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Off the Record (Apr 8, 2015)

THE FORT BRAGG CITY COUNCIL, three of them anyway, is going all out for conversion of the Old Coast Hotel, a fact made clear in last week's edition of the Fort Bragg Advocate. The paper contains an expensive pro-conversion display ad and a guest editorial by 5th District supervisor Hamburg and 2nd District supervisor John McCowen co-writing in favor of an important 4th District matter.

THE TWO UKIAH CARPETBAGGERS were not joined by the 4th District supervisor, Dan Gjerde. When I asked McCowen why no Gjerde on the pro-opinion piece, McCowen said if Gjerde had signed on the three of them would have constituted an illegal meeting in violation of the Brown Act.

SUCH SCRUPULOUSNESS! In a county where the laws allegedly guaranteeing the public's right to know are violated virtually every time a public board meets, the public's business is conducted mostly in private. As this deal clearly was.

WE ARE UNLIKELY to know who or on whose authority the City of Fort Bragg got together with Mr. Carine when Carine magically knocked more than a cool million off his asking price for the Old Coast Hotel, but someone at the City pushed hard for a halfway house at the site.

THE MILLION DOLLAR come down was Carine's first known act of charity. More likely, as one Fort Bragg old timer put it to me, "Carine doesn't live here, isn't happy that he couldn't make a go of the place himself or sell it for the two million he wanted, so this is his middle finger to his old home town as he heads south down Highway One."

SUPERVISOR GJERDE undoubtedly wishes the matter of the Old Coast Hotel would just go away. If he were balls out for it like McCowen and Hamburg, Mayor Turner and Turner's two robo-votes on the present Council, Dietz and Hammerstrom, I'm sure we would have heard. I daresay the sensible Gjerde thinks the whole show stinks, from its non-public origins to its hurry-up hustle through a rigged public process to this last minute blitz before the vote on the enabling funding grant, Monday evening, 6pm, Town Hall, April 13th.

A HALF-WAY HOUSE for a half-dozen allegedly rehabbing homeless people could just as well be located in one of the many three bedroom, two bath houses presently for sale in Fort Bragg. And if you're talking about true need, how about a place for beleaguered single mothers, to name one large group whose welfare is crucial to any society?

IRONICALLY, this week's Fort Bragg Advocate also contains an interesting piece by Chris Calder on the revival of another Fort Bragg landmark, the Golden West Saloon only a couple of blocks from the Old Coast Hotel. I say "ironically" because Old Coast and Golden West are architecturally and conceptually similar. Both are bars with rooms upstairs. Historically, both places catered to the single men who worked in the mill and in the woods. The young people who've invested themselves in the revival of the Golden West could have done the same thing with the Old Coast because Carine had it perpetually for sale and kept it maintained to a perfect turnkey pitch. But Carine would have wanted more than $2 mil from them to maintain Old Coast as the bar, restaurant and hotel it was designed to be.

THE OLD COAST SAGA serves nicely as an object lesson in how civic Mendocino County works, from the Supervisors and the local courts on down through local school boards. All of these bodies are dominated by soft liberals of the enthusiastic Democratic Party type. And public employment in Mendocino County being a soft lib business top to bottom, hence McCowen and Hamburg weighing in on a halfway house an hour west from their homes in Ukiah. (McCowen lives in Ukiah, Hamburg just outside the city limits.) They are merely reassuring the people who put them in office that they remain loyal to the public employment and nonprofit axis that elected them. Non-profit and public employees, and I include all the school districts, make up more than half of all employed people in the County.

ALMOST ALL the County's shot callers are Hillary-type Democrats, defined as endless imperial wars against half the people in the world, tacit approval of oligarchy as a way of political life, race and class-based justice system, mandatory private health insurance in lieu of single payer, and on and on. Mendolib is pretty much indistinguishable in practice from Republicans but, like Republicans, they're doing just fine themselves.

WHENEVER an issue like homelessness comes along, Mendolib always rides out on their neutered white horses to be noisily in favor of the "helping professions," i.e., them and their friends.

ONE WOULD THINK that a much more pressing issue for the supervisors would be the constant loss of Sheriff's deputies to much higher paying counties, to name one ongoing fact of local life that affects everyone here. The deputies who stay on, like all County employees, took a ten percent pay cut three years ago. The pay cut hasn't been restored while County bureaucrats hire old pals on personal services contracts and Mendolib's Fort Bragg branch makes an opaque deal to convert an historic building in its town center to a halfway house where an even more opaque mental health apparatus claims, with zero follow-up evidence ever that it can make broken people whole again!

