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Mendocino County Today: Thursday, July 3, 2014

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THAT MASSIVE WILDFIRE that began Tuesday about noon in the Pope Valley area on the border of Napa and Lake counties, had grown to 3,200 acres by Wednesday morning, and threatening nearly 400 structures. More than a 1,000 firefighters are fighting what is now called the “Butts Fire.” Five outbuildings have been destroyed and some 160 homes evacuated. The blaze is only 30 percent contained after two days. Mandatory evacuations remain in effect along Butts Canyon Road as well as the Berryessa Estates area.

“THE FIRE is burning like a fire would in October,” said Scott McLean, a battalion chief with Cal Fire. The Butts Fire is the first large-scale blaze in our area in what is likely to be a long, hot summer.

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WHAT'S EVEN MORE SHADY than the “appearance” of a conflict of interest solidly documented by the recent Grand Jury report on the County's mental health privatization is the ONGOING conflict of interest that is the natural outgrowth of the conflict of former Ortner Employee Tom Pinizzotto being in charge of the contracting process that awarded the contract to his former employer Ortner Management Group (OMG!)? Answer: Pinizzotto is Assistant Health & Human Services Agency Director at a salary of almost $92k per year. Not only was he “involved” in the contracting process that gave a multi-million dollar contract to his former employer, but he oversaw and supervised most of the other people in the proposal evaluation process. So he was not, as the Grand Jury implied, just a participant, but the boss.

THAT WAS BAD ENOUGH, and in a sane County, would cause County Management to, at a minimum, fire Pinizzotto and put the entire contract out for re-bid. Or, if not that, it would amount to some serious liability exposure to the County because whoever else bid for the adult mental health services contract could sue the County for various contracting violations as listed in the Grand Jury report.

BUT NOW we have this same former senior employee of Ortner with an obvious conflict of interest overseeing the County’s contract with his former employer and telling his bosses that Ortner is doing a great job with a contract he “appears” to have steered to Ortner in the first place. In addition, it wasn't that long ago that Anna Shaw, wife of (former) Mental Health Board Chair (at the time of the privatization) was heading up the Ortner mental health activities at Hospitality House which is one of Ortner's Mental Health subcontractors on the Coast.

IN SPITE OF THIS compounded series of ongoing conflicts (not even mentioning Ortner's “insider remodel” of a mental health facility on the Coast documented here last month by Malcolm Macdonald), nothing seems to have raised a red flag at Ortner's 501 Low Gap Road County admin complex either in revisiting the contracting process or in requiring close monitoring and reporting on the adequacy of Ortner's “services.” It's not like corruption and waste in Mental Health privatization comes as a surprise to anyone either. The entire state of North Carolina privatized its mental health care system in 2001. A recent comprehensive study of that effort found: “The quality of care that North Carolinians with mental illness have received has declined while allegations of fraud and waste have increased.”

INSTEAD, all we've seen or heard from Official Mendo regarding this blatant and ongoing conflict are bland assurances from people who have a vested interest in the Ortner contract that everything's hunky-dory. All the independent voices on the subject of Ortner, from former and present county employees, to parents of mental health patients, to Coast Copwatch organizer (and AVA contributor) Malcolm Macdonald, to, most recently, coast Supervisor Dan Gjerde, have raised concerns and questions about the Ortner contract which are casually dismissed as either disgruntled or biased observers — one county official dismissed them as “delusionals who are immune to facts and logic” — or are excused as normal problems stemming from simple chronic underfunding.

IN THE PAST, we've seen performance audits — Social Services in the 90s, The Sheriff's Office in the 90s and the 2000s — for much weaker reasons than the well-documented problems surrounding Ortner's contract and performance. The primary difference between those prior audits and the Ortner situation is that in the earlier audits, Mendocino County didn't have a former employee of the department running interference for the department being audited.

FOR A PERFECT EXAMPLE of how wasteful the contracting process is (in light of the recent conflict of interest report from the Grand Jury), let's review our summary of the billing provisions of Ortner’s contract that we described a few months ago:

EXHIBIT B OF THE CONTRACTS with the Ortner Management Group and Redwood Management Company, the two companies which will provide adult mental health services for Mendocino County under the new privatization regime, describes the payments that Ortner and Redwood will get for their services. You might think that lawyers are well-paid for their “billable hours,” and you’d be right. But Ortner and Redwood take that one step further with a schedule for “billable minutes.”

ORTNER AND REDWOOD will get $2.61 per minute for “assessment/plan development/case conferencing therapy (individual, group and family)/ collateral services rehabilitation services (individual & group)”; and for “therapeutic behavioral services.” They’ll get $2.02 per minute for “case management linkage.” $3.88 per minute for “crisis intervention.” And $4.82 per minute for “medication management and support.” (Note: $2.02 per minute is about $121 per hour. $2.61 per minute is about $157 per hour. $3.88 per minute is about $233 per hour. And $4.82 per minute is about $290 per hour.)

