DAN ROBERTS is learning firsthand the truth of the observation that old age is not for sissies. He's in Rm. 108 of the Ukiah Valley Medical Center, where he's been for the past week undergoing tests and procedures to deal with a massive kidney infection and other medical surprises. Best way to contact him is by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. So far, he has been able to keep his [KZYX] radio commitments, but this, of course, could change. He expects to be in the hospital for another week or so; a trip to UCSF may be in the offing. (Bruce Brady)
“AND JUST AS WE NEVER ONCE STOPPED to ask, How are we, our minds, going to change with the new internet, which has seduced a whole generation into its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging and blugging, etc.” — Doris Lessing, 1919-2013
THE CALIFORNIA COASTAL COMMISSION, meeting in Newport Beach last week, denied the appeal of the Ten Mile Dunes project sponsored by State Parks. The project, to remove a 2.5 mile remnant section of the old Union Lumber Company/Georgia Pacific haul road north of Ward Avenue and south of the Ten Mile River bridge, was originally approved by the Coastal Permit Administrator and appealed to the County Board of Supes by the Westport Municipal Advisory Council. The Supes denied the appeal on a 3-2 vote with Supervisors Gjerde and Brown opposed. The appellants maintain that the project will reduce access, especially for people who can't walk in soft sand. Except there is currently no way to get to the storm damaged sections of the haul road, especially on the south end, without walking across sand, lots of it. State Parks says the project will restore 200 acres of habitat for the Western Snowy Plover, an endangered shore bird that nests on the open beach above the high tide line.
COASTAL COMMISSION staff made a finding of "No substantial issue" which meant that the project was consistent with the Local Coastal Plan and there was really nothing to talk about. The finding of no substantial issue also meant that the appellant and the applicant were each limited to three minutes to make their respective cases. The appeal to the Coastal Commission was brought by the odd couple of Thad Van Buren, Chair of the Westport MAC, and Stan Anderson, something of an endangered species himself, by virtue of his status as a Republican in pseudo-liberal Mendoland. Coastal Commission staff took a few minutes to review the case, complete with a Power Point presentation to show the old haul road buried in sand at one end and crumbling into the sea at the other. Van Buren and Anderson, who made the trek all the way to Newport Beach, were advised by the Chair that they had three minutes to make their case, and that "you can divide those three minutes any way you like." Van Buren took the three minutes to say the haul road is an existing coastal trail, doesn't interfere with sand migration, doesn't interfere with snowy plover movement, is not heavily used (but somehow keeps people out of plover habitat), and finally, that removal of the haul road will reduce access for people who can't slog through the sand. A State Parks rep took his three minutes to say they enthusiastically agreed with the staff recommendation to deny the appeal, and that the project will "maximize public access consistent with the protection of sensitive habitat." Which means State Parks will do everything they can to keep people out of the area.
A MOTION TO DENY THE APPEAL was quickly put on the floor. One commissioner asked the State Parks rep about public access, which resulted in a somewhat rambling and contradictory explanation. State Parks says everyone can walk on the existing wet sand beach without any prob. Except removal of the haul road remnant will take out culverts that provide an all weather crossing for two creeks that might become impassable during winter storm events. Parks says if that happens, they will come back and build "structures" out of "native material" to bridge the streams and put up signs telling beachgoers where the structures are. There was no follow-up question. The Chair then asked if there was "any unwillingness for a unanimous yes vote" and hearing none, the vote was recorded as unanimous. With that, the appeal was over and done in 15 minutes leaving Van Buren and Anderson to face the long drive back home.
ELECTIONS OFFICER SUE RANOCHAK, like her predecessor Marcia Wharf, deflects criticism of the elimination of polling places and forced vote by mail balloting by claiming it saves money and improves voter turnout. Based on the recent school board and special district elections, which saw voter participation of less than 25%, it is hard to make the case for improved turnout. But with few ballots to process it's a money saver for sure. But we remain nostalgic for the time when there was an actual "election day" culminating in a trip to the polls complete with elderly neighbors checking your name against the voting rolls and handing out ballots. And the interim tallying on the big chalkboard in the lobby of the County Courthouse where the County's politically minded gathered to watch. Everything that makes community is gradually slipping away.
ANOTHER ADVANTAGE OF ELECTION DAY, as it once existed, was that except for the closest races, the results were known that evening instead of several weeks in the future. But there were so few votes in this election, and therefore fewer uncounted election day votes, that final results were released in just over a week. With one exception, which we will get to shortly, there were no real surprises.