SUPERVISOR DAN HAMBURG sits on the County's Mental Health Board and Supervisor McCowen sits as Hamburg’s “alternate” as local government's reps. That board, incidentally, is dominated by self-interested "helping professionals" who constantly work to purge the board's independent-minded mental health advocates. That's another Mendolib hallmark: "No Dissent. Ever! We Are the Good and the True, and We Have Spoken!"

McCOWEN AND HAMBURG WRITE in their mawk-drenched opinion piece, "…Mental illness can affect anyone, including our friends and family members. Many who suffer from mental illness also struggle with substance abuse. Not surprisingly, many also become homeless. Finding a location for any facility designed to help our most vulnerable citizens has become increasingly difficult. Many people will agree: ‘Yes, we need these facilities in our community, but not here.’ In fact, that happened to Hospitality House just last year. It is fair to ask, if not here, where, and if not now, when?”

WELL, THEN, can we please see the list of possible sites the so-called search committee looked at and rejected as "inappropriate" (Mendolib's fave all-purpose pejorative) before settling on the Old Coast Hotel?

Tom Ortner
Tom Ortner

EVEN BY MENDOLIB standards the present, freshly privatized part of local Mental Health services is corrupt — not in the usual sense of taking cash for favors, I mean corrupt in the lazy, self-interested sense characteristic of the deal that saw the supervisors give a private party, Mr. Ortner of Yuba City, between $7 and $8 million a year in Mendocino County mental health contracts. The Old Coast Hotel will be an Ortner operation even on the off chance a few destitute mental cases somehow become more or less functional again. And he'll be pulling in huge money from state and federal reimbursements every step of the way. (He charges by the minute. Among other mental health coping strategies Ortner will offer at Coast Hotel is tai chi. Hmmm. See any room for billing fraud here?)

ORTNER is supposed to be doing all of the County's mental health heavy lifting, and the guy responsible for reporting back to the supervisors on how well Ortner is holding up his end of the lush bargain he got is a fellow named Tom Pinizzotto, a former Ortner employee and the man who hustled the deal past the board of supervisors. Pinizzotto, having left Ortner, now functions as a boss at what remains of Mendocino County's mental health services.

ORTNER AND HIS REDWOOD MANAGEMENT COMPANY will get $2.61 per minute for “assessment/plan development/case conferencing therapy (individual, group and family)/ collateral services rehabilitation services (individual & group)”; and for “therapeutic behavioral services.” They’ll get $2.02 per minute for “case management linkage.” $3.88 per minute for “crisis intervention.” And $4.82 per minute for “medication management and support.” (Note: $2.02 per minute is about $121 per hour. $2.61 per minute is about $157 per hour. $3.88 per minute is about $233 per hour. And $4.82 per minute is about $290 per hour.)

CONTINUING their "guest editorial" in the Advocate with the drop-fall pomposity synonymous with Hamburg prose, Hamburg and McCowen conclude, “We commend the Fort Bragg City Council for having the courage to move forward with this critically needed project despite strong opposition and threats to remove them from office."

RECALL isn't exactly a full frontal machete attack but a perfectly understandable reaction to a public body's high handedness as that public body defies majority community opinion. Anyway, what's so courageous about any of this?

WHILE WE'RE LINGERING in Fort Bragg, we see that the City is advertising for an assistant city manager. Salary? $96,000. The city manager herself hauls in more than a hundred thou. These jobs of course come with the full fringe monte that privately employed people can only dream of.

YOU HEAR A LOT of stories out of San Francisco about people urinating and defecating wherever. It happens with enough frequency to outrage citizens and visitors alike. Usually, though, it happens in the downtown area, not much out in the avenues, never in the posh neighborhoods where private security people and uniformed cops pounce on street people simply for walking on through. I saw a guy just last week taking an unabashed leak between two parked cars on Clement between 9th and 10th. Ordinarily, the public urinators crouch or otherwise at least nod in the direction of decorum by trying to disguise what they're up to. This particular public splasher merely stepped between two cars and let fly. A white transient, he looked to be more of a dope-oriented self-medicator than a drunk. In his defense, there are no public bathrooms anywhere in a couple square miles, but the casual way he just whipped it out as passersby harrumphed and tsk-tsked indicated he was long past caring.

