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Off The Record (Jan 8, 2014)

THE US NATIONAL WEATHER Service has posted a photo of an empty Lake Mendocino. A drought of the 1975-76 magnitude is upon us.

TUESDAY, the Supervisors, led by Carre Brown and John Pinches, declared a drought emergency. “There is an imminent threat of disaster,” the proclamation declares, that impacts us every which way, from limited household water to concern for wildlife, especially the few fish remaining in the Russian River. Independent municipalities from Willits to Point Arena are likely to soon announce mandatory water-saving measures.

LAST YEAR, a mere 7.67 inches of rain fell on Mendocino County. This year, about an inch. Lake Mendocino presently contains a barely damp 25,900 acre-feet of water, as low as the lake has been since it was built in the mid-1950s. An acre-foot is assumed to supply two family homes for a year.


THE COUNTY DECLARATION means two supervisors, probably Brown and Pinches, will function as liaison with the state and the many independent water districts of the county to enact practical conservation strategies, which are likely to soon be made mandatory.

INLAND AGRICULTURE is almost entirely dependent on the exhausted reserves normally stored at Lake Mendocino. It's that water, most of which is owned by Sonoma County and all of which is controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers, upon which the flow of the Russian River, from Redwood Valley to Healdsburg, depends. The lake and the river depend on normal rainfall. No water in the lake means no water in the upper Russian River. Which spells catastrophe for fish runs and inland ag, especially vineyards.

IN THE WETTEST of times, Fort Bragg's ingenious water system is a struggle. We asked 4th District supervisor Dan Gjerde how it was holding up during the drought: “We're clearly going through another drought year. The other day, Council Member Meg Courtney told me she's concerned about the city's water supplies, so I'm sure City Manager Linda Ruffing and the City are preparing plans. But I haven't yet seen an announcement from the City calling for a water emergency.

“AS YOU KNOW, the City has a three stage alert system. In the past, the public has significantly curtailed water consumption during alerts, so as soon as water supply levels drop to a predetermined level, the City Manager will enact the water emergency.

“THE CITY'S drinking water is drawn from three sources: Noyo River, Newman Gulch and Waterfall Gulch. During periods of low water flow in the Noyo, a majority of Fort Bragg's water is drafted from Newman Gulch and Waterfall Gulch. For years, the City has searched for viable ways to supplement those sources. Fort Bragg's now moving forward with two projects: The City plans to construct a new 45-acre raw water pond near Newman Gulch, and has also tendered an offer to purchase the Mendocino Coast Recreation and Park District's property on Highway 20. The 700-acre parcel on Highway 20 includes most of the Newman Gulch watershed, and the property contains a significant amount of underground water. If the City's offer is accepted by the bank, the City will protect the property from illegal dumping and eventually tap some of the property's water with at least one well.”

AT TUESDAY'S meeting (7th Jan) of the supervisors, the board, which also functions, so far only in theory, as the county's Water Authority, “appointed members to a public policy facilitating committee under a memorandum of understanding the county holds with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Marine Fisheries Service and Sonoma County Water Agency.” This is a way of saying that the drought is serious and we've at least got to get into some kind of rough organizational shape to take it on. The board also considered declaring a local emergency because of drought conditions and appointing an ad-hoc committee “to work with local and state partners to support the residents of Mendocino County."

IN THE LATEST fiction from CalTrans spokesman Phil Frisbie, Big Orange is claiming that Willits Bypass protests have cost at least $4.6 million. “This includes all California Highway Patrol costs, direct construction delay costs, and other costs associated with removal of protestors from trees and equipment,” says Frisbie. “Our contractor has filed an additional claim for global impacts due to construction delays and inefficiencies caused by the protests. This claim will likely add millions of dollars more to the total cost, and we anticipate resolving it before construction begins next spring.”

CALTRANS has been paying CHP officers between $6,120 and $8,160 per day to guard the construction site, based on between six and eight officers being assigned. This amounts to about $1.5 million of the estimated $4.6 million.

