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Off The Record (Feb 26, 2014)


JUST IN FROM WILLITS. Mike Tobin has withdrawn as a candidate for 3rd District supervisor. Tobin's Facebook page contained this note: “On the advice of people who love me, I'm choosing my health and mental stability as of now. The stress of being Ill and fighting every little bug as cancer is wearing on me. I don't wish to be a medical burden unable to function in the 3rd district office for the people. As a deputy that began happening...I retired.” Tobin is a retired Mendocino County Sheriff's deputy.

ARNO GASSEN, who'd also announced that he would run for the 3rd District seat, has not filed candidate's papers.

A CURIOUS and curiously secretive meeting was held in Ukiah Monday afternoon when a delegation of Jerry Brown's Drought Task Force visited Ukiah to hear what Mendo had in mind in the way of drought relief. Why the session didn't allow the interested public to sit in is not known, but it seems that the Governor himself was going to attend, and his presence, someone's faulty thinking assumed, might have attracted The Great Unwashed.

THE EYES ONLY MEETING was held at the ghostly, seldom used Ukiah Valley Conference Center Monday afternoon. Ukiah Mayor Phil Baldwin, Willits Mayor Holly Madrigal along with at least two (unnamed) supervisors.

THE RUSSIAN RIVER Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District board of directors has unanimously voted to cut the Ukiah Valley's draw on the Mendocino County's already meager share of water stored at Lake Mendocino by half. (Sonoma County owns most of the water stored at the lake.) The cuts kick in the 1st of March. As of Monday afternoon, Lake Mendo was at 41.7 percent capacity. The inland water district holds Mendocino County's right to 8,000 acre feet of the stored water, which it sells to seven municipal water districts and about 40 farmers. These individual water districts, however, must implement their own water saving measures.

EXCESS EARNINGS - THE BACK STORY: the recent press release from the Mendocino County Employee's Retirement Association (MCERA) touting the IRS' favorable determination of MCERA's tax-qualified status (meaning that contributions to the retirement fund are made pre-tax, saving a chunk of money for the County and its employees) and a Ukiah Daily Journal article by Tiffany Revelle headlined: "Mendocino County gets IRS Agreement on Planned Payback," are the most recent chapter (but maybe not the last) of a story that began in 1974 when the Board of Supervisors and the County Treasurer (acting as head of MCERA) conspired to fund retiree health insurance by diverting "excess earnings" from the retirement system. But those excess earnings never existed, which became painfully obvious during the economic collapse of 2008.

PUBLIC EMPLOYEE PENSIONS are paid by contributions made by the employee and the employer, but mostly funded by the hoped for return on investment earned by the retirement fund. Most of the retirement fund is invested in Wall Street stocks and bonds. The Retirement Fund, at least until recently, was projected to earn an annual rate of return of 8.00%, an unrealistically optimistic figure in the wake of three major economic downturns in the last dozen or so years. But starting in 1974, any income above the projected annual 8.00% rate of return was declared "excess earnings" and was diverted from the retirement fund and used to pay for retiree health insurance. For the County, it seemed like a painless way to provide a benefit without increasing the County budget. And for the MCERA Board, dominated by County employees and retirees, it looked like a great way to get a benefit without having to pay for it. And as long as the Wall Street Ponzi traced a more or less upward trajectory, everything seemed absolutely peachy.

EXCEPT BY 2002 (following the bust and the 9-11 downturn) the "normal" method of calculating the so-called excess earnings was no longer working. County Treasurer Tim Knudsen and County Auditor Dennis Huey promptly came to the rescue, conspiring with the MCERA actuary to invent an alternative method of calculating excess earnings that did not rely on excess earnings. In fact, the new method did not rely on any earnings at all. Between June 30, 2002 and June 30, 2006, a total of $9,557,912 was illegally diverted from the retirement fund using the new math magic of Knudsen and Huey.

THE RETIREMENT BOARD, as mandated by state law, consists of the County Treasurer, a County Supervisor, three current County employees and one County retiree reinforce by three more appointees selected by the Board of Supervisors. With two-thirds of its nine members in line to receive a County pension, the composition of the Retirement Board represents the ultimate conflict of interest. Until recent years, the Retirement Board had no independent administrator, and was run by the County Treasurer. Which means that Tim Knudsen, County Treasurer from 2002 through 2006, was firmly in control when funds were being illegally diverted along with County Auditor Dennis Huey and former Supervisor Kendall Smith, with the whole show backed up by the other self-interested Retirement Board members.

