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Off The Record (Feb 11, 2014)

A MEETING to discuss the announcement that the College of the Redwoods plans to close its Fort Bragg campus will be held Monday, February 17th at Fort Bragg Town Hall, 12 noon to 2pm.

ANOTHER CRUCIAL FORT BRAGG meeting occurs on Wednesday, February 19th at Town Hall, 363 N. Main Street. That one is a “scoping session” for County garbage czar Mike Sweeney's preposterous plan to build a $5 million trash transfer station off Highway 20 east of town. Never mind that there's an existing transfer station at Pudding Creek that could be employed for the simple process of hauling Coast trash outtahere when the Caspar operation is closed, Sweeney has already convinced Fort Bragg's City Council that he needs a brand new Taj Mahal of a transfer installation on Highway 20. For what? Ten loads a day? Supervisor Pinches nicely summed up Sweeney's plan. “You could do the same thing at a wide spot in the road.”

THE SACRAMENTO BEE, Cathy Locke reporting — “Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully announced today that a Mendocino County prosecutor who shot a pedestrian during a fight in Sacramento in October has been arrested on misdemeanor counts of carrying a loaded firearm in public and carrying a concealed weapon. Damon Gardner, 39, was on leave with the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office at the time of the incident, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office news release. About 12:24 a.m. Oct. 17, Gardner got in an argument with a pedestrian near 15th and L streets. The argument escalated into a physical fight, during which Gardner punched the pedestrian in the face with a closed fist, officials said. The pedestrian and a friend retaliated, forcing Gardner to the ground in a fetal position. A witness reported seeing the pedestrian get on top of Gardner and punch him in the midsection, while his friend repeatedly kicked Gardner’s head like it was a “soccer ball,“ according the news release. Gardner retrieved his .38 caliber handgun from his back pocket while lying on the ground and fired one shot at the pedestrian in self-defense, officials said. The pedestrian suffered a non-life-threatening gunshot wound. Gardner suffered a fractured nose, as well as bruises to his eyes, head and ribs. Gardner allegedly had consumed alcoholic beverages at local restaurants and bars beginning at 5:30 p.m. and was under the influence when the fight occurred. Those acts, according to the DA’s office, violated the terms and conditions of Gardner’s permit to carry a concealed weapon, which was issued from Mendocino County in November 2012. Each count carries a possible penalty of up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

GIVEN THE FACTS as they are so far known, Gardner was entirely justified in shooting the guy. They started the fight by insulting Gardner's female companion, who just happened to be a co-worker in the Mendo DA's office, which is not relevant here. What is relevant is two oafs casually insult the young woman Gardner is with. Gardner gallantly objects, and soon he's on the ground trying to fight off two yobbos at once as one of the yobbos kicks him in the head. A single well-placed kick can be fatal. In fear for his life, Gardner shoots one of them. Gardner's probably lucky he had a gun. And note that the episode has been filed as a misdemeanor, confirmation that Gardner acted in self-defense.

WE ASKED a water guy about Ukiah's supply, specifically the well at the old Masonite plant long rumored to be an abundant source, and we asked about the true state of Ukiah's aquifer, from which the town draws much of its water: Here's what he said:

1. Proponents of Masonite well #6 say it is percolated groundwater (unconnected to the flow of the Russian River) and thus not subject to regulation. Others say it is underflow to the Russian, and thus subject to regulation. And if the latter is true it is arguable that the water right has been forfeited due to lack of beneficial use for more than five years. Assuming it is available for pumping, the water would still need to be treated. Five years ago Millview was in negotiations with DDR [the big corporate mall developer] and Masonite. Masonite would sell the water right to Millview which would then supply water to DDR and the lands retained by Masonite. Not sure if Millview is still trying to get the well #6 water. They are still chasing the Waldteufel (Woods) water right which they say is 1,100 acre-feet per year and which the water board says is 15 acre-feet per year.

2. Search the Ukiah Urban Water Management Plan and there is a reference to a state determination from the 50s that the first 100 feet of the aquifer contains 90,000 acre-feet of water with an additional 45,000 acre-feet going down to 200 feet and to the fringes of the valley. The previous determination has been re-validated based on an on-going study of well logs. The aquifer recharges every year. Will it with no rain? And for a number of its wells, Ukiah is in the same debate of percolated groundwater v. underflow. But there is, or at least always has, been water to pump. And Ukiah has a 20cfs water right and currently uses about 7cfs.

