- Local Campaign Finance
- Willits Roundabout
- Getting Old
- Seeking Solidarity
- 32 Poets
- Frost Monster Action
- Police Reports
- France Today
- Trashing San Francisco
FINAL PRE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN STATEMENTS for the June 3 primary election were due May 22 and those received by the deadline have been posted on the county website. Statements can either be hand delivered, submitted on-line or sent by overnight delivery, so it may be possible that some of the missing statements were sent overnight delivery but received too late for posting on the county's website. The statements are intended to tell the public where the candidates are getting their money and where they are spending it. The statements can also be revealing regarding the candidates’ attitudes about support for local business and living within one's means.
CHALLENGER ROBIN SUNBEAM and incumbent Susan Ranochak both filed statements for County Assessor/Clerk/Recorder. Ranochak reported a total of $10,648, including an $8,000 loan from herself and $2,000 in contributions from her mother, which means she isn't exactly the people's choice in terms of where her money comes from. Sunbeam reported a total of $7,616, including a $1,479 loan from herself, and the rest in individual contributions. Sunbeam is running on a platform of investigating fraudulent foreclosures and restoring neighborhood polling places.
SUNBEAM DESERVES A VOTE just for her willingness to challenge a status quo that allows important county offices to be handed down from one well-paid bureaucrat to another without serious challenge. Ranochak was handed the job when her predecessor/supervisor, Marsha Wharf, retired mid-term. Auditor/Controller Meredith Ford, who was handed her job from her predecessor/supervisor, Dennis Huey, has now passed the lucrative sinecure-baton to her assistant, Lloyd Weer, who will appear on the ballot unopposed. And Treasurer/Tax Collector Shari Schapmire, who was handed her job from her predecessor/supervisor Tim Knudsen, also appears on the ballot unopposed. Theoretically, the voters are able to hold the occupants of these important positions accountable at the ballot box. But there is no accountability with hand picked successors running unopposed, which has been the Mendoland practice for decades.
TOM WOODHOUSE was the only candidate to submit a money statement in the race for Third District Supervisor. Woodhouse, a local realtor, has raised a total of $16,226, mostly from real estate and business interests. A newcomer to electoral politics, Woodhouse has been a long-time volunteer with local schools and also is known and admired for organizing community cleanups and graffiti removal. Woodhouse will probably be in a November run-off with Holly Madrigal, a ten-year veteran on the Willits City Council and Hal Wagenet, a former supervisor whose record in office ranges from opaque to non-existent. Clay Romero rounds out the field, but probably doesn't stand a chance, given his penchant for saying what he thinks.
HOLLY MADRIGAL raised $8,000 through March 24, the previous filing deadline, including almost $5,000 from various relatives. She also picked up $150 from former Ukiah Mayor Jim Mastin, a signal that the conservative liberals who comprise the oppressively non-progressive Democratic Party, are solidly behind Madrigal, a fact that probably won't help much in Laytonville and Covelo, and won't help at all with area lefties who regard Democrats and Republicans as co-evils. Holly's mom topped the list with $2,200 but hubby was close behind with $2,000.
CANDIDATE MADRIGAL has been a member of the Willits Economic Localization (WELL) Coordinating Committee since 2007. Not surprisingly, she lists support for local business as one of her top campaign priorities. But how does she spend her money? Her March campaign statement shows that Madrigal spent over $2,400 in Sonoma County for campaign signs. Which means she had to drive right past several local sign shops that could have supplied the same product. Madrigal also paid former Supervisorial candidate Estelle Clifton of Redwood Valley $2,000 for “campaign manager services.” Madrigal has been elected to the Willits City Council three times, but has to pay someone to tell her how to run a campaign? Apparently so, since Madrigal paid Jennifer Poole a similar amount during Madrigal's previous unsuccessful campaign against John Pinches. Hal Wagenet, as of the previous filing deadline, had raised only $2,000, which is understandable since he waited until March to announce he was running.
