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Off the Record (July 9, 2014)

ED KOWAS is gone, dead of a heart attack at 73. His talk show on KMFB out of Mendocino was a must-listen for years, and continued to be a must-listen after Ed returned to the Coast after a stay in the federal prison at Lompoc. A garrulous little guy, Ed was living proof that Mendocino County is America's makeover capitol, that an intriguingly large number of our citizens are people who've come here to start over again. Ed, though, was on the lam. He'd been a probate judge in Michigan where he also occasionally functioned as a juvenile court judge. Apparently Ed dipped into some public accounts to indulge his youthful taste for the high life, and it soon became obvious to colleagues and friends that his spending was way south of his salary. When he could no longer plausibly juggle the books, Ed, abbreviating his name from Leon Edmond Kowalski to Ed Kowas, took off from Michigan for a new life in Mendocino, supporting himself as the manager and caretaker at the Caspar Campgrounds. A devout Catholic, Ed had seemed to overlook the thou shall not steal vow, a part of his past which I'm sure tortured him all his days. At Caspar, Ed took in lots of difficult people who otherwise would have had no place to stay. And after taking them in, Ed spent untold hours babysitting lots of them. Charity was a vow he did not violate. He also became a morning talk show host at KMFB, the only public affairs show in the County at the time, and the only one before or since that didn't run from controversy. For a guy on the run from the feds, talk show host, even deep in the California outback, is hiding in plain sight. It was only a matter of time before the long arm of the law reached out and grabbed Ed by the neck.

ED'S SHOWS were always a form of rhetorical roulette. You never knew what he was likely to say. Ed, with me, prefaced his questions with 500-word slurs. "You're On The Air with Ed Kowas talking to local troublemaker Bruce Anderson, a radical socialist anarchist bomb thrower type of guy in and out of the Mendocino County Jail who's critical of everybody and everything, and what we want to know is, How do you stay in business in Boonville, California, a tiny community of good people and there you are a guy who doesn't like anything or anybody doing and saying the things you do and say. No way anyone's going to buy your newspaper, right? So, how do you get money?" Follow the bouncing ball! I'd try to defend myself only to get hit with another slanderous blast. One morning I told Ed I wanted to fess up. "Moscow gold, Ed. The Russians send me a coupla grand a month." He came right back with, "Well, folks, there you have it, right from the horse's mouth." But it was always good humored and lots of fun, with Ed's sidekick, Lindy Peters, then the mayor of Fort Bragg, and even George Anderson, the owner of the station, unable to resist joining the on-air merriment. Later, post-prison, Ed's girl friend, the late Andree Connor, a pioneer hippie whose vagabond van is on display at the County Museum, often functioned as Ed's co-host, tossing woo-woo asides into the talk gumbo. "Maybe you just need your chakras adjusted, Bruce," she'd say. All that and call-ins. I was continually surprised at the number of random people I'd meet who'd mention that they'd heard this or that Kowas hour and how much they'd enjoyed it. (Lots of people called him 'Ed Chaos.') I've wondered ever since why the County's am radio stations have never again attempted to do local talk. Ed was a hard act to follow, but he packed in the listeners and I always heard that advertisers were quite pleased with their returns.

SO, ED'S sailing along as a major Mendo personality when the bad news hit, and hit hard in all the big-circulation California newspapers. "Leon Edmond Kowalski, 47, who broadcast under the name of Ed Kowas, has been arrested." We soon learned that Ed was from Baldwin, Michigan where, in 1979, he'd been appointed as a judge. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in Grand Rapids in 1986 on charges of evading nearly $75,000 in income taxes by filing fraudulent returns in 1981 and 1982.

GEORGE ANDERSON, a stand-up guy if there ever was one, immediately posted Ed's bail, and Ed was quickly back on the air while he worked out a deal with the feds that included, as I recall, a total of 18 months in prison and a restitution plan. KMFB, now called KUNK as in the Skunk Rail Line, has changed hands several times since Ed's reign, although Lindy Peters is still there. Ed, Lindy and George, and Andree made up the station's best days and some truly memorable Mendo radio.

I WAS SURPRISED that Ed was carried off by heart attack. A fit, wiry little guy, Ed bicycled everywhere and, I remember hearing, had become a vegetarian at the urging of his friend, the vividly memorable, Ms. Connor. Ed is survived by a daughter and mourned by everyone who knew him.

