Off the Record (Sep 3, 2014)

THE GOOD NEWS. LACEY BERRY has her two little girls back. Beyond that happy fact the Berry case remains sealed. The children were taken from the Berrys when local authorities were called to the Berrys’ Ukiah home late one night last month when Mr. Berry, a now totally disabled Marine badly wounded in Middle East combat, alarmed neighbors when he awoke in a screaming nightmare. Somehow responding officers concluded that Mrs. Berry was assaulting her husband as she attempted to calm him, and hauled her off to the County Jail. The Berry family then suffered a second nightmare when they briefly lost custody of their children to the dependably and cruelly incompetent children's protective services of Mendocino County.

TWO CLAIMS have been filed against Mendocino County by Sonoma County motorists who say that Mendocino County's Assistant District Attorney, Paul Sequeira, damaged them and their vehicles in a rear-ender in Napa County on Friday, June 20th.

SIGNS OF THE TIMES. A young couple I know awoke about 3am to odd sounds coming from the adjacent bedroom of their three-year-old daughter, only to discover that the child, presumed to have been long asleep, was watching The Little Mermaid on mom's cellphone!

WORK has begun near Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, on the connecting link of a walking and bike trail running from Noyo Harbor to Ten Mile. Fort Bragg maintains an easement on the 320-acre site of the defunct Georgia Pacific Mill on which the ocean bluffs trail link will be built. $1.36 million in funding derives from the State Coastal Conservancy, $348,000 from Caltrans with $4.8 million contributed by State Parks.

WE'RE CONTINUALLY surprised at the numbers of Mendo County people who are unaware of Fort Bragg's Haul Road walk, an amenity almost unique in California. The entire trail, in a couple of years, will include even more spectacular seaside access as it crosses the old GP Mill site.

AND SPEAKING of ocean access, a contested bluff-top trail at Sea Ranch has finally reopened after 11 years of wrangling. It allows public access to a quarter-mile stretch of beach, called Walk On Beach, that residents of Sea Ranch preferred remain off limits to The Great Unwashed.

THE RUSSIAN RIVER is like the mighty Colorado in miniature. It's drying up. There are too many draws on the Russian, an ongoing natural fact made even more obvious by the drought. And with this week's news that there's even less water for summer releases from Lake Mendocino, the Russian is a lot less rushin' in its upper run north of Healdsburg. South of Healdsburg it partially becomes a long leach field to the sea for Santa Rosa's reconstituted wastewater.

THE RUSSIAN RIVER Flood Control & Water Conservation Improvement District's and the Sonoma County Water Agency's requests to reduce flows in the Russian River has been granted. Some water, most of which is owned by Sonoma County, has to be kept back for the few fish which, in theory, still spawn in the Russian. And some of that water is reserved for the water that comes out of faucets from Ukiah to Healdsburg.

IN AN AUGUST 26 report in the Ukiah Daily Journal by Justine Frederiksen called “Outflow from Lake Mendocino Reduced,” Ms. Frederiksen includes this cryptic paragraph: “[Russian River Flood Control District Manager Sean] White said the reduced [out]flows will require ‘a bit more coordination’ amongst water diverters, who will need to give the [Sonoma County Water Agency] 72-hours notice before they divert water. That way the agency can release a ‘buffer’ amount of water to ensure the minimum flows are met.”

HMMM. There are two primary “water diverters” — communities like Ukiah, Hopland, Cloverdale and Healdsburg and grape growers. The seat-of-the-pants of all this gives you a good idea of how ill-managed the Russian River water is. More water will remain in Lake Mendocino (most of which belongs to the Sonoma County Water Agency, which sells it to municipal water districts in Sonoma and Marin Counties for a nice markup) by lowering the outflow, but if the “diverters” downstream of Lake Mendocino take water out of the Russian River’s reduced flows, they will “need to give notice” to the Water Agency so the Water Agency can tell Sean White to release more water from Lake Mendocino to replace what the diverters took.

