- Willits Vigil
- Courthouse Boondoggle
- Losak's Raise
- Local Panoramas
- Catch of the Day
- King Grape
- Mother Tragedy
- Larvie Lurking
- Daniel Gaffney
- Frack Money
- Possible Rainfall
- Little Dove
- Greenhouse Gassing
- Oregon Trains
- Fractious Unions
- Water Boondoggle
ALL RUMOR SO FAR, but that candlelight vigil at Willits City Park Sunday evening mourned the rape and murder of Kayla Chesser, 25, a popular resident of the North County town. The man believed to have been responsible for Kayla’s death subsequently drove off the Covelo Road at an estimated 100 miles per hour as he fled east. He must not have been badly injured because he's being treated for his injuries at the Adventist complex in Ukiah. The seriously injured are medi-vacced outtahere. The terrible event apparently began at a Halloween party at Brooktrails Lodge.
(ED NOTE: A truncated version of this Courthouse item was posted yesterday by mistake. The following is the full-length version.)
THE CITY OF UKIAH is in the process of delivering a machete-size knife in the back to its own perennially struggling downtown, as reported by Justine Frederickson of the Ukiah Daily Journal.
"The Ukiah City Council Wednesday got an update on the proposed new Mendocino County Courthouse from city staff, who said that if the project moves forward as planned, construction may begin in 2017."
OR MAY NOT if enough people out of elected office wake up to demand that the existing County Courthouse is perfectly serviceable as is, and mucho serviceable if the millions proposed for this new County Courthouse were devoted to fixing it up. Fixing up the existing Courthouse has, of course, been rejected out of hand by the state judge's club that diverts public money paid in fines and court fees to projects no one but them want.
Though the state's Administrative Office of the Courts has not officially purchased the property, the likely site for the $120-million-plus building is about four acres near the Ukiah Railroad Depot and the intersection of Hospital Drive and Perkins Street.
MS. FREDERICKSON describes the grisly specifics: "Project and Grant Administrator Shannon Riley said there is about 11 acres of land bounded by Perkins, Leslie and Main Streets, but the property is dissected by Gibson Creek and the railroad tracks, presenting challenges for certain sections.
"The city is facilitating the development in order to ensure that the project doesn't create 'islands of land' that can't be developed," said Riley, explaining that the city also wants to ensure that the plans are compatible with the trail being constructed near the railroad tracks between Gobbi Street and Clara Avenue, as well as its Streetscape plans for State, Gobbi and Perkins streets.
"The most crucial pieces of the puzzle are the proposed extension of Hospital Drive, which might extend south through the property, and the easterly extension of Clay Street, which might intersect with both Hospital Drive and Leslie Street, lining up with Peach Street.
"Assistant City Manager Sage Sangiacomo said neither road extensions are certain at this point, but in order to make sure that extending Clay Street is an option, the city has applied to the California Public Utilities Commission in order to "construct a new, public at-grade crossing over the tracks of the North Coast Railroad Authority."
WHAT SANGIACOMO and his padrones on the City Council blithely ignore is that this project is a County Courthouse, a new Courthouse for all of us, not just Ukiah. It will be situated in Ukiah on a site several uncomfortable blocks away from the present Courthouse in the center of town, where it's been for 150 years and where it anchors a whole bunch of central Ukiah businesses. Without it, central Ukiah becomes deader than it is. And not insignificantly, the new Courthouse will consist of courthouses for their 9 majesties. Crucial ancillary public services like the DA will remain in the old Courthouse from where the DA and everyone else in the existing Courthouse will have to trundle, in all kinds of weather and traffic three long blocks to the east.
THE REST of Mendocino County's population seems unaware that this selfish, wholly unnecessary boondoggle is underway.
THERE IS ALSO little awareness that these same people brought a new Courthouse to Willits about 30 years ago, easily the most unsightly large structure ever erected in Mendocino County. Expect the Willits aesthetic with this new thing. Or perhaps the aesthetic invoked by Ukaih Daily Journal columnist Tommy Wayne Kramer in Sunday’s edition: “a brand new prefab structure on East Perkins built of green stick lumber, particle board, indoor-outdoor carpet, veneered surfaces here and there, and all the charm and history of a State Farm Insurance building in a San Jose suburb.”