BUT, AS KC MEADOWS of the Ukiah Daily Journal wrote in Sunday's paper, if the state's Water Resources Board “decides to declare that the water is Russian River underflow and begins limiting its use,” (which they’ve already done, but no limits have been set), Ukiah will not be as flush as its government seems to assume it is. Ukiah plans to tap that water in the next couple of years. Demand for it will be huge.

“DROUGHT: Mendocino Targets water-stealing pot farmers.

As California residents and businesses face the new reality of dwindling reservoirs and water restrictions, police in one California county are getting serious about water thieves — especially those who need the sweet stuff to feed illegal marijuana growing operations. Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman told KPIX-5 that water thieves could be making off with up to 5 million gallons of water a day to irrigate thirsty pot plants. The growers have been known to drill illegal wells, secretly tap into neighboring water tanks, and even go so far as to pump water directly from local streams and irrigation canals into storage containers, Allman said. The sheriff’s office will be stepping up enforcement as the high season of marijuana cultivation approaches. Anyone caught stealing water, Allman said, will be charged with grand theft of natural resources.”

THE ABOVE APPEARED last week on KPIX TV, and in prose in the SF Chron. Thing is, nobody has any idea how much water is diverted to pot and Sheriff Allman doesn't have the manpower to crack down on diverters even if he knew where they were. Tracking down diversions is time consuming and manpower-heavy. Besides which, it's hard to believe that the pot people steal more water than the grape people, the diff being the grape people get to help themselves legally.

THE NUT of this area's water problems is that a large population has grown up around a delivery system devised in 1950. Check that. The system was devised about 1908 as a modest device to electrify Ukiah, not to liquefy the suburbanization of Sonoma and Marin counties. The “system” is pegged to normal rainfall and a mile-long, hand-dug tunnel at Potter Valley the height and width of a contemporary fat man. It now is expected to send water from Humboldt County's section of the Eel River south to Lake Mendocino and downstream as far south as Sausalito. It is, to put if mildly, over-tasked. To avert the huge fights looming as the drought deepens, only regional cooperation and careful monitoring, with gauging, will allow the present water delivery system to fairly and honestly deliver water up and down the Russian River corridor.

UKIAH POST OFFICE workers, reinforced by San Francisco postal union members, picketed the Ukiah Staples last week to protest a deal the US Postal Service has made with Staples to establish post offices inside Staples stores. The Staples post offices would be staffed by Staples employees who are not unionized, paid much less the union postal people, and the deal would probably mean poor customer service and, perhaps, less mail security.

THE BANK OF AMERICA is pulling out of Fort Bragg. The bank's NorCal media relations person, Colleen Haggerty, has issued the following press release: “After careful consideration, we have decided to close our banking center located at 228 N. Main St., on May 30, 2014. The decision to close a banking center is never an easy one, and is driven primarily by a decline in transactions as customers increasingly rely on other channels such as mobile and online banking. As an example of this, Bank of America customers use their mobile phones to log into their accounts 155 million times per month, depositing 158,000 checks via mobile check deposit every day and making more than 4.9 million transfers per week between their accounts and to other people's accounts as well as to pay their bills. We notify customers by letter at least 90 days in advance, and letters will be mailed next week to customers outlining their banking options and any steps they need to take. Customers can still access all deposits and account services online, by mobile phone, or at other banking center locations, including Ukiah. The closure does not impact automatic deposits or bill pay withdraws. When a banking center closes, we provide various forms of assistance to impacted employees, which may range from severance packages to helping them find other opportunities within the company.”

FOR MANY YEARS, BofA has occupied an over-large building at Main and Alder where about twenty people are employed.

IT'S NOT AS IF Fort Bragg suffers a shortage of banks. There are several plus a thriving credit union. There is some speculation that weekly Occupy demonstrations caused a big bank business drop-off, which seems a wild stretch of wishful thinking by those of us who proudly march under the anti-usury banner.

WHEN WESTAMERICA closed their Boonville branch, it wasn't because they were losing money, it was because they felt they weren't making enough money. That's probably the case with Fort Bragg, too.


