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Mendocino County Today: Friday, May 16, 2014

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THE PRESS DEMOCRAT'S devotion to the wine industry, its prose so intensely concerned, the paper's supine staff could be writing about the kidnapped girls of Nigeria, not an industrial, labor-sucking monolith disguised as endless weekends of golden goblets held to the sun.

TODAY'S WORRIED BUT LOVING TRIBUTE to the industry begins, "Coast wineries and growers remain optimistic following a second consecutive year of record-setting harvests and strong consumer demand for grape varietals that thrive in the region, particularly pinot noir."

WINERIES are adding crush-capacity and growers are making lots of money, but.... But the poor souls may run out of water. “…diversions along the Russian River Valley watershed above the city of Healdsburg could be cut off next month, said Paula Whealen, principal of Wagner and Bonsignore [a high-priced water consulting outfit near the Capitol in Sacramento who only the wine people can afford]. She said such curtailments would prevent even those who've held water rights for decades from diverting any water for use on vineyards, without risking fines of up to $1,000 a day, plus additional penalties."

IN FACT, very few vineyards have held water rights for decades. Almost all these businesses are new, especially the ones north of Healdsburg. And given that Lake Mendocino is only half full and summer hasn't even begun, there will be very little downstream water for anyone, including the lords of the grapes, this summer.

THE INDUSTRY says pinot grape growers are pulling down $4,000 a ton, and no wonder the pinot people of Anderson Valley can afford the giant noisemakers that have destroyed the sleep of roughly 2,000 Valley residents for twelve mornings this spring. $4,000 a ton, roughly four tons or more to the acre.... Hmmm… Upwards of $20,000 per acre. Maybe they'll kick back cash for lost zzzzzzz's.

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THE ANDERSON VALLEY is, by far, Mendocino County's most attractive wine-dependent region, which isn't saying much given inland aesthetics. But Anderson Valley is more and more wine dependent, with what seems like every other structure in Boonville and Philo having become a tasting room or in the process of becoming a tasting room. The venerable Live Oak Building in central Boonville is being gutted as the initial stage of a re-model that will convert it to some kind of wine-based tourist lure. Down the street, Laughing Dog Books is gone and yet another wine biz is moving in, a tragedy so far as we're concerned and a sad comment on the times where something unique can be traded for something same-same.

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CANDIDATE FOR THIRD DISTRICT SUPERVISOR, HOLLY MADRIGAL, stopped in the other day. A jolly, robust young woman, the candidate had been in Philo where a fundraising week is underway for KZYX on whose board of directors the likable Ms. Madrigal sits. Being at odds with some of her positions — the $5 million Fort Bragg trash transfer station, the quality of KZYX management, her embrace of the Northcoast's professional office-holding class — the candidate said much that we agree with. She said she wants to improve relations between the Supervisors and County employees and agreed that relations didn't need to be as adversarial as they've become. The candidate wants to keep the County plausibly solvent, and like everyone else wants to work towards a regional water policy that doesn't short Mendocino County like the present Balkanized system of competing water districts, federal foolishness, and unfair allocations does, a system pegged to old realities and infrastructure long outgrown.

WE THINK the 3rd District will go to a runoff between Madrigal and Tom Woodhouse, both of them similar on the issues. Wagenet, a former supervisor, is seriously handicapped as a candidate because his record in office consists of, well, nothing. He sat in the big naugahyde swivel chair for four years and it was as if he was never there.

CANDIDATE WOODHOUSE is vague on the issues. His website — — features a big square-jawed photo of himself with the usual pieties about raising a family in Willits and volunteering for lots of school stuff. "My experiences, grassroots successes, and deep commitment to this community have inspired me to serve the district as supervisor. All around me, I see potential for making our county better."

YEAH? HOW? Mendocino County isn't a lone operator. Mendo's most intractable problems — poverty and the high crime and despairing social fragmentation that results from lack of opportunity — can't be solved without federal help. Our two primary industries are illegal dope and high end booze, both of which are environmentally and socially destructive. Making Mendo better won't happen until America is made better, and that might not happen. Jolly Holly Madrigal seems more rooted in what a Supervisor can and should do just to keep Mendo afloat as it is.

