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Off The Record (Mar 5, 2014)

THE STATE Public Utilities Commission has rejected a $138 million initiative to bring high-speed internet to roughly 150,000 rural California households, including 3,520 homes in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Mendo's Broadband Alliance has worked long and hard to bring broadband here, as has Supervisor Hamburg. The state said there just weren't enough potential customers for the privately owned delivery systems to hook us up.

AN ONLINE COMMENTER puts it this way: “The US ranks 31st in the world for average broadband speed, behind Romania. We also pay the highest prices for our slow service, thanks to a lack of competition among monopolists like Comcast and Verizon. Isn't US capitalism the best! USA! USA! USA!”AL GORE, about the time he said he invented the internet, went around the country saying the government should own his invention, but when Gore sat down with the titans of technology they said, “No, Al, we should own it.” Al, of course, gave up and gave it over. The internet is now as essential to the American life as our federal highways. Of course the 'net should be publicly owned. But here we are with no outback high-speed internet access, and more unlikely than ever to get it, and an increasing monopolization of the 'net. What's good for Comcast is good for America?

DA EYSTER basically sells dope misdemeanors. The argument for his policy of trading felonies for cash is that it keeps the courts from clogging up with pot cases while at the same time helping to fund law enforcement which, of course, is already funded. A person gets arrested with a bunch of pot; if he or she wants to fight in court the DA promises to max them out with state prison time if they're convicted. And unless they pay for a private defense attorney, they’re going to get convicted. But if they play let's make a deal with Eyster and pay a fine proportionate to the value of the product they got caught with, they get the fine and a misdemeanor. If they offend again, it's off with their heads.

IN THE Point Arena case of The People vs. Stornetta, a case whose nambo-pambo disposition still has non-drug people shaking their heads, and outrages fishermen even more because Stornetta also had been poaching the precarious fishery of the Garcia River, you have a good example of how Eyster's policy can break down. The settlement of that one also seemed at least partially motivated by the prominence of the Stornetta family. (Don't get us started on the in-house palsy-walsy-ism endemic in Mendocino County.) Lots of non-drug people, and even some drug people, are complaining that Eyster's policy is letting some very bad dudes slide, dudes who go straight back out and resume not only pot production and sales but sales of hard drugs, too. The lack of a public paper trail in the cases settled for cash and misdemeanors, and Mendo's dope policies generally, are apparently causing federally raised eyebrows.

AND EYSTER'S gone absolutely odd on the Marcos Escareno matter. Remember Escareno? A registered member of the Manchester-Point Arena Band of Pomo Indians, Escareno was 14 and falling down drunk when he shot and killed Enoc Cruz, 21. There has always been speculation that Cruz, a drug dealer romantically involved with one of Escareno's sisters, was actually shot by another drug guy. But when it all shook out, Escareno was convicted and packed off to the California Youth Authority. The late judge Ron Brown stipulated that if the kid did everything he was asked to do at YA, he could go home when he was 21. Escareno got with the program. He's now 21 at home with one of his sisters in Point Arena. But here comes Eyster with a motion to send Escareno to adult prison for another year and a half. (CYA, lately euphemized as the California Division of Juvenile Justice is an adult-like commitment because almost of its graduates matriculate directly to state prisons.) Why is Eyster pursuing this guy? It's not like there's any public pressure to put him back behind bars, and since he's been home he's been a model citizen. The kid is not exactly undefended. He's got three attorneys on his side — Kitty Houston, Omar Figueroa and Tony Serra — plus former supervisor Norman deVall who went to bat for the boy at the time of the shooting.

ADD JAMES CAHILL to the roster of eminent Mendocino County natives. Born on August 13th, 1926 in Fort Bragg, Cahill went on to master several Asian languages, becoming a famous art scholar specializing in Chinese painting. Professor Cahill's passing at his Berkeley home on February 14th received lengthy memorial notice in the New York Times.

JOE SCARAMELLA was 5th District supervisor from 1952 until 1970. We interviewed Joe in 1996:

