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Valley People (Feb 11, 2014)

THE DELUGE STANDARD. If Highway 128 is closed at Flynn Creek Road the Navarro River has boiled over and we've had a really big rain. Or a series of really big rains. If the road isn't closed, we've merely had a nice and most welcome rain, which is what we have enjoyed over the last week.

SATURDAY, from the big redwoods of Navarro: “We're getting a good amount of rainfall today, I'm guessing it'll be 3-4 inches by the time we check tomorrow morning; however, we are only in the very early stages of runoff. I just went down our hill, checking the local ditches, which are just starting to perk up in places. Meanwhile, the north fork of the Navarro and Flynn Creek remain extremely low, midsummer low. There isn't going to be any road closure this weekend. Most of the rain we've gotten thus far has simply been absorbed into the ground (and flora). We're still playing catch up, and we need more.”

ON THE WEEK ending Monday morning, most Valley locations logged between 6-8 inches.

SOME 8,200 Ukiah residents lost power for about an hour and a half Sunday afternoon. Mel Grandi, the city's electric utility director, said the power went out at 1:52pm because a transformer at the PG&E substation on Babcock Lane failed and that affected the city's transmission line, which it shares with PG&E. After PG&E to made its repairs, the power was restored shortly after 3:30 p.m. There were a few weather-related fender benders but otherwise the rain caused no major problems anywhere in the county.

A FALLING TREE LIMB knocked down the power line serving the upper stretch of the Boonville-Ukiah Road — the Toll House neighborhood — about 2am Tuesday morning. Power was fully restored about noon. Exactly 48 persons were affected, according to PG&E's spiffy website.

SKY WATCHERS FROM VARIOUS areas of the County say an average of six inches of rain has fallen on our parched lands since Thursday. The Russian River is waaaay up at Hopland, the streams of Anderson Valley are running strong, wells and springs everywhere from Gualala to Laytonville rejuvenated. (With some on-line comment already complaining that pot growers will again help themselves to outback supplies.) And Ukiah’s power went off for as yet unexplained reasons. We are waiting to learn just how large a dent the weekend's rains have put in the drought. Will we be dry again by May? June? July?

CHRIS SKYHAWK REPORTS on the Navarro River: “Yesterday (Saturday) the river was still closed at the mouth, but today we took a little family trip to the beach at noon and it was open for the first time since late spring 2013." Chris adds, "I was really worried that it might not open at all and the already fragile salmonids would lose an entire year of migration it would be interesting if someone who knows more than I do would comment in the AVA or anywhere else about timing- is it too late for salmon to spawn this year in the Navarro? I believe steelhead are more flexible, but what about them? If you know of anyone maybe ask them to submit a piece, it would be very interesting, but at least we can celebrate for the moment."

MIKE KOEPF, a former fisherman from a family of fishermen: "All I can say is this: first, I'm no scientist or know-it-all environmentalist, but salmon are ice age fish, thus they have somehow survived the last 10,000 years; about as long as it took mankind to invent I-phones. Usually there are two spawning runs: one in the fall the other in the spring, and my sense is from all the old time Portuguese and Italian fishermen I used to know is that if there is not enough water in the rivers, salmon continue to hang out in the ocean eating and having a swimmingly grand time. If it wasn't for sex they'd probably remain there until they were the size of whales. Anyhow, I know salmon are smart enough to stay out of rivers if there isn't enough water. However, the question remains: are humans smart enough to leave them alone, or turn them into a cause-celeb to curtail water for farmers, unemploy thousands of Mexicans, and make the price of a head of lettece go up to ten bucks?"

"ONE MORE THING," Koepf continues, "in years past, I've published articles in the Sacramento Bee and tried to do the same in the PD, but they're in too incestuously tight with the elite environmentalists to respect divergent points of view. Anyhow, my simple message has always been the need to establish salmon hatcheries on our north coast streams and rivers as a common sense way of mitigating the impact of diverted, inland valley, river water for agriculture which has negatively impacted salmon runs. The enviros, however, blabber on about natural spawns in restored pristine rivers; protecting salmon from genetic modification and other such cockamamie theories. However, it's really all about the enviros controlling water, the richest commodity in California. Water is political power in California. Salmon resources are easily restored by hatcheries. It's economical and viable. They do it in Canada and they do it in Alaska."

