Press "Enter" to skip to content

Off the Record (Apr 1, 2015)

WE'RE STILL LIGHT ON THE PARTICULARS, but Eel River Fuels wants Fort Bragg to permit a 30,000 gallon propane tank in the middle of town. A reader puts it this way: “The company makes it sound as though they are simply replacing an old tank; this is not the case, they are installing a 30,000 gallon bomb right in the middle of town. Why is this not being discussed with the people of our town? Why is this in motion to be approved while we have every other companies' storage tanks outside of town? This is a disaster waiting to happen. People of Fort Bragg, you have a chance to speak up and voice your opinions. Please show up and express your concerns about this topic. They are attempting to install this 50-foot monstrosity right in the center of town.”

A NEIGHBOR of the proposed site puts it this way: “It’s a big deal in our area, an evacuation plan for a propane tank this large would be a one-mile radius. If this tank was to go that means a one-mile radius would be gone in Fort Bragg. Preschool, Residential Homes, Food Bank, Junior High most of town is in jeopardy and the city council doesn’t seem to realize how big of a risk this is to have in our town. That is why Suburban, Kemgas, Ferell Gas, and Amerigas all have their storage tanks OUTSIDE of town.”

THANKS FOR THE DONATION, BOYS. The press release begins, “A Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy was driving behind a pickup truck on Highway 101, near the Gobbi Street exit, when he saw an occupant of the vehicle violate the Paul Buzzo Act....” Like everyone else we had to look up the Paul Buzzo Act, which turned out to be laws against littering. The two yobbos pulled over in deference to Paul Buzzo had significant quantities of dope and $142,000 in cash, money that now belongs to law enforcement, Mendocino County. This bust occurred last week about 11:30 pm. If it were atypical it wouldn't be worth noting, but versions of it happen all the time, and wouldn't you think people engaged in illegal activity would be just a little more careful than to toss their Big Mac wrappers out the window when they're driving around with large amounts of dope and cash? Every week, somewhere in Mendocino County, a mentally challenged someone is driving around in the middle of the night with a tail light out or an expired registration etc. The guy (and it's inevitably a guy) is pulled over, often because he's the only person on the road late at night and discovered to be in possession of startling amounts of dope and cash.

ACCORDING to the DA's office, in 2014, the total value of assets seized in Mendocino County was a whopping $5,281,306. Of that, $3,933,766 was cash. In 2013, a cool $1,870,648 in cash was confiscated by the forces of law and order out of a total amount of $2,357,511.

MALCOLM MACDONALD WRITES: “The otherwise fine Franklin Graham piece in the March 18th edition contains an error in the second full paragraph on page 12 (first column in print edition). In the “Where then does this lead?” paragraph Graham states that the Albion (should be Albion Littler River) Fire Protection District took up a proposed ordinance...” Ordinance should read as a “resolution.” Farther down in that paragraph Graham states that the Fire District “passed the ordinance unanimously at a meeting on March 14.” That statement, according to two members of the Albion Little River Fire board is not true, they have gone no further than the discussion stages; though Fire Chief Ted Williams has written a letter to the Board of Supes.”

LEE HOWARD, the most knowledgeable and candid inland Mendo water guy, writes: “More talk! No action — just another loss of 2500 acre-feet of water, with increasing outflows. Does anyone care how much we dump? The people of Redwood Valley could sure use any and all the water that is being dumped! Sonoma County will feel little pain from the water loss and will not want the flow reduced until after Memorial Day as was the case last year. With all of Governor Brown’s talk about, ‘This is a slow-moving disaster, and I’m giving it my best attention.’ I wonder? Is anyone listening? Waste not want not! Stop the dumping of Lake Mendocino now, not tomorrow.”

WRITING IN SUNDAY'S Ukiah Daily Journal, KC Meadows puts Mr. Howard's complaint in its wider context: “It seems obvious that a new method of determining water flows out of Lake Mendocino is needed and needed now. The Sonoma County Water Agency, which regulates the flow from the Lake most of the time (except in flood stage which hasn’t been a problem since the drought kicked in hard) acknowledges that too much water is probably being drained from Lake Mendocino right now because of an almost 30-year-old rule, known as Decision 1610, that defines the weather conditions based on the water levels in Lake Pillsbury. The relationship between Lake Pillsbury water and Lake Mendocino water no longer computes since there is far less water coming in to Lake Mendocino from Lake Pillsbury through the Potter Valley project (due to other government rules too long to get into). The bottom line is that because of the old way of doing things, officially the water condition for Lake Mendocino right now is defined as “normal” even though the entire state of California has been in a drought emergency for several years. Sonoma County Water Agency understands this and is working on submitting an exception to the rule to the state water board so that it can keep more water in Lake Mendocino this year. We think that’s fine, but it seems to us that a permanent fix is needed. Our county, Sonoma County and our state reps — who are no doubt well aware of this problem — should push hard on the state’s water board to either give Sonoma County Water Agency more flexibility to decide what’s an emergency, or dump the old Rule 1610 for something that makes sense during a drought.”