THE POISONER’S HANDBOOK. Over the years Timber Companies have sprayed herbicides on tens of thousands of acres in Mendocino County. Many of these dead standing trees, which increase fire risk, can be seen here:

These herbicide totals below only include the last 3 years and only include the most commonly used herbicide, Imazapyr. The practice continues.

Mendocino County Ag Data for Forest-Timberland Imazapyr Users

2014 IMAZAPYR TOTALS: 6838 acres, 1022 gallons


  • 4752 acres; 758 gallons — Mendocino Redwood Company, LLC
  • 923 acres; 114 gallons — Campbell Timberland Management
  • 570 acres; 25 gallons — Blencowe Watershed Management
  • 240 acres; 51 gallons — Gualala Redwoods INC
  • 160 acres; 23 gallons — Soper Wheeler
  • 70 acres; 15 gallons — Powers Forestry
  • 47 acres; 23 gallons — North Coast Resource Management
  • 40 acres; 5 gallons — Jackson Demo State Forest CDF
  • 36 acres; 8 gallons — Conservation Fund

2013 IMAZAPYR TOTALS: 9101 acres, 1560 gallons


  • 6676 acres; 1213 gallons — Mendocino Redwood Company, LLC
  • 1122 acres; 163 gallons — Campbell Timberland Management
  • 345 acres; 18 gallons — Blencowe Watershed Management
  • 271 acres; 32 gallons — Conservation Fund
  • 266 acres; 21 gallons — Soper Wheeler
  • 234 acres; 78 gallons — EMCOT Forest LLC
  • 90 acres; 10 gallons — Camp Mendocino — Boys & Girls
  • 35 acres; 13 gallons — Coomb's Tree Farms, INC
  • 27 acres; 4 gallons — Gualala Redwoods INC
  • 25 acres; 5 gallons — Aaron Wells
  • 10 acres; 3 gallons — Jackson Demo State Forest CDF

2012 IMAZAPYR TOTALS: 6825 acres, 1200 gallons


  • 5837 acres; 876 gallons — Mendocino Redwood Company, LLC
  • 295 acres; 54 gallons — Campbell Timberland Management
  • 282 acres; 127 gallons — Soper Wheeler
  • 268 acres; 124 gallons — EMCOT Forest LLC
  • 73 acres; 10 gallons — Conservation Fund
  • 70 acres; 5 gallons — Congaree River Limited


Brand names of Imazapyr used 2012-2014:

  • Alligare Imazapyr 4
  • Arsenal Herbicide Ap
  • Nufarm Polaris (With Many Different Brand-Name Endings)
  • Rotary 2 SL

Timber companies may use other herbicides (besides Imazapyr) to Hack & Squirt trees, so the above totals may not represent the complete extent of H&S done in Mendocino County the past few years. For example, in 2014, in addition to their imazapyr use (seen above), MRC also used sizable amounts of glyphosate and triclopyr:

  • 1004 acres; 317 gallons — triclopyr (aka Garlon)
  • 811 acres; 299 gallons — glyphosate (aka RoundUp)

— Chris Skyhawk

THE CASPAR woman found dead on the rocks at the base of a steep cliff near Caspar Point late last Wednesday afternoon has been identified as Michelle Mixon, 42. She apparently carefully removed much of her clothing, stacked it neatly on the bluff and hurled herself over the side.

SHERIFF ALLMAN posted the following on his facebook page on Thursday: Two policemen call the station on the radio. “Hello, is that you Sarge?” “Yes?” “We have a case here. A woman has shot her husband for stepping on the floor she had just mopped clean.” “Have you arrested the woman?” “No sir. The floor is still wet.”

DATELINE SANTA ROSA: Helen Keller, the deaf blind and formerly dumb celebrity was billed for a lecture in the Columbia Theater here tonight. But she did not lecture. A matter of money sealed her lips, so far as the Santa Rosa public is concerned. Ann S. Macy, Miss Keller's tutor-manager, spoke for an hour to the 200 in the auditorium. Then Miss Keller was called. She sat “mute.” The opera house people say she wanted a bigger house, but Mrs. Macy says all she held out for was $250, which had been promised her for the night. And there was only $120 in the box office. Mrs. Macy said Miss Keller did not want to violate her agreement with the Lyceum Bureau. She was importuned to go on with her lecture on “Happiness” for the edification of Santa Rosa; she was begged to go on, and begged some more. But Miss Keller was adamant. Santa Rosans did not hear Helen Keller, and the Columbia Theater still retains the $120. — SF Chronicle, April 6th, 1915.