"The city states that the project to extend East Clay Street over the NCRA tracks will provide the new Ukiah Courthouse Project a vital traffic circulation and secondary safety access route to meet public safety needs and support expansion of the county's administrative offices," agenda materials for the CPUC's Nov. 6 meeting state. The item is part of the meeting's consent calendar.
"This project is so critical to the city's future, we don't want to wait for their traffic study or design," said Public Works Director Tim Eriksen. "We wanted to completely direct this process."
CRITICAL? Only in the sense that it will be a major eyesore for the next two hundred years, help a few Ukiah-area Old Boys cash in unproductive real estate surrounding the thing, force the County to lease ancillary space from these Old Boys, further congest an already congested area of Ukiah, and provide no parking for the hundreds of people from all over the County who have to use the Courthouse every day. It's mildly shocking that Ukiah is going along with this thing with hardly a demur.
"The state doesn't have to ask us, but if we didn't step in, they would have done whatever they wanted," said City Manager Jane Chambers. "We tried to adhere to what we thought made sense for our downtown."
SIMPLY UNTRUE. The state is going to eminent domain a swathe of crucial central Ukiah real estate to throw up a Courthouse no one wants?
"When Council member Benj Thomas asked if the new courthouse factored into the chain Chipotle's interest in the corner of Perkins Street and Orchard Avenue, Sangiacomo said he did not know. Vice-Mayor Mary Anne Landis said she knew the Ukiah Natural Food Co-op was looking to move closer to downtown and was eyeing land near the courthouse, but it needed a three-acre site and the extension of Clay Street would reduce the available footprint."
LEAVE IT to these two lame duck councilpersons to miss the point entirely, Little Benj even further than Landis who at least is aware that Natch Foods wants to move.
Sangiacomo said "the AOC is on a deadline to purchase the site," and might be buying it early next year. He also said "an engineering plan will come to the council soon."
WHERE WE HOPE the new Ukiah City Council will reject it.
LOSAK TO GET SMALLER RAISE, BUT STILL MORE THAN DA EYSTER SAYS IS LEGAL
November 4, 2014, Board of Supervisors meeting, Agenda item 6(c).
“Agenda Title: Approval of Agreement, Up to a One Year Term, for Douglas L. Losak as County of Mendocino Interim County Counsel in the Amount of $118,123.20.
“Summary Of Request: On September 22, 2014 the Board of Supervisors met in Closed Session to discuss the position of County Counsel that was being filled by Acting County Counsel Douglas L. Losak. Upon completion of Closed Session the Board announced the appointment of Mr. Losak to Interim County Council. The Board directed that an item be placed on a future agenda in open session to appoint a negotiation team to work with Mr. Losak on the terms of an employment agreement for the interim appointment. On October 21, 2014, the Board took action to appoint the County CEO and Human Resources Director to represent the County in negotiations with Mr. Losak.”
FROM THE PROPOSED EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT: “COUNTY shall pay EMPLOYEE an annual salary of One Hundred Eighteen Thousand, One Hundred Twenty-Three Dollars and Twenty Cents ($118,123.20), payable on a biweekly basis.”
“Budget Unit 1210 was: $158,185 approx. Proposed: $195,848 approx. (includes benefits)”
THE ORIGINAL PROPOSAL before DA Eyster, Sheriff Allman and a number of prominent Ukiah citizens complained was to give Losak a raise from $107,390 to $143,291. Allman and Eyster argued that Losak, who was arrested back in 2012 and plead guilty to carrying an unpermitted concealed weapon and some marijuana, didn’t deserve the job or the raise, especially in light of the pay cuts that county employees, including deputies, have been forced to take. Allman went so far as saying he would not allow Losak to have anything to do with the Sheriff’s Department. Eyster also said that Losak’s attorney ratings indicated that he was a sub-par attorney.
ALTHOUGH the proposed salary is substantially less than what was originally proposed, it’s still more than what District Attorney David Eyster told the Board they could offer back on October 7.
