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Off The Record (June 11, 2014)

BIG TROUBLE IN COVELO seems to be heading in the ominous direction of a revival of the Lincoln-Britton Feud of 1995. That one resulted in three shooting deaths, one of the fatalities famously being Mendocino County Sheriff's deputy and a former Navy Seal, Bob Davis. Bear Lincoln, defended by the legendary Tony Serra, was acquitted of responsibility for the death of Davis who, ironically, was also a Native American and enjoyed a reputation in Covelo for just law enforcement.

'Belle' Rodriguez
'Belle' Rodriguez

THE YOUNG COVELO WOMAN found murdered by gunfire last month is remembered as a bright, vivacious girl with no criminal involvement. Rosalena Belle Rodriguez, only 21 years old, was a member of the Lincoln family; her killers, and there was more than one, are presumed to be young members of the Britton family.

ALTHOUGH MISS RODRIGUEZ'S family still hasn't received the autopsy report, a prevalent assumption in Covelo is that in the terrible hours before she was riddled by gunfire and left dead on Hopper Lane, the young woman had been repeatedly raped and beaten by several men.

A SECOND PREVALENT assumption in Covelo is that at least five persons were involved in this terrible event while only one of the responsibles remains in custody. A third prevalent assumption is that unless law enforcement moves quickly to make additional arrests, retaliatory violence is a real possibility.

COVELO remains plagued by methamphetamine. The murder of Miss Rodriguez bears all the signs of the meth-driven evil constant in Round Valley and throughout Mendocino County.

NO SURPRISES in the local elections except, perhaps, in the contest for Superintendent of Schools, a spectacularly overpaid sinecure that pays $131,689 a year for presiding over an office that does not perform a single task that couldn't be done better and cheaper by the individual school districts of Mendocino County.

NATIVE SON Warren Galletti of Point Arena almost won the superintendent’s race outright. He will easily trounce the agency's preferred successor to long-time superintendent, Paul Tichinin, arguably the least competent person ever to hold public office in Mendocino County and, of course, among the highest paid. Galletti can probably attribute his strong showing in the low turnout election to the County's Jock Brotherhood. He coached basketball at Point Arena High School for many years and, in that capacity, got to know people in every community in vast Mendo. Only the jocks and maybe a parent or two accompanying a kid who plays a competitive sport ever get to Covelo. There are people who've passed their entire lives on the Mendocino County coast who have no idea where Spy Rock is, have never traveled the splendid outback of the Mina Road, never driven over the Mendocino Pass into the upper Sacramento Valley. Galletti has, and that knowledge is about to put him in a cush job that will pay him a hundred bucks an hour just for thinking about Covelo.

THE MOST INTERESTING aftermath of any local election is the vote breakdown precinct by precinct. It will be interesting to see Galletti's vote totals in his hometown of Point Arena where he left his job of many years as high school principal for a position with the Ukiah schools.

5TH DISTRICT SUPERVISOR Dan Hamburg, unfortunately running unopposed, was auto-approved by only 1560 voters and suffered the added indignity of 89 write-ins, which we assume are protest votes mostly from the Anderson Valley where Hamburg is invisible on crucial issues, particular the issue of the sleeplessness provoked by vineyard frost fans.

BY COMPARISON, Hamburg, running in the June 2010 primary against Wendy Roberts, Norm de Vall and his Ukiah clone, Jim Mastin, received 1838 votes out of about 5200 cast, which were enough to put him up against Roberts in the November election.

ACCORDING to Ms. Ranochak, there are 1700 ballots from last week's election that remain uncounted, but overall 40 percent fewer 5th District voters bothered with the June primary. So not only did Hamburg get 89 protest votes, about 2,000 5th District voters who voted in 2010 didn’t vote for anyone in June of 2014.

WE ALWAYS LOOKED FORWARD to the Mendo election nights of yesteryear when the County's political people gathered in the Courthouse where election returns were hand-posted on a big chalkboard as they arrived. The totals were complete by midnight. Now, in the Computer Age, it takes weeks to get the final count. The old chalkboard elections was a local tradition that gave us a distinct sense of a unique place in a unique time, but it's long gone in favor of the mechanistic anonymity of cyber-space.

THE ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE — the club-like cadre of well-heeled Northcoast Democrats who select our state and national officeholders for us — probably gathered at some upscale place in Sonoma County to celebrate the elevation of the mediocrities they'll send on to the State Assembly, State Senate and Congress. Here in Mendo, Robin Sunbeam, unsuccessful candidate for County Clerk, gathered with friends and supporters at the Mendocino Environment Center, and that was it for the elections of June 2014.