PAUL JOENS-POULTON, handpicked by incumbent Paul Tichinin, who has ruled the Mendocino County Office of Education (MCOE) for 20 years, was the only candidate for County Superintendent of Schools to get his campaign statement turned in, but might have been better off if he hadn't. The campaign statement seems to reveal a pattern of hidden transactions and deficit spending. But Tichinin probably views Joens-Poulton (aka “The Hyphenate,” or J-P, for short) as the perfect embodiment of the kind of business as usual sleazy mediocrity characteristic of that office all the way back to Lou Delsol.
JOENS-POULTON received a total of $3,484 in contributions, including a $1,000 “loan” from himself. Most of the balance derives from county educrats, a woeful collection of semi-literate hacks and hack-ettes. Natch, MCOE Human Resources Director, Richard Lamken, recently caught in broad daylight attempting to remove a Galletti campaign sign from private property next to MCOE headquarters, kicked in $250 bills for The Hyphenate. Lamken lives in Union City, which makes for the longest commute of any public Mendo employee we know of, and we have to wonder if he commutes in an edu-funded vehicle fueled out of an edu-credit card.
MOST TELLING is that The Hyphenate has spent more than three times more money than he has received, most of it by running up his credit card. At least we hope it was his credit card and not one from MCOE. J-P shows an ending cash balance of minus $2,100 plus an outstanding credit card balance due of almost $3,500 with total charges of more than $4,500 and a payment of $1,000. The prob with the credit card, aside from the deficit spending aspect, is that The Hyphenate has concealed how the money was spent. By law, campaign costs are considered spent when the goods or services are received, not when the bill finally gets paid. Did J-P spend lavishly to buy signs and campaign literature from outtahere or hire an outside consultant? We will never know based on the lack of transparent campaign finance reporting. J-P did report spending $400 for a Montgomery, New York web designer, which is an indication that most of his money probably went to outside contractors.
BY USING A CREDIT CARD and not itemizing the purchases, The Hyphenate has failed to report where he spent much of his campaign cash. He also failed to report where he got the $1,000 to make a payment on his credit card balance. Likewise, he failed to report where he got the money to make payments resulting in a negative cash balance of $2,100. If he paid these amounts out of his own pocket they need to be listed as donations or loans from himself to his campaign. Or did the money come from Paul Tichinin, Richard Lamken or some other overpaid drone at MCOE's Talmage compound? Or did he write bum checks? In short, J-P can't fill out a simple campaign finance statement or keep his own expenditures in line, but this guy wants to run a multi-million dollar operation with a history of financial malfeasance. Warren Galletti and Kathy Wylie are both running hard against J-P and either one, with lots of the usual blah-blah so-called school experience, would be a welcome alternative to a continuation of the Jack Ward, Hal Titen, Paul Tichinin regime.
AN EASY BYPASS ALTERNATIVE
To the Editor,
It seems there is quite a bit of confusion on the subject of wetland impacts from the Willits Bypass. Some people suggest that the wetlands in Little Lake Valley are trashed. This is not true. They are compromised but still functioning pretty well. The organization Save Our Little Lake Valley (SOLLV) and others decry the filling of wetlands because that really does render them completely useless as a wetland.
Burying the wetlands under 10 to 30 feet of fill damages them irreversibly by destroying their many beneficial functions.
It might help to understand what wetland functions are. Most importantly they recharge the aquifer, slow floodwaters and clean water by filtering it through specialized soil and plants.
Another function is a fabulously fertile ecosystem. Because there is so much water wetlands can support an amazing variety of plants and creatures. There is way more habitat in a wetland than a dry hillside, let alone under acres of pavement.
Caltrans really likes to play the numbers game. Every time they produce a new document the numbers change. There are five official versions of the Mitigation Plan and there is about to be a sixth. To go by the permits doesn't help, as each permit was issued at a different time so the numbers are all different. Sometimes the numbers refer to the whole project, sometimes just to one phase of the project. Some numbers refer to acres "directly impacted" some refer to "permanent impacts" some refer to "temporary impacts". Some refer to "waters of the US" some to "streams" some to "wetlands". What the agencies refer to as wetlands may not look like a wetland to you. It may look like a cow pasture. It is the type of soil and the "functions" that make it important to the health of the watershed.
