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Off the Record (Mar 18, 2105)

COURTESY of the invaluable Mendocino TV (, we watched the entire Monday night meeting of the Fort Bragg City Council. On the whole, it was quite interesting and, in a way, predictable, especially the rambling presentations from supporters of the cockamamie scheme to convert the Old Coast Hotel to a kind of halfway rehab house for the “homeless,” a blanket term the self-interested persons steering the project apply to the range of street people, mostly men, whose alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, and general incompetence to cope with life in contemporary America would allegedly be helped by a halfway house in the very center of town.

SUPPORTERS of the project, funded out of a block grant worth $1.2 million, include the present 3-2 majority on Fort Bragg's City Council led by town mayor, Dave Turner. Several speakers lauded Turner and his like-minded colleagues, Hammerstrom and Dietz, for enduring “negativity” and even “vicious personal attacks” during the controversy. The offending nuggets of negativity were not identified and no supporting recitations of “vicious personal attacks” were offered, but there is a large group of people talking recall of the three councilmen.

PUBLIC discourse has radically deteriorated over the years, right along with the flight of meaning from our native vocabulary. “Negativity” seems to mean opinions this or that nice person doesn't like. A “vicious personal attack,” I guess, is now defined as some zinger like, “These people are all idiots.” I've followed the Old Coast Hotel issue pretty closely and everything I've seen, read and heard has been absolutely according to tea time at the Home For Elderly Nuns.

PEOPLE threatening recall does not amount to “vicious personal attacks.” I'm sure some unpleasant things get said in personal e-mails and on Facebook, but really, public people can't handle the occasional insult?

THE CHILDISH pejorative “negativity” has no meaning beyond, I guess, a blanket condemnation of people on the other side of this or that issue.  ("Negativity," as moral judgment, is very big among Mendolib who, of course, are all "proactive," "positive" people, just how proactive and positive you can find out for yourself when you wake up in the ambulance if you get between them and a government grant.) But seriously, adult give and take should be encouraged not suffocated by the pseudo-liberal prigs around here who always try to suppress it wherever they're at the power levers.

OF ALL THE SPEAKERS at the FB Council meeting Monday night, I thought Rex Gressett's remarks went right to the heart of the overall problem, and not only the problem with the current majority on the Fort Bragg City Council, but the problem with most public bodies in Mendocino County where we find decisions that affect all of us being made by unelected people, then rubber stamped by their elected gofers.

THE OLD COAST HOTEL conversion is a very bad idea — bad for all of Fort Bragg — but here it is going ahead against the wishes of not only its immediate neighbors, but the entire business community and, I daresay, a majority of Fort Bragg residents. If Mayor Turner put it to a vote, it would lose. The elections of Peters and Cimolino were, in good part, a vote on Turner, Deitz and Hammerstrom. They lost. They'll lose the next election, too. They should do the correct democratic thing and reconsider the Old Coast Hotel conversion, but they won't.

MR. GRESSETT: “I want to make a quick comment on this daylighting thing. [A tentative description of a plan to restore two creeks flowing to the sea through the old mill site.] It certainly looks very beautiful. Everybody I think would love it if we could daylight that creek. It seems like a very good idea. I would just like to mention and I want to be nice that there was another project over there, Dry Shed #4. There was a similar proposal. It was a beautiful proposal. I think about $100,000 was spent on the consulting fees. It appears that we are going to spend a considerable amount of money on consulting fees here. Two consultants have spoken in favor of it. But the Dry Shed #4 just came to nothing. It wasn't pursued. We had big meetings and everything. We had pay stickers that we put on the wall and it was just forgotten. I believe that the reason for that, and I really am in favor of daylighting the creek, I am so in favor of it, but the city Council and the development director have often put before us proposals that were put before us without any result. Dry Shed #4 was one good example. I don't want to be mean here. But I think, I am from New York, we are familiar in New York with a term we call “gladhandled” which means that everything is happening and everything is good and everything is positive and we should be careful not to be antagonistic or contradictory or raise issues that are unpleasant and we will get a daylighted creek out of it. What it comes down to is that that supports incumbency. It supports incumbency. Incumbency that has sacrificed, that is no longer credible. When we get gladhandled as it were with a bunch of positive and happy and good and productive ideas I think that we should remember that as patriots, as Linda Ruffing's son reminded us, as patriots we have to be courageous enough not to be gladhandled. We need to ask the tough questions. The City Council has a record of not completing its projects. Spending many thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on projects that are used to make people feel good but they don't have any result. I think we should ask serious questions about this. I think that the Council does not have a great record of candor or forthrightness either. Once again, I'm afraid that I'm kind of on the downer side of this thing. I'm on the downer side of it hoping that that doesn't happen, that daylighting comes through. But I declined to be gladhandled. I would like to think that we have a right as citizens of Fort Bragg to have a political process.”