ACCORDING TO FRISBIE-MATH, Will Parrish's demo alone, which occurred as Parrish chained himself to a machine called a wick drain stitcher, cost CalTrans $481,588, including $39,000 in rental charges for the idle equipment. The contractor billed CalTrans for $328,000 for production delays and for daily overhead during this period, a tidy sum he'll make twice over without Parrish locked to the machine. The cost to CalTrans for idle workers for the wick machines was $17,000, so says Frisbie anyway. The cost for the CHP officers to stand around drinking coffee and telling and their equipment was $98,000.

RECOMMENDED READING: Four Days in November: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Vincent Bugliosi. By far the clearest and most convincing book on the subject I've ever read. Bugliosi, best known as prosecutor of the Manson Family, puts his prosecutorial skills to effective use here as he lays out the event in chronological order, complete with the detailed movements of Oswald and Jack Ruby with descriptions of their behavior from an impressive number of eyewitnesses. Conclusion? Oswald and Ruby acted alone. Bugliosi also offers the clearest, and it seems to me, most irrefutable account of the wounds Kennedy and Governor Connolly suffered. The so-called 'magic bullet' is fully and plausibly explained. A friend lent me the book. I didn't open it right away, but when I did I couldn't put it down. I know I'll hear from people wed to the conspiratorial version of Kennedy's murder, but Bugliosi's case will be difficult to undermine.

ANOTHER BOOK that recently captured my feeble attentions is called Dead Run: The Murder of a Lawman and the Greatest Manhunt of the Modern American West by Dan Schultz. The cover has a Time mag quote calling the book “riveting.” Not for me it wasn't. But it was interesting and the title turned out to be misleading, in that the “greatest manhunt” really turned out to be a huge clown show of competing police forces who only found two of the three fugitives because they shot and killed themselves more or less in plain view. The third fugitive should have been found but he, too, was only uncovered by accident years later. Dead Run tells the story of three young militia-oriented guys, one influenced by an admix of Ed Abbey, who killed one cop and almost killed another in a crude plot to maybe blow up the massive Glen Canyon dam in Arizona. It's not clear what exactly they had in mind with a stolen cement truck. Apparently, they intended to pack it with explosives and blow up something big with it, but steal a big truck in broad daylight in a small town and, Whoa, Dude, your conspiracy is off to a bad start. They read a lot of the usual paranoid bullshit the fascisti put out on the internet about the “ZOG” (Zionist Occupation Government) and so on and how we've lost all our freedom here in Freedom Land, especially our “right” to own military assault rifles. The three dummies bought it all, and prepared for a showdown with ZOG by burying lots of rifles, ammo, explosives, and survivalist gear in remote areas of the Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Colorado deserts, it apparently not occurring to them that the feds, not to mention local police agencies, have bigger guns and pay people quite well to use them.

THAT WAS AN INTERESTING rain dance on the Mendocino Headlands as only a Mendocino rain dance could be. Some 30 or so persons, colorfully arrayed, reinforced by numerous dogs, hooped and hollered and shook incense sticks at the sky, haughtily turning away non-residents with, “This is for us only,” us meaning residents of the village. And, “No grape growers need dance.” Have to wonder if they wanted the rain to fall exclusively on them, too.

MORE EVIDENCE that a train will never again run on Mendocino County tracks — the old tracks that traverse Ukiah intersections have mostly been paved over.

GIVE DENNIS O'BRIEN high marks for doggedness. He is now in settlement negotiations with the County over a free speech matter 18 months old.

ON August 13, 2012, O’Brien, of the Mendocino Environmental Center, filed a $10,000 claim against Mendocino County “for actions of Detective Andrew Whiteaker, failure to process timely complaint by Captain Randy Johnson, failure to initiate an investigation by Sheriff Allman, violation of civil rights, infliction of emotional distress, false authority and imprisonment.”

THE INCIDENT OCCURRED, fully described below, occurred at the Ukiah Crossroads Shopping Center on North State Street and at the Sheriff's office on nearby Low Gap Road.

WHEN O'BRIEN brought his complaint to the Supervisors in late 2012 he and it elicited rude impatience and yawning indifference from them.