BUT NO ONE watches, let alone enforces any diversions on the Russian River so there’s no reliable way Mr. White or the Sonoma County Water Agency can find out about diversions from lower flows until the flows stop flowing. And there’s no incentive for diverters to notify either White or the SoCo Water Agency. Why would a “diverter” tell anyone they're diverting if there’s a chance they might be told they can’t? But don’t worry. Everything’s under control; White and his water colleagues are going to do “a bit more coordination.”

A READER WRITES: "Levi’s Should Stick to Pants. I knew we were in trouble right away when the parking attendants couldn’t tell us where the stadium was. I took the first opportunity to park after getting totally confused trying to figure it out ahead of time online. It is amazing that the stadium was built with so little adjacent parking. It was $40 to park and then we walked an actual mile to the park. The trouble didn’t end there. The attendant ticket taker, who was a ringer for Sergio Romo, told me that I couldn’t take my purse into the park. I asked some other women going into the park and found out that there was a place to check your purse, information that Sergio could and should have given me and didn’t. Finally into the park and glad we left home so early, I began to try to find our actual seats. The first employee gave me directions to the wrong area, the second one suggested I go ask at an information booth, the third said he didn’t know and the fourth actually gave me good directions. Don’t they provide an orientation to the people who work there? If not, why not? My first impression of the park was that it looked like something built by a 13-year-old with an erector set. Modern, clean and without any character or real architecture that I could see. Of course my opinion is colored by a lifetime of Kezar and the Stick. Maybe the place will grow a soul.

"People were lined up to get their pictures taken with the 49er Nuggets, for a price of course. The ‘Niner Noise,’ and it was definitely more noise than music, was a ‘band’ playing at Gate A as we entered.

"We were given complimentary tickets for the game, and I really did go with a positive attitude. The seats were plush in a private suite, but we were in a corner of the North endzone, so the game was pretty far away, with a number of TV sets to help follow the action. The scoreboard is on the opposite/south end of the stadium and the lettering is white on a red background. Neither of us could read it.

"We were the first ones to arrive at the suite and were greeted by an attendant who would be our waiter. He gave us a menu. $40 for all you could eat popcorn seemed to be the most reasonable item available. We abandoned the suite and went downstairs to check out the food vendors. I ended up having lamb curry which was delicious and very un-ballpark like. My husband stuck with a hot dog and seemed pleased with it. $10.25 for a Budweiser was about the same as AT&T. Because we were early, the food and beer lines were short. When I ventured down after half-time, the lines were ridiculously long. I saw a sign for soft-serve ice cream and decided that would be a good idea. When I looked for the end of the line, I couldn’t believe it. I informally counted about 100 people in line. It was the only booth with any kind of desserts, and boy was it popular. There clearly aren’t enough food vendors for the crowds.

"Maybe it’s a perfect park for the majority of the people who are there for the experience, the internet, to drink and socialize, to take “selfies” and all the other things you can do without watching the game.

"The good news was that the 49ers not only scored, they won the game! After the hike back to the car, we got to the freeway fairly quickly and got home in Marin County in an hour and thirty minutes. I don’t think we will be making the trek again anytime soon. And are they really the ‘San Francisco’ 49ers when it takes at least 30 minutes to drive to the city from the stadium? Signed: Purseless in Levi’s."

THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH is soliciting proposals from cannabis farmers who can “harvest, process, analyze, store and distribute” 12 acres of marijuana. The pot is needed for research purposes, of course, according to a posting on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

THE COMPLAINTS about police forces not being reflective of the ethnic compositions of the communities they police go back at least 50 years, with little change in the ethnic compositions of police forces. Any discussion of policing reminds me of the Lenny Bruce routine about The First Police Force with The First Businessman saying something like, “Here's a badge. Just go out there and keep people in line. I'd do it myself but I gotta do business with these assholes.”

FUNDAMENTALLY, that's what policing often comes down to — brute force. Someone is doing something he (inevitably he) isn't supposed to be doing and won't stop. You don't want to stop him because it's dangerous and you just put on a clean shirt. So you call a cop to do it.

