The Board Of Supervisors approved the Mendocino Town Plan at a tumultuous meeting in the town of Mendocino on Tuesday. The key remaining issue was possible designation of the town as a “Sensitive Coastal Resource Area” (SCRA) which would have allowed designated “projects” to be appealed to the California Coastal Commission. Board Chair Dan Hamburg passed the gavel in order to make a motion (seconded by Fort Bragg Supervisor Dan Gjerde) to approve the Town Plan with the SCRA provision. The motion failed 2-3 with only Hamburg and Gjerde in favor. The same motion without the SCRA designation then passed on a 4-1 vote, with only Hamburg opposed.
Except for the SCRA, most of the long-standing planning issues seemed to have been worked out to the general satisfaction of the various interest groups in the forever contentious little tourist town. A compromise on tourist rentals had been worked out in advance, with Vacation Home Rentals (aka: a single family residence available for short term rental) capped at ten and Single Unit Rentals (a second residential unit rented on a short term basis) capped at 20. The Art Center, which had been approved for 19 units in the 1992 town plan, but never had more than 13 actual units, was happy to get approval for their 13 existing units, plus one they plan to build. The Art Center units will primarily be available to instructors and students, but will also offer inexpensive accommodations to tourists with the stipulation that the County bed tax is collected.
Discussion of the SCRA got off to a stormy start with Hamburg denouncing the County’s Planning and Building staff. Back in 2006, before Hamburg was on the Board, the Supes directed staff to amend the town plan to include a SCRA. Hamburg questioned why that was never done. Clearly frustrated and visibly angry, Hamburg came close to meltdown as he launched into an indictment of building and planning staff no longer in place. He railed against former Planning Director Ray Hall who retired at least five years ago. Hamburg demanded to know if current Planning Director Steve Dunnicliff had anything to say. Without waiting for a reply Hamburg concluded with a sharp “I didn't think so.” And there went any opportunity, if one existed, to have a reasonable discussion of issues related to a SCRA designation.
The main argument in favor of a SCRA is that it would provide an additional avenue of appeal of development in the small coastal hamlet. But the appeal would be to the Coastal Commission which, because its staff has been squeezed over the years since its creation, slow to make decisions. Some Mendo Village people, synonymous with Hamburg supporters, want Mendocino to stay the same but don't trust the Board of Supes based in Ukiah and don't care how long the Coastal Commission sits on a permit. A SCRA would also mean that simple projects anywhere in town, even out of sight on the east (inland) side of Highway 1, would require higher fees, longer time lines and a public hearing even if they never got appealed to the Coastal Commission. Without the SCRA designation, simple residential projects can be heard by the County’s Coastal Zoning Permit Administrator, a much more streamlined process that would still be appealable to the Board of Supes.
The main argument against a SCRA, and lots of non-Hamburg supporters are in this camp, is that it would provide an additional avenue of appeal. The people making this argument fear getting stuck in Coastal Commission limbo. They also think its unfair that they are required to shell out big bucks for permit fees and project approvals as a disgruntled neighbor or anyone else can file an appeal with the Coastal Commission for free. So in reality, most appeals would bypass the Board of Supes and go straight to the Coastal Commission. Which, for applicants, means lots more money, lots more time, and uncertainty from year to year when or if a project will be approved.
‘Yesterday In Mendocino’
A reader writes: “The Supes were in town today for the hearing on the Mendocino Town Plan. The dreaded SCRA designation went down in flaming glory thanks to our three inland supervisors. It is the first time I have seen Hamburg throw one of his full-fledged tantrums. In fact, he threw two of them. The first was directed at the hapless Planning and Building Staff, none of whom were accountable for the fact that their predecessors failed to implement the SCRA designation when David Colfax pressed through the directive to explore it in 2006. Later on, after his motion failed on a 3/2 vote, Hamburg berated his colleagues for not seeing eye-to-eye with him and the bedraggled souls he'd assembled to speak on behalf of the action. Being the functional souls they are, they just waited for the tirade to end and then went on about the business of the day. It was hard to watch. My hat is off to them."