AS EXPECTED, Carolyn Barrett, backed by the teacher's lobby (and every school administrator to serve in the last forty years) crushed independent challenger Michael Weidner for an open seat on the Ukiah Unified School District board. A pillar of Weidner's campaign seemed to be that his child went to a more prestigious college than his opponent's child, which seemed to say, "my kid is smarter than her kid, therefore I must be smarter than her." Weidner, who was a no-show at the only candidate's forum, was doomed from the start since he was critical of both the teachers and the administration. Barrett had a lock on the race, but her campaign still went all out, with mailings and numerous expensive ads in the local paper. The message is clear: no one will ever be elected to the UUSD board without the support of the teacher's lobby. In Mendocino County, as in the rest of the country, school apparats elect their school boards and supervise themselves.
IN THE POINT ARENA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, the 'school community' circled the wagons to make sure Susan Rush would not be elected. Rush, a perennial candidate, is also the only person to ever question the perennially questionable south coast school administration. Rush recently blew the whistle on a blatant Brown Act violation where Admin distributed and discussed a taxpayer funded report to the school board, but refused to make copies of it available to the public, namely Ms. Rush. The worst nightmare of any public school educrat is that someone willing to question their actions might get elected to the school board.
IN THE WILLITS UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT race, Laurie Harris and Cynthia Carni remained the top vote getters, but Bob Harper, who was ahead on election night by three votes, was overtaken by Chris Neary who won by 19 votes after all the votes were tallied. Neary, a local attorney, is legal counsel for the Brooktrails Community Services District, the North Coast Railroad Authority and Millview County Water District, all of whom are embroiled in expensive lawsuits with Neary being the chief beneficiary as he racks up the billable hours. Neary and Jared Carter recently offered to represent Mendocino County if the Board of Supes had gone along with Supervisor Pinches' initiative to take on the Sonoma County Water Agency. Which may be the best argument we've heard not to go along with Pinches' otherwise sensible plan to seek justice for Mendocino County, which sits idly by, while Sonoma County rakes in the profits of selling "surplus" Mendocino County water to its own thousands of customers and downstream to Marin County, all while enjoying the benefits of a nearly full Lake Sonoma, as Lake Mendocino shrinks to a mud hole.
SPEAKING OF BROOKTRAILS, the three incumbents on the Community Services District Board of Directors were easily returned to office, with career office holder Tony Orth the top vote getter. Which means that the Brooktrails board of directors will continue to struggle to provide basic services, while at the same time ignoring a gold mine that looms before their eyes. Supervisor Pinches has frequently made the point that the 2,000+ acres of Brooktrails 'greenbelt,' largely consisting of second growth redwood forest, could be selectively and sustainably harvested (in a way that would hardly be noticed) in order to provide more than enough revenue to fully fund the fire department and eliminate the need for future sewer and water rate increases. But Orth is firmly stuck in 'Timber Wars' mode, which equates all logging with corporate greed, corruption, clear cutting, herbicide use, and the destruction of life as we know it. So far the Brooktrails voters show no signs of realizing that by electing Orth they are guaranteeing that Brooktrails will continue to struggle to provide basic services and will keep coming back to them for rate increases.
MILLVIEW COUNTY WATER DISTRICT saw the election of a husband and wife team, incumbent Ken Budrow and his wife Jeanne Metcalf. Incumbent Jerry Cardoza was also handily re-elected. The push to elect Metcalf was precipitated by the decision of another incumbent to step down and the need to prevent an outsider (who might ask embarrassing questions) from getting elected. Which also means that if Mr. Budrow or Ms. Metcalf discuss an issue of Millview biz with another director, it will be an instant Brown Act violation.
ANOTHER LOCAL BOARD seeking to avoid controversy is the Ukiah Valley Fire District where Allen Cherry edged out inland political gadfly Lee Howard. The Fire District is currently in the process of merging with the City of Ukiah Fire Department, which it split off from 25 years ago. Howard was the driving force in the divorce back then and said he had "a few questions" about the effort to reunify the departments. The kind of questions that probably no one in authority wants to answer. Least of all the City of Ukiah, which is seeking to lowball the Fire District for providing a full service fire department to the city, while still charging $1.5 million in admin fees to administer a department that no longer exists.
BUT THE RUSSIAN RIVER FLOOD CONTROL DISTRICT may have had the biggest stake in avoiding controversy. Incumbents Richard Shoemaker, Judy Hatch and Paul Zellman were all up for re-election and were being challenged by Frank McMichael who has worn many hats since moving up here from L.A. a quarter century ago. McMichael retired on 'disability' from the L.A. County Sheriff's Office, where he hurt his back, but not so badly that he couldn't work as a construction contractor once he retired to Mendocino County. McMichael then got elected Second District County Supervisor, serving one term before being defeated by Richard Shoemaker. McMichael immediately lucked into the obscure but lucrative position as Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) Executive Director (ED) where he served for nearly 15 years before he was forced out in a contract dispute.
