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Off the Record 2/3/2010

THE WRONGFUL DEATH CASE against former Mendocino County Public Health Officer Marvin Trotter that we described last week ended last week when Dr. Trotter was ordered to pay $800,000 to Ms. Vicki Nelson of Redwood Valley. Ms. Nelson's son, a Ukiah high school student named Keith McCallum, died from a fentanyl patch provided him in 2003 by Trotter's son. According to arbitrator E.D. Bronson, “The negligence of the plaintiff is obvious.” Among the facts stipulated to by both parties was that Marvin Trotter's son Evan was a known drug abuser; that Trotter knew his son was a drug abuser, that fentanyl patches Trotter kept in his home were known to have been missing when Keith McCallum died from one of them. Dr. Trotter did nothing to find the missing patches or otherwise account for them. Arbitrator Bronson determined that the total damages that plaintiff Vicki Nelson suffered were $2 million, but he broke the fault for the damages down into percentages as follows: Dr. Trotter: 40%, the deceased, Keith McCallum: 30%, Evan Trotter: 30%. Another fact stipulated to was that empty containers of fentanyl were found in Evan Trotter's bedroom by Trotter’s wife, Dr. Mary Newkirk, the day before Keith MacCallum applied one to his hip, went to sleep and never woke up. Dr. Trotter knew of the missing patches prior to that date, “yet continued to store the medicine around the home unsecured.” Newkirk, had previously been removed from the list of defendants.

AT THE RECENT Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento, industry analyst Jon Fredrikson delivered the bad news. California wine shipments were down for the first time in 16 years, down about 1.6 percent. The prob is that people aren't paying more than $20 a bottle, and California, especially this part of California, specializes in high end jive juice. Speaking of which, my old friend Michel Salgues, formerly of Roederer, always said that Parducci jug red was better than most of the expensive stuff produced in Mendocino County.

MIKE THOMPSON, D-Kendall-Jackson, in Tommy Wayne Kramer’s apt description of the congressman’s first loyalty, assessed Obama’s State of the Union address this way: “As families across the country tighten their belts, we need to do some trimming of the fat in Washington, too. However, I’m going to watch very carefully to make sure that the president lives up to his promise to go through the budget line by line, rather than make across-the-board spending cuts that might do more harm than good to our local and national economies.”

THOMPSON'S NEBULOUS statement not only reads like a bad translation from a dead language, it’s devoid of meaning. Obama and most Democrats — Thompson certainly — think huge giveaways to the banks while continuing to finance two wars with borrowed money is a way to help local and national economies?

CONGRESSMAN WINE GUY is unlikely to have seen the latest edition of Doug Henwood's essential Left Business Observer: “Then there's taxing the rich. Here are some back-of-the-virtual-envelope estimates. Raising taxes on the top 5% (average income: $520,000) by 5 percentage points and the next 5% (average income: $270,000 by 3 points would yield another $150 billion or so. Gently squeeze those just below them by another 3 points, and you're over $200 billion. Adjust that tax bite for inflation and economic growth and you've got another $2.5 trillion over the next decade.” And, the oracle points out, whack the military a trillion over the next decade by reducing troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq and by 2019 we'd be painlessly back where we started, pre-Bush. But, as Henwood says, even these modest measures — sprinkling, not soaking, the rich, and cutting the Pentagon back to its still mighty levels of 2000 — are politically unimaginable now. But they're not an arithmetic stretch at all.”

WHAT IS BEING described as “the Walmart of Weed” has opened near the Oakland Airport, complete with on-sale pot, an on-site doctor to sign off on your medical marijuana card, on-site “technicians” to set up your very own indoor gro in the spare bedroom. The indoor people say you can pick up an easy tax-ree $50,000 which just may account for iGrow, as the business is called, 15,000 square feet of gro-gear. Oakland voters legalized pot stores a few years ago as a lucrative new tax stream for that crumbling city. Across the bay in San Francisco, there are 22 medical marijuana dispensaries. A guide in one of the weekly papers includes in their rating system “the thug factor,” meaning, I guess, sagged out tough guys hanging around the enterprise

AMONG THE DAILY deluge of outrages, local division, MTA's lunatic plans for a $22 million “fueling station” and administration offices is nutso even by Mendocino County standards. Our transit system operates a mostly passenger-free public transportation service that has to be heavily subsidized every year out of state and federal funds, which are in the process of evaporating long before they get to Ukiah. This grim fact has not prevented MTA's captive board of directors, and I defy you to name a single board in this craven jurisdiction that isn't simply a rubber stamp for the people they theoretically supervise, from allocating its entire reserve fund of some $600,000 to this boondoggle which, of course, will commence with a “consultant.” So where is phantom MTA director Bruce Richard getting the $22 mil for what amounts to new offices for him? Stimulus funding, which itself is evaporating long before it gets to Ukiah. Of the five supervisors, only John Pinches has spoken up against it.