Eyster: “I assume that Mr. Losak as chief Deputy County Counsel was receiving a salary based on my analysis of approximately $97,627 per year. ‘Such pay increase to the acting department head should not be greater than 10% unless the assignment is for longer than six months. Upon the authorization of the board the salary may be adjusted another 5% after the initial six months if the difference between the employee's previous pay range for the hiring classification is greater than or equal to 20%. Unless the term ‘interim’ is being used intentionally to circumvent county policy, Mr. Losak's salary extension can only be an additional 5% over his previous salary per human resources policy and procedure for an increase of $4481 per annum to the previous 10% raise of February 2014 for a final annual salary of $112,271 per annum.”
DON BAIN’S FANCY INTERACTIVE PANORAMAS of the Northern California Coast and Coast Ranges — Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, California
CATCH OF THE DAY, November 2, 2014
KELLI ADAMS, Boonville. Drunk in public, probation revocation.
KEENAN EAST, Oakdale/Ukiah. Pot/Hashish possession, possession for sale, transport, furnish.
DESIREE FRANSEN, Ukiah. Resisting arrest.
ANTHONY GUARDINO, Willits. Domestic battery.
FOX HOAGLEN, Covelo. Possession of meth, dirk-dagger.
EDWARD JOHNSON, Ukiah. Probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
BEATRICE LAMB, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
RICHARD LAMBETH, Fort Bragg. Possession of meth, receipt of stolen property.
GERARD LARVIE, Covelo. Possession of meth, under influence of controlled substance, drunk in public, resisting arrest, probation revocation.
JONATHAN LEONARD, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
MICHAEL MARINER, Clearlake/Ukiah. Under influence of controlled substance, resisting arrest.
JOSHUA POLLARD, Hopland. Drunk in public. Probation revocation.
DANNY RAMOS, Pittsburg/Ukiah. Possession of meth, sale of meth, possession of marijuana for sale, transport, furnish; conspiracy, evading, resisting arrest.
JOHN REDENBAUGH, Willits. Challenging to fight, probation revocation.
JULIAN SALAZAR, Rio Linda/Ukiah. Causing a property fire, dirk-dagger, probation revocation.
JACOB SILVERMAN, San Bruno/Ukiah. Possession of meth, sale of meth, possession of marijuana for sale, transport, furnish; conspiracy, evading, resisting arrest.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
JOHN VARNEY, Fort Bragg. DUI-Bicycle. (Frequent flyer.)
WILLIAM WEIST, Eureka/Ukiah. DUI, Under influence of controlled substance, possession of hashish, possession of more than an ounce of pot, possession of controlled substance without prescription.
THE 2013 CROP REPORT reveals that during the last two years of severe drought wine grape production has soared. Even though total grape acreage in Mendocino County was essentially the same from 2012 to 2013 at just under 17,000 acres, the tonnage per acre jumped from 4.2 to 4.7, which of course can only come from denser plantings and increased water usage.
AG COMMISSIONER Chuck Morse said in his introductory letter, “Once again, favorable growing and harvest conditions for wine grapes produced a 10% increase in yields and an 11% increase in overall value above the record numbers seen in 2012.”
MORSE doesn’t define what he means by “favorable growing and harvest conditions.” But unless the grape people were leaving tons and tons of grapes unharvested prior to 2012 (unlikely), those “favorable conditions” are primarily plenty of water for grapes although water is in short supply.
TIMBER production seems to have picked up in 2014, but even though 2012 and 2013 were the highest levels of timber production since 2005 the overall value of timber was less than 60% of the value of grapes. The rest of the crops in the crop report — pears, sheep, cattle, fish, etc. — are essentially a footnote to grapes in economic value.
ATHENA RENEE DOYLE, 35, of McKinleyville, has been arrested for attempted murder. With her two small boys unsecured in the vehicle, she is accused of deliberately driving her Isuzu Rodeo off a 300-foot ocean bluff near Westport. The apparent murder-suicide attempt on October 3rd was not witnessed. The three, all injured, one of the boys seriously injured, weren’t found for several hours.
Earlier this year, Doyle had been sought by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department because it was believed that she might harm her sons. In August, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department issued a press release stating that they were looking for Athena Doyle, and her two children. According to the statement, the woman’s mother believed Doyle was having mental health issues. Doyle was contacted by law enforcement and according to the press release, “The deputy determined she was not having any mental health issues.”
According to Lt. Steve Knight speaking generally about welfare checks but not this specific case, “When law enforcement contacts someone for a welfare check…[we look for whether] the individual is a danger to themselves, to others…If the person displays none of those criteria, there is nothing [law enforcement] can do.”