“ON APRIL 16, 2012 at approximately 3:30pm I parked in the parking lot of the Ukiah Crossroads Shopping Center at the end of North State Street. As I walked toward Raley's Supermarket I saw a woman on the sidewalk with a clipboard in her hand. She was standing near a large stone pillar on the opposite side from the entrance to Raley's. She was not in any way interfering with foot traffic. If anyone tried to enter the store using the space she was occupying, they would have run into a stone pillar. As I approached, the woman asked me if I would like to sign some ballot petitions. I said I would. She had at least three petitions to get ballot measures on the ballot. I signed two of them. Before I could get to the next one Detective Andrew Whiteaker appeared. He was wearing a shirt with a Sheriff's logo on the left breast and Sheriff's Office badge on his belt. He stated that the woman seeking signatures to the ballot measure must leave. The woman stated what she was doing and said she was just exercising her free-speech rights. Detective Whiteaker stated she was on private property and that the store manager had requested that she leave. I then stated that the Supreme Court had held then a shopping center was the equivalent of a town square and that it could be used for gathering signatures for political purposes. Detective Whiteaker replied that he was enforcing California law and that the owner had the right to ask anyone to leave the place of business. I then asked him to identify himself. He stated he was Detective Whiteaker and confirmed he was a member of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department. I asked if he was on duty and he said Yes. I asked him if he was aware of the First Amendment, and he said Yes. I asked him if he knew that the First Amendment applied to the states. He said that did not affect his enforcement of private property laws. When I stated that I believed that Sheriff Allman would disagree, Detective Whiteaker replied that Sheriff Allman could not tell him how to enforce the law. I replied that Sheriff Allman could tell him if he was making a mistake. Detective Whiteaker then stated that if we did not stop he would have to arrest us for trespassing on private property. The woman gathering signatures left immediately and I walked into the store. I was not able to review or sign the additional ballot petitions that the woman had left with her. This is a sworn declaration that I have submitted to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office as a formal complaint. The back page of what I've just passed out has my conversation with Captain Greg Van Patten who is the immediate supervisor of Detective Whiteaker. If you would like to hear more of that, one of you will have to ask me. I'm out of time.”

THEN-BOARD CHAIR John McCowen, who owns the building at 106 West Standley which houses O'Brien and his activist colleagues, said, “Thank you Mr. O'Brien. As you know, we are not allowed to consider items not on the agenda.”

O'Brien: “You are not allowed to act on them. You are allowed to discuss them.”

Mr. O’Brien is correct, according to the Brown Act and the Board’s own rules. Supervisors routinely engage members of the public in dialog on matters that citizens bring up. They just can’t vote on them.

McCowen: “Well, we are not really allowed to discuss it without having it on the agenda, so thank you for the information.”

HOWEVER, soon after Mr. O'Brien shuffled from the podium, acting County librarian Annette DeBacker and the Supervisors chirpily discussed her new job and the extra money she’s got to work with since Measure A passed last year, giving the Library a big infusion of new funds. The smiley chirp-chirp interlude was not on the agenda.

O'Brien: “You're allowed to ask questions.”

O’Brien is again correct.

McCowen, exasperated and raising his voice: “Thank you!”

O'Brien: “And you have 10 minutes to do that…”

O’Brien is again correct.

McCowen: “Well, thank you for the inform—”

O'Brien: “If any supervisor would like to hear the rest of the issue—”

McCowen: “Thank you, Mr. O'Brien. Thank you.”

NO SUPERVISORS had any questions, including Supervisor Hamburg, who won a nearly identical free speech lawsuit against Walmart a few years ago.

IT NOW APPEARS, however, that the County Counsel's office agrees that O'Brien was and is correct. We hope he gets the full ten grand in damages. One would think that the cops and mall store managers would have long ago understood that this litigated-to-smithereens issue of protests and signature gathering is legal in mall country.

