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Off The Record (Feb 4, 2014)

JUDGE NELSON called Tuesday morning. He said we had managed to be factually incorrect for the third week in a row. He said our figure for the proposed new County Courthouse was wrong. We think the judge was correct to point out that our initial price of $300 million was wrong, obviously wrong and, we think, probably a typo, not to weasel-lip out of responsibility, because the rest of our math was correctly pegged to a figure of $120 million. But the judge says our corrected figure of $120 million is also incorrect. We think, though, that $120 mil is closer than the judge's figure of somewhere between $78 and $94 million, which he says is what the 8 courtrooms, downsized from 9 courtrooms, will cost. But $120 mil is the figure still cited on the state's website. Given the inflationary givens when and if construction begins, this thing will easily cost $120 million. We, of course, think the existing Courthouse is fine. If any money is spent to enhance their honors' daily comfort, it should be spent remodeling the existing County Courthouse. And in the mean time correct the state's website that says the new Courthouse will cost $121,627,000. (see below)


Sonoma County has a new courthouse in the unstoppable pipeline that is estimated to cost $174 million. And Lake County has one in the works estimated at $55 million. The numbers are low estimates of the likely costs by completion, of course. But the proportions are interesting. In rough terms:

SoCo's Population is about 500,000

Mendo's population is about 90,000

Lake County's population is about 64,000.


Sonoma County's courthouse costs about $350 per person.

Lake County's costs $860 per person.

And Mendo's costs $1050 per person

(down some from $1350, but still higher than neighboring counties).

From: (as of 2/4/2014).

“Current Status: This project is in site acquisition with architectural design delayed until FY 2014–2015, based on the Judicial Council’s February 26, 2013 decision. The current expected completion date is 1 Q 2019.

Vital Statistics: Courtrooms: 9. Square footage: 113,757. Current authorized project budget: $121,627,000. (In anticipation of additional cost-cutting measures, all facts are subject to change.” (They sure are, bro.)

THE STATE'S DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH announced last Wednesday that “17 communities and water districts could run dry within 100 days,” among them Cloverdale and Healdsburg. The threatened towns and water districts are mostly located in rural areas and get their water in a variety of ways, from reservoirs to wells to rivers. The rainless winter has left supplies approaching empty.

THE GOVERNOR'S DECLARATION of a drought emergency means State Health will be mobilized to help parched communities with new wells, connecting smaller water systems with larger systems and even with water hauling.

WILLITS, the Redwood Valley Community Water District and the Brooktrails Township Community Services District are limiting household draws on their disappearing supplies of water.

LISA WALTERS and Margie Binker report in the Independent Coast Observer someone stole all 13,000 gallons of the water supplying the Horicon School in the hills above the Sea Ranch. A large-scale school water theft was also reported late last summer in Humboldt County.

PERSONNEL NEWS. Our favorite County attorney, Terry Gross of the County Counsel's office, a resident of Elk, has liberated herself from that office to become the Point Arena's City Attorney.

MARC REISNER died in 2000 at the age of 51 after writing the most prescient book we have on the state's water systems  and, just before he died, he had almost finished the best book you'll read on the ever-present hazard of earthquakes. Cadillac Desert, published in 1986, described how precarious California's water delivery systems are even with abundant rainfall; A Dangerous Place, tells us what's likely to happen in an earthquake of 7.2 or greater — specifically that the inevitable Big One is likely to damage and/or destroy the vast network of dams and levees that store and hold back the state's water. When the Big One hits, and the tectonic plates grind in their different directions, all that water will rush towards the new vacuums created. “If the contrived flow of water should somehow just stop, California’s economy, which was worth about a trillion dollars as the new millennium dawned, would implode like a neutron star,” Reisner writes.

WATER RESOURCES ANNOUNCED Friday that barring miracle spring rains, the state's far flung network of reservoirs will not be able to deliver water this summer. Department Director Mark Cowin said if the dry spell continues, only “carryover water” from last year will be channeled to the farmers and several towns that get their water from the State Water Project. Never in the State Water Project's 54-year history has there been zero water allocation. “Simply put, there's not enough water in the system right now for customers to expect any water this season from the project,” Cowin said. Growers in the Central Valley will bear the biggest brunt of the lack of state water. The State Water Project normally provides water to more than 750,000 acres of irrigated farmland. Twenty-nine water districts also get water from the state, meaning that many communities will be left in the parched lurch.

LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, I was saddened by the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. What a talent. How awful that something in him was so haunting that the only the killer drug could fight it off. And then the killer drug killed him. Like all the really good actors he was brilliant even in bad movies. My Hoffman favorite was “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” where he plays the finance guy at a real estate who's stealing from the company to pay for his dope. Thinking about that one in light of how Hoffman died, except for the embezzling part of the character he was playing himself.