RIDING HERD these days is not only a hard job, it's often an impossible job, a job I, for one, wouldn't have the patience for. I mean really, would you want to pull 40 hours a week dealing with drunks, domestic disputes, bar fights, crazy people, not to mention the several million armed maniacs loose in our crumbling land? It's surprising there aren't more police shootings.

SO, HOW GOOD are Mendocino County cops? Pretty good, I'd say. We very seldom get complaints about this or that one deploying unnecessary force, the most common complaint about cops, and we're in constant touch with the, ahem, less orderly segments of Mendocino County society. We'd hear about it if, say, a cop went off on someone he'd arrested.

I REMEMBER a guy complaining that he got beat up by staff in the Mendocino County Jail. I happened to know the alleged vic, and I knew that he was combative in the extreme when he was drunk and undoubtedly had had to be muscled into the drunk tank.

SOME YEARS AGO, we looked into a complaint involving a since-deceased Mendocino County Sheriff's deputy. The guy doing the complaining had a long history of meth use and petty crime. Meth Man said the deputy took half of the large amount of cash Meth Man had on him at the time Meth Man was taken into custody. I was skeptical because I doubted the arrestee would have that kind of money, but another cop later told me that he was pretty sure the theft had occurred because the first cop was “dirty." There was no way of proving it one way or the other. That was at least ten years ago, about the time a couple of Ukiah cops were themselves arrested for rolling Mexican drunks, a very low crime even by criminal standards.

THEN there was the Coast episode of deputies tazing a large, naked woman who was running around in the street swinging an amulet at imaginary assailants and making a lot of noise.  At one point, she hit a cop in the mouth with her magic talisman. That one had some people yelling “Police brutality.” I doubt I'd have tried an open-field tackle myself, but what does a cop do in a situation like that? Let her go berserkers until she collapses from exhaustion? It's easy to second guess the people who have to take action in fluid and often dangerous circumstances.

GIVEN THE MENDO context of an economy pegged to booze and dope, and given the grim fact that the cops also now have to do mental health's heavy lifting, and given the large number of people on crazy-making tweek, and throw in gang punks in Fort Bragg, Willits and Ukiah — given all that, the cops are doing just fine. Most of us would be up on brutality charges every week if we had to deal with it.

ON THURSDAY we received what "Senior Deputy Clerk of the Board" Tim Mitchell called a “Notice of Public Hearing” having to do with the Board of Supervisors upcoming budget hearings: “Dear Supervisors, Department Heads and Associated Press,” wrote Mitchell. “Please find attached, a Notice of Public Hearing regarding the 2014-2015 Final Budget of Mendocino County. Thank you…"

TO WHICH WE REPLIED: “Dear Mr. Mitchell: Ordinarily, notices of a public hearings are legal ads, with accompanying proof of publication, as our local school district and community services district routinely do. We are assuming that the Notice of Public Hearing you have mailed us is to be published in our next edition of September 3, 2014, one time, at the usual fee.  Formatted as the legal ad it is at $3.50 per column inch the one-time publication cost is $35. We will bill you and provide proof of publication immediately after publication. Thank you.”

MR. MITCHELL REPLIED: “Good Morning. Thank you for your response and I hope this message finds you doing well. The notice provided was for informational purposes only. There is no need to publish unless the AVA would like to advise its readers of the hearing. The official public notice has been published in the Ukiah Daily Journal. Take care, Tim; Tim Mitchell, Senior Deputy Clerk of the Board”

