READING THE CANDIDATE STATEMENTS in the sample ballot for the June 3rd election is a dispiriting experience. The “liberal” candidates are slick enough to stick to bland vacuities about “working hard to make a difference,” as Congressman Jared Huffman auto-piloted that particular platitude, while the more conservative candidates, who write a much livelier prose, probably because they have zero chance of being elected on the Northcoast and might as well let it all hang out, thunder things like, “Leave political and sexual training to parents.”
THAT WAS LAWRENCE WEISNER, a CPA running for state senate. Lar seems to think the schools are turning the kids into little libs and leading them down the path to sexual hedonism. But the political discussion, as expressed at election time, ranges from the conservative liberalism of the Huffman types and their vague clichés — the rhetorical equivalent of a dip in a giant vat of lukewarm piss — to the totally irrelevant mantras of the truly crazed— get God back in the schools, no taxes except for war, get nine-year-olds back in the coal mines!
THE REAL PROBLEM is entropy or, as Huffman might characterize it, “gridlock,” suggesting nothing can be done. Entropy/gridlock works just fine for a tiny minority of people, a fact the Pope, well to the left of Democrats on all the important issues, noted just last weekend when he called for a massive redistribution of wealth. Even the more progressive capitalists like Warren Buffett agree, but it's not on the Democratic Party's must-do list, is it? Progressive taxation would solve a lot of probs, but...
WHICHEVER of the following candidates and political perspectives one cold-bloodedly casts a vote for, they're certain to make things worse because entropy only deepens when basic assumptions are incorrect. The AVA, as usual, recommends votes against most incumbents and would-be incumbents. In the order they appear on the 3rd June ballot:
JOHN LOWRY, candidate, for Assembly, 2nd District. Lowry's candidate's statement is clear and modest. Best of all, he's an independent, not one of these shiny, cliché-spouting automatons the Democrats have foisted off on us like Jim Wood, Lowry's opponent. Lowry was boss at Burbank Housing for many years where he really did develop low cost housing. He also seems to be correct about the issues generally. Lowry for Assembly.
LOCALLY, we have the candidates for Mendocino County Superintendent of School who, judged by their prose, belong in a remedial class for new English-speakers. The job pays about $120,000 a year plus the full monte of fringes, plus a car, plus fuel for the car. The job consists of, well, nothing, beyond sitting in a big office whose phone never rings. Once in a while the superintendent has to bat out a press release saying something like, “I love the kids. I am totally dedicated to them. I would do this job for $110,000 a year, I love the kids so much.”
ONCE UPON A TIME in vast, freshly tamed Mendocino County, the Indians having been murdered down to a survivor remnant, teachers were dispatched by horseback from a central hiring office in Ukiah. The office consisted of the superintendent and his secretary. I believe it was an appointed position. Naturally the office didn't disappear when the individual communities of the county created their own school districts and taxed themselves to teach their own children how to read, write and do a few basic calculations. Today, the Mendocino County Office of Education is a multi-million dollar office with a hundred or so people wandering around with coffee cups and bliss ninny smiles on their faces. MCOE takes big whacks out of state and federal funding for doing things which could be done better and cheaper by the individual school districts of Mendocino County. A rational society would have disbanded the office in 1910. But here we are with three people running for the job, the easiest, best paid “job” in the county.
IN THE 1980s, when two “educators” from MCOE went to jail, one of them for using educational video equipment to make pornographic films featuring underage girls in the back room of the bar he owned on North State Street, Ukiah, while the other guy was merely a thief, it was no surprise that a graduate of that MCOE ambiance — theft, fraud and child rape — Paul Tichinin, became boss man. Tichinin's been in the job for a couple of decades, and no better example of the Peter Principle has ever been produced by Mendocino County than this guy. Of course Tichinin would like to see his assistant superintendent succeed him. Assistant superintendent. If the boss doesn't do anything why do we need two guys who don't do anything?
IT'S HARD for liberal Mendocino County to resist a hyphenate like Paul Joens-Poulton, Tichinin's assistant superintendent. Insecure personality types desperate for the lamest kind of cachet, seem to think hyphenated names are kinda Masterpiece Theater-ish, kind of Brit-classy, but, well, no need not get into it but this guy is the choice of Tichinin and, by extension, represents everything gone terribly wrong with American education. Don't take my word for it. Here's what the Hyphenate himself says: “…My reputation is built on integrity, innovation, and excellence in providing high-quality services to our school districts. I look forward to enriching our communities together.” (Triple sic that last sentence.)