THE STATE OF THE UNION: Early Wednesday morning I was walking near the Lobos Creek Overlook at the western edge of the Presidio when two coyotes leisurely crossed the road in front of me, first one, then the other. I'd been thinking about Obama's speech the night before when the coyotes appeared, and suddenly I was thinking of an apocalyptic painting by, I think, Sandow Birk, all in blacks and greys. The City had been destroyed by a mega-catastrophe. The Golden Gate Bridge was down and there were no signs that anyone had survived. It's an eerie picture but reflects, I think, the collective unconscious that things have spun out of control and we're hurtling, not slouching, towards Bethlehem. The coyotes fit, a pair of wild animals thriving in an unsustainable city poised for their full reclamation when the improbable civilization surrounding them is gone. I've seen a lone coyote twice in the same area. He also had taken his time, pausing on top of a sand dune to survey what he obviously assumed as his domain. The two Wednesday coyotes crossed the road then stood looking back at the sand expanse separating the Presidio golf course from the condo-ized veteran's hospital whence they'd come. I stopped to watch them wait for whatever they were waiting for. Soon a third coyote trotted up and over the pavement to join mom and pop. All three were large, healthy animals in the 60-70 pound range, much more robust then the furtive, hunted, hungry coyotes of the Mendocino County outback. Think of the implications. Three fully acclimated wild things in the heart of a major city! A young woman clutching a tiny fifi dog walked up. She held her pet protectively like a fullback holds a football, both arms wrapped around the little fluff ball. “God! I'll bet they'd like to get you, wouldn't they sweetie?” She was talking to her dog, not me, although she addressed us both as if I shared her concern. It all somehow added up to Obama's State of the Union speech of the previous evening — an effete anthromorph with her decadent little dog, urbanized coyotes, lavish condos, and tank-size vehicles whizzing past, the plump pusses of their haughty, presumptuous occupants staring blank-eyed at the road ahead.

I WATCH political speeches with the sound off. The visuals are much more truthful than the rhetoric, which always ranges from blandly delusional to full-on crazy. The president, unlike his predecessor, is no dummy, but watching him you wonder if he believes the cheerleading nonsense he's spinning out there. On one side we got  Boehner looked like he'd been on slo-bake too long. I've seen him drunk at press conferences couple of times, but never saw any media mention of it. Drunk or sober these people seem just right for a Sandow Birk end-of-the-world painting. Biden, as always, was a living portrait of false feeling, laughing hysterically at something Boehner said post-speech, faking the correct fake emotion for Obama's empty platitudes. I snapped on the sound just as Biden's brow furrowed in faux concern for the “middleclass” when the boss invoked the plummeting American middleclass. And there were his mirthless smiles at the boss's little ironies. And so on. Biden's so phony he can't even fake a plausible phony. The Limo People, natch, thought the speech was boffo because they're in no danger of becoming one of the 146 million Americans living at or below the poverty line, or the 30 million unemployed, are certainly in no danger of joining the 7 million in prison. Those 7 million don't include Lloyd Blankfein or Jamie Dimon, not that they did anything illegal because Bill Clinton had already made high-end theft legal, and the wolves of Wall Street are right back doing the same 2008 stuff, this time on an even larger scale. Culturally, it seems fair to say that this year's Grammies represent the true state of the union. I wouldn't have been surprised if a chorus line of twerkers had followed Obama to the podium. Most nauseating, the live audience of war mongers, none of whose children are likely to  pick up a gun and join the war on terror, got to their feet for a kid who'd been blown up in one of the 30 or so obscure countries of the world where American special forces are knocking off alleged terrorists, while Boehner and the Republicans had as their guests the oafs from the Duck Dynasty, an unreality tv show.

MENDOCINO COUNTY'S state of the union much like that of the rest of the country, except it's a kind of mild climate set-aside economically driven by dope, wine, various forms of government employment, a scattering of small businesses heavy on restaurants, the whole of it dependent on immigrant Mexican labor. If Mexicans disappeared tomorrow, thousands of Mendolanders would be wandering around with empty coffee cups wondering where their decaf lattes went. What used to be a real economy based on timber, fishing, sheep, and apples is long gone, just as manufacturing jobs in the rest of the country have been looted and exported by great patriots like Mitt Romney. And now America's booze basket —us — is facing a drought that will seriously erode even the false drug and drink economy that sustains us in our stoned little set-aside.

TWO BEEFS. Ready? A County worker, who appeared to be an adult-type person, asked us, "Why do you hate unions?" We don't hate unions. Never crossed a picket line in my life and wouldn't cross one if my life depended on not crossing one. We are, however, critical of the SEIU's incompetent representation of County workers, a distinction most adult-type readers of this fine publication would be able to make. If I were a County worker I would not want to see thirty to forty bucks a month pulled out of my check to fund people out of the city who are too lazy to fully inform themselves on local issues. That is not hating unions. That's a criticism of the union we see most of in Mendocino County. In the current dispute between its labor and Mendocino County we also think the County is outta line in paying big money for a so-called negotiator, especially one from a firm specializing in whacking unions. We do, however, think it is obvious that the County's side of this one is much stronger than the union's. All the union is saying we want the money even if the money isn't there. Which it mostly isn't. Incompetent previous boards of supervisors so indebted the County that the current supes did an excellent job in averting bankruptcy. Bankruptcy would mean lots of lost jobs and could mean the end to current pensions. Is this what the jive SEIU long distance leadership is looking for here? Is there enough money in the County treasury for a small raise? It seems so. Will there be an agreement? Yes, if the two sides goes for baseball, meaning binding arbitration and a splitting of the diff.

