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Quick Draw Wattenburger

JIM WATTENBURGER no longer functions as County supervisor. He decided, he said, to retire after one four-year term. Wattenburger has now attended his last meeting as an elected official. His four years in office paid him $65,000 annually plus an array of perks for himself and his family most Americans do not enjoy. As a sitting supervisor, Wattenburger had also drawn a second salary from CalFire for several lucratively double-dipping months. Wattenburger had left CalFire on a stress claim prior to representing the Ukiah area on the board of supervisors.

AT A "STRATEGIC PLANNING" meeting of the supervisors and department heads on December 15th, Wattenburger suddenly announced, "I hate to say it, but I was packing a gun in a lot of board meetings."

MIDWAY in his supe's tenure Wattenburger claimed to have been threatened. Then he said he and his wife had been threatened. These claims, vague in the extreme, were widely reported at the time, but Wattenburger did not report them to the police. Wattenburger suggested, though, that the alleged threats arose from either or both the controversies inspired by marijuana and a proposed shopping mall north of Ukiah. The implication was that the threats had come from environmentalists and the pot brigades, forces seen as interchangeable by about half Mendocino County's population and blamed by that half of the population for everything gone terribly wrong in both Mendocino County and America.

SUPERVISOR WATTENBURGER suggested he needed to carry a gun to public meetings because the people making the threats against him might attack him right there in the board chambers. Or on the way in or out the door. Or in the hall. Or drop out of a tree on his back on his way in from the parking lot. Wattenburger referred to one meeting of the supervisors where a man in the audience threatened violence via sign language, the sign being the man's finger held to the side of his head as if it were a gun. Of course the man could have been scratching his head or simply miming the universal sign for "cuckoo" at something Wattenburger or one of his colleagues said.

WATTENBURGER isn't the first crazy person to serve as Mendocino County supervisor. And he isn't the only elected official in the County to carry a gun — several judges also conceal weapons beneath their black robes.

AT LEAST TWO, perhaps three, of Wattenburger's colleagues — Colfax, Smith and Delbar — would seem to enjoy only a precariously balanced mental health, but Colfax's Queeg-like ramblings, Smith's new-agey monologues and Delbar's pornographic e-mails to the tootsies in the front office fall well within Mendocino County's infinitely elastic definitions of mental health.

BUT WATTENBURGER, with his gun revelation, has not only revealed himself as a clinical-quality paranoid, his revelations are a clear guide to Mendocino County's ongoing two-tier justice system. Some people get to break the law, some people don't. The people who get to break the law are elected officials and the upper-income levels generally, elected or not. Supervisors Colfax and Smith are caught by the Grand Jury chiseling on their tax-paid travel budgets, and the Grand Jury suggests that the DA get the public its money back. But the DA, Meredith Lintott, a "liberal" ally of the two crooked supervisors, haughtily announces if the public doesn't like her lack of action against her two chums the public can sue on its own. And that's it, and that's how business is done in Mendocino County. (Supervisor Smith even billed the County for her pet care.)

DA LINTOTT didn't deign to answer questions about Wattenburger's flagrant violation of the law while the Ukiah Police said it wasn't against the law to simply say you were carrying a gun. Yeah? Next time you encounter a cop, walk up to him and tell him you're carrying a gun and see what ensues. You'll be called 25 varieties of top-volume motherfucker as you're pounded into a full body search and tossed into the County Jail for "terrorist threat" and "resisting arrest."

WATTENBURGER said he used to have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. There's no record of it. Even here in Anything Goes County he might not be able to get a permit because he 5150-d out of CalFire during his initial tour as a firefighter. In theory, crazy people can't get gun permits. In practice, certainly in urban areas, you can't get gun permits period. But in Mendocino County all you've got to do is take the gun safety course, pass the background check and you can pack a gat. Last time I checked, some 300 Mendo people possess concealed weapons permits, so it's not as if they're hard to get, and it's not as if Wattenburger has any excuse for not getting one other than the question about his mental stability. The law says carrying a gun without a permit is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

THREATS. As supervisor Pinches remarked re Wattenburger, "If you're not willing to get punched, stay out of the ring." Threats and unpleasantness of all sorts come with the territory. Because elected officials are correctly viewed as crooks and opportunists by the American people, they are regularly threatened, insulted, denounced, and vilified. In exchange for the torrents of abuse heaped on them, elected officials grab as much as they can as fast as they can.

ANY PUBLICLY visible person is going to take his lumps. In this county, elected people seldom hear so much as a whisper of criticism. (The only place they even expect it is right here in this fine publication.) Threats are routine in the news biz, which any media slime will verify, and which is why the large circulation papers have guards on their ground floors and uninvited persons never, ever get upstairs to complain directly to a reporter, editor or columnist. Wattenburger's gotten a free pass from the local justice system.

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