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Off the Record (Aug 5, 2015)

MENDOCINO COUNTY firefighters have filed a citizen initiative to address the danger posed by millions of trees killed and left standing in the forest.

ALBION-LITTLE RIVER fire chief Ted Williams explains: "This initiative safeguards firefighters from unnecessary manufactured hazards and residents from loss of critical infrastructure, including escape routes and telecommunications lifelines. It effectively places people before private industry profit, shifting damage losses from the citizens to the corporations who stand to profit from radical forest management practices. It’s about industry accountability."

THE TIMBER INDUSTRY in Mendocino County kills over one million "undesirable" hardwood trees each year and leaves them standing dead in the forest because they see it as the cheapest and easiest way to restore the more profitable conifers.

RETIRED CAL FIRE Air Attack Captain Kirk Van Patten observes: "In ten years of aerial wildland firefighting in Mendocino County, one of the most profound and troubling observations I made was the timber management practice of hack & squirt. This clearly has created a serious wildland fire threat for the firefighters and citizens of Mendocino County."

dead trees

THE INITIATIVE To Prohibit Social Service Organizations in the Central Business District of Fort Bragg (a four block area) was found insufficient. This is what happened and what is happening: The total number of registered voters, 3124, was not disclosed by the city until after the petition was submitted. The law allows them to do this and the number must come from the city. Proponents of the petition submitted it in less than 3 weeks so it could be put on the November ballot and NOT cost the city extra money for a Special Election The total needed to get the initiative on the ballot was "no less than 10%" of the 3124 number. The county found 312 valid signatures. Fourth grade math rules say that 312 is 10% of 312.4 However, the city has discretion and The city of Fort Bragg decided to round up instead of down and found the petition insufficient due to the .4 — yes, four tenths of a signature that was missing. The papers were filed at city hall today to start the whole process over again along with the second $200 fee for filing. The proponents are not giving up. They have asked the city council to pass a resolution to put it on the ballot in November by August 7 so that it doesn't cost the city extra money to have a special election. And so the people of Fort Bragg can vote n the issue and be done with it. Signatures were invalid mainly because people forgot to re-register after they moved to a new address in town. There were enough registered voters, not enough with valid addresses.

I hope that clears this up.

--Anne Marie Cesario (Fort Bragg, writing on MCN ListServe)

TYPICAL NON-RESPONSE to the Grand Jury's report that Mendocino County's Children's Services employs uncredentialed, or under-credentialed people to handle abuse and neglect cases. The County's response was a terse "We've got a waiver from the state" with no evidence produced that the County in fact has one.

IT SHOULD be obvious that unless you have intelligent, conscientious people investigating these cases, dependent children can be harmed, even killed as in the awful Wilson Tubbs case in Fort Bragg. And CPS in this County bungles too often.

PERTINENT COMMENT from James Marmon re CPS procedures in Mendocino County: "HHSA agreed to all the GJ findings regarding late court reports, something the judges have been upset about for years. My experience with Presiding Judge Nelson in dependency court is that he is very supportive of FCS and would just about rubberstamp anything FCS presented to the court. However, a few years ago he did talk to one of my colleagues who now works for the VA about this very issue, under-qualified staff. My colleague explained the different classifications and educational standards to him. The problem with the Mendocino County court reports is that social workers do not state their classification or educational credentials on their court reports. In other counties this is required. The judge or the lawyers have no idea if the report is coming from a social worker I, which is a trainee position, or a social worker V which is a master level classification with at least two years experience as a social worker IV. Mendocino County social workers sign documents with just their name, and “Social Worker” only. I always received criticism because all my reports were signed “James Marmon, MSW, Social Worker- V.” I completely identified myself and my credentials. Supervisors who only had bachelor degrees and only met the specification of a social worker III, did not approve of my practice, but it was the way I was taught. They would only sign their names and Social Worker Supervisor only. Now, this relates to my original complaint about FCS protecting their social workers from being “torn apart on the witness stand.” In Mendocino County social workers rarely take the stand. In Del Norte county where I worked for 5 years, the judges were not so social worker-friendly, they had caught social workers lying or excluding exculpatory evidence, so they were leery about rubberstamping anything. There, I testified 2 or 3 times a week and would be drilled by attorneys and the judge. Social workers had to explain themselves and their decisions and recommendation, they were not allowed to just tell the court “It was an Agency decision.” In fact, more than one time a judge would ask me if my recommendation was my own, or the Agency’s, they always wanted to know this. In the 5 years I worked at FCS Mendocino, I took the stand only 3 times, and I worked in the Court Unit. In the 5 years I worked at CPS Del Norte County, I testified at least a hundred times. To sum it all up, Mendocino County FCS does everything they can to hide the fact that they are operating with unqualified staff."