GRESSETT SPOKE AGAIN later in the meeting: “I'm pretty worn down. It's been a long night. I would like to say that we cannot continue to use this forum anymore. (I think he meant that Mayor Turner rudely shut down comments from the public for a couple of hours to conduct other business rather than hear all the public comment on the proposed halfway house in one go.) We got delays, we got intermissions, we got introductions, we got happy, we got sad, we have all kinds of different things going on here but what we don't have is any kind of effect. I have no impression that you guys are going to listen to us at all. You are not going to listen to us about the television station. You're not going to listen to us about the hotel. You are not going to listen to us about the Hare Creek project. I know it. I am certain that that will be approved at the City Council although I'm sure they will be defeated at the Coastal Commission. So I don't know why you would do that, but I believe you will. What we have to do is recognize that it's tough, this is hard for us to sit here through all this manipulation, through these games. It's very difficult. Perhaps you have to defend yourself as politicians. But I don't think and I said this before and I don't want to repeat myself but I don't think that it really matters to have a loyal opposition. I think we need a loyal opposition. And I think that loyal opposition ought not come here on their hands and knees and listen to this and be the subjects of a prearranged agenda. I think you need to set the agenda. If we had a development manager and a city manager who make $100,000 a year or $150,000 a year that we can get the best people out of Berkeley, the best people out of Stanford, we can get people who really care about the community. The problem is a structural problem. I'm a little angry about what's going on but these people are not doing this. There is a professional managerial elite and they make decisions, Linda Ruffing and Marie Jones and so forth, and these guys approve or disapprove of those decisions. They don't originate any kind of passion at all. They decide what they want to do and not what we want to do. They just decide how quickly they can ruffle past Marie Jones. And the people who are making the decisions are Marie Jones and Linda Ruffing. But what we need is a political process that we can participate in. And that means opposition. It means no matter how much they don't like us or tell us we're disorganized, we need to organize a local loyal opposition and we need to say we're not going to listen and come here on hands and knees to the City Council and just be dismissed out of hand. We need to have a recall election. It would be like a vitamin pill. If I was up there like a city councilman — let me just say one thing. If I was up there and you were recalling me I would be the first to sign the petition.”

I HAD TO LAUGH at several statements during remarks about the restoration of Town Hall. Town Hall is a new building. The old Town Hall didn't simply “burn” in one of God's random acts. It was deliberately torched by two prominent Fort Bragg businessmen in an arson for hire that probably involved the subsequent murder of one of the arsonists. Criminals and criminal conduct dominated Fort Bragg's public processes throughout the 1980s, another fact of local life now vanished from public memory. Which means it's time for the Mendo Mantra: “Mendocino County, where every day history starts all over again and you are whatever you say you are.”

PS. MUST CONFESS I found my own self fighting off an impulse to vicious personal attack when Mayor Turner announced the next speaker as Meg Courtney. “Christ Jesus spare us all,” I whispered to myself, and by the goddess Jesus heard my prayer! Meg had left the building.

