SUPERVISORS DECLARE DROUGHT EMERGENCY
by Tiffany Revelle
The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to declare a local emergency “and imminent threat of disaster” from drought conditions, and appointed two of its members to an ad-hoc committee to come up with a plan to keep local communities from going dry.
The board appointed 1st District Supervisor Carre Brown and 5th District Supervisor Dan Hamburg to the Drought Emergency Ad-Hoc Committee, and discussed inviting each of the cities to join the working group.
“There is growing concern, and it's just really scary to see where we are with water supply,” Brown said, introducing the discussion.
The purpose of the ad hoc, she said, is to do “more assessment and planning” around the questions of how to meet the water needs of county residents and wildlife and aquatic species, and to gather needed information to advocate for cities and water districts facing water shortages.
“We're getting a lot of information that wells are going dry, springs have dried up, many of our tributaries are not running — to me it's very fearful if we don't have a plan in place,” Brown said. “It's not just the north coast; drought has continued all over the state. Reports about Lake Shasta, Oroville and (I) could go on and on, are very, very low at this point.”
She said the local emergency plan would make it easier to get help from the California Office of Emergency Services, and “hopefully we can also cause some of the state regulations and laws to be relaxed a bit,” as well as accessing portable units the state can send out to transport water places where it's available to thirsty areas.
Bill Koehler of Redwood Valley Water said the declaration will help water purveyors draft their own responses, and “may also ease access to funding from OES or other state money,” but added that “80% of California is in drought mode at the moment, so whatever funds are out there are going to be stretched very thin.”
He added, “If we do run dry, the economic impact on our community is going to be huge, not just for the individual domestic (users), but ag and the winegrape industry in general, and so there may be some access to those folks who are seeking compensation.”
Second District Supervisor John McCowen said Lake Mendocino is “below 30,000 acre-feet,” and asked Koehler, “at what point can your pumps still function?”
“In theory we can pump down to 690 feet above mean sea level, which is approximately 12 vertical feet,” Koehler said, adding that the district is looking into water sharing “with other districts that might not be able not able to get those last dribs and drabs out of the lake.”
Koehler said the district is also considering a scenario where “this might be the year we find out what really is under the city of Ukiah, and that water needs to be pumped uphill.”
Willits City Manager Adrienne Moore said the City of Willits estimated it had 100 days of water supply.
“But obviously that's not very long if we don't get any significant rainfall,” she said. The council will weigh its water supply options at its meeting tonight.
Holly Madrigal of the Willits City Council said the city had asked its citizens to conserve, but that the city's best option is likely to dig wells.
Denise Rose of the Brooktrails Community Services District said the subdivision has about 60 days of water left, and implemented “voluntary restrictions.” She said the district is interested in being part of the ad hoc.
Moore and Ukiah Mayor Phil Baldwin expressed interest in having officials from the cities of Willits and Ukiah sit on the ad-hoc committee. Fourth District Supervisor Dan Gjerde, whose district includes Fort Bragg, said the coastal city also faces a water shortage and would like to be invited as well.
“The drought issue is front and center for the state,” said Tami Bartolomei of the Mendocino County Office of Emergency Services, and added that the governor created a drought task force and issued a letter to poll counties regarding their needs and the needs of their cities and water districts, and any conservation measures taken.
County Agricultural Commissioner Chuck Morse said last year's drought caused “significant” losses and received a drought declaration from Cal OES and the United States Department of Agriculture, which expires in April. The declaration allowed local farmers to get low-interest loans to bolster production costs.
“Barring any significant, substantial change in our weather patterns, I foresee a loss again going to our agricultural producers, and conducting a survey and finding out what their losses are,” he said.
Paul Zellman of the Russian River Flood Control District also expressed the district's support for the declaration.
Third District Supervisor John Pinches used the opportunity to admonish his colleagues for inaction in years prior, referring to the last time the county's drought conditions were as bad as they are now in 2009.
“I've been working on trying to get people excited in this county about another water supply for my whole political career,” Pinches said. “Folks, we got to come up with more water supply. It's plain and simple. Any third-grader in Mendocino County could figure it out.”