Evaluating mental health is hard for a trained medical professional and law enforcement officers have little training. Knight said that mental health welfare checks can be “a tough call.” Deputies, he said, “make the best judgment they can at the time.” He also pointed out that individuals with mental health problems can seem fine at one moment in time and then “things can change.”
According to a witness at the scene of the crash of Highway 1, one of the children had a broken arm and a broken femur as well as a head injury. The child, the witness said, was injured but didn’t appear to be in a lot of pain.
(— Kym Kemp, Courtesy, LostCoastOutpost.com)
* * *
Mendocino County Sheriff’s Press Release: On Friday, October 3, 2014 at 12:19 PM Deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office were summoned to the scene of a possible vehicle accident in the 33000 block of North Highway 1 in Westport, California at the request of the California Highway Patrol. Upon arrival Deputies learned the vehicle, a 1992 Isuzu Rodeo, had travelled off of the roadway of North Highway 1 and down an approximately 300 foot cliff coming to rest on the sands of Chadbourn Gulch/Blues Beach.
The possible vehicle accident was not witnessed and it was suspected the vehicle had been on the beach for several hours before being seen by a passing motorist. Deputies learned a responding CHP Officer had contacted the driver, Athena Renee Doyle, at the scene and received information that suggested she had intentionally crashed the vehicle. All occupants of the vehicle were significantly injured during the incident which included Doyle, her 4-year-old son and her 2-year-old son. All three occupants were transported to an out of county hospital by air ambulance where they were treated and expected to survive their injuries. Sheriff's Detectives took over the investigation into the incident and later submitted their investigative reports to the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office for review of potential criminal charges. As a result, on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 a felony arrest warrant ($500,000 bail) listing 2 counts of attempted murder was issued for Doyle. On 10-31-2014 Doyle was arrested in Humboldt County by local law enforcement and subsequently booked into the Humboldt County Jail awaiting extradition back to Mendocino County.
ON FRIDAY, October 31, 2014 at about 8:50 PM Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to an apartment complex in the 2200 block of South State Street in Ukiah, California regarding a male subject who was reported to be intoxicated and possibly tampering with vehicles. Deputies arrived and observed Gerard Larvie, 30, of Covelo walking away from the apartment complex. Several people at the apartment complex pointed out Larvie as he started running northbound on South State Street. Deputies pursued Larvie and located him about a hundred yards north of the apartment complex hiding in a residential yard. Deputies detained Larvie and determined he was intoxicated and under the influence of a controlled substance resulting in his arrest. When the Deputies attempted to search Larvie incident to his arrest, he started struggling with the Deputies to free himself from their grasp. Larvie was quickly placed into a safety restraint with the assistance of Ukiah Police Department Officers and transported to the Mendocino County Jail. Once at the jail, a baggie of approximately .04 grams of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia was located in Larvie's clothing. Deputies also learned Larvie was on Mendocino County probation for an unrelated misdemeanor offense. Larvie was booked for Possession of Methamphetamine Violation of Probation, Under influence of controlled substance, Possesion of drug paraphernalia and was to be held in lieu of $15,000 bail.
DANIEL P. GAFFNEY
Daniel P. Gaffney Passed away at home on October 4, 2014 in Petaluma, California from stomach cancer. He was 80 years old. Dan was raised by his grandparents who had 11 children of their own. His sister Beth resides in Boise, Idaho. He is survived by his wife of thirty years, Bea, his children Tim, Greg, Karen, and Maureen Gaffney, and his step-children Raegen Flinkingshelt, Rebecca Dunn, Jason Beardslee, and ten grand children. Dan received a baseball scholarship from Santa Clara University where he received his undergraduate degree. He received his Masters Degree from San Francisco State. Dan taught a combined 31 years at Serra, Boonville, and Analy High Schools. He was proud to say he taught whatever subject the school needed, which included 18 years of Special Ed. He coached football, baseball and girl's basketball. He ended his career at Laguna Continuation School in 1990, but kept in contact with many of his students and those he coached. Dan played semi-pro baseball into his 40s and during the summers he was a commercial fisherman. He loved the ocean whether he was on it or near it. He was Governor of the Moose in Petaluma for two years. After retiring, he and Bea traveled overseas and took many road trips throughout the US and Canada, some up to four months long. They especially enjoyed the National Parks. He was also “Handy Dan the Fix-It Man” for many years. He enjoyed helping people. In later years he enjoyed working on scroll-saw projects, and no one ever left the Gaffney home without one of his creations. He was also known to give abalone key chains to friends and Bea's students. He would say "Give it a rub and it will bring you good luck." There will be a Celebration of Life for Dan on the 24th of November from noon until 2:00 p.m. at the Beverly Wilson Hall at the Petaluma Fairgrounds. If you would like to give a remembrance in his name please give to Hospice of Petaluma or Analy High School.