AROUND 2006 JOHN DICKERSON, the self-described 'financial analyst', began sounding the alarm about the County's heavily indebted retirement fund and its phony excess earnings. Dickerson also focused on the highly questionable diversion of the $9.6 million dollars, eventually suggesting that Knudsen, Huey and the MCERA Board had illegally diverted funds. Now the IRS agrees. And even the MCERA Board, in its carefully worded press release, referred to "the erroneous use of certain pension plan assets for retiree medical expenses." The press release also admitted that "MCERA must see that $9,557.912 of pension assets that were improperly credited to county retiree health reserves (and not to pension reserves) will be repaid." Translation: "erroneous" and "improperly credited" are euphemisms for "illegal" and "illegally diverted". If you or I did such a thing we would be lodged in the parallel bar hotel out on Low Gap Road learning how to bake bread as part of Sheriff Allman's rehab program.

THE ILLEGALLY DIVERTED FUNDS, according to the agreement between the IRS and MCERA, are to be repaid by increasing the employer's share of contributions. Which means the County is on the hook for the illegally diverted $9.6 million, just as the County is on the hook for the additional $40 million or so in so-called excess earnings that were diverted from the Retirement Fund going back to 1974. According to the Daily Journal, current Treasurer and Retirement Board Chair Shari Schapmire says the IRS could have required the County retirement system to pay back the entire $40 million. Except the County is already required to pay back the entire amount of diverted funds. Both the illegally diverted $9.6 million and the $40 million diverted by the "normal" method of calculating excess earnings are already included in the current total of $131 million in excess earnings that the County is on the hook for.

TO SUM UP: Since 1974 non-existent excess earnings totaling over $40 million dollars were diverted from the County Retirement Fund to pay for County retiree health insurance; when the original method of calculating excess earnings no longer allowed for the diversion of funds, another $9.6 million was illegally diverted; John Dickerson began sounding the alarm in 2006; by 2011 the IRS was threatening to revoke the retirement funds tax-exempt status; in a clear admission that County Counsel and their own outside legal counsel are incapable of handling anything out of the ordinary, MCERA hired expensive outside legal counsel to schmooze the IRS; after milking the case for three years the IRS finally determined that MCERA could keep its tax exempt status and that the County could keep paying off the total $131 million dollar unfunded retirement fund liability, just like it is doing now.

THE USUALLY BOMBASTIC DICKERSON has been surprisingly reticent so far, not even issuing so much as an "I told you so." Meanwhile, as things stand now, the "illegal" $9.6 million diversion and the "questionable" $40 million diversion is a distinction without a difference. Either way, according to the agreement between the IRS and MCERA, the County is on the hook to pay off the total amount because both are already included in the $131 million unfunded liability that the County is stuck with. Now that the IRS has confirmed (and MCERA has admitted to) the illegal diversion, will Dickerson and other Retirement Board critics demand that former County Treasurer and retirement board honcho Tim Knudsen (who still sits on the Retirement Board) and former Auditor Dennis Huey, be prosecuted for the illegal diversion? Will the County object to being on the hook for the illegal diversion ordered by the MCERA Board? The guilty parties no doubt hope the IRS determination is the end of the story but the MCERA excess earnings chickens may still fly home to roost.

THE CITY OF UKIAH has been hassling the Ukiah Daily Journal about the three vintage redwood trees in front of the Journal's office at 590 S. School Street. Taking a not-so-wild guess here, the dispute, at bottom, is petty retaliation on the City's end for the Journal's criticism of haphazard City management. Two members of the present City Council, and City manager Jane Chambers, have been unhappy with the paper's criticism of their job performances — unhappy for a long time. Much of the criticism comes from the paper's editor, KC Meadows, who often points out the City's blunders, and does it in a way that is irrefutable.

SO, HERE COMES THE CITY with a sudden claim that the old redwoods out in front of the Journal's offices present a potential liability, a claim that ignores that same argument could be applied to a thousand trees throughout the town, any of which might fall at Life is an ongoing liability, you could say, but it's obvious the Journal is being singled out. Both sides have agreed that one of the three trees is beyond saving. It has to go. It's surprising that the three redwoods have done as well as they have in the inland heat, far from the sustaining fogs of the Mendocino Coast. Valued as timber, the trio of old trees are worth quite a bit. Valued as a family bequest made in a time when Ukiahans still cared about what their town looked like, it's an insult to the County's historical memory that a small group of tax-paid savages can get their tax-paid lawyer to pop up with a liability claim on the obscure chance that someone could be injured if a tree fell down.