IT'S TOO BAD MICHELLE WHITE retired from Fort Bragg politics and public life. She was, by a very long way, the smartest, most all-round capable person ever to serve on the City Council. Dan Gjerde runs a close second. The late Vince Benedetti was a good one, too. Whatever other virtues the present Council majority may have, they aren't up to the White-Gjerde-Benedetti standard. Mike Cimolino and Lindy Peters are in the ballpark, certainly, but it's always a bad idea to elect flab glab lib labs to any kind of local office. They'll got straight for all kinds of hustling for themselves and their friends. If you're going to elect liberals from around here you've got to find a principled, smart one. No names come to mind.

DUH HEADLINE over an editorial from a Ukiah Daily Journal of last week: “From the desk of... Why Latinos sense hostility from the GOP

CORRECTION OF THE MONTH: (Curry Coastal Pilot, Feb 21, 2015) — “In the Feb 14 story ‘Kitzhaber resigns’ the Pilot incorrectly identified the governor as a Republican. He is a Democrat. We regret the error which was not a result of flimflam or tomfoolery. We apologize to all the Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, Progressives, Pacific Green Party members, religious and secular citizens, loggers, environmentalists, the NRA and all other groups or individuals who may have been offended.”

IF ALL THE NORTHCOAST'S deaths "by misadventure," were to suddenly rise up and walk out onto Highway 101, the populations of Mendocino and Humboldt counties would double: On Monday, March 9, 2015 at about 12:00 PM the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office received a report of a found human skull on the river bar near Ferndale. A Deputy Coroner responded to the location and met with the citizen who found the remains. The Deputy Coroner confirmed that it was a human skull and searched the area for additional remains/bones. No other human remains were located during the search.

The skull appeared to have been exposed to the elements for an extended period of time. How the skull ended up where it was located and who it belongs to is unknown. HumCo Sheriff’s Press Release

DAN GJERDE has long been one of our favorite local pols. He's unfailingly conscientious and he's always candid. Ask him a question you get an informed, thoughtful answer. Gjerde was elected to the Fort Bragg City Council at a time when Fort Bragg, paraphrasing Hunter Thompson on Nixon, “was so crooked city government had to get help to screw their pants on every morning.”

AFTER MORE THAN A DECADE of productive years on the Fort Bragg City Council where, in our opinion, Gjerde was instrumental in returning the town to civic respectability, Gjerde, succeeding a pair of rollicking incompetents, became 4th District supervisor. We asked Gjerde for his thoughts on the current three controversies roiling Fort Bragg. And by the way, the Old Coast Hotel deal stinks. You mean to say that the owner of the place, Mr. Carrine, suddenly comes off his asking price of more than $2 million after years of refusing to even lease the place as its intended purpose — bar, restaurant and hotel — just so he can sell it for under a mil to the Hospitality House-Ortner combine?

THE PROPOSED NEW TRANSFER STATION. Gjerde said he thought the proposal “will stabilize rates into the future, but we won’t really know that or much of anything about it until there's a complete EIR.” The supervisor said he thought rate stabilization “remains to be seen,” adding the supervisors have to keep “open minds” on the matter, and that the supes would be in Fort Bragg on Thursday the 19th “to hear public comment.” Interested persons who can't comment at the public session can comment in writing, he said. The huge 870-page EIR is posted on the Mendocino Solid Waste Management Authority's website and is available at the Fort Bragg Library and at Fort Bragg City Hall. It is also posted on the Fort Bragg city website.

THE (INEVITABLE) CONSULTANTS who wrote the thing must respond to each comment. The vote on the EIR will occur mid-June. The supes will reappear in Fort Bragg for that vote. Gjerde emphasized that “neither the county nor the City of Fort Bragg are building anything. Someone out there who thinks they can make a profit” will be building it.