'STRATEGIC PLANNING'. The phrase always makes me laugh, especially in the Mendo context. The Ukiah City Council is retreating to their war room next week to plan strategically. They began planning strategically back in 2007, although for many years and as many strategies the plan seems to be to make Ukiah as unpleasant as possible. Natch, the 2007 Council, as zany a collection of screwballs as Ukiah could manage, couldn't strategically plan on their own so they brought in a consultant named Zuieback, who was either nuts or a performance artist developing a very subtle comedy routine with the Ukiah City Council as unwitting cast members.

WE WROTE at the time: “The Ukiah City Council is going for $15,000 worth of consulting to ‘facilitate goal setting.’ The last time the Council went looking for outside advice, they came up with Ukiah-based consultant Steve Zuieback and his “process enneagram.” I can't remember how much they paid Zuieback for his enema, but the City Council that hired him was purged in the next election.”

WHERE WERE WE: O yes. Strategic planning. The goals in '07 were: Maintain downtown historic place as a regional center of civic and economic activity Planning valley-wide takes place based on sound planning principles Develop a prioritize(d) plan for maintaining and improving public infrastructure Council and staff work together to create a more responsive and effective workplace

YOU REALLY NEED to pay $15 grand to come up with the obvious? Seems so, especially when the money isn't coming straight out of your own pocket. The 2015 strategic plan will be a re-write of the above, but objective number one, "Maintain downtown historic place as a regional center of civic and economic activity" has been destroyed by the plans of our 9 judges to build themselves new courtrooms three long blocks east of the present County Courthouse, meaning not only a major abandonment of central Ukiah but a huge blow to the downtown's many existing businesses that depend heavily on Courthouse traffic. It's highly unlikely that the Ukiah City Council will denounce the plans for the new Courthouse which, predictably, is proceeding without so much as a by your leave of local considerations.

TALK AROUND the County Courthouse is that two judges will be leaving at end of 2016. David Nelson's term ends then, and he's retiring. (Nelson passed the bar in 1972.) Henderson's third term doesn't end until 2018 but word is he's decided to retire early. (Henderson passed the bar in 1974.) There would be an election for Nelson's seat, and a governor's appointment to replace Henderson. Ace criminal defense attorney Keith Faulder is making it known he'll run for Nelson's seat. And we wouldn’t be surprised to see DA David Eyster also in the judicial mix.

THE SINGLE MOST REMARKABLE FACT about San Francisco history, it seems to me, isn't its nineteenth-century intolerance for Chinese immigrants, or its twenty-first century tolerance for nearly every nationality on the planet provided they have cash, brawn or bankable skills, but rather its unrivaled ability to rise from its own ashes with more speed than anywhere else in the world. Call it the City of velocity. What happened in 1915, when the city destroyed a part of itself to rebuild and renew itself, transpired all over again in the 21st century, with vast accumulations of wealth on one side and vast poverty on the other that persuaded longtime residents to talk about the Dickensian world they saw at their feet. The metamorphosis of the old into the new took place faster than ever before, and while San Franciscans lamented the homelessness and the sense of despair they were also elated by the vitality of the City where human beings seemed to be more alive than anywhere else. — Jonah Raskin

A COALITION of animal defense groups is suing Mendocino County. Again. The beef boils down to a claim that Mendo ignored some of the basics of an existing settlement agreement between wildlife preservationists and the County. The Supes, of course, are loathe to interfere with a program stoutly supported by the County's ranchers. The defense organizations also claim that the Supervisors packed their chambers with ranchers who support the ongoing extermination of "nuisance animals" via a $144,000 USDA contract that pays trappers to kill predators, suggesting bias on the Supes end. The animal forces claim the present program is environmentally unsound because it disrupts the natural order. According to USDA stats, federally-funded trappers wiped out 346 animals in 2014, including bobcats, feral pigs, coyotes, and deer.