All these different classifications of wetlands and waters are based on accepted science and it is what the agencies use to identify impacts. A person needs a bit of understanding of an ecosystem Suggest change to: You may have heard the number 89 acres of wetlands, sometimes referred to by SOLLV as "almost 90 acres" (Caltrans is now says it is 82 acres but maybe this is of course subject to change). This refers to "wetlands and other waters of the US". Those "other waters" are streams. The wetlands "filled", meaning completely destroyed, is 51 acres (An April 23rd Caltrans letter now has this at 53 acres). The wetland that would be "temporarily impacted" is the other 31 acres. For instance the area under the viaduct that will be severely compacted soil is considered temporary impact. Caltrans has promised to return these areas to "pre-project conditions" without ever saying how. All they actually describe is leaving it at the same surface elevation as it was before. They will not de-compact the soil, they will simply add some topsoil and plant a wetland species they pretend will survive in the changed soil.
Using just the roundabout part of the northern interchange for an intersection - that might actually impress upon through travelers that Willits is here - could avoid HALF of the wetland filling (24.4 acres, using Caltrans figures). This is what, Supervisors Hamburg and Gjerde, two Willits City Council members, the Little Lake Grange, SOLLV, the Willits Environmental Center and most recently the Coyote Valley Tribe, are calling for. The Water Board listed this option as compensation for the fact that mitigation is from 2 to 4 years behind schedule (the schedule promised in all 5 mitigation plans).
Saving these acres could also save an estimated $15 million (using Caltrans figures), which could go towards the unfunded mitigation. The amount of unfunded mitigation is anywhere between $30 million and $48 million depending on how bids shake out and what the 6th Mitigation Plan figures are. Letting the roundabout portion of the Northern Interchange serve as the northern terminus of the bypass could be accomplished with a change order so the contractor would not be impacted. Caltrans is already using construction contingency funds included in the construction contract to pay for some of the mitigation work.
Beware !!! Caltrans's reply to the Water Board (the April 23 letter from Caltrans) says they will "identify" funding sources . . . which means Caltrans could come back to Mendocino County for money for the extra mitigation the Water Board is asking for. Because this is a County generated project we are expected to fork up 15 percent of the cost. When mitigation costs were determined in 2011 the county was asked to come up with another $2 million. Watch Caltrans hold opening the bypass hostage to extort more millions out of us.
What can you do? Call all your elected representatives. Ask them to support the roundabout version of the Northern Interchange of the Willits Bypass. Reduce impacts, solve the current mitigation delay problem, the mitigation funding shortfall problem, assure additional mitigation delays do not occur, avoid important archeological sites and complete the project on time.
BOOKED! (TUESDAY, MAY 27TH)
WILLIAM BARRY. Habitual Ukiah drunk in custody long enough to sober up and then released to do it all over again.
SHARON CARRIER. Arrested in Fort Bragg on a warrant out of Butte County.
DARLENE DAVIS. Covelo. Domestic dispute and apparently DANIEL JONES. Wanted in Auburn for felony robbery.
LENOX REYES. Covelo. Domestic dispute with Sig Other.
The Sig Other.
HARRY WEST. Habitual street drunk. Caught and released to do it again.
MICHAEL OWEN. Ukiah. Possession of a controlled substance — methamphetamine.
MICHAEL PINA. Covelo. Domestic assault.
GETTING OLD has way more virtues that it has faults, if you leave out the pain you might suffer if you have some serious injury. But I take great pleasure in being able to look back on things. I remember certain little scenes that are almost meaningless, like Thomas Wolfe coming up the library steps while I was coming down, being with William Faulkner and talking to him about his work, all kinds of things. I remember a sky without a jet trail. I remember Joan Crawford dancing. I remember Roosevelt’s fireside chats and people sitting in front of the radio, like warming their hands in front of a stove. Everyone on the face of the earth has such remembrances if he lives long enough. I’m 80 years old now, which is almost inconceivable to me. I don’t believe it for an instant.