ANY PERSON who can write that sentence without so much as a hint of irony, is either bone dumb or so hopelessly corrupt he thinks the rest of us are as stupid and as shameless as he is. Does it even need to be said that Joens-Poulton should not become Mendocino County's next “lead educator”?
ALSO IN THE RACE for the edu-top spot is Warren 'Hum Baby' Galletti of Point Arena and Ukiah. Galletti, a big sports guy, worked without demur for years in the perennially troubled PA schools, which is damning in itself. And he's as vague on edu-issues as The Hyphenate.
KATHY WYLIE is our choice despite her Nixonion candidate's statement. “I'm an experienced school leader with the highest integrity, a trained mediator who is approachable and accessible (sic), and a creative visionary who maintains a focus on student achievement.” Highest integrity? Compared to whom? The bar is set pretty low in Mendoland. “Visionary” is a sure sign of fuzz—think. Dear Ms. Wylie: Just try to make sure that the little savages know how to read, write and do a few basic calculations so they might at least be able to defend themselves in a world coming apart, a world that will be all the way apart by the time most of them are expected to function in it. Wylie for Superintendent of Schools.
GOVERNOR: Luis Rodriguez, Green. A lot of Greens are simply less flabby versions of Democrats, but they are better on most issues. You can vote for a Green and maintain at least a semblance of political respect for yourself.
LT. GOV: An office that need not exist, but since it doesn't, Jena Goodman, Green.
SEC. OF STATE: David Curtis lists himself as a “dad,” indicating he's the kind of mawk-brained dude who thinks fatherhood qualifies him for office, in which case he's also mentally disabled. Still and all, he isn't one of them. Curtis for Secretary of State.
CONTROLLER: Laura Wells. Caught a clip of her once on the news. Very smart, all-round impressive. Ms. Wells makes her way as a financial analyst, which means she understands how money works. Her opponents know how to take money but aren't about to manage it in your interests. Wells for Controller.
TREASURER: Ellen Brown. Another intelligent, capable person who has written a book on banking. The only truly qualified person in the race. Brown for Treasurer.
ATTY GENERAL: Kamala Harris. Hey, didn't you just tell us not to vote for Democrats or Republicans because they're basically one party? Well, yes, but I happen to know Ms. Harris in a casual, purely happenstance kind of way, and I'm here to tell you that she's the goods! Honest, articulate, very smart and unafraid to take on the great malefactors of wealth. Harris.
INSURANCE COMMISSIONER: Nathalie Hrizi. “Nat,” as we call her, actually works for a living as a school teacher. Probably no match for the thugs of the insurance ponzis, but unlikely to be in their pay as Commissioners usually are. Hrizi.
EQUALIZATION BOARD, 2ND DISTRICT: You'll have to write someone in here. The choice is between a career officeholding Democrat and a wacky Republican, pardon the redundancy, called James Theis, who says he's an “organic foods manager,” meaning he wears surgical gloves when he stacks the tofu and reads Ayn Rand on his coffee breaks.
CONGRESS: Another write-in although it's tempting to vote for Dale Mensing for the wacky factor he'd bring to the job. Dale's a supermarket cashier but a Republican, meaning he must have some real life work experience from which he has obviously drawn the wrong conclusions. I can just hear him at the register: “Psst. Did you know that Obama isn't even a citizen? Elect me and I'll tell everyone why Building 7 collapsed.” Andy Caffrey of Garberville is also running again on a Dope Is Good platform. Sorry, Andy, look what dope's done to your hometown and the rest of the Emerald Triangle. Incumbent Huffman, who may as well be Mike Thompson, has performed as all Demo Party hacks perform, unfailingly taking his cues from party central who take their cues from their major funders. No indication from the robotic former volleyball player that he represents anything but more of the same. No recommendation.
STATE SENATOR: Write someone in, although a friend whose judgment I trust said Derek Knell, a Democrat, was the most impressive of the candidates at the recent Ukiah forum.