THE OVERALL WATER situation for inland Mendocino County is bleaker this year than it was last year at this time. As knowledgeable water watcher puts it: “Part of the prob, a big part, is that Mendo is the little dog in the pack. Sonoma County Water Agency (and the Sonoma BOS sits as their governing board) will not support dialing back the water release from Lake Mendocino before Memorial Day. They do not want complaints from the Russian River resort operators, canoe rental businesses, and overall business community who rely in part on summer recreational river users. They have the water rights and the money. Meanwhile, here in Mendo, households in Redwood Valley will be threatened with their tap running dry.”

CULTURE NOTES: “The Scene of the Crime — A reporter's journey to My Lai and the secrets of the past” by Seymour Hersh in the March 30th New Yorker. It's a must read for everyone whose lives were changed by the War On Vietnam, and should be read as a cautionary tale by everyone else, especially young people, not that our current foreign policy of War Forever Against Everyone is likely to be influenced by history or warnings not to do it again.

OUT OF THE ENNUI inspired by an 80 degree day in March (!) and the beginnings of another premature early summer that continues year-round, I net flicked “Blue Jasmine” by Woody Allen. I wanted to flee about five minutes in but my wife brought me up short. “You always do that before you even give it a chance.” Chastened, I sat back down and gave it a chance, what’s left of my aesthetic intake valves groaning at the faked authenticity of stuttering (and real dumb) dialogue. (Terri Gross is also a great one for faking the uh and ums although everyone of them is tightly scripted. So I watched the romantic adventures of mildly repellent people worked out in a narrative that a couple of twelve-year-old girls could have knocked out at recess. The working class characters are presented as dummies and oafs with violent tendencies, the supposedly desirable people come off as complete twits, not that they're intended to. Cate Blanchett is very good, but then she has real talent and is always good. The thing is filmed in Frisco and Marin. The story line is two sisters adopted at birth, Cinderella and Cinder-in-the-Eye. One sister, not the elegant Blanchett, goes for blue-collar men because, you see, the cool rich guys are beyond her. The contempt for the kind of people who can actually do things is prevalent in our culture anymore and they are people Allen never depicts as smart and capable in any of his movies. In this one, Blanchett goes for a priapic financial swindler who goes to jail and kills himself there, then she goes for a Gavin Newsom-like guy, an alleged foreign service person who somehow can afford a home in Belvedere and has his eye on California public office, and gosh wouldn't she look good in photo ops on the campaign trail. Things work out for Cinder-in-the-Eye but Blanchett winds up on the edge of bag lady-ism. The movie was so irritating I had to write about it to exorcise it.

FROM THE INDISPENSABLE MENDOSPORTSPLUS, by its inimitable editor, Paul McCarthy: “Former Advocate Editor back in Florida and is now editor in chief at Florida's Act News Newspaper. Well that certainly didn't take long. After being lured from Florida to California last November to be editor at the Mendocino Beacon/Advocate News, Suzette Cook, a plucky, hardworking photojournalist dug in and instantly injected some life into the moribund coast newspapers. Her reward? She received the bum's rush out of town before her three-month probationary period expired. The coast newspaper’s loss is Florida's gain. Ms. Cook doesn't know how lucky she is to escape the dysfunctional newspapers. Cook is at the helm of a newspaper located in Alachua, Florida (population 9,059, part of the Gainesville, Florida Metropolitan Area).


“THE ADVOCATE issued this terse statement about Ms. Cook’s 'departure' on February 11: “Suzette Cook has decided to pursue other endeavors and has stepped down as Editor of The Mendocino Beacon and Fort Bragg Advocate News. We appreciate all she's done during her time here and wish her well on her journey!'

“NO ONE bought the 'pursue other endeavors' baloney. Why didn't they just say they pushed her out the door?