TOMMY WAYNE KRAMER'S Sunday columns are a dependably lively read. I'd like them for his genius at annoying the inland libs even if they were as dull as, say, a Democratic Party fundraiser. Last Sunday's col defended public defenders, citing the recent case of Joan Rainville's DUI. As Kramer pointed out, the DA has every advantage, the Public Defender none in a job made impossible by the fact that everyone the Public Defender is defending is invariably as charged. Or overcharged as often happens. The only case I can think of offhand where the defendant was obviously not guilty is The People vs. Martin Laiwa of Point Arena. In that one, the late Ron Brown, soon after peter- principled into a sinecure as a Superior Court judge, managed to send Laiwa to state prison for a murder he'd didn't commit. Laiwa allegedly confessed to a single investigator while the investigator's tape recorder was off when Laiwa joked, "Sure, I did it." That joke cost him twenty years of his life. But fathom the depths of incompetence of a public defender who couldn't convert that circumstance into an acquittal!

I THINK the PD in the Rainville case screwed up big time, not that Joan is innocent, and not that she isn't a straight-up menace when she knocks down a few and gets behind the wheel. But as I understand it, and as Bruce McEwen reported, the PD missed the opportunity to exclude Joan's drunk driving history, and treated the thing like it was a routine DUI and not the unique, Assault With A Deadly Weapon charge Joan was looking at. A jury considering only her most recent arrest would likely have been much more lenient, and the real issue in the assault charge was intent. Was Joan, drunk and behind the wheel, thereby weaponized? Hardly. Cosmically, though, poor old Joan got justice. Priors or no priors somehow she's got to stop doing it.

AT TUESDAY'S SUPERVISOR'S meeting (July 8th) supervisors Gjerde and McCowen will propose a County ordinance called 'Disposable Food Ware' aimed at permanently banishing styrofoam. The destructive stuff is, of course, widely used in the take-out food and beverage industry. The Environmental Protection Agency has found that polystyrene foam "can have serious impacts on human health, wildlife, the aquatic environment and economy." Although not regulated at the state level, many California jurisdictions have banned the stuff.

FORMER MTA BOSS, Bruce Richard, now enjoying a flush retirement after nearly three decades of running a heavily subsidized County bus service to and from a few locations in vast Mendocino County, now serves as a trustee on the Ukiah Senior Center board of directors. So, why even mention the guy? I don't know, really, except there's something deeply irritating about him, as there is about most of Mendocino County's public bureaucrats. There's the smugness, of course, and the big pay these characters get that they'd never get in the ever more ruthless private sector. I've always thought that the manager of the Ukiah Safeway or Ukiah Co-op could function and function well in any public job offered by Mendocino County, but very few of our public bureaucrats could run the Ukiah Safeway or the Ukiah Co-op.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS STATEMENT? Apart that it's from the wine-dependent Santa Press Democrat? "Sonoma County's ongoing wine grape boom held the countywide loss of irrigated farmland in recent years to just 117 acres, limiting a problem that elsewhere in California has eliminated wide swaths of productive agricultural land, according to a new state report. The net loss of irrigated farmland amounts to a sliver of Sonoma County, which spans about 1 million acres, and about 0.15 percent of its 80,000 acres of farmland. Sonoma had the smallest net loss among the 47 counties included in the report, ranking it just behind 10 counties – including Mendocino – that had net gains in irrigated farmland."

IT ASSUMES that vineyards are agriculture in the sense of feeding people. Potato patches and cows is agriculture. Wine grapes are a luxury.

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.”

ON LINE COMMENT OF THE WEEK: "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 outcroppings 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 windbreak. 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)

SELL IT. "It" is the under-used and under-maintained ecological field station next door to the recent federal acquisition of the Stornetta Lands near Point Arena. The property used to be a military navigation station. Mendo College has owned it for about 30 years. The feds will pay $1.5 million for roughly 15 acres of ocean front land on which rest some aged WW Two structures, and open the property up to the public. Mendo College administrators want to sell, a couple of faculty want to keep it for occasional student study jaunts. Admin says it needs the money to offset declining enrollment, which is another question altogether in that we think enrollment should be increasing, not declining. Enrollment is probably declining because even the formerly free community colleges are now very expensive for students of ordinary means. Students of no means are left out all together.

THE COUNTY EXECUTIVE OFFICE has announced the departure of Assistant CEO Kyle Knopp who has taken a job as City Manager of Rio Dell in Humboldt County. Knopp came to Mendocino County from Humboldt where he was employed in the county administrator's office. Knopp spent about four years in Mendocino County where he was primarily responsible for the county budget process and more recently for labor negotiations where he earned the enmity of the incompetents running SEIU, the county's largest bargaining group. Knopp was thought to be in line to eventually succeed CEO Carmel Angelo. As a career move, the city manager's post in Rio Dell seems like more of a lateral move, or maybe even a step backward, than an advancement. There are no indications that the Board or CEO were unhappy with Knopp, who is credited with helping to restore the County to at least a semblance of fiscal stability.