— Shelby Foote
WAZZUP WITH CRAIG
Washington D.C. Summer Beltway Action
Please accept my warmest and most loving spiritual greetings, In addition to Bork and I having somehow survived the winter-spring months at her Magic Shack residence in New Orleans, I have resolved all disputes worldwide with others who are also involved in radical environmental/peace and justice frontline organizing-activist activity. Yep, this includes anything to do with money transactions. The final telephone call to California was successfully conducted last night. I am therefore free to move on, to focus on my own unique spiritual calling, unfettered by anything at all. Whereas I was involved with Earth First! Since the first meeting in Berkeley in 1980, I wish to say to all of the tribe, as I continue on autonomously, that I will always love you, even though I might not always understand you. It has been one wild roller coaster of a ride! Thank you for letting me into the circle. I am this instant formally proposing a Washington D.C. Summer Beltway Action. In addition to earlier informal conversations, both at Zuccotti Park in NYC when we were Occupy Wall Street, and then later at D.C. Occupy at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza, about a caravan going around the outer road-ring, featuring a flatbed truck with our favorite bands performing on it, another vehicle featuring the first performance of the climate justice play written by a group of D.C. Occupiers in the late fall of 2012, and of course a vanload of yogis chanting for world sanity, plus anything else which Divine Anarchy adds to the mixture, to those who are interested in being part of this, we need to get creative soon! I will have money tomorrow, and may leave The Big Easy and travel. If you wish to co-create this action, please call Bork and I at (504) 302-9951. I am seeking solidarity, Craig Louis Stehr Nota bene: An anonymous anarchist has recommended that the inner road-ring of the Washington D.C. beltway be considered as a possible second caravan route, either in addition to, or instead of, the outer road-ring. ;-) Craig Louis Stehr Telephone messages: (504) 302-9951 Permanent email address: CraigStehr@pamho.net Snail mail: 333 Socrates Street, New Orleans, LA 70114 Blog: (maintained by Ron Huber of Maine's "Friends of Penobscot Bay"): http://craiglstehr.blogspot.com
THIRTY TWO POETS IN MENDOCINO
Lively numbers! The 39th Anniversary of the Mendocino Spring Poetry Celebration, in its 9th annual revival, hosted 32 poets on Sunday May 25, at The Hill House in Mendocino town. Poets reading were Devreaux Baker, Oasis, Riantee Rand, Lyle LaFaver, Gordon Black, Jay Frankston, Dan Roberts, David Cesario, Steve Hellman, Roberta Werdinger, Peter Wells, Marylyn Motherbear, Joe Smith, Jeanine Pfeiffer, Carl Kopman, Janet DeBar, Cheri Ause, Dan Barth, Michael Riedell, Bill Bradd, Maureen Eppstein, Karen Lewis, Scott Croghan, Janice Blue, Virginia Sharkey. Sharon Doubiago, Robert Yoder, Tara Sufiana, Zida Borcich, Karin Uphoff, Kate Dougherty, and Helen Sears. Dan Roberts has mounted his photos of the readers here:
There were two open readings, at noon and again at five, with a break to enjoy the town and headlands. Music by bassist Richard Cooper. Dan Roberts recorded for broadcast on RhythmRunningRiver, his bimonthly show of poetry interspersed in world music, accessed per web at kzyx.org. The next broadcast is this Sunday June 1st at 2pm, featuring poems from the Mendocino Spring Poetry Celebration.
I NEVER DARED to be radical when young, for fear it would make me conservative when old.
— Robert Frost, 1936; from “Ten Mills”
My Response to Barbara Lamb—
Barbara, I do not know where you are getting your information but to my knowledge the board of KZYX never set aside any money for a Ukiah studio. There was mention of a grand plan including the construction of a new transmitter tower as well as renting and building of a studio space at the annual Membership Meeting in early May. There was no final budget on the project but the impression I got was that it would run $50K-$100K.
Unfortunately, at the same meeting, members were apprised of the fact that our rural status for NPR has been revoked resulting in $25K a year raise in expenses. Also, for demographic reasons, KZYX will be receiving up to $50K less from the CPB this year.
That means that for the current plan for a Ukiah studio to work, the station will have to make well over $100K this year over and above what was made last year. There was no mention of how all this extra money would be raised, and my feeling was that the Ukiah project was at least a year away, if really feasible any time soon.