AS SUPERVISOR, Gjerde is not directly involved with the proposed Old Coast Hotel conversion to a nebulous half-way house for mental health patients. “It's probably not the first location people would have thought of but…” This part of our conversation descended into some back and forth on the wisdom of a largely tourism-dependent town turning over a large building in the center of town to a vaguely rehabilitative program. Gjerde pointed out what we all know, that Fort Bragg and Ukiah “are more affected {by the homeless} because of the existing programs there.” He wants to “get affected people together to look at what works and what doesn't work.” He said that the “non-profit grant for the amount Fort Bragg got made the Old Coast Hotel building possible,” suggesting that the Old Coast Hotel was a bargain at that price [about a mil], with a strong and seemingly unintentional implication that the City got the money then went looking for a building roughly for that price instead of focusing on, say, a much more inexpensive structure outside the downtown area but suitable for a homeless program.

THE SUPERVISOR said that Fort Bragg “couldn't build a building that size and quality for the amount of the grant.” Regarding the possibility of a reconsideration of the Old Coast Hotel site, Gjerde said, “Anything's possible.”

(BY THE WAY, one would think for a block grant of $1.2 million, Fort Bragg's government could have bought a couple of two 3-bedroom, two-bath houses on the outskirts of town for a halfway house, rather than buy the biggest building they could find for that amount, a building in the center of a tourism-dependent town.)

TODD'S POINT. Gjerde has talked with the neighbors who'd be affected by large-scale development and, typically, is all the way up to speed on the vague proposal for development of a relatively brief strip of privately owned land on the west side of Highway One at the intersection of Highway 20 — The Hare Creek Shopping Center on just over three acres of land. Long answer short, Gjerde said that half the property is zoned commercial, half residential. “It's limited as to what can or can't be done there; it can't be rezoned open space without a huge and probably losing court battle with the owners (native Fort Bragg people named Patton who are now residents of the Bay Area), and even if it were purchased as open space, who's going to buy it?” Gjerde went on to say that “the city did not ask Caltrans to waive standards for a 4-way intersection so a mammoth gas station could be installed there as was proposed by the owners.”

HE SAID he understands that the Honers, owners of Harvest Market presently the anchor store at the Patton-owned Boatyard Shopping Center, “are looking at building their own store near Safeway leaving a spot for a new anchor tenant at the present location,” begging the question as to what big store would move into the Harvest space and what big store would be interested in space just down the street at a Patton development on Todd's Point. Gjerde, like lots of people, wondered at the long-term viability of big box stores given the growth of on-line shopping. The supervisor concluded by saying that the entire Todd's Point discussion is opaque because the owners haven't said exactly what they have in mind for their parcel. “The last water study dates back to the early 80's,” Gjerde said, “and there is some question if the water required for large development can be delivered there.”

THE OLD COAST HOTEL debate, from Boonville, looks like this: First, that site is not fair to the town. Second, the entire problem presented by the shoals of unhoused persons moving around the county and the country has to at last be honestly addressed. The problem is growing while the cynical and the mercenary swoop in to grab the millions of public dollars attached to ineffective programs whose only real beneficiaries are the people running them. (cf Hospitality House, Ortner Management Group, what's left of the County's un-privatized Mental Health bureaucracy.) The present plan of the Ortner-Hospitality complex to extend their reach to the center of Fort Bragg, where a half-dozen people may or may not be made functional again, should not be supported by Fort Bragg government. Even if the proposed half-way house scheme were effective, it still fails to address the increasing number of disturbed, drunk, drugged, and crazy people shuffling up and down the street outside the front door. We think the entire county effort should be located in one spot where the homeless would be compelled to live while their probs are individually addressed. It would be cheaper and likely more helpful to the walking wounded than anything Ortner et al are presently doing or planning to do. In fact, it's been done; years ago this population was housed at county farms and/or state hospital systems. (There's a large, vacant convalescent home on South State Street, Ukiah, that would be perfect for a catch-all mental health facility right here in Mendocino County.)