CLAY ROMERO, a working machinist, has of course been steadily vilified by North County libs. Like present supervisor Johnny Pinches, Romero can be a little rough around the edges, meaning he's a lot less phony than the other candidates with their deluges of see-through pieties. "He is a right wing religious fundamentalist and former firearms arms dealer," as one terrified lib assessed him.

SO? THE GUY goes to church and he likes guns. That means there's no room for him and probably half the people in the County who also go to church and like guns. Romero also has a sense of humor, and that counts lots with us. We thought his Facebook joke, featuring a picture of a bullet-riddled foot with the caption, "This is what you do when you only have one toe separator" was pretty funny. We're sorry he took it down. Of the four candidates Romero is most like Pinches in his outspokenness, and Pinches has been one of the best supervisors this county has had.

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EYES ONLY, ANDERSON VALLEY: Dave Evans, of the Navarro Store, and Mendocino County's leading live music impresario, is looking for a new grill guy on the days of the big events. Job pays $15 an hour. Experience probably helpful. Call the store, 895-9445, for specs.

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VEHICLE PROWL -- Caller in the 500 block of East Perkins Street reported at 5:55 a.m. Tuesday that a man may have broken into the caller's vehicle. An officer checked the area but the suspect was gone.

SHOPLIFTER -- An officer responded to Walmart on Airport Park Boulevard at 3:18 p.m. Tuesday and arrested a 42-year-old Gualala woman for shoplifting. She was cited and released.

RATTLESNAKE SEEN -- Caller on Valley View Drive reported at 3:41 p.m. Tuesday seeing a rattlesnake. The caller was referred to a wildlife trapper.

SHOPLIFTER -- An officer responded to Safeway on South State Street at 7:03 p.m. Tuesday and arrested a 36-year-old Clearlake man for shoplifting. He was cited and released.

INJURED BIRD -- Caller in the 700 block of East Perkins Street reported at 10:03 p.m. Tuesday that an injured bird was in a building. An officer responded and reported that the bird had left.

SKUNK, NOT MARIJUANA -- Caller in the 500 block of Cypress Street reported at 10:40 p.m. Tuesday that there was a strong smell of marijuana in the area and requested an officer check it out. An officer responded and determined there was a skunk in the area.

The following were compiled from reports prepared by the Ukiah Police Department regarding calls handled by the Fort Bragg Police Department.

BLANKET STOLEN -- Caller at Safeway on South Main Street reported at 3:27 a.m. Tuesday that a blanket had been stolen from a vehicle. An officer responded and determined the incident was not as reported.

DEATH REPORT -- An officer responded to the 20000 block of Huckleberry Lane at 6:29 a.m. Tuesday and took a report of a death.

DUI ARREST -- An officer stopped a vehicle in the 100 block of Cypress Street at 7:42 p.m. Tuesday and arrested Coleman D. Watkins, 54, of Fort Bragg, on suspicion of driving under the influence. He was booked into county jail.

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THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF TOXIC SUBSTANCES CONTROL will hold a public workshop on May 22, 6:30 p.m., at Town Hall, 363 N. Main Street, Fort Bragg to discuss possible cleanup plans for the Operable Unit C and Operable Unit D of the former Georgia Pacific Mill site. Unit C comprises about 114 acres in the northern area of the site, and the 168-acre Unit D is in the southern portion of the site. (Maple Street is the approximate dividing line). The units were historically used for industrial activities such as sawmill and planing operations, vehicle and equipment maintenance, log and lumber storage and a tree nursery. Information: Nathan Schumacher, DTSC Public Participation Specialist, 8800 Cal Center Drive,Sacramento CA 95826 (916) 255-3650 or toll free (866) 495-5651,