He added, “We should've been doing these water restrictions months ago, not … in the middle of January; I mean, this is crazy.”
Part of the problem, he said, is that the involved officials lost interest in years past when the rain came.
Pinches said he didn't want to serve on the ad-hoc committee because he has only a year left on the board, and the long-term water supply problem would take longer than that to solve.
“It's going to take some real step-up commitment from my colleagues here to take this … because it's going to be something that's going to be ongoing more than this calendar year.”
Hamburg called the drought conditions the “new norm,” acknowledging that he had never in 40 years seen the water supply on his own land so low. He added that climate change is the “elephant in the room.”
(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal.)
JUDGE DAVID NELSON called the other day for a clarification of our End of the Year Awards, one of which went to Nelson and his eight colleagues for their dogged pursuit of a new County Courthouse. We'd said the new edifice is proceeding outside local processes, which is only one of the many reasons we're opposed to it.
THE JUDGE pointed out that because the state now administers the courts, new courthouses, unlike old county courthouses, are designed only as courtrooms plus a little space for court personnel serving those courtrooms. They aren't like the old County Courthouses with most, if not all, County functions under one roof, or at least in one complex of buildings. The proposed new building, to repeat, will consist of nine courtrooms and space for the nine judges and the employees directly serving the nine judges occupying those courtrooms. The DA and his 80 or so employees will remain in the old Courthouse, meaning they'll be humping themselves and their files up and down Perkins between the new courthouse and the old Courthouse on a daily basis.
AS FOR THE PROCESS of getting a new courthouse built, state authority, the gentlemanly Nelson explained, supersedes local authority, meaning the state will buy the land on West Perkins and erect the structure outside Ukiah's and Mendocino County's authority. Nelson did point to the Ukiah-based “advisory committee” that was consulted as to the location of the new building and said that of course the Ukiah Planning Commission and the Ukiah City Council would be “involved.”
THE LAND ON PERKINS has not yet been purchased. It's owned by a Chico guy with some of the site owned by the railroad authority, a murky, train-free operation dominated by the Northcoast's rancid Democratic Party apparatus with lead involvement provided by former congressman, Doug Bosco.
AS THINGS STAND, the proposed site is also being coveted by the Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op for a new store while another vacant parcel is being eyed by developers as the potential site for the DA and other offices, including the judges, presently located, in the imperfect but perfectly serviceable old County Courthouse in the center of town.
IF WEST PERKINS STREET PARCELS ARE DEVELOPED as offices for the DA and other services presently located in the old Courthouse, it will mean that the County of Mendocino will be leasing office space from private individuals at, of course, “market” (i.e., exorbitant) rents. The County already leases ancillary space all over Ukiah and in other areas of the County from well-placed, well-connected landlords.
THERE IS NOTHING wrong with the present County Courthouse that several million rehab dollars couldn't make right. There's no need for the taxpayers to pay $300 million (rough estimate) for a one-function building.
JUDGES worry about the security probs presented by the present system whereby the usual suspects are hauled from the County Jail to downtown Ukiah where they're led, shackled, a short public distance into the Courthouse and then into their sentencing chambers. We've often complained at the annual expense of driving people back and forth from the jail to the Courthouse and continue to wonder why a lot of routine stuff like arraignments and some hearings can't be done at the jail. The existing Courthouse, however, could be remodeled in a way that inmates don't appear on the street where, as happened 30 years ago, a deranged Mommy tried to hand Killer Boy a gun. (Killer Boy had murdered a couple camping in Manchester to steal their Winnebago. Mommy of course insisted he'd been framed.) And the present Courthouse could be made fully handicapped-accessible, the difficulty the handicapped have reaching the top floor courtroom being an ongoing concern. (There’s an elevator, but…)
AS FOR THE JOBS argument, name a single large-scale project EVER in Mendocino County that didn't go to outside contractors. The closest we've come to local is Peter Richardson's Rainbow Construction; he got to build the County complex on Low Gap and a school structure on South State, both in Ukiah. Nine new courtrooms for their majesties will create some fleeting work for a few locals, but most of the labor will come from outtahere.