AVA: The Caspar dump was Fort Bragg's idea originally wasn't it?Joe Scaramella: No. Hell no! You're looking at the so-and-so who put that there.AVA: Is that right? Because there weren't very many options?Joe: Well, what was happening, what we had to deal with, was that you could no longer simply… Like everybody did including the city of Fort Bragg — they were dumping everything up there at Glass Beach. The whole damn thing. The sewer was running wide open at the ocean at that time, see. And Fort Bragg was not doing a damn thing about it. And I had the problem down on this end [The Fifth District from Mendocino south to the Sonoma County border]. Mendocino was dumping right over the bluff. Right over it! All the stuff was going down there.AVA: Sewage too?Joe Scaramella: In one case they were using the storm sewer as sewage drains; they were dumping down there, yeah. People are a problem. You get a million people in a square area and hell… I would tell people, “I can go behind a stump and relieve myself, but I can't do it on Fifth Avenue in New York. Why? Because the people are there. That's why you can't do it. So the idea was that these people were coming down here and we had to do something about it. Point Arena… I got the County to fix that up. We put up a garbage dump there so you couldn't back up into the ocean. But the lady that owned it, the Stornetta Family, said that we had to cut it out. So we had to find another place. And I was stuck with the responsibility — well, I willingly assumed it — to find some places where people could get rid of their trash. From down here on the South Coast and on up to Fort Bragg. Mendocino was a case in point. Hell, I tried. I looked over heaven and earth. I went all over. Naturally nobody wanted it. Who wants a garbage dump nearby?AVA: So the options are always so limited?Joe Scaramella: Yeah. So I got the Health Department, they were the ones involved obviously, I got the person there, I can't remember her name, with me and we went out there where the Caspar dump is now. We bought these acres. I bought them. I went down to the Caspar Lumber Company in San Francisco — made two trips down there — they were going to hold me up on the price. I said, “Ok, fellas, we'll pay it, but the assessor will be involved and it will end up costing you more in the long run.” So I got it and I got the 20 acres out there at a good price. It was thought to be a huge area where nobody would ever want to live. Naturally Fort Bragg got into it. They had their trash problem. I said, “Well, this ought to be a joint enterprise.” So they created a joint venture and therefore Fort Bragg got into it. But I started the gol-darn thing. Fort Bragg hadn't done a thing. So that “cultural center” in Fort Bragg was just dumping everything into the ocean.AVA: And as far as you’re concerned they still would be today?Joe Scaramella: You know something? They still have that attitude up there. It's just the same now.

FORT BRAGG'S TRASH, back in the day, was tossed into a long wooden chute that shot the trash into the sea off what is now Glass Beach. Glass Beach, in fact, became Glass Beach when the sea returned the battered bits of trash to the beach just north of the mill. That method of disposal became undesirable fifty years ago and the east end of Road 409 at Caspar became the area dump. But a neighborhood built up around the Caspar Dump, and the Coast's population of dedicated consumers grew ever larger until now, when Caspar is out-moded and the neighbors are threatening to sue to get the dump, which is now a transfer station and not merely a place where locals can heave whatever over the side. Jerry Ward of Solid Waste of Willits owns the Caspar transfer concession as he owns most, if not all the outback trash transfer stations, including Boonville and Gualala. Ward maintains a larger transfer station in Willits. He rightly enjoys a reputation for keeping rates down while getting much of Mendocino County's trash Outtahere.

AS A FIVE MILLION DOLLAR transfer station heads inexorably out to bid for a 17-acre site three miles up Highway 20 from Fort Bragg (the site of the once proposed, now abandoned plan for a golf course, and not far from Fort Bragg's new water well), one has to wonder if there's a reasonably cost-efficient way to muddle through short of $5 mi. Ratepayers will certainly see garbage rates increase, meaning even more roadside litter than we suffer now, and we suffer lots. But the much larger consideration is this: Is a huge expenditure for a simple process justified in a struggling economy that runs on very expensive fuel? Why can't Coast trash continue to be hauled out of the existing Pudding Creek transfer station by the present-size trucks using present-size containers, hauled over 20 to Willits and transferred at Willits for trucks already headed for outtahere?

THE FIVE MIL facility is being sold by Mike Sweeney, Mendocino County's trash czar who is overseen by, well, let's say the oversight might as well not exist. Sweeney claims the new transfer station will be a giant eco-step forward, with bigger trucks hauling bigger bins directly to Outtahere, the now desolate wastelands of a place called the Potrero Hills Landfill in Suisun. Sweeney claims bigger trucks making fewer trips over the serpentine path of Highway 20 is an all-round eco-and-cost saver. We don't agree with his math. And we don't see any reason, given the present volume of Coast trash, that Caspar's present load couldn't be assumed by the existing plant at Pudding Creek using the present-size trucks with their present-size containers.

HOW ABOUT spending trash funds on a co-generation plant that burns trash, Mendoland? Why not try something genuinely forward-looking for a change, Mendo? Co-generation creates power and is pretty much independent of whatever disasters occur in the larger economy. It would pay for itself. A brand new transfer station, bigger trucks, bigger loads of trash for Outtahere is more of the same and, count on it, will screw ratepayers for the next fifty years.

OUTTAHERE, BY THE WAY, is a huge landfill right up against the Suisun Marsh. Is it fair to the people down there who have been trying for years to place limits on the endless expansion of the Potrero Hills Landfill to burden them with our trash?