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I know a Palestinian shepherd from the South Hebron hills who was out in the hills with his sheep and goats some years ago when Israeli settlers brutally attacked him. There was nothing unusual about that. After a while some soldiers turned up and arrested the shepherd when he dared to complain. His outcome is also entirely normal. Then the real nightmare began. He was held for some three weeks before being charged and brought to court — a court that conducted itself entirely in Hebrew, a language he didn’t understand. I first met him near Susya just before he was sentenced. He was living in a tiny, vulnerable khirbeh, or cluster of tents and sheep pens, on the edge of the desert, and he knew he was likely to be sent to jail for many months on the basis of the soldiers’ false testimony. He was terrified and also bewildered, unable to make any sense of what happened to him and, of course, utterly unable to seek legal redress. Palestinians living in the occupied territories have, as a rule, no effective legal recourse, though not for lack of courts or judges. Anyone who attends the trials in the military court at the major army camp of Ofer, just north of Jerusalem, rapidly comes to the conclusion that most Palestinian civilians who have the misfortune of appearing before that court have almost no chance of finding justice there. (It’s true that occasionally, very rarely, miracles do occur.) The chances improve slightly if the Palestinian happens to come before an Israeli civil authority such as the Jerusalem District Court or, indeed, the Israeli Supreme Court. In matters of land ownership, over the last ten years or so Palestinian claims in the South Hebron hills have quite often been recognized by the civil courts, usually after an extended process — though getting the soldiers in South Hebron to bow to the authority of the court and to allow the farmers and shepherds access to their lands is another matter.

— David Shulman

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by Tony Hoagland

There are people who do not see a broken playground swing

as a symbol of ruined childhood

and there are people who don't interpret the behavior

of a fly in a motel room as a mocking representation of their thought process.

There are people who don't walk past an empty swimming pool

and think about past pleasures unrecoverable

and then stand there blocking the sidewalk for other pedestrians.

I have read about a town somewhere in California where human beings

do not send their sinuous feeder roots

deep into the potting soil of others' emotional lives

as if they were greedy six-year-olds

sucking the last half-inch of milkshake up through a noisy straw;

and other persons in the Midwest who can kiss without

debating the imperialist baggage of heterosexuality.

Do you see that creamy, lemon-yellow moon?

There are some people, unlike me and you,

who do not yearn after fame or love or quantities of money as

unattainable as that moon;

thus, they do not later

have to waste more time

defaming the object of their former ardor.

Or consequently run and crucify themselves

in some solitary midnight Starbucks Golgotha.

I have news for you—

there are people who get up in the morning and cross a room

and open a window to let the sweet breeze in

and let it touch them all over their faces and bodies.

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NEW ZODIAC TIPS: Dad did it! No, the other guy did it!

Just as The Chronicle started sorting through its usual thick packet of regular tips from amateur sleuths proclaiming they’ve positively, absolutely, unequivocally solved the case of the infamous Zodiac killer, a couple rose a bit above the morass.

The bottom line? Still no solution, but lots of grist for the Zodiac-following community that obsesses over every detail.

One tipster, Gary Stewart of Baton Rouge, La., says the Zodiac was his long-lost and now-dead father, Earl Van Best — thereby joining a long, long list of people claiming the Zodiac was their father. Or mother. Or sister. Or the nutball living upstairs. Stewart packed his 12 years of research into his book, “The Most Dangerous Animal of All,” published this week by HarperCollins.

The other tipster is Chase Goodwyn, a handwriting analyst who flew to The Chronicle’s newsroom from his Chicago office to show several bulging folders of evidence that he says proves the killer was the man many investigators have been fingering all along: the late Vallejo schoolteacher Arthur Leigh Allen.

As The Chronicle’s reporters have been saying for, well, all the years since the Zodiac shot and stabbed at least five people to death in 1968 and 1969 in San Francisco and other spots of the Bay Area: All tips are considered seriously. Dismissing anything out of hand would be foolish, as the annals of crime reporting have proved again and again.

And when it comes to the Zodiac, there is always lots of interest. With his sinister cryptograms, braggadocio and death-driven fear, he is the most storied of all American killers whose cases have not been solved. Which is remarkable, considering the Zodiac’s victim count was nowhere near as high as many other monsters in the annals of serial killing. Take Southern California’s William “The Freeway Killer” Bonin, executed in 1996, for example — he slew dozens.