CASE CLOSED YER HONOR.
DAMON GARDNER resigned from his prosecutor job with the Mendocino County DA's office back on December 13th. He'd shot a man in a drunken midnight Sacramento street fight late last year. Miraculously, he was neither arrested nor has he yet been charged for his off duty gun play We speculate that Gardner flashed his DA identification and his sooper dooper Mendo concealed weapons permit at the Sacto cops who reacted to the kryptonite-quality creds by sending Gardner on his way. The capitol city cops say the simple matter remains under investigation.
THE SHOOTING occurred when “words were exchanged” between Gardner and a couple of passing mopes when they encountered each other on a sidewalk near the hotel where Gardner had been entertaining a fetching probationary Mendo prosecutor, Alexandra Khoury. One of two men passing Gardner and Khoury had apparently directed unseemly remarks at Ms. Khoury. The gallant Gardner leaped to defend his companion's honor, the mope slugged Gardner, and continued to pummel him until Gardner took the fight out of his assailant by putting a bullet in him.
BUT GARDNER then ran off as the wounded mope staggered into the street. The now abandoned Ms. Khoury steered the guy back to the relative safety of the sidewalk and called Gardner by cellphone to come on back to wait for the police. And back he came, only to be sent home.
THE WOUNDED MAN was patched up in the emergency room. Turns out he was not a street thug, at least not in the usual sense. His father is a well-placed state attorney. If dad weren't a solid citizen, and the wounded man was the usual street thug, Gardner probably would have been awarded a Galahad trophy for his rush to defend Ms. Khoury's honor. But it would have to have been a half-size trophy given that Gardner then left the damsel in stress, if not distress. As it stands, Gardner's looking at whatever downsized misdemeanor the Sacramento authorities can devise as he looks for work.
AND MS. KHOURY has not survived the probationary stage of her employment with the Mendocino County DA's Office. She was let go on January 1st.
WE UNDERSTAND that DA Eyster has instituted a no-gun policy for his staff. DA Vroman was a gun guy all the way. His entire office was probably on 24-hour lock and load. Meredith Lintott? When one of her prosecutors said, “Sure, I carry a gun.” She said, “I have fun, too.”
GARY LEE BULLOCK, of Redway, the man charged in the beating death of Father Eric Freed in Eureka two weeks ago, tried to blow up St. Bernard's rectory (Father Freed’s church) by turning on the gas from a stove and leaving behind a lit cigar, court documents have revealed. The killer also wrapped Freed's corpse in bedclothes and poured wine on it in another failed attempt to disguise his crime. The cigar apparently didn't stay lit long enough to ignite the accumulating gas, and the slain priest's body failed to burn. Bullock, 44, has pleaded not guilty. Long time neighbors of Bullock say he has been mentally ill for some time.
OAKY JOE AND THE GRAPE APE GIRLS!
Redwood Valley's most colorful resident has produced Mendocino County's most striking 2014 calendar, a must have item featuring Joe and a posse of rural beauties posed among humungous pot plants. Every guy who comes into the office says, “Hey! Where can I get one of those?” Women are less enthusiastic, but we're here to testify that this calendar is an absolute one-of-a-kinder. (Available at Taylor's Tavern in Redwood Valley.)
GIANTS WALK AMONG US? “Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time, and has helped advance America's leadership in the world. President Obama relies on his good counsel every day.”