ENCOUNTER WITH A FREQUENT FLIER: Nick Halvorsen is often seen walking the streets of Fort Bragg, alone, listening to music, headphones on. The first time I ever saw Nick, I was gardening in an alley. To be honest with you, I was terrified. With my usual I'M-TERRIFIED-OF-YOU SMILE, I asked him what headbanger music was he listening to? He offered me his headphones: “Here, listen,” he said. I wanted to scream! I noticed his scent: intoxicating! Then I heard soft, sweet Italian opera music coming from his MP3. Nick said: “What did you expect.” — Susie de Castro, Fort Bragg


FREQUENT FLYER BIRTHDAY WISHES went out to Thomas Lee Sanders last week. Sanders, on pace to set a new Mendo record for the most arrests in the fewest days, has been bagged nine times over the past two months. He was again arrested for drunk in public July 30th, his birthday.

VOLUNTEERS VS. GRAFFITI IN UKIAH — was one of the lead stories in Thursday's UDJ, and nicely done by Sarah Reith, a new name to us. The volunteers referred to in the hed included Supervisor McCowen and Mendo trash bureaucrat Mike Sweeney, the latter a model of civic commitment and an inspiration to us all for many years now. Mike would be here to help, even if he wasn't paid over $100 grand a year to tidy up after us.

McCOWEN, however, has been a committed environmentalist for many years. There's nothing self-aggrandizing about his unheralded hours spent trying to beat back the damage done to the Ukiah Valley's streams by the ever larger population of self-medicating neo-vagabonds.

BUT THE 2nd District Supervisor seems content with his Sisyphean task, and we wonder why he won't at least raise the subject of practical help for the homeless from his Supervisor's bully pulpit?

HERE WE ARE in the beating heart of rural creativity and all-round political grooviness, but we allow drunks, drug heads and crazy people to suffer and die on our streets. Why doesn't McCowen beat the drums for a county farm or mini-housing or some other long-term strategy for dealing humanely with the homeless? Presently, the Supes simply appear for their meetings, their CEO hands them an agenda, they engage in pointless, no-follow-up discussions of whatever they're handed, then they go home. There's zero leadership from any of them on any issue facing Mendocino County. None. It's business as usual. Squared.

WE THINK Fort Bragg is being cynically hustled by the for-profit Ortner Management Group out of Yuba City. OMG wants to convert FB's Old Coast Hotel to an extension of Hospitality House, which OMG also now dominates and profits from. Everyone knows all this by now, but at least Fort Bragg has been forced to think about the homeless and what to do about them, not that a humane solution beyond OMG's cash and carry policies appears to be among the options so long as the halt and the blind dominate the FB city council.

IN THE JULY 31 edition of the Independent Coast Observer, Carolyn Young reports that the Point Arena City Council has voted 3-1 for a “social host ordinance” holding parents accountable for drinking parties in their homes, whether the parents are aware of what “the kids” (all rise) are up to. (PA Councilman Phil Burfoot objected to the “aware or not” provision.) In the middle of Ms. Young’s report she mentions, “Mendocino County has a social host ordinance, however it does not impact Point Arena which, as a city, must institute its own ordinance.”

WE WENT looking for Mendocino County’s “social host ordinance” because it's news to us that we have one, discovering that Mendocino County does not have a social host ordinance.

THERE'S A STATE LAW enacted in 2010 (Assembly Bill 2486) which touches tangentially on the subject as follows;

“Nothing in subdivision (c) shall preclude a claim against a parent, guardian, or another adult who knowingly furnishes alcoholic beverages at his or her residence to a person under 21 years of age, in which case, notwithstanding subdivision (b), the furnishing of the alcoholic beverage may be found to be the proximate cause of resulting injuries or death.”