ANNEXATIONS MUST BE APPROVED BY LAFCO, but since annexation almost never happens in Mendocino County, LAFCOs only real duty for the last 10 years has been approval of Municipal Service Reviews (MSRs) which are supposed to evaluate the ability of cities and special districts to provide services. McMichael's contract with LAFCO required him to complete the MSRs. Only they weren't getting done. And no one on the LAFCO Board, (like the other alphabet soup agencies that exist as a sinecure for the executive director - MCOG, NCRA, MCOE and MTA come immediately to mind) was paying attention. So McMichael, who was already getting paid $100,000 a year as LAFCO ED, slipped in another contract for another $60,000 to do the job (complete the MSRs) that he already wasn't doing. There are four cities and about 50 special districts in Mendocino County. LAFCO, under McMichael's guidance, was doing about one or two MSRs a year. Which means it would take at least 25 years to complete them all. Except state law said they had to all be done by 2008, and updated every five years thereafter. Once McMichael's double dipping was exposed, he quietly agreed to resign rather than face a messy showdown for breach of contract.
RICHARD SHOEMAKER, having previously defeated McMichael for County Supe, managed to get himself elected to the LAFCO board of directors as an adjunct to his service on the Russian River Flood District board of directors. And supported by his pal, current Second District Supe John McCowen, Shoemaker got elected Chair of the LAFCO board just in time to preside over the forced resignation of his old political rival, McMichael, who has since gone on the attack against his former agency. McMichael recently wrote an angry denunciation of LAFCO for using public money to sponsor a 'water forum' to discuss water delivery in the Ukiah Valley. For one thing, LAFCO was asking the wrong question, since the problem with water (as a glance at Lake Mendo shows) is lack of supply, not how it gets delivered. McMichael's letter had a laundry list of other complaints about the water forum, including alleged Brown Act violations.
BUT MCMICHAEL, after being forced out at LAFCO, came up roses again, landing the position of District Manager of the Ukiah Valley Sanitation District (UVSD) just after his forced departure from LAFCO. (Say what you will about the guy, he's no dummy.) Enter the City of Ukiah, which had sparred with McMichael for years over who to blame for the lack of an MSR for Ukiah, which needs an approved MSR before it can annex territory, including from the Sanitation District. And the Sanitation District has been locked in an increasingly bitter dispute with the City of Ukiah for several years over just about everything. Not that McMichael was out to settle any grudges, but it just so happens that within a year after taking the job as District Manager, the Sanitation District is suing the City of Ukiah for a cool $28 million, alleging a host of financial improprieties going back decades. The Ukiah City Attorney has written a letter (see Letters to the Editor) complaining that the lawsuit will drive higher costs onto all the ratepayers, city and district, and prevent re-financing $75 million worth of bonded indebtedness incurred to build the new sewer treatment plant. The Sanitation District also wants the City to hand over control of the sewer plant, currently owned and operated by the City.
AGAINST THIS BACKGROUND, former Supe, former LAFCO ED and current UVSD District Manager McMichael, billing himself as a 'water advocate', threw his hat in the ring for Russian River Flood Control District board of directors against the three incumbents, including former Supe and current LAFCO Chair Shoemaker. The other two incumbents aren't particularly well known and didn't bother to show up for the only election forum. So it was no real surprise on election night when McMichael finished third, coming in thirty votes ahead of incumbent Paul Zellman. Political insiders were relishing the anticipated clash with two old rivals, Shoemaker and McMichael, with no love lost between them, sitting on the same obscure board. But it was not to be, as the final returns showed Zellman overtaking McMichael to win with a final edge of nine votes. And nobody was more relieved at the outcome than Shoemaker.
DOUG McKENTY was suspended from hosting KZYX's Open Lines because a nut or a sab called in an f-bomb. That somehow was McKenty's fault concluded the station's two-person management team of John Coate and Mary Aigner. McKenty got a grievance hearing the other day, which was heard by, ta-da, Coate and Aigner, the local equivalent of a hearing before Stalin and Beria. The programmer-elected representative to the Board, Stuart Campbell, sat in on McKenty's trial. It looks like the station will only restore "Open Lines" to the broadcast schedule with a seven second-delay. Coate now insists on rotating hosts for the show, so presumably Doug McKenty will get to do the show every once in a while, and in between a nuzzlebum of Coate and Aig's choosing.
McKENTY will soon be organizing meetings, both on the coast and inland, to recruit a core of people interested in the campaign season for the next Board elections -- he wants to recruit both candidates and their supporters. If McKenty can find three candidates willing to advocate for membership control of station policy -- and the supporters to elect them -- Mendocino might at last lift the Coate-Aigner curse.
SPEAKING of media, we all much enjoyed this sentence in Chuck Nevius's column in Tuesday's Chronicle: "As an unbiased observer with no background in the culinary properties of tube steaks, I would say that the stand had the best hot dogs in the city."