AS IT STANDS, Mendocino County is spending annual millions that don't even begin to address a growing and, perhaps, intractable population of really, really screwed up people. For much less money, Mendocino County's mental health/homeless population could be humanely and maybe even effectively addressed. After all, we're only talking about — max — a couple of hundred people. For now.

PAUL CAYLER, subject of a story in last Thursday’s Press Democrat pitting Cayler against a popular Cloverdale cop, went to work as Cloverdale's city manager after tours working with the Willits and Mendocino County admins. Good guy, in our limited experience of him. Reading between the lines about the flap he seems to have touched off in Cloverdale, it seems Cayler wasn't all the way prone at the feet of the sacrosanct cop, and that cop is demagoguing the beef big time.

BACK IN 1972, a similar hassle roiled Cloverdale. That one was written up in The New Yorker by none other than the wonderfully versatile Calvin Trillin when Trillin was traveling around the country writing about what he found under the rubric, "U.S. Journal." His Cloverdale piece was called "Buck and Baratta." It described a newly elected city council's highly unpopular firing of long-time chief of police, Buck Boehm, and the hiring of a bright-eyed, big city "professional" cop with the made for tv name of Baratta. The ensuing controversy was long and bitter. It pitted Cloverdale old timers against the new people who were beginning to settle in Cloverdale and, worse in the eyes of the old timers, get themselves elected to the city council. Buck had handled a lot of police stuff informally. He'd drive local drunks home rather than arrest them, and he wasn't big on paper work. Buck was an old-fashioned small town cop, and perfect for the small town of Cloverdale that he and a small group of younger men policed. The new guy wasn't unreasonable but he was pretty much a by-the-book type. And the times were a changin', what with dope taking hold and lots of the aforementioned new people moving in to the new housing tracts expanding Cloverdale from a place where everybody knew everybody else to a place where you might know every third person. Trillin writes: ".... So many angry citizens turned out for the next Council meeting that it had to be moved from City Hall to the grounds of the Citrus Fair — a widely known annual event hat was started some years ago to draw attention to the fact that Cloverdale, despite being in the northern part of the state, has a climate mild enough to permit the raising of citrus fruit, although not mild enough, as it turns out, for anybody to risk doing so commercially."

A READER WRITES: "I read your piece about Fort Bragg/Gjerde etc. and your comments at the end which I thought succinctly summed it up very well and makes the most sense of anyone speaking on the matter, especially when you point out the fact that it probably the 'homeless' population involved county-wide is only a few hundred people. It seems towns in this county like to put their crazies, drunks and homeless on display. Even in Santa Rosa there's a place right near the 101 off ramp near Railroad Square where there is some kind of treatment program… it's near the Farm Supply and I see the folks walking around every time I drive out to get back on the freeway. At least it's a ways from the commercial district… but the same kind of thing as the Coast Hotel would be. There seems to be no real solution as essentially the State of California decided a very long time ago to abandon this population and leave it up to the gods to figure it out. Same problem in the City, isn't there? Those movies with dark shadows lurking on every corner in a country that has gone to ruin is swift approaching… or already here."

JUST SAYIN' but how come Mendo doesn't have a Helen Vine Recovery Center. You get falling down drunk in Marin, nod off on the old smackeroo or tweak yourself into a gibbering wreck, you wake up in this place: The Helen Vine Recovery Center, which became a part of Buckelew Programs in April 2011, is a licensed 26-bed co-ed residential detoxification program located at 301 Smith Ranch Road in San Rafael that provides welcoming, recovery-oriented services to individuals with alcohol and drug addiction issues, as well as co-occurring psychiatric problems...

