Off the Record (Nov 5, 2014)

TUESDAY'S ELECTION saw the lowest turnout in state history, although Mendo's vote was much higher than the state totals — Mendo's vote percentage is perennially higher than the state average. When you consider that less than forty percent of registered voters even bothered, and consider that that percentage represents only forty percent of registered voters, and that registered voters represent a mere forty percent of the voting age population, well, gee, the only conclusion we can draw is that a majority of Americans don't think the political system works for them. Which is the correct conclusion. It doesn't work for most of us because it's owned by our class enemies, the small percentage of our fellow citizens who own the system as it exists. The money moves inexorably upwards, and there are only a handful of candidates and officeholders who even try to represent the true interests of ordinary people.

MYSELF, I vote simply to satisfy my desire to say NO to all of it. I mean really, can any more or less sentient person deliberately cast a vote for guys who send out big glossy fliers of their jive selves with their families and their family dogs? Shaking hands with old coots? Standing among captive students at an elementary school? Gazing at an enhanced photo of a “clean water” stream? We endorse these nuts?

THERE'S ONLY one fundamental problem. Every other rolling, unaddressed catastrophe flows from it. The problem is that we are all being starved of goods and services by an oligarchy that owns the political system.

HERE ON THE NORTHCOAST, the political opposition, self-described, consists of maybe a hundred active Democrats. They are wealthy enough not to think in terms of class warfare, which is the only hope for a clear majority of Americans. There is no political opposition to them from Republicans because local, active Democrats are functioning Republicans, and even to the political right of some Republicans, such as our twice Congressman, Frank Riggs. Riggs voted against the Gulf War resolution and tried to out his fellow Congressman who routinely bounced checks on the House Bank. (They have their own bank, of course.) The "liberals" we've elected since haven't even managed anything that bold.

1990 WAS THE LAST TIME on the Northcoast that there was an active presence to the left of corporate Democrats. Darlene Commingore drew enough votes from long-time incumbent Doug Bosco to knock Bosco out of office. Even the editor of this fine newspaper (America's very last) drew a large enough vote from Assembly-cipher Dan Hauser that election that the Democrats have looked over their pudgy shoulders ever since. But also ever since there has been nada political hope on the "progressive" Northcoast. The conservative libs, now gearing up to elect warmonger and big bank toady Hillary president, reign supreme, a fact solidified when now Congressman Huffman, a Hillary-type lib, defeated progressive Norman Solomon in the Democratic primary last election cycle. Solomon couldn't even pull ten percent of the Northcoast vote.

LOOK AT IT from the Sheriff's Booking Log perspective. Most of the people arrested are quite young. Most, I daresay, are victims of ineffective educations, and victims generally of the class war relentlessly waged against them. If there were a national jobs program, say, would so many of them become so hopeless at such an early age?

PEOPLE are more vulnerable than ever: According to a Federal Reserve report on American households’ “economic well-being” in 2013, fewer than half of all Americans said they’d be able to come up with four Benjamins on short notice to deal with an unexpected expense… Under a section titled “Savings,” the report notes that “[s]avings are depleted for many households after the recession,” and lists the following findings:

  • Among those who had savings prior to 2008, 57 percent reported using up some or all of their savings in the Great Recession and its aftermath.
  • 39 percent of respondents reported having a rainy day fund adequate to cover three months of expenses.
  • Only 48 percent of respondents said that they would completely cover a hypothetical emergency expense costing $400 without selling something or borrowing money.

WILLIAM VANDERHEIDEN, chief of the three-officer tribal police department in Round Valley, lives in the Willits area and commutes to his work in Covelo. He was 5150’d at Howard Hospital in Willits last Thursday night out of family concerns that he might be “suicidal.” Chief V was hired by the tribe in 2010 and was subsequently promoted to chief. Vanderheiden was briefly a Round Valley resident Sheriff's deputy back in 2009-2010 but didn’t make it past his probationary period. Rumors said that although he was an effective and popular officer, the married Vanderheiden's extra-marital entanglements were viewed by Sheriff's Department as likely to compromise him, especially in such a small community as Covelo.

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 in and out of elected office wake up and 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 up the old one.

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 courthouse 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..."

WHAT THE CITY COUNCIL blithely ignore is that this project is a County Courthouse, a new Courthouse for all of us, not just Ukiah.

THE NEW THING will be situated in Ukiah on a site several uncomfortably long blocks east of the present Courthouse, which is comfortably and conveniently located 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 solely of courtrooms 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 40 years ago, easily the most unsightly large structure ever erected in Mendocino County. It was abandoned years ago as unneeded and prematurely decrepit. Expect the Willits aesthetic with this new thing. Or perhaps the aesthetic invoked by Ukiah 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.”

FREDERICKSON: "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... '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 same Old Boys, who include the professional Democrats who control the railroad property, 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.

MS. FREDERICKSON CONTINUES: "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 lamest of 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.

THE AOC (Administrative Office of the Courts) is apparently poised to buy the proposed Courthouse site early next year.

FUNNY that this scamarama wasn't an issue in the Ukiah City Council elections. And we wonder where all the libs disappeared to, the libs who are trying to stop Costco? The new Courthouse brings nothing. Costco at least brings us cheap bulk foods. We hope the new Council will oppose this wholly unjustified move.

ON THE OTHER HAND, a reader writes: "Start with the reality that this is a State-controlled process with the AOC in charge. And the AOC listens only to the local judges; they do not need the approval of the City or the County. The current location does not meet numerous AOC criteria, most critically, seismic safety and required street setbacks. There is zero chance the AOC will upgrade the existing courthouse. The AOC commissioned and approved an EIR before anyone was really asking any questions. The depot location and the “library” location were the only ones considered in the EIR. The library site was ruled out for several reasons, including multiple landowners, non-cooperative landowners, contamination issues and the impossible prospect of library relocation. The odds of stopping the process are on a par with stopping the Willits Bypass.

“THE UKIAH CITY COUNCIL supports the proposed location because it is as close to downtown as the new courthouse is going to get. The County, after spending $250,000 at the direction of the alleged “fiscal conservative,” Supervisor Michael Delbar, decided they wanted to purchase 20 acres in the Brush Street Triangle and build a Taj Majustice, including the new courthouse (funded by the state) and a new jail, juvenile hall, Sheriff's admin, and a “justice” building for the DA, probation, public defender. The grand vision never materialized because the County was broke. Which makes you wonder why they spent a quarter of a mil on a study when they knew, or should have known, that the project was beyond their financial reach. [All this was pointed out in the AVA at that time.] But that was when you had CEO Tom Mitchell running the show guided by people like Kendall Smith, David Colfax, Mike Delbar, and Jim Wattenburger, none of whom had much real world work or business experience. The dream of the Taj Majustice died with the departure of Delbar, Wattenburger and Mitchell. [And, we might add here at the AVA, that Tom Mitchell was hired because of his alleged, but non-existent, experience pushing through a “justice center” in Calaveras County.) Meaning the County has no position on the courthouse project.

“THE COUNTY recently considered purchasing an acre or two in the vicinity of the new courthouse to be in a position to build a future justice center, but the Supes decided not to pursue the idea. Meaning the Deputy DAs and Public Defenders will be getting paid a lawyer's salary to drive back and forth between the old and new courthouses looking for parking spaces.

“THE PUBLIC (that's you and me, bub), has never been consulted on any aspect of the project, including the need, cost, siting or economic or traffic impacts. Seemingly, only the nine judges are in charge of the design process for what is certain to be the ugliest evocation of Stalinesque utilitarian architecture in Mendocino County.”

WHICH IS JUST ABOUT the hell-est of a helluva note from a person who sounds like he knows what he’s talking about we've ever heard. Nine outback judicial megalomaniacs can shove this thing down everybody's throat just so they can get their names on a three-story eyesore? We still think if the Ukiah City Council and the Board of Supervisors publicly declared against it the state wouldn't do it. (PS. The Deputy Sheriff’s Association has publicly opposed the new courthouse and you’d think there would be some political potential based on that, but…)

THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE DISTRICT is studying the possibility of charging pedestrians and cyclists to cross the bridge. Don't charge peds, I say, but ding cyclists to the max. Cyclists shouldn't even be allowed to bike across on the east side of the Golden Gate where they are prohibited most open hours because almost all the bridge's pedestrians are shuffling obliviously to and fro, unaware of the lycra menace speeding around and through them. Bikes should be confined to the west side of the bridge, where there aren't many pedestrians. The lycra brigades typically go wayyyyyy too fast for conditions which, given the number of walkers, many of them children and the elderly, is like hurtling on a bike down a crowded sidewalk, which is illegal in San Francisco. But the bike people are an unrelenting, entitled-acting lobby, and they're sure to whine long and loud about paying a fee to zip across the bridge, screaming at tourists to get out of their way as they go.

LOSAK gets his raise. Maybe. It's again on the consent calendar this week, put there by the usually fiscally prudent John Pinches, and put there where he and, presumably, his colleagues hope it unanimously sneaks past the opposed DA, the opposed Sheriff, and the opposed public.

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. 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.”

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 subsequently pled 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.”

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 remained 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 irrigation.

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.

Doyle
Doyle

ATHENA RENEE DOYLE, 35, of McKinleyville, and obviously deranged, has been arrested for attempted murder. With her two small boys unsecured in her vehicle, Ms. Doyle 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 weren’t found for several hours. One of Doyle's small boys sustained serious head injuries.

ACCORDING to a witness at the scene of the crash off Highway One, 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." The kid is probably already used to living in a world of pain of all kinds.

Doyle'sVehicle

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.

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.

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