AT AN AVERAGE of, say, $3.00 per minute with Ortner's current annual contract value estimated to be $6.7 million, the taxpayers would be paying Ortner for up to the equivalent about 18 people charging by the minute for one year (substantially less if you take out Ortner's management cut).

THE CONTRACTS also call for the County to provide technical assistance training to Ortner’s contract staffers, most of which is to teach the contract staff how to fill out and file their bills. (So one assumes they're getting $3 a minute just to sit and be trained on something they should already know how to do.)

SINCE many of Mendo’s mentally ill are so-called “dual diagnosis” patients (i.e., their mental illness is intermingled with their addiction to drugs both legal and illegal), there’s a bottomless pit of clients to generate billable minutes with, whether it’s talking to the client, writing things down about the client or going to court to get the client institutionalized. Or detailing their bill down to the minute.

BILLABLE MINUTES. That may be the single biggest reason not to privatize mental health services. Reducing mental health services, some of which we’ll concede may help the client or his/her family at times, to how many billable minutes are involved in dealing with them is about as impersonal and inhumane as you can get.

OFFICIAL MENDO can't even bring itself to ask for a report of such basic things as how many billable minutes per client, how much Ortner rakes off, what category of client gets what kinds of services (by the minute!) or how many layers of subcontracts are involved in Ortner's service delivery.

AT THIS POINT WE WOULDN’T BE SURPRISED if Tom Pinizzotto writes the County’s response to the Grand Jury report saying Pinizzotto has a conflict of interest.

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ERIC WILCOX (Former Mental Health Department staffer) WRITES: Mental Health money. All the money is going to Redwood Children’s Services (the majority of it) and the rest goes to OMG, Ortner Management Group who are to provide the adult mental health services for Mendocino. To account for the money, the Mental Health Board could easily set up a committee to audit the two companies. However, last October at a Mental Health Board meeting I attended, Dina Ortiz (a Mental Health Board member) suggested such a thing; a committee to audit the money given to OMG. Tom Pinizzotto was attending (Director of Mental Health and ex employee of OMG) shook his head no and Ms. Ortiz’s movement was stopped. Of course, Jim Shaw was also the chair of the MH Board and husband to Anna Shaw who runs the Hospitality Center who are financially tied to Tom Pinizzotto and OMG to provide adult mental health services to Fort Bragg.

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JAMES MARMON (former Social Services Social Worker) WRITES: I doubt that the county is willing to call for an audit which might lead to them having to admit that they may have made some grave mistakes with their privatization of mental health services in Mendocino County. I also have concerns about Mr. Pinizzotto’s control of the Mental Health Board, especially in light of the recent Grand Jury Report which clearly indicates that Mr. Pinizzotto involvement of the privatization efforts appeared to be unethical. The board, along with the citizen’s of Mendocino County need to ask questions, think for themselves and evolve. “Groupthink exists.”

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A LOCAL WATER INSIDER WRITES: “The North Coast Resource Partnership includes Sonoma County, for a total of seven counties, not six, but Gjerde is otherwise too modest in describing the coup he and McCowen pulled off. Out of $8.2 million in funding, the three Mendocino County projects described by Gjerde will get $4.2 million. Staff was only recommending funding one of the Mendocino County projects and wanted to roll $2.2 million into a future round. And the NCRP voting committee always follows the staff recommendation. But McCowen and Gjerde managed to convince the committee to award all the available funds, including funding for all three major Mendocino County projects. And Mendocino County will benefit from a share of the funding for the two other projects mentioned by Gjerde that are partially in Mendocino and partially in Sonoma County. The other committee members may have felt good at the time but I wonder if they felt the same way when they woke up the next day and realized they had voted to give Mendocino County the lion’s share of the money. But Mendocino County does seem to be at ground zero for the drought and as Gjerde says, local groups were prepared with good projects ready to go.”

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SUPES TALK WATER MONEY (minor typos corrected)

Supervisor Dan Gjerde reported to his colleagues at the June 17 Board of Supervisors meeting that Mendocino County was likely to get some significant state water bond money for drought related conservation projects.