Hamburg responded on the Coast Listserve:
“ ‘Bedragged souls’? let's see…Maggie O'Rourke, Ed O'Brien (fire chief), Sue Smith, Rachel Binah, Grail Dawson, Lee Edmundson, Steve Antler, not to mention scores of others in the Town who have supported the Sensitive Coastal Resource Area (SCRA) designation for the Town going back decades it also needs to be pointed out that the 2006 action by the BoS was not to “explore” the SCRA for the Town of Mendocino but to implement it…the vote was 3-1 with Delbar in dissent and Wattenberger abstaining…the board's authority to place this designation on the Town was upheld at the time by deputy county counsel Frank Zotter and later confirmed by current county counsel Tom Parker. I'm certain that current county planning and executive office staff understands that my frustration is not directed at them but at a county bureaucracy that failed to implement a clear board directive over a 7 year period…this failure, I believe was, and is, to the detriment of the Town I won't apologize for being passionate about the Town of Mendocino…I am certainly not alone in that passion btw, I won the Mendocino precincts 2-1 in 2010 (with this very Town Plan update looming) and believe that I would win them again today by a similar count.”
Zotter and Parker? Who says Hamburg doesn't have a sense of humor? The other persons cited by the supervisor are core Mendolib and also the core of Hamburg's support in the 5th District. All of them double as active Democrats of the conservative liberal type now dominant in the Democrat Party. As for Hamburg's boast that he'll sweep Mendo again, well, we'll see. His arrogance and public tantruming just might catch up with him next time around.
As for the “village” of Mendocino, it's long been a kind of upscale Pier 39 that Hamburg's cult-like supporters delude themselves into believing they are somehow preserving its long gone authenticity. (Tourist advisory: Nearby Fort Bragg is a much bigger bang for your transient buck.)
* * *
The Einsteins running SEIU “Local” 1021 (the so-called “local” chapter of the Service Employees International Union, based in Oakland, and who represent Mendocino County's largest bargaining group) are at it again. Last week SEIU distributed a flyer calling for a “BOS Action” to take place October 22 at 9am at the Board of Supes chambers at 501 Low Gap Road, Ukiah. Except, as anyone who pays attention knows, the Supes have been saying for a couple of months that they were planning to have an “off-site” meeting Oct. 22 in Mendocino!
These are the same SEIU geniuses who made the decision to show up for the second day of budget hearings when anyone who follows County affairs knows that the budget always (for the last ten years) gets approved on the first day of budget hearings. SEIU didn't even bother to have anyone in the room to monitor the Supes and hear what Admin had to say about the budget. Next, SEIU called a one-day strike because they know the employees would not be willing to support a real strike. SEIU brought up two busloads of SEIU members from the Bay Area and Santa Rosa because they feared not enough local members would show up for the picket lines. The strategists at SEIU called for a mass turnout to address the Supes at 1pm the day of the strike. Except (as everyone but SEIU knows) the Supes invariably return from lunch at 1:30. Which meant that the planned 1pm rally, with chants of “S…E…I…U,…S…E…I…U,” (led by the out-of-towners) was held in the Admin Center hallway outside the darkened BOS chambers. When the Board reconvened at 1:30, several SEIU members, again led by the out-of-towners, addressed the Supes.
If SEIU intended to put a local face on the strike, they stumbled badly (and continue to stumble) by proving over and over again that the SEIU shotcallers from Oakland are completely out of touch with Mendocino County realities. The local SEIU “leadership team,” which blindly follows the Oakland-based incompetents, are just as out of touch. What does it say about the SEIU leadership when they can't even keep tabs on where and when the Board of Supes meets? And how does it help to have a bunch of “look at me” types from outtahere present themselves as the local face of the union? And how long will it take for the local SEIU members to wake up and realize that SEIU is milking them for their union dues and delivering very little in return? The local employees aren't even allowed to pick their “local” labor reps. Instead, they have to settle for whoever SEIU central sends up from Oakland.