LOTS OF PEOPLE who don't need to be locked away in prison remain locked away. We could name a dozen Mendo felons who, if released tomorrow, would be highly unlikely to re-offend, and only one of them committed a murder, and the murder he committed he committed at age 18. Of the 860 California murderers paroled between 1990 and 2010 tracked by a Stanford study, only five committed new crimes and none were convicted of murder. The average released lifer is in his mid-50s. Older ex-cons are less prone to commit new crimes than younger ones.

THE LOCAL ANGLE. Well, not exactly. The body was dumped on our side of the Mendo-Sonoma county line. One of those many killers kept behind bars although he has completely rehabbed himself, is a guy named James Mackey, a former University of Pacific football player found guilty of shooting his victim with a crossbow and then strangling him. Mackey and another guy then dumped their victim, a drug guy, off Highway 128 near the Sonoma-Mendo county line. Governor Brown, magically considered a liberal despite his long history of illiberal actions, said Mackey hasn't sufficiently owned up to the crime. “Until he can give a better explanation for his actions,” Brown wrote, “I do not think he is ready to be released.”

THIS IS WHERE the political cynicism really kicks in. Brown himself doesn't read the files on these guys. One of his aides does. Worse, Mackey, and he's only one of many denied parole for no objective reason, had been recommended for parole by the Parole Board. The Parole Board is hardly a bunch of liberal hand wringers. Almost all of them are Tough On Crime people, many of them members of families who've been horrifically victimized. If they say a guy is ready to be paroled, you can be sure he's ready. The Parole Board has not only read the reports of prison staff, who are the people who know prisoners best, they've interviewed, face-to-face, the prospective parolee. By the time the file gets to Governor Jive-O, the prisoner has been more thoroughly vetted than, say, a presidential cabinet member, not to mention Governor Brown's political donors. There's no point in even having a Parole Board if these political panderers ignore their recommendations.

ON FEBRUARY 23, 2014, at 12:31am. Our Nation's Future, Point Arena Branch: “Mendocino County Sheriff Deputies were called to a residence on Riverside Drive in Point Arena, regarding a loud party. When the Deputies attempted to contact the occupants of the residence they received a response of obscenities from behind the closed door. While at the scene Deputies were contacted by a male adult who explained that he had received text messages from two female juvenile relatives whom he was responsible for, requesting that he respond to the house as they were being prevented from leaving by the male occupants. These text messages were shown to the Deputies. Deputies told the subjects in the residence that they needed to send the female juveniles out or they may be subject to arrest for “False Imprisonment.” This demand by the Deputies was met with threats of violent armed resistance by the occupants and further obscenities. The Deputies could also see subjects, whom they recognized as some of the listed suspects, placing furniture against the doors in an effort to barricade them inside and prevent entry by law enforcement. As additional law enforcement resources arrived, William Canida, 18, of Point Arena, Mitchell Kespohl, 18, of Point Arena, and Jaime Portillo, 20, of Sea Ranch, exited the residence and were found to be intoxicated and were arrested. Canida attempted to resist being taken into custody, but his resistance was overcome without injury. Kespohl and Portillo were arrested without incident. The female juveniles were released from the residence unharmed and left the scene with their guardian. Canida, Portillo, and Kespohl were lodged at the Mendocino County Jail for the listed charges with bail set at $20,000 each.” (Sheriff’s press release)

THE OLD ALBERTINUM PROPERTY on Ukiah's Westside is about to be sold to the ever-larger Buddhist presence in the Mendocino County seat. The Buddhists already own the former state hospital site at Talmage, which they bought for a literal song some 30 years ago when the County of Mendocino declined to pick it up as surplus state property on the grounds that it might cost money to maintain.

THE BUDDHISTS have since put the property to productive use, converting it to schools, an excellent vegetarian restaurant and, of course, large set asides for the mystic mumbo jumbo that drives the Buddhist's worldviews.

THE ALBERTINUM property in downtown Ukiah began life in 1895 as an orphanage and boarding school run by the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose. In the middle 1960s, as America's social glue began to melt and more and more children were essentially orphaned by crazed, drug-addled or merely incompetent parents, the Greek Orthodox Church took over the five-acre property to operate an institution for disturbed children called Trinity School. (Prior to the 1960s, psychotic children were relatively uncommon and were placed in state hospitals when they ran off the rails.)

KEVIN STARR, the renowned California historian, is the Albertinum's most prominent graduate.

TRINITY SCHOOL was run by a lugubrious Orthodox priest called Steve Katsaris who lost his daughter to the murderous cross-town charlatan, Jim Jones, then fleecing his flock in Redwood Valley and, for a time, serving as foreman of the Mendocino County Grand Jury. Miss Katsaris became Jones' chief aide. She falsely denounced her father as a child molester, the ugliest accusation a child can make against a parent, but one that Jones, a mega-perv himself, often deployed against his enemies. That accusation, of course, is now common in child custody disputes as our disintegrating society further disintegrates.