ONE OF THE ODDER STATS of election night: 287,590 Californians had cast ballots for San Francisco's indicted state Sen. Leland Yee for secretary of state. That’s good for nearly 10 percent of the vote. That’s also more votes than the five other secretary of state candidates received. Yee dropped out of the race in March. People were voting for an indicted man who didn’t even want their votes. Of course the guy hasn't been convicted of anything and is presumed innocent, and no pundit is likely to tell you why Yee got such a big vote. But, as any San Franciscan can tell you, Chinese vote, and they tend overwhelmingly to vote for Chinese candidates, hence Lee's resounding stat.

A THOUSAND fewer voters in the North County's 3rd District bothered to cast ballots in last week's primary election, which is surprising given the intense North County interest in the Supervisor's race between the two leading candidates, Holly Madrigal and Tom Woodhouse. There are still lots of ballots to count, of course, and we, like everyone else, wonder why, what with modern technology.

OUTGOING 3rd District Supervisor John Pinches hasn't endorsed either Madrigal or Woodhouse, but the old cowboy's brother and sister are behind Woodhouse, as are quite a few people who voted for Madrigal for the Willits City Council and may, presumably, return to her if Woodhouse screws up somehow. But for now, it looks like Woodhouse by a wide margin in November.

WOODHOUSE has the electoral advantage of zero public political record. Madrigal, like any officeholder, has taken positions on the issues that have made people angry.

BUT WOODHOUSE, who presents himself as Mr. Clean, took a shot at Jolly Holly in the Press Democrat: “Woodhouse said he has experience with budgets through working with school boards and has attended most Willits City Council meetings. He took a jab at Madrigal’s experience, saying voters are not ‘impressed with people who are in office who aren’t effective’.”

WRONG! Americans elected Bush twice, Obama twice. Locally, we have any number of ineffective persons holding public office, from your local school board on up through Mike Thompson, Chesbro and the rest of them eternally with us.

LOGICAL FOLLOW-UP QUESTION by the PD should have been, “Please elaborate, Mr. Woodhouse.” And while you're elaborating maybe you could explain how it was with you looking on that the Willits School District made the disastrous fiscal choices that Willits taxpayers will suffer for years, and as explored in depth by both The Willits News and the Willits Weekly?

IN FACT, Madrigal has been conscientious and effective as both Willits mayor and a long-time member of the city council in a context of contentious issues, especially the Willits Bypass and in the development of additional water sources for the city in a time of drought. She has, on occasion, been outvoted, and one wonders if Woodhouse fully understands that majorities rule on elected bodies. “Positive Guy” Woodhouse cheap-shotted Holly in the PD, but if the guy has specifics about her ineffectiveness he should cite them and argue publicly with Madrigal about them.

OF COURSE in Mendocino County, adult give and take is virtually unknown; elections are invariably mired in infantile exchanges and cliché swaps, but contrast what Woodhouse said in the Press Democrat with what he said in the hometown Willits Weekly where he was all smiles re Madrigal.

I WANT TO KNOW where both candidates, especially Woodhouse, stand on these four issues: How to deal with the County's pension obligations; the proposed new County Courthouse; the proposed Fort Bragg trash transfer station; negotiations with County employees.

THE UKIAH DAILY JOURNAL endorsed Madrigal the Sunday before the election, but that endorsement didn't appear with the rest of the UDJ's endorsements in The Willits News with the rest of the endorsements. It's pretty clear TWN prefers Woodhouse, but then Jolly Holly has the support of the Willits Weekly.

MADRIGAL ALSO has the support of the Northcoast's Democratic Party apparatus. We think that endorsement is not helpful because, to lots of us anyway, it represents a thumbs-up from reactionary forces, the More of the Same People, the opportunists who sit in all the top public jobs, who draw the big pay at the Northcoast's innumerable non-profits, our interchangeable school boards, the public radio drones, and so on. Of course if you think Wes Chesbro, Huffman, Hamburg, and the rest of them somehow represent progressive politics, we have nothing more to talk about. But we think that Madrigal would be better off without them. Her opponent, Woodhouse, doesn't have any of More of the Same people backing him and he's running better than a thousand votes stronger than Holly.

BY NOVEMBER, we might have an adult-type debate in the 3rd District race for the Supe's seat, especially if Madrigal smokes out Woodhouse on the issues, the real issues.

FROM RANOCHAK'S press release last Wednesday: Mendocino County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder Susan M. Ranochak announced Wednesday that as with any other election, there are ballots left to be processed as part of the official canvass. Mendocino County has 6,721 Vote By Mail ballots to process, and 201 Provisional ballots to review and process.


1st Supervisorial District – 1,339 ballots;

2nd Supervisorial District – 996;

3rd Supervisorial District – 1,536 ballots;

4th Supervisorial District – 1,161 ballots

And 5th Supervisorial District – 1,689 ballots.

SHERIFF ALLMAN and 4th District Supervisor Dan Gjerde have teamed up with an effort to get locals to consider police work. “Hiring and training local citizens," Allman said, "makes sense all of the way around. Using local tax dollars to hire local people who will help make our County safer is a goal which Supervisor Gjerde and I share.” People who survive "a thorough background investigation," will be hired on as extra-help deputies-in-training. The department will pay for them to attend the Police Academy in January 2015. If interested, contact Arlene Peterson in the Professional Standards Bureau at 707-463-4411.

ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE WEEK: "I travel to Russia and Ukraine once a year on business. There are obviously many problems there, social and economic, but confusion about their place in the world and the nature of their relationships is not among them. They have awareness of how they relate to each other that has been long forgotten in USA and they want no part in the confusion that reigns here. They may be poor, but they by and large have dignity and integrity in social life. You can see it in their appearance – thin, firm, good skin and hair. As soon as you arrive back in an American airport one immediately notices the difference – fat, bad skin and hair, sloppy dress, silly gestures, nonsensical speech. One can speculate endlessly on the strength of a nation’s finances, military, education (by the way, the literacy rate in Slavic countries is almost 100%), but at the end of the day, the character of the people will always win out."

THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS approved the recommended budget for fiscal year 2014/15 last week on a 3-2 vote with Supervisors Pinches and McCowen dissenting. Which is in contrast to recent years when the CEO recommendations were approved without serious discussion or disagreement. McCowen voted “no” because the budget included $900,000 in one-time revenue from the future sale of the Willits Justice Center and logging at the Little River airport. Which led to a Talmudic discussion about the difference between “one-time revenue” and “unanticipated revenue.” County budget staffers agreed the revenue was one time, but said it was not “unanticipated” because staff “anticipated” that the ugliest public building in Mendocino County would sell and the logging plan would go forward.

THE WILLITS MONSTROSITY is jointly owned by the County and the State Administrative Office of the Courts, but has sat mostly vacant for years. Before it can be sold, ownership of the building has to be sorted out between the County and the State Courts. And because it was built on land owned by the City of Willits, Willits would seem to be on the very short list of potential buyers. But Willits is dealing with a water emergency, which means acquisition of the so-called Justice Center is probably a back burner issue at best. Which also means getting any money for it in the coming fiscal year, anticipated or not, is hardly a slamdunk. And how about the “anticipated” revenue from the Little River Airport logging plan? The County has been ineptly pursuing a timber harvest plan at the airport for what seems like a decade or more. The revenue may be anticipated, but the odds of receiving it (or some portion of “it”) in any particular year seem questionable.

SUPERVISOR PINCHES VOTED “NO” because the Supes did not go along with a couple of his ideas for managing the “Road Fund” and for paying down more of the unfunded pension debt. Pinches said he had been following the Road Fund, which is part of the Mendocino County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) Budget, for many years and the balance was always between $5 and $8 million. Pinches wanted to take an extra $1 million and use it for paving more roads. He used the Pavement Condition Index, a measurement of the County's rapidly deteriorating roads, to argue that more money needed to be spent on roads or we needed to decide which roads would be abandoned. MCDOT Director Howard Dashiell countered that all the funds in the Road Fund were obligated and that he could be thrown in jail if he overspent his budget. Pinches pointed again to the millions in ongoing fund balance and said the road fund is continually replenished as state and federal funds are received, and that it was therefore unlikely to be overspent.

FOURTH DISTRICT SUPERVISOR DAN GJERDE broke the road logjam by making a motion that $2 million of the annual general fund transfer of $3 million that goes to the road fund be dedicated to paving. Gjerde had earlier brought out that Dashiell only planned on spending about $250,000 on paving in the next fiscal year but $8 million was needed just to maintain the County road system in its current crumbling condition. Dashiell argued that if he was forced to spend another $2 million on paving he would have to close some of the outlying road yards and lay off staff. The motion passed 3-2 with Supervisors Hamburg and Brown opposed.

SUPERVISOR PINCHES also argued in favor of using the “Teeter Fund” amortization payment to help pay down the unfunded pension debt. The Teeter Fund (which allows the County to make upfront payments for the share of property tax due to cities, schools and special districts, and in return receive the penalties and interest for late payments) was supposed to be a source of revenue but has instead turned into a slush fund for previous County administrators and supervisors. Instead of using Teeter Fund revenue to pay off the Teeter debt, the money was used to pay for County programs and positions that the County really couldn't afford. Which more than doubled the original Teeter Plan debt. But it made the Supes look great as they passed out “extra money” (aka “found money”) at budget time, money that the county really didn't have. Putative libs like Kendall Smith and J. David Colfax, and putative conservatives like Mike Delbar, all benefited from the sham largesse.

THE CURRENT BOARD OF SUPERVISORS directed that Teeter Fund revenue be tracked in a separate account, be used exclusively to pay off the Teeter debt, and an additional $700,000+ of general fund money be used to further pay down the Teeter debt. As a result of these policies, over the last five years, the Teeter debt has been paid down from about $11 million to about $4 million. Pinches claimed that the Teeter plan receivable (the money owed to the County for penalties and interest on delinquent properties) was $15 million and that the Teeter debt, even without the extra $700,000 annual payment from the general fund, would be paid off in two years. No one disputed his figures.

THE TEETER DEBT is owed to the County Treasury, which invests spare cash in secure short-term investments that pay only a fraction of 1% interest. In contrast, the County pays 7.75% interest on the $131 million unfunded pension debt. Pinches, in what seems like an obvious no-brainer, said it was time to shift the $700,000+ general fund Teeter payment to the unfunded liability. Staff didn't disagree with Pinches' logic but still argued in favor of maintaining the status quo for another year.

ANOTHER HOT ISSUE centered around staff's recommendation to spend $200,000 to fund advanced life support services in ambulances in Covelo, Laytonville, Elk and Anderson Valley. Outback Emergency Medical Services (EMS) have always depended on skimpy local funding and a network of dedicated volunteers. The County Fire Chiefs Association has long advocated for a stable source of funding to sustain the system. They were thinking of proposing a ballot initiative to raise the local sales tax when the State imposed the State Responsibility Area fire tax on most rural properties. The Fire Chiefs decided local voters would be unlikely to give themselves a double whammy by also voting for a sales tax increase, so the idea was dropped.

SUPERVISOR MCCOWEN QUESTIONED the County setting a precedent for providing EMS funding, especially with a budget built on the aforementioned $900,000 in one-time money. Staff said paying for outback EMS services was a one-time fix to bridge the gap until the controversial Exclusive Operating Area (EOA) contracts could be awarded. McCowen also doubted that $200,000 would be enough to upgrade current services in the targeted areas from Basic Life Support (BLS) to Advanced Life Support (ALS), aka paramedics on board. Staff said if the money was included in the budget they would come back with a plan, which means they currently have no idea how the money can best be spent. Pinches and Hamburg supported extra funding for EMS services in their districts. When Gjerde agreed with McCowen, Supervisor Brown broke the tie by saying she also favored the extra funding for EMS.

SUPERVISOR PINCHES also wanted to know why Animal Control Services wanted $45,000 to build a dog grooming facility. Staff responded that it was intended to provide vocational training to female inmates at the County Jail. Right now the jail is a revolving door that quickly leads too many miscreants right back to a life of crime as soon as they are released. Sheriff Allman, who previously started a bread baking program that has led to jobs for several former inmates (and saved some money in the jail’s food budget), spoke in support of the program, but Pinches was unconvinced. Pinches wanted to know: “If I call 911 is the dispatcher going to tell me they can't send an ambulance but I can get my dog groomed?”

SEIU WAS A BUDGET HEARING “NO SHOW.” Again. Their no shows have become habitual. In the not so distant past SEIU hired “local reps” who lived in the community. The local reps were present at nearly every Board of Supes meeting. Now the “local reps” drive up from Santa Rosa for seemingly random cameo appearances. SEIU, which mis-represents about 700 county employees, shows no interest in understanding the County budget or in advocating for its members. SEIU has set a pattern of making occasional and mostly irrelevant or inaccurate comments during Public Expression, then leaving the building. Typically, no one from SEIU is present when budget decisions are being made and last week was a perfect example of this.

SEIU PRESIDENT HELEN MICHAEL, a smart local person who works and lives in Mendocino County, who probably ought to be representing her fellow workers full time, showed up for Public Expression to read a “Fact Sheet” on unfunded public pension liability put out by Californians for Retirement Security, which is funded by SEIU, the California Teacher's Association and other public employee unions and advocacy groups and, therefore, unreliable by definition. Natch, the fact sheet says public employee pensions are modest, they contribute to the economy and there is no problem with the unfunded liability. The right wing groups attacking public pensions have an equally reasonable sounding set of “facts” claiming that public employee pensions are out of control and the unfunded pension liability is driving public employers to the brink of bankruptcy. The unfunded pension debt is a big part of the County's budget picture, but it is only one part. By staying away from the budget session, SEIU guaranteed that its voice, and that of its members would go unheard.

IF SEIU HAD BOTHERED TO SHOW UP for the recommended budget they could have asked why over $3 million in general fund money is transferred to the road fund every year when that money, or at least part of it, could be used to restore salaries. Ditto for the $700,000+ transferred every year from the general fund to pay down the Teeter debt, especially now that Teeter is in a position to pay itself off. Or they could have asked why the County was proposing to spend $200,000 for outback EMS. Or $45,000 for dog grooming training.

BACK ON MAY 20, at the third quarter budget report, Supervisor McCowen told his colleagues “we need to start having a formal discussion of what portion of [future] revenues...are we going to dedicate towards restoring compensation levels.” McCowen cited the $131 million unfunded pension debt as cause for worry, but called for “a balanced approach to how we apply those future revenues.” The only prob being that any future revenues are sure to be rapidly consumed by future increased costs. But no matter, SEIU wasn't present on May 20 to voice support for McCowen's modest proposal nor were they in the room to follow up at the budget hearing on June 3.

THE AVA HAS CONFIRMED that Sandy Madrigal, previously hired by the SEIU shot callers in Oakland to provide local window dressing, has been fired. But still no word from the secretive organization explaining why she was canned. During Public Expression on May 20 Madrigal criticized the Board of Supes for past decisions, including shutting down the County Family Planning program. The County said the move would save money and that all the same services, including services for minors and indigents, would still be available through other local providers. Madrigal threw out statistics “proving” that teen pregnancies had shot up dramatically since the closure. The County’s Health and Human Services Agency followed up with a press release stating that just the opposite was true, that teen pregnancies had declined since the closure of County family planning services. The SEIU staffer who claimed the County was hiding $12 million still has a job, so it may only be a coincidence that Madrigal was fired just after blurting out false information at the Supes meeting.

THIS SNOOTY REMARK from the Chron last week: “Perhaps just think of Cloverdale as the Mid-Market of Sonoma County…From a food and drink standpoint, there is not much in Cloverdale, but Semmelhack believes it has the potential of a Yountville, Healdsburg or St. Helena.”

SEMMELHACK is a Frisco-based gastro-magnate who's planning to open a fancy-schmancy operation at 102 S. Cloverdale Blvd called the Trading Post Market and Bakery.

IN FACT, there are several excellent eating places in Cloverdale, my fave being 101 Thai Way at the south end of town. The Railroad Station Bar and Grill is also very good. Reliable sources tell me there's also a very good Vietnamese restaurant in Cloverdale and one friend raves about Zini's Diner. And a branch of Anderson Valley's Clow family still owns and operates Pick's Diner, an old timey place near the center of town, which is perfect for hurry-up hamburgers and fries.

I KNOW food and wine writing is end-of-the-line silly, but if this guy says he thinks Cloverdale can aspire to become Healdsburg, I'm going out on a limb and say I think Ukiah can aspire to become Boonville, Philo and Navarro, all of which can boast eats as good as anything you'll find in San Francisco, and certainly as good as anything you can find in Healdsburg.

JUSTINE FREDERIKSEN, the dependably excellent reporter for the Ukiah Daily Journal, begins her story on the latest chapter in the endless book of the Palace Hotel, “After another long discussion that Vice-Mayor Mary Anne Landis said felt like the same she'd been having for the past two years, the Ukiah City Council voted again Wednesday to give Palace Hotel owner Eladia Laines more time to prove she is making progress on the building's rehabilitation.”

MS. LANDIS was right. It's the same discussion in the context of no options other than receivership for the ghostly four-story brick structure, once the center of Ukiah's social life but long abandoned. Receivership would cost Ukiah money it doesn't have and anyway probably wouldn't end in a spiffily rehabbed hotel after a long, expensive and ultimately failed process. The Palace, via receivership, would still be a white elephant but one tethered forever to the City of Ukiah. It will probably be an albino pachyderm with Eladia Laines too, and maybe a decaying relic for all our days, but it's better than a publicly-owned parking lot.

MS. LAINES, a resident of Marin, remains the present owner of the building. She is the latest in a long series of owners, a couple of them criminals whose names appeared briefly on the title to the property then disappeared in a cloud of cocaine.

WHAT'S TOUCHING about Ms. Laines, is her determination to keep plodding in what seems like a forward direction, at least rhetorically, although it's clear she's way short of the money to realize her dream of restoring the Palace. She's also faced with the usual bureaucratic hurdles she always seems tardy in leaping.

“I SEE this receivership as the best opportunity to get movement in a project that's been holding our community hostage,” outgoing councilperson Landis told the Journal at the Palace meeting of the City Council. “Is this the best thing to do? I think it's the best thing to do.”

SHE AND COUNCILMAN Benj ‘Little Benj’ Thomas, always quick to spend other people's money, proceeded to vote for receivership, but were out-voted 3-2 by cooler heads.

LANDIS is also wrong about which building is holding central Ukiah hostage. It's not the faded pile of bricks of the Palace Hotel, it's the new County Courthouse that the nine County judges want to build for themselves on West Perkins. If that spectacularly selfish scheme is accomplished, Ukiah would have two large architectural wrecks in one block — the existing County Courthouse and the Palace Hotel. If the courts move two long blocks down by Highway 101, a devastating blow would be dealt to the Ukiah businesses dependent on court traffic that now, at least during daylight hours, make Ukiah appear as if it isn't on economic life support.

THE NEW COURTHOUSE moves inexorably on, and we continue to hope Mendo People understand that the thing will consist solely of courtrooms and judge's chambers, plus some space for the people who serve their majesties. Everything else stays where it is in the present County Courthouse in downtown Ukiah.

AN ENCOURAGING rumor out of the Supervisor's chambers says the Supes are opposed to spending any County money on building sites near the new County Courthouse on West Perkins, thus ensuring that the new Courthouse will be a stand-alone structure as everyone else, from the DA to the Public Defenders, jogs up and down Perkins to and from the old Courthouse in central Ukiah to the new Courthouse in the unit block of West Perkins.

AT THE MOVIES. A guy whose judgment I trust saw a new release at the Ukiah Theater called, A Million Ways to Die in the West. He said it was so stupidly vulgar, so thoroughly unfunny he considered walking out, but it was a hot afternoon, the theater is air conditioned, he'd already paid to get in. Mick LaSalle, the Chron's slo-mo movie reviewer, begins his rigid thumbs-up assessment of A Million Ways, “Seth MacFarlane gives you 10 jokes where other comedians give you one, so if five of them don't appeal to you, you're still ahead… The movie is a strident rebuke of old Western values in favor of modern times and ways.”

NO IDEA who Seth MacFarlane is, but why should old Western values, be rebuked at all, let alone stridently? Something wrong with an American past that emphasized hard work, self-reliance and No Whining? Maybe this MacFarlane guy is funny, maybe my friend is just being prudish, but I know if El Friendo says the movie is moronic, I'll go with his opinion over LaSalle's, who seems to me consistently wrong about lots of the movies I do see.

THE MERE MENTION of film reviewers and reviews makes me nostalgic for Pauline Kael and Dwight Macdonald, who not only brought brains and a lively prose to movie reviewing, their judgment was impeccable.

BUT NOW, in addition to lowbrow newspaper reviewers, we have these adnoidal college professors and magazine writers running their nasal audio movie giveaways at us on the public radio stations. These characters give us the whole plot then their opinions, which are tritely breathless, always show-offy precious, but not quite as boring as the interviews with non-verbal musicians and show biz celebs that inevitably follow with Terry Gross. Who was that rapper who said he thought the real problem with America was “dumbass-ifcation”? Amen, bro. That's a very big problem indeed.

ON JUNE 5, 2014 at approximately 7:20pm, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office received a 911 call regarding an aircraft accident in the 16000 block of Branscomb Road, in Laytonville. MCSO Deputies, along with California Highway Patrol and fire personnel from the Laytonville Fire Department were dispatched to the aircraft accident. Upon arrival of fire personnel, the aircraft was located upsidedown in a dry creekbed. The pilot of the aircraft, and sole occupant, was pronounced dead at the scene. Upon arrival of MCSO Deputies, a witness advised that he had heard a low flying aircraft approaching his runway from the south and fly over his house. As he walked outside he could see an aircraft swing around, from the north, heading back towards his runway. According to the witness, he recognized the aircraft to be owned by Kenneth Gillespie, 63, of Laytonville. As the aircraft approached the runway he noted that the aircraft had safely dropped below the tree line that was located at the north end of the runway. As the aircraft approached the south end of the runway the witness saw the right wing of the aircraft strike a large tree. The aircraft then yawed to the right and hit a second tree. This tree strike caused the right wing of the aircraft to be seared off of the aircraft. The aircraft then continued down the runway into a heavily forested area. The witness ran to where he saw the aircraft go into the treeline. He then located the aircraft, upsidedown in a creekbed. According to the witness, the pilot, who he recognized as the Kenneth Gillespie, was obviously deceased. This case has been referred to the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board for further investigation. (Sheriff’s Press Release)


I lay down in the empty street and parked

My feet against the gutter's curb while from

The building above a bunch of gawkers perched

Along its ledges urged me don't, don't jump.

— Bill Knott

A 219-189 CONGRESSIONAL VOTE LAST WEEK approved a measure that would call off the DEA in states where medical marijuana is legal. The roll call tally represented a one-vote majority for the proposal. It would cut off funding for Justice Department enforcement actions that interfere with medical marijuana laws in 22 states and with laws in another 10 states that allow medical use of hemp oils. 49 Republicans voted for it. “States with medical marijuana laws are no longer the outliers; they are the majority,” said the bill's author, Sam Farr, a conservative Democrat from Monterey. “This vote showed that Congress is ready to rethink how we treat medical marijuana patients in this country.”

NOMINAL DEMOCRAT DIANE FEINSTEIN, however, is opposed, as are probably a majority of her colleagues in the U.S. Senate, average age 73. “Federal law enforcement officials must have the ability to shut down marijuana dispensaries that fail to operate under strict medical marijuana guidelines,” Feinstein said, tacit recognition of her opinion that most of America's self-medicators are not sick.

SUSPICIONS CONFIRMED: GRAND JURY RIPS MCOE: "A superintendent more concerned about his own pay and that of his circle of managers, low morale and treatment of employees bordering on abusive are some of the conclusions of the Mendocino County grand jury after a look into the Mendocino County Office of Education...." the report on MCOE begins.

THE GJ said the County School Board "appears to be ill-informed about problems perceived by staff."

APPEARANCES are the reality here, but the MCOE board is merely interchangeable with every other board in Mendocino County, i.e., tools of the administrators they theoretically supervise.

THE GJ specifically notes that county schools Superintendent Paul Tichinin got his own salary raised three years running and raised the salaries of his circle of managers, while programs and services to students were cut, and salaries of teachers and aides went largely unchanged.

TICHININ'S been feathering his and his stooges' nests for years, and in all that time seldom so much as a dissenting peep from Mendocino County's edu-establishment.

THE GRAND JURY cited MCOE Human Resources Director Richard Lamken as “insensitive” and “unprofessional” in his dealings with employees. Lamken, who lives in Union City in the Bay Area, was observed three weeks ago removing one of insurgent superintendent candidate, Warren Galletti's campaign signs on a property near MCOE's headquarters at Talmage.

HERE'S LAMKEN in action as MCOE's personnel manager. “While on sick leave, an employee received a letter of release of employment, personally delivered by the HR Director on the evening before a scheduled major surgery,” the grand jury wrote. What a guy. Hand delivers the bad news!

“SOME EMPLOYEES," the GJ writes, "believed they were targeted for speaking out about issues of concern. Some employees who disagreed with HR’s position(s) feared retribution and felt intimidated. After a summer training for which employees were to receive compensation at a negotiated rate of pay, documentation shows the HR Director manually changed a Supplementary Time Card to direct a ‘stipend only’ payout, which was less than the negotiated rate of pay of the employee. The business office later reversed the action.” Lamken again. Some employees "feared retribution?" They should have counted on it, assumed it. Public employment in Mendocino County runs on fear. We thought everyone knew that.

OTHER MCOE FINDINGS INCLUDE: "Based on numerous interviews, videos of board meetings, and employee comments on a union survey, the grand jury found that employee morale has gone down. The number of grievances filed by contract employees has increased. Employees stated that they could not speak out for fear of disciplinary action, dismissal or other retaliation. The certificated and classified union contracts allow for “self-evaluation” to be used as part of the employees’ evaluation. Interviewees stated that some supervisors used the self-evaluation process in a punitive manner." Been that way for years.

"BOARD PRESIDENT STEPHANIE HOY, who has been on the board for 20 years, does not have a working knowledge of MCOE functions, is not aware of staff morale and voted to approve cuts to programs and services, but did not fully understand the ramifications of the cuts....."