My concern with this entire FCC debacle is not so much that John Sakowicz complained, but that at least four others did as well. This is not one person with a personal vendetta. I am curious as to the motivations of those complaints and feel they should be transparently analyzed in order to determine if there is any legitimacy to them. If there is legitimacy, changes should be made in order to comply with FCC regulations. This would seem to me to be a rational way to deal with this situation.
I am in no way speaking for Mr. Sakowicz, but have been frustrated with the amount of disinformation somehow surrounding this debate and others throughout last year’s Board election. I would like to invite all those interested to join us at kzyxtalk on the MCN listserve where we are having the kind of conversations that shed light on issues such as these.
I would urge everyone to reserve judgment until all the facts are revealed through community dialogue.
Doug McKenty, Elk
FROST MONSTER REPORT
Valley residents organized a community meeting on May 7th to address the night time nuisance of frost protection machines. Grape growers showed up in numbers and expressed extreme disregard for the complaining residents, claiming that their profits were far more important than residents sleeping at night.
Many of us left feeling so insulted, that we decided to continue meeting to plan strategies to end this assault. We met again on the 21st. Our next meeting is on Wed the 4th of June.
Of course the highest vision for this situation would be for the grape growers to admit that they made a mistake so that the community can forgive them (we are a very forgiving community) and we can all move on with our lives. However, in case that doesn’t happen, we want to be prepared. Here are some things you can do to help.
1. Sign the petition. There is one at the Caretaker's Garden on Lambert Lane, and others will be carrying them throughout the community.
2. Fill out the Public Nuisance complaint form. There are copies at the Caretaker's Garden and you can leave your completed form there, or if that is not convenient for you, you can go to the county web site and look under the Planning Department for the General Nuisance Complaint Form:
Please include your parcel number in the complaint (not necessary if you are a renter.) Your parcel number can be found on your tax bill. Print it out and send it or fax it to 860 North Bush Street, Ukiah, CA 95482 Fax: (707) 463-5709
3. Attend the next meeting on Wed., June 4th. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for the time and venue
4. Join a work committee. Currently we have a committee working on mapping the monsters in the valley and those affected by them. Another committee is working with our 5th district supervisor researching the best political/governmental path to follow. We have a committee working on physical direct action, and another working on social media direct action. A few folks are researching frost protection technology.
5. Make a donation.
Together we will stop these health hazards so we can all return to peaceful nights in the valley.
Wendy Read, Boonville
GUARD YOUR WATER. THIEVES WILL TARGET THE ELDERLY FIRST, THEN YOU
On May 24, 2014 at approximately 1:43pm, Mendocino County Sheriff Deputies were dispatched to the 45000 block of Substation Road, Gualala, to a reported theft of water. Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputies contacted the victim and learned that sometime the night prior, unknown suspect(s) stole 3000 gallons of water from a full storage tank, which is located in the victim’s fenced property. The victim advised that this incident was not the first time water had been stolen from the storage tank and estimated the loss of the water at $1,000. Further investigations are ongoing at this time. Anyone with information that could aid the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office with this investigation is urged to call the Sheriff’s Office Tip-Line at 707-234-2100.
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On 05-24-2014 at approximately 05:48 PM, Mendocino County Sheriff Deputies were dispatched to the 100 block of Main Street, Point Arena, to a report of a collision involving three vehicles and a physical altercation which had ensued. Mendocino County Sheriff Deputies arrived at the location and observed a small crowd around the suspect, who was identified as Trevor Sanders, 45, of Point Arena. Sheriff Deputies learned that Sanders had used his vehicle to strike several parked vehicles multiple times with enough force to cause significant damaged to all involved vehicles. It was reported that one of the vehicle’s owners, Alexander Bartlett, 21, of Point Arena, was just entering his vehicle when he observed Sanders driving toward him. The victim was forced to jump out of the way of Sanders’ vehicle to avoid being struck. Sanders backed his vehicle and then struck the victim’s vehicle two additional times. The victim attempted to remove the keys from Sander’s vehicle and a fight ensued. Subjects at the scene detained Sanders until Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputies arrived. The investigation revealed that Sanders had been consuming alcoholic beverages at a local bar and then left, operating his vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Sanders began ramming vehicles outside the bar for unknown reasons and narrowly missed striking a pedestrian, Douglas Forsell, 62, of Point Arena. Sanders was placed under arrest for Assualt With A Deadly Weapon and Driving Under the Influence and booked into the Mendocino County Jail. Sanders’ bail was set at $30,000 dollars.