But Bonin — nor any of the others — lacked the alchemy of creepiness, fear and mystery that the Zodiac had. And has.

As he killed, the Zodiac sent cryptograms and taunting letters to The Chronicle and other newspapers and had the Bay Area in a frenzy of fear. Dozens of killings have been attributed to him since his last officially confirmed murder — cab driver Paul Stine in San Francisco, 1969 — but authorities carefully stick to the victim total of five. So does The Chronicle — though, of course, without conclusive findings, anything is possible.

The San Francisco Police Department takes the same attitude. And while neither of the latest two tips — nor the hundreds of others that spill in to The Chronicle and local authorities every year — have led to an arrest, that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually, said police Officer Albie Esparza, who’s been taking quite a few calls this week regarding Stewart’s book. New contentions about the Zodiac, especially those slung forth by a major publisher, tend to generate a large — OK, huge — number of calls.

“This is America, so people are entitled to their opinions,” Esparza said, in the careful phrasing that cops so often use when discussing Zodiac tips. “Anyone who has information on the Zodiac case is encouraged to contact our investigators, and we are of course going to look into it just as we do all such information.”

Read: No arrest imminent. But you never know.

Stewart’s book has a few slices of local connection that make it more interesting than most, however. One is that Stewart — a 51-year-old vice president of a cleaning company — says his father married his mother in 1962 in San Francisco and promptly triggered salacious headlines in newspapers including The Chronicle.

The trouble, he writes, is that Earl Van Best was 28 and his bride, Judy Chandler, was 14. Best did jail time for robbing the near-cradle, the marriage was annulled, and The Chronicle’s stories railed about the “Ice Cream Romance” (the couple met at an ice cream parlor) and the pair’s “reckless love.”

One of the writers was, Stewart says, The Chronicle’s own Paul Avery — the same Paul Avery who later covered the Zodiac killings and got a personal letter from the murderer. The clippings, however, are unbylined, so it’s hard to tell who wrote what.

Stewart was given up by his parents, he writes, and wound up being adopted by a loving couple in Baton Rouge. But as an adult he became curious about his birth parents, and his research led him to the San Francisco Police Department where, he says, investigators including now-retired Police Chief Earl Sanders helped him dig up records on his father. After a certain point, though, the cops clammed up, he writes, saying whatever what in the file was offensive.

Stewart went on to conclude that the Zodiac’s handwriting and pictures resembled his father’s. He also writes that the Zodiac’s cyphers spell out Van Best’s name, and offers up many other circumstantial connections to make his case. Van Best died decades ago, according to the book, so he’s not around to rebut.

Check it out for yourself to see if Van Best resembles the Zodiac sketch:

Most of the sizable collection of amateur Zodiac sleuths out there on the web aren’t buying Stewart’s theory.

Tom Voigt, who runs, is sticking to his contention that the bad guy was former newspaperman Richard Gaikowski of San Francisco, who died in 2004. The competing says Stewart “provides no proof, no evidence.”

Stewart is unswayed by the skepticism.

“Sometimes the truth is so horrible that it must be uncovered in bits and pieces, snippets here and there, absorbed slowly, as the whole of it at once is simply too shocking to bear,” Stewart writes.

Handwriting, picture similarities and cypher clues are the bedrock of hundreds of other contentions — and that’s where the Chicago tip comes in.

Goodwyn says his careful examination of the Zodiac’s sinister letters and Leigh Allen’s handwriting make the similarities inescapable, despite earlier findings by others that make the opposite point. Allen is the man who was found to have a Zodiac watch, a Royal typewriter whose letters resembled those on the Zodiac Killer’s letters, and who lived not far from the scene of one of the killings.

He’s also the man named as the most likely suspect by Robert Graysmith, the former Chronicle employee who wrote the definitive books on the mystery — the books which were used in the 2007 movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Graysmith.