MAYBE TWENTY YEARS AGO, Roanne Withers, then working for the County's Mental Health Department, got Mental Health to erect a big tent located, as I vaguely recall off a visit there one morning, in a vacant lot off South Franklin. Roanne was in charge. A large, forceful woman who'd previously made her way as a bartender in some tough venues, Roanne ran The Big Tent like she ran her own home — orderly, clean, no aberrant behavior tolerated. You couldn't spend the night in The Big Tent if you were drunk, whacked out on dope, or noisily nuts. Quiet nuts were welcome. Obvious street people were in the minority, though. A clear majority of the people housed overnight in The Big Tent were functioning persons — young people studying at Fort Bragg's famous woodworking school; other young people from other countries who were backpacking and hitchhiking around America; people avoiding high motel rates by spending a night or two on the cheap; transients genuinely in search of work; and a few street guys of the type everyone complains about who needed to get out of bad weather. The Big Tent was Roanne's inexpensive idea for housing the indigent in the winter months. It was a good idea that worked right up until the night The Big Tent blew down in a winter wind. Nobody was hurt. Most of The Big Tent's population probably assumed the blow over was simply one more disaster of the minor type in lifetimes of disasters. Rather than re-erect The Big Tent the County, probably out of the usual fear of lawyers, kept it down.

JUDGE NELSON'S latest bushwah about why he and, presumably, his overpaid and underworked colleagues, need a new County Courthouse is the subject of a recent story by Justine Frederickson in the Ukiah Daily Journal. The judge trots out the same set of debunked assertions he's been running out now for about five years now.

AND NELSON'S indefensible scheme plunges ahead outside the local approving processes and beyond all public consideration. It's not needed, and it's not wanted by anybody but the judges, not that we've heard from any of them except for Nelson.

NATURALLY, the judge's reasons for a new County Courthouse are seconded by the court administrator — a guy who contradicts the judges at the peril of his job. This guy says it's impossible to install handicapped accessibility in such an old structure, nevermind that it's been done everywhere in the United States in old structures, including the capitol of the Golden State. The present County Courthouse could be made entirely accessible for the handicapped at much less expense than a whole new structure will cost, a whole new structure housing only the judges and their 9 courtrooms, not-so-incidentally. All the other county offices presently ensconced in the old County Courthouse will stay where they are, meaning all of the people who staff them, including the DA, will be jogging up and down Perkins Street between the old and new facilities. So far, Nelson hasn't come up with a single convincing reason for a new County Courthouse and, in an indication of true desperation, he even trots out earthquakes as a reason for a new structure. When all else fails, bring on the seismograph.

THIS THING boils down to a major misdirection of public money. But, but, but.... The judges say it won't cost the taxpayers anything. More bullshit. They and their buildings are funded out of public money and fine money (ever more exorbitant and disproportionate, as we all know), and this thing has already cost Ukiah a lot of money in site prep. And Ukiah needs another ugly building like Boonville needs another winery.

MENDO'S ANNUAL PORK FEED. The County's 13-page list of personal services contracts, about 75 per page, from 2013 through now. We're surprised there are so many of them, and will highlight the more suspicious ones when we've had a chance to go through them all.

CULTURE NOTES: Best new poem I've read in a long time, and please note the artful rhyme scheme, Mendo poets, and discover that prose arrayed vertically on the page is not necessarily a poem:


by Clive James

The stars in their magnificent array

Look down upon the Earth, their cynosure,

Or so it seems. They are too far away,

In fact, to see a thing; hence they look pure

To us. They lack the textures of our globe,

So only we, from cameras carried high,

Enjoy the beauty of the swirling robe

That wraps us up, the interplay of sky

And cloud, as if a Wedgewood plate of blue

And white should melt, and then, its surface stirred

With spoons, a treasure too good to be true,

Be placed, and hover like a hummingbird,

Drawing all eyes, though ours alone, to feast

On splendor as it turns west from the East.

There was a time when some of our young men

Walked plumply on the moon and saw Earth rise,

As stunning as the sun. The years since then

Have aged them. Now and then somebody dies.

It's like a clock, for those of us who saw

The Saturn rockets going up as if

Mankind had energy to burn. The law

Is different for one man. Time is a cliff

You come to in the dark. Though you might fall

As easily as on a feather bed,

It is a sad farewell. You loved it all.