“WHY didn't she last here? It could be because of things like these comments people left on the Advocate’s website upon hearing of her departure: 'Too bad. She brought a great and positive energy to both the paper and this site.' … 'Bummer! She had vision, and community! … 'She is a fantastic human, will be missed!'

“LAST NOVEMBER, Advocate Publisher Sharon DiMauro (who has to GO herself if the newspaper is to get back where it once was as the newspaper of record) wrote in Editor & Publisher: 'We cast a wide net, looking for just the right person for the job,' said DiMauro, who is celebrating her 33rd anniversary with the papers this month. 'We looked for, and are pleased to have found, someone who has lived and worked in Mendocino County and is familiar with the issues and challenges faced by our diverse communities.' She should have added: 'And then we'll get rid of her after she moves here from Florida and does a fantastic job.'

ALTHOUGH they didn't trumpet the news, new Advocate Sports Editor Chris Calder was listed as the 'editor' on the paper's masthead last week. Last year, Calder replaced newspaper veteran Amy Johnston who joined the exodus of the paper’s 'award winning' staff over the past couple years.

FRANKLIN GRAHAM, as you can see from this week’s lead article, has been covering the MRC-Dead Standing Timber. He reports that the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss the issue (effectively raised by the Albion Little River Fire Department) on April 21, 2015. “It has been reported that MRC intends to meet individually with each supervisor before the supervisors take up the issue in open forum,” adding, “it would be proper, perhaps even legal procedure (?), to insist that what is said by MRC behind closed doors to county elected officials should be made public before the April 21 Board of Supervisors meeting. It would be against public interest to withhold any information pertaining to this issue.”

WHY WOULD MRC want to meet individually with each supervisor prior to the meeting? Why would the Supervisors even agree to it? After all, if MRC simply wants to tout itself as the big improvement over Louisiana-Pacific that they insist they are, if they want to brag about all the wonderful things they’re doing for their forests, why not say it in public so that we all can hear it?

THE ONLY REASON MRC would want to meet privately is that MRC wants the Supervisors to know that there are things they could do or not do that might be negatively affected by how the Board reacts to the obvious fire hazard MRC is creating by hack and squirt chemical procedures. If we had Supervisors with functioning cojones, they’d make it clear — on the record themselves — that MRC is free to make any statements they want either in writing (and on the record) before the meeting, or during the meeting — just like anyone else.

BUT THEN MRC ISN’T “just anyone else,” are they?

LAST THURSDAY'S HEARING on the Old Coast Hotel conversion to a half-way house had been set for Ten Mile Court, Fort Bragg. Judge Brennan recused himself for no stated reason that we've been able to find, but we would suppose it's because he'd rather not hear something this controversial. Mendo judges often avoid hot cases for political reasons, claiming conflicts so removed from anything having to do with their honors that it's invisible to the rest of us. It's odd that they duck the cases likely to make large numbers of people unhappy since most of them run unopposed or are opposed by someone who can't afford to campaign county-wide or is only known in his or her home town. Mendocino County's nine (9) judges enjoy lifetime jobs, not that that lush assurance makes them any less timid and, in our opinion, any more accountable to the public they allegedly serve.

SO, THE MATTER of the conversion of the Old Coast Hotel went over the hill to Ukiah to be heard last Thursday, and please note here how a judge from Ukiah could just as well driven over the hill to Fort Bragg if the County's Superior Court operated with the convenience of citizens as its first priority. (That grand day is unlikely to arrive in our lifetimes.) No, Fort Bragg had to go to the judge and Fort Bragg's $200-an-hour attorney, meaning for the convenience of two people the many residents of Fort Bragg interested in the case, and their Mendocino-based attorney, Rod Jones, had to make the five hour round trip to Ukiah for a matter that should have been heard by Judge Stoner Dude in FB.


(FORT BRAGG'S $200-an-hour San Francisco attorney, Samantha Zutler, gets to make the easier drive up 101 from SF to Ukiah rather than via Willits then over 20 to FB, although if she'd driven all the way out to the coast she could have racked up a night or two in a nice ocean-view room for a total one-hour court appearance payday of at least a cool thou. Ukiah is not the kind of town a yuppo Frisco lawyer wants to linger in no matter how much padding she or he can sew on to her bill. And no matter how extortionately large his or her billings are, the Fort Bragg City Council will fork right over. What the hell, Mayor Turner and his city manager say to themselves, it's not coming out of our pocket.)