“At our best we are a team and our team on the water front came through this week. Supervisors Hamburg and Brown are on the Drought Committee and Supervisor McCowen and myself our on the North Coast Resource Partnership Council which is a consortium of six counties and we are one of the six. The Council allocates a portion of the Proposition 84 water bond fund. The state earmarked $200 million of the remaining funds from Proposition 84 for drought related projects, at least that was the priority for those funds. It is an expedited grant process here in Mendocino County in large part because of the drought ad hoc committee and the way it has helped the cities and all the water districts mobilize and get prepared for ramping up the projects. There were a significant number of projects that were submitted from Mendocino County to the six-county organization even though there were only 30 days to turn in the applications. … The staff committee met on Monday and Tuesday in Eureka and I went to Eureka for those two days to listen to the discussion of the grant applications and their review of them. It turns out that was the first time that committee has ever had its meetings open to the public, although our meetings are always open to the public and agendized. Sean White of the Russian River Flood Control District participated by speakerphone and he did an excellent job explaining projects here in Mendocino County that he knew about. [Gjerde then described the committee’s deliberations in detail] … [After the staff reviewed and ranked the applications,] Supervisor McCowen and I prepared an alternative proposal for the unallocated $2.2 million and on Friday we had a conference call meeting with Siskiyou, Modoc, Trinity, Humboldt, Del Norte, and Mendocino County. Our proposal would allow the three highest ranked Mendocino County projects to be funded at least in part so they could all three move forward instead of just one. … [In the end on a 9-4 vote] we were able to fund or partially fund three significant projects for Mendocino County. It fully funds the City of Ukiah’s intertie connecting Ukiah’s water system with the other inland water districts. And it partially funds their well development project. It also significantly funds the California Land Stewardship Institute’s Agricultural Water Conservation and Water Supply Reliability program for both the Russian and the Navarro River watersheds. It is probably the least expensive project but it’s exciting because they will actually install some ground water metering so that the vineyardists along the Navarro and the Russian River will know not to overwater vineyards because they will have all this below ground monitoring. It seemed like a clever and relatively inexpensive project. It also takes recycled water out of the City of Ukiah’s wastewater plant to water some agricultural land. The city of Fort Bragg will receive a portion of their request for what I would call a pond, they call it a reservoir, but it’s a 45-acre-foot pond. It would allow the city of Fort Bragg to not draw out of the Noyo River when the flow is very low in the fall. All three projects were funded substantially so they can all three go forward. The list will now go to the State and presumably the state will approve this. There were two other projects that are partially in Mendocino County … the Gualala River Watershed Council will get about $600,000 and the Sonoma County Water Agency will get money, partially in Mendocino County, for a rebate program for people who buy and install water conservation appliances or showerheads or toilets. … It was a very successful meeting not just for Mendocino County but actually, surprisingly, most of the people in the meeting from the other counties felt good about the outcome which is remarkable considering that Mendocino County got over half of the money on the table.”

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M. Kathryn Massey, whose latest and longest assault against KZYX appeared on July 2, is a very talented painter. Her images, at least those available to see on the internet, have a very classic, old world feel. In other words, she's very good. From her letters and from what else can be gleaned about her on the net, however, her accomplishments have apparently produced a sense of entitlement that not infrequently one finds in people who are talented and not only want the world to know it but who, at the same time, expect special treatment.

I suspect the fact that she did not get the royal carpet rolled out when she tried to become a volunteer programmer and appeared, as I recall, one time as a volunteer at the station, seems to have set in motion a vendetta against KZYX and, in John Sakowicz, who is engaged in a similar project, she has found her champion, or least she seems to think she has.

That sense of entitlement was clear not only in her demand that her letter be read into the minutes of the KZYX board meeting but in its contents. She mentions that Mary Aigner "screamed" at her when she "dropped by" the station three weeks ago and that Engineer Rich Culbertson "spat" at her. Since I was not there and Massey's report of a previous visit to the station seemed more fantasy than fact, I cannot vouch for what did or did not happen but, frankly, if it did as she claims, I could understand it. When someone spreads lies about you, the last thing the liar should expect is a warm reception. Why Massey "dropped by" the station she doesn't say but I would guess from her previous letters that she was looking for a confrontation. It is not an idle question and that Massey did not explain why she was there should raise questions about her motives.

Her account of John Sakowicz's alleged difficulties in hosting his most recent radio program, if true, is another instance of a misplaced sense of entitlement. Sakowicz, unlike myself and every other able bodied programmer at KZYX who operate the board and the phones during our programs, Sakowicz is unable to do so and rather than taking the trouble to learn, like a person of importance that he clearly considers himself to be, he expects that someone at the station, usually, Rich, will be there to serve him. It is an extra job for Rich and Massey's idea that it is the station's responsibilty to "assist a volunteer, like John" in non-emergency circumstances is not something that community radio stations the size of KZYX can afford. She obviously relied on Sakowicz for her allegation that Rich was "sitting one room away, playing on his computer." As Massey misplaced Rich's room in one of her previous letters, situating it next to the bathroom when it isn't, she's done it again. It is not a room away from the studio but two rooms away and across the hall and since Sakowicz was in the studio and on the air he could not possibly have seen where Rich was and what he was doing. Moreover, Sakowicz's decision to have three guests on his latest program (when even NPR rarely has more than two), was asking for problems. What Sakowicz apparently cannot understand is that if he keeps trying to prevent the station's license from being renewed and keeps on insulting the station's employees, he has no business expecting them to bail him out when he needs help. Running the station requires teamwork and that's a concept that Sakowicz seems unable to figure out.