THE UKIAH DAILY JOURNAL of course isn't much read outside the Ukiah Valley and is owned by an outside media corporation besides, which of course means local tax money winds up in Denver instead of Mendocino County. Like other government agencies, the County is required by the Brown Act to post the budget hearing notice as a legal ad. They seem to think that publishing this announcement as a legal notice in the Ukiah Daily Journal meets the minimum legal requirement. The rest of the County’s legally adjudicated news outlets — including the AVA and at least two other locally-owned newspapers — are apparently supposed to publish the notice simply out of a commitment to civic information, never mind that it costs only $35 to meet the minimum requirement with the AVA, and $180 with the Ukiah Daily Journal. For a mere $35 the County could meet the legal requirement, buy local, save the taxpayers $145 and send the “informational purposes only” copy to the Ukiah Daily Journal. They’d get just as much distribution for a fraction of the cost. The County won't do that because the County, like government at all levels, could care less about a savings of $145. If Tim Mitchell, or the five indifferent profligates sitting as supervisors had to pay an outside corporation $145 out of their own pockets or, more idealistically, if they were wed to the old ethic that public money should be spent as carefully as their own money, that advertisement would have appeared in this fine publication or Laytonville's Mendocino Observer or Gualala's Independent Coast Observer. This fine publication, incidentally, is the only paper besides the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that reaches people in all areas of Mendocino County, from Gualala to Covelo.

PRESS DEMOCRAT HEADLINE, post earthquake,  “Wineries To Tourists: We’re Open!”

WE OFTEN HEAR of furriners other than Mexican nationals growing dope deep in the hills of Mendocino and Humboldt counties. These furriners are often accurately identified as Bulgarians, and how exciting for our tiny, outback population to be so globally villaged! Bulgarians! There was a nest of Bulgos in Covelo that was busted up by Mendo's famous lawman, Peter Hoyle, a few years ago, around the same time a multi-national trimmer crew — Italians, Swedes, Spaniards, Japanese, and Chinese — was discovered near Laytonville. They were all young and seemingly recruited out of a Bay Area youth hostel. The Italian consul even dispatched a couple of lawyers to defend the Italians against the rubes in the County Courthouse. And just the other day a couple of girls, one a Brit, the other an Argentinean, both of them looking awfully upscale by outback dope standards, were arrested on dope-related charges in Willits.

THE REPUTATIONS of the Bulgos vary as does the description of their ethnicity. Often they're simply referred to as “East Europeans.” Some people claim they're tough characters with international drug cartel connections. Others say the Bulgos are “good neighbors who treat their trimmers well.” Given the international flavor of the business over the past few years, it seems the world is still rushing in, that the Green Rush is still on.

CASE IN POINT: The Ukiah-Ukraine connection, as described in the following press release. (Ukraine, Bulgaria… It's all way the hell over there somewhere.) "On August 28, 2014, at approximately 9am, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputies assisted by Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, served two Humboldt County Superior Court search warrants in the Blocksburg area of Humboldt County. When deputies arrived, they located three suspects living in three travel trailers on the property near marijuana plants. Those suspects were detained and were identified as Steven Eric Anderson, 47 years old, from Ukiah, Viktor Kulikovskyi, 22 years old, from Ukraine and Roman Kozlenko, 23 years old, also from Ukraine. Both the Ukrainian men told the deputies they have been in the United States about three years and are in the United States on student work visas. When the deputies searched the property, they located 4,412 growing marijuana plants that ranged in size from one foot to 10 feet tall, approximately six pounds of processed marijuana bud, evidence the marijuana was being sold, and numerous chemicals and fertilizers that were being used on the marijuana plants. Some of the plants were grown in large greenhouses and others were outdoors…”

Anderson, Kozlenko, Kulikovskyi
Anderson, Kozlenko, Kulikovskyi

TOM VARGA, Fort Bragg's water guy, says: “Since late July, the City of Fort Bragg has been on a restricted pumping regimen at the Noyo River water diversion. The city's permit for pumping from the Noyo establishes minimum bypass flows for the fisheries which require that, after flows in the river drop below 3 cubic feet per second, pumping is only allowed when the tides are above 2 feet in height. While the city's water treatment personnel have maintained sufficient water storage with water from the Noyo River diversion and the two other water sources, late-summer flows are continuing to decline. At this time, the city requests that all businesses and residents take immediate actions to reduce water consumption. Conservation measures include: reducing landscape irrigation; refraining from washing sidewalks, driveways and buildings; using shut-off mechanisms on hoses; only serving water to restaurant patrons upon request, and asking patrons at lodging establishments to reuse their linens and towels. After Labor Day, the city's water demands typically decline along with the number of tourists in town. The city is hoping that, if everyone pitches in to conserve water for the next few weeks, the city can avoid declaration of a ‘water emergency’ and implementation of mandatory water conservation measures.” For information, contact Tom Varga, Fort Bragg public works director, 707-961-2824 ext. 117.