RECOMMENDED READING: Cowboys, Loggers, Airports and Airplanes and Other History from Willits by Ron Stamps. This fascinating monograph describes the founding and functioning of the Willits Airport at its original site just east of where the library complex and County museum now sit. The author rightly marvels at how one of the town's central institutions, born just before World War Two, can so completely vanish that a mere quarter century later the author, preparing, of all things, a dog park, realized that the people helping him had no idea that they were trying to break through the hardpan of the old runway. Stamps might also have gone on to say that he had to break through the hardpan of Mendocino County's fleeting historical memory, in this case the memory of a remote little airport at which much of the history of the County occurred in capsule form. The Willits Airport was central to the post-War logging boom, the development of the County as a tourist destination, the creation of the Brooktrails sub-division and present-day airport location, the rise of the brilliant machinist and entrepreneur Bob Harrah, and the focal point of many spectacular events that included plane crashes and, in one of the most spectacular, a physical assault on prominent citizens by another prominent citizen irate that a plane flown by the Harrahs had buzzed his barn, spooking his wife and his livestock. The book should be available for sale at the County Museum where, when Stamps went looking for information on the old Willits Airport none existed; he depended heavily for much information on the archives at the Willits News and the Ukiah Daily Journal, another reminder that what history we have is found mostly in our newspapers. I'm sure this important addition to local history is also available at the Willits Library. Of all the things that go untaught in Mendocino County's public schools, local history is among the most important, but generations of the young grow up without the slightest idea of what's gone before. Then and now, we live in a very interesting place, not that you'd know it unless you go looking. Fortunately, Mr. Stamps went looking for all of us.

JAN. 9, 1939: Tom Mooney made a triumphal return yesterday to the city that was ready to hang him two decades ago. An estimated 50,000 persons joined in the homecoming, 25,000 flooding Market Street and joining the parade of unions on their march to the Civic Center, where another 25,000 waited to see and hear him. Mooney was on foot and took his place immediately behind the band that led the procession. Behind him were massed American flags, then the massed banners of the unions. A number of men linked hands and like moving fences kept the welcomers from swarming in on the liberated leader, free after 22 years in prison. Directly ahead were the motion picture cameras that would transmit the scene to the farthest corners of the earth. Mooney, in a close-fitting grey suit, his gray hair flying, looked more like an evangelist than a man who had been convicted of contriving an infernal machine for mass murder. Sporadic shouts went up. “Welcome home, Tom!” “Good old Mooney!” There were strangers, to whom he was a legend, who were anxious to see “the world’s most famous prisoner.” A short block from the Ferry building he approached Steuart Street the place where on the afternoon of July 22, 1916, 50 persons were torn by shrapnel from an exploding bomb. Ten of them were killed. Mooney had now arrived at the tragic spot. The cameras had purposely halted him there. There was a loud roar when Mooney stepped out before the throng at the Civic Center. Never before had San Francisco offered such acclaim to a man for something he didn’t do. (San Francisco Chronicle archive)

COMMENT OF THE WEEK: Pessimism, pessimism, and more pessimism. It’s like the whole country is on the brink of despair. Maybe Phil Grahm was right, after all. Maybe we are just a nation of whiners. But I kind of doubt it. What’s really going on can be summed up in one word: Frustration. People are frustrated with the government, frustrated with their jobs, frustrated with their shitty, stagnant wages, frustrated with their droopy incomes, frustrated with their rip-off health care, frustrated with living paycheck to paycheck, frustrated with their measly cat-food retirement plan, frustrated with their dissembling, flannel-mouth president, frustrated with the fact that their kids can’t find jobs, and frustrated with the prevaricating US media that keeps palavering about that delusional chimera called the American Dream. (—Mike Whitney)

WOOF! WOOF! The Regional Water Quality Control Board formally warned CalTrans back on January 15th that it would halt construction on the Willits Bypass this year until “a final 401 Permit” mitigation plan has been approved by the board.

“As discussed in our January 7th meeting, the Regional Water Board is very concerned that a final MMP (Mitigation and Monitoring Plan) has not yet been found acceptable by our agency. The majority of Project impacts to jurisdictional wetlands have already occurred and there is not yet an acceptable MMP to inform the scope, nature and timing of the compensatory wetland mitigation,” wrote Matthias St. John, executive officer of the north coast board. “To avoid formal enforcement of passed deadlines in the Project's Clean Water Act 401 Š Caltrans must provide a final MMP, acceptable to the Regional Water Board and approved by signature of the Regional Water Board Executive Officer, prior to resuming import of fill material into the Project limits.”

CALTRANS wrote back under the auspices of their “Environmental Manager,” John Webb. “CalTrans is committed to doing everything within our powers to produce a final MMP for your approval prior to resuming import of project fill on the Willits bypass project.”

