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Off the Record (Nov 26, 2014)

THE AFFINITO FAMILY has sold the Cliff House restaurant at the mouth of the Noyo River, Fort Bragg. The property was listed at $1,295,000 and is described as “A full service restaurant opportunity in the hub of the coastal destination city of Fort Bragg. Currently operating as the Cliff House restaurant and cocktail lounge, the guest seating for dining is 160± seats. Most recent upgrades and restoration to property were in 2007. Excellent ocean views available from the terraced style seating arrangement. This offering comprises of the Real Estate, building and restaurant inventory that will be provided.”

LONG-TIME readers will recall that the original Cliff House was one of several Fort Bragg restaurants targeted during the major arson fires that hit the town in 1987. Although the arsonists were identified early on in investigations by the Fort Bragg Police Department, ATF and the FBI, then-DA Susan Massini let the statute of limitations run and no one was prosecuted. The files on the case have since disappeared, and put that one in your bulging Only In Mendo files.

OUR SOURCES in the local dope industry say prices for this year's outdoor crop range from $1000 a pound “for average, to $1600 for pretty good but not amazing marijuana. But there definitely is a lot of weed and there could be a glut. It is too early for me to be sure. The legalization in Oregon, Washington and Colorado is bound to suck out some of our black market weed. Colorado is already a huge market for Humboldt product and I don't think it is likely to get smaller for at least a couple years while they try to figure out how to produce for their demand.”

CASH-STRAPPED PUBLIC UNIVERSITY STUDENTS in California are about to get even poorer. The University of California Board of Regents approved a plan on Thursday to increase tuition by as much as 28 percent over the next five years. Tuition currently costs $12,192 (not counting room and board and campus fees) and will rise to around $12,800 by next fall. If the maximum increase of five percent is imposed every year, tuition in 2019 will cost $15,560—or 28 percent higher than what students pay today. Students at the UCSF Mission Bay campus and UC Berkeley campus protested the hikes, with students in Berkeley occupying Wheeler Hall.

WHY THE HIKE in student fees? (Old timers will remember when the state system was free.) Bloat caused by excessive salaries and employee pensions, and one more massive burden rolled on and on for "the kids" to tote unto the tenth generation.

BLOOMBERG is reporting that investigators with the House Oversight and Government Reform committee found that the federal government had 6.97 million people signed up for insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act in September—not the 7.3 million it claimed. According to the investigators, the administration added as many as 400,000 dental plans to the number, bumping it over the 7 million mark. This was a change from previous practices of counting the number of people signing up on exchanges.

CLAUDE LEWENZ WRITES: Dear AVA, I was interviewed by Paul Lambert on KZYK this morning, and he mentioned an AVA story (notes?) saying, among other things, that someone had heard that MendoVito had done an EIR that had come back negative (not good) thus they were proceeding with this public process. Until my subscription is sorted by your webmaster, I have no ability to access what has been published in The AVA, it's hard to know what is actually being said. No one has done an EIR, that would be way too premature. When the time comes to begin the EIR process the people of the county will be invited to contribute to it. All that has happened so far is that we were invited to explore if Mendo was a feasible host for a VillageTown, we spent 8 months collecting information, and tonight will present our findings to the interested public. It will be up to the people and communities of Mendocino County to decide if they want to take more control over their future. MendoVito is not a corporation or a business. It is a name for an idea that may become an initiative, and if the people and communities of Mendocino County take it on, it could become a VillageTown. There is no developer, no deep pockets investor, none of the usual people in the real estate business, just four volunteers (they call us Social Entrepreneurs who came up here by invitation. What upsets Mendo folk about suburban sprawl, big-box chains, franchises and all those things that are stripping America of its character and wealth is what drove me to stop complaining and start looking for better answers. We explain this at and tonight, I present ideas, so that the people of this county can decide if they want to do something positive. It will be a learning process as people cast away their suspicions and doubts and consider that there is something they can do to change the world for the good. Best regards, Claude Lewenz (707) 320-1185

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Dear Mr. Lewenz, There has been no "article" in the AVA on Mendovito. There were a couple of mentions about its existence, which comment by Ms. Sheppard. (Under separate cover we have sent you all the references to Mendovito we’ve run on our website, all in the last few days.) Mr. Lambert, a KZYX Board member and programmer, with whom we thought we enjoyed cordial relations, seems to have developed an irrational hostility toward the AVA because of our historical criticism of KZYX’s programming and personnel. He’s never bothered to complain to us about anything, yet he feels free to make, essentially, slanderous remarks about us with no basis in fact. We have never mentioned any EIR associated with your project because — obviously — you’re quite aways from an EIR at this point and it would be stupid to mention it or its status. Mr. Lambert’s slanderous “opinion” about the AVA being “famous for unfounded rumors” is also quite false and he can not back it up.

We sent the following demand letter to KZYX/Lambert within minutes of hearing his remarks at the end of his show. Frankly I resent even having been made to waste my time responding to this fol-de-rol by Mr. Lambert.

Sincerely, Mark Scaramella/AVA-Boonville

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Attention Paul Lambert:

You said on your morning “Mendo Matters” (Thursday, Nov. 20) that you had heard that the Mendovito EIR “came back negative.” When Mr. Lewenz replied that there was no EIR, you replied that it was "a rumor published in the AVA and we all know the AVA is famous for publishing unfounded rumors.”

1. Please cite where any such claim about a Mendovito EIR was "published" in the AVA.

2. Please cite one or more "unfounded rumors" published in the AVA.

Please consider this letter a demand for

a. An on-air retraction and proof of same via a CD or digital-audio file recording.

b. An announcement to us in advance when such retraction will be broadcast.

Sincerely, Bruce Anderson, Editor/Publisher, the Anderson Valley Advertiser, Boonville

IN 2011 GOVERNOR JERRY BROWN SIGNED AB 109 into law (AKA: prison realignment or what I call the “shell game”— moving prisoners from the overcrowded state prisons to the overcrowded local County jails). He said it was a “huge success” and it was for the State. Unfortunately, it’s been a disaster for every county jail in California. The goal was to transfer the non-serious, non-sexual, non-violent (non-non-non) criminals back to the local jails where they were convicted. However, that was only their last conviction. The prisoner could have committed assault and rape previously, as long as their last conviction was non-violent.

THE FINAL-FINAL MENDO results for the November 4, 2014 election were released today, Friday, November 21 by County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor Susan Ranochak, 17 days after the election.

FIRST, the non-surprises. Warren Galletti will still be the next County school superintendent. Tom Woodhouse will still be the next Third District Supervisor. Jim Brown, Kevin Doble and Maureen Mulheren will still be taking their seats on the Ukiah City Council in January. Incumbents Larry Stranske and Ron Orenstein will do the same in Willits. Drs. Rohr and Glusker, plus Nurse Kitty Bruning, are still taking seats on the Coast Hospital board.

AND Thank Gaia, fracking will still be banned in Mendocino County, at least until Big Oil declares a national energy emergency and the drilling rigs set up on the Mendocino Headlands.

THE GODS SMILED on Fort Bragg as former Point Arena School Superintendent Mark Iacuaniello narrowly fell out of third place for the Fort Bragg city council. In the final count incumbent Dave Turner nosed out Iacauniello by just 46 votes — most of whom, we’d like to think, were influenced by our coverage of Iacuaniello’s pathetically corrupt performance in the Matt Murray travesty. (See for details.)

TURNER went from trailing Iacuaniello by 32 votes in the preliminary results, to being ahead by 46 in the final Count. Fort Bragg dodged a big bullet, not that Turner is any prize. Your votes may not count for much in most national and state elections, but they sure as hell did in Fort Bragg.

VISIT MENDOCINO! Lead stories this week in Mendocino County include: Sex offender charged with murdering Willits woman; Willits man receives 25-to-life for dragging his grandfather to death behind a pick-up truck; CHP shoots Redwood Valley man; Willits man shoots himself inside his moving truck while fleeing police.

IMMIGRATION CHANGES A look at the key executive measures that President Obama announced Thursday:

Parents: Protects from deportation and makes eligible for work permits about 4.1 million people who are in the US illegally but whose children are US citizens or lawful permanent residents. To be eligible, the parents must have lived in the US for five years. Parents would be granted relief from deportation for three years at a time.

Children: Expands a program that Obama launched in 2012 that shields from deportation those who were brought to the US illegally as children. Obama will extend the program to minors who arrived before 2010, instead of the current cutoff of 2007, and lift the requirement that applicants be younger than 31 to be eligible.

Priorities: Lowers the deportation priority for parents of US citizens or legal permanent residents who have been in the US for less than five years, and for other immigrants who have been here illegally for more than 10 years. A new policy will emphasize deportation for recent arrivals, criminals and national security threats.

Law enforcement: Replaces the Secure Communities program, which hands over people booked for local crimes to federal immigration authorities. The new program will set up different priority levels based on the conduct for which immigrants are detained.

Borders: Commits more resources for enforcement efforts at the US-Mexico border in hopes of sending back more individuals. (Courtesy, the Associated Press)

SMART WOMEN run Fort Bragg, Ukiah and Mendocino County. They also tend to run local school districts and almost all Mendocino County's bureaucracies. I don't point this out as some kind of oinker gender-slam but simply as a fact of local life. I'd suppose women do better in public employment because it's fairer than the private sector.

THE SMART LADIES naturally prefer silly, inept people sitting on the city councils, school boards and the board of supervisors because smart, independent people can be inconvenient, what with pointed questions for the management the boards of directors are supposed to be directing and supervising.

THE FORT BRAGG CITY COUNCIL, since the departure of Dan Gjerde for Board of Supervisors, has subjected Fort Bragg to a 5-0 Silly People council, hence a city run by the city manager. Ditto for Ukiah where even sillier people comprised a 3-2 majority, which translated as a lot of civic blunders. Fort Bragg's major civic blunder is preliminary approval of a $5 million trash transfer station which will mean higher garbage rates for the Mendo Coast.

THE SUPERVISORS only have one certified Silly Person, Dan Hamburg, on an otherwise thoughtful, responsible board. Hamburg of course represents the County's silliest supervisor's district, the 5th. He'd be too wacky for the rest of the County, even though he'd be widely embraced in the 4th District where Silly People, cf the Iacuaniello vote, are coming on strong.

BUT ALL FIVE supervisors are led around by the nose by their CEO, Carmel Angelo, hence the recent round of raises for Angelo herself (from $150k to $180 — a five year contract) and County Counsel Doug Losak while County workers still haven't had their voluntary pay cut restored.

RULE BY LAVISHLY COMPENSATED managers occurs out of the false notion that elected bodies and their managers are one management "team." This errant assumption means no clear lines of authority, and when things go wrong, as they often do, it's difficult, especially in the amnesiac context of ahistorical Mendo, to assign responsibility. Quick! Tell me who was on the Board of Supervisors when the fiscally disastrous retirement decision was made? That decision has permanently bankrupted Mendocino County.

A RECENT EXAMPLE of Silly in action occurred in Fort Bragg when the City, with Silly People leading the charge, and we'll define Silly here as smug, pretentious and narcissistic persons dominant in the public life of this county, dumped their long-time lawyers for a Frisco firm.

FORT BRAGG wanted local legal representation for the City but, according to the Fort Bragg Advocate, "I came into this totally prepared to go for a local team," said Vice Mayor Meg Courtney. "I came in thinking I knew who we were going to select, and I was just sure they were going to get in because I know them and I respect them and I wanted to shop local. And I think other council members felt that way too. But when they came in they didn't exactly stand up to what we expected and I think Samantha, well, she knocked my socks off too. And she's very qualified, plus she has this big team behind her. It was clear that she would like to be here, and it was clear by the end that we would like her to be."

SAMANTHA? Already on a first name basis, Courtney was committing Fort Bragg to legal representation with all the knowledge and objectivity of a panelist on American Idol, and the cozy first name ref is highly suspicious indicating insider trading. Courtney went on to say the Frisco lawyer wouldn't cost any more than one of the three locals who applied. Doubt it. Factor in travel and fees double.

QUOTING FROM THE ADVOCATE, "Council member Heidi Kraut said when interviewing the finalist the council kept three things in mind: the cost of services, the preparation of the teams being interviewed and protecting the interests of the city. ‘When we looked at these three things, there was no one who could compete with the firm that we selected,’ said Kraut. ‘We are very serious about protecting the city, protecting the city's finances and protecting the taxpayer money. We looked very closely at the costs for a local firm and a larger firm from out of town and we picked the choice that made the most sense for Fort Bragg’."

THERE WAS MORE talk of the I AM INFALLIBLE variety from councilman Dietz: "[This attorney] can go down the hall and talk to somebody who's a specialist in any area," he said. "And they're up on new legislation, and recent court decisions, they know about it right away."

"THE THREE-YEAR contract states that basic legal services will be charged at a rate of $225 per hour for associates and partners. Special legal services will cost $240 per hour and travel fees will amount to $900 per trip from San Francisco to Fort Bragg."

$900? What's it cost you to drive from Mendocino County to the city and back?

THE SILLY PEOPLE talk endlessly about buying local, but here's another example of a public entity not doing it.

A READER who participated in the Mental Health Board meetings during the run up to the award of a good hunk of the County's Mental Health services to present Mental Health Director's Tom Pinizzotto’s former employer, Ortner Management Group, has told us that during one of those meetings, Pinizzotto made it clear that the other bidder for the work, Optum Health Services, a big player in the US’s corporate healthcare system, “wasn't really a serious bidder,” and therefore the only “serious bidder” would be his former employer Ortner, a much smaller outfit out of Marysville. Pinizzotto then worked with Ortner to make them appear to be “local” by 1. "Partnering" them with Redwood Children Services, and 2. Acquiring the Redwood Creek Board and Care facility in Willits and placing a few local mental health clients there instead of driving them to Marysville.

ORTNER made a big deal out of promising to hire County employees from Mendocino County's Mental Health (and other) department(s). And thus when it came time for County leadership to score the two bidders, even though Optum had much more experience and professional qualifications, Ortner got extra points for being “local” and for its rhetorical promises to hire local employees.

OPTUM said they would "try" to hire local. And that, in a nutshell, was how Pinizzotto made sure his former employer would get the contract in spite of Optum’s superior capability and much longer history of delivering such services.

CORRECTION: We inadvertently typed “MCPA” (the Promotional Alliance) when we meant MCLA (the Lodging Association) toward the end of the quote from Lodging Association Board member Marcos Magdaleno in last week’s Visit Mendocino Take 2 story. The concluding two sentences should have said: “We strongly believe that that is the goal of our current MCLA [not MCPA] board. We adamantly urge you to not move forward with the new BID ordinance.” — Mark Scaramella

THE LOCAL ANGLE. From the LA Times re water thefts: "Some of those doing the stealing are companies that sell water to homeowners with dry wells. Ads that say 'I will deliver water to your property' are quickly flagged, Carrigan said. His enforcement division calls the number, sets up a delivery and often catches the pilferers in action. 'People have been caught, and people have been cited,' said Carre Brown, Mendocino County supervisor and chairwoman of a countywide drought task force. Mendocino, on California’s North Coast, is a hotbed of illegal marijuana grows. 'I would say the main culprits were the ones who were looking to water marijuana gardens,' she said. 'The penalties in California are not harsh enough.' At a construction site for a Highway 101 bypass, some water poachers tried to get into the water-truck line used by construction crews. Some tried to masquerade as fire crews to get at water kept at Cal Fire camps. The Association of California Water Agencies has seen water theft incidents bubbling up around the state but has no hard numbers because most of the evidence is anecdotal, said Lisa Lien-Mager, an association spokeswoman. 'We may see the trend continue if drought conditions persist into 2015.' She warned that water rustling is far from an everyday occurrence and that “that’s important to keep in mind.”

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