RHONEY STANLEY, ARE YOU OUT THERE? "Hello. This may be so random, but I figured I would give a try. I am enquiring about Rhoney Stanley's Book. I am trying to email her to require one of The Bear's Grateful Dead belt buckles. She signed my book and I am unable to contact her to order one of his silver $1500 buckles. Mine was stolen and I am trying every avenue I know to contact her. I know she would love to see one and I would love to buy one. Again, thank you for your time to read this. My name is Persefoni. I live in Charleston, SC and frequent your area of the world often. Just thought I would throw my line out there.. Take care.. persefoni misoyianis <email@example.com>"
STATEMENT OF THE DAY: In these northern climes, this turning into the year’s final quarter feels written in the blood, or at least into the legacy code of culture. The leaves skitter across the streets in an early twilight, chill winds daunt man and dog, the landscape buttons itself up for the long sleep, and human activity moves indoors — including the arduous festivities around the spooky solstice. We take the comfort that we can in all that. But a strange torpor of event attends this year’s turning. In the year’s final happenings, nothing seems to happen, and what little does happen seems not to matter. The world sits with frayed nerves and hears a distant noise, which is the cosmic screw of history turning. The nation gets over everything without resolving anything — fiscal cliffs, debt ceilings, health care implosions, domestic spying outrages, taper talk jukes, banking turpitudes, the Syria bluster, the Iran nuke deal fake-out. It’s dangerous to live as though there was no such thing as consequence. Societies have a way of reaching a consensus about something without ever stating it outright. The American public has silently agreed to sit on its hands through one more Christmas and after that things shake loose. — James Kunstler
JEFF COSTELLO WRITES (from Denver): Keep it illegal, it was more fun that way. The old bald guys with ponytails are 50 years too late with long hair as a statement, as well as the notion that pot makes them hip and groovy. There's a paralegal with a big law firm here with a big pot grow in her basement. This is probably also true of many petty bureaucrats in city gov. Everything is topsy-turvy, it's the squares and rednecks with long hair and weed, and they remain squares and rednecks. On the Big Island in the early 80s I watched marijuana growing change from part-time activity for a few hippies and locals, to a deadly-serious business with guys patrolling their driveways with big guns and bad attitudes. Big money rolled in and with it came cocaine and later meth, people buying big ostentatious vehicles and other high-profile consumer items. I have a picture somewhere of me with a guy who later was killed in a pot deal. Yep, peace love and brown rice.
RUMORS. One big one blowing through the County Admin Building has County Counsel Tom Parker on his way out the door. Admin had wanted Doug Losak in the job, but Losak was brought down by a midnight interface with the law last year when he was the subject of a late night stop. A tiny bit of pot and a gun in a locked case was found in his vehicle. Somehow, in the county where drugs and guns are not only prevalent but revered, and intoxicants are the two primary cash crops, Losak is considered to represent an ongoing conflict of interest. He still works in the County Counsel's office, however, and is available, we're sure, to serve in the top spot.
USED TO BE there was one County Counsel who worked out of the DA's office. There are now six lawyers handing out errant advice from their own quarters in the County Admin Building, and one really has to wonder what all of them do all day besides long lunches. Frank Zotter, a comic figure out of Dickens' Office of Circumlocution, "a sea of obfuscation that could not be navigated," would show up at Boonville school board meetings to mediate controversies. Never at a loss, Zotter would instantly craft an opinion sure to please the power, and the school board would say, "Well, if the lawyer says...."And that would be the end of it. The Drug Task Force commandant, Russell Simmons, says half Mendo's population is in the drug business. The other half must be in government if the growth of the County Counsel's Office is any indication.
JIM TAT KONG and Cindy Bao Feng Chen were shot to death in an execution-style shooting last month just off Highway 20 near Fort Bragg. The murders are being investigated by both local police and the feds. The federal involvement seems pegged to an apparent assumption the killings may be related to organized crime. Jim Tat Kong was a resident of the East Bay, Cindy Bao Feng Chen lived in San Francisco where she owned an impressive array of real estate. We understand there is a suspect, and if there truly is we can rule out Chinese gangsters. They tend not to be caught. A few years ago, a famous Chinatown criminal called Shrimp Boy was received out of prison with a homecoming on Stockton Street that had to be seen to be believed — you'd have thought he was the second coming of Chiang Kai Shek. Shrimp Boy, who's no shrimp, says he's reformed. The SF cops say he hasn't, and that drugs, car theft rings, gambling, and prostitution still fund Chinese gangs on both the East and West coasts.
THE POPULAR Ukiah restaurants called Café Walter and Ruen Tong, both on North State Street, are unlikely to survive more than $1.9 million in fines for wage thefts from 47 workers over three years. Co-owners Yaowapha Ritdet and Steve Walter were charged with the thefts by the State Labor Commission. Employees at the two restaurants regularly worked at least 11.5 hours a day, six or seven days a week with no meal breaks and no overtime pay, according to a press release issued Thursday by the State Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. The restaurants did not pay minimum wage or overtime, in flagrant violation of the law. Additionally, some of the workers were compelled to sign time cards stating they had only worked between five and six hours each day. Others were paid in cash with no information on the total hours worked, rate of pay or deductions provided.