The SEIU flyer calling for the BOS Action, at a time and place when the Board doesn't meet, was headlined “WE FIGHT BACK ‘CARMELCARE’ OCT 22!” in an apparent effort to invoke the controversy over the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). And what is SEIU protesting? A proposed 3% to 5% increase in healthcare premiums. Incredibly, SEIU says the proposed increase “would mean hundreds more dollars a month out of our paychecks.” The County says the increase will only cost about $5 a month. Determining the cost of a 5% increase is a simple math problem, but the County and SEIU are off by hundreds of dollars. Which just shows once again there is a huge gap between SEIU and the County. And no chance that the two bickering sides will reach agreement on anything of substance.
As it turned out, no one from SEIU showed up at the Supes meeting in Mendocino to speak against the health care premium increase (which in any case was not on the agenda.) And because no one was present to represent SEIU, there was also no one to describe the “alternative cost saving solutions” promised by the flyer. Again: SEIU needs to clearly explain what they are asking for and how they think the County should pay for it.
The SEIU one day strike came and went like a summer cloudburst, briefly turning the streets and sidewalks purple (SEIU's signature color) but leaving no lasting impression. The day after the strike the only certain result was a day of lost pay for the participants. SEIU said the “unfair labor practice” strike was necessary because the County wasn't willing to bargain in good faith. As proof, SEIU pointed to the “impasse” declaration (meaning agreement can't be reached and further negotiation is futile) delivered to SEIU at the last bargaining session before the strike. SEIU said the impasse declaration was “premature” and the strike was needed to force the County back to the bargaining table. Except SEIU emailed and posted a flyer calling for the strike the week before the impasse declaration by the County.
SEIU said the strike was also needed to send “a strong message” to the County that “if they continue to disrespect us…we could be forced to take further action.” (Woof-woof) Except a lot of employees joined the one-day strike to avoid the personal nastiness that SEIU is known for when co-workers fail to show “solidarity” of the lock-step variety. The bottom line is, SEIU called a one-day strike because they know they can't sustain a concerted action. The employees know they would only be sacrificing their pay with no hope of restoring the 10% cut from two years ago. SEIU has no leverage because most of the SEIU workers are concentrated in social services, where line workers really do need to be paid more than the $14 an hour they start at. (You know the national pay scales are seriously out of whack when a prison guard with a high school education makes more than a teacher with a master's degree.) But the people who rely on social services, for the most part, are the dispossessed who have given up thinking that the “system” has any relevance for them. These are not the people who will bring pressure on the County to give SEIU what they want.
And what SEIU wants is a restoration of the 10% pay cut plus a laundry list of other demands that are detailed in the letter declaring impasse, including a prohibition on contracting out; cutting the probationary period for new hires from one year to six months; and making increased premiums for health care a meet and confer issue. In addition, SEIU is demanding “longevity” pay increases of 2.5% at 5 years, 5% at 10 years and 7.5% at 15 years. The SEIU wish list also includes an increase in on-call pay from $2.50 to $4.00 an hour; increased clothing and tool allowances; increased premium pay for bilingual employees; and new benefits for education, training and health. Comparing the County's precarious financial position to the long list of on-going economic demands by SEIU (plus non-starters for the County, like the prohibition on contracting out) and it is clear the two sides truly are at impasse.
SEIU keeps trying to rally community support, but the shot-callers at SEIU headquarters in the Bay Area are clueless when it comes to community outreach in our corner of NorCal's outback. The phony Mend Mendocino “coalition,” (organized out of Oakland by SEIU staffer Anna Bakalis) never caught on in Mendo. During the one-day strike, Bakalis dropped the “I'm representing the Mend Mendocino” facade and accurately described herself as an SEIU spokesperson. It also didn't play well when one of the strikers was prominently quoted saying, “We just want to live. We can't live on $16 an hour.” But out here in rural Mendo, many hard working people do live on $16 an hour. Or less. And do it without the healthcare, retirement and other benefits that come with County employment. Without the ability to rally community support, far from being a show of power, the one-day strike was really a demonstration of weakness.