Massey compares KZYX unfavorably with WPLN in Nashville where she claims to have "actually worked as a salaried staff in a real public radio station." Aside from ignoring the vast difference in the size of the populations of Mendocino Co and Nashville, Massey is right about one thing. WPLN is "a real public radio station." In fact, that is all it is. As far as I can tell from looking at the schedule, aside from some five minute local news casts, there is only one locally originated program, a bluegrass show on Saturday night from 8 to 9 PM. Everything else is from NPR, PRI, CBC, American Public Radio, etc. There is not one single locally produced public affairs program at KPLN so if Massey learned anything about how a community station should be run it was someplace other than Nashville.

Before she makes a bigger fool of herself, I suggest that she do what she does best and get back to her drawing board.

Jeff Blankfort, Ukiah

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ViolaRichardson2Viola ‘Vi’ Nattie Richardson died peacefully on June 29, 2014, at age 85, while in the care of loved ones at her home in Ukiah, California. Viola was born December 21, 1928, in Ukiah, to Armando and Yolanda Luchessi. After graduating from Ukiah High School in 1946, she went to work for the Mendocino Title Co., and later as a legal secretary for the law firms of Burke & Rawles followed by Kasch & Cook. On February 26, 1950, she married Eugene “Gene” Ralph Richardson. Viola served the people of Mendocino County for 29 years, starting in December, 1953 in the entry level position of Deputy Recorder. Having been promoted to Assistant Recorder, she was first elected County Recorder in 1963, and again in 1967 as County Clerk/Recorder. She was re-elected for three more consecutive terms before retiring in 1983, receiving recognition for her years of dedicated service from the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors and organizations such as the County Clerk's Association of California, the County Recorder's Association of the State of California, the Northern Area Clerk's Association, the California Jury Commissioners Association, and the California State Association of Local Elected Officials. As an active member in the community, Viola supported and participated in groups such as the Ukiah Garden Club, Business and Professional Women, the Mendocino County Historical Society, and Sons of Italy. Viola was a lifetime member of Soroptimist International of Ukiah and was honored as Soroptimist of the Year by the Ukiah Club in 1996 and was a charter member of the Xi Beta Tau Sorority of Beta Sigma Phi. She was initiated into Eastern Star's Kingsly Chapter No. 58 (later to become Kingsley Augusta) in November of 1983. During her membership, she held the offices of Ruth, Esther, Adah, and Secretary, and received such honors as the Rob Morris Award and Service Award. She received her 25-year certificate in 2008. Viola found joy in time spent with her family, gardening, camping, sewing, crafting, fishing, bowling, and was an active and dedicated member of the Ukiah United Methodist Church for 59 years, and a member of the “Take Five” Alpenlite Travel Club. She was survived in life by her husband, Gene Richardson; daughters Debbie (Lawrence) Mitchell and Cheryl (Scott) Dalzell of Ukiah; grandchildren Tyson Dalzell of Pennsylvania, Brandy (Eric Odlozil) Dalzell of Ukiah, and Tim (Emily) Mitchell of Ukiah; great-grandchildren Payton Ford, and Parker and Elliot Mitchell of Ukiah; and sisters Norma Frassinello and Roselyn Pittelkau of Ukiah. She was preceded in rest by her parents and sister Mabelean Matson of Novato, California. Friends and family are invited to attend a celebration of life at 1:00 PM on Saturday, July 5, 2014 at Lake Mendocino Clubhouse. Services and entombment are private. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions may be made to Shriners Hospitals for Children, Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation, Phoenix Hospice Services, or a charity of one's own choice. The family would like to publicly thank all of Viola's caregivers during her illness with special recognition of Home With Us In Home Care Services and Cindy who was with her at the beginning and at the end. Eversole Mortuary is in charge of the arrangements.

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Don't go far off, not even for a day, because —

because — I don't know how to say it:

a day is long 
and I will be waiting for you,

as in an empty station

when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

Don't leave me, even for an hour,

then the little drops of anguish

will all run together,

the smoke that roams

looking for a home will drift 
into me,

choking my lost heart.

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;

may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.

Don't leave me for a second, my dearest,

because in that moment you'll have gone so far

I'll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,

Will you come back?

Will you leave me here, dying?