GOOD TO SEE Tommy Wayne Kramer restored and again enlivening the Sunday pages of the Ukiah Daily Journal. Looked at objectively, for a county supposedly teeming with speakers-of-truth-to-power, and legions of comparably unfettered persons, Mendocino County is, ah, well, pretty stultifying, socially, intellectually, artistically considered. Yes, there's the cold, dead hand of political correctness, but its cadaverous influence is felt everywhere, not just here. No, the stultification comes from a more ominous place, a place that smells more like fear than anything else. Not to single out Back Page Black, but when you have liberals, even putative ones like Back Page, writing in to complain that a KZYX guy should die because he ignored "a directive," it confirms our long-held assumption — Scratch A Lib, Reveal A Goosestepper. Anyway, a guy like Tommy Wayne, who's also a very good writer, can be depended on to outrage all the right people, especially the Aren't We Wonderful apparatus that seems to control everything from Mendo Public Radio to the Superior Court, and all the city councils from Willits to Fort Bragg.

ANYHOW, just last Sunday, Kramer pointed out the City's profligate disposal of fully operable work vehicles. There they rest, a dozen of them that the City has neatly abandoned at the north end of the Ukiah airport where they'll soon succumb to the weather. Implied? Libs, and the Ukiah City Council is dominated by them, throw their own nickels around like manhole covers, but the public's money? Hell, just buy a dozen brand new trucks, and let's all go on a tax-paid retreat to Palm Springs to devise new paths to wonderfulness.

AS A MEASURE of the precariousness of free speech in “progressive” Mendocino County, why is it that controversial subjects are inevitably discussed only in Boonville's beloved community newspaper. The KZYX controversy ought to be fought out on KZYX's constipated airwaves, but that can't happen because, well, it can't happen because arguments can make people mad and we're really all about getting paid. Nor does it seem to occur to the authors of all these Moonie-like tributes to station manager Coate's alleged leadership that there wouldn't be such intense dissatisfaction with the station if Coate-Aigner were in fact capable managers. They aren't. The widespread happiness, from within the organization itself, is proof of Coate-Aigner's unfitness. Put ill-equipped, massively insecure people in charge of a media entity like public radio and, well, Welcome to Hassle Land, Endless Hassle Land. By the way, looking all the way back at public radio to its 1950's beginnings at, for instance, KPFA, the enterprise was the work of unpaid, then lowly paid idealists. Soon, the idealists were out, the hustlers in, and genuine community-based radio was reduced to the KMUD remnant we fortunately still have out of Garberville.

PAUL & BETH, A DIALOGUE. Paul Lambert writes on the Mendo List Serve: "No one put me up to posting the Board's letter. So many people were talking about it so I went to the website, read it, copied it and posted it — because I thought people would be interested. There is no conspiracy except in your own minds. Let's get on with the work of making KZYX better and that has little to do with the Board or even less with the management but with the listeners and the programmers. Let's stopping playing the old blame game, get down to real issues and get on with it. This isn't the 1990's or KPFA; you lost that battle then, so why re-fight it when all you can do is hurt the very institution you claim to support." —Paul Lambert

BETH BOSK responds by delivering two quick, irrelevant kicks to poor old Lambert's nuts: "This is really about how much you sucked as the News Department. And how awful it is that a semi-monthly hour of that rare animal, local public affairs speak, is still allotted to you (and yet another boring, middle age plump guy) when there are no young adults, no one of Latino heritage, no one from the Indian community, doing public affairs or news on KZYX/Z. Dan Roberts' work with successive groups of high school students shows how successful inclusion can be. I'd love to hear a program hosted by the former cons Sheriff Allman is seeking opportunities for, who have been shipped back here and left to thrive on their own. The chief criteria for a show at KZYX/Z now is loyalty. Not talent. Not charisma. Not inclusion. Not interesting. I'm not sure two people compose a conspiracy, but I'll take your word you exercised your own initiative in posting the Board letter—manifesto—whatever. The fact remains, the chair of the Board of KZYX/Z is elusive. And really, as a programmer you suck. And really, as programmers Richard Miller and Doug McKenty and Johanna Shultz (remember her) were arbitrarily removed from the airwaves, and have followings that still miss them. You are just not steeped enough. This isn't KPFA. And I know you don't get it." —Beth Bosk