You dream that you might keep it in your head.

But memories, where can you take them to?

Take one last look at them. They end with you.

And still the Earth revolves, and still the blaze

Of stars maintains a show of vigilance.

It should, for long ago, in olden days,

We came from there. By luck, by fate, by chance,

All of the elements that form the world

Were sent by cataclysms deep in space,

And from their combination life unfurled

And stood up straight, and wore a human face.

I still can't pass a mirror. Like a boy,

I check my looks, and now I see the shell

Of what I was. So why, then, this strange joy?

Perhaps an old man dying would do well

To smile as he rejoins the cosmic dust

Life comes from, for resign himself he must.

ONCE IN A GREAT WHILE Mendocino County moves in the right direction. On Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors agenda there's an innocuous seeming item on the consent calendar called, “Approval of the Purchase of a Vehicle to Support Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) Community Outreach Activities and Approve the Appropriation Transfer of Funds, Increasing Funds and Revenue in Budget Unit 4050; Line-item 4050- 864370 and Revenue Line-item 4050-825342 in the Amount of $13,000 and Authorize the Addition of the Vehicle to the County Approved List of Fixed Assets.”

THE ITEM is obscured by a follow-up paragraph of pure bureaucratic jibberish: “The California Health Facilities Financing Authority approved a final allocation to the County of Mendocino under the Investment in Mental Health Wellness Revenue Grant Program at its April 24, 2014 meeting. The approved grant amount is $40,713.18 per year for three years for a total amount of $122,139.54.”

THEN IT FINALLY BEGINS to get clear. “The County of Mendocino will fund a Mental Health Rehabilitation Specialist/Outreach Worker who will respond to mental health crisis calls  with a deputy "in order to assist with the de-escalation of crisis, outreach, engagement and referral to community based programs. The Mendocino County Sheriff’s office and BHRS [i.e., the Mental Health Department] have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding in the interest of public safety by providing essential mental health outreach. Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office and Mendocino County BHRS agree to work together cooperatively to provide community outreach, inreach [sic] into the County jail, and engagement in the community in order to reduce recidivism and to decrease jail days.”

THE CONCLUDING GIBBERISH: “The Mendocino County Sheriff’s office will assist BHRS in the purchase of a vehicle for the Mental Health Rehabilitation Specialist/Outreach Worker’s use in providing these services by transferring $12,000 from State Asset Forfeiture (760201) to BHRS once the Mendocino County Sheriff’s office receives a copy of the vehicle purchasing invoice. The approved appropriation transfer of $13,000 will be allocated via BHRS realignment funds for a collaborative amount of $25,000 for the purchase of a used vehicle.”

WE HAD TO CALL SHERIFF ALLMAN to get a plain English description of what's intended. The Sheriff said that the plan is to staff an unmarked van with one senior Mental Health person along with a non-uniformed “public safety technician” (i.e., driver/helper) to respond to non-criminal, non-violent calls involving freakouts, suicide threats, etc. Besides dealing with the disturbed already confined to the jail, the two-year pilot program will focus primarily on Round Valley and the South Coast where law enforcement response times are very long and tend to take deputies out of public safety duty for hours at a time. A crisis team would probably be able to cool out a lot of 5150 episodes without necessarily involving law enforcement, thus making deputies more available for their normal patrol duties. Once the program is up and running (which should be soon) people will be able to call Mental Health directly or 911 to request a dispatch out of Ukiah. The initial service will only be available during normal business hours, so off-hours responses will still have to be covered by cops. (About 3pm to midnight would make more sense because those are the typical blast-off hours.) But it’s definitely a step toward the long-overdue Crisis Van (such as the ones in Sonoma and Alameda Counties) which, after completion of the pilot program, could be upgraded to full crisis van status. Both people involved will be county employees, not Ortner staffers. The Mental Health person is an existing, funded position, the Public Safety technician will be a new position to be covered by the Sheriff’s budget.