— Pablo Neruda

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Before logging, The Pacific forest was an eco-system with a 
thick insulating canopy that stretched from the Cascades to the ocean and from SE Alaska to, where in the south? San Francisco? Farther? There were very few breaks in that canopy. Most of the breaks were water breaks (wider streams, creeks, rivers, mountain lakes, etc…) There were some rock out croppings and shale slides (No fire fuel there), and some meadows that did contain fuel but they were well dispersed. The “experts” claim that the mega fires that are consuming 
our forests now are caused by the hot, dry, windy conditions (a few of them include the fuel that is now in the forests). Before logging though, the temperatures in the unbroken forest were up to 40 degrees cooler than outside of the forest. The floor of the unbroken forest was covered in a dense carpet of moss, ferns, and slowly decaying needles that held a great deal of moisture (the dry conditions that we have now didn’t exist.) Wind used to roar up the rivers and give a great sway to the top of the canopy, but dense forests create a very efficient natural wind break. Windy conditions did not exist down under the canopy where fires burn. The clear cuts, thinned forests, and re-plants do not have the efficient canopy that the original forest provided. In addition, all of those areas allow brush and grasses to grow, providing vast amounts of fuel that cause fires to rage. No, my premise is not nonsense, nor am I hating on loggers, I am simply pointing out the obvious correlation between logging and forest fires. What we have done to the forest is tragic and our current fire conditions are just one of the dramatic consequences. Be careful and stay safe out there. (Jacqueline Zumwalt, writing to LCO)

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DURING THE LAST WEEK OF JUNE 2014, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office was notified by a concerned citizen that there was possibly a trespass marijuana grow in the river area west of the 11400 block of East Road in Redwood Valley. On July 2, 2014 deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office, including several Sheriff's K-9 teams, entered into the area on foot. Marijuana was discovered being cultivated on the river bed, which is part of the State of California right of way. Two marijuana gardens were located, with a total of 254 growing marijuana plants. The plants appear to be irrigated with water diverted from the already parched Russian River. No suspects were apprehended. Anyone with information leading to the arrest of the persons responsible for the marijuana cultivation and water diversion are encouraged to contact the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office tip line at 463-4411. (Sheriff's Press Release)

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Bodjack, Carlsen, Guerrero-Vargas, McCoy, Rosales-Reyes, Sanchez, Torres
Bodjack, Carlsen, Guerrero-Vargas, McCoy, Rosales-Reyes, Sanchez, Torres

KEVIN BODJACK, Ukiah. Revocation felony probation.

AARON CARLSEN, Ukiah. Failure to appear; child endangerment. (The cops probably spotted him driving around without his kid secured in a car seat, ran a warrant check and discovered Mr. C had missed a court date.)

JONATHAN GUERRERO-VARGAS, Ukiah. Yep, all one surname. The charge is “transport to furnish organic drug.”

ANTHONY McCOY, Ukiah. False I.D.; meth sales; failure to appear; driving on a revoked license.

DAMIAN ROSALES-REYES, Cloverdale. Violation of parole with a back-to-prison stipulation.


ERIK TORRES, Redwood Valley. Revocation of felony probation.

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ON JUNE 27, 2014 at approximately 6:41 PM, Mendocino County Sheriff Deputies were dispatched to a domestic altercation which occurred inside the victim's vehicle in the 18000 block of Highway 20, Willits California. When deputies arrived they contacted the victim and learned that he had been involved in a verbal argument, which turned physical, with his wife Daisy Atkinson, 35, of Willits. During the altercation the verbal argument escalated when Atkinson struck the victim numerous times in the upper back and head area. Deputies observed the victim had visible injuries to his upper shoulder and neck area, along with fresh scratches to his right forearm, which were consistent with that of a physical assault. Atkinson was placed under arrest for the listed violation. Atkinson was then transported to the Mendocino County Jail where she was to be held in lieu of $25,000.00 bail. (Sheriff's Press Release.)

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by Katy Tahja

As a bookseller at Gallery Bookshop I recently had the pleasure of selling a 60 year old but ever-wonderful picture book called “The Biggest Bear” by Lynd Ward. As the grandparent buying this classic and I chatted about bears this question arose. What was the biggest bear ever found in Mendocino County? This was another History Mystery waiting for an answer.

The real answer may never be known since grizzly bears, once common in the county, are long gone. Bears were hunted, along with deer and elk, for meat to feed the loggers in the cookhouses during logging days. Francisco Faria, an early settler and hunter on the coast, had a circular shaped forearm where a bear had bit him and the bones healed crookedly.

Looking at a gazetteer for this county the place names with ursine focus are numerous. Included were Bear Creek, Bear Harbor, Bear Haven Creek, Bear Pen Creek, Bear Camp, Grizzly Peak, Grizzly Canyon, Grizzly Flats, and Bear Mountain. Looking into obscure resources, old books and the internet I found tidbits of bear lore from all over the county.