BIG OIL has spent nearly $7 million to defeat anti-fracking ballot measures, but not a dime on anti-fracking propaganda in Mendocino County. Three counties, including Mendo, have anti-fracking initiatives on their ballots, although almost all the fracking in the state occurs in Kern County where anti-fracking is not on Tuesday's ballot. From what we can gather here at news central, Boonville, with the per barrel price of oil well under $90 and falling, fracking is less and less economically viable.
WRITING IN TODAY'S CHRON, Tom Stienstra and weatherman Mike Pechner, discuss the possibility of a return to normal rainfall: "While hiking the Dipsea Trail to Stinson Beach with weather guru Michael Pechner, we noticed how muggy the humid the air felt on the coast. This is a product of warm ocean temperatures, in the mid-60s for two months, combining with an overcast ceiling to create what I call the 'steam-room effect.' About 15 years ago I published a theory that suggested that when water and land temperatures are about the same, the jet stream can deliver storms on a regular basis. The opposite of that is when the water is cold and the land is hot, like last year, which, in theory, creates a wall that diverts storms north. Pechner generally agreed with this theory and, with it, the decent chance that this will be a winter with normal precipitation, if not a wet one.”
UH OH. Scientists at the UN are sounding the alarm in a new report. “Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts,” concluded the report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report says that government must decide soon whether to take dramatic steps, or face “abrupt and irreversible changes” to the atmosphere and oceans. The report represents a five-year effort to take into consideration the latest in climate change science and evidence. It is the final document out of five assessments made since 1990, and is intended for use by world leaders working on an inter-nation climate treaty in Paris next year.
WANDERING EASTERN OREGON…WITH TRAINS
by Katy Tahja
It started out as a simple enough road trip plan. We were going to drive to Oregon to ride on two tourist excursion railroads we’d never ridden before. It ended up being a 2,100 miles wander along back roads through colorful fall foliage and gave us a whole new appreciation for our neighbor state to the north.
I just counted 40 patches for tourist railroads my husband and I have sewn on vests from excursions we’ve ridden on. This does not include the dozen railroad museum patches affixed too. Yes, we admit it, we’re “foamer’s” which is the polite way of indicating folks who find a new railroad experience and foam at the mouth in anticipation of getting there. And awaiting us in Oregon were two new train rides, the Eagle Cap Excursion Train out of LeGrande and the Mt. Hood Railroad departing from Hood River.
So off we went. We adopted the habit of “shunpiking” decades ago. That is the habit of avoiding interstates and turnpikes and instead choosing the old roads that proceeded them. You need extra time when you “shunpike” because you’ll always be finding interesting things to distract you. Did you know on Highway 99 in Willows there is a duck plucking service? Waterfowl hunters in the Central Valley can bring in their birds and have a machine (I assume) pluck them so they’re ready to cook. Plucking a bird is deadly tedious process. I know from experience. Plucking an armload of ducks or geese could be a pain in the butt. Modern technology has arrived with duck pluckers.
Along with trains my husband and I enjoy micro-brewed beer and rockhounding. New breweries found and enjoyed include Klamath Basin Brewing in Klamath Falls, Terminal Gravity Brewing in Enterprise and Bricktowne in Medford and Dunsmuir Brewery. It seems every wide spot in the road in Oregon features a brew pub and there are literally hundreds of them in the state.
After driving east to Lakeview Oregon we started up Highway 395 through some of the emptiest country in Oregon. How empty? “Next services 90 miles” the sign says. To me countryside along a highway where no one has ever bothered to put up a fence is empty. Mother Nature is taking care of it. The obligatory “open range” signs are there, but along the Abert Rim are yellow signs with the image of Big Horn Sheep on them!