CREDIT SHERIFF ALLMAN for his push in getting Mental Health to do anything of practical assistance to disturbed persons. Allman's bread-baking program at the jail is a big success which actually leads to a few jobs for guys leaving jail. He's also got a garden going at the jail, and perhaps a bigger one out on the north end of Ukiah. Another big plus that not only occupies people while in custody but helps people learn marketable skills. And the Sheriff just mentioned in passing recently that he's got a deal going with the Skunk Train whereby a few jail inmates work every day keeping the line up and running.

TARDY RECOMMENDED VIEWING, although lots of you have probably already seen it, “Imitation Game.” It's very good and perfectly acted as only the Brits seem able to pull off perfectly acted stories for the few adults left in the world. Based on the life of Alan Turing, the great English mathematician, the movie seems faithful to the basic facts of his life, and what amazing facts those were. The man invented the computer via which he broke Nazi codes and abbreviated World War Two, the historians tell us, by at least two years, thus saving millions of lives. Turing was gay which, the times being what they are, both then and now, gets a huge emphasis in the film, making Turing seem much more pathetically tragic than he seemed to be in real life. Did he commit suicide because he was gay? Lots of people who've investigated his death think he died accidentally while experimenting with cyanide, which he was known to do. The only things in the movie that seemed way outta whack to me were a couple of interludes where Turing is seen in track shorts running what looked like wind sprints. There was no context, no explanation for these bursts of frenetic exercise. When I looked up his bio, it turns out that among his many gifts Turing was also a world class distance runner, good enough to have qualified in the marathon for the British Olympic team if he'd wanted to.

RECOMMENDED READING: "Where The Bodies Are Buried" by Patrick Radden Keefe in the current New Yorker. I'm happy to count among my friends, Pol Brennan, an IRA man who used to write clarifying articles for the AVA on the politics of Northern Ireland before he was deported, by himself, in shackles, in an American military transport plane guarded by an armed phalanx of US Marshals. Someone seemed to think Pol was dangerous, or maybe someone just wanted to get a free trip to Ireland for himself and his friends. The story of Northern Ireland is a complicated one, and the story Keefe tells here is beyond unhappy, but for those of you interested and know something about "the troubles," Keefe's article will be fascinating.

MORE RECOMMENDED READING: On the advice of one of our contributors, the erudite Mr. Louis Bedrock, I've re-subscribed to Harper's. I'm pleased that I did, although a lot of their stuff seems to me too high flying, too abstract for the subject matter, much of which isn't interesting in the first place to this particular lowbrow. Example: “Going It Alone — The dignity and challenge of solitude” — the lead piece in the April issue. It takes several thousand words to tell us that lots of people live alone, that our nutball society estranges people from each other, that some people are good at solitude, some aren't.  Thank you. Next. There is, though, lots of interesting articles in the mag, and I read it cover to cover except the feature essay on solitude, and was especially pleased with an argument by Rebecca Solnit called “Abolish High School.” (When you feel like going deep, you won't go wrong with Rebecca, one of the few writers I know who holds my attention at a high level of abstraction.) Abolishing high school has been a good idea for a long time, and Ms. Solnit counts every reason from the prevalence of bullying among young people of high school age to the pure irrelevance of much or all of the course of study. I'd recommend it to the Mendocino County Office of Education if I thought they could decode it, but…

One Comment

  1. Rick Weddle March 18, 2015

    The nasty political caniptions so familiar in Ft. Bragg, and in the County, still unbelievable for all their familiarity, might point to a novel option for dealing with the ‘homeless’ and morally and mentally derelict folks among us: Elect ’em to high office…offer them positions in ‘consultancy’ outfits…shovel cash at ’em. That might solve a host of local problems, and the present beneficiaries of Public Generosity would never even notice the influx of ‘new blood’ if they drove the obligatory, over-priced German or Swedish machines and were committed to getting along by going along. You say it would make things a lot worse? How could one tell?

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