THE GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH closed Trinity School for good in 2009 and the property, valued at around $4 million, has been vacant ever since, although the church maintained a single group home on Hazel Avenue, Ukiah after the main campus was closed.

ORPHANAGES seem to have somehow gotten a bad rap, but they were common in America and on the Northcoast through the early 1960s. There are many affectionate memoirs written by men and women whose parents either abandoned them or consigned them to orphanages, which were much more intelligently and humanely run than the unstable, mercenary system that dependent children suffer today.

THE FOLLOWING TESTIMONIALS give us some idea of what the old Ukiah orphanage was like: “YES, many people didn't want to be in a residential school (including me). But, as such facilities run, the Albertinum was among the top 5% in the way they treated their students. I know, my mother put me in several others over the years (and didn't pay the tuition after a few months). I knew my mother didn't want me around, and she was so irresponsible that she wouldn't even pay for the privilege of getting rid of me. At the Albertinum, I found love, affection and was encouraged for the very first time in my life to use my mind. I was introduced to Choral Music, Gregorian Chant, and I have been musically active ever since. They encouraged me to be creative in many ways, they encouraged reading virtually anything and everything (I devoured their library). They even gave me my first pair of roller skates, and I learned to skate there at the age of 9. I also learned to play chess there, something I have done ever since. Had it not been for my experiences in the 2nd half of the 4th grade, the summer between 4th and 5th grade (when I got to go to Camp St. Albert's, the only summer camp I ever went to), the first half of the 5th grade, and then the entire 6th grade, I doubt if I would have maintained my sanity. Had it not been for those Dominican Nuns, I doubt very much if I would have my Doctorate today… Had I not learned, at the tender age of 9, that there was something in this world besides cruelty, abuse, lies, punishment, and virtual total rejection, I suspect I would have ended up in prison or in a mental hospital.”“…TO GIVE YOU an idea just how tolerant those nuns were, I climbed up into the trees around the swimming pool, and hid there when the nuns were going to go swimming. They all filed in in full habit, and went into the changing rooms. When they came out, they were in somewhat severe plain black swim piece swimsuits. I was caught looking at them, and was held for Mother Superior to deal with me. She asked me why I had done such a thing. I told her that all of the boys said the nuns shaved their heads, and that they had their breasts removed when they became nuns. She laughed, told me that I now obviously knew that this was not true, and sentenced me to sweep the courtyard behind her office. Really mean, wasn't she? (Needless to say, I was the hero of the dorm for a few days though.) I went there before Vatican II, under the rules of the old church. I was not a Catholic, but went to Mass and the first time, I went up to communion with everyone else. I had no idea what was going on, but I just did what everyone else did.

“IF YOU REMEMBER, the nuns always went into the front two rows of pews, right up by the communion rail. I got up front, knelt down when the guy next to me did, and waited. The priest came along, and because I had been watching, I stuck out my tongue. He put something hard and dry on it. I stood up, turned around and took the host out of my mouth and looked at it.

“IN THOSE DAYS, no one but a priest was allowed to touch the host, and you never, ever chewed it. I was right in front of Mother Superior when I took it out of my mouth. I heard a gasp all over the chapel, and then I put the host back in my mouth and chewed it. Another huge gasp. When I got back to my pew, the boys on either side moved as far away from me as they possibly could. I think they believed a lightning bolt was going to get me. I knew I had done something wrong, but I didn't have a clue what it could possibly be.

“AS WE WERE LEAVING, one of our prefects pulled me out of line, and said that Mother would want to speak to me. Now I really knew I was in trouble. Mother came over, and asked me if I had made my first communion? I nodded yes, and then she asked me, How did you do it? For some reason I blurted out that I had said it twice. She laughed, and gently told me that Communion was reserved for Catholics that had made their first communion. I was more than welcome to attend Mass, but please don't go up to communion again. That was that, and I went to breakfast. The other boys were amazed that I was not expelled, or at least flayed alive or something similar. Now, you tell me, if those nuns were so indifferent, so mean and uncaring, how did a non-Catholic kid get away with the kind of stuff I did? I was a good student, but not that good.

“I WENT BACK to visit that school numerous times after I went back home permanently. I was always welcomed by the staff, and by all of the Nuns. (And no, I did not come from a rich family, quite the opposite. In fact, my mother did not pay any of the tuition for the last 5 months I was there, and they never cut off my allowance, my store privileges, etc…”

GREGORY JACOBS died last week. You may know him as “Bushman,” the guy who popped out from a jumble of eucalyptus branches to startle passersby at Fisherman's Wharf. The easily amused, me faithfully among them, would drop cash appreciation into Jacobs' tip can. The less amused, and there were many, would keep on walking to the cops to complain. Lots of merchants wanted Bushman outtathere but he, and a pal of his he sublet his act to, were always popular enough to beat back the detractors.