FROM Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War by former Sec of Defense Robert Gates: “Joe Biden has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades”
H1N1 RELATED DEATH IN MENDOCINO COUNTY
Flu Update in Mendocino County
Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency Public Health has been notified that an adult in northern Mendocino County has died on December 30, 2013 from chronic conditions which were complicated by the flu. Public Health has also received notification that 8 patients have been admitted to local hospitals with confirmed cases of H1N1 flu. Many California counties, and other states, are reporting patients who are critically ill with influenza, including healthy young adults. The H1N1 strain appears to be the predominant strain circulating in California and the rest of the United States this flu season. The H1N1 virus, which emerged during the 2009 pandemic, causes more illness in children and young adults, compared to older adults. It causes severe illness in all age groups, including those younger than 65 years of age. Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults. If you think you have the flu, please contact your physician or clinic. This year’s influenza vaccine protects against the strains circulating in the state, including H1N1. Additional doses of adult flu vaccine and vaccine for children and youths ages 6 months to 19 years were ordered yesterday, January 6, 2014. The HHSA Public Health Communicable Disease Program is hoping the additional doses will be received within one week. After receipt of the vaccine, additional flu clinics will be scheduled and opened to the public. Notices will be released regarding the time and location of the flu clinics. The flu vaccine is still available from local primary health care providers and pharmacies for adults, nineteen years and older, as well as vaccine for six months to eighteen years. Once vaccinated, it takes approximately two weeks before you are fully protected against the flu. An influenza vaccination is especially important for pregnant women and other people at higher risk for the flu. At this time Mendocino HHSA Public Health Branch has vaccine available for children and youths ages six months through eighteen years who have MediCal or have no insurance. Vaccine for those nineteen years and older is also available. A donation of ten dollars is suggested. Please call Karen Broderick, LVN, at 472-2681 for details regarding Public Health clinic’s schedules. In addition to flu vaccinations, it’s necessary to practice good health habits. If you become ill, you should take actions to stop the spread of germs, including: 1) Stay home when you are sick 2) Cover your coughs and sneezes 3) Wash your hands with soap/water 4) Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth 5) Do not return to work or school until you have been without a fever for 24 hours. Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency Public Health urges everyone to visit a flu vaccine location near you to get immunized.
(Health & Human Services Agency Press Release)
JEFF COSTELLO WRITES: Bill Brundage appears to be railing against heterosexuals, apparently because they breed. If only people would stop breeding, everything would be fine. Or better yet, ideally, for those with “good breeding,” reproduction would be okay. I wonder if the Chinese authorities consider the social status of people who apply to have a child. Are they “well-bred” or are they of an inferior character? A line that Alex Cockburn used in “A Colossal Wreck,” quoting Richard Pryor talking to a white audience: “What's the matter? Y'all stop fuckin'? There will be no shortage of niggers, niggers is fuckin'.” This may suggest something, I'll leave to the reader to decide what, but it seems to me Pryor may have been talking about survival of the fittest, demonstration that the Old Uptight White Man network so perfectly represented by congressional republicans, is on its last legs. They may have most of the money but are getting short on life force.
COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION TO MEET
The regular Planning Commission meeting agenda for Thursday, January 16, 2014, is now available on the County website: http://www.co.mendocino.ca.us/planning/meetings.htm Please contact the Planning Department at (707) 234-6650 if you have any questions regarding this message. Thank you. Heidi Morrison Staff Assistant II County of Mendocino Planning & Building Services Main Office: 860 N. Bush St, Ukiah, CA 95482 Coast Office: 120 W. Fir St, Fort Bragg Phone: (707) 234-6650 Web: www.co.mendocino.ca.us/planning/
“ALL ABOUT MONEY” returns to KZYX with its first show of 2014 with a State-of-the-2nd-Congressional-District report with U.S. Representative Jared Huffman. Congressman Huffman has just completed his first year in office. The interview will last 15-20 minutes. The guest and topic for the second half of Friday's show to be announced. (John Sakowicz)
AN EXCHANGE WITH WASHINGTON POST EXECUTIVE EDITOR MARTIN BARON
By Norman Solomon
To: Martin Baron, Executive Editor, and Kevin Merida, Managing Editor, The Washington Post
Dear Mr. Baron and Mr. Merida:
On behalf of more than 25,000 signers of a petition to The Washington Post, I’m writing this letter to request a brief meeting to present the petition at a time that would be convenient for you on Jan. 14 or 15.