ON JANUARY 1, 2014 at 4:45am Coyote Valley Tribal Police and deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to a reported stabbing in the 100 block of Campbell Drive on the Coyote Valley Rancheria. Upon arrival officers and deputies located the victim, a 20-year-old male, with numerous stab wounds to his neck and abdomen. The victim was bleeding profusely and his injuries were life threatening. Medical personnel responded to the scene and transported the victim to the Ukiah Valley Medical Center. The victim was later flown to an out of area hospital for additional medical treatment. Officers and deputies interviewed several witnesses and learned the victim had been involved in an argument with 16-year-old Victor De La Cruz who resides in Ukiah, California. The argument escalated into a physical confrontation, which resulted in De La Cruz stabbing the victim numerous times. De La Cruz fled the area but, accompanied by an attorney, soon turned himself in to Santa Rosa authorities.

ON LINE COMMENT of the pertinent type: “It really is over. Here in Portland Oregon, which is far from wealthy but reasonably middle-class, every mall Macy’s I went into seemed to have fully stocked ladies coats and clothes on the racks right up til Christmas. If people can’t afford to buy clothes, how long until they can’t afford to maintain a car? We have great public transportation, but no doubt about it, droves of people here are car-dependent. The winding down of Happy Motoring is happening. I can also see homeowners becoming so cash-strapped that they cannot afford to replace their furnace. Or cannot afford the power bill. Just a few years ago I saw Coach handbags everywhere. Now I rarely see them. In McDonalds, I rarely see people ordering the Big Mac and Quarter Pounders; they buy the cheap McChicken and the cheapest burgers. On Fridays they’re all ordering the 2-for-1 fish sandwich. The cash-crunch is everywhere you look. Even upper-middle class families are in trouble because many of their adult children are not pulling their weight financially, and those seemingly juicy inheritances do not go far when you add up all the expenses and luxuries people require on a monthly/yearly basis. The money will not last."

A WIRE SERVICE ACCOUNT (AP) of the Eureka murder of Father Freed concludes, “Humboldt is a diverse community known for dairy farming, fishing, a declining logging industry and marijuana and methamphetamine production.”


by Jim Gibbons

1. Gain weight

2. Don't over-exercise

3. Get less sleep

4. Smoke more

5. Stop being so neat

6. Accumulate more clutter

7. Enjoy spending more time alone doing nothing

8. Get rid of useless friends

9. Spend more of my savings

10. Spend less time with family

HOCKNEY at the deYoung was more interesting than I expected — a silly thing to say, I know, because all I'd seen were his LA paintings. I liked them, so I was curious about what else he'd done.

I ALWAYS think twice about going to the big shows at the deYoung because they're always mob scenes where basic order seems only a scream away from chaos. The shows you really, really want to see — the Van Gogh for me — you trade glimpses of the art for the basic sardine experience; too many people jammed into too small a space. You jostle and crane for glimpses. And ticket prices are jacked up for the popular shows into extortion range. It cost me $23 at the senior rate; you get three cents off or something if you arrive by Muni. I arrived by bicycle. “Shouldn't I get a discount for sparing the air?” I whined to the woman at the ticket desk. “Nope, only Muni gets the discount. Sorry.”

I WANTED to sign up for the docent tour, but I was at the end of a long line of similarly intended persons; a single hearing-impaired old lady was handling the sign-up sheet. The deYoung depends heavily on volunteers, many of them doddering, and bless them all. I'm into codger territory myself and have every sympathy for all of us poised at the edge of the eternal whatever, but this poor old thing was not up to her task. “Your names again?” she asked two young women who, of course, just had to stress the old girl out even more by making insistent and totally unnecessary spelling corrections. “Gabrielle,” one of them said. “Not Gabriella,” the young woman said. Then, louder, “G-A-B-R-I-E-L-L-E. With an 'e' on the end.”

YOU GO THROUGH THIS LIFE and its unending misunderstandings, marveling that there isn't more murder. “Old Man Strangles Young Woman at deYoung as Shocked Crowd Looks On.” It was tempting.

THE INSENSATE YOUNG WOMAN was still trying to get the old lady to affix the “e” on the end of her Gabrielle when I abandoned my place in a line and took off for the basement where the Hockneys seemed hung by the hundreds, and so much alike and so pinkish-blue-orangy, I quickly bulled my way through the tropical steam of the mob to see the rest of them upstairs where they got a lot better but not enough better to have suffered the basic deYoung experience. It felt good to get back outside into the unending sunny eeriness of winter, 2014.

