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Back To The Future

Once again, as in 2010, I've been approached about running against one-term incumbent Dan Hamburg for Fifth District Supervisor.

Certainly somebody should run. And I would myself, under one basic condition: At least six supporters must, on their own, form a campaign committee, draft their own statement of candidacy/platform, pony up $99 each to cover the basic filing costs, and promise to handle the finances, paperwork and the campaign appearances that I don’t have the time to do myself.

Members of the campaign committee would then have to attend those campaign events as my representative to present our platform as prepared jointly by us.

I would run on a basic good/open government platform in the spirit of my uncle, former Fifth District Supervisor Joe Scaramella, who, when first elected in the early 1950s, drafted the first set of Board rules, opened up the County’s budget process to public review, drafted the County’s Civil Service rules and steered the County's Civil Service Commission into existence, and opposed all salary and benefits increases for Supervisors on the grounds that public service is a give back to the community, not the form of self-enrichment it became with Supervisors Colfax and Smith. Joe Scaramella went on to become the first Mendocino County Supervisor to tell a lumber company — Union Lumber Co. in Fort Bragg (later Georgia-Pacific) — that they could not do something they wanted to do: a minor but precedent setting decision that Union Lumber would not be allowed to close a county road for a day for their logging operations.

Joe Scaramella was also the first and lead supervisor to approve of the imposition of substantially increased property taxes for ranch and timberland owners in Mendocino County as proposed by then-Assessor Webb Brown who demonstrated that the Mendo’s big landowners were being substantially under-assessed and under-taxed, making ordinary landowners pay too much for the new services that counties began to be required to provide in the early 60s.

All department heads would be required to give monthly reports to the CEO and the Board via a standardized reporting format covering: cost drivers, budget status, personnel status, ongoing projects and issues, upcoming problems and priorities.

All CEO meetings with department heads (as a group) would be handled as Brown Act meetings with agendas and supporting documents posted on-line. (Subject to the same exclusions as listed in the Brown Act: personnel, legal activity and labor issues would be exempted.)

The existing “buy local” preference for Mendocino County-based businesses would be raised from 5% to 10% and all contracts awarded to outfits based outside of Mendocino County would require prior Board approval.

At least one formal “meet the Supervisor” meeting would be held in each major area of the District each month, with staff on-hand where necessary rotating among: Point Arena/Gualala, Mendocino, Boonville/Philo, Hopland/Ukiah/Willits. These meetings would also be handled per Board rules and the Brown Act with published agendas taken from suggestions submitted by constituents.

Half of the current (and excessive) Supervisorial pay would be devoted to cover any new Brown Act compliance expenses, travel and out-of-pocket expenses.

All formally submitted (i.e., in writing, signed by a constituent) questions about County business will be forwarded to the applicable department(s) for formal response which, if inadequate, will be put on the next Board agenda for discussion and follow-up.

A formal Board tickler file will be established by the Clerk of the Board showing the status of all pending Board business and action item status with estimated completion dates.

Other issues we’d like to see raised:

A shift in First Five funding to vouchers for low-income childcare.

A living wage ordinance which gives preference to local companies which pay a living wage for county contracts.

Restoration of the 10% wage cut to the County’s lowest paid line workers.

Development of a county work farm and a way to deal with “frequent flyers” — that small number of people who are arrested time and again for minor crimes rooted in drug and alcohol abuse.

No position will be taken on any unresolved matter currently before the Board or anticipated to be before the Board prior to the election.

In twelve years as Supervisor former Fifth District Supervisor David Colfax held a total of two (2) meetings with constituents in Anderson Valley. In each of those meetings Supervisor Colfax told constituents time and again that nothing could be done about any of their County-level concerns. In some cases, this was true. But in many cases it was simply that Colfax didn’t want to be bothered with even bringing up issues with his colleagues.

Colfax's successor, Supervisor Dan Hamburg, has held no meetings with his constituents in Anderson Valley, thus solving the problem of dealing with issues he doesn’t want to be bothered with by simply avoiding them.

Fifth District representation has deteriorated to the point that the Community Services District board has unanimously voted to explore incorporation of Anderson Valley. This happened because the Supervisor (Colfax and Hamburg over a combined period of 15 years) failed to even try to deal with a variety of local problems and issues initiated by Anderson Valley voters and concerned citizens such as:

General Plan comments and suggestions.