SEIU devoted an entire flyer (headlined “CEO Carmel Angelo Fails Mendocino County”) to bashing the County CEO, as if she acts independently of the Board of Supervisors. The flyer boldly proclaims “Workers to Declare No Confidence in CEO Angelo.” SEIU also said they were starting a petition to have Angelo fired. Attacking the CEO would be a good strategy if there were serious questions about her leadership ability. Or obvious signs of a rift with the Board of Supes, who alone have the power to hire and fire her. But Angelo took the helm when the County had a seemingly insurmountable deficit, a falling credit rating and critics calling for the County to file bankruptcy. During the last few years, the Supes have made mostly responsible budget decisions with Angelo at the helm.
The County issued a post strike press release which included quotes from County Department of Transportation (DOT) Director Howard Dashiell claiming that SEIU reps had been trying for months to convince the DOT workers to strike, even approaching them in the middle of construction zones. (The union has a right to organize before and after work and during breaks, but is not supposed to engage workers on “county time” — doing so in a construction zone is both dumb and dangerous.) But the point here is that SEIU, months before negotiations began, was lobbying its members to go on strike. Neither SEIU (which is following the same adversarial approach that got them nowhere two years ago), nor the County, (which is paying big bucks for an outside labor negotiator/attorney) seem to have learned much of anything from the fiasco of two years ago. And it's easy for plump, overpaid union bureaucrats sitting in Oakland to call a strike for underpaid workers in Mendocino County who can't afford to strike.
Instead of ignoring the various attacks launched by SEIU, the County is firing back this time. Which only shows that the high priced contract negotiator/attorney is feeling the need to justify the cost of her services. The post strike press release from the County also contained a charge by HHSA Director Stacey Cryer that striking SEIU workers were preventing non-striking workers from getting to work until Sheriff Allman and the Ukiah police showed up, a charge that SEIU hotly denies. In fact, SEIU strikers were temporarily blocking driveways and doorways, with a mass of slow moving bodies shuffling aimlessly back and forth. And the scores of SEIU members bused in from outtahere could afford to be more militant without having to worry about facing their co-workers the next day. But, in an effort to discredit SEIU, the County over-reacted to the minor inconvenience caused by the slo mo SEIU shuffle.
The County also filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) Charge with the State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) the week before the strike, claiming SEIU was “undermining and sabotaging the negotiations” by bringing uninvited observers to the table. At the next negotiation session the County says the union put out a flyer calling for its members to come to the County admin building “for free tacos” and “to act as our silent observers.” (The union has so little faith in their ability to mobilize their members that a hired catering truck serving free tacos has become a fixture at their demos). Which led the County to charge SEIU with bad faith for inviting a crowd of taco eating observers to the meeting where the presence of observers was to be negotiated. Thus, SEIU “failed to meet and confer in good faith…and [its tactics] constitute evidence of impermissible surface bargaining.” Which is exactly what SEIU says about the County in their PERB complaint.
The only difference from the hostile negotiations of two years ago is that this time, instead of letting the predictably futile negotiations drag on for over a year, the County declared impasse after only three months of futility. Which saves everyone a lot of time and effort. And which also means the two sides will be going to mediation. But will anything come out of mediation except more fingerpointing?
The inept union's leadership has failed to bring any pressure on the County. And the County has shown no leadership in how to break the impasse. And they don't have to as long as SEIU keeps acting stupid. SEIU, instead of attempting to have a serious (and honest) discussions about County finances and what the County can really afford, has staged a series of childish drive-by rhetorical attacks that only push the two sides further apart. And whereas last time the SEIU stall tactics paid off by preventing pay cuts for over a year, this time around, stalling will prevent SEIU members from getting any increase, assuming the County is willing to grant one.