SECOND BEEF. Ongoing disputes at KZYX, and even typing out the four dread call letters I feel like I've been run over by the Dumb Machine. Doug McKenty is a long-time station stalwart. Who could possibly question the guy's devotion to the enterprise? Well, the two wholly self-interested individuals who sit in the two manager's chairs, Mary Aigner and her faithful little bow-wow, John Coate, that's who. These two are not what anybody would call "people persons." They're instinctively rude and unyielding. They're at the root of the station's unhappiness. They'd both be long gone if KZYX were a commercial enterprise. But here they are, Aigner and Coate, creating probs where there are none, or none that intelligent management wouldn't cool out long before they reached the point of public recriminations. Blame the trustees? Maybe, but who joins a non-profit board expecting to defend incompetent management? How would a board even know that they're defending people with serious personality defects? This group of KZYX trustees only sees Aigner and Coate when they've got their smack-smack lips on, not when they're snarling at even the mildest inquiries. McKenty and FCC complaints are not the problem. Bad management is the problem. Vote them off the island, I say.

ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE WEEK: "I went to the big RV show this weekend. The one where every dealer within 50 miles brings their RVs under the roof (and some outside) so the RVing crowd doesn’t have to run all over the place to browse the various brands of pretty much identical floor plans.

It was crowded. There were markdowns galore – savings of $75K for the largest was common, and for the first-timer, $5K! We own one of those neat A-Frame popup campers that can be towed behind a crossover with very little consequence – bought it used, immaculate and cheap – and we use it when we head to a lake within AAA’s RV+ plan’s 100 mlle towing distance – beats a tent and the bears can’t break in.

Some of these guys, though, are putting down fifty grand on a trailer that can sleep eight, and provide a Super-Bowl watching experience! There’s toy-haulers that have an entire back wall fold down and move-out-of-the-way beds so the lucky camper can bring his dirt motorcycles to boot! There’s slide outs that expand the vehicle into practically a full-sized house on wheels.

Of course it’s all cheap, lightweight stuff that’s bound to leak right after the warranty expires. Guess what the payments are for a $70K Class-C drivable RV; try $250 per month for 240 months! That’s indentured servitude – twenty years of it! Some of these guys buying RVs won’t even live long enough to pay the thing off. What’s even funnier is, the RVs themselves won’t last as long as 20 years and everyone knows it.

The RV industry a god damned racket. When we bought our RV, I tried in vain to price them out. They advertise these fantastic mark-downs at the dealerships – make you feel stupid for not buying into the dream if you manage to escape the store. What’s worse, they don’t care if you walk – there’s always another sucker. We made sure we bought an RV that had some kind of re-sale value – check for yourself, the Chalet/A-liner A-frames hold their value very well very much because one’s free from the two-vehicle enhancement problem. That’s another part of this racket – the dealers will lead you to believe your half-ton pickup or suburban (150/1500 series) will be enough to haul a 4500lb RV – but even after the sway-bars are added (another expense) the pickup will itself sway in a very frightening way.

No, what the lucky camper finds out is that they have to upgrade their tow-vehicle – and they better – because that RV they just bought is NOT REFUNDABLE and now worth almost HALF of what they paid. As soon as the toilet’s used, it’s like dirty goods.

Not far from the show was an empty K-Mart (still in business) parking-lot full of repossessed RVs for very “attractive” prices.

There’s the followup warranty process, too – where they try and extract yet another few thousand dollars so you won’t have to worry about replacing the propane-powered refrigerator when it breaks down.

Footing all of this are the banks – they’re fully cognizant that these RVs will (1) never be paid for, (2) won’t last the 15 to 20 years it takes to pay them off; they’re betting that the RVers will continue to trade-up and up and up and up until the carcasses of the older ones no longer appear in the books.

It was at the RV show I could see with my naked eyes the blasphemy that has befallen many of us here in the US where Business as Usual is preached as it can continue unabated for years and years to come. I know better than that!"

FortBraggBookRECOMMENDED READING: FORT BRAGG by Sylvia E. Bartley, published by Arcadia as one of its Images of America series. Considering that its recorded history began less than 200 years ago, Fort Bragg has seen an awful lot for a small town, and Ms. Bartley has collected much of it in this interesting little collection, everything from the town's beginnings as an Army outpost whose mission it was to suppress Indians to make the area safe for the first timber mills to the closing of the big mill that was Fort Bragg's economic engine for most of the town's existence. There are some fascinating photographs of pivotal events — the big strike of 1946-48, the last work day at the mill on August 8th, 2002, Redwood Summer protests of the cash-out corporate cut that led to the mill's demise, and some wonderful shots of men in their Civil War uniforms in the 4th of July parade of 1900. One photo propelled me right out of my chair to show it to a couple of office visitors; it's of a tightrope walker gingerly making his way across Main Street from the old Shafsky Brothers building to the area of the Company Store. Now there's an act unlikely to be seen again in Mendocino County. The only omission, I'd say, was baseball and maybe boxing. There's a great shot of a fisherman holding up a 65-pound salmon when big fish were commonplace, but no town team baseball or shots of the smokers that packed 'em in back in the day. But that's a tiny caveat put against everything else the author brings us. What's always striking about photo collections of life in America BF (Before The Fall) is how good people looked in their honest dignity. These days, about half the people you see could be circus clowns, or so debauched old Fort Bragg would have packed them off to the State Hospital at Talmage. These local histories should be mandatory studies in the schools. After all, Fort Bragg is the history of this country contained in one small place.