FROM THE AVA'S cleared-eyed perspective, and we speak with the authority only the most senior banned persons can speak with, having been excluded by KZYX even before the station went on the air a quarter century ago, an exclusion we regard as the equivalent of an honorary degree but an exclusion nonetheless, and one that remains in effect as latter-day feebs battle a new generation of entrenched incompetents for control of Feebdom. In all that time not a single dissident has said a single word about our banishment, although every single one of them has come to us, the Don Corleone of area media, with their pleas that we do their fighting for them. We hasten to add here that the only way KZYX has ever been of real interest to us is as (1) local affairs, which the station has never done on a regular basis (2) comedy, unintentional type.

AS A MATTER of historical fact, at least from our estranged perspective, the station's board of directors has always been hand-picked by station management, that dissidents then and now have been exclusively concerned with their own access to the public airwaves, that the only truly first-rate news person ever at KZYX was Gordy Johnson, that Dan Roberts, Beth Bosk's reverence aside, belongs in the Chronophage Hall of Fame (Roberts is the guy who bleeped Howl during an anniversary tribute to the break through poem), that the only truly capable station manager ever at KXYX was Nicole Sawaya. We say disband and start over!

SPEAKING of Mendo's pseudo public radio station, Sheila Dawn Tracy's fine account of the mob action station takeover of '93 doesn't name the person who "stuck a quick foot" in the door when Gordy Black tried to close it to keep us out. That person was none other than the late Judi Bari. Gordy had already muscled Senior Citizen Rusty Norvell off the front door stoop when Bari jammed her foot in the cracked door and led the charge all the way inside. The demo's ostensible purpose was to protest the firing of Beth Bosk as talk show hostess, but Bari herself soon slid into Bosk's slot and Bosk remained banned and remains so today. Then-station manager Nicole Sawaya wisely chose not to kick off a full-scale riot that day by allowing a few members of the mob have an on-air say, preceded by an edifying dialogue between Gordy and Bari that went like this: Bari: "Fuckyoufuckyoufuckyou…" Gordy: "Fascistfascistfascistfascist…" Of all the wacky events I've witnessed over the years, that one, front to back, remains one of the funniest. Bari, incidentally, used her hijacked air time to hype her federal lawsuit and simply hung up on callers who wanted to discuss her bombing from perspectives she found unacceptable, which meant all perspectives that didn't pin it on the FBI. We'd been good friends and staunch allies, Bari and I, until '93 when I wrote that I thought she wasn't being truthful about the attack on her, if that's what it was.

FRISCO HIGH RISES. (An on-line reader writes re The Big One): "I was a field engineer in SF during the construction of 101 California St. and many lesser skyscrapers (always loved that word) constructed ca. 1976 to 1986. 101 Calif's foundation was about 1500 200 foot concrete piles sunk in bay mud and topped with 6 foot of concrete. No bedrock. Think toothpicks in jello. The building was designed to settle 2” into the mud when completed. It settled 1 7/8.” The ground level steel columns are 2 foot thick tapering in size as the reach the 48th floor. Column welds, independently inspected, every 2 floors. Every floor was designed to be an earthquake resistant steel and concrete diaphragm. Although I have some doubts about the piles in mud the rest of the structure was impressive to a young engineer. Then there's the marble fascia. Huge sheets of beautiful Italian marble 2 inches thick in 4' x 8' slabs. Heavy. Thousands of them. Each held on by a pair of little 1” thick steel clips that were epoxied and screwed on on site. Glue and little screws. I can really imagine these connectors failing in a quake and plummeting to the street in a hail of one ton stone missiles. Never mind the floor to ceiling glass windows. Have a nice day."

THE LONG-PROPOSED shopping center at the junction of Highway One and Highway 20, Fort Bragg, has been stymied, primarily, by lack of water. And fear that a giant, ocean view WalMart would be inflicted on Fort Bragg. But that was then, now is now. The shopping center at One and 20, sans WalMart, is on again.

THERE WERE ALSO objections to the scope of previous shopping center plans, which included some dread big box emporiums and, as mentioned, inadequate water.

BUT FORT BRAGG is in the process of developing two new additional sources of water not far north from the proposed shopping center; these new supplies aren't enough to sustain massive development but sufficient for a small shopping center.