THE INVESTIGATION, conducted by state and federal labor regulators, examined employment practices at the two restaurants from June 19, 2010 through June 15, 2013. The 47 workers are due $1,086,436 in unpaid minimum wages, $376,640 in unpaid overtime and $153,582 for no meal period premiums, according to a state department of labor relations press release. In addition, a total of $189,250 in civil penalties were assessed for wage violations.
A READER COMMENTS on the huge labor violations at the Café Walter and Ruen Tong: “And whether or not the victims were documented, immigrant populations in general are much more vulnerable to this type of crime. I knew a kid who worked full time for three weeks for no pay as a ‘trainee’ dishwasher at a local coffee shop. When I found out I managed to convince him that he was being taken and that he would be an unpaid ‘trainee’ for as long as he kept showing up and doing the work. He confronted the owner and asked him if that was true and the owner admitted to him that he had no intention of hiring him. Another guy who was actually being paid to work there got picked up by la migra right at the end of his two-week pay period. He managed to convince the agents to take him by the restaurant so he could pick up his check. Of course, the owner said he had never seen the guy in his life. But it sounds like the perps in this case missed their calling — they should at least be in the state legislature if not congress. Or in healthcare.”
OBAMA ANNOUNCED LAST THURSDAY that he is changing his healthcare law to give insurance companies the option to keep offering consumers plans that would otherwise be canceled. The administrative changes are good for just one year, though senior administration officials said they could be extended if problems with the law persist. The President acknowledged that “we fumbled the rollout of this health care law” and pledged to "just keep on chipping away at this until the job is done.”
IT'S UNCLEAR what the impact of Thursday's changes will be for the millions of people who have already had their plans canceled. While officials said insurance companies will now be able to offer those people the option to renew their old plans, they are not required to take that step, and it they aren't required to take it, they won't take it.
KAREN IGNAGNI, president of the industry group, didn't speculate on whether companies would extend coverage for those threatened with cancellation, but warned in a statement that “changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers.”
OF COURSE no one has been fired for any part of the ObamaCare debacle, which also of course is a conceptual debacle because the insurance industry was permitted to write ObamaCare.
OBAMA, looked at from the AVA's outback rook about as far from the power levers as it's possible to get, remains a mystery. We can't decide if he's simply weak, or the victim of ongoing betrayals by the people around him, or a victim of the prevailing incompetence, or he's just another hollow man along the lines of Bill Clinton, Gavin Newsom, and any number of the shiny-teeth ciphers presently occupying public office, a Chesbro-Huffman kinda guy who wants to be President simply so he can ride around in limos and Air Force One and call up drone murders of Arab grandmothers. With Obama, it's one catastrophe after another, and he smiles on through all of it like a guy walking into a Christmas party.
CLAY JOHNSON, guy who built Obama’s 2008 campaign site and CEO of Department of Better Technology, describes the Congressional Obamacare hearing exchanges between congresspersons and Obamacare’s techno-staffers: “From watching the hearing [on October 24], from a technologist point of view, both the questions from Congress were sort of absurd and not particularly helpful, and the answers from the contractors were also just demonstrably ignorant of the technology that they were managing. And so, you have these bizarre exchanges where, you know, a member of Congress is asking the vice president of CGI Federal about code inside of the website that isn’t even being displayed and isn’t even relevant to the user, and CG—and the VP of CGI Federal not even recognizing that it’s not displayed and not even relevant to the user. It was this really baffling set of exchanges. It’s like watching my one-year-old argue with my cat.”
CHUCK MORSE, Mendocino County's Agricultural Commissioner, says a Light Brown Apple Moth was trapped last month in a Ukiah neighborhood. The critter attacks a variety of fruit trees and can be harmful to grapes.
SHERIFF'S PRESS RELEASE: On Monday, November 11th, at about 3pm, a subject went to the Mendocino Coast Water Works on Wheeler Street in Mendocino to pay for services rendered. At that location the subject was contacted by Amica Wetzler, 33, of Mendocino, who represented herself as an employee of Mendocino Coast Water Works. Wetzler obtained $2,700 from the subject and provided him with a handwritten receipt. The next day an actual employee of Mendocino Coast Water Works contacted the subject regarding his outstanding bill. The subject explained that he had paid the bill, and had a receipt. The employee called the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office and reported the theft. Investigations by Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies identified the suspect as Amica Wetzler. Wetzler was subsequently arrested for violations of 487(A) PC and 532 PC and the majority of the stolen money was recovered. Wetzler was lodged at the Mendocino County Jail where she was to be held in lieu of $15,000 bail.
EXCUSE ME for not being shocked that jocks, role models for our nation's youth, do and say things in the locker room, and among themselves, that the Appropriate Police would not and do not approve. Thing is, men generally, except Mendo men active in the Democrat Party, routinely do and say things unlikely to earn them guests spots on Women's Voices. But wait here while I change into garrulous old codger so I can elaborate.