JOHN SAKOWICZ WRITES: The KZYX Board now has a confirmed location for its next meeting on Monday, March 3, at 6:00 PM — the Redwood Senior Center, 490 N. Harold St., Ft. Bragg, CA. Please encourage the public to attend what promises to be a very spirited meeting.


“KZYX Members for Change” are working hard to put back the “public” in public radio. Also, there will soon be an election for new members of the Board of Directors, with a slate of three candidates committed to positive change. Remember: Public radio is not a private clubhouse operated on behalf of a few insiders. It's your station, our station. All of us. The people. If we have that vision, the people will have their radio station. 'A very great vision is needed, and the people who have it must follow it like the eagle to the deepest blue of the sky.'…Tȟašúŋke Witkó, literally 'His-Horse-is-Crazy'; born Cha-O-Ha, meaning 'In The Wilderness' or 'Among the Trees.'"

FISH AND WILDLIFE has closed some NorCal rivers to fishing. “We fully understand the impact these closures will have on California anglers and the businesses related to fishing in California, and we really feel for them,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “However, the science is clear. Two-thirds of the wettest part of winter is now behind us and conditions are looking increasingly grim. Under these extreme drought conditions, it is prudent to conserve and protect as many adult fish as possible to help ensure the future of fishing in California.” The closures are mostly in Humboldt County, one for the lower Russian River in Sonoma County. Mendocino County's streams are already mostly fish-free.

IN A 5-0 VOTE, the Fort Bragg City Council has overturned its Planning Commission and will allow the Dollar Store proposed for the Affinito family's vacant building on South Franklin. FB's planners, reacting to neighborhood opposition, had recommended against the discount retail emporium. But the Council, citing area zoning that allows retail, undid the Commission's opposition. The barn-like structure had been leased to the County of Mendocino as a social services center.


THE NOAH'S ARK array of animals seized this week from the McNab Ranch (Hopland) property of Patrice Phillips, 59, is reminiscent of the late Lydia Dittmeier of Willits. Neither woman, and we assume they're much alike in their anthrophila, meant harm to her animals, but their rescue work simply got out of hand when, we also assume, they were unable to part with their adoptees. And the animals accumulated to where, in Lydia's case, her goats and several other four-footed species consumed her Hearst Road home. Passersby reported donkeys sticking their heads through Lydia's livingroom walls after the goats had eaten the sheetrock all the way to the street.

MS. PHILLIPS lived in Fairfax (Marin) before she landed deep in the McNab hills. In Marin, she also battled neighbors and authorities over the menagerie she kept at her hillside home. Her semi-wild pigs roaming her suburban neighborhood had neighbors threatening to shoot Phillips' anarchic petting zoo while their mistress racked up more than 60 nuisance complaints. She of course retreated to Mendocino County, traditional home of the cast out.

MS. PHILLIPS got herself arrested last week in Mendo, and her 13-year-old son placed in protective custody, when she refused to open the door to sheriff’s deputies attempting to serve a search warrant on her property. Lydia Dittmeier, the Willits animal collector, had threatened to kill the young animal control officer who had the impossible task of trying to reason with her, but Ms. Phillips seems much more amenable.

ACCORDING TO NEIGHBORS, Ms. Phillips' Hopland property was grazed to the dirt and her animals, including 10 Great Pyrenees puppies, lived without adequate water (perhaps because of the drought) and were underfed. They've all been placed in foster homes. One hopes Ms. Phillips pulls herself together and resumes life with her son as her first priority. That poor kid, living an isolated life deep in the hills with his mom and two acres of animals, probably doesn't say much beyond woof-woof and cock-a-doodle-do.


INSIDER BASEBALL. Tiffany Revelle's story for the Ukiah Daily Journal begins, "A Ukiah father who pleaded guilty last month to child abuse causing his 6-month-old son's hospitalization was sentenced to five years of formal probation and a parenting class Tuesday in Mendocino County Superior Court. Daniel Camara, 25, was originally charged with assault resulting in a coma due to brain injury of a child younger than 8 years old, but the baby's recovery since then prompted the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office to reduce the charge to child abuse resulting in hospitalization, still a felony charge...."