DAMON GARDNER, 39, a former Mendocino County deputy district attorney, has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years of informal probation for shooting a man during a midnight fight in downtown Sacramento back on October 17th. Gardner was on medical leave from the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office at the time of the shooting and has since resigned.

GARDNER HAD BEEN CHARGED with two misdemeanors related to carrying a concealed weapon in public but was not charged with shooting one of two assailants who'd accosted Gardner and his comely female companion with a deluge of insults of the Hey, Baby variety, is also now a former Mendocino County prosecutor. The gallant Gardner had leaped to defend his companion from the lewd verbal attack launched by the two mopes and soon, one of the mopes was kicking him in the head while both pummeled the Ukiah man. To spare himself serious injury, perhaps even death, Gardner managed to get his gun out to shoot one of his assailants.

THE PLOT THINS: The man arrested this week for plunking down a bag of dope at the security check at the Mendocino County Courthouse says the pants he was wearing weren't his. He was as surprised as anybody when he pulled the baggie out and plunked it into the tray. Pablo Reyes-Sanchez, 24, of Willits pulled the baggie from his pants pocket at the entrance checkpoint at about 8:20am on Wednesday, said sheriff’s Capt. Gregory Van Patten. “When you come up to the security checkpoint, there is an x-ray machine and you’re supposed to empty the contents of your pockets and anything metal into a tray that goes through a scanning machine,” Van Patten said. “When he went to empty the contents of his pocket, out came this baggie of cocaine.” The baggie allegedly held about half a gram of the drug, a small amount but enough to catch the attention of the courthouse security detail. When deputies questioned Reyes-Sanchez about the drugs, “He used the ‘These aren’t my pants’ defense,” according to Van Patten. “He said it wasn’t even his cocaine and that the pants weren’t even his,” said the captain, “but he wouldn’t elaborate on why he was wearing somebody else’s pants.” Sheriff’s deputies discovered that Reyes-Sanchez was wanted on a felony warrant for allegedly making criminal threats, and booked him into county jail on the warrant and also on suspicion of drug possession. He has since been released on $70,000 bail. Van Patten said he didn’t know why Reyes-Sanchez was visiting the courthouse in the first place.

STATEMENT OF THE DAY ONE: I feel free of all cults, isms, movements, countries, latitudes and philosophies. I am alone, a man, an artist by Jesus, and I want nothing to do with these sap-heads. They talk like weather experts who always manage to predict sunshine when it rains. — Henry Miller

STATEMENT OF THE DAY TWO: It's only when you see a mosquito landing on your testicles that you realize that there is always a way to solve problems without using violence. — Charlie Musselwhite

WE DON'T REMEMBER Congressman Huffman or his wife reporting back to us on his fact-finding trip to Israel last August, but it was apparently paid for by the Israelis’ Lobbying Organization AIPAC: Holy Land Tours, Escorted Biblical Group Tours Great Prices and Superior Service. Rep. Jared William Huffman trip to Bethlehem, Israel on Aug. 4, 2013

Traveler: Rep. Jared Huffman (-CA)

Companion: Susan Huffman (Spouse)

Start Date 8/4/2013, End Date 8/13/2013, Filed date 8/26/2013

Approver: Rep. Jared Huffman (-CA)

Sponsor(s): American Israel Education Foundation

Destination(s): Bethlehem, Israel, Jerusalem, Israel, Ramallah, Israel, Tel Aviv, Israel

Purpose: Meetings with top Israeli officials, seminars on history and foreign policy, and tours of multiple strategic and historical sights, including Israel's border with the Gaza Strip

Total Cost $19,132.06 for Transportation (for two)

$5500 ea, Lodging $1800 ea, Meals $1000 ea, and security, tour guide, speaker fees, room rentals, tips, more meals, photographer, snacks and briefing materials $1300 ea. Total: $19,000-plus freebie for Spike and Mrs. Spike.

UKIAH CITIZENS FOR SAFETY FIRST has filed a CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) lawsuit against the approval of a proposed Costco store on Airport Park Boulevard. The group includes Ukiah residents Rachel Land, Patty Hernandez, Sandy McKee and Teri Stout, and are represented by Davis-based attorney William Kopper.

THEIR ARGUMENT is that the massive Costco, complete with at least a dozen gas pumps, “will create dangerous traffic conditions on Highway 101 and its interchange.” The suit also alleges that Costco’s Environmental Impact Report should not have been certified, and the site should not have been rezoned.

“PUBLIC OFFICIALS of Ukiah should strive to preserve the city's unique environmental beauty, its character and quality of life, while making every effort to protect the environment to the fullest extent reasonably possible by following and enforcing CEQA as well as the planning and zoning laws.”