CALLED The Hare Creek Commercial Center, the development would rest on six undeveloped acres on the west side of Highway One just south of the Emerald Dolphin miniature golf course. (All of South Fort Bragg seems to be inspired by Willits. It's become an unsightly sprawl of mismatched enterprise about to become uglier with this thing. Miniature golf, by the way, is always a sure sign of economic desperation, the commercial equivalent of a rural 1920's roadside attraction featuring two-headed chickens and Aunt Looey, the hermaphrodite.)

Hare Creek Site
Hare Creek Site

HARE CREEK would consist of three big buildings for a total of 29,500 square feet. Group II Real Estate is the developer. They (I think “they” is actually one guy these days) also own the Boatyard Shopping across the street. The architect is Debra Lennox of Mendocino. She promises all manner of cool-o environmental enhancements, lipstick on this particular pig fer shure, fer shure.

THE COUNTY has settled another lawsuit that never should have been, this one brought by retired attorney Dennis O'Brien because a County deputy interfered with petitioning at the forlorn Raley's Market set down in the macadam wasteland of North State Street, Ukiah. From now on, store owners or their managers, cannot just call the police to roust petitioners and others engaged in free speech near their places of business. Commercial enemies of basic American freedoms must first get a court order that such activity is interfering with their business. “You cannot deprive someone of an essential right without due process of the law,” said the victorious O’Brien, the retired attorney who filed the lawsuit. “Shopping centers and malls may be private commercial property, but the California Supreme Court has determined that they are the modern day equivalent of a town square. People have the right to engage in free speech and petitioning so long as they are not directly in front of a store entrance or otherwise interfering with the normal course of business. They can’t just be rousted by the police at the beck and call of corporations who do not like the politics of those engaged in protected activities.”

THE EVENT LEADING to the lawsuit happened in April of 2012. Mr. O’Brien was approaching the Raley’s supermarket at the Crossroads Shopping Center. A woman was standing about 15 feet to the side of one of the entrances, collecting signatures to get propositions on the state ballot. One of the propositions raised taxes on high incomes. Before Mr. O’Brien could finish signing the petitions, a uniformed deputy of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office appeared and said that the store manager wanted them to leave (the petitioner had informed the manager of her activities and shown him the petitions as a courtesy). After a discussion of free speech rights, the officer said that if Mr. O’Brien and the petitioner did not leave, he would arrest them. Both left.

O'BRIEN filed a formal complaint with the MCSO. Their internal review board naturally, instinctively, found the complaint to be “unfounded.” O’Brien appealed the decision, ultimately meeting with Sheriff Tom Allman in early 2013. Sheriff Allman offered his personal apology and agreed that 15 feet from an entrance was a reasonable distance for free speech. All he needed to change the department’s policy was approval from then-County Counsel Tom Parker, since fired. But when County Counsel failed to approve the change before the expiration of the statute of limitations, O’Brien was forced to file a lawsuit to protect his rights. The County, via its incompetent County Counsel's office, wrongly responded by filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that the area where the free speech occurred was not protected. After filing opposing briefs, the parties met with local attorney Barry Vogel, the Zelig of County affairs, to hammer out the settlement.

THE KEY PROVISION of the settlement is the County’s acknowledgment that free speech rights exist in shopping centers and malls. If someone is engaged in petitioning or other protected free speech activity, and is not done in a way that interferes with business, it's ok. O'Brien has done us all a big favor. Next time this happens, as it will, we have

"THERE IS NOBODY in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I wanna be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea, God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along." — Elizabeth Warren

WHAT’S SUPERVISOR HAMBURG’S PROBLEM with Julie Verran? Ms. Verran is the only applicant for two vacant seats on the Gualala Municipal Advisory Council. She's a former reporter for the Independent Coast Observer and, on occasion, an outspoken environmentalist. At the February 11th meeting of the supervisors, Supervisor Hamburg took the unusual step of pulling Ms. Verran’s appointment from the consent calendar, declaring that he didn’t support her appointment. Since it’s hard to get people to apply to these positions in the first place, we’ve never seen an individual supervisor actively oppose an appointment, especially, as in this case, to an advisory group. (With one exception: When Supervisor Pinches nominated Bruce Anderson to a perennial vacancy on the Mental Health Advisory Board, a nomination unanimously backed by the crazy people, er mental health clients, on the advisory board, the Supervisors voted 4-1 to deny Anderson the position. Pinches then nominated Mrs. Anderson who emphatically rejected the nomination, not out of loyalty to or solidarity with hubbykins but because, as she put it, "I deal with nuts every day right here in Boonville. You seriously expect me to drive to Ukiah once a month to deal with more of them?")

