pointed down and a needle that pointed up, and it knew to play the topside first, the bottom second, and then it automatically threw the record into a bin on the side of the cabinet! This last feature didn’t work well with 78s, as we discovered one Saturday afternoon. The astounding thing was that this contraption had cost $1.25 — or so they said. Ruby glass wine goblets, first editions of the classics of modern literature, furniture covered in bizarre materials — all in a day’s work for our boy. When asked if we could accompany him on his quests, he simply said “No!”

Marlo also enjoyed sharing stories of his Dadaist escapades in the Village, such as running around with a telephone and simply saying to total strangers, “It’s for you” as he handed them the receiver. This could be augmented by simply walking down the street and yelling “call for Phillip Morris!” and if you don’t get the reference, ask your Dad or even your Granddad, if the old codger’s still alive. I also learned of the fine art of putting expensive items in other people’s shopping carts from Marlo. It was an amusing way to pass the time in the checkout line. “Hey, wait a minute, that’s not my $20 bottle of olive oil!” “Well, what’s it doing in your cart?”

I think the most fantastic claim of Marlo’s was that, next to only General Westmoreland himself, he had the most merit badges of any Boy Scout in the world. The General supposedly had them all — a pretty far-fetched notion in itself — and Marlo had all but two. I asked to see his merit badge sash, but naturally it was back in NYC, apparently too cumbersome to drag along to Kansas City. Some day I’ll call the BSA and find out the real dirt on this issue.

As quickly as he appeared on the scene, so did he also disappear. A couple of us went to visit one rainy afternoon, only to be told that “the young people, they leave last night. They take everything, including my stove and refrigerator. Sonsabitches!”



by Dan Bacher

The Bureau of Reclamation will be holding a 75th anniversary celebration of Shasta Dam on Saturday, September 21 — and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe and their allies will be there to protest plans by the federal agency to raise the huge dam on the Sacramento River.

Tribal leaders say the dam raise will inundate many of the sacred cultural sites not already covered by the waters of Shasta Lake. They also oppose the dam raise because it is designed in conjunction with Governor Jerry Brown's Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels.

The construction of the twin tunnels would hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon and steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other species, as well as threaten salmon and steelhead runs on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

Tribal members and their allies, including members of other Indian Tribes, fishermen and grassroots environmentalists, will meet at the Shasta Dam during the “celebration” at 10 a.m.

“We want them to know we're not going to be idle no more and that they need to deal with us as real people,” said Winnemem Wintu Chief Caleen Sisk. “There's nowhere else we can go in the world to be Winnemem. If they raise the dam, they will be taking away our future as a people.”

“We can't go to Hoopa or Navajo land to learn to be Winnemem,” Sisk said. “This is our Mother Country. We want our salmon back and we want access to participation in the process as a viable community. In their environmental impact report, they list everything we have as archeological sites. However, that's where we dance — that's where we bring our girls across the river in the puberty ceremony.”

Sisk is urging people to bring a sign, bring a boat or just come and support the bring the salmon home and No Dam Raise option.

“We are not going to fall silent for this BOR organized celebration priming the pump for a further raise which will drown the rest of our sacred places, which will reduce the chance for introducing salmon above the dam, which will put a big ol' gravel pit in our neighbors' neighborhood and hugely and negatively impact the houseboater's businesses and campgrounds,” said Sisk. “It's not just our issue!”

This year, the Bureau has been “celebrating” the 75th anniversary of Shasta Dam with a series of events starting on September 15 and ending on September 21. A Bureau press release describes the dam as “an engineering marvel responsible for water distribution to over 38 million Californians.”

The Tribe and its allies this week held a series of film showings to show the other side of the anniversary, starting with the premiere of the wonderful film, Toby McLeod's “Pilgrims and Tourists,” showing the commonality of struggles between the Winnemem in California and the indigenous people of the Altai Republic of Russia, at the Cascade Theatre in Redding on Saturday, September 14. They also held screenings of Restore the Delta's “Over Troubled Waters” and Will Doolittle's “Dancing Salmon Home.”

“To make room for the reservoir, the BOR stole our lands, destroyed our salmon run, and submerged our burial grounds and sacred sites,” according to Sisk. “Many Winnemem were left homeless, and we still have yet to receive to the 'like lands' that were promised to use in the 1941 Indian Lands Acquisition Act, which authorized the stealing of our land.”

Sisk added, “When will there be justice for the Winnemem Wintu? Is it right for the BOR to be celebrating the stealing our lands, our burials, our wild Chinook Salmon, our way of life — leaving us with nothing and then calling us an “unrecognized tribe!”

“It is time to Idle No More for the Lenda Nur! (winter chinook salmon). The McCloud River, a world class fishing river, should have the wild Chinook back. The same ones that were sent to New Zealand are ready to come back,” Sisk said.

“There is nothing more powerful than a belief that has come of time. Our time has come!” she concluded.

For more information on the impact of Shasta Dam upon the Winnemem Wintu, you can read Marc Dadigan's superb article at:

Reminder: The 90-day comment period on Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation began on Monday, July 1, and all comments must be received by midnight Monday, September 30. The Draft EIS documents the evaluation of potential effects of six alternative plans to modify the existing Shasta Dam and Shasta Reservoir Project, located approximately 10 miles northwest of Redding, Calif.

Written comments may be mailed or faxed to Katrina Chow, Project Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, Planning Division, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA 95825-1893, fax: 916-978-5094 or email BOR-MPR-SLWRI [at]

You can learn more at:


One Comment

  1. John Sakowicz October 28, 2013

    Someone just mentioned Richard Petersen’s death to me. I’ll miss him.

    RIP, Richard Petersen.

    Richard Petersen was a creative and effective criminal defense attorney. He was sometimes brilliant. Devising a “hemorrhoids and sitz bath” defense for Frank Brady, the Hells Angel biker who was charged in August, 2001, with igniting a blaze in a methamphetamine lab that led to the deaths of two firefighting pilots, was one of Petersen’s most creative and brilliant defenses.

    Brady was originally charged on two counts of murder, as well as counts of manufacturing drugs and causing the 270-acre Mendocino County brush fire the pilots were fighting, but Richard Petersen got the charges reduced.

    District Attorney Norm Vroman over-reached with Brady in one of the publicity stunts for which Vroman was well-known.

    Richard Petersen was up to the task. His defense of Brady is studied by law students today.

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