ASSEMBLY: Amusing as perennial recreational candidate Pam Elizondo (The Flower of Laytonville!) can be, she doesn't play well beyond the primitive precincts of the North County. The old girl would be a hoot in office, though.
STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS: Write someone in. Too depressing to even joke about. The latest test scores reveal that only a minority of California children are even reading up to grade level. And the three cretinous career “educators” running for the “job” think all the system needs is a little fine-tuning.
5TH DISTRICT SUPERVISOR: Dan Hamburg is running unopposed, which again demonstrates that, well, Hamburg, a cult guy and committed stoner, is a perfect fit for the ever-wacky 5th District.
ASSESSOR-CLERK-RECORDER: Robin Sunbeam, simply because she's willing to challenge mortgage fraud. Nothing against incumbent Ranochak who's been good at the job, but given the times go for the insurgent at every opportunity.
AUDITOR-CONTROLLER: Write-in. Incumbent Weer is same old, same old, and a minor contributor to THE ENTROPY!
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: David Eyster is running unopposed because Mendocino County's lawyers, as a group, are a club-like gang of electoral wimps. It's hard to believe that not one of them would run against Clay Brennan for the Superior Court sinecure, but none did. Of course there's no real reason to challenge Eyster who's done a good job, but one would think that the DEAD DOG faction, bunches of cops and a few lawyers unhappy with the DA's pot prosecution policy, would run someone against Eyster. But the Dead Dogs are all woof, no bite.
TREASURER-TAX COLLECTOR: Shari Schapmire is running unopposed. And why not. She's doing fine. Go ahead for the incumbent.
PROP 41: Vet's Housing. Of course. Yes. (The state has floated so many bonds over the last 50 years and, like Mendocino County is so thoroughly broke via pension obligations, what's one more mound of debt?)
PROP 42: Public records, open meetings etc. No. Net effect would be to encourage government non-compliance. Public Records Act is fine as it is.
DR. BRIAN MARCEL CABLE, an orthopedic surgeon in Ukiah, has been bound over for trial on charges of illegally furnishing narcotics and writing illegal prescriptions. Cable’s attorney, Keith Faulder, says Cable wasn’t furnishing narcotics to others because he didn’t intend for others to use the prescriptions. Cable wrote the prescriptions for hydrocodone, Faulder argued, in the names of other people who kicked the pain pills back to the doctor, Faulder said. (Har de har, Keith. Of course you've got to say something, but this one's a stretch.) Cable concedes he is addicted to the drug, popping as many as 16 pills a day. Funny thing is, Cable, presumably under the influence his waking hours, went on working until he was finally busted. Co-defendant Kathryn Brown, Cable's girl friend, apparently helped the doctor get the pills and is apparently also addicted to them.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK: “Only stripping the elite of their power and insulating privileges will wake them up, and that isn’t going to happen. These men (and a few women) are foolish because, like Daisy and Tom Buchanan, they can smash things up and retreat into their privileged, irresponsible foolishness. Clinton, Rubin, Summers, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Greenspan, the list goes on, act in reckless, destructive, even lethal ways and get to retire to wealth and privilege. Obama and his cronies will do the same. How can we expect anyone to act responsibly if they know that there will never be any consequences for their actions?” (James Levy)
IS DA EYSTER ready for prime time? The LA Times and the Wall Street Journal will soon be in Ukiah to talk to the DA about his innovative marijuana prosecution policy. The policy is legal, as Mendo mostly knows, and was written into law by none other than former area rep, Barry Keene. Eyster seems to be the first DA in the state to actually read it and employ it, and it's been on the books for what? Twenty-five years?
THERE ARE, predictably, people who don't think Eyster's strategy to, essentially, trade misdemeanors for cash fines, is wise. They claim Eyster is allowing professional criminals to get away with dope and gun violations in return for them paying cash fines. But a look at the DA's record shows exactly zero career crooks got away with a misdemeanor and a fine. There are some big boys who were acquitted, but they weren't convicted felons.
UNDER THE EYSTER-KEENE approach, the Bustee pays the fine, the DA slaps a misdemeanor on his wrist. And places the Bustee on probation. If the bustee goes straight out and does it again, he's looking at a felony prosecution.