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STEALING THE OLD GUY'S FLATSCREEN
On May 26, 2014 at approximately 5:51pm, Mendocino County Sheriff Deputies were dispatched to the 18000 block of Old Coast Highway, Fort Bragg, to a reported burglary which just occurred. Minutes later, deputies received a second call for service from a neighboring resident, who reported observing a suspicious male subject carrying a flat screen television to a separate residence in the area. Sheriff Deputies began searching the area where the subject had last been observed. Deputies subsequently contacted a resident in the area who stated Dylan Swartout, 42, of Fort Bragg had just dropped off a television, DVD movies, a CD player, a DVD player and speakers at the residence. Sheriff’s Deputies recovered the property and took it to the victim of the reported burglary, Mr. Richard Jones, 74, of Fort Bragg. The victim reported he was inside his residence when he had heard a noise coming from the area of his garage. Upon opening the door, he encountered a male subject who fled out of a side door. The victim positively identified all the property deputies recovered and provided them with a detailed description of the suspect. A short time later, Sheriff Deputies located Swartout less than a quarter of a mile from the burglarized residence. Swartout was detained and the victim was requested to respond to the location to confirm Swartout’s involvement. The victim identified Swartout as the subject he encountered in his garage. Swartout was placed under arrest for Burglary and transported to the Mendocino County Jail where he was held in lieu of $50,000 bail.
ON-LINE STATEMENT OF THE DAY
I experienced an Interesting contrast between the deteriorating state of affairs here in North America and elsewhere last month, and it was eye-opening. Having just spent three weeks in France (yes, yes, I know — those “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” and all that other G.W. Bush bullshit), it was absolutely jaw-dropping what a contrast daily life is there compared to here. Impressions? Well, we travelled from Paris to rural Provence, and the first one was that there were no — as in NONE — homeless people to be seen. Anywhere. And even though cities, towns and villages were 1,000 years old or more, they were all sublimely beautiful. No garbage, no delaminating crap siding, no empty mini malls, or infrastructure falling apart. The contrast between beautiful medieval villages, vineyards and 300 km/hour passing TGV super trains was jarring. The pace of life was human, the people were extremely friendly (no psychotic road rage driven by a gut feeling that the world is going to hell) and the priorities seemed to be on human concerns like great food, wine, cheese, etc., all done at a human speed. How can this be? Well, the history of France is quite a roller coaster ride, including, ahem, “taking care” of the ruling classes when they got out of hand, whether regal or religious, and more recently, viewing the (gasp!) common good as a priority for the nation. As in, investment in infrastructure that benefits all. The map of the TGV network in the country looks like the interstate layout in America. Health care? It’s “free”. Education, including university? It’s “free”. They seem to realize that the entire nation gains when the population is healthy and educated. In America, the attitude is, for the bottom 60% of the population, we don’t care what inherent talents you have, if you don’t have the money to pay for it, bugger off. What a total waste of potential! The rest of the world must be literally laughing at us. How do they pay for this? Well gee, they have progressive tax rates like America had in — horrors! — the Eisenhower administration. And the vast majority realize that taxes pay for a civil society. And instead of encouraging tattooed mullet heads to drive 4×4 Hemis with ridiculously low fuel costs, they set prices at a level that encourages — once again, HORRORS! — conservation. For someone who never set foot in Europe before, it was a mindbender. More Americans should travel to France, a republic created in the mold of the American Revolution (with the official national standard of “Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood”) and see what other paths are possible, and what the end results can be. We are in such deep do-do here….
POT PARTY VS. PEE-PEE PARADE
by Steve Heilig
San Francisco has been oft-referred to as “49 square miles, surrounded by reality.” And the fabled Haight-Ashbury district is oft-noted as the most unreal square mile therein. Every April 20th — “4/20” — it becomes more so, by an order of magnitude of about 10,000 stoned people. And then a month later, by dint of plain old geography, our 'hood turns into “party central” during the annual Bay to Breakers footrace/debacle.