THERE ARE PEOPLE who take pride in not reading Boonville's beloved community newspaper, and I've heard that there are people who pride themselves in not listening to KZYX. And people who say they'd die before buying a copy of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. But I'm here to tell you that we here at your beloved community newspaper absorb it all. We love Mendo media, kind of, and often for the wrong reasons, such as comic potential, but love it we do because we are interested in this place above all others.

WE DON'T MUCH worry our pretty little heads about global affairs although, like many of our readers, we stay informed and also like many of you, we wring our hands whenever the big picture stuff looms unavoidably up in our viewshed.

TAKE THE BEHEADERS rampaging in Mesopotamia. Like Obama, apparently, we have no idea how to stop the ISIS rampage short of a re-investment of American troops, and even the great warriors of Fox News — most of whom avoided military service— seem opposed to another ground invasion. If any of these creeps, from Bush-Cheney on down through O'Reilly and Hannitty, had any sense of honor they'd commit suicide on national television. You shouldn't be able to be that wrong about something that causes millions of people to die and escape with presidential libraries and fat television contracts. ISIS will be stopped, if they're stopped, by other Arabs, most of whom, presumably, don't want to go back to 11th century living.

WE BRING IT UP, the big picture, that is, because we mentioned being “informed,” trying to keep intelligently up with what's happening in the world outside Boonville. For the ISIS rampage and that part of the world generally, Patrick Cockburn's reporting is the best there is. By far. You can find him on-line at the British paper, The Independent, the Guardian and on CounterPunch.

AS FOR BEING GENERALLY INFORMED, and on the off chance you're interested, we stick pretty much to print media — magazine journalism mostly. Never see the New York Times, but we do scan on-line the Daily Beast, the Daily Mail (a hoot and a half), the SF Chron (hugely deteriorated), and all the Mendo papers which, collectively, can be digested in about ten minutes a week. I read The New Yorker, sometimes Harper’s, and the New Left Review. I used to read Grand Street when Ben Sonnenberg was doing it and it was the best literary mag ever. Everything else out there in the way of highbrow lit seems to me simply awful. The New York Review of Books is politically Clintonoid and mostly boring as hell, but once every few issues they'll have something good by Larry McMurtry or some other non-academic. The London Review of Books is the best print publication there is. Period. And not politically wed to the flabby liberalism characteristic of the New York Review. Much better writing, too.

A GUY WROTE in last week to say he thought I was too contemptuous of NPR. Not really. I don't hear it that much, but when I do I find its chirpy presentations highly irritating whatever the subject. Some of the human interest stories are interesting and well done. But politically, NPR is obliviously mainstream Democrat — comfortable programming for comfortable people. The antidote would be Democracy Now with Amy Goodman's grim, tight-lipped jubilation that it's all going to hell fast and we're all a buncha racist dog-pigs too. She reminds me of a half-cracked old aunt of mine who'd come over to the house and deliver an hour's monologue about who just died, who wasn't long for the world, who was sick and maybe on the way out, and wrap it up with a recitation of her ailments. The American left, when there was a left, used to have a few personalities with a sense of humor. They left with the left.

THE ONLY AUDIO I like, or look forward to hearing, is Michael Krasny on KQED. He's very smart, erudite, and he keeps the conversation moving along. He's the last man standing in Talk Show World.