PUT IT TO A VOTE and we think a large majority of Mendocino County residents would approve of Eyster's approach to marijuana prosecutions. The fine money helps fund public safety, and settling the cases, and there are lots of them, saves the taxpayers money because the Bustees are not taking up expensive court time and expensive jail space. Taxpayers come out ahead on the deal.
BACK TO PRIME TIME. The DA is presentable and articulate. He won't have any trouble with the media vipers who, in any case, will do the usual on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand kind of stories they could crank out in their sleep while running up their expense accounts at local spas and eateries, calling the news desk from Orr Springs hot tubs to say, “I'm investigating the hell out of this one, boss. I've gotta stay at least a month. Send money.”
KING COLLINS on the MCN ListServe: “Disturbing rumor: Anonymous sources at the meeting [KZYX board meeting last week] said that Norm de Vall's Access show has been cancelled, as well as his highly respected candidate interviews. These sources said that the action was taken because de Vall is perceived as critical of management and that individuals with such views are not allowed be programmers at KZYX or to host an interview type program. What about that, Norman?”
FORMER SUPERVISOR DE VALL responded to the AVA: “First I have to make a correction re the ACCESS Program. I chose to leave the regular programming format to do Special Editions of The ACCESS Program beginning in July of 2012. After a brief meeting with Mary [Aigner], I was told that KZYX staff would conduct the interviews; she followed with (and this is almost a direct quote) — ‘Anyone who criticizes the station or enables others to do so won't have a microphone.’ I called again last week and again received a — ‘We've got it covered.’ So much for being a proponent of free-speech and being a volunteer. The real issue here was my launching kzyxtalk enabling anyone to express themselves regarding their radio station and programming while not being able to do so on air. What an irony… Having to go to the internet to ‘talk’ to say what you can't say on the radio.”
EARLIER, DEVALL had written to station manager John Coate: “John, To get new ideas as our political landscape changes. And some of the suggestions received have merit. So no matter who may do the interviews they can be more informative than before. Norman.”
COATE, EVER THE PARANOID, replied, “Is there a reason why your email list is part of this?”
IF THE POINT of this exchange has eluded you, what we have is a respected, long-time resident of the County, a former supervisor, a volunteer at KZYX for many years, being treated by the nutty management of the station like a stray dog. de Vall's interviews with local candidates were always highly anticipated, as were his programs discussing local issues with the local people involved in them. Why? Because he knows the territory.
MORE INTERNAL TENSION of the bullying and paranoid type at KZYX with John Sakowicz, an old target of Coate-Aigner even though he's a station trustee, the focal point. Management picked off former supervisor, Norman de Vall on the suspicion of less than total devotion to management, now Sako. Captain Queeg! The steel balls, please!
THE AVA, having changed its production schedule, is now able to tune in to the KZYX Evening News. I'm here to tell you I absolutely love it! It takes some getting used to. Hell, what's so interesting about a guy reading press releases and then telling you the weather in Lakeport? In other words, a kind of white noise presented as local news. But wait. The noise grows on you, and if you're patient, you'll find the Kisslinger Report highly amusing, an Only In Mendo kinda thing.
AS FOR MANAGEMENT paranoia at KZYX, think uniforms. Uniforms? How about staff, programmers and members dressing in tie-dyed jump suits, an immediate visual that says, Yes! Management rules! No dissent! No criticism of the boss! But, as you can see, we are still extremely cool.
THIS IS WHAT IT'S GOING TO TAKE! Stanford University announced last week that it would divest its $18.7 billion endowment of stock in coal-mining companies, becoming the first major university to lend support to a nationwide campaign to purge endowments and pension funds of fossil fuel investments.
TAKE THIS, BOYS. “The male is completely egocentric, trapped inside himself, incapable of empathizing or identifying with others, or love, friendship, affection or tenderness. He is a completely isolated unit, incapable of rapport with anyone. His responses are entirely visceral, not cerebral; his intelligence is a mere tool in the services of his drives and needs; he is incapable of mental passion, mental interaction; he can't relate to anything other than his own physical sensations. He is a half-dead, unresponsive lump, incapable of giving or receiving pleasure or happiness; consequently, he is at best an utter bore, an inoffensive blob, since only those capable of absorption in others can be charming.” — Valerie Solanis
FRUSTRATED FRISCO DRIVERS fed up having to circle endlessly around trying find a parking space can now use a new app that allows them to buy a spot from someone who is already parked in one. The app, called “Monkey Parking,” connects drivers looking for empty spaces with someone who is also on the app who is willing to give up their prized spot, but for a fee of anywhere between $5 and $20. San Francisco has a severe parking crunch with roughly 500,000 parking spots and 750,000 residents. And that doesn't even include the tens of thousands of drivers who come into city daily.