But that only says that parents “can be” held responsible if there are injuries or death caused by “the kids.” And it’s a state law, not a Mendo “ordinance.”

THE ONLY REFERENCE to a “social host ordinance” for Mendocino County that we could find was in the silly “Parent Resource Guide” on the County’s lamebrain Health and Human Services department website. It says: “Parents can be held financially liable when their child’s willful misconduct results in personal injury or destruction of property.” And then it cites several generic state laws about parental liability for their children, but without specific mention of “social host” parties. And 2. a passing mention a couple of years ago when the Board got a pointless Powerpoint presentation about the number of alcohol outlets in the County called, “Current activities to reduce underage hazardous alcohol consumption in Mendocino County.” Which turned out to be zero beyond the usual nambo-pambo instructions from teetotalers not to do it and that silly list of alcohol sales venues.

WHICH PROVES ONCE AGAIN that assuming that the County has a rule against something you might think obvious is a risky proposition. And even if they have a rule — such as the noise ordinance, which we do have — try getting it enforced.

WALKING THE MEAN STREETS of San Anselmo the other day, I picked up the latest edition of the Pacific Sun, a long-entrenched Marin County weekly, and once the employer of Barbara Boxer who seems to have gone on to greater things. The old weekly featured Mary Lowry and Stephanie Von Buchau, both of whom I knew. Mary, a lively and very funny writer, infuriated the first-wave peacock feathers and hot tub spiritualists who became synonymous with the sybarite sectors of the Marin population. The syms took (and take) themselves very, very seriously, and their indignant riposts to Mary's unrelenting merriment at their expense was wonderful reading. (The utter lack of irony among the Marin groovies is much like that of Mendolib, Hamburg Division.) Stephanie handled the high brow stuff, and was very good at it. The paper did what all good papers should do — outrage the people who deserve to be outraged. These days, the Sun is heavy on faux spirituality and the kind of gastro obsessiveness that infects much of California with its endless chat about wines and food. In other words the paper is pretty much an ad sheet for fuzzbrains. But it does usually have at least one good, long, serious piece — this week on Marin's efforts to shut out low-rent housing, and the letters-to-the-editor are always interesting, especially one called "A fat pension" by Alex Easton-Brown reprinted here. (Hey! All the cool married people hyphenate their names these days, and Marin is cutting edge, I tell you!)

A FAT PENSION by Alex Easton-Brown of Lagunitas:

"The supervisors (Marin's) should not criticize the Citizens for Sustainable Pension Plans for essentially doing the work we pay the Supes and the County staff to do. The citizens group is made up of knowledgeable professionals who are volunteering their time and their resources to try to get Marin County back on a stable economic footing after years of abuse. They do not have the soft cushion of $100,000 plus salaries and the dubious perks that energize the Supes in their antic wild ride with taxpayer dollars. County supervisor is a part-time job with a full-time salary. It is outrageous that we let the Supes pay themselves a fat pension once they leave office: something they ought to do much more frequently. Getting entrenched at the Civic Center is just too easy. Term limits are the only thing that will stop them from hanging out and glorying in their own reflection well beyond their sell-by-date."

AMEN, BRO. I like this guy's anger. We could use it here in Mendocino County where the abuses of the elected entrenched are just as egregious, if not more so. There's no evidence that Mendo's supervisors even work halftime, and pension abuse here hangs like a perpetual guillotine over County government. And, of course, everywhere in the County the elected people simply ratify whatever their overpaid administrators hand them. Name a place anywhere in the County where there's any elected leadership on any significant issue. The Marin guy is correct: the prevalent fiscal irresponsibility will sink the county's ship. It already has in Mendo, where accrued public debt is way beyond any conceivable County ability to pay. Ever. Technically, Mendocino County is broke, not that you'd know it from the way they all throw public money around. (Ditto for America, of course, an ongoing Ponzi that will collapse any day now, and collapse more spectacularly than it did in '08.)


