Mendocino County 2014: The Big Stories

One of the biggest stories, at least in national and even international coverage, is underway in the waning hours of this year. It is the ongoing I Can't Breathe t-shirts that got Mendocino High School "uninvited" from the Vern Piver Memorial Basketball Tournament held annually at Fort Bragg High School. With the world's media looking on, the tournament is underway as we go to press.

The big multi-year drought: How soon we forget that it's ongoing after a few big December rainstorms. County water policy remains an uncoordinated mess.

Continuing fiasco, the new County Courthouse in Ukiah that nobody except the judges want continues to move inexorably towards construction. It consists entirely of courtrooms and lavish quarters for the judges, no ancillary services.

Pinizzotto
Pinizzotto

Swindle of the Year. Privatization of County Mental Health steered by a former employee of the beneficiary, Ortner Management Group of Yuba City. The deal was engineered by that former employee, an oleaginous little fellow name Pinizzotto who has since been magically appointed to a boss position in what remains of the County Mental Health apparatus. The Board of Supervisors denounced the grand jury for pointing out the legal conflicts of interest benefitting Pinizzotto and his former employer, the Ortner Management Group. Pinizzotto reports to the supervisors on the swell job his former employer is doing. Pinizzotto has used his position with the County to do special favors for Supervisor Hamburg.

Captain Rainbow, aka Robert Salisbury, of Boonville, was in the international news when he unwittingly became the subject of international controversy. Salisbury had been living and working in Myanmar, formerly Burma, in an area of that country where Buddhist mobs had been murdering the minority Muslim population. He and another Valley resident, Yvonne Dunton, had to be spirited out of the country after Ms. Dutton was accused of improperly handling a Buddhist flag by Buddhist demagogues.

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Retirement of Supervisor John Pinches. Pinches served as supervisor for 12 years from 1994 to 1998 and then again from 2008 to 2014. In that time he instigated a long overdue reform of the County Transportation department, and worked to get the County to deal with chronic water and financial deficits.

The Willits Bypass stumbles toward completion. Caltrans and Mendo Supes blame protesters for millions in cost overruns, but Linda Williams of the Willits News clearly laid out that the delays and overruns were mainly caused by Caltrans’ failure to comply with rules enforced by other agencies.

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The positively weird and wholly unnecessary crisis at the Anderson Valley Health Center sparked by the precipitous firing of newly hired Dr. Logan McGahan, followed by sympathy resignations of other key staff, and exacerbated by the Center's uncomprehending board of directors, came very close to destroying the Center. That particular sinking ship magically righted itself.

The Undefeated AV Panther football team, coached by Dan Kuny, went undefeated while Steve Sparks AV soccer team racked up an unprecedented third league championship.

Sparks and Wes Smoot released their compelling local history called Then & Now, the evolution of local landmark structures over the years.

Huge vineyard frost fans kept many locals awake for 12 nights last spring. This one's headed to court.

The murder of Ukiah's Susan Keegan went unprosecuted, and appears it will remain unprosecuted although it is obvious she was bludgeoned to death by her husband of 30 years, Dr. Peter Keegan.

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Shorty Adams, the legendary Boonville school bus driver with more than three million safe miles driven, retired.

Ongoing Embarrassment: The County’s failure to even try to deal with chronic street drunks and miscellaneous local incompetents who are constantly in and out of the County Jail.

November Election, Sheriff Allman, DA Eyster and Supervisor Hamburg were all unopposed. Elsewhere in the County (Ukiah, Fort Bragg, Point Arena, Coast Hospital) elected incumbents were ousted everywhere but Willits.

Tom Woodhouse, remaining silent on the issues, beat Holly Madrigal in the race to replace John Pinches as 4th District supervisor.

Honey oil explosions replaced meth lab fires as the County's latest drug-related hazard.

Sgt. Steven Berry and his wife had their children grabbed by CPS when Sgt Berry, severely wounded in Middle East combat, and suffering from PTSD, awoke from a night-terror thinking his wife was trying to hurt him when she was only trying to calm him. In a series of Kafka-esque misreads of the situation, Ms. Berry was arrested, CPS took away the couple’s children. The DA dropped all charges realizing there was no crime, but the Berrys were put through the CPS wringer to get their kids back.

Scott Mayberry resigned as Chief of the Fort Bragg Police Department in August amid allegations from his partisans that the City Manager was out to get him. Mayberry ended up being hired as a DA investigator. His Lieutenant, John Naulty, hero of the deadly Ricardo Chaney/Deputy del Fiorentine confrontation, has still not been released to return to duty in any capacity even though he and his psychiatrist say he's long been ready.

Acting County Counsel Doug ‘Night Rambler’ Losak's huge proposed raise sparked unprecedented denunciations of him by Sheriff Allman (who said he would not allow Losak to be involved in any Sheriff’s business), and DA David Eyster who said Losak wasn’t a very good attorney and didn’t deserve the raise.

Visit Mendocino, tax subsidized advertising for private tourist businesses, and its maze of sister organizations, got another huge unjustifiable tax subsidy — this year an even larger one — to “sell” Mendocino to the outside world even though even some of their own members don’t think they’re doing a very good job of it.

Mendovito — a grandiose plan to build a small city east of Hopland — got its 15 minutes of local fame in November and December, but went back to the drawing board to work out the numerous impracticalities of the the scheme.

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