The origins of the 420 cannabis festivities are well-documented, if still debated — it seems to have originated in Marin County in the early 1970s, as a code for smoking reefer after school. Since then, all things 420 = all things cannabis (so much so that enacted California cannabis legislation bore that number). For decades, on the actual day, pot-smokers have gathered to enjoy their herbal libation/sacrament/medicine in public places. In San Francisco this has primarily meant Golden Gate Park's “Hippie Hill,” adjacent to the one-hippie Haight. Until the last couple of years, it was mostly a low-key event, featuring crowds of folks toking in the afternoon, especially at 4:20pm.
Last year, however, many locals, and local authorities, thought things got a bit out of hand. At least 10,000 people, likely many more, many if not most from out of town, many of a less “hippie” than thuggish demeanor, converged on the neighborhood. Violence did occur, but really not that much for such a large urban gathering. Trash, however, was left everywhere, not to mention urine and feces. San Francisco officials estimated it cost at least $10,000 to clean it all up, and this being an unofficial gathering, there is no organizer to bill for that. Local merchants were of a more mixed opinion, some of them reaping the commercial benefits of having so many thirsty smokers with the munchies, but others reporting lower business and some even closing for the day.
This year, 420 fell on Easter Sunday. We'll leave any theological speculations about that to others. Authorities were worried — so worried that the chief of police admonished/begged “Just be cool” and some others issued some more stern warnings. The night before, an official decision was made to shut off most all automobile traffic to the neighborhood, which usually only happens during the annual Haight Street Fair in June. The no-surprise result of this surprise policy was, yes, a quieter “main street” but also chaotic gridlock in all directions as drivers attempted to get to or just around the party. One wonders how much all the very many parking control officers and police would cost the city — $10,000 suddenly seemed cheap. The closure had the desired effect of cooling down Haight Street, but many merchants — who tolerate the hordes in the prospect of increased receipts — reported notably decreased business. The main cry from last year, for many more trash receptacles and porta-potties, seemed to go largely unheeded, alas.
The only vaguely predictable, even “official” proceedings are something of a two-way procession. Midday, the masses move gayly and randomly West down Haight, towards the park. After 4:20pm, when the horde lights up *en masse* in the park and a visible and smellable cloud rises above the lovely trees, people start to wander back eastward into the 'hood. Locals call it the 420 Zombie Parade. The police presence was very big on the street this year, even oppressive in a mostly-friendly manner; I was ordered — with a smile — off the main drag as my dog was barking loudly at the many skateboarders who had made the car-free street their own. So we wound back and forth, checking out the cross streets, which by early afternoon were already parking lots of idling cars with fuming drivers, stretching all the way up the hills towards Twin Peaks.
We saw big Easter Bunnies with pot leaf sweaters, lots of other rabbit ears, fake girl scouts in short skirts and high heels hawking questionable baked goods, forlorn freaks facedown in the gutter, sweet young kids doing a booming business at their lemonade stand, many other youngsters trying to sell various cannabis-laced or related products, and mostly, scads of people just wandering around, looking, well, dazed, in the heavily pot-perfumed lovely afternoon air.
In other words, it was like a much more crowded version of a normal sunny Sunday in the Haight.
Later in the day though, a mini gang fight or mugging gone bad resulted in a kicked-in glass door at a Haight Street record store (which, just after the festivities, added a “pot doc” service, wherein one just follows a green line on the floor to a back room where, for $39, “diagnoses” and cannabis cards are on offer), with a couple visits to the emergency room, prompting one staffer to say, “Isn't this supposed to be a mellow kinda thing?” Well, yes, but as noted, some of the folks who show up now seem less so inclined. And some of them get a bit aggressive with the many young women around, too — I heard one say the whole thing "creeped her out.” Booze is heavily in the mix too, of course; it's not a pure pot event by any means. Events like Mardi Gras or Beer Fest bring similar risks and complaints and even incidents.