ON THE VERRAN APPOINTMENT, Supervisor Gjerde suggested they just leave the position open for a while and see if anyone else applies. Hamburg was against that too, saying it “kind of leaves her hanging, in a way.” He then moved to deny the appointment. Supervisor McCowen pointed out the obvious that the Board usually defers to the applicable District Supervisor on such appointments which, in this case is Hamburg. Supervisor Pinches pointed out that there shouldn’t be litmus tests on appointments because it’s always better to have multiple points of view on public committees and councils. Hamburg replied with the passive-aggressive duplicity he's known for. “It’s not about political stances. It’s a different issue, and I don’t care to get into it. I don’t think it would be helpful. When we have these voluntary boards, we need them to be functional.”

HAMBURG'S colleagues duly agreed with Hamburg's “motion to deny the appointment,” including Gjerde, whose sensible approach to simply leave the appointment open for a while wasn’t considered. Earlier in the discussion, Supervisor Hamburg had said he'd attended a GMAC meeting. “They are functioning quite well with five members,” with two of the positions vacant. The implication is that the five seated members are hostile to Ms. Verran and lobbied Hamburg to make sure she’s not appointed.


BUT THAT’S HARD TO BELIEVE. A review of the minutes of the last few GMAC meetings show that Ms. Verran has contributed to a series of humdrum South Coast matters without annoying anyone. In one case the GMAC asked her to prepare some talking points for them. In another, “Julie Verran, Gualala resident, asked if parking was legal on Highway One in the very large, striped area across from St. Orres and behind the fog line. … "Julie Verran stated NGWC’s monthly bills have water conservation tips. The company’s voluntary measures have been extremely successful and their customers are way below the average water usage statewide. When the NCRWRB finds measures aren’t working, they impose more stringent rules... "Julie Verran, Gualala resident, has been a weather spotter for the Eureka National Weather Service station for ten years. They invited her to tour the station, which she did. They have offered to send a representative to the Gualala area to speak on sea-level rise and/or tsunamis...." On and on.

LAST WEEK, COUNTY NARCS hit 4 indoor grows at Brooktrails, the Willits subdivision. "At a residence on Primrose Drive investigators located processed marijuana, items used to manufacture controlled substances (butane method, honey oil), $5,483 in US Currency, a firearm and other evidence related to the sales of marijuana. Arrested at this location was Jeremy Hershman, 32, of Willits, who was booked into the Mendocino County jail where he was later released after posting $50,000 bail. At a residence on Lupine Drive investigators located 134 marijuana plants that were being grown indoors, $1,300 in US Currency and processed marijuana. No one was at the location during the service of the search warrant and the suspects have been identified. At a residence on Tucker Lane, investigators located 26 marijuana plants that were being grown indoors, processed marijuana, concentrated cannabis and a firearm. One suspect was contacted at the residence during the service of the search warrant and two additional suspects have been identified. At a residence on Blue Jay Place, officers located 187 marijuana plants that were being grown indoors, processed marijuana and other evidence related to the sales of marijuana. One suspect was contacted at the residence during the investigation and two additional suspects have been identified.

Entering Brooktrails
Entering Brooktrails

THE FLURRY of dope arrests at Brooktrails is no surprise. Residents joke that every other rental in the subdivision is an indoor grow house, and there are a lot of rentals in Brooktrails. No surprise either is the increase in rural mail thefts. Tweekers, ever more numerous, have for years made home delivery of mail an iffy proposition for Post Office customers. The tweeks see rural mailboxes as the easy prey they are. Unless you're standing by your box when the mailman arrives you've got a good chance of losing your day's delivery, especially in the rural areas of the Ukiah and Willits valleys, and the Fort Bragg area.


TIFFANY REVELLE of the Ukiah Daily Journal reports: "The preliminary hearing for a Ukiah surgeon accused of drug charges including prescription fraud will continue as planned after the case was not resolved Thursday in Mendocino County Superior Court. Dr. Brian M. Cable faces four counts of prescribing a controlled substance to a non-patient, two counts of prescribing a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose and one count of possessing a controlled substance with the intent to distribute, furnish or sell it." Cable is represented by ace criminal defense attorney, Keith Faulder.