THE ENTIRE COAST HOTEL matter ought to cause Fog Belters to get out their pitchforks and head for city hall. Boiled down, here's what this deal is: The Fort Bragg City Council is poised to sign off on a bloc grant worth a $1.2 million in public money to pay most of that public money to a private individual, Mr. Carine, whose property will then be given free of charge for the benefit of another private individual, Mr. Ortner of Yuba City, and a Fort Bragg non-profit called Hospitality House. This transaction is being sold as being in the public interest because its beneficiaries claim it will enable their ace therapists (all publicly-funded and who include a tai chi instructor) to make a half-dozen or so mental cases more or less functional again. There is no follow-up or anything even resembling transparency that might enable the public to see what kind of rehab success the public is getting for all this lavishly compensated “compassion.”

Tom Ortner
Tom Ortner

MENDOCINO COUNTY is spending over $15 million a year on mental health services, half that amount going to Mr. Ortner over in Yuba City and, as we can all see, no more drunks are committing slo-mo suicide on the streets of Mendocino County, the public crazies have all been enfolded in the loving embrace of Mr. Ortner and Mendocino County's helping professionals, and all the tweakers and terminal drug people are at last getting help getting off dope and off the streets. The homeless, who are versions of all the above, have all been housed.

ANYBODY who opposes this conversion of Coast Hotel in the center of Fort Bragg to a six-bed rehab center, anybody who holds out for REAL mental health programs, is denounced as heartless and a comprehensively bad person.

CONCERNED CITIZENS of Fort Bragg, via attorney Rod Jones, wanted a court order restraining the City of Fort Bragg from going ahead with the Old Coast deal for a lot of obvious reasons that amount to protection of the true public interest which, boiled down, is not represented by plunking a nebulous rehab program down in an historic and beautiful old structure in the middle of Fort Bragg.

EXCERPTED from Jones' comprehensive brief: … “Nowhere has the City sought to explain why this site was selected over the approximate twenty-plus other sites that MCHC claimed to have reviewed. Nowhere does the City analyze the cost-effectiveness of spending $1.2 million in taxpayer dollars that will only produce 5 additional rooms for emergency/transitional shelter when it has indicated the deficiency is as many as 20 needed rooms. Why a facility that offers the necessary number of rooms cannot be acquired for over a million dollars is not explained anywhere…”

THE UPSHOT of the hearing was that Henderson did not issue a restraining order because Fort Bragg had not yet completed the process for the $1.2 in federal grant money, “and it would be premature to try restraining the City presently.”

AFTER THE OLD COAST hearing in Ukiah last Thursday morning in Judge Henderson's courtroom, a battle of the press releases commenced. Opponents of the City's cockamamie plans to plop down a half way house in the center of town had gone to court to get a restraining order against the plopping down. Their press release outlined the judge's ruling, explaining that the judge had simply ruled that their request was premature given that the city council had not quite approved funding.

BUT MAYOR TURNER managed to spin the ruling as a big win for him and the sagacity of the City's $200-an-hour lawyer. Turner did not attend Thursday's hearing. Whatever he knows about the judge's ruling he got from the attorney.

THE MAYOR was not only incorrect in his interpretation of what happened, having simply passed along the attorney's self-serving and misleading version of events, the pious Turner makes this patronizing statement at the conclusion of the City's incorrect press release: “Although I am pleased to have prevailed in court, I am saddened that a group calling themselves 'Concerned Citizens of Fort Bragg' would waste our taxpayers money and Court time on a frivolous action that the Court pointed out several times was premature.”

THE CITY OF FORT BRAGG has since paid their SF attorney to seek sanctions against Jones and his clients for daring to oppose the City’s attempt to ramrod the Coast Hotel project through. That attorney, Samantha Zutler, filed a motion on behalf of Mayor Turner and his 3-2 City Council majority which conveniently ignores the extensive explanation Jones provided in his declaration about why he filed for the TRO.

LEGALLY, this is a legitimate matter for the court to decide, and if anyone was outtaline it was Ms. Zutler who tried to threaten Jones into not filing. As Jones notes, the City effectively committed to the Coast Hotel when they approved the “forgivable loan” (i.e. grant/gift) for it so they could meet some kind of Community Block Grant deadline for this year or next. If they couldn’t find a way to spend the Grant this year, they’d lose it and the only building that was willing to come in for less than the grant amount was the Coast Hotel, which magically dropped their price of more than $2 million just in time for the deal to be made in January. Now the City wants to pretend that they have not “acted” on the proposal? Preposterous.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *