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Letters (July 2, 2014)

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Another good man done gone.

Barry Smith died at the age of 75 in Canyon, California on or about June 22, 2014 — struck down by colon cancer.

Barry was a big man in size, skills and compassion. He was a creative genius in reference to domes and construction. A great teacher, he shared his skills with the folk.

In the 1960s he went down south to reconstruct buildings destroyed by Hurricane Kate.

Barry protested all forms of injustice: nuclear testing, the Vietnam War, etc. Always affirming peace and ecology. He fed the hungry, sheltered the homeless, befriended the friendless. He gave life his best shot!

Smith's children, wives, friends, community and extended family will cherish him as long as we have breath in our bodies.

Alan 'Captain Fathom' Graham


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Editor —

Hello my friend! Been a while. I hope this letter finds you and all of the staff well and in good spirits.

I am currently housed in Lake County Jail and I am in desperate need of some good newsprint. The Record Bee prints only what the Lake County Sheriff's Office wants them to print, leaving the truth to someone else.

As you know I have always been one to break down controversial issues and write the bare-bones truth. At this time I am in the middle of a case that is going to make national news.

A man named James Smith who was shot four times by Lake County Sheriff's for evading — he had no weapon — recovered from his gunshot wounds only to be arrested for attempted murder. On May 10, 2014, James Smith, who was my cellmate for a couple weeks, was found dead in his cell. The Lake County Sheriff's Office is delaying toxicology results and cause of death. The simple truth is, he was driven to commit suicide. When he was my cellmate he was continually ridiculed by jail staff. When he asked for help from Mental Health, I heard Officer Rodello tell him, "Why don't you do us all a favor and kill yourself? You're going to get life in prison anyway!" The man was asking for help for his emotional issues, but instead he was pushed over the edge. One morning he was told that his mother who takes care of his seven-year old daughter was killed in a car accident — which was a lie. The next day he was found hanging in his cell.

This county jail continues to show deliberate indifference to mental health issues and serious medical needs. Because of this travesty, a mother and father lost their son and a seven-year-old girl lost her father. James Smith's mother is not going to just let this fade away. There is an attorney working on getting things changed and we ask that anyone who has had experience in the Hill Road Correctional Facility concerning Mental Health issues for the facility's indifference to medical needs, please contact Michael Henderson, Attorney at Law, 400 College Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95401.

Billy Bond #37798

4913 HelBush Drive, Lakeport, CA 95453

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Dear Editor,

I have been enjoying the recent nuggets of brilliance by the estimable Flynne Washburn and I must say that relegating him to the Letters page is a crime against journalism and a clear violation of the laws of theology and geometry. I would suggest providing him with a weekly column, byline, generous stipend, and a grandiose title of some sort. His scintillating waggery provides your rag with just the touch of class that has been lacking lo these many years.


Flynn Washburn (no relation)


PS. I shall be following with interest your future career as re-cofounder of Knight's Taxi. And remember, you can't be always fanning the flames only on both passions by making the right choice.

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I always get a chuckle out of the Journal's latest news about the Palace Hotel; most recently there was a story about how the City Council had enumerated for Ms. Laines a to-do list, no doubt with deadlines, which she will undoubtedly miss, which will again require further City Council forbearance, new deadlines, etc.

Previously it was some kind of public receiver, who would run the remodeling program until it was completed and profitable (that is, at about the same time as swine spread their wings and take to the sky) at which time it would be returned to Ms. Laines ownership.

I hate to break the news to the City Council and anyone else who has their heart set on a totally refurbished Palace Hotel, but it seems like common sense is in short supply when it comes to this tar baby of a project; take a look at it! It’s a ruin! Its owner obviously had no idea what she was getting into when she bought the property or when she started to work on it. No doubt she was of the belief that when she got the ball rolling (doing things like removing the nicest part of it; the beautiful green ivy on the north wall), that eager investors would be clamoring to get in on the remodeling effort. Well, it's been years now, and I don't believe she has found a single investor.

Even if she were able to somehow acquire the 15 million dollars or so that it would likely take to restore the building, I doubt very much that it would meet today's building codes; they would probably require steel reinforcement that would almost certainly necessitate gutting the entire interior structure. As I opined at least a year ago in these pages, the most efficient, least expensive way to 'remodel' The Palace would be to raze it entirely, build a real foundation and steel superstructure, then use the recycled brick as a surface veneer; it could be made to look exactly the way it looks now, without the expense of trying to fix all the rotted interior wood structure.

But really, is there anyone fool enough to make such an investment in a town like Ukiah, with all the empty storefronts in the downtown area? I doubt it. Though rumor has it that early on in the project, someone made Ms. Laines an offer of over $1 million for the property, which she turned down. So perhaps there was an investor willing to take it on, just not with her in charge.

So, there it sits, decade after decade, a whole-block eyesore in the heart of our struggling little town. It constitutes, along with the rotting hulk of the old Fjords restaurant (with its mysterious Bermuda triangle of concrete wheel chocks), and the old Zack's restaurant across the street, a three-piece monument to civic impotence; how we permit these eyesores to be Ukiah's front yard, the first things one sees when one comes into our humble little burg.

Why do we allow these things to persist for so long? Because we have been taught to believe that private property rights, no matter how wacky the owner may be, necessarily trump all the rights of the rest of us who have to put up with such visual blight. There MUST be a better way to manage our public spaces, I doubt if many California towns would put up with such defacement of their commons.


John Arteaga


Ed note: Mr. Arteaga won't be the only local interested to know that when the derelict structure was first put out to bid some quarter century ago, the bigwigs from the Savings Bank of Mendocino were also present, hoping to pick up the Palace for the song it was then going for. Savings Bank president Charlie Mannon and his chief executive, Marty Lombardi, had stepped out of the room and were chatting outside when the Palace was auctioned off. They re-entered the sale of several properties to learn that Ms. Laines of Marin, and a small group associated with her, had bought the property. Had the Savings Bank scooped up the Palace, the property where Mannon's vaults, with their pharonic-scale lobby, probably would now sit where the crumbling, ghostly Palace remains. Instead, Mannon's new (not so new now) bank is across the street to the west on School Street, and the Palace still stands as a monument to government futility as the inept City of Ukiah struggles to find a cost free way to deal with it. This is one instance where private enterprise would have taken care of the problem 25 years ago if only Mannon and Lombardi had been paying attention.

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To the Mendocino County Supervisors:

Privatization of Mental Health Services failed. Proof lies in: two Grand Jury Reports, Mental Health Board Reports, Coast Hospital Mental Health Forum List of Ortner Problems, and countless human stories of Ortner’s failures in each of your districts. You can see from Exhibit A of the Ortner contract that they are in breach of contract. What else do you want to end this mental health nightmare for people? What?

We recently lost three teenagers on South Coast and there was no Mental Health response just as there was none when a 14 year old ended her life or when other lives in Fort Bragg and elsewhere were lost. Mental Health Services have decreased to almost no crisis response for anybody.

The immediate solution is to put County Mental Health under Camille Schraeder [at Redwood Children’s Services] and let her bring in the non-profit Turning Point (decades of experience) to quickly create an Adult Mental Health System and train local people to provide crisis and recovery services.

If you look at the mental health services provided in Nevada County or just about any other county, you will see what adult crisis and recovery services should look like. People in Mendocino County deserve these services and you are our only hope of getting them.

Sonya Nesch


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To: KZYX GM and Executive Director, John Coate

Re: On-air technical issues and lack of staff support

Dear Mr. Coate,

Firstly, I am asking that my letter here be read into the minutes of the July 2014 Board Meeting in Willits. I am unable to attend due to my work schedule.

Yesterday morning, I listened to John Sakowicz’s live show. As always, it was superb and I called and told him so. That said, I noticed, yet again, technical issues were apparent at the start of John's show, as he juggled three incoming phone calls from the show's three scheduled guests. All guests were with national reputations, I might add — most noteworthy was the former FCC Chairman, Michael Copps.

Apparently, the station's staff management, led by you, is unable to put aside the criticisms from John, and others, to assist a volunteer, like John, who needed the help of the station's engineer, Rich Culbertson. As John struggled, Rich was sitting idle during the show, playing on his computer. Rich was sitting one room away and he did nothing to help a volunteer programmer. All volunteer programmers deserve better than this — not just a chosen few.

These are the kinds of issues raised in my own letter to the FCC — separate from the concerns raised by John — that lend credibility to the lack of professionalism at KZYX; and, they make the case that KZYX is little more than a “mom-and-pop operation.”

KZYX could be so much more!

I'll give you other examples of the vindictiveness of staff towards volunteers who have raised legitimate concerns about station management/professionalism.

Three weeks ago, Mary Aigner screamed at me in the station's parking lot when I stopped by. She screamed that my letter to the FCC didn’t reflect well on me. She screamed that my letter to the FCC identifying her lack of professionalism towards me, a potential volunteer programmer at KZYX (who has actually worked as a salaried staff at a real public radio station, WPLN in Nashville, TN,) somehow made me look bad. I'm not sure how her lack of follow-through makes me look bad. Mary takes no responsibility for doing her job professionally. It's almost as though Mary is marking time and does little or nothing for the people who actually deliver programming —KZYX volunteers.

Another example of the staff's petty and unprofessional behavior — Rich Culbertson spat at me when I greeted him on that same morning three weeks ago. He turned his back and walked away. Behavior of this kind from your staff reflects on you, and the station as a whole. Mr. Coate, I reported these incidents to you in a letter when they occurred. Yet, I never heard back from you. These are your staff people. You are Mary's and Rich's boss. Perhaps a staff manual on how to behave toward volunteers or the public-at-large while on station property is in order. That manual should include no screaming or spitting.

Back to John's show yesterday — when Rich refused to help John, a volunteer, KZYX came off as amateurish and provincial to listeners. Again, please keep in mind that John had three guests with national reputations: 1.) Michael Copps, the former FCC Chairman who served as commissioner from May 31, 2001 to January 22, 2009 and who now heads up the Media and Democracy Reform Initial at Common Cause, the original citizens lobby that has over 400,000 members across the country; 2.) Norman Solomon, one of our country's top investigative journalists, who is also the founder of the Institute for Public Accuracy that, since mid-1997, has matched up over a thousand progressive leaders, producers, commentators, journalists, and analysts with mainstream media, and who was, most recently, a candidate for the California's 2nd Congressional district; and 3.) Peter Van Buren, one of our country's top whistle blowers, the 24-year veteran of the US Department of State who led the State Department's Provincial Reconstruction Team in Iraq.

Rich failed them, not only John. Rich hurt the station with his drama and punitive behavior.

John continued on without missing a beat when Rich wouldn't help. It was a show that is as good as public radio gets — three guests arguing passionately on-air for an informed electorate, the cornerstone of democracy the week before our country's birthday, Independence Day, July 4th. The show also tied in nicely to John's show two weeks ago on the Internet and the FCC's role in pending changes.

A few people listening to the show actually posted to MSN's announcement listserv, telling Mendocino County to tune into KZYX and to “listen right now.” That's never been done before last Friday to my knowledge. Three guests. A former FCC chair and advocate for open and free media. One of our country's top investigative reporters. One of our country's top whistleblowers.

John mentioned to me his show will not be archived by staff. I asked him why not?

You, Mr. Coate, would rather write ten to twenty emails to the programmers listserv explaining why shows aren't archived by staff, and defending your staff against suggestions that they are either “too stupid” or “too lazy” to archive public affairs shows — your words, not mine. John has a copy of your email to prove it. Where would you be without the multitude of volunteers who actually deliver on air programming?

Keep in mind, many working people can't listen to most public affairs shows on KZYX, because they broadcast during the week in the morning when most people work. For that reason, I can't take seriously any of your pledge drives or other fundraising efforts. If you limit the audience for the station's many outstanding public affairs shows to retired people, unemployed people, and shut-ins, you will never grow your membership base. The current membership has been stuck at 2,300 members for many years. Meanwhile, your competitors, KMUD and KMEC, continue to grow and prosper at KZYX's expense.

I believe there is little, if any, accountability or transparency of the station's staff. The Board has delegated all supervision to you, Mr. Coate. This model is not working. The staff you supervise are, minimally, out of bounds.

I have some questions for the Board and I would like these questions verbalized in the July Board Meeting:

Are there written job descriptions and scheduled job performance evaluations for all KZYX staff?

Who does the evaluations beside other staff, namely, you, the GM?

Are raises given on merit and expanded responsibilities, or, are raises given when the staff feels like they need more money?

How is the good use of time documented at KZYX?

More specifically, who is Mary Aigner accountable to besides you, Mr. Coate? Does she have accountability to the Board? The Community Advisory Board? The Program Advisory Committee? Does Mary prepare quarterly departmental reports for you, Mr. Coate, to pass on in Board meetings? Again, how does she document her good use of time, or does she?

This also applies to Rich. I know the station's broadcast towers, repeaters, exciters, etc., fail with some regularity, but when Rich is not in the field working on equipment, how is he spending his time? Besides playing on his computer, as John struggled to engineer a show with three guests, for example, what is Rich's responsibility besides protesting that it's not his job to archive public affairs shows? A digital radio station has the capacity to archive its shows. Gone are the days of reel to reel tape and PSA cartridges. It's being done by your competitors and stations throughout California and beyond.

It boils down to these questions:

Does the Board know exactly how all staff spends a 40-hour workweek?

If not, why not?

Volunteer programmers at KZYX contact and schedule their own guests; prepare their own questions and content; engineer their own shows; create and distribute their own promos; and, follow up with thanking on-air guests. Where is Mary Aigner in that equation for a 40-hour week? The pledge drives seem to be about raising money for salaries. Let me explain.

I understand from John that less than $500 was actually spent on equipment repairs and maintenance for the current fiscal year. I couldn't believe it given the staff's pitches for equipment purchases and repairs during the last on-air fund drive. The Board is looking to spend about that much again out of a total budget of $550,000 in the coming fiscal year. Given that the station was off the air for three days this past March 2014, shouldn't more of the money be allocated for new equipment purchases and regular/deferred maintenance? After all, listeners were left with the idea that this past fund drive was more about equipment than salaries.

One more thing. If underwriting revenues at KZYX have fallen off as steadily as they have, what is KZYX Business Development Manager, David Steffen, doing with his time? Does he regularly summarize his efforts so the Board knows who and when he has contacted potential underwriters? What systematic plan does he implement to recruit new businesses to underwrite programming at KZYX?

I'm not asking rhetorical questions, Mr. Coate. These are real questions that NPR stations throughout the region and the country deal with on a daily basis.

Yours very truly,

M Kathryn Massey



  1. izzy July 2, 2014

    “Mannon’s vaults”? Ha! I thought you said “mammon”!

    The old ‘restored’ Palace had a nice, albeit brief, run, but that was all finished a quarter of a century ago. What remains will likely raze itself soon if someone doesn’t step in. Maybe the questionable new courthouse could go there. It would save a lot of commuting.

  2. Jim Updegraff July 2, 2014

    Regard the Palace Hotel; The best solution is to pray for a real good earthquake which will knock it down along with the other closed store fronts. (I doubt if the Palace and most of the other empty buildings meet current earthquake standards) The best use of the land in a dying city like Ukiah is to convert the Palace and other such properties to a park(s).

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