ACCORDING to Linda Williams, writing in The Willits News, the “issues detailed in the [Water Board's] letter to CalTrans include: lack of an acceptable grazing plan; a final property analysis record; a plan for the establishment and transfer of the mitigation properties into a conservation easement; resolution of 38 pages of comments provided to the agency in September; certain mitigation actions required in 2014; and a complete mitigation schedule. The letter advises CalTrans any MMP implementation which goes beyond the actual completion of bypass construction “may result in additional mitigation requirements.”

WE WILL RECALL, as Williams explains, “.... that the US Army Corps of Engineers issued a Notice of Violation in August 2013 to CalTrans for being in 'serious breach of permit' after CalTrans failed to meet certain commitments for mitigation associated with its Clean Water Act 404 MMP. In that notice CalTrans was cited for failing to complete its revisions of the 404 Permit MMP as listed in its own project mitigation schedule.”

AND the two agencies kissed and made up, as is likely with Caltrans and the State Water Board.

AS OF JANUARY 13, 2013, homemade commercial baking has been legalized in California under Assembly Bill 1616 which was signed into law late in 2012 with very little fanfare or publicity. The law should help local food activists, farmers market vendors and (some say) marijuana brownie bakers to come out of the closet-kitchen without the cost, special kitchen facilities and bureaucracy of a commercial food operation. There’s a cap on how much gross revenue can be earned which is currently $45k, going up to $50k next year. Check out the specs at the California Department of Public Health website

THE FARM BILL, hailed by Obama as a reasonable compromise, gives the Koch Brothers everything they wanted, including a big whack out of the Food Stamp program. The Kochs had lobbied hard against food stamps under the aegis of a phony non-profit called “Americans for Prosperity.”

THE KOCH BROS did right well from the Farm Bill. It also mandates $881 million in mandatory spending for biomass energy, a program that Koch Industries' timber subsidiary, Georgia-Pacific, has used to extract government subsidies. Georgia-Pacific applied and qualified for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program for its facilities in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Oregon and Florida. The Bros also own the old mill site at Fort Bragg, disposition of which they have not determined.

TIMBER SITES also get Clean Water Act exemptions. The Kochs, as owners of the mentioned timber farms get a big break here, too, again at the expense of the public's welfare.

ONE of the few positive outcomes of the Farm Bill is it legalizes hemp production for research purposes, but applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.

ANOTHER GOOD THING the Farm Bill does, and is particularly good news in Mendocino County where the small farm movement is taking off, there will be incentives for farmers markets to make it easier for food stamp recipients to shop at them. A new program would award grants to some farmers markets and grocery stores that match food stamp dollars if recipients buy fruits and vegetables. It has a bit of money to help finance the building of grocery stores in low-income areas that don't have many retail outlets.

WHAT PASSES FOR IDENTITY in America is a series of myths about one's heroic ancestors. It's astounding to me, for example, that so many people really appear to believe that the country was founded by a band of heroes who wanted to be free. That happens not to be true. What happened was that some people left Europe because they couldn't stay there any longer and had to go some place else to make it. That's all. They were hungry, they were poor, they were convicts. Those who were making it in England, for example, did not get on the Mayflower. That's how the country was settled. — James Baldwin

THE STATE’S FISH AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT has been measuring the density of red abalone along the shoreline for more than a decade. For the first time since the program started, Fish and Wildlife is closing off the most popular sections of coastline along Sonoma and Mendocino counties to all harvesters due to what environmental scientist Jerry Kashiwada calls “fishing pressure.” Kashiwada expects the closure to last until the species can recover. With the excruciatingly slow-growing red abalone, this could be ten to twelve years. In addition, when the season opens on April 1, officials will be limiting the take in the less popular foraging locations that will remain open from its longstanding maximum of 24 to 18 abalone, only nine of which can be from Sonoma and Marin counties. They’re also fine-tuning the fishing start time to reduce fishing opportunity (it has to do with tides), all in response to falling density levels of the snail delicacy. “Too many abalone are being taken,” Kashiwada says. (— Debra Klein)

ON-LINE COMPLAINTS about Caltrans’s latest gaffe on the new Bay Bridge construction also apply to the agency's performance at the Willits Bypass.

• “It is hard to believe you could feel good about a seal joint below the water. I don't think sealants are designed to have water standing on them. Especially with the dynamic load of 30 ton trucks bouncing by on top of this joint. Does the roadbed slope away from the joint or into the joint? If into the joint then crickets and drains are needed. Somehow there should have been a continuous membrane under the roadbed and some height up the guard-wall and not drill holes in the floor!