"CO-DEFENDANTS Tonya L. Still and Kathryn L. Brown each also face a charge of possessing a controlled substance with the intent to distribute, furnish or sell it, according to the District Attorney's Office. Brown additionally faces a charge of health insurance fraud. Still is represented by Eric Rennert of the Mendocino County Public Defender's Office; Brown is represented by Ukiah attorney Sergio Fuentes.

CABLE was arrested in July on suspicion of fraudulently obtaining controlled prescription narcotics, possessing fraudulently obtained prescription narcotics, possessing prescription narcotics, using another person's identity illegally and conspiracy after Ukiah Police Department detectives, along with county, state and federal investigators, searched his home and office.

PHIL BALDWIN, mayor of Ukiah, wants to stop the spread of “tawdry, cheesy and garish” digital signs in his fair city, as the mayor put it to Justine Frederickson of the Ukiah Daily Journal. Red Phil's always been good on quality of life issues. We thought he was right about getting jet skis off Lake Mendocino, and we think he's right to at least try to prevent the proliferation of electronic message boards in a town already replete with squalid visuals. “I consider them a threat to the safety of our roads, and I consider them a threat to the quality of life in this community,” Baldwin said. “We're seeing the beginning of an invasion. We need to act and we should act within six weeks.”

THE HOLY TRINITY EPISCOPAL CHURCH on South Orchard Avenue, Ms. Frederickson reports, “installed a scrolling electronic sign that displays words of wisdom and advises of upcoming events. A similar sign was also erected by Star’s Restaurant on South Orchard Avenue near the corner of East Perkins Street.”

CALL US OLD SCHOOL, but electronic renditions of the Good Book? And the Episcopalians had wanted an even larger sign! Maybe Star’s and the Episcopalians could combine their electronic message boards. “Jesus Says, 'Eat At Stars.'"

NO FEDERAL irrigation water for the Central Valley this year. The drought is forcing producers of fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains to make tough decisions about which crops to plant, and which ones not to plant due to a lack of water, leaving harvests that are likely to fall short of demand. A recent estimate by the California Farm Water Coalition, suggested that as much as 600,000 acres of land, or about 8 percent of the state's total, could be left fallow in the coming year. US Bureau of Reclamation officials announced last week that meager snow and rain in the Sierra Nevada means they won't be able to provide farmers any of the water they normally receive from the federally run system of reservoirs and canals fed by mountain runoff. The system supplies water for about a third of the state's agricultural land.


THE WORLD'S MOST-WANTED DRUG LORD, ‘Joaquin ‘El Chapo” Guzman has been captured in Mazatlan, but methamphetamine distributors on the Northcoast never seem to get arrested and the drug is readily available in every community. International Narcdom can bring this guy down but can't manage to bust the people supplying NorCal? Guzman faces multiple federal drug trafficking indictments in the US and was on the DEA's most-wanted list. His drug empire allegedly stretches throughout North America and reaches as far away as Europe and Australia. His cartel has been heavily involved in the bloody drug war that has torn through parts of Mexico for the last several years.

CHENEY TO OBAMA: Since September 11th, the defense budget has more than doubled, including a Special Operations Command able to launch secret, lethal raids anywhere in the world that has grown from 30,000 elite troops to more than 67,000. The drone force has expanded from fewer than 200 unmanned aerial vehicles to more than 11,000, including perhaps 400 'armed-capable' drones that can and do target and kill from the sky — and that, following the computer directives of 'pilots' manning terminals in Virginia and Nevada and elsewhere in the United States, have killed in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia an estimated 3,600 people. The “black sites” — the network of secret prisons the CIA set up around the world, from Thailand and Afghanistan to Romania and Poland and Morocco — were ordered shut down by President Obama, but despite his executive order on his second day in office, Guantanamo Bay, the 'public black site,' remains open, its 155 detainees, but for a handful, uncharged and untried… (— Mark Danner, ‘In the Darkness of Dick Cheney’)

THE VENERABLE WATER TROUGH BAR, operated for years by Ted Schamber, will soon close. Old Ted is even more venerable than his business which, we believe, is Mendocino County's most venerable under the ownership of one person who also tends bar. Old Ted has gotten so old he simply isn't up to it anymore. The Water Trough has a long-time clientele nearly as ancient as Ted if you average out their ages. They're definitely going to miss what amounted to a wet Senior center for all of Ukiah.