Manchester, on the south coast, was famous for butter production, and the bears who liked to kill and eat the butter source, the cows. A bear called “Old Two Toes” was killed in 1907 and measured 6’ long. He had also wreaked havoc on the local sheep population.

“Reel Foot” was killed by Frank Asbill in 1881 and weighed 300 pounds with an 18” footprint. This bear was reputed to eat an entire common cow as a good meal. Over decades he was shot with flint arrowheads by Wylacki Indians and a variety of slugs and all were found imbedded in his bones. A two gallon tub of honey laced with strychnine killed him near Island Mountain. His head was said to be comparable to that of a good size cow.

James Hull, for whom Hull Mountain over Lake Pillsbury is named, was killed by a Grizzly Bear in 1856. He had been part of a party hunting for venison and went out alone to the site they’d butchered the deer to collect brains for buckskin tanning, and vanished. The search party looking for him found a big dead Grizzly and Hull’s body. There was a shot stuck halfway down in the barrel of the gun and he’d turned the gun around and beat on the bear with the gunstock. They both died and Hull’s grave is on the north side of the peak about ¾ mile down from the summit.

In 1976 the Willits News reported a bear had dressed out at 394 pounds and had a live weight of 550 pounds. From a bear skull found in Eden Valley in 1959 the story goes the hunter said the bear weighted 670 pounds live weight and dressed out at 595 pounds with 20 gallons of rendered bear grease. As a back-to-the-land hippie in the 1970’s bear grease was my oil of choice to waterproof leather boots…back when hiking boots were made out of real leather.

A woman feeding “pet” bears in 2010 in Laytonville made the news as she had 14 bears loitering around her cabin, including a 400 pounder. She had named them all, had a kids wading pool on her deck to give them water to wallow in, and fed them so much rolled and cracked corn she had a 40’ storage container to store bear food in. Her house had bear feces inside (she let them in) and she hand fed them peanut butter sandwiches. Needless to say Fish & Game was NOT pleased with her behavior and she ended up in court being told to cease and desist feeding wild animals.

Maurice Tindall, former Anderson Valley judge, in his book “Down to Earth” wrote about bear hunting. Finding and killing one in an elderberry thicket they had hard work getting the hide and meat out of the woods. As Tindall said “It had been a bear for quite a long time and it was impossible to chew the meat.”

Getting serious with my biggest bear search on the internet I found Mendocino County Black Bears rated as some of the biggest on record. I do not understand the rating systems used by Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young but one bear rated number 5 in size on the records for a bow & arrow kill. Mendocino is fifth in the state for bear hunting with 104 kills between 1997 & 2007. Fish & Game says there are more than 30,000 Black Bears in the state and I know for a fact, due to fruit tree damage in our century old orchard, that bears are alive and well locally. I had a bear cross the Comptche Ukiah Road in front of me at twilight a month ago.

So NO, I could not find out what the biggest bear in Mendocino County ever was…but as with other History Mysteries I sure had fun looking for the answer.

* * *


by Katy M. Tahja

Local historian Katy Tahja sent along this “true” bear story composed by Charles W. Brown of Philo a few days after his 92nd birthday. It’s the adventure he and his brother Frank had in their boyhood days on Rancheria Creek in Anderson Valley. It was published in the Mendocino County Historical Society’s “Bear Tales and Other Stories” written by John Keller in 1984.

* * *

My brother & I planned to go on a tramp For fishing & hunting & romance of the camp. So, early one morning at the rise of the sun, With bedding & rations, 2 dogs & a gun, We crossed a high mountain, a tiresome route, To a stream where we knew there were plenty of trout. We heard a strange noise & came to a pause, Frank slipped round a corner to learn of the cause, Imagine my thoughts when I heard him declare, “Oh, merciful saints! It’s a monster big bear!”

He leveled his gun, with deliberate aim, He fired a shot & down the brute came; “I’ve got him!” says Frank, & started the dogs, They hurried away over gravel & logs Till they came to the spot where the animal lay, And loudly began to bark & to bay. A question came up as to what might occur For the bear by this time was beginning to stir. His movements were upward, and oh what a sight That his figure revealed when he rose to his might! Lay aside all your doubts, & believe what I say That his body loomed up like a big stack of hay. He snapped at one dog, cut a horrible gash, The other he struck with a powerful crash.

Frank then was reloading; I heard him to say “Look out & beware, for he’s coming this way!” Turned shortly around & started to run, When he fell on the rocks, broke the stock of his gun, Which rendered him helpless, disarmed you might say, And left him without means to continue the fray. And then as for me, I was frightened enough For my only way out was to climb a steep bluff. I climbed with a vim, & of vim there was no lack, Fearing each moment he’d be at my back! When a new scene came on, & so it’s believed, He was blinded by blood from the wound he’d received, Made a change in his course, & with stagger & rush He disappeared into a thick bunch of brush.