We travel with the books “Roadside Geology of Oregon”, “Rockhounding Oregon” and a good map as front seat reading resources for planning the next interesting side trip. We returned home with 20 pounds of assorted pretty rocks lining the floor of the back seat of the Subaru.
The two tourist excursion trains we rode were as contrasting as possible. The Eagle Cap Excursion Train is run by volunteers from the Friends of the Joseph Branch. There’s a line that runs from LeGrande to Joseph in the Wallowa Mountains and a major carrier was going to abandon it as unproductive. Volunteers got it leased to them and they run a dozen excursions a year from Elgin (near LeGrande) to Minum and back. The thing about this tourist train is that you get a three hour round trip on eight miles of track because the train goes real slow…really, really SLOW…Why? The condition of the track and/or the rolling stock. Go fast with 60 year old equipment and you might shake something apart. Lunch on this brunch train was a plastic box with a sandwich, fruit, salad, a cookie and a can of soda pop. Coffee was free. Volunteers in each car shared history along the line. My husband got to ride in the engine as he volunteers with Roots of Motive Power in Willits and even in Oregon they know the good work our local preservation group does.
The highlights of the trip were the eagles, osprey and bears. Trains often go where there are no roads and along rivers so wildlife viewing can be great. We watched a large black bear race away from the rumble of our noisy train and it went straight up hill through grasslands and forest for a quarter mile. We seniors on the train wished we had the energy and stamina that bear displayed.
Spending the night in the Dalles along the Columbia River we dined at Clock Tower Ales. There is some illicit delight in choosing from an astounding array of microbrews inside Wasco County’s old stone courthouse. I’m sure the spirits of the old lawyers and judges who once inhabited the edifice would have been aghast at consumption of booze in a house of law.
The Mount Hood Railroad in Hood River was our destination the next day with a brunch train through the orchards and forests on the east side of Mt. Hood. This ride highlighted the difference in train operation by volunteers and a multi national corporation. Calling to make reservations I expected to speak with someone in Oregon. No, the woman I spoke to in Colorado explained Oregon’s line was one of a dozen excursion trains on three continents who used the same reservation center. Seems the parent company, Iowa Pacific, runs trains in six states in the U.S., several in Britain, and the Machu Picchu train in Peru. Commercial freight operations provide the company’s real income. This train’s equipment was better, the tracks were good, the food came on plates with real napkins and silverware and complimentary wine was poured. Highly Recommended.
For entertainment there was a cowboy sheriff trying to find the cowboy bandits roaming the train. The robbers attempt to hold up the passengers was pathetic as no one in our car would cooperate with the bad guys. The humor and banter was hysterically funny as they were inept as all heck and we had tons of fun teasing them. Little kids were impressed with them however. There was also a magician roaming the cars doing slight of hand tricks.
This was a long trip, a whole 13 miles each way and when we returned to the depot we drove to one of the orchards we’d passed because they offered about 100 varieties of apple. Kiyokawa Orchards were hosting a Mexican Fiesta recognizing the field workers who brought in the harvest in the Hood River Valley. Red, white and green balloons, Mexican music, a mobile taco truck and family events said “Thank You” to their workers.
After visiting Richardson’s Agate Ranch, a rockhound’s paradise outside of Madras, we went to Prineville to visit longtime friend and AVA contributor Bruce Patterson and his wife Trish. Our friendship goes back to when “Pat was hook tender and I was in the hole,” my husband states. To non-loggers this translates as Pat was in charge of wire rigging that dragged logs out of the woods and my hubby’s job was attaching it to the logs. These men remember exchanging cigars when their sons were born 36 years ago. The Pattersons are doing well, are gracious hosts, and send greetings to all their friends in the valley.
While many more adventures ensued we were happy to return home to a rain drenched landscape and fall into our own comfy bed. With 2,100 miles more on the odometer I hope my Subaru lasts forever.