STATE WATER CRACKS DOWN. On June 30th the State Water Board mailed 129 curtailment notices to junior water right holders within the Eel River watershed, which includes the North Fork Eel, Mainstem Eel and Van Duzen River areas. The 129 curtailment notices affect a total of 199 post-1914 water rights. The State has warned Russian River diverters that they risk fines and loss of their permits if they ignore orders to curtail river water extractions.

A DEPRESSING couple of stories in the Ukiah Daily Journal described the damage done to the Russian River by the large population of drug and alcohol-dependent persons living rough in and around Ukiah, clusters of them on the depleted, battered River.

IT'S A CONSTANT struggle to keep debris, including human waste, out of the dying River. On the off chance it rains next winter, the Russian will again, as it has for years now, take on another load of foul detritus that makes its survival as a fish stream that much more difficult.

THERE ARE ANNUAL clean-ups, and there are individual efforts of individual citizens who do what they can against an ever-larger tide of despoilers. The wine people drain the River of its water, the Thanatoids use it as a combination garbage can and septic tank.


SUPERVISOR McCOWEN spends countless hours picking up trash along the Ukiah stretch of the River. He's been threatened a number of times simply for politely asking the drunks and druggers he encounters to clean up after themselves. A hundred McCowens couldn't police the banks of the Russian these days.

THE UKIAH POLICE DEPARTMENT (Fort Bragg and the Willits PD, too) spends a lot of work hours babysitting bums, arresting them, checking them in to the County Jail where, because there's no room, they're quickly released, and if they're not quickly released, soon will be after they make a pro forma court appearance where they'll be put on a sanction-free probation they immediately violate.

“HOMELESS” POLICY? There isn't one. We can't even discuss the problem in accurate language. A 25-year-old drug addict or drunk isn't homeless, and that's who's out there, he's a free-range outpatient who needs to be locked up for retooling. Which is what we used to do in this country until the Republicans said we didn't need a state hospital system, that free enterprise, community-based board and care homes could do the job of caring for the millions of people unable and/or unwilling to care for themselves.

SO HERE WE ARE. More open air drunks and dope heads than ever with no local strategy other than free meals every day so they can all stay outside getting loaded and making nuisances of themselves. Or worse.

MAYBE McCOWEN could use his Supe's position to call for a kind of local task force to at least discuss possible options to the destructive drift we now have vis a vis the “homeless.” The judges, being crucial to any possible humane alternatives, should use their authority to seek options to catch-and-release, as should Plowshares and the other County do-good groups.

FOR STARTERS, we suggest that the County buy and staff an inland property and another property in the Fort Bragg area that would serve as County Farms for single transients. The people now flopping under bushes and in culverts along the Russian River and along the Skunk Line tracks in Fort Bragg would be court-ordered into these facilities. If they walk away, jail for much longer periods of time than they do now.

TODAY, over and above the simple fact that he is still generally readable, [Ambrose] Bierce solicits our attention because he is a minor prophet of hopelessness. On August 6, 1945, the planet, with the United States in the lead, passed half-unconsciously into an era of despair. With a noiseless flash over Hiroshima homo sapiens issued the first dramatic announcement of his inability to make a biological success of himself. The next few years or decades seem almost certain to prove years or decades of planetary wars that will rend and crack and shiver the earth's thin skin, years of wholesale suicide, years that will paralyze the moral and religious sense of mankind. Civilized man — unless he decides to use his reason — will fall forward into a new and almost unimaginable barbarism. The time for the pessimists has come again, whether they be philosophical pessimists, like the French Existentialists, or pessimists in action, like the totalitarians, the managerial state-ers, and the heralds of the American (or Russian) Century. The men and women who do not like men and women are in the saddle and will ride mankind. (Clifton Fadiman, 1946, “Ambrose Bierce: Portrait of a Misanthrope”)

I WAS VISITING a friend the other afternoon when the early national news came on. The lead story featured visuals of florid-faced screamers alternately yelling, “Go Home,” and chanting “USA!” Until a second visual appeared on-screen I didn't know what these hysterics were upset about, but whenever I hear mobs in USA-mode anywhere outside sports stadiums I know something bad is on. This chorus, I thought, bordered on evil.


THE VENUE was a place called Murrieta, whose chamber of commerce's motto, “The Future of Southern California,” had me renewing my vows to never, ever venture south of SF International.

THE MOB was screaming at a couple of busloads of immigrant women and children. One well-nourished slug held a homemade sign that said, “Bus Illegal Children to the White House.” Another one said, “Dump 'em in Tijuana!” Lots of them denounced Obama. The Fox News brigades are really going to miss this guy, aren't they?

WHATEVER one's views are of immigration, you're going to terrorize women and children to emphasize them? There are migrations of people on the move everywhere in the world, most of them fleeing impossible circumstances. The question is how to address these movements in a humane way, the American way. Or what used to be the American way.