MEANWHILE, down the road in San Francisco, the Chron reported that the Wonderland at Market and Grant offered a live show featuring the Samar Siamese twins, Chief Whiteface and his wrestling bears, the Matamoras knife and tomahawk throwers, Sally the educated chimp, and the Papuan cannibals.

RE NEW MANAGEMENT at the Mendocino Redwood Company, a reader writes: "There is a problem there. But it is not unique to MRC. Some of the vineyard-wine companies have the same problem. They get caught in the notion that community relations begins and ends by writing a check to the fire department, or some other local non-profit. In reality, writing a check, no matter how big, does not buy you much for very long. Being actively involved, committed, with a personal presence is what is required. Jere Melo was a good example of real involvement. And it does not matter how — City Council, Boy Scouts, school sports, church, fire department, Rotary, Lions Club, food bank, 4-H, FFA, etc. People working for these companies need to have a presence beyond a guy or gal driving by in a pickup. The head guy should be someone people recognize on the street. In the past, this is the way it was. The problem starts at the top. And the problem is going to be resolved from the top. Simple, require all employees to demonstrate some level of community involvement. If need be, allow time for it. Salaried employees are under a lot of pressure to get the job done. And they do need time for their families. But community involvement is a requirement as well. Otherwise be a foreigner, and be treated as one."

DEPT. OF SODDEN THOUGHTS: Congress has a progressive caucus we never hear about, the Senate has Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. But will any of them take on the beast come election time? No. The Democratic convention will conclude with the usual big show of photo-op solidarity as Sanders and Warren put on their Kucinich grins and ask us all to get behind Hillary.

EVERY DAY there's a story about how bad American education is, but if you live in one of America's wealthy bubbles where the public schools are quite good, a bubble like Marin, or you can afford $40 grand a year to send your heirs to a private school, K-12 education here in Liberty Land is probably as good as it is anywhere else in the world.

THE WHITE AND ASIAN professional classes of San Francisco have pretty much abandoned Frisco's public schools, not that any of them would likely admit that it's the pure fear of their children being physically harmed in the perceived chaos of the keen teen-public school milieu that propels them from public ed.

ONE OF MY NEPHEWS sent all three of his kids to San Francisco public schools through junior high school where they became bilingual. They then attended private high schools. His eldest daughter just won a Fullbright to teach in Mexico. His son abandoned secondary education to go off to Spain with his girlfriend, who seems to have also abandoned four years of high school seat time. Nephew's three kids commuted to school on Muni. The worst thing that ever happened to any of them was nephew's daughter got called a “white bitch” by a Mexican girl. (Another thing liberal SF never mentions is that street-level racism of the “white bitch” type comes mostly from the black and brown victims of racism.)

WHICH BRINGS ME, class, to the point of today's sermon: Get rid of high schools altogether. For most young people they're a waste of time. It was for me, certainly, and I passed through one many years ago, bored out of my skull, doing just enough classroom work to stay eligible for sports. I read a lot, though, simply as a means of self-defense, meaning that as a kid I read to try to understand what was going on around me, adult informants being totally unreliable or straight-up crazy. Another stumbling four years of seat time at institutions of alleged higher learning prepared me for exactly nothing, unless you consider lying down and reading a book some kind of qualification. Liberal arts kinds of people should be encouraged to pack it in after the 8th grade. I wish I had, and I wish, looking back, I'd learned some kind of trade with specific skills attached like basic carpentry or, better yet, the fundamentals of agriculture.

YOUNG PEOPLE, formal education beyond the 8th grade, having been abandoned, with an aptitude for the hard sciences would continue their training in technical schools. For the rest of us, the most important part of the 8th grade leaving-school-forever-in-order-to-learn ceremony would be the presentation of a reading list, a comprehensive selection of crucial fiction and non-fiction that would prepare you to, ah, become a blah-blah person — lawyer, helping professional, teacher, and so on. Those professions would be entered after rigorous examinations. Since schools no longer even bother to teach composition, although the ability to write clearly gives any young person a HUGE leg up in the world, it's the worst thing the schools don't do among everything else they don't do, like, what's the point of school after you learn how to read and some basic math?