A LOCAL PERSON CONCERNED about contrails suspects that mysterious government planes often fly over Mendoland, and wrote to Congressman Huffman's office seeking confirmation of what the constituent assumes is an overflight fact. 'Heather' of Huffman's office wrote back: “I am sending this again, per your request. I will also print them out and mail them to you. I have spoken with the air force base and I have an inquiry in to FAA regarding flights over the county. The Airforce base does not have any planes that come this way and I am awaiting a response from FAA. Anytime a plane flies it must file a flight pattern with the FAA so they should have information if there was something specific happening. I will let you know as soon as I hear anything. Thank you.”
YEARS AGO, I ran into an old pilot who told me that during both World War Two and the Korean War pilots trained over Mendocino County. He said the terrain resembled Korea, and he had often flown over at night, swooping beneath the ridgetops. About 15 years ago, a military plane appeared beneath Clow Ridge during daylight hours and, as I recall, about that time another military plane shed a part that fell to earth on Clow Ridge.
TWO PUBLIC COMMENTS at the April 22 Board of Supervisors meeting on the subject of the County’s mounting pension debt.
JOHN SAKOWICZ spoke first: “My name is John Sakowicz, speaking as a private citizen only. And I want to be crystal clear on that. Although I am on the retirement board, I am not speaking for the board. Thank you for this workshop. It's absolutely necessary. I along with probably every other person in this room agrees that the great driver of the county budget going forward and certainly the great driver of debt will be our county pension system. Here’s a fact that I want to share with you that came out at our last Retirement Board meeting: Our retirement system has a negative cash flow of $860,000 a month. $860,000 a month. So if you take what we pay into the system in contributions and what we earn on our fixed income portfolio — and then subtract that from what we pay out in benefits and administration of the plan, that's $860,000 a month. If you add that as a percentage to what we would have to make in terms of our actual rate of return you must add another 2.4% and I believe trustee Ted Stevens did that math in our last meeting to calculate our actual rate of return. So the true rate of return that we need to earn to break even is 10.15%. That's a fact. I would also like to review a couple of other things that need to be mentioned. Our unfunded pension liability as it now stands according to our actuary is about $133 million. GAASP (Generally Accepted Accounting Standards and Principles) 67 and 68 will cause us to have to restate that to about double that, to about $250 million. But the Society of Actuaries Report, the blue-ribbon report which I shared with the supervisors and which was also on the agenda of our last retirement Board meeting, the Society of Actuaries blue-ribbon report on public pension fund planning recommends that we completely de-risk the rate of return and bring it down to the ten-year treasury bill rate of return which is about 2.7%. It's called the forward rate of return. So essentially what that would mean is that the unfunded pension liability would be something more than $250 million. My point is that the horse is out of the barn. Not only is the system unsustainable but it may be broken. I don't know how to fix it. I don't think pension obligation bonds are the way to fix it either. And that in fact was one of the findings and recommendations in the Society of Actuaries blue-ribbon report. Pension obligation bonds are not the fix. You have to fund it in any given year with contributions from the plan sponsor and from county employees. If you don't you run the risk of what the Society of Actuaries calls generational inequity, and that's not fair to future generations. In fact Jared Carter, a local attorney, made that point during public comment at a meeting of the retirement board last year when it was pointed out. Thank you for this workshop. I look forward to a joint meeting between this board and the retirement board.”