Opponents of a proposed Ukiah Costco have filed a lawsuit, contending the city of Ukiah and Costco failed to adequately consider the massive store’s environmental impacts.“We don’t believe the environmental impact report is adequate and we don’t believe the city complied with state planning and zoning laws,” said attorney William Kopper of Davis, who filed the lawsuit earlier this month on behalf of Ukiah Citizens for Safety First. No court dates have been set, he said.

It’s the second attack on the Ukiah Planning Commission’s January approval of the project’s permit. Another group has appealed that decision to the Ukiah City Council.

Costco officials hope to open the store in 2015. Before that can happen, the city must make an estimated $4 million in Highway 101 interchange improvements to accommodate extra traffic.

THE PROJECT has been controversial from the outset. Critics say they’re worried about impacts on traffic, air quality, seasonal wetlands, existing businesses and aesthetics. Proponents say it will be a boon for area shoppers and city coffers. The store is expected to generate nearly $500,000 in revenue annually for City Hall.

BOBBY MARKELS, 87, died of old-age complications at 2am last Friday morning. She was at a medical facility in Marin County, under the eye of her son, Alex. They were planning to come back today to her home-since-forever, here in Mendocino. She didn't quite make it. She had scleroderma, a chronic, systemic, auto-immune disease that troubles you for decades until its cumulative effects win out. Otherwise, Bobby had the furious vitality that deserved at least as long a life as her mother's. Her mother died just a few years ago, at 102, Bobby at her side. Scleroderma! It makes you cold all the time. It's indicative of Bobby's passion for coastal Mendocino that she stayed here. She did not go gentle into that good night. Her mind was still razor-sharp. She had a bumper sticker that said, “I believe in life BEFORE death!” Bobby was a practicing Buddhist, never blabby about it, but steady. She was one of the best writers to ever grace this place — or any other. The saga of her incredibly rotten luck at getting the rewards her work earned reads like “The Perils of Pauline.” More to come when memorial arrangements are made. She has a book in production. She never quit. There's much more to say. — Mitch Clogg, Mendocino

ELEANOR COONEY ADDS: I was working closely with Bobby on getting her novel THE SEDUCTION OF NONNY STEIN into print. Editing was done, formatting begun, cover designed. We failed to beat the Reaper, but Alex, her son, says full steam ahead. It's a brilliant book, praised by no less than Saul Bellow, who pulled every string he could on her behalf in the publishing world of the late 50s, but even he couldn't overcome what we writers call “snakebit” luck. The book's a masterpiece, a sort of female PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT, written when she was at the height of her powers, about growing up in the 30s and 40s in Chicago's South Side. It should have been published fifty years ago. It'll be out soon. The cover design features a portrait of Bobby at about age 20, impossibly, mind-blowingly glamorous. This book will reveal a dimension to Bobby Markels that a lot of people around here never suspected. Stand by!

SIGNS OF THE TIMES. Press release from Redwood National & State Parks: Newton B. Drury Parkway will be closed on a nightly basis starting Saturday, March 1... This closure is in response to a significant increase in wood poaching crimes occurring along the parkway. These crimes usually involve cutting burl and bunion growths from both standing and fallen old-growth redwood trees. The wood is then sold for construction materials, ornamental furniture, and souvenirs. This type of wood is becoming increasingly rare and the most plentiful supply is often found on parklands. Much of the illegal poaching occurs at night…

AND IS NEXT DOOR to Orick on Highway 101, a town seemingly dedicated to roadside sales of cash and carry redwood products.

STATEMENT OF THE DAY: Of course, the US media has downplayed the fascistic-neo-Nazi “ethnic purity” element of the Ukrainian coup in order to focus on— what they think — are more “positive themes,” like the knocking down of statues of Lenin or banning Communist party members from participating in Parliament. As far as the media is concerned, these are all signs of progress. Ukraine is gradually succumbing to the loving embrace of the New World Order where it will serve as another profit-generating cog in Wall Street’s wheel. That’s the theory, at least. It hasn’t occurred to the boneheads at the New York Times or Washington Post that Ukraine is rapidly descending into Mad Max-type anarchy which could spill over its borders into neighboring countries triggering violent conflagrations, social upheaval, regional instability or—god-help-us— WW3. The MSM sees nothing but silver linings as if everything was going according to plan. All of Eurasia, the Middle East and beyond are being pacified and integrated into one world government overseen by the unitary executive who defers to no one but the corporations and financial institutions who control the levers of power behind imperial shoji-screen. What could go wrong? (— Mike Whitney)

YOU'RE GETTING to be an old timer if you remember when Fjord's was a buffet-style restaurant whose 60-foot sign looming up over North State Street announced the northern perimeter of Ukiah. The restaurant has been closed for years, but it and the sign are still there, relics of more optimistic times, but today unsightly testament to the impotence of local government in refusing to abate the property.