NATURE, a musician basted in the purple luminescence of Elk, instructor of mystic hand drumming and author of such memorably serene compositions as "Spiritual Unfolding" and "Sleeping With Mommy" (Mommy Nature, that is), will appear solo in dinner concert at Lauren's Restaurant on Friday evening the 21st of February, 7:30 to 9. Free catalogs and CDs for sale. Everyone welcome.

OBSCURE ARGUMENTS. Got into one just the other day with a literary guy, a writer-writer. I went for a quick knockout. "Take a year's worth of novels reviewed in the Chronicle and there's maybe three as interesting as one edition of this fine Boonville publication. Our letters-to-the-editor pages any given week are much more interesting than the combined output of an entire year's worth of the effete, self-absorbed wah-wah of Frisco (Bay Area) writers. Hell, give me a grant and five years doing nothing but jive writer's workshops and I could come up with better stuff than these shut-ins." My adversary rattled off five names and ten books I'd never heard of, as if that was the clincher that I didn't know what I was talking about. Which I don't because if I feel like fiction I go back for some Hemingway or something else pre-1970. Most of the new stuff — New Yorker fiction, for example — is simply awful, unreadable, except for an occasional story by Junot Diaz or Sherman Alexie. The great art center of the SF Bay Area? Truth to tell, I like Dave Eggers and Ishmael Reed but that's it. They're consistently interesting. Other than them? Nobody. Nada. Seriously, right here in the Anderson Valley there are at least twenty writers better than the five thousand or so writer-writers and "editors" of the Bay Area. What the heck do all these writers write and what exactly do all these editors edit? Frisco's weekly papers are beyond bad, the Chron slips a little every week, the literary mags are jv versions of the New Yorker. The only lively Bay Area prose you find on a regular basis is on the Chron's comment line.

WHILE I'M THROWING out gratuitous opinions here, I wonder if I'm the only person to notice that Mendocino County's elected bodies tend heavily to look like Cabbage Patch dolls — kinda lumpy, the males indistinguishable from the females, their chubby, unlined pusses portraits of self-satisfaction. Jolly little buggers, though, which comes from their invincibly smug high opinion of themselves. Fumblingly inarticulate, they chuckle through their meetings, turning everything they touch into gradations of fiasco.

LOCAL EMERGENCIES on the week were not weather related. An 83-year-old Nash Mill man was hauled over the hill, surviving both the journey and the Adventist medical delivery system. A teenager got himself lost in the Fish Rock Road wilderness and spent a cold, wet Saturday night out of doors before he was found safe Sunday morning. A pick-up truck ran off Ray's Road, Philo, Friday night, taking out a length of backyard fence behind the Philo Service Station. The driver, still not identified, took off but his passenger remained at the scene where the CHP confiscated two guns from the abandoned vehicle.

ALTHOUGH KZYX bills itself as a countywide public radio station, it's dominated by Anderson Valley people. Which is its curse. Of all the smart, capable people in The Valley, not to mention the County, well, put it this way, intelligent decision-making has never been the institution's strong point. When the thing was founded, the station's cynical founding father organized it in a way that makes it reform-proof, stuffing the place with unreconstructed hippies who can recite line by line every Grateful Dead song ever written but otherwise have about as much business running a radio station as they would operating a nuclear power plant. Incidentally, after strangling the public radio baby in its cradle, the founding father collected some $30,000 for his organizational "work" and took off for Alaska where, of course, a public radio station hired and fired him in the space of about a month.

BUT OF ALL THE DEFECTIVE management apparatuses who've passed through KZYX's slovenly offices, the present apparat is easily the most incompetent, so extremely unfit several people have complained to the FCC about them. The charges are specific, and specifically damning. For instance, how can it possibly be ignored that a member of station's board of trustees, who also serves as the station's treasurer, is denied access to the station's books?


NO NEED to repeat trustee Sakowicz's entire complaint, but here's how it begins: "The station’s current General Manager and Executive Director, John Coate, does not share key information, i.e. FCC license renewal updates, reasons why Board meetings have been canceled, reasons why job openings at the station are not posted, and draw-downs on the station’s line of credit and other bank borrowings.