• Chaos seems to increase with complexity proportionately. Does Stonehenge ever fail? Does the Golden Gate Bridge ever “leak”?

• CalTrans is a corrupt, incompetent agency with a lot of Dunderheads running the show. From bad welds to leaks to whatever, there have been a series of problems showing this is substandard construction. Time for Governor Jerry to awaken from his 20 year nap and fire the top dogs at CalTrans and get highly competent engineers who are honest. It is incredible how CalTrans has botched this new Bay Bridge Construction despite the huge amount of money poured into it. The politicians ultimately must take the blame for a bridge that isn't safe and won't last to make it a cost effective project.”

THE LOCAL ANGLE? A story in the Wall Street Journal describes a San Jose incident where two guys in full Ninja armed with rifles blasted away at a PG&E power plant, inflicting substantial damage. Immediately, the terrorist industry claimed it was the biggest internal attack on the U.S. since 911, although what these two characters had in mind is not known, if indeed they had anything in mind other than the usual thought-free vandalism. A couple of months ago there was a similar incident in Fort Bragg. In that one, a man described as young with sandy or blonde hair, opened fire on PG&E power transformers, making his get away on a bicycle. Power executives worry that the grid is unprotected, that saboteurs could knock out power to large areas of the country.

THE GRID is made up of three systems serving different areas of the country. In the past even the smallest glitches, including trees hitting transmission lines, have wrought havoc on the system, resulting in widespread blackouts. In 2003, 50 million people in eastern states and parts of Canada were left without power for days after a minor incident. The grid is vulnerable, to say the least.

MANY of the most important parts of the network are out in the open, often in remote locations, protected by little more than cameras and high fences.


A FELONY CHARGE of animal cruelty was recently added to 39 other criminal charges against Patrice Phillips, 59, of Hopland after more than 100 animals were rescued last week from conditions at her McNab Ranch property described by the Sheriff's Office as “squalid.” The DA added the felony charge , alleging that Ms. Phillips “deprived the animals of the food, water or shelter.” The felony was added to 39 misdemeanor counts filed January 17th arising from incidents dating back to May, including a charge of animal neglect and other public nuisance-related charges.

ANIMAL CONTROL, reinforced by several deputies, raided Phillips place on January 13th where they found a Noah's Ark menagerie of sheep, goats, cows, dogs, cats, geese, a turkey, ducks, and rabbits confined to a two-acre area of her 40-acre property. Police said the animals lacked food and water, and were living in their own waste.

ON THAT VISIT, Animal Control officers confiscated 10 Pyrenees puppies and a dead sheep. Animal Control returned on January 28th with a search warrant to seize the remaining animals. The animals have since been placed in adoptive homes.

A NON-FERAL 13-year-old human-type boy who had been living with Phillips has since been returned to his father in the Bay Area. Ms. Phillips, prior to moving to Mendocino County, often a destination for the terminally estranged, had faced similar encounters with the law in Marin where she'd accumulated a large number of animals on a property she owned in Fairfax.

PILING ON. No way Patrice Phillips should be looking at a felony. In her delusion that only she can care for her animals, she's typical of this particular departure from the great American norm, however that's defined anymore. Cat ladies. Dog boys. We often read of creature collectors who simply can't bear to part with their animals. The creatures pile up, the hoarder is overwhelmed but does the best she can to feed and care for an ever-larger brood that sooner or later accumulated beyond her ability to provide. We've got a mental health case here not a criminal matter. This woman is 59. Left alone she is unlikely to change. But some strong therapy and monitoring, with maybe a court order limiting her to one dog, one cat, a gold fish, and maybe a goat if she behaves, is a more realistic disposition than running her through the legal system.

A GROUP of Ukiah-area residents have appealed Ukiah's permit for the massive new Costco slated for the big box neighborhood on the west side of Highway 101. “This appeal seeks to modify the project, not reject it. It seeks to convey to Costco that the project as proposed can be improved to benefit the greater good. (W)e believe such a reduction in impacts is worth requesting because there should be a balance between what Costco has proposed and what is best for Ukiah and its setting in the Ukiah Valley.”

A MAMMOTH BULK FOOD market with a 16-pump gas station will knock out any number of Ukiah's existing grocery stores and filling stations. The appealers say they just want the thing scaled back, not stopped, but even if it's scaled back to about a third its 148,000 square feet and no fuel pumps it's bad for Ukiah retail.

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