AT CAL POLY, BK (Before Krukow) circa 1961-62, jocks lived in old World War Two barracks near the baseball field. The college also housed foreign students with the jocks, a policy that undoubtedly contributed significantly to anti-American feeling in their homelands when they returned to Iran, Haiti, and Taiwan. There were many nights of rough nighttime merriment in this branch of student housing, strategically located far from the regular student accommodations. It was almost as if admin had decided, “A lot of these so-called athletes are older and, ah, rougher, than most of our youngsters so it might be a good idea to isolate them. The furriners? Who cares? Put them down there, too.”
AMERICA may have been a rich country by 1960, but I don't remember any of us having any money, and we had to foot it back and forth into town, meaning we were on our own for entertainment. Which meant lots of felony-quality behavior that would have gotten the perps expelled if they'd been caught. But the ethic in the dorms was prison-like: no snitching. And as athletes, we always got the benefit of the doubt, if one of the foreign students complained. The Haitian, a man of about 50, came running out of his room with a gun one night; harassment of him ceased and never resumed.
THESE DORMS were so outtahand that the night watchman refused to stop patrolling that part of the campus after he was mugged one night, stripped naked and left tied up in the street. We chuckled about that one for weeks. There was an investigation that of course went nowhere. Another night, two fun loving Rover boys threw a raccoon and two hunting dogs into a crowded room where guys were playing cards, bracing the door from the outside so nobody could get out. The shrieks of the card players, and the desperate death struggles of the animal mayhem, had the perps laughing so hard they slumped against the two-by-four holding the door closed.
FRED WITTINGHAM was a regular visitor. A linebacker at Cal Poly, he went on to play and then coach in the NFL. As a first year pro with the Rams, he was considered the "meanest" rookie in the league. Later, he was known as “Mad Dog,” which gives you an idea of his temperament. He was already married when he played at Cal Poly so he lived off-campus. But still being a kid, technically considered, and like a lot of us, having been in the service for a couple of years before taking up college, he'd hang out at night with all his teammates in the jock palace. I wrote Fred's classroom papers for him. Since I voluntarily read books, a practice that was alternately regarded by my roommates as odd and/or suspicious, I was assumed to be capable of writing a paper that would get the recipient a passing grade.
“YOU KNOW what I need,” Mad Dog would jauntily direct me like he was ordering a sandwich, “make it the usual. All I need is a C.” The trick was not to make the paper too good because they'd know Mad Dog didn't write it. I'd knock out a C for him, Mad Dog would give me a few bucks and a couple of jolly attaboys.
ONE NIGHT, Mad Dog got into a fight with a running back named Jim Fahey. Fahey thought he looked scholarly as hell by walking around with a pencil behind his ear, and may even have attended a class now and then. The fight went on for too long because we couldn't get them apart. Fahey finally got his teeth clamped on to one of Mad Dog's ears and bit off his ear lobe. I remember MD saying something like, "Goddam, Fahey. You didn't have to go that far."
WITTINGHAM made a good life for himself in football, and I see his son a lot on ESPN. I remember Mad Dog Jr. as a toddler. When Little Mad Dog stumbled and fell one day, I recall Mad Dog Sr. not allowing the child to cry. Fred Jr. went on to be a big time football player and is now a college coach. He's on ESPN a lot. Richie Incognito would have been right at home in San Luis Obispo, 1962. He still fits in lots of places.
COMMENT from LostCoastOutpost.org regarding the conviction of two HumCo men for illegal peat harvesting: “For those of you that don't know, peat bogs are not a renewable resource in the same way that old growth redwood is not a renewable resource. Unless you can guarantee 400-10,000 years of undisturbed growth, you can't claim it's renewable. Stop using peat-based potting soil. I won't science-lesson-scold everybody too much about how peat is basically a kidney for watersheds in many places, but it's really not something we should be digging up for container gardening. Research it and vote with your $$$ if you give a shit.”
A MUST READ in the 18 November issue of The New Yorker. “Buzzkill, How do you set up a legal market for pot?” Short answer: You don't unless you arrest a whole lot of people who refuse to go legal. The rub is that legal dope will come with a lot of overhead, meaning higher prices to those America's tokers who go legal and lower prices to those who remain illegal. Guess where most tokers will go? Buzzkill is the smartest, most comprehensive piece we've read on the eternal subject.
THE CHRON'S architecture writer, John King, nicely sums up the new casino in Rohnert Park: “A big suburban box despite glitzy touches.” Anything other than a box would be out of place in Rohnert Park, but this thing represents Rohnert Park's mother of all boxes, ka-ching, ka-ching.