BUT, GOLLY, Judge Moorman wondered, “My reading of the facts in the probation report leave me somewhat in question, and I don't like sentencing someone when I'm in question,”  and Camara had had the good sense (and the cash) to hire former DA Duncan James who also employed present DA David Eyster prior to Eyster's own elevation to DA, and everyone came to the magic conclusion that the baby hadn't been beaten but merely "shaken severely." His injuries were simply Daddy's mistake. And after all Daddy had a whole bunch of people write to the judge about what a swell guy he really is, just a big ol' boy who doesn't know his own strength, doesn't know that you don't shake an infant to get it to stop crying.

GROUP CAPT. LIONEL MANDRAKE: Colonel… that Coca-Cola machine. I want you to shoot the lock off it. There may be some change in there.

Colonel ‘Bat’ Guano: That's private property.

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Colonel! Can you possibly imagine what is going to happen to you, your frame, outlook, way of life, and everything, when they learn that you have obstructed a telephone call to the President of the United States? Can you imagine? Shoot it off! Shoot! With a gun! That's what the bullets are for, you twit!

Colonel ‘Bat’ Guano: Okay. I'm gonna get your money for ya. But if you don't get the President of the United States on that phone, you know what's gonna happen to you?

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: What?

Colonel ‘Bat’ Guano: You're gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company. (Dr. Strangelove)


AS PREDICTED HERE a week prior to the arrest, that rash of mailbox thefts in Ukiah, Redwood Valley, and Willits have been found to be the work of a tweeker named Kristalee Eriksen, 27, of Redwood Valley. Deputies, arriving at Eriksen's home to arrest her for outstanding warrants, "also located 3 grams of methamphetamine with digital scales, drug paraphernalia, and a large bin full of opened and unopened mail that did not belong to Eriksen." She's being held on $80,000.00 bail.

DAVID ROVICS in Concert Feb. 21 — “David Rovics is the musical version of Democracy Now!” says Amy Goodman. He will sing and strum his funny and biting political songs Friday, February 21st, at 7 PM, at the Mendocino Community Center in Mendocino village. Cindy Sheehan called David “the peace poet and troubador for our time.” For an evening of rousing topical, political and humorous song, come enjoy David Rovics February 21st. A donation will be requested at the door, 'tho no one will be turned away. More info from Peter Sears, 964-6288.


HOW MANY TIMES has this happened in Mendocino County? It's midnight. Very little traffic. The only people on the streets are a tweeker or two on the run from the little green men. No other signs of life. All's quiet on the Mendo front. Of course, the Willits police can't help but see the vehicle with a tail light out headed south through town. Soon a Mendo deputy and a dope dog is on the scene where the Willits police are chatting with Trevor Ringo Smith, 22, of Lubbock, Texas who, it turns out, is transporting 48 pounds of bud. Smith is also discovered to be the subject of a fugitive warrant from Randall County, Texas, for a parole beef stemming from a conviction for attacking a couple of cops in Amarillo.

A SANTA ROSA READER WRITES: “Down here in la-la land, you'd hardly know that we're in a critical water situation by the local press, aka, the Bosco Bleat. When this continues (and there's nothing to show that next year won't just be an escalation of the last three) it will be interesting to see how those stewards of the land deal with the populace, who simply want to cook, do laundry and bathe. In this land of entitlement, you know it won't be pretty.  But it will make for some great stories in the AVA. Your court reporter continues to inform to the level of court TV, and with only a laptop. I totally appreciated the piece on animals a while back. My boy Butter has been with us for six months today. He's around five; rescue cat, found in road 3/13 with busted rear leg and pelvis. Outfit called Angels for Critters put thousands for his repair and rehab. We adopted him 7/31, and it's like a non stop honeymoon. This cat gets it and knows he has been rescued. I've had some great ones, but this guy is the best. Indoor only; damn car drivers have no mercy on critters. PS. Sonoma County is Off The Rails. Smart Train, pension reform, water fluoridation, Supervisor Carrillo (Captain Underpants), a city attorney who muzzzles the CC and the mayor!! The Clean Power Boondoggle!!! and now a long term water shortage that sure looks like a lifestyle changer. People vs the vineyards! To quote Jim Morrison, They Got The Guns, We Got The Numbers! It is not going to be pretty, but it should be fun in a grim dark way. And let's not forget our trigger happy policemen! RIP Andy Lopez! Cops should remember when they shoot a thirteen year old dead, the Target Audience of that outrage is going to be alive and healthy for a very long time. The DA is simply going to wait till the election is over in June, then give him the killer cop a pass. (“I root for the big comet.” — George Carlin)

EXCELLENT REPORT in the current Fort Bragg Advocate by Frank Hartzell on the decommissioning of the last stretches of pavement at the north end of the Old Haul Road. Hartzell writes, “I took the last joyride ever down the north end of the old Haul Road last week. A breathtaking trip it was. Construction crews had freshly unearthed nearly three miles of continuous road, making possible a spectacular oceanfront drive south from Ten Mile Bridge. The day of my ride, crews were in the process of scraping the hard road surface away and hauling it to the retired quarry at Big River, east of Mendocino. The excavated old road was still wide enough for two big gravel trucks to pass on and to move pretty fast along. The road had no holes and could still be driven at virtually any speed. And it was every bit the world class vista that I remember from the mid-1980s, when I rode from Ward Avenue to Ten Mile Bridge on a bicycle, with only two short breaks in the road then.”