Low cost housing designations

Traffic calming measures

Permit processing complaints

Fairgrounds financial difficulties

The Senior Center/Veterans Hall facility

Minor Use Permits for Tasting Rooms

County road improvements/repairs

According to our detailed review of the last three years of Board meetings, Supervisor Hamburg has personally involved himself in exactly two issues since being elected Supervisor: the PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) Program which would (theoretically) allow people to finance energy and conservation property owners via increased tax assessments — a program so controversial that the federal housing finance organizations won’t loan money to properties with PACE loans attached; and two Supervisors (Brown and Pinches) voted against it as unnecessary, risky, hard to administer, and expensive to the property owner who would pay higher interest than a commercial energy/conservation remodel under the program.

Hamburg also has joined and supported the local broadband alliance which might someday get some state PUC funding for areas of the County still stuck with dial-up internet access. So far, however, nothing tangible has resulted from that effort and Hamburg’s specific role in whatever Sacramento-insider progress has been made hasn’t made any difference on the Mendoground.

Hamburg seems uninterested in other County operations and affairs — much less interested than his colleagues — usually commenting on local matters by attempting to put them in some kind of beyond-our-control national or international context.

Just this Sunday, for example, Hamburg posted the following quote from some on-line article on the Coast listserve: “Venezuela's riches under and above the ground, are so numerous, and its land so fertile, its rainforests endless. Foreign companies and governments from the North simply cannot stop shaking from the lowest type of desire; unable to contain their unbridled greed.” The Supervisor also spends much listserve time discussing 9-11 conspiracy theories in a county and at a time when working families are having a hard time paying their rent and feeding their families.

Most of Hamburg’s constituents are aware that greed and exploitation are bad, but a local focus is what most of us want from our supervisor.

Mendocino County, as Hamburg seems willfully unaware, already suffers from a kind of internal imperialism from outside-based commercial interests — The Gap, Duckhorn, Roederer, Kendall-Jackson, Viña Concha y Toro SA (the Chilean company that now owns Fetzer), Media News Group, Sonoma County Water Agency, the Washington State Employees Pension Fund, William Hill and so on. These entities own and control the lion’s share of Mendocino County's property and economy. Has Hamburg ever even mentioned these outside interests as a problem for Mendocino County?


The Fifth District hasn’t had locally-focused representation since Ted Galletti and before that my uncle Joe Scaramella. Mendo liberals like Norm de Vall (who at least dealt with a few local problems, but seldom county government), Charles Peterson, Colfax and Hamburg are all Big Think guys, uninterested in the functioning of County government.

It’s time for the Fifth District to get back to the little picture where at least a few ordinary local problems can be dealt with and county operations can be improved.

PS. Hamburg posted this notice on the Coast Listserve on Sunday, apparently at the behest of his Coast friends like Steve Antler and Lee Edmundson of Mendocino who want to retain the ability to appeal Town planning decisions made by the County to the Coastal Commission.

“If you are as concerned as I am about maximum protection for the Town of Mendocino, please consider attending the Board of Supervisors meeting @ 1:30 on Tuesday. On October 22 of last year, at a well-attended meeting at St. Anthony’s Hall, the Board voted against restoring the Sensitive Coastal Resource Area (SCRA) designation for the Town, a designation that had been in place from 1985 to 2005 and which the Board actually directed it to be restored in 2007! Despite the fact that the Board never rescinded that action, the Planning Department and more importantly, the Board majority have taken it upon themselves to simply pretend that directive was never issued. The relative costs in terms of time and money involved in the SCRA (standard v. administrative permit requirement) are minimal and the designation has been used historically in a very judicious manner; i.e., a total of 10 appeals over the twenty year period, the majority of which were successfully resolved. It is also the case that coastal development permits in the Town of Mendocino tend to be few and far between (two over the past five years according to former coastal planner Abbey Stockwell). Without the SCRA designation, the coastal development permit designation can occur without opportunity for public review. This might be justifiable in some parts of the coast and for some projects, but not for the Town of Mendocino. Please let your thoughts be known, particularly to Sup. McCowen who holds the “swing vote” on this matter. He can be reached at Materials regarding Tuesday’s meeting are, as always, available on the Board of Supervisors’ site at”

Hamburg certainly has not gone to this level of very particular interest for other issues that have arisen in his district. In addition, whether such a provision provides “maximum protection” for anything is quite unclear.

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