THE MUCH MALIGNED Frisco Daily's Saturday paper also featured an intelligent look back at Lenny Bruce's historic appearances in the city, circa 1961. Written by Gary Kamiya whose recent book, Cool Gray City of Love, is the best thing ever about the town, Kamiya's piece propelled me down Memory Lane. Just having turned 21, I saw two performances by the breakthrough comic; the first one was simply amazing —to an aspiring beatnik like me, anyway, especially in the context of the early 1960s. The fact that Bruce's appearances were confined to nightclubs, tells you all you need to know about how mainstream his act was. Bruce was arrested after his performance the first of two times I saw him, and arrested several times before and after for obscenity and, as Kamiya reminds us, it wasn't until Bruce got his case before an intelligent judge, that he seemed to spend more time in court than on stage. Judge Clayton Horn, in Kamiya's words, “instructed jurors to consider Bruce's work as a whole, said foul language was not of itself obscene, and instructed them that if the work had any redeeming social value, it was not obscene. The jury found Bruce not guilty.”
LENNY BRUCE: “If Jesus had been killed 20 years ago, Catholic schoolchildren would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.” Nothing obscene about that, and the so-called obscene stuff was always taken out of context by the police. They'd get up in court and simply rattle off statements like, “Mr. Bruce said fuck, then he said twat...." This word, that word with no context at all, as if he were a lunatic swearing at the people who'd paid to see him do it. The times, to say the least, weren't yet a changin'. If you billed yourself as a comedian but referred to the Pope as “woppo” in your act, context was likely to get lost in the ensuing melee. And I was there one night when a drunken woman kept interrupting him until he finally blurted out, “I hope you're wearing dirty underwear when the niggers take over.” That one even stunned me, and I understood what he was doing. It wasn't exactly the tone of the everyday insults of those times. (As an editorial courtesy, I'll break it down for you: The times, you see, were rife with white male fear of perceived black sexuality. “They” were going to rape your sister, you see, if “they” couldn't marry her, and so on. So Bruce's shout out to the heckler satirized Whitey's irrational fear of black men. But then everything he said offended wide swathes of the population, and he paid, probably, by dying young from a heroin overdose. Given the intensity of today's social pieties, Lenny Bruce might have an even more difficult time.
CRAB SEASON has begun. Can you still get great deals off the boats at Noyo? Well, can you? Here in the ever bountiful Anderson Valley, the Lemons family at Lemons Market, Philo, provides fresh crab (and salmon) right off their fishing boat, courtesy of Tom, Tom Jr. and Wade Lemons.
SEATTLE VOTERS have elected a socialist to city council for the first time in modern history. Kshama Sawant defeated conservative liberal Democrat and 16-year incumbent Richard Conlin. Conlin was backed by the city's political establishment. While city council races are technically non-partisan, Sawant made sure people knew she was running as a socialist — a label that would be politically poisonous in many parts of the country. Sawant, 41, is a college economics professor. She backs efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15; called for rent control in the city where rental prices keep climbing; and supports a tax on millionaires to help fund a public transit system and other services. During her campaign, she condemned economic inequality, contending that some people aren't benefiting from the city's declining jobless rate, ongoing recovery from the recession, and downtown building boom.
MEANWHILE, IN FORT BRAGG... the man beater of the month, Ms. Treva Mays, 5'2'' and 120 pounds. Officers were summoned at 3:55pm Nov. 11 to the 200 block of East Fir Street for a report of domestic violence and spoke to a man who told them his former girlfriend, Treva M. Mays, 28, had attacked him. The man had several scratches on his face and hands, and his nose was red, according to the FBPD.
He told police Mays had caused the injuries and had tried to hit him with the bat. He did not need medical attention, the FBPD stated. Officers found Mays nearby, interviewed her ("Did you hit that doofus with a bat?") and arrested her on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, domestic violence and destroying a telephone line. Mays was taken for medical clearance to the Mendocino Coast District Hospital, where she allegedly grabbed one of the officers who was walking her from the patrol car to the hospital doors. The officer wasn't injured. Inside the hospital, Mays allegedly threatened the officers repeatedly, the FBPD stated. Mays was additionally charged with resisting executive officers. She was booked at the Fort Bragg Police Department after being medically cleared, and taken to the Mendocino County Jail.