THE HAUL ROAD began life in 1916 as a kind of ocean view Skunk Line, hauling the big logs from the forests of Ten Mile and points north to the Fort Bragg mill. In 1949, the rail was replaced by blacktop so log trucks could have a straight run up and down the Coast without fighting the curves and what little vehicle traffic there was on Highway One back in day. Since then, the ocean was pounding away, and gradually the big waves carried off chunks of the road, as it threatens to do to the remaining four or five miles south of Ward Avenue.

WHAT A GREAT unanticipated amenity the Haul Road has been for Fort Bragg. For years residents and visitors alike been able to enjoy miles of ocean along which the old pavement runs, replete with its myriad of hidden little beaches. It's a wonderful, if unintended legacy of the days of the big trees. Better yet, the road will soon begin as a trail at Noyo transiting the mill site then on by Haul Road to Ward Avenue, and name another town on the West Coast as blessed as Fort Bragg and its relatively few visitors?

CONGRESSMAN HUFFMAN visited Boonville High School a couple of weeks ago. No, it has not yet been declared a crime scene. I wonder, though, what the captive, photo-opted students made out of it? The Congressman and his political party are hardly friends of the largely immigrant school population of the Anderson Valley, and no friend at all to anybody who works for wages. Nothing personal against the guy, a kind of grinning cipher of the type who get elected these days; hell, he could probably be trusted to babysit your kids if you didn't have a teenage daughter. But I wonder what pedagogical value a visit from the guy could possibly have for teenagers who, objectively, will go out into the chaos of the world neo-libs of the Democrat type have made for them?


"PEOPLE pay almost $4 million for 30-second ads during the Super Bowl. This is the most valuable cultural real estate of the year. You've got a captive audience of over 100 million. And this is what they come up with? If I was trying to help an alien understand who we are as a nation, the last thing I would show them is a Super Bowl halftime. But what if the aliens were already two steps ahead? What if they'd already infiltrated the halftime show? Seriously, how better to explain Up With People?" (Robert Thompson)

FRONT PAGE headline on Saturday's Santa Rosa Press Democrat, where every press release from a Democratic officeholder or a winery, preferably both in one story, is news. “Rep Thompson tours Sonoma factory to promote manufacturing.” Thompson's for local business, although his political party, and him, has signed off on every deal over the last twenty years to export jobs.

ALL THESE CHARACTERS say the same stuff. “We're working to restore the balance between defense and diplomacy.” Kerry said that the other day. It's not true, but with Kerry, limited as he is, you get the feeling he just might believe it. Our so-called Middle East policy, boiled down, is this: “We hope the Arabs all kill each other so they won't bother our dear friends who make Middle East policy for us and protect our access to oil, the Israelis.”

IF YOU THREW all the public remarks of all our career officeholders in a big pot and withdrew them at random for distribution to media and Press Democrat front-pagers, they would all read like this: “Congressman Thompson announced today that he stands four-square for hope and opportunity,” and said he looked forward to the challenges ahead he shares with President Obama and young statesmen like his talented colleagues, Jared Huffman and Wes Chesbro. “Our constituents look to us for leadership, to ensure the values we all hold dear and to make the tough choices ahead for the future of our children,” Thompson declared.

BY THE TIME Thompson got to “leadership,” the PD's editorial team would be chanting, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” And at “future” and “our children” in the same sentence, they'd be weeping.

TRYING HARD to be fair here, I can honestly say that I have never read a Press Democrat editorial that wasn't (1) wrong, (2) a statement of the obvious, (3) nauseatingly “cute” — the Rose City brain trust often writes about their pets and their kids, (4) deep dish stupid, (5) unfailingly witless. All these years and not a single memorable statement, not so much as a giggle. Golis and his retarded little brother, Gullickson, with a big assist from new owner Doug Bosco, have combined to make the paper what it is today — unreadable, a weird mix of random wire service stories, Bay Area crime blips heavy on black crime with Mexican crime running a close second, clips about the latest doings of cretinous celebrities, daily tributes to the paper's primary advertiser, the wine industry (by definition the most boring enterprise in the history of Northcoast business), and for “news” the paper brings us re-writes of police press releases on the latest crank-fueled atrocities in Mendo and Lake counties. And Golis's brain-numbing musings every Sunday. I never thought I'd actually miss Gaye LeBaron's daily column, but I do. At least the old girl gave us local stuff, and her history pieces were and are interesting. She also occasionally shows some real feeling (especially when she went off on yours truly a few times back in the day), not that we're talking La Passionara here.