IT WAS GRATIFYING that counter-demonstrators, out-numbering the fascisti, were soon on-scene. American rightwingers are typically pathetic. They get a mob-action going, they back right off at even a hint of righteous counter-force. That will probably change soon enough, and we shall see what we shall see, but those bellowing faces in Murrieta are probably the tip of a very large iceberg.

SEARCH PHRASE OF THE DAY: why do tweakers like to carry flashlights

DEPARTMENT OF UNINTENTIONAL HUMOR, Ukiah Daily Journal, July 2, 2014: “Swimming Ban Lifted At Lake Mendocino.” (Fortunately, the news item itself by UDJ reporter Justine Frederiksen concluded with a more realistic description of the “usage” of Lake Mendocino: “Despite the boat ramps remaining closed, Supervisory Ranger Chris Schooley said lots of people are using the Lake so far this summer. ‘We have a pretty robust schedule,’ he said. ‘Our campgrounds are about 80-90% full’.”)

AUDITOR-CONTOLLER RECOMMENDS HERSELF for post-retirement employment — at $440 a day.

Board of Supervisors Agenda Item 5c at the meeting of July 8: “Approval Of Temporary Extra Help Appointment of Meredith Ford to Fulfill Critically Needed Duties After Her Retirement,

“...... the Auditor-Controller [i.e., Meredith Ford] would like to hire Meredith Ford as temporary extra help (at $54.97 per hour flat) [or $440 per day] to fulfill critical duties, including training her successor on statutory requirements in regards to the Redevelopment Agencies, their Successor Agencies and the pending Redevelopment Bond lawsuit. Government Code Section 7522.56 (f) allows the County to rehire a retired employee prior to the 180-day waiting period if the following conditions have been met: The employer certifies the nature of the employment and that the appointment is necessary to fill a critically needed position before the 180 days have passed, and the appointment has been approved by the governing body of the employer in a public meeting. The appointment may not be placed on a consent calendar.”

MS. FORD EXPLAINS her request: ".... Although I am retiring on June 20, I will need to come back to intensively train my successor on all of the statutory requirements surrounding the County’s three remaining Redevelopment Agencies and their Successor Agencies. This training must occur after the Assessor has completed the 2014-15 tax roll valuations, so it cannot be achieved [sic] prior to my retirement date. Redevelopment is an extremely complex issue, and a through understanding of it is vital, as it affects property tax allocations for the County, Cities, Special Districts, and School Districts. I have had responsibility for these calculations for the last 22 years with no backup in place. Also, I have been named in the lawsuit the City of Ukiah has filed against the State over the use of their previously issued redevelopment bonds, and I expect to be required to participate in the process, should the suit go forward. Therefore, I request that your Board find that my appointment as extra help is necessary to fulfill critically needed duties before 180 days have passed since my retirement. — Sincerely, Meredith Ford, Auditor-Controller”

“I OPENED THE DOOR and I seen the man in the dress greens and I knew. I immediately knew.” This was what the mother of a 19-year-old killed by a bomb in Kirkuk said in a documentary produced by The New York Times and HBO, quoted by Bob Herbert on the morning of November 12, 2004. “But I thought that if, as long as I didn't let him in, he couldn't tell me. And then it — none of that would've happened. So he kept saying, ‘Ma'am, I need to come in.’ And I kept telling him, ‘I'm sorry, but you can't come in’.” (Joan Didion)

PERTINENT ON-LINE POT ASSESSMENT: "Where religion, the opium of the people, fails, pot, the opium of the rest of the people should pick up the slack. Has anybody considered the idea that legalization of pot is just another tool to keep the people from being overly concerned with the condition of the country? I know, I know, let me find my tinfoil hat. But really, isn't it funny how pot is moving from dangerous scourge to miracle drug in the eyes of so many? As civil rights and freedoms are taken away en masse for the good of the people, our government, bickers and pays lip service to the problems of the day, while they divide the people and consolidate their power. We don't need to encourage people to live in a haze of bliss, we need people prepared to problem solve and work. Medical pot for cancer patients and people with MS. The rest of you pull yourselves together."

One Comment

  1. Trelanie Hill July 9, 2014

    Medical pot for ONLY cancer and MS.
    I guess if your child was having dozens of seizures a month and cannabis treatment was the only treatment you found helpful you would ……

    It’s only a miracle drug because we as a society refuse to admit we were wrong about its medical properties and refuse to fund research. You may find it funny but many patients that are now living “blissful lives” don’t . They don’t need to pull themselves together, they need to ignore opinions such as yours.

    Why in the world would you want one of the best medications used for child epilepsy to be denied?

    Maybe you are in law enforcement and you just won’t admit you were terribly wrong.

    I don’t find it funny at all when children suffer.

    Just my opinion,
    Jim Hill
    Potter Valley

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