However visible in some areas and despite it's history, 420 is now wholly a stoner sideshow. While a famed local jazz musician was heard to lament that “Before it moved here, it was a political event down at city hall calling for legalization,” little or no such messages came out here. It was all about getting high — and trying to sell stuff to one another.
But wither the broader cannabis issues? Legalization is the renewed crusade, and in Colorado, where the 420 festivities were now fully legal, one wise young man observed “It seems to be all about money, now.” The “corporatization of cannabis” is well underway, with the threat of federal prosecutions decreasing but the threat of gluts and plummeting prices added in. In California, as predicted, the forces pressing for legalization put off their next attempt a couple more years to regroup and strategize and raise cash and see how things roll out in Colorado. A bit of a backlash seems already underway, but tax revenues there are reportedly exceeding all expectations — a powerful drug, that should turn out to be. Once hooked, states will likely find it hard to kick that habit even if they want to.
As for more “scientific” aspects, heated assertions on opposing sides supposedly based on the same evidence are likely to persist. Arguments about legalization's impact on youth use patterns will be ever more visible, as will be the debates about cannabis' effect on neurodevelopment of young brains — just the week before 420, a small study was released purporting to show some negative such impacts, but it was so fluffed up by the media that the normally staid MedPage site issued a stinging denouncement of reefer-madness reporting. But many objective researchers and observers do think there is something not-so-benign about heavy adolescent use, and some of the 420 behaviors — and a mass of other anecdotal “evidence” — do little to refute that.
Debates about “medical marijuana,” ignited anew way back in 1996 by California's legalization of same, show little sign of abating too — prominent media MD Sanjay Gupta has issued ever-stronger endorsements of some medical use and has joined the call for a “rescheduling” of cannabis to allow more research — a position now held by many respectable groups, including the California Medical Association (disclosure: I co-authored their policy statement). Even without that change yet in place, though, research constraints seem to be lifting a bit in some cases, with more reports of cannabis-related investigations — some promising — underway. Cannabis is very unlikely to ever be confirmed as the be-all, cure-all magic substance its most devoted supporters hope, but the plant — or more likely, some of its components — will likely show more promise as time and research go on.
Back in the Haight, it was the morning after, and the Monday paper reported that, while there were few arrests even though smoking anything in the parks is illegal, the aftereffect was this: “G.G. Park Totally Wasted” under “mountains of trash.” How mellow is that?
Exactly one month later, festivities of a somewhat different demeanor “occupied” the Haight: The Bay to Breakers footrace, or rather, the street party associated with it. The serious face itself is over in less than forty minutes, as the Kenyan athletes, who come all this way in hopes of winning $3,000, or the average person's annual pay back home, practically fly from the Embarcadero seven miles westward to the befogged Pacific. A few hundred other racers take it seriously and post competitive times, but the rest of the day, tens of thousands of partiers wander up the infamous Hayes Street hill and down into the “panhandle” of Golden Gate Park.
This year, another new policy, the closure of Alamo Square park at the top of the hill, seemed to just move the main party downstream a few blocks into the panhandle. Official strictures on public booze and nudity put a damper on things, but both were still in evidence. The amateur runners' amateur boozing was, as always, a main problem as it results in locals' calling the race a “puke and piss parade.” As for nudity, a brief viewing confirmed the old hippie festival dictum that “those who take off their clothes are those you wish would not, and vice versa” — although to be fair, there was a fair bit of not-too-shabby/flabby not-quite-nude flesh on display. And again, some fine and funny costumes. By late in the day, the stragglers were wandering lost, sunburned, loud and yes, sometimes obnoxious. Some residents on the main route and nearby had their hoses out already to clean things up.
And the next day, again, the panhandle looked like a massive garbage barge had overturned upwind. Huge dumpsters are wheeled in along the route to hold all the litter and trash. This time the sponsors of the race could be held accountable for at least some of the cleanup costs, but the pigsty provided yet more evidence that, in the decades since Lady Bird Johnson mounted her anti-litter crusade and a broader environmental movement made tossing trash about simply uncool, things have devolved back to an, er, more childish and messy norm. Which stinks in more ways than one.