IN A VIRTUAL SEA of eyesores on North State Street, Fjord's rules. Cordoned off by a chain link fence that manages to make the depressing tableau even more dispiriting, it's hard to believe anyone would actually offer to buy the site, listed for sale at $1.15 million.

BUT Todd Schapmire of Remax Realty, in full Micawber mode, told Tiffany Revelle of the Ukiah Daily Journal, “If it's not the most prime commercial property in the county, it's on the short list.”

THREE OUTSIDE SHARKS have sat on the Fjord's property for years, claiming they were waiting for some sap to come along and sub-lease what is essentially a collapsed 4,700-foot shack. It would cost at least double the million-plus dollar asking price to make the building viable, a fact even its present lease holders admit doesn't make Fjord’s a very good deal. For years the sharks clung to the fanciful notion that a renter would come along and convert the place to the oasis it once was, having inflicted the derelict site on the rest of us all these years since. Maybe now that it's for sale, we'll eventually see an upgraded eyesore in the form of golden arches or the some equivalent architectural atrocity.

I WAS PAUSED at the overlook at the edge of the Golden Gate, contemplating the fabulous history stretched somnolently before me as if it were not merely a stretch of water with a beautiful bridge across it. Or, then again, I might have been thinking of dinner. Or the Giants. But that place really does get this person out of the usual trivialities. Two women approached me. “Excuse me,” the younger of the two said, “are you familiar with this area?” I said I was, and I am because it's one of my favorite walks, although I doubt I could pass a docent's test. “We want to see Sharon Stone's house.” Whose house? “Sharon Stone's house,” the girl replied as if a random Frisco old guy should not only know someone named Sharon Stone but know where she lived. “You know, Sharon Stone the movie star,” the girl clarified. Blonde vaguenesses occurred to me, but ever since Marilyn Monroe they tend to run together. I'd recognize Marilyn anywhere! “She lives out here somewhere,” the girl assured me. I knew for a fact Shar didn't live next door to me in my furtive neighborhood of hurrying figures glimpsed only on garbage can day as they hustle their containers in and out of mysterious passageways. Sea Cliff maybe. If movie stars lived anywhere nearby it would be Sea Cliff to our immediate west. By then, the subject had changed. “How do we get back to downtown?” the girl asked. Not by wandering around asking people where Sharon Stone lived, I thought. The older woman had hung back, letting the young one do all the talking, although to me mom would have been a more age-appropriate interlocutor. I steer clear of my fellow citizens in the 14-50 age range, although as a mathematical proposition I'm sure some of them are probably sentient beings. I told the girl and Silent Mom that their best bet for downtown would be to walk to the bridge and catch an inbound bus, the 28, then transfer to the 30 Stockton. I liked showing off my local guy insider-ness. “But we want to walk,” the girl said, as if I'd ordered her to take the bus. Neither one of them was togged out for long-haul pedestrianism. Both wore what I guess would be called dress shoes with heels, not high heels but certainly not walking heels. There's no as-the-crow-flies route downtown from where we stood. I told them if they wanted to walk back to San Francisco's beating heart, they should go back to the bridge, proceed on down the hill to Crissy Field, and just keep on footin' it on the edge of the Bay until they got to the Ferry Building or whatever venue they considered downtown. As they walked off in the direction of the Bridge as I'd suggested, Mom said to her presumed daughter, “See, I fuckin' told you!”

TIFFANY REVELLE, ace reporter for the Ukiah Daily Journal, writes: “The Ukiah Valley may lose access to state grant funding for drought relief if an entity can't be found soon to monitor the valley's groundwater. As part of its California Statewide Groundwater Elevation Monitoring program, the state Department of Water Resources ranked California's 515 groundwater basins and sub-basins as very low, low, medium and high priorities. DWR is focusing on high- and medium-priority basins for state water grants or loans, according to Mary Randall, regional coordinator of the DWR's Northern Region Office. “The Ukiah Valley is the only groundwater basin within Mendocino County that's been preliminarily designated as a medium-priority basin,” Randall said at a Wednesday meeting of Mendocino County's emergency drought ad-hoc committee. “We're only looking at medium- and high-priority groundwater basins for compliance with this (monitoring) program right now, and there isn't a monitoring entity that's been identified for that basin,” she said. “If a monitoring entity is not identified to do monitoring within that basin of wells, then Ukiah Valley won't be eligible for grant funds, at least from DWR.” She wasn't sure of the deadline to identify such an entity, but literature she handed out at the meeting says state officials expect the list of high- and medium-priority groundwater basins not monitored under CASGEM to be finalized in March. “It needs to be done rapidly, because there hasn't been a determination,” Randall said. Out of the state's 515 groundwater basins, 126 are ranked medium- and high-priority. In the North Coast hydraulic region, there are no high-priority basins and eight ranked medium priority, including the Ukiah Valley. Randall handed out data showing how the Ukiah Valley groundwater basin was ranked. On the data sheet is a notation saying the “2010 Ukiah Valley Water Supply Assessment expresses concerns regarding (state Water Resources Control Board) assertion that all or most of the groundwater' in the basin is, for legal purposes, underflow from the Russian River and associated tributaries.”