LAMENTS for The City that never was are common on Bay Area comment lines. “It is so sad what has happened over the years. All the great landmarks are long gone. The cultures of the neighborhoods are gone. I remember when everyone knew everyone that lived on their block. You could keep your house and car unlocked. There was no such thing as homelessness. All the houses were nicely painted with lawns and flowerbeds in front of them (Sunset District). And now it's some upscale, overcrowded, overpriced, toilet smelling, filthy mess with no semblance to the great city everyone is moving here for. They are buying a dream that died over 40 years ago. Bye, Bye Miss American Pie!"

SF IS OVER-PRICED, but so's the rest of the country as the money flows upward and the millions of people who try hard are squeezed harder all the time, their children waking up to the new reality that either freezes them in economic place or plunges forever into debt. There are downtown areas that reek of the urban campground, but all of downtown is much more alive than it was in the 1950s and 1960s when the doomed were confined to the SRO's south of Market and the drop-fall drunks to Third Street then Sixth. Then everywhere downtown. If there were real progressives running the place, or even good old fashioned liberals, there isn't a single large-scale problem facing Frisco that couldn't be at least softened by compelling the rich to tote their fair share of the social load.

JACK SILVER'S latest shakedown targets now include grape growers. Who's Jack Silver? In 1996 he set up a non-profit called RiverWatch based in Occidental, West Sonoma County. His board of directors consisted of himself and family members.

HERE'S HOW HE WORKS. Silver combs State Water Quality files for deep-pocket public agencies and private businesses who are in technical non-compliance with water safety regs. He then writes to the out-of-compliance entity saying, in effect, I won't sue you if you pay me not to sue you. Most governments — the cities of Ukiah, Ferndale, Willits, Fortuna, and many other small towns and small businesses settle with Silver because defending against him costs them more than their strained budgets can afford. He can be bought off for amounts ranging from $75,000 to around a hundred grand for writing one letter citing the violation he discovered in the state files. His profit margin is much greater than the guy growing grapes. Silver claims he reinvests a portion of his "winning" legal fees in "environmental remediation." At Fortuna, for example, he arranged to have a few trees planted along the Eel, a typical Silver eco-investment.

THIS GUY has found a lucrative niche for himself, loopholes in the law he can exploit under the guise of doing good environmental work.

THE NORTHCOAST'S invisible representatives — Thompson, Chesbro, Evans — were long ago alerted to Silver and his phony non-profit but, of course, have done about as much in the way of loophole remediation as Silver has done for clean water, i.e., nothing.

BUT SILVER may have over-reached his greedy self by taking on the grape business, many of whose lead figures are easily Silver's match in ruthless intractability. Silver, reinforced by a couple of unwitting accomplice-orgs, has now sent out his threatening letter to the grape people warning them that if they overdraw public streams to "frost protect," he's coming after them. He must have run out of municipalities to threaten. (Incidentally, the Mendocino County municipalities that Silver threatened were in the process of fixing whatever it was caused them to be written up by Water Quality.)

A MASTER of passive-aggressive prose, Silver's four-page shakedown letter to grape growers says he understands that vineyards are "working diligently" to protect fish but if they dare place "profit above compliance with the law," well, here comes Jack with the subpoenas. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this character would drink the entire Russian River watershed if it fattened his bottom line.

ON APRIL 29TH, 2011, there was a fish stranding on the upper Russian River when a bunch of grape growers turned on their river-sucking pumps all at once to spray their vines that frosty morning. Fish died in large numbers, not they exist lately in large numbers. State government responded a few months later with a proposal that grape growers prepare frost protection plans. The grape growers did a group whine-in in Judge Anne Moorman's court and won the right to all turn on their pumps at once to protect grapes from frost, fish or no fish. The water they're spraying, in theory, belongs to all of us. The grape growers, however, claim it all as their very own.

BUT NOW, three year after the big fish kill, here comes Silver with threats to sue grape growers if they do it again, although the Federal National Marine Fisheries Service identified this hazard to fish three years ago, not Silver. Silver simply identified the wrongdoers by browsing the NMFS files to discover the grape growers who could be confirmed as fish killers. Federal bureaucrats did the identifying for him.

LEAVE IT TO THE PRESS DEMOCRAT to sugar coat Silver's ongoing environmental racketeering with this headline over Friday's story about Silver's threats. “Environmentalists' warning irks grape growers.” “…Three Sonoma County organizations, including one with a long history of filing lawsuits, sent letters to hundreds of growers and vineyard managers in Sonoma and Mendocino counties outlining concerns about water draw-downs harming federally protected salmon and steelhead.”

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