SO, HERE'S GOLIS today stringing out a thousand words on the drought: “Lake Mendocino could go dry.” It done went, Pete. “Without heavy rains, all of us will share in the hardship.” No, hardship is never shared in this country. Crises are always a lot harder on ordinary people. “At various times, efforts have been made to persuade more grape growers to construct reservoirs and use recycled water for irrigation, but the proposals never gained momentum.” Wrong. Lots of grape growers have installed ponds. Lots of others assume they are entitled to blank draws on public streams. The Press Democrat has never said boo to any part of the wine industry and its serial crimes against nature. “…Today, we would not want to imagine what life would be like for 600,000 North Bay residents without the water stored behind that dam.” [Warm Springs — Lake Sonoma]. Most of which originates in Mendocino County, not to mention that it is presently nearly full while Lake Mendocino is down to the mud because its water is owned by Sonoma County and sold at substantial mark-up as far south as Sausalito. This far into the drought, Sonoma County has not really tapped Lake Sonoma, and is unlikely to tap it for residential use until it absolutely has to. Lake Sonoma doesn't even supply its northern areas of Healdsburg, Geyserville and Cloverdale. The real story here, made obvious by the drought, is that regional water policy is a mess. But don't look to the PD to clarify things.

TOMMY WAYNE KRAMER memorably said of the Press Democrat's deep thinker, Pete Golis, “If oatmeal could write, Golis would be out of a job.” That nicely sums up the guy's brain and his prose. But oatmeal is at least nutritious. Golis is lethal. Twenty words into a Golis think piece and half your brain cells have died.

THE LEGENDARY BOBBY BEACON, live, from the best bar anywhere, the Beacon Light, Elk, California.

LIKE MOST NINER fans I'd hoped Denver would beat the Seahawks. And like a lot of people I thought the game would be close. I had a couple of bets where I took Denver by six. Blowout? Not a chance. But it was a blowout. The Niners coulda woulda shoulda beat the Seahawks and, from the look of them today, woulda beat Denver. Like everyone else, I'm already looking forward to the Niners and Seahawks next season, but it's only a long week before pitchers and catchers report for Spring training — and the Warriors are going to the playoffs. The country may be going to the coyotes, and the circuses no longer offer bread with the shows, but the circuses themselves, sports division, are looking good.

ANYONE MISSING from the Mendocino Coast ListServe? The post-Super Bowl press conference was temporarily interrupted when a crazed fan seized the microphone to deliver a bizarre rant about the 9/11 terrorist attack. He shouted: “Investigate 9/11 … 9/11 was perpetrated by people in our own government!” The man stormed the stage where Most Valuable Player Malcom Smith was fielding questions about the game to claim the US government was behind the strikes on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001. Needless to say, this bizarre opinion is prevalent in Mendocino County.

STATEMENT OF THE DAY: Is the money world at that threshold right now? One thing seems clear: nobody is able to turn back the plummeting currencies. They go where they will and their failures must be infectious as the greater engine of world trade seizes up. Who will write the letters of credit that make international commerce possible? Who will trust whom? When do people seriously start to starve and reach for the pitchforks? When does the action move from Kiev to London, New York, Frankfurt, and Paris? (— James Kunstler)

JEFF COSTELLO COMMENTS ON THE SUPER BOWL: Denver is in a severe state of deflation. Had the Broncos won, there would have been fireworks everywhere, riotous drinking and hooligan antics downtown. Last time there was “irrational exuberance” in the LODO (Lower Downtown), huge fights broke out and if I recall correctly, someone was killed. I'm glad the team lost. Relieved. In Wisconsin I was informed that “football is a religion here,” a statement that helped me understand the depth of devotion sports fans can have. To make it worse, football is now linked to patriotism and wretched excess of many stripes, not the least of which is the ultra-rich paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for the “good seats.” It's been around 30 years since I watched a football game with any interest. The Joe Montana 49ers somehow seemed to elevate the game to a level beyond its normal state of thuggishness. Since then, nothing. The half-time entertainment, appalling as it can be, is really no different from the rest of it — how do you like your overblown mindfuck, with or without singing? Arguments abound about how the national anthem is sung. Should it be done straight, or pumped to dizzying heights of oversinging? For me, this misses the point — that the whole spectacle boils down to hyper-nationalism, feel-good propaganda to make everyone fiercely proud to be American.

COLLEGE OF THE REDWOODS trustees meet tomorrow at the college's main campus in Eureka. The school's president, Kathy Smith, will recommend that both the Fort Bragg campus and the Garberville “instructional site” be closed this fall for lack of enrollment.

Mendocino County Supervisor Dan Gjerde posted the following message on Facebook this morning:

“It's time to align with Mendocino College. February 3, 2014 at 8:19am. College of the Redwoods February 3, 2014. To: President Smith and Board Members, 7351 Tompkins Hill Road, Eureka, CA 95501. Dear President Smith and Board Members: As a County Supervisor representing much of the Mendocino Coast, I can say unequivocally that Coast residents are dismayed by the management, during the last several years, of our community college campus. Year after year, Coast residents have seen classes withdrawn from the CR catalog, along with the systematic shutdown of basic student services. And they ask: “Why?” If Mendocino College, our neighboring college district, can offer 100 educational sections in a comparably-sized community, like Willits, and another 20 sections in a tiny outlying community, like Round Valley, why can't College of the Redwoods offer at least 100 sections on the Mendocino Coast? Now comes the latest set of proposals, the closure and lease proposals, which sound like the end to community college on the Mendocino Coast. Let’s turn this around. Rather than placing the College of the Redwoods in possible legal jeopardy, please take a fresh look. If the Coast campus will soon become a part of a different educational institution, as community members are now embracing, how will students sit in classrooms if the outgoing college locks up even more of the campus with additional leases? Clearly, any talk of additional leases should end today. Work with the people of the Mendocino Coast and of Mendocino County. We have viable options to serve the students of the Mendocino Coast. Change, if managed thoughtfully, can serve to improve opportunities for our students. Let’s work together to create positive change.