THE INLAND water situation is likely to come to a boil if the March Miracle rains of this week fail to stave off the full drought we've all come to assume as our summer fate. A Ukiah reader assesses his community's over all entities formed to distribute Ukiah's finite supplies: “It is not so much a question of water wars, but more a lack of ability of the local players to act in concert. Water wars implies two or more interests competing to either advance their strategic vision of water policy, or control the resource, or both. Here the water right is divided among minor players with no vision beyond the narrow boundaries of their individual districts. All change is viewed with suspicion, especially ceding any authority to another agency. Which brings us to the looming failure to decide who shall be in charge of the state requirement for groundwater monitoring, an apparent prerequisite for state grant funding. There is no war, there is no fight, just an inability to cooperate to do the simple things that are needed to serve the public interest. In contrast, Sonoma County, via the SoCo Water Agency, always speaks with one voice, and with the full political and financial support to back it up. That doesn't mean their view always prevails, but it puts them in the best position to advance their common interest. Here, perpetuating the status quo of the various balkanized water districts has taken precedence over what should be the primary public interest of securing and delivering water to those who rely on it.

THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE: Nebraska and Dallas Buyer's Club were the two best movies I saw this year, Nebraska especially. 12 Years A Slave, brilliant as it is, might be a must-see for people who lack imagination, but if you don't need visual confirmation that slavery was systematized murder, torture, rape, and lesser atrocities too numerous to name, you don't need to pay your way in to see this thing. But since young people generally require visuals to get the point across, whatever the point might be, 12 Years A Slave should be mandatory viewing in the schools. I haven't seen The Wolf of Wall Street because I know how these animals spend their looted billions without paying my way in to see them going about their vulgar business. It's long past time for torches and pitchforks in this doomed country, but I hope to live long enough to see the One Percent get it. Amend that, please. Since we're talking film aesthetics here, what's doubling galling about today's mega-rich, and of course there are exceptions but not many, is how savage they truly are. Can you imagine Count Tolstoy being stirred to write up these oafish Silicon Valley magnates? Have you ever seen or heard a single remark from any or all of them that was at all interesting? Madam Dafarge, if you will put down your knitting, we will proceed…

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: Demonstrations the world over are underway not for some nebulous concept of freedom and democracy but rather because mercenary privatization IMF style and messy capitalism are ripping asunder their target societies as prices for water, rent and food skyrocket with no reasonable safety nets established. And when the populace is life-insecure, the nation’s stability is threatened. If it is not the capitalists then it’s the dictators and their minions who seek to fill their bank accounts with cash for the day they are booted out of power. And yet free market and expeditionary economic cheerleaders are the first ones to turn to the State when profits sink which means no one wants to buy what they are selling. Then there is that pesky violent history from the mid-19th to the 20th Century. If the idea of war is to create a better, long lasting peace, as someone once said, are we setting up for a third world war, the trifecta that ends all wars? (John Stanton)

THE 30TH WHALE RUN AND WALK, sponsored by Soroptimist International of Fort Bragg, is Saturday, March 15, starting off at 8am in front of the Skunk Train Depot, on Laurel Street between the Town Hall and the Depot Mall.

One Comment

  1. chewsome March 8, 2014

    Part of the impairment with lack of US broadband high speed Internet access, is that most news articles with the discussion, and KZYX radio shows on it, don’t even reference what bandwidth speed ranges is the goal.

    Myself, I don’t see much wrong with achieving 2 Mbps, which is plenty to direct stream unlimited Youtube videos and Netflix movies.

    But to folks who want to just grumble and jump to pie in the sky unquantified performance numbers, such a blurred unfocused description is not going to advance what we can do now with extension of land based direct beam streaming, now being built out by local rural independent companies.

    One stipulation which seriously needs codification in communication utilities law and County code if not pre-empted, is to prevent arbitrary fiat abuse to discharged customers stranded by a certain local Willits Internet remote access provider owner, who has numerous court restraining orders against him, because of a health condition disorder that he has, which brings on said behavior, much to the detriment of a multitude of rural ex customers who have no real other land based choice, and thus have been disenfranchised into being shell shocked economically and psychologically by having to revert to the default sky satellite services with their Fair Access Policy strangleholds and extreme costs for service of much value.

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