SACRAMENTO BEE COLUMNIST Dan Walters wrote last week about a phenomenon that we’ve covered at length in the AVA as it applies to the Northcoast: “An insidious political syndrome popped up in California during the 1990s involving large tracts of land whose owners wanted to sell to state and federal governments. The owners would announce, very loudly, plans to develop their properties, sparking Pavlovian opposition from environmental groups and political pressure to ‘save’ them from a rapacious fate. Those efforts would culminate in acquisition by the state or federal governments at inflated prices, allowing the politicians involved to polish their environmental credentials and landowners to walk away with big bucks from taxpayers.

“IT HAPPENED on the North Coast when corporate raider Charles Hurwitz, having acquired Pacific Lumber Co., threatened to cut a tract of old-growth redwoods known as the Headwaters Forest. The environmental groups went nuts, conducting months-long and occasionally confrontational protests, demanding that politicians intercede. Hurwitz had paid $970 million for Pacific Lumber and its more than 200,000 acres of timberland, but state and federal governments eventually paid him $495 million for just 7,000 acres of it, even though it would have been virtually impossible for him to obtain regulatory permission to cut its trees. Even so, Pacific Lumber eventually slipped into bankruptcy and the bankrupt company’s litigation trustee, Avidity Partners, sued the state, alleging that a piece of the sales agreement was that the firm could accelerate timber-cutting on its remaining acreage, but that permission was later denied by state agencies.”

WALTERS' summary is correct, albeit without some important details. AVA readers may recall our coverage of the insider deal engineered by Senator Feinstein, whose husband, Richard Blum, had done big business deals with Hurwitz. Feinstein, supported by pivotal local enviro groups including the Bari-Cherney version of Earth First!, reinforced by the Clintons, and, of course, Northcoast Democrats, proceeded with a major gift of public funds to Hurwitz. The local enviros knew that both the federal Endangered Species Act and California timber rules, if enforced, would prevent logging of Headwaters old growth, but they agreed to the huge gift to Hurwitz. If Hurwitz didn't get the $495 million for 7,000 acres the Clintonites threatened to jigger logging rules in favor of Hurwitz.

THEN-CONGRESSMAN Dan Hamburg, in his bravest stand ever, participated in the negotiations, and correctly voted against the deal, but ultimately his fellow enviros rolled over for Hurwitz and Feinstein.

WALTERS ALSO FAILS TO MENTION that most land trust arrangements are versions this same fraud: Landowners make empty threats of “development” then they get either tax breaks or cash for not “developing” even when development was not doable, much less legal.

TIM STOEN, presently a deputy DA for Mendocino County, later tried to prosecute Hurwitz for fraud (for intentional misrepresentations in formal submissions to CDF), but lost when a Humboldt County judge (and Jared Carter acolyte) ruled that lying to the government is perfectly legal under the “Noerr-Pennington doctrine” — a derivative of the corporations-are-people theory in which corporations enjoy the same Constitutional protections as people) — another story we covered in depth at the time of that crazy ruling. (Carter, of Ukiah, is a major Northcoast Republican player and former Hurwitz attorney, who's managed to get two people placed on the Mendocino County Superior Court — Cindee Mayfield and Richard Henderson. He's also the guy who came up with the cockamamie “takings” theory, i.e., that any interference with private property, i.e., Hurwitz clearcuts, represents confiscation of that private property.)

THE BANKRUPTCY mentioned by Walters that PL later filed was entirely artificial. Hurwitz’s financial gurus had jiggered PL’s books to separate the timberland from the mill and mill town of Scotia, looting the worker's pension fund as he went. He also separated out Headwaters itself so that the larger non-Headwaters timber segment of PL (which Hurwitz knew was financially unloggable at the time) was in the red so the money Hurwitz got from the government for Headwaters went straight back to Hurwitz, and thus not included in the timber part of PL’s financial sheet.