ANN MOORMAN seems to enjoy the electoral embrace of most of the County’s inland legal establishment who, as always, think elections are little more than annointments of them and their friends, but underdog candidate Caren Callahan’s unique background as cop and autodidact certainly deserves consideration in the race to replace Judge Leonard LeCasse on the Mendocino County Superior Court bench. “There are over 1,143,358 active attorneys in the United States. Less than 200 of them passed the bar without going to law school. Meet one of them.” Ta da, Caren Callahan.

THAT WAS AN ODD LETTER from Dan Hamburg in the local papers last week. Hamburg is running for 5th District supervisor but advises 1st District Ukiah not to install a slaughter house in the Ukiah Valley where, the candidate says, there's “opposition of business interests.” Hamburg seems to be making a move for the vegan vote. He quoted a horrified unnamed friend's sighting of a forlorn cow spotted at the Petaluma stock yard as an argument against, well, against the sight of forlorn cows in Ukiah. The County’s ranchers have long hoped for a local slaughter house, which would not only save them long hauls outtahere, but is projected to create some 45 jobs. I hasten to say I agree intellectually with everything the don't-eat-animals people say, but like millions of Americanos I do like an occasional slab of dead flesh. I also agree that some of these feedlots are enough to make a vegetarian out of a mountain lion, but the one in Petaluma, which is virtually downtown, has been there for years and is actually rather pleasing in a sort of form-follows-function way, and much less unsightly than whole blocks of Ukiah's North and South State streets where acres of forlorn cows would amount to an aesthetic upgrade.

I WAS SORRY to hear that George Tsongas had died. A Frisco poet associated with the original beatniks, George lived in the same two North Beach rooms for many years.

He worked on the Oracle when the beatniks segued into hippies back in 1965 and supported himself in the city for many years as a casual longshoreman and a convention lumper, one of those guys who set up the big halls for conventions. His poetry appeared lots of places, including this newspaper. I drank coffee with George once at the Trieste where we talked about poetry, Steve Schwartz, baseball, the sad state of the left. He was a helluva guy, a never give an inch guy who found that the San Francisco Bay Area was just about the last place in the country for people like him.

THE SF CHRON announced J.D. Salinger's death on the front page of last Friday's paper. The long goodbye concluded with an outrageous insult to the writer's memory: “In 2000, daughter Margaret Salinger's 'Dreamcatcher' portrayed the writer as an unpleasant recluse who drank his own urine and spoke in tongues.” Ms. Salinger, from what I could gather from the internet, has had a difficult time, all of it attributed to her early boo-hoo life with daddy. Even if the old boy preferred piss to pinot, so what? Where's the Chronicle get off passing along stuff like this when there's no corroboration other than an adult neurotic's say so? I read Catcher in the Rye as a high school kid. It struck me then as simply a statement of the prevailing reality, not that prep schools were even remotely part of my reality. I intend to re-read the book fifty years later, it and Nine Stories, which I recall also liking as a kid. Curious to know if Catcher was still being read by young people, I asked a Boonville High School student if she'd read it. She said Catcher had been assigned by her English teacher, but she hadn't liked it. Another kid said it was her favorite book. My primary informant said her class “had just finished The Tragedy of Macbeth, but people my age are reading a wide range of books.....a lot are Twilight fans; a lot of people like those sort of fantasy-mystery stories. I've just recently started Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, which is quite different but I like it.”


THE SF WEEKLY ran a long piece recently that said San Francisco is the worst-managed city in the country. The two authors made a strong case, citing as one flagrant example of bad management the tired one of Muni, about which people have been complaining for 50 years. I ride the buses a lot, ride them to and from all parts of the city. I think Muni's pretty good. The major lines are so frequent waits are brief. You can get most places in a timely manner, assuming timely means allowing an extra fifteen minutes or so for traffic. Sure, there are surly drivers and, on every bus, at least one out-patient. Most of the out-patients behave themselves. I don't care if an unhappy person is behind the wheel so long as he doesn't suddenly decide to drive us all to Tucson or into the bay. And every Muni rider knows to get off the bus when a bunch of Our Nation's Future get on at a school stop. But so long as the out-patient mutters his timetables or Building 7 fantasies to himself, who could possibly be disturbed? Drunks are occasionally obstreperous but violence, given the thousands of people who ride, is rare. The One California, eastbound, was packed the other morning with Asians headed for the markets of Stockton Street. At Powell, the aisles of Number One were so jammed that when I stooped to pick up my umbrella I inadvertently butt-blocked two old ladies into two other old ladies, and all four muttered Cantonese curses at me, me a senior citizen with an honorable discharge and a good thirty years on many of the seated people, among them the usual insensate young people plunked down in the senior seats fiddling with their inevitable gadgets. (Who are these blank-eyed beasts!) By the time an over-crowded, eastbound Number One bus gets to Powell it's one block from becoming a nearly empty bus because almost everyone gets off at Stockton. So, there we were lurching down the hill and into each other like so many bowling pins when the driver who I, with my vast knowledge of the Far East pegged as a Filipino, stops the bus in the middle of the street, steps out from behind his safety bar and announces, “I'm not leaving until everyone moves back.” Nobody moved, of course. They never do. A tiny Filipina standing a six pack of old ladies forward of me shouted with great maternal authority, “Dribe de bus, driber. We almost dere!” And thirty seconds later we were, too.