“The letter characteristics that match are very unique, and not something you can fake,” said Goodwyn, who let The Chronicle photograph some of his research — but not him. “Arthur Leigh Allen is the Zodiac.”

Just for perspective, here are a few other solutions proffered up in recent years:

Those claiming the Zodiac was their father include Orange County real estate agent Deborah Perez, Los Angeles cop Steve Hodel and Dennis Kaufman of Northern California, who produced a Zodiac-style hood and grainy film as evidence. Others say the Zodiac was actually a band of rogue cops, and yet others contend he doubled as the Unabomber.

And in 2011 a band of retired law enforcement officials who had investigated the original Zodiac case, led by Lyndon Lafferty of Vallejo, maintained the killer was a 92-year-old real estate salesman in Fairfield. The salesman died the next year.

The most telling evidence of all so far, however: Nobody’s been tossed behind bars, let alone convicted. No conclusive finding has been determined by the people who count the most at this point — the cops. And until that happens, Officer Esparza said: “The case is still open.”

(Courtesy, the San Francisco Chronicle)

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TODAY'S FURTHER SELL OUT of the American People's Common Property

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HOMETOWN GIRL Opens Law Office in Laytonville

ElinaAgnoliLaytonville, CA, May 16, 2014 — Elina Agnoli is pleased to announce the opening of her new law firm, The Law Office of Elina N. Agnoli. Her practice encompasses a wide range of civil matters, including but not limited to Personal Injuries, Estate Planning, Wills & Trusts, Family Law, Real Estate/Property Disputes, Mediation, Business Consulting and Incorporation, and Business and Contract Negotiations. In addition, she will soon be offering notary services out of her office.

Ms. Agnoli was born and raised right here in Mendocino County, where she attended Laytonville Elementary, Middle and High Schools. She was named valedictorian of her graduating Middle and High School Classes. From a young age, she was active in sports, extra curricular activities, and community enrichment programs; she also participated in high school rodeo, horse shows, and 4-H programs throughout Mendocino County and Northern California. In 1997, she was crowned Laytonville Rodeo Sweetheart.

After graduating high school in 2000, Ms. Agnoli was awarded an academic scholarship to the prestigious University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude in 2004 with dual Bachelor of Arts Degrees in Political Science and Creative Writing. After college, she was accepted at the University of San Francisco School of Law. She graduated in the top 1/3 of her class in 2008, passed the California Bar Exam, and thereafter quickly landed a job at Kazan McClain Satterly & Greenwood, one of the premier plaintiffs' asbestos firms in the country. At Kazan McClain, Ms. Agnoli spent several years litigating complex cases – frequently obtaining multimillion dollar settlements and judgments on behalf of clients, and their families, harmed by some of the worst corporate tortfeasors in American history. After leaving Kazan McClain, Ms. Agnoli worked for the nationwide firm of Brown, Koro & Romag, LLP, which specializes in representing injured motorcyclists.

During high school, college, and law school, Ms. Agnoli participated in various mock trial and moot court programs, garnering several local and national awards and titles and generally honing her trial advocacy skills. She now judges several such competition each year, and also helps coach the Laytonville High School Mock Trial Team.

Ms. Agnoli is committed to offering each of her clients exceptional, personalized, high-quality legal services in a cost-effective and efficient manner. Ms. Agnoli is known for being an aggressive advocate as well as a pragmatic, straightforward and highly creative attorney.

Ms. Agnoli appreciates all the support and well-wishes she has received from the community since opening her office; she is exceedingly happy to be living and practicing law back in her hometown of Laytonville, and is looking forward to providing residents of her beloved community with outstanding legal services and advice for the next few decades.

The Law Office of Elina N. Agnoli is located at 140 Branscomb Road in Laytonville, California. Telephone: 707.984.6121 Facsimile: 707.984.6130 Email:

One Comment

  1. Bill Pilgrim May 16, 2014

    Shall the Napafication of Anderson Valley steam ahead without restraint? If there’s only ONE reason to incorporate the place, it’s so we may have some sort of local authority to put a tight leash on the grape industry. It’s not going to slow down until people get organized and cry “Hold!”

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