JUDI BARI herself was the first to point this out when Hurwitz broke PL up into the three separate companies in advance of the windfall he knew he was about to get from Feinstein and associates. The bankruptcy left several big Pacific Lumber investors holding empty moneybags; they later sold their huge-but-overcut Humboldt timber holdings for pennies on the dollar to the wealthy Fisher Family of San Francisco (owners of The Gap and related clothing store chains). The Fishers had already bought up Louisiana-Pacific’s overcut land in Mendocino County , forming two new companies now known as Humboldt Redwoods and Mendocino Redwoods.

HOT TAMALES, and they're red hot, yes she got 'em for sale

I got a girl, say she long and tall,

She sleeps in the kitchen with her feets in the hall.

— Robert Johnson, bluesman

I THINK ALL OF US WHO HAVE SMOKED MARIJUANA will admit that it's a drug that doesn't bring out one's inner Einstein. That said, nobody is dumber, or for that matter more dangerous, than a drunk, and we long ago realized that we had to make alcohol legal. That's because the legalization question, whether about pot or alcohol, is never really a referendum on the drugs in question. It's much more a referendum on prohibition, which didn't work with an extremely dangerous, addictive and destructive drug like alcohol, and makes even less sense with marijuana. The Brooks [David] column is particularly infuriating because in just a few hundred words it perfectly captures why marijuana needs to be legalized. Here's this grasping, status-obsessed yuppie who first admits that he smoked an illegal drug without consequence in his youth, then turns around and tells us, as a graying and bespectacled post-adult, that it would be best if the drug remained illegal for the masses. Would David Brooks feel the same way about drug laws if he was one of the hundreds of thousands of Americans arrested in weed-related incidents every year? (It was over 700,000 people in 2012.) If he'd been prevented from getting a student loan or getting a state job because of such a bust? If he'd lost a professional license, or had his property seized, or even had a child taken away from him? (—Matt Taibbi)


I thought I'd be flying high

But they closed down and sold the parts

And left me high and dry

I got a job at Vlasic

Puttin' pickles in a jar

But they shut down and GMAC

Came and took my car.

— Carol Brent

JEFF COSTELLO WRITES: My friend Bill S. back east, a retired Pratt & Whitney mechanic, has a respectable history as a labor negotiator, having put in his time with union officials and politicians, up to and including the governor of Connecticut. What has he accomplished? I'm not sure, but he is in earnest, a real believer in the best dominant left principles and philosophy, and seems to still think — or hope — the system can be changed from within. An optimist, we might say. How to achieve meaningful change? We're talking about a nationwide total strike, as well as an income tax boycott. Nobody goes to work or school or shopping. Stopping the whole economic machinery. Imagine the 99% letting go their basic fears all at the same time. At the very idea, people would say... “b-b-but that would be anarchy, CHAOS!” It is impossible to achieve. What are our demands, Bill asks. The demand, simple enough: “stop fucking us over.” Demands? I say, To whom would you present demands? To whom would you say “abolish the stock market,” for instance? And have them not laugh in your face. Remember the Pinkertons. If real action is feared, out come the big guns. No — we need the evolution, revolution in consciousness, the false promise that did not result from the 60s. And now pot is legal in Colorado, just another profit-making commodity. Hundreds lined up in the cold the first day, to pay $400/ounce. An outrageous price by any standard. In light of this, is legalization a good thing? Where will the tax money from marijuana sales go? At least some of it to the “defense” budget. Is this not a supreme irony, the peace and love drug now paying for bombs? I'm still with the old turn-on, tune-in and drop-out sentiment, but drugs after all did not effect that. We, as a population, are far too conditioned either with work ethic, too fearful and self-absorbed to step out of established behavior patterns. For pete's sake, the military is still getting new soldiers with the same hackneyed old hyper-nationalistic-heroic flag-waving crap. How can you fight that? And abolishing the military is only part of what's needed. No, this is really an existential thing. The revolution needs to happen internally, one person at a time. So here we are in Colorado, where legal marijuana sales are front-page news the past week, with no sign of stopping. At $400/ounce, this a far cry from a “people's” drug. The squares, the suburbanites, right wingers have co-opted a drug they once feared and which really did turn out to be harmless, what we used to think of as a “revolutionary” mind-altering substance. The joke is on us. “The people” cannot afford it. A long way from the ten-dollar lids of the 60s.

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