Here is the text of the petition, launched by RootsAction.org:
“A basic principle of journalism is to acknowledge when the owner of a media outlet has a major financial relationship with the subject of coverage. We strongly urge the Washington Post to be fully candid with its readers about the fact that the newspaper’s new owner, Jeff Bezos, is the founder and CEO of Amazon which recently landed a $600 million contract with the CIA. The Washington Post’s coverage of the CIA should include full disclosure that the sole owner of the Post is also the main owner of Amazon — and Amazon is now gaining huge profits directly from the CIA.”
The petition includes cogent comments by many of the people who signed it.
I hope that you can set aside perhaps 10 minutes on Jan. 14 or 15 for the purpose of receiving the petition and hearing a summary of its signers’ concerns.
For confirmation of an appointment, I can be reached on my cell phone…
Sincerely, Norman Solomon Director and Cofounder, RootsAction.org [January 2, 2014]
* * *
Dear Mr. Solomon:
Thank you for your note. I was able to read the petition on the RootsAction.org site and to see the list of those who signed it. I certainly would be happy to review any additional information you might send.
The Post has among the strictest ethics policies in the field of journalism, and we vigorously enforce it. We have routinely disclosed corporate conflicts when they were directly relevant to our coverage. We reported on Amazon’s pursuit of CIA contracts in our coverage of plans by Jeff Bezos to purchase The Washington Post.
We also have been very aggressive in our coverage of the intelligence community, including the CIA, NSA, and other agencies, as you should know. The Post was at the leading edge of disclosures about the NSA in 2013. Most recently, it reported on the CIA’s hidden involvement in Colombia’s fight against FARC rebels, including a fatal missile attack across the border in Ecuador. You can be sure neither the NSA nor the CIA has been pleased with publication of their secrets.
Neither Amazon nor Jeff Bezos was involved, nor ever will be involved, in our coverage of the intelligence community.
The petition’s request for disclosure of Amazon’s CIA contract in every story we write about the CIA is well outside the norm of conflict-of-interest disclosures at media companies. The Post is a personal investment by Jeff Bezos, whose stake in Amazon is large but well less than a majority. The CIA’s multi-year contract with Amazon is a small fraction of company revenues that have been estimated at roughly $75 billion in 2013. Amazon maintains no corporate connection to The Post.
Even so, we have been careful to disclose Jeff Bezos’ connection to The Post and Amazon when directly relevant to our coverage, and we will continue to do so. For example, such disclosures would be called for in coverage circumstances such as the following: CIA contracting practices, the CIA’s use of cloud services, big-data initiatives at the CIA, Amazon’s pursuit of cloud services as a line of business, and Amazon corporate matters in general.
We take ethics very seriously here at The Post. One of our policies is that we seek comment from the subjects of our stories prior to publishing them and that we make a genuine effort to hear and absorb their point of view. By contrast, I am unaware of any effort to hear us out prior to the launch of this petition drive. A personal meeting now does not seem necessary or useful.
I hope this note explains our perspective. And again, if you wish to send additional information that you feel might be helpful to us, we will review it closely.
Sincerely, Martin Baron Executive Editor The Washington Post [January 2, 2014]
* * *
Dear Mr. Baron:
Thank you for your letter.
Whatever the Post’s guidelines and record on ethical standards, few journalists could have anticipated ownership of the paper by a multibillionaire whose outside company would be so closely tied to the CIA. Updating of the standards is now appropriate.
You write that The Washington Post has “routinely disclosed corporate conflicts when they were directly relevant to our coverage.” But the RootsAction.org petition is urging the Post to provide readers of its CIA coverage with full disclosure that would adequately address — and meaningfully inform readers about — relevant circumstances of the current ownership.
Those circumstances are not adequately met by a narrow definition of “corporate conflicts.” A reality is that the Post is now solely owned by someone who is by far the largest stakeholder<http://finance.yahoo.com/q/mh?s=amzn+Major+Holders> in a world-spanning corporate giant that has close business ties — and is seeking more extensive deals than its current $600 million contract — with the CIA, an agency which the newspaper reports on regularly.