RECYCLERS BATTLE WASTE MANAGEMENT…AND THE TEAMSTERS UNION
With Friends Like These
by Darwin Bond-Graham
It’s 4 AM. The air is cold and damp on 98th Avenue in deep East Oakland, down along the San Francisco Bay’s industrial waterfront. This is a hard geography of concrete and dust and pot-hole riddled roads latticed by train tracks. Much of the earth is landfill, crowded for miles with scrap metal yards, bakeries, machine shops, and warehouses. Behind a chain link fence are about one hundred empty garbage trucks parked in long rows waiting for the next shift of drivers who will fill them with tons of refuse. By 5 AM the trucks are idling, and lining up to roll out. But since last Friday about 130 workers at the Waste Management garbage facility here have been on strike.
Dozens of strikers are picketing the gates where the trucks must exit. Some workers have been there since 3 AM. They come in shifts to pace the sidewalk, men and women, young and old, here to fight. A majority of these workers are immigrants. These are the recyclers, the workers who receive the garbage from the trucks, who pick through it and sort materials inside cavernous warehouses filled with rubbish-dust. It’s messy, dangerous, and hard work.
The strikers at the picket line today say they’re fighting to up their pay from around $12.80 an hour to $15 next year with the ultimate goal of $20 an hour by 2019. And they want safer workplaces. Waste Management, the giant of the global trash industry, agreed to improve the workers’ pay during recent franchise contract talks with the city of Oakland. The workers now fear the company is backpedaling.
But it’s hard to tell who the recyclers are actually fighting. Their picket is being driven through by other workers, Teamsters who drive the hulking green garbage trucks. The trucks queue up to exit the 98th Avenue yard in long lines. The recyclers block each truck for 30 seconds or a minute, but there are too few of them to sustain an unbreakable picket line.
Most of the drivers smile and nod to their fellow workers on the sidewalk. Some honk their horns and reach out of their windows to shake hands with the strikers. They don’t want to be put in the position of breaking through another union’s picket. They’re sympathetic. They want to help their fellow workers win.
But there’s the Teamster leadership standing by. The vice president of the Teamster’s chapter for the recycling facility stands just steps away from the picket, but inside Waste Management’s gates. An annoyed look wrinkles across his face. He directs his union’s members to break the picket line, waving them through. He asks them why they’re waiting if they linger before the line of strikers too long. The drivers creep through the chain of bodies carefully in their giant trucks and roar off into the dark pre-dawn hours. So much for solidarity?
I ask the Teamsters official why.
“Local 6 didn’t seek our sanction for this strike,” he says. “They need to get this sanctioned by the Teamster’s joint council. Our members can’t just stop working.” He complains about the leadership of Local 6, implying that the union’s staff should have negotiated and finalized a contract with Waste Management years ago. It’s a long list of complaints, many political, others technical, many with merit. But ultimately there are 130 low-wage workers out on strike, fighting for dignity, and better conditions in their workplace. And they want support.
It’s true that Local 6 of the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU), the union that represents the recyclers, didn’t obtain a sanction from the Teamsters or from other unions for the strike. Local 6’s officers say, in fact, that they asked the Teamsters to sanction the strike. The Teamsters haven’t given a response yet.
The strike appears to have taken Local 6’s staff by surprise. Some of the workers even seem to have surprised themselves. But they’re firmly committed to the fight now. They’ve thrown a punch back at Waste Management.
The walk out was sparked by a run-in last Thursday with an especially abusive manager who allegedly threatened to fire specific workers who were seeking time off to participate in their ongoing contract talks. The boss threatened some of them with termination. In the face of this, all the recyclers walked off the job. They voted that night at their hall to strike, 114 to 4. Local 6’s leadership followed their members into the fight.
After sunrise, at the entrance to the Waste Management dump in San Leandro, about two miles south of the first picket line in Oakland, dozens of other recyclers march back and forth blocking trucks in the company’s fleet. Three security guards hired by Waste Management half-heartedly wave the garbage trucks through gaps in the line. They’re probably not making much more than minimum wage themselves. Truck drivers, overwhelmingly friendly here too, appear conflicted crossing the picketers.
The recyclers think they can win if the other unions back them up. Today they’re out there again in the cold, dark, small hours of the morning picketing the garbage factory and the dump. SEIU 1021, the big union local that represents public employees in northern California, is bringing lunch to feed the hundred strikers. It’s unclear if, when, and how other unions in Alameda County will support the recyclers in their strike.