We did not go after to see where he went, In another direction our footsteps we bent, Believe it or not, our movements were fleet, We grabbed up our luggage and beat a retreat. And the poor wounded dog, I’m sorry to say, That we carried him homeward most all of the way. T’was a pity to see him in such a sad plight, But with care & attention he came out all right. To think it all over, I say it’s no fun, And it somewhat compares with the fight at Bull Run.

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by Dan Bacher

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) evacuated 1 million rainbow trout from the American River Fish Hatchery and nearly 430,000 fingerling steelhead from Nimbus Fish Hatchery by June 30.

This was due to concerns that the cold water pool in Folsom Lake that keeps the water cold in the American River that supplies the water for both hatcheries would become lethally warm.

The impact of the plants was obvious on my recent trips to Silver and Caples Lakes. Both lakes were planted with big loads of rainbows by the American River Fish Hatchery — and boat and bank anglers were catching lots of rainbows on a variety of lures and baits. Anglers fishing lakes and streams throughout the region planted by this hatchery are seeing a similar boost in fishing success.

While these plants will produce an immediate upswing in fishing at many lakes and streams, it means that fish won’t be planted later in the summer as they normally are at many waters.

The impact on steelhead should also result in less adult fish returning to Nimbus Fish Hatchery in coming years, since the survival rate of the smaller fish is expected to less than when they are planted at a larger size in February.

Before the fish were released, a CDFW news release explained, “With extreme drought conditions reducing the cold water supply available, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are moving the last rainbow trout out of the American River Hatchery to avoid future losses of young fish to rising water temperatures.”

CDFW biologists predict that by mid-summer the temperature of the water entering the hatchery will exceed tolerable temperatures for the growing fish, causing extensive — if not total — loss of all fish in the two hatcheries. The fall run Chinook salmon were already delivered by truck to acclimation pens and then released into San Pablo Bay this spring, while the steelhead yearlings from adult fish spawned in the winter of 2012-2013 were released into the Sacramento and lower American rivers in February.

“We are taking proactive actions to avoid catastrophic fish losses,” said Dr. William Cox, CDFW State Hatchery Program Manager. “It is an unavoidable change, and we need to look for unique opportunities to avert major losses. We will track all changes involved in the evacuation and evaluate how fish react to being released early. Ultimately we could develop new release strategies based on what we learn.”

American River Hatchery operations focus on taking rainbow trout eggs, while Nimbus Hatchery takes both salmon and steelhead eggs. Cox noted, “This will be the first time all stocks of fish at both hatcheries have been evacuated.”

The nearly 430,000 fingerling steelhead from Nimbus Hatchery into the American River were released six months ahead of the normal February release time.

The remaining 20 state-managed hatcheries are expected to make it through the summer months and into the winter season without having to evacuate fish, according to Cox.

Normally CDFW would call on the Bureau of Reclamation to draft water from what is known as the “Deep Water Pool,” in the depths of Folsom Lake. The transfer of cold late water helps to keep hatchery waters acceptably cool.

“However, this year, the length and intensity of the drought is so extensive that little, if any water, in the lake is expected to be cool enough to utilize during sizzling summer months. CDFW predicts water temperatures will exceed 78 degrees in the hatcheries — far too warm for the young trout and salmon to survive,” Cox stated.

Throughout the fall and winter CDFW workers mark hundreds of thousands of steelhead trout at Nimbus Hatchery. Unique markings will enable biologists to evaluate what happens to the fish throughout their life cycle and how the drought conditions will ultimately affect each type of fish.

“Fall and winter rains, if received in sufficient amounts, will cool water temperatures enough to allow both hatcheries to come back online and resume operations,” according to the Department.

The evacuation of the trout from the American River Fish Hatchery and steelhead from Nimbus Fish Hatchery over concerns the water will become lethally warm puts the spotlight on the terrible government management of our water resources in a drought.

The state and federal governments drained Folsom, Oroville and Shasta reservoirs in 2013, a record drought year, to deliver water to corporate agribusiness interests and Southern California water agencies. Folsom Lake was left at only 17 percent of capacity and 34 percent of average by January 2014.

Folsom is now holding 482,133 acre-feet of water, 49 percent of capacity and 59 percent of average. The current water level is 414.25 feet, 51.75 feet from full. If the water had been better managed, there would have been more carryover storage in Folsom to maintain a cold water pool this year.

Rather than supporting the environmentally destructive peripheral tunnels plan, the state and federal governments should embrace the Environmental Water Caucus Responsible Exports Plan that sets a cap on water exports of 3 million acre feet, preventing the draining of Folsom and other reservoirs.