Mendo Underwhelmed by ObamaCare.
CEO Report, October 21, 2013: “The County’s Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) has continued to work diligently to process all health insurance applications through the Affordable Care Act, and specifically through Covered California’s insurance marketplace. So far, call centers for Mendocino County residents have logged 11 calls. There have been 36 contacts with the public where information or forms were provided, but no activity was initiated on Covered California’s online system known as the California Healthcare, Eligibility, Enrollment and Retention System (CalHEERS) — which is the enrollment system. There have been two cases where information or forms were provided in addition to initiating activity with those applicants into the CalHEERS system. So we really don’t have a lot of activity right now.”
Supervisor John Pinches commented: “After three weeks of the California Covered insurance which is commonly called Obamacare and after the last three weeks of it being in the national news about the shutdown and everything, it’s kind of really shocking to me that we’ve only received 11 calls on this Covered California and ‘no activity.’ I guess that means that not one person has signed up so far in Mendocino County.”
CEO Angelo: “It basically refers to giving out information, which we anticipated. Part of our goal in working with the state is to provide as much information and education to the public, and here you can see that there’s not a lot of interest or we are still not getting the word out as to who to call, where to call, what to do.”
Supervisor Dan Hamburg: “Also they could be getting information from other sources besides the County.”
Angelo: “Yes, they could be.”
Hamburg: “There’s hundreds and hundreds of people going to private healthcare consultants like the one I know in Gualala, Ignacio Health Services; they’re handling hundreds and hundreds of applications under the Act so the County is not the only source of information on the Affordable Care Act. And I don’t like the Affordable Care Act, Johnny. I’m not defending the Act. I’m just saying that this is not a number that shows what the activity is in people signing up.”
Pinches: “That brings up my next question. If there’s all these hundreds of places where they can go…”
Hamburg: “I didn’t say there’s hundreds of places.”
Pinches: “Well, all these other places, so why is the County doing all this?”
Supervisor Dan Gjerde: “The County is enrolling people in Medi-Cal and, say at the Coast Clinics or other groups like that, the Clinics and even some private health insurance carriers — in Fort Bragg, for example, I know there’s one insurance sales agent who is trained and can enroll people in the Affordable Care Act, so I think that’s what Supervisor Hamburg is talking about. There are a number of people throughout the County that are actually enrolling people in the Affordable Care Act insurance and guiding them through to pick out the correct insurance for them. But the County is responsible for enrolling people in Medi-Cal.”
Supervisor Carre Brown: “And if they do not get enrolled it becomes a cost to us.”
Angelo: “And really when we began talking about the Affordable Care Act we were looking at the impact on Health and Human Services and our staff and we’ve actually been staffing up for the Affordable Care Act, so this just speaks to workload as well as what’s happening in the Agency. And certainly we could get a report maybe from the Agency at first quarter.”
Pinches: “We’ve been staffing up for it but we’ve only had eleven calls?”
Angelo: “They’re coming, Johnny.” (Laughs).
Hamburg: “Yeah. They will. But I think what Supervisor Brown raises is an interesting point. We were anticipating as many as 5,000 new Medi-Cal recipients as a result of the ACA and how are we going to find all those people? Or are we waiting for them to find us? I’m sure we’re doing some outreach, but there’s a lot of people out there who we’ve anticipated will be in Medi-Cal.”
Angelo: “That may be a question that could be better answered by the Department, but there are a lot of activities out there. Our goal is education and information. We do anticipate that there still will be a few thousand people who will not be enrolled, and what we’re doing to mitigate that I can’t really answer that today but I can get that answer for you.”
Brown: “It would probably be a good idea since our board meetings are broadcast; I believe we should have an update and an informational session at an upcoming board meeting to help get the word out.”
Hamburg: “Sure. We’ll arrange that. We’ll do that.”
Angelo: “We can do that before the end of the calendar year.”