HOLLY MADRIGAL: “Supervisor Hamburg mentioned that this is a failing system and that is of great concern to all of us and our group, the group that provided you with a list of questions we would like to see answers to. This group is comprised from people all over the political spectrum, right and left, apolitical, because we really believe that this issue, this problem, is a problem of mathematics, not politics. It is sometimes suggested that our current predicament is due to the recession or low investment returns, when in fact it's more accurate to say that our core problem is structurally flawed financial management and a significant lack of accountability. We understand that some of our concerns raised in our report may be offensive. Our purpose is not to blame the board, the retirement board, the employees, our purpose is not to vilify but to bring this issue out to the light, to try to get consensus on what the problem is so that we can address it, really seek to find solutions. It's part of our fiscal duty to provide that retirement security. I really do not want to see a repeat of the healthcare debacle that we had where employees were promised a benefit but then if the funding was not identified to actually make that happen and only after people had made decisions, life decisions on staying with the county, only then did they realize that benefit was not available to them. We know that John Dickerson has become a bit of a lightning rod on this issue and I just want to urge you all to try to look past the personalities, try to look at the signatures that we got, this is not one person who is worried about this. We have raised significant questions that need to be answered, and I think you too should try to seek answers and I think I am seeing that on the board. For example, how are we going to address these new GAASP rules? It sounded like a positive report on that impact on us but I'm really concerned that it is not going to be that positive. It’s gonna be staggering. How are we going to continue to provide these pension commitments to our employees when the debt keeps mounting and how are we going to avoid that burden becoming overwhelmingly put on taxpayers? I really see this occasion akin to being an alcoholic. [Laughs.] The first step is admitting you have a problem and that's really what we're asking for the board. Do you think we have a problem? Please answer our concerns. We will also come to the retirement board and to the joint session which we think would be really beneficial. But do you see a problem? And if so, how are we going to address it? Thank you.”PINCHES THEN SUMMED UP: “I think it's real clear, as the famous saying goes, 'Houston, we have a problem.' I think that we are acutely aware of that and the reason for this meeting was to maybe start to form a basis on what we can do about what options we have. But ultimately it's the state legislature that really has the cure for this and I don't see that happening. We talk about the conflict, whether its members on the retirement Board or what have you. But let’s talk about the state of California. The biggest conflict there is your judges in California. They are the biggest recipients of the highest retirements in all of California whether it’s Calpers or County employees. So I don’t have any confidence that there’s going to be a fix coming from our state legislature or ultimately, if that's challenged, from the courts. So we have a problem and we have to work out an internal cure for this. This mounting debt is staggering and is only going to get worse. It will take some hard choices and tough decisions by the employer, the County, and by the employees too. If we don't get this retirement system on a sustainable basis it is not going to be good for anybody. It will not be good for the county. It will not be good for the taxpayers. It's not going to be good for the county employees. This is just a start to try to get this moving.”
HAL AND THE PLEDGE, a reader writes: “Years ago, when Hal Wagenet was President of the Board of Supervisors and I was in the audience waiting to speak against the closing of the mental health crisis center, he began the meeting by asking me if I would like to “lead us in pledging allegiance to the flag?” I replied “you're asking the wrong person, I don't do that.” I later wrote him a letter explaining how, for me, the flag represented America's dark side. It flew at Wounded Knee and at countless other massacres of Indigenous peoples. I said I would be glad to pledge allegiance to the Constitution but to the flag? Never!”
PETER FIMRITE REPORTS in Saturday's Chron that “Scientists have identified a microscopic sea creature with a Jekyll and Hyde personality as the culprit in the death of tens of thousands of abalone three years ago along the Sonoma and Mendocino coasts, but they don't know how to stop the elusive critter from killing again.
“A TEAM of scientists and geneticists said this week that they used a sophisticated, new forensic genome testing technique to pin the carnage on a mysterious poison-producing micro-organism known as Gonyaulax spinifera, a species of phytoplankton virtually unheard of in this part of the world.“Laura Rogers-Bennett, the senior environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the creature is as bizarre as it is deadly. Its modus operandi, she said, is to suddenly appear in large numbers, produce mass quantities of deadly Yessotoxin and then retreat into tiny invasion-of-the-body-snatcher-type pods until ocean conditions are ripe for another rampage.”
MENDO REPUGS to Meet in Willits. The Mendocino County Republican Central Committee will meet Saturday, May 17, 2014, 10am-Noon at the Willits City Council Chambers, 111 E. Commercial Street, Willits, CA 95490. For further information contact: Stan Anderson, 707-321-2592.