* * *


Warm spiritual greetings, I am available for more selfless service in the name of radical environmentalism/peace & justice on planet earth right now! I wish to stay active, and I want you to cooperate with me so that I am in play. WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR?   — Craig Louis Stehr Telephone messages: (504) 302-9951 Email: Snail mail: 333 Socrates Street, New Orleans, LA 70114


  1. chewsome July 3, 2014

    All the dust up over the apparent manipulation and mismanagement of contracting over privatization of County Mental Health Service, brings to my mind that the Mendocino Board of Supervisors made a ‘penny wise pound foolish’ decision, to discontinue the tradition of weekly Tuesday Regular Business meetings.

    Instead Board meeting may be grouped in bunches of two days, often not in consecutive weeks. The County Executive Office had penciled out the anticipated savings, with staff time budget streamlining and in convenience for the Supervisors.

    However what was missed in the calculations, was the disenfranchisement of interested voter members of the public, to follow and track some of the minutia, and being able to provide real time further insight to the greater public good and news reporting, that a regular pattern of weekly Tuesday Regular Business meetings helps facilitate.

  2. Jim Updegraff July 3, 2014

    In looking at the Catch of the Day over a period of time it seems like there are a lot of probation violations. Do these clowns get free passes or do some actually get jail time? It also brings up the question just how effective is the probation system?

  3. John Sakowicz July 3, 2014

    Jeff Blankfort writes that he can “understand” KZYX Engineer, Rich Culbertson, spitting at a prospective volunteer, Mary Massey, and KZYX Program Director, Mary Aigner, “screaming” at Ms. Massey.

    Shame on you, Jeff Blankfort. Shame on you. You sink to a new low as the station’s resident apologist. Ms. Massey, a woman, is spit at by Culbertson, a male employee of KZYX, and you can “understand” it. Blankfort, you may have now assumed the mantle of the station’s resident misogynist.

    One other thing. My informal objections at the FCC to the renewal of Mendocino County Broadcasting’s two licenses, KZYX and KZYZ, were not attempts to shut down the station, as you imply. My objections were filed contingent upon a change in management at the station. Let me repeat: Upon a change in management. In other words, I filed the objections to save the station — to return it to the status of being a truly “public” public radio station, instead of the closed clubhouse it now is.

    Congratulations, my friend. With today’s misogynistic letter you have now earned a lifetime membership in that club.

    • Jeff Blankfort July 4, 2014

      Not surprisingly, John Sakowicz, hopes to avert attention from his own personal inadequacies as documented in my reply to a letter to the AVA of July 2, by his new confidante, M. Kathryn Massey, by accusing me of misogyny, a charge that will no doubt make my many women friends in Mendocino Co. wonder how they hadn’t noticed it in all of the 15 years I have lived here.

      From what I understand from Rich Culbertson, he was nowhere near his accuser, M. Massey, whose letter like her previous one to the AVA, was more fanciful than factual.

      This seems to be a recurrent problem with both Massey and Sako as is their sense of entitlement, best illustrated by a tendency to make demands of others that, other than in their own minds, they are in no position to make, e.g., Sako’s admission that unless KZYX has a change in management, it should have its FCC license suspended.

      Hiring and firing of management is a decision made by the station’s BOD, of which, unfortunately, Sako is still a member, (one who I mistakenly voted for), who thinks his opinion trumps that of his fellow board members.

      Call it what you will, chutzpah, arrogance, delusions of grandeur, in the end, he is simply a liar and not even a clever one.

      • chewsome July 5, 2014

        Jeff Blankfort writes: “From what I understand from Rich Culbertson, he was nowhere near his accuser, M. Massey, whose letter like her previous one to the AVA, was more fanciful than factual.”

        So what we may have here, is Blankfort singing for his slot on KZYX, by accepting hearsay from Culbertson to discount a recent letter of Massey as “more fanciful than factual.” Gong. Round three for the mudslingers and possessed.

        • Jeff Blankfort July 5, 2014

          “chewsome?” That, I will guess, is the latest subterfuge of Mendoland’s reigning windbag and Baron Munchausen impressionist, John Lackowits.

          As I pointed out in both of my letters to the AVA regarding allegations by Ms. Massey, and proved (thanks to you/her having provided the links) in my latest one, she seems to have the same difficulty in discerning truth from fiction as you do. Under the circumstances I am not inclined to believe a word that either of you say, nor should anyone else.

          I had observed that Ms. Massey is a highly skilled artist and I meant that seriously. What she knows about community radio, however, is zilch, and that is why I encouraged her to do what she does best, return to her paints and canvas.

          At some point I hope she will learn that dealing with people like you is a risky business for anyone concerned with their reputation.

  4. Harvey Reading July 3, 2014

    On the mental health services issues, you just don’t understand. Yuppies are entitled to do what they want, and to profit from it, if possible. That’s the law. And, they are much, much smarter than the rest of us, so they deserve huge salaries. Just ask the scum.

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