“IT WAS SO HOT, we turned the corner and I saw the underpass and thought, Oh, good, it will be cool for a few minutes, then I heard the shot, the first one.” — Jackie Kennedy
THE ITINERARY FOR THE PRESIDENTIAL TOUR called for JFK and the First Lady to visit five cities — San Antonio, Houston, Fort Worth, Dallas, and Austin — for speeches and fund-raisers before making a weekend barbecue stop at LBJ's ranch, the prospect of which gave JFK the shudders, particularly the indignity of having to wear a big cowboy hat to placate LBJ's mewling ego. For the president's aides, a sense of bad juju hung over the entire proposed presidential swing through Texas, especially the stop in Dallas, where Adlai Stevenson, the two-time Democratic presidential candidate and United Nations ambassador, the epitome of courtly liberalism, got the natives riled up with a seditious speech daring to praise the spirit of cooperation promoted by the UN. Them's fightin' words in Texas, which had passed a law making the flying of the UN flag a crime, and afterward Stevenson was surrounded by a welcoming committee of Alamo avengers. “Two men spat in his face and the wife of an insurance executive smacked him over the head with a sign proclaiming: ‘If You Seek Peace, Ask Jesus’…” JFK's reception threatened to be worse. Handbills were printed in the style of the Old West outlaw posters blaring that the president was “Wanted for Treason.” On the day of JFK's arrival, a black-bordered full-page ad reminiscent of a death notice appeared in The Dallas Morning News and all but accused the president of being a commie traitor. “Why have you scrapped the Monroe Doctrine in favor of the ‘Spirit of Moscow’?” (The ad's complete text reads like an early mimeographed spew of a Glen Beck manifesto.) But the crowds were friendly along the motorcade route, prompting the wife of the Texas governor to tell Kennedy, in one of the prize quotes in the annals of bitter irony, “Mr. President, you can't say Dallas doesn't love you” — and then bang bang bang… We have immensely more gun nuts running around today than we did in 1963, and they are toting a lot more firepower. Each ramp-up of rabid animus raises the odds of another Dallas, and there's a lot more of that frothing around, too. — James Wolcott
TASK FORCE: MAJORITY IN MENDOCINO COUNTY IN MARIJUANA INDUSTRY
By Tiffany Revelle
More than half of Mendocino County's population are growers, sellers, distributors, brokers or trimmers in the less-than-legal and largely underground marijuana industry, Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force Commander Rich Russell estimates.
"I could stay busy just following around souped-up trucks with 19-year-olds driving them," Russell half-joked, talking Thursday about trends law enforcement is seeing.
The black market is keeping the price high, he said, but not in California. While local market saturation means a grower can get between $1,200 and $2,000 at the most in Mendocino County for a pound of trimmed, dried bud, the same pound would fetch up to $5,000 per pound from an East Coast buyer, according to Russell.
"Local growers are frustrated because the price has gone down locally," Russell said. "They distribute to cannabis clubs to get twelve-hundred to two thousand dollars a pound; they make less profit, and the cannabis clubs ship it east. It's going out the back door."
The dispensaries also turn a profit selling the cannabis to buyers out the front door, he noted. But local growers' frustration goes deeper than that.
"More and more, what we're seeing is that people are moving here to grow, and they export it to their home state for more money," Russell said, describing what he sees as a swelling trend. "I've been here six years, and it's doubled every year I've been here."
Typical of the free market, the sellers who have connections with top-paying buyers back east make the most money. Enterprising locals make between $100 and $200 per pound for brokering those connections for Mendocino County natives and other growers who don't otherwise have them, Russell noted.
"There's tons of marijuana moving out of this county," he said.
It's a regular occurrence for exporters to mail the bud via FedEx or regular mail.
"One hundred pounds of bud is commonly known as a box," Russell said.
The Task Force finds most of the indoor gardens it eventually raids by following up on leads from out-of-state law enforcement agencies whose investigations lead them to Mendocino County exporters, according to Russell.
Task Force agents wouldn't have to go outside Ukiah to stay busy, according to Russell, and there are so many grow sites that the team can pick and choose what to investigate based on the size of the garden, the location and the suspect or suspects.
"We're fighting the good fight," Russell said of the Task Force's eradication efforts. "We try to keep the commercial grows down, but we're hugely outnumbered. I don't have the resources to do the job to the degree where it would have a great effect, and the growers know it."
Agents find large gardens in remote areas and urban gardens alike while flying over the county and on the ground during unrelated investigations, he said. Expensive helicopter rides aren't always needed when agents only need to consult Google Earth to find outdoor gardens locally.
"We've been busy all summer eradicating large amounts of marijuana," Russell said. "It was twice as bad this year as last year, and the commercial gardens are twice as many."
Another disturbing trend, he said, is that the Mexican nationals found tending illicit marijuana gardens primarily in the forests and on public lands in years prior "are moving to urban areas and growing indoors or in their back yards."
He added, "We used to work methamphetamine and heroin (cases) a lot more, and now we're finding that there's always marijuana associated with it. It's a year-round job, and it just doesn't slow down."
(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
DEPT. OF COLD, DEAD FINGERS: The California Department of Justice has processed 780,525 background checks for gun purchases, easily putting the state on track to surpass the record of 817,738 set just last year. “We are probably on pace to exceed a million” gun sales by year's end, said Department of Justice spokesman Nick Pacilio. That's because some of the buyers purchase more than one gun. Justice officials said the gun surge started the day after Connecticut school massacre in December. That's no great shock: Every time there's a crime that prompts calls for more gun control, gun sales spike.