The petition requests that The Washington Post adopt a full disclosure policy that is commensurate with this situation. The gist of the request is recognition that, as the saying goes, sunshine is the best disinfectant for any potential conflict of interest.
When you write that the Post has a policy of routinely disclosing corporate conflicts when “directly relevant to our coverage,” a key question comes to the fore: What is “directly relevant”? Given that few agencies are more secretive than the CIA — and even the most enterprising reporters are challenged to pry loose even a small fraction of its secrets — how do we know which CIA stories are “directly relevant” to the fact that Amazon is providing cloud computing services to the CIA?
Amazon’s contract with the CIA is based on an assessment that Amazon Web Services can provide the agency with digital-data computing security that is second to none. We can assume that a vast amount of information about CIA activities is to be safeguarded by Amazon. With what assurance can we say which stories on CIA activities are not “directly relevant” to Jeff Bezos’s dual role as sole owner of the Post and largest stakeholder in Amazon?
We actually don’t know what sort of data is involved in what your letter calls “the CIA’s use of cloud services.” The disclosure/non-disclosure policy that you’ve outlined seems to presume that, for instance, there would be no direct relevance of the cloud services contract to coverage of such matters as CIA involvement in rendition of prisoners to regimes for torture; or in targeting for drone strikes; or in data aggregation for counterinsurgency. Are you assuming that the Post’s coverage of such topics is not “directly relevant” to the Bezos/Amazon ties with the CIA and therefore should not include disclosure of the financial ties that bind the Post’s owner to the CIA?
Readers of a Post story on the CIA — whether about drones or a still-secret torture report, to name just two topics — should be informed of the Post/Bezos/Amazon/CIA financial ties. In the absence of such in-story disclosure, there is every reason to believe that many readers will be unaware that the Post’s owner is someone with a major financial stake in an Amazon-CIA deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
If Amazon’s $600 million multiyear cloud contract with the CIA is a small fraction of the company’s revenue, there is clear intent for it to grow larger. And $600 million is, by itself, hardly insignificant; let’s remember that Mr. Bezos bought the Post for less than half that amount.
“We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA,” a statement from Amazon two months ago. In public statements, Mr. Bezos and Amazon have made clear that they view this as a growing part of Amazon’s business: a feather in the corporate cap of the company in its drive to increase market share of such business operations. This is intended as a major and expansive income source for Amazon and for its CEO, Mr. Bezos, whose personal wealth of $25 billion is a consequence of Amazon’s financial gains.
Why not provide a sentence in the Post’s substantive coverage of CIA activities, to the effect that “The Post’s owner Jeff Bezos is the largest stakeholder in Amazon, which has a $600 million contract with the CIA”?
By declining to provide such disclosure, the Post is failing the transparency test when coverage of the CIA falls outside of the circumscribed areas where your letter says Post policy now provides for disclosure (“CIA contracting practices, the CIA’s use of cloud services, big-data initiatives at the CIA, Amazon’s pursuit of cloud services as a line of business, and Amazon corporate matters in general”).
Such concerns are among the reasons why tens of thousands of people, including many Post readers, have signed the petition to The Washington Post that I will be delivering on January 15. While it’s unfortunate that you don’t want to have a meeting for a few minutes on that day, I hope that you will mull over the concerns that are propelling this petition<http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=8979> forward.
Norman Solomon, RootsAction.org [January 4, 2014]
* * *
Dear Mr. Solomon:
Thank you for expanding upon your views.
Just to reiterate, The Post has among the strictest ethics policies in the field of journalism. Those policies are sufficiently expansive, comprehensive, and current to take into account The Post's acquisition by Jeff Bezos. The policies are strictly enforced. However, as I explained in detail in my previous note, your proposal is far outside the norm of disclosures about potential conflicts of interest at media organizations.
Meantime, as plain evidence of our independence, we will continue our aggressive coverage of the intelligence community, including the CIA. I hope you've noticed it. The CIA has, and it's not happy.
Sincerely, Martin Baron Executive Editor The Washington Post [January 4, 2014]
(Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”