In 2007, during the Teamsters’ contract fight with Waste Management in Oakland, the company locked the drivers out for 30 days. The recyclers chose to honor the Teamsters’ picket, staying off the job, and the Teamsters won a good contract. “Remember 2007!” shouts a picketing worker as a line of trucks leave the dump between a broken line of marching recyclers.
(Darwin Bond-Graham is a sociologist and investigative journalist. He is a contributing editor to Counterpunch. His writing appears in the East Bay Express, Village Voice, LA Weekly and other newspapers. He blogs about the political economy of California at http://darwinbondgraham.wordpress.com/)
BIG TOBACCO, HEALTH CARE INDUSTRY TEAM UP TO FUND PROP. 1 CAMPAIGN
by Dan Bacher
Tobacco giant Philip Morris and the robber barons from the health care and insurance industry have joined a rogue's gallery of corporate agribusiness interests, Big Oil and greedy billionaires in funding the campaign to pass Prop. 1, Governor Jerry Brown's water bond boondoggle.
The California Hospitals Committee on Issues, sponsored by California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems has contributed $500,000 to the Yes on Prop. 1 and 2 campaign, according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission website.
Dignity Health has donated $250,000 to the campaign. The organization, a three-state hospital chain based in San Francisco has agreed to pay the government $37 million to settle claims that it overbilled Medicare and a military health care program for years, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
"The Justice Department said Dignity, formerly known as Catholic Healthcare West, submitted bills for inpatient care at 13 of its 39 hospitals in California, Nevada and Arizona that should have been charged at less-expensive outpatient rates," the Chronicle said.
Philip Morris, the largest tobacco company in the United States, contributed $100,000 to Governor Brown’s ballot measure committee established to support Propositions 1& 2.
On October 20, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) strongly encouraged the governor to return those funds.
ACS CAN recently launched its “Snuff Tobacco Money out of California Politics” campaign requesting that all candidates for state office reject campaign contributions, including donations to committees controlled by a candidate such as Governor Brown’s Yes on Prop 1 & 2 Committee.
Under ACS CAN criteria, Gov. Brown is the first candidate for office in the state to accept a campaign contribution from a tobacco company since the effort was launched on July 1.
“Gov. Brown should return this money right away,” said Jim Knox, vice president of government relations for ACS CAN in California. “Propositions 1 and 2 are important public policy debates, but the tobacco companies are cynically using these measures to curry favor with the governor. Philip Morris doesn’t care about water or a rainy day fund. They only care about addicting youth and low-income communities to their deadly products."
"This contribution is all about trying to prevent any policies that help people quit smoking, keep youth from ever starting to smoke and reduce exposure to secondhand smoke. Allowing convicted racketeers to fund his ballot measure committee is a mistake," Knox said.
Knox said tobacco companies inflict enormous harm on our state. A brand new report from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco shows that tobacco costs our state $18.1 billion a year. That comes out to $487 per Californian and $4,603 and per smoker.
Almost 15 percent of deaths in California in 2009 are attributed to smoking, for a total of 34,363 deaths. This represents $6.8 billion in lost productivity and 587,000 years of potential life lost.
"Across the globe, tobacco kills 5 million people a year and if current trends hold, a billion people will die this century from tobacco use," according to Knox. "ACS CAN calls on the governor to return the money. Opponents to Proposition 1 have raised virtually no money and Proposition 2 does not even have a campaign committee to oppose it."
The debate over the pros and cons of Proposition 1, Jerry Brown's $7.5 billion water bond, is very important, but an even larger issue in any environmental battle or process is the money behind the campaign. The big corporate money behind the water bond largely determines who the bond will benefit - billionaires, corporate agribusiness, oil companies and the 1 percent, not the people, fish or wildlife of California.
Contributions to Governor Jerry Brown's Yes on Props 1 and 2 Committee have jumped to $13,880,528.43, according to the latest data posted on the California Secretary of State's website. The contributions feature millions of dollars from billionaires, corporate agribusiness, Big Oil and the tobacco industry - corporate interests that all expect a big return for their "investment" in the corrupt "play to pay" politics that rule California today.
But this isn’t the only committee funding the Yes on 1 campaign. When you consider the other committees backing Prop.1 listed on the Secretary of State’s website, the total amount of contributions jumps by another $2,541,257.91 to $16,421,785.91!