"As Board Treasurer, I have made repeated requests for financials. Concerning bank borrowings, the immediate-past General Manager, Belinda Rawlins, almost bankrupted the station six years ago when she maxed-out the station’s line of credit at the Savings Bank of Mendocino County without fully disclosing her actions to the Board. When the bank refused to lend Ms. Rawlins any more money, she quit her job and moved to Boston…"

KATHRYN MASSEY, of Mendocino, a relative newcomer to Mendocino County, innocently plunged through the KZYX looking glass on the assumption it was run by decent, capable people; she has also filed an FCC complaint. As a person with much prior public radio experience in Nashville, she was quickly disillusioned by the Philo operation. Excerpted, are some of Ms. Massey's observations: "The management of KZYX&Z does not conduct itself like public radio. Rather, KZYX&Z is more like a private fraternity for the five people who work there. The five staff members are insulated from Mendocino County, including the station's 2,300 members and 88,000 county residents....


"A Program Advisory Committee, which is mandated by the station's by-laws, and which would oversee many of the poor decisions made by Program Director Mary Aigner, is still nonexistent...

"Mr. Coate also manipulates the elections of the Board of Directors. Mr. Coate refuses to release important financial information, i.e. staff salaries. He also borrows from banks between pledge drives without releasing information about those borrowings (the station was nearly bankrupted six years ago by its general manager at that time). Mr. Coate also refuses to post or advertise job openings at KZYX&Z. He hires friends and other insiders. This is probably an EEOC violation...

"My comments will now address my direct experience and impressions of the KZYX staff when I became a volunteer. I was recruited as a phone volunteer for my first fund drive at KZYX&Z in 2011, having been invited by a volunteer programmer to help. I gladly drove down from my home on the Mendocino coast to be in the studio in Philo...

"The station itself was filthy and hadn't been cleaned. A dead mouse's head and part of its body was stuck in an open electric socket on the wall of the very cluttered office of the station's Senior Engineer, Rich Culbertson. Mr. Culbertson's office clutter included rotting food. The toilet, which was next to Mr. Culbertson's office, was also backed up. It was a disgusting sight, and the smell almost made me vomit. I was further told not to drink the water from the facet in the bathroom because it was "contaminated from the septic tank..."

"During the fund raising drive at which I volunteered in 2011, I was struck by the fact that no station underwriters were on-air speaking about why they love KZYX&Z and the particular programs they underwrite. Indeed, underwriting revenues at KZYX&Z have fallen in each of the last three years...

"KZYX&Z is a non-profit radio station. Staffs of non-for-profit entities serve at the pleasure of a volunteer board comprised of a cross-section of the constituents it serves. The KZYX&Z staff is charged with meeting the station's mission and policies that KZYX&Z volunteer board members establish; and, to work with the financial, nominating and other working committees, as determined by the chair of the board and/or executive committee to that end.

"This is not how the current management sees its roll as staff. Staff view job security as paramount. Ms. Aigner, for example, has worked at the station since it began 25 years ago. None of the current employees work ethic, professionalism and conduct would hold up in another other market if called upon to do so.

"If pressed, most if not all current staff would have a difficult time finding employment anywhere due to some of the issues already identified. The station has become about the staff and not about the listeners, volunteers, and connecting community resources."

TO ALL OF THIS, Coate blithely (and misleadingly) replies on the station's website: "First: the KZYZ (91.5) license has already been renewed. According to our FCC specialist attorneys in Washington DC, the KZYX license is under review by the FCC because someone wrote to them complaining about our programming choices. This is not a subject of concern to the license renewal process. But when they get letters they put the application into a separate process. That pipeline got very backed up with the government shutdown last fall, and we have been told it can take many weeks beyond the usual, even if they aren't going to take any action on it. We want our license to be renewed, obviously, and until it is, we'll all be a little anxious. But to claim that KZYX is in "dire straits" over this, as has been recently circulating around the local rumor mills, is alarmist and false."


AND THEN WE LEARN yet another KZYX programmer has been offed. Dr. Richard Miller got the ax for allegedly promoting, or was about to promote, Wilbur Hot Springs on his show. Dr. Miller owns Wilbur Hot Springs, most of which Dr. Miller has deeded to a land conservation trust. For years, New Dimensions, a private business, has hawked its dubious wares on KZYX, for one instance where the station's flexible ethics didn't kick in.

MILLER produced his show from the station's Mendocino studio, so pulling the plug in Philo was an easy thing to do. Miller filed a grievance and asked for a hearing. Like Doug McKenty, Miller must not have prevailed. McKenty and Miller remain off-the-air, in that eternal limbo of being suspended without a show.

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