NO SURPRISE that MCOE is dominated by crumb bums. It has been a sanctuary for the educationally-bent for years, presided over by the usual “liberal” board of trustees who just happen to get paid to attend meetings plus free health and life insurance for them and their families. You really think a trustee is going to try to crack down on people like Tichinin? We've been complaining about this nest of no-goodniks for years, specifically citing the abuses the County's grand jury now confirms. Will Warren Galletti be any kind of improvement? Will MCOE's board of trustees resign? We live in hope.

WORSER AND WORSER, A reader writes: As you pointed out about postal delays recently, Wednesday's papers not here to Glen Ellen as of Saturday, was coming on Thursdays until about six weeks ago when delivery started being from one to five days later. A friend in Santa Rosa is having the same problem." As of Monday, last week's AVA has not been delivered in San Francisco.

YOU CAN have a great time in San Francisco just riding the buses, which I do a lot, often making a big loop on Muni's 44 line from 6th and Clement to Hunters Point, then north through the neo-Soviet, pseudo-Miami structures of so-called South Beach, past the ballpark, dismounting at Folsom for a stroll along the water to the Ferry Building for an Acme sandwich (still a little under five bucks), then to the benches out front for a ringside seat for the Embarcadero's passing parade, always the greatest show on earth.

ANGER AT MUNI is as old as the Golden Gate Bridge, but the perpetual low moan of dissatisfaction grew shrill last week during a wildcat driver's strike. The sick-out had subsided by Thursday when public transit was back to its usual haphazard dependability. Yes, there are psycho-surly drivers, the most common complaint about Muni, but they're a tiny minority. It's a tough, high-stress job performed by men and women who earn every bit of their $30-an-hour pay. For instance…

THE OTHER DAY I was headed downtown on the 2 Clement, ordinarily the most uneventful of Muni lines, especially at the noon hour. A sweat-drenched biker dude in full leathers and chains suddenly appeared, clambering aboard on Arguello. From his frantic run-on speech and sweatbox-look Biker Dude was obviously on go-fast drugs. He looked like a melting pile of leather. He plopped himself down in the front seat opposite the driver and, leaning in, commenced rattling ominously away at the big Hispanic kid behind the wheel. Much of that speech, all of it addressed to the driver, was in-and-out menacing. “Hey, man. You older than me or just more fucked-up looking?” The driver replied with a laugh, “Probably just more fucked-up looking,” which was exactly the right thing to say to at least try to take the edge off the guy who, by the way, had not paid a fare. He'd just barged on up the stairs, sat himself down and started in with the aggressive remarks at the driver. “You war much, man?” Biker Dude asked. The driver coolly replied, “Nah, I'm a lover.” The driver was perfect. He'd done an instant read on Biker Dude and had coolly begun talking him down, not quite cooling the guy all the way down but herding him in a peaceful direction.

AS ANY MUNI RIDER will tell you, volatile situations seldom lurch all the way into ultra-vi, but they often threaten to. At a minimum, they make everyone tense. I had my Kalantarian with me, a madrone walking stick handmade in Navarro with pretty good heft to it. I thought if it came to it I could fungo the grease ball on his knock-out spot, but only if I could get enough oomph behind my swing without impaling one of the many elderly Chinese women who were my fellow passengers. Fortunately, Biker Dude got off a few minutes later at Presidio where, glancing back at us, he disembarked with a merry, “And fuck all you people, too.” I had to laugh at that one, but me and the driver were the only people who seemed amused. As I got off at Union Square I just had to congratulate the driver. “You handled that guy just right,” I said. “What guy?” the driver wondered. The biker, I reminded him. “Oh, him,” the driver said, in an all-in-a-day's-work voice.


BRUCE McEWEN reports that the Ukiah Daily Journal's talented reporter Tiffany Revelle is leaving the paper as of this Friday for a job in the Bay Area. “No replacement for her, so far. All the candidates take one look at the niggardly pay package the UDJ is offering, and leave. Glenda Anderson (Press Democrat) came by to get the scoop on Friday and we chatted about Tiffany — Glenda used to have that job and she wondered how Tiff made it all these years on such stingy pay — with two daughters to raise!”

A READER WRITES from the Fog Belt: “One of our local grant whores, Action Network, has been promoting its stupid 'Sober Grad Night' party. This is so dumb! First, the grads are now adults, most of them 18, and should be able to knock back a few drinks if they want. In all my years here, there has been one alcohol-related accident on grad night - a young Indian woman from Kashia who got a brand new truck for graduation and drove it off Skaggs Springs Road. The truck was totaled but she wasn't hurt at all. The kids only go to these parties for the free food and expensive prizes. The next night (Saturday) they all rent houses in Anchor Bay or Irish Beach and party on.”

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