Sincerely, Dan Gjerde Mendocino County Supervisor, District Four”

FOR YEARS, Coast residents have talked about affiliating Fort Bragg's campus with Mendocino College in Ukiah. College of the Redwoods, Eureka, has always treated COR Fort Bragg as an unwanted stepchild, shorting the school on funding, foisting off marginally competent administrators on the school and so on. It would be a shame to lose the school altogether, but Mendo College, on its part, has never seemed eager to affiliate.

FROM TOM STEINSTRA’S invaluable column in Sunday's Chronicle: "One of the black holes in the media is the follow-up reporting on arrests and whether, under scrutiny, the cops got them right or not. A wildlife story that TV blew up last year and then was forgotten - a sweep of suspected abalone poachers from the Bay Area - was resolved last week in favor of the abalone, reported Fish and Wildlife Lt. Patrick Foy. It's a significant outcome, Foy said, because the suspects, who included repeat offenders, were caught, prosecuted and then punished - three steps you don't always see in some counties across the Bay Area and Northern California. In Mendocino County Superior Court, Judge Clayton Brennan also issued a rare lecture in which he said, in part, "The local citizenry is concerned about abuse of a resource (abalone) that could become extinct due to poaching," Foy said. A synopsis of the cases, according to Foy and court documents: -- David Buzzard pleaded guilty to possession of three abalone out of season, having no report card and driving on a suspended license. He was already on a 24-month probation for taking and possessing seven abalone over the limit. Buzzard was placed on 36 months' probation, sentenced to 10 days in jail, fined $2,469.50 and ordered to forfeit all abalone items and surrender all fishing and hunting privileges for the three years of probation. -- Xiu Li and Chiew Saechao each pleaded guilty to possession of three abalone over the limit. Each was placed on probation for 12 months, fined $1,621.60, ordered to surrender all items seized when cited, and must forfeit all fishing and hunting privileges for one year. -- Erik Deck took two abalone over the limit and illegally passed them to Matt Cohen. Each was fined $1,572.50 and ordered to surrender any diving items seized on the day of their citation -- Tim McDonald was convicted of illegally passing off three abalone to his wife, Denise McDonald, who pleaded no contest to receiving them. Each was fined $680. "Mendocino County takes crime against natural resources very seriously," Foy said. "The courts are imposing steep fines (compared with other counties), jail time and forfeiting gear. This is some of the most aggressive prosecution in the state, yet we still see the same poachers and poaching activity persist."


AVA Readers may recall that Ms. Mandi Dillon, replying to local complaints that the “Need For Speed” movie she was doing advance work for was promoting dangerous driving, said the film was a co-production with Disney and will be rated PG-13. “It is not intended to glorify speeding,” Ms. Dillon insisted, “and the characters will have real-life consequences.”* * *

On Sunday, we, along with millions of others, saw the 30-second Need for Speed movie Super Bowl trailer that cost $4 million to air unleashed by DreamWorks SKG for its upcoming film during one of the first commercial breaks of Super Bowl 48. The trailer is now available online, featuring all the car chases and gunfights you'd expect. According to The Washington Post, 30-second ads for this year's big game cost $4 million. In addition, a special extended trailer for the Need for Speed movie has also been published online, offering a deeper look at the film's locations, characters, and cars. Movie launches in theaters on March 14. In the film, Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul plays muscle car mechanic and street racer Tobey who is out for vengeance as he chases down the man responsible for his wrongful imprisonment.

One Comment

  1. Jane Smith February 8, 2014

    Regarding Patrice Phillips and the McNab Ranch arrest-although I have never been to the Phillips house, my daughter and I know Patrice and her son because my daughter and Patrice’s son have taken Narrative Theater at Mendocino College and classes thru SPACE (Ukiah’s School of Performing Arts and Cultural Exchange) together. Marcus Phillips just turned 13 last month and is intelligent, articulate, and engaging. He played the part of “Rooster” in the SPACE production of Annie just last month,and consistently got the most laughs. Since I know Patrice and her son, I went and bought a UDJ after I heard of her arrest. I noticed on the front page that an official at the scene of the arrest was quoted as saying the animals were “happy and healthy”. I also noticed quotes by a “Ukiah Morrison” whom I remember you having nothing good to write about. The UDJ did not explain in the article why they were quoting Ukiah Morrison or how he was involved, but it made me wonder at the motives…
    I sure hope Marcus doesn’t see what was written here (…probably doesn’t say much beyond woof-woof and cock-a-doodle-doo) because he’s a sweet, good-hearted, innocent kid.

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