I RARELY TUNE in the nutballs of the political right. People like Glen Beck, Limbaugh, and the clowns and clownettes of Fox News are no good for anything but a reminder of how many mean, stupid bastards there are in this country. I've dreamed of getting in punching distance of Hannitty, so I do my push-ups and uphill walking in the hope…

ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE WEEK: "Gay pride; Nazi pride; national pride; proud parent of an honor student. I see these expressions everywhere. Pride, along with sloth, wrath, greed, envy, gluttony, and lust are considered deadly sins in the Christian Church. While I don't ascribe to a lot of the church's doctrine and beliefs, I've always thought that some ancient lore or knowledge was based on something factual (i.e., the Jewish and Muslim belief that pork cannot be eaten may be based on the possibility of getting trichinosis, which they may have observed). Perhaps the ancients realized that these emotions simply cause too much friction between people and should be avoided. So, why use something that could cause discord to express yourself? How about happy? Happy to be a parent of an honor student. Happy to be gay. Happy to be an American. Happy to be a Nazi, though, just doesn't seem right."

OF ALL THE VISUALS in our disoriented and uniquely amnesiac county, the one presented by the SaoChao strawberry fields off 101 between Ukiah and Hopland is the most intriguing, the most reminiscent for some of us who knew Southeast Asia in the 1960s. Asian women in conical Asian peasant hats bent over a field crop? I, for one, am happy the SaoChaos go the trouble of stoop communal labor. The strawberries fresh from the fields at $7 for three baskets are a bargain. The people doing the heavy lifting? Well, a complicated story, but one that began in the jungles of Laos, and who would have thought Laotians, Bulgarians, Ukranians all right here in Mendocino County?

McDonald
McDonald

JOCK NOTES: A 49er, Ray McDonald, defensive lineman, was arrested last week for domestic violence and held for a few hours on bail of $25,000. The 49ers lead the NFL in after-hours arrests, most of them for drunk driving and other varieties of being from strapped backgrounds but suddenly young and rich in a uniquely decadent context — America, 2014. The presumption seems to be he's guilty although the depressing details have not been released.

McDONALD'S episode was called in at 2:15am, which means he probably hadn't been playing Scrabble. Since the Ray Rice debacle, Coach Harbaugh is on the record as saying something like, "I'm done with anyone who puts hands on a woman." Rice was videotaped knocking out his fiancé in an elevator. The NFL suspended Rice for two games and his fiancé married him.

THE WACKY NOTION that big time sports figures are role models is almost as wacky as the contemporary notion of role models. It used to be assumed that role models began with parents and branched out into community fixtures like teachers and random figures who seemed to have it together. There's a famous story about Babe Ruth, naked, being chased by a naked woman waving a butcher knife through the press car of a train, circa 1927. A sportswriter says, "Well, boys, there's another story we can't write." Up through the 1960s, the unseemly private behavior of lofty public figures didn't get into print. Now it does, and there isn't a twelve-year-old in the country who doesn't know that their "role models" are often not what they seem. At about age ten, most kids notice the discrepancies between what people say and what people do. I don't think professional athletes should be held to any standard than the ones the rest of us are held to.

WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL is a hagiographic movie about the former football coach at De LaSalle High School in Concord. Haven't seen it yet but I'm already bored because I don't think these Catholic high school sports powerhouses are interesting. High school sports are fun and interesting when they involve the kids from a specific town or neighborhood of that town who win big at the state level. The Catholic schools recruit athletes, especially football players, which gives them a huge advantage over the public schools they play. Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa is a big power on the Northcoast; their recruiting reach is long, clear into Boonville for Jacob Gowan, a lineman who went on to play at Stanford. And Cardinal Newman almost always wins area championships and has been to the state championships a couple of times. The most exciting high school sports ever in this area was when Cloverdale not only got into the state basketball championships a couple of times, they won it, and they did it with kids strictly from Cloverdale.

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT is on a roll — lame headlines over non-news stories for five years. My fave last week: “Want to own a B&B in Wine Country?” No, and here's the paper's resident deep thinker with the next question. Take it away, Pete Golis: “Will Facebook make us better citizens?” No, it won't, Pete, but you'll soon have “friends” as boring as you are.

FRONTIERS OF FREE ENTERPRISE: The owner of bikini coffee stands in Everett, Washington state, has banked more than $2 million in just three years because her baristas were also selling sex acts, according to local prosecutors.

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