I KNOW, I KNOW. In the big world out there it's a waste of time to even discuss other ways of organizing life in sensible ways. Out there, we've reached a perfect state of entropy. Nothing can change. If this country does change in any significant way for the better and not careen into overt fascism, it will be in the tumult following catastrophe and, to me anyway, it seems that catastrophe is coming right up.

PS. A COLLEAGUE JUST ASKED, “Well, gee, didn't you have any good teachers?” I don't know. Maybe. But I only remember one, a guy named Ted Miranda. I think he taught math, but I knew him mostly as a football and baseball coach at the JV level of those sports. He ran afoul of the administration somehow and wouldn't back down. I have vague memories of Miranda's difficulties being a matter of principle, but principles being like scruples, you can't eat 'em, can you?

STUDENTS were united for Miranda. An adult drawing the line at the risk of his job? None of us had seen that, but say what you will about adolescence most of us never see as clearly again. Of course the guy wound up getting fired and I remember being very angry about it — everyone who knew him was angry about it. It was the first time I'd seen an adult stand up, really stand up against the idiot authoritarians who run public schools and everything else. Looking back, I'm sure Miranda was exactly the kind of guy sensible people would want their kids around, but then and now, fear rules, and Miranda was the kind of person that our system fears most.

ONE MORE THING: Miranda vs The Horribles would have been around 1954 at Tamalpais High School, Mill Valley, an odd school for the times in that the student body was about a third black, a third rich kids, everyone else the scions of everyday working people, including lots of blue collar working people. There were “racial tensions,” as the euphemism goes, with the first full-on race riot in all of the Bay Area at Tam High in, I think, '54 or '55, where the fighting was so fierce it took cops from all over, including San Francisco, to break it up. Anyway, the politics of the era — it was the time of Senator McCarthy — were just as poisonous as race relations. A nutty old bat named Ann Smart (sic) was a constant presence at Marin County school board meetings where she demanded that high school libraries be purged of “subversive” books. Natch, all the school boards and school administrators hurried to comply with Ms. Smart's crackpot ultimatums, the upshot being that subversive books were kept behind literal lock and key in the school library. Students had to have written permission from their parents to read them. I, like a couple of hundred other nascent beatniks, immediately obtained the requisite permission from my dear old mum and was soon plowing my way through the otherwise unread and unreadable vegetarian and pacifist tracts that Ms. Smart had deemed subversive.

One Comment

  1. Rick Weddle April 8, 2015

    re: drop HS…

    I’m pretty sure those years I spent ‘learning’ in public education facilities could’ve been way better spent (in the way of an education) somewhere else. There was very little to interest me or any of us, really. Those who ‘succeeded’ were just those who could divine out what they wanted us to say, and who’d then go on and say it. One either participated in the humiliating, deathly charade and went home whole at the end of the day (succeeded), or…bad grades, immediate stigma, and lifelong classification as ‘fail.’ This arrangement is recognized, almost 100%, by kids by the time they’re in 2d grade. Even if it’s not on their particular, conscious radar, they get an instinctive feel for it…or against it. The lucky and determined found Life and its manifold mysteries elsewhere, saving us and teaching us.

    There were some golden, revelatory moments anyway, in spite of the odds against such a thing. There was the ‘dress code’ fiasco at our hs that every one of us recall with a smile, and that’s resonated in other instances over the intervening years. The kinds of clothing and styles of wearing them were ‘ours,’ ways we identified ourselves between ourselves and in the world at large. The tight-fitting or immodest fashions of our times were pretty pale and tame compared with today’s sartorial statements, but they definitely caught the eyes of the public and the school administration. The official Frown upon kids’ dress became intense enough they decided to establish a dress code, outlining what was acceptable for student wardrobe. I’m glad to say that day saw the spontaneous activation of most all the student body in defiance of this new Rule. Word spread in the morning of this impending new regulation so that by lunch, every kid knew about it and all had decided on a course of action.

    When the bell rang at the end of the lunch period, the common areas and athletic fields were crowded with kids milling about, excited, determined to make their wishes heard loud and clear. There was not one warm chair in any classroom. Since a public school’s funding was based on how many seats are currently being filled, this action effectively cancelled their cashflow on the spot.

    There was a little more huffing and puffing on the part of administrators, but they finally saw the futility of their position (within an hour, as I recall), classes were peacefully reconvened, and there was no more nonsense talk about dress codes.

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