TUMOR MAN got busted again, this time on a bunch of drug paraphernalia charges. But if there's any guy more entitled to self-medicating, it's Eugene Peterson, who really ought to get that thing taken care of. The comb-across may provide poor old Eugene some solace, but really, Eugene, come on over to The Anderson Valley Health Center. They'll figure out something.

WHEN IS A TRAIN not a train? When it gets partially built, then put on hold and funding runs out. SMART is supposed to go from Larkspur to Cloverdale. There's no reason it couldn't. The tracks are in place, and 60 years ago, when America still knew how to do things, two trains ran every day from Sausalito to Eureka. Each way. The train people are now saying 2016, at the earliest, a train may chug into the Cloverdale station. Cloverdale being a well-known transportation hub and all. Currently estimated at $1.2 billion, the train is $155 million short because federal money necessary to complete the project is in doubt, as is the entire viability of the capitalist system — SMART on a national scale, you might say. One of the key funding components for a revived rail line up and down the Northcoast is a quarter cent sales tax projected to generate $845 million of the $1.2 billion needed. But sales taxes have tanked along with the economy, and more and more people are buying on line to avoid sales taxes altogether. The railroad, SMART or DUMB, is unlikely in our life times. Ditto for the Willits Bypass.

A READER WRITES: “The only place an article like this might appear these days in the AVA”: 'January 20, 1910, San Francisco Chronicle: A woman, a policeman, two bulldogs, two revolvers and a horse and buggy were the potent factors in drawing a crowd in front of the Spreckels building on January 19. Mrs. Emily Miller of 3925 Folsom Street owns a horse and buggy, one of the revolvers and both of the bulldogs, which ownership is the prime reason for her now being an inmate of the police station. Mrs. Miller, who says she is a Secret Service agent, stopped in front of the Spreckels building with the head of her horse turned in the wrong direction. Policeman Gaylord informed Mrs. Miller that both she and the horse were violating the city's traffic regulation, whereupon she set the two bulldogs to chewing the uniform of Officer Gaylord. Which annoyed him. To show his annoyance he pulled his revolver, whereupon Mrs. Miller did the same, and policeman, woman and dogs lined up in battle array, to the delight of the crowd of constantly increasing proportions. Finally the dogs were pacified, the revolvers returned to their places of concealment, Mrs. Miller was taken to jail and Gaylord to a Taylor. Mrs. Miller was recently arrested for insanity but succeeded in convincing her inquisitors that she was sane enough to be turned loose'.”

AN OBVIOUS PROB with the DA's office under Meredith Lintott is what appears to be a random prosecution policy. People who shouldn't be pursued are pursued, people who ought to be pursued, aren't. Bringing in a special prosecutor to pursue the Hoyle Brothers, for instance, may have seemed like a good idea given the eminence of their father, but shouldn't have someone at least scoped out the reliability of the keen teen witnesses before the thing limped into court? And why prosecute a 90-year-old for pot, take his life savings away from him, drop him from prosecution while still forcing the old guy into court to get his money back? And Escareno? That should have been in juvenile court from the get-go.

JUDGE CLAYTON BRENNAN'S wife, Ukiah City Council member Mari Rodin, is filing for divorce. Rodin, a reigning princess in the Kingdom Of Mendolib, Duchy of Inland, garnered much of the political support leading to her husband's elevation to the bench.

A DEA officer stopped at a ranch in Texas to talk with an old rancher. “I need to inspect your ranch for illegally grown drugs.” The rancher replied, “Okay, but don’t go in that field over there,” pointing to the no go zone. The DEA officer exploded. “Mister, I have the authority of the Federal Government with me!” Reaching into his rear pants pocket, the DEA produced his badge. “See this badge? It means I am allowed to go wherever I wish. On any land. No questions asked. Have I made myself clear? Do you understand?” The rancher nodded politely and went about his chores. A short time later, the old rancher heard screams and saw the DEA running for his life, the rancher's Santa Gertrudis bull right behind him. With every step the bull gained ground on the officer, and it looked like that Mr. DEA would get gored before he reached safety. The officer was clearly terrified. The rancher threw down his tools, ran to the fence and yelled at the top of his lungs, “Your badge! Show him your BADGE!”

One Comment

  1. Brian August 10, 2019

    Keith was a good friend of mine back in High School. I was upset when I heard about his death by Trotter. He is still missed to this day.

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