A FEDERAL WRONGFUL DEATH SUIT has been filed by relatives of Steven Kellogg Neuroth, 55, of Ukiah. Formally diagnosed before his arrest as a paranoid schizophrenic, Neuroth died last June 11 in the Mendocino County Jail. The family alleges Neuroth died from a heart attack because of his jailers' "improper and excessive restraint."

THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT says Neuroth was found unconscious in his cell, and that staff tried without success to resuscitate him.

JAMES NEUROTH and sister, Joan Nygren, are alleging wrongful death against Mendocino County, Sheriff Tom Allman, California Forensic Medical Group, Inc., company medical director Dr. Taylor Fithian, who oversees the psychological welfare of jail inmates, and nurse Jennifer Caudillo and several jail deputies.

THE NEUROTH FAMILY'S ATTORNEY, Michael Haddad of Oakland, said Steven Neuroth had not been injured prior to his arrival at the Mendocino County Jail, but the post mortem showed "widespread blunt force injuries, a fractured rib, organ injuries and other serious physical injuries."

NEUROTH was arrested the evening of June 10, 2014 by the Willits Police Department. From the description by the arresting officers Neuroth was seeing snakes and imagining people trying to kill him. From their description, it sounds like Neuroth was maxed out on methamphetamine, but, because he is also mentally ill, one can't know for sure which caused him to go off. What one can know for sure is that the County's privatized mental health system was of zero assistance to the guy. And what we also know for sure is that the police of Mendocino County are, by default, the mental health care providers for all of Mendocino County despite the County's expenditure of roughly $15 million annually to care for the mentally ill.

APPARENTLY THE DOOMED MAN continued to resist restraint at the jail where he had to be forced into a cell. Happens all the time in every jail in the country. Did Neuroth's jailers proceed to beat the crap out of him for the recreation of it? Doubt it. If that happened in our County Jail we would have heard of it. Could Neuroth's injuries have been sustained during the frantic efforts to revive him? Maybe, because that also happens during resuscitation efforts. Could his heart have given out because of the combined effects of meth and the efforts of police to subdue him? Happens all the time.

WHAT HAPPENED TO STEVE NEUROTH? Hugh McAvoy of Ukiah asked in September 2014: "Thanks for mentioning the death of Steve Neuroth. In Off the Record, Sept 10th you reported that he was found dead in his cell at the County Jail. Steve worked for me as a laborer 20 years ago and was well known in Ukiah. He also had friends and family in the Laytonville area. Steve came around to various contractors' job sites and often got to make a bit of money doing clean up and other chores. Steve loved music and I believe played some guitar himself. Steve was a gentle soul trying to make his way as best he could. I was in contact with Steve just prior to his death as he came by my job site looking for a little work. He was in good spirits and, while he looked a bit thin, he appeared healthy. I last saw him on the Thursday before he died, standing at the bus stop on State Street by Safeway. I am very interested in the autopsy results as in my contacts with him he never appeared under the influence of drugs or alcohol or of being severely depressed. So when the newspaper reported he was picked up for being under the influence, something didn’t seem right. Thank you again for keeping the circumstances of Steve’s death at least on the table. Please keep asking the question. There are a lot of us who want to know what happened."

WE NOTE here that Ortner Management Group's role in Mr. Neuroth's death has not been commented on by any of the supervisors who have been all for privatization of the County's mental health services. OMG simply trundled the guy off to the County Jail without even giving him the drink of water that was his last known request.

A MAJORITY of the new Ukiah City Council has decided against a "facilitator" when the City goes deep for its "Strategic Planning" sessions. And good for Jeff Trouette for his plain talk that seems to have slapped some sense into the Council. As quoted in the Ukiah Daily Journal, Trouette, a Ukiah-based plumber, said: “You don’t need to hire a babysitter… We should be able to look to the highly paid city manager for leadership [when it comes to making sure that tasks on the list of goals are being completed]. And if the city manager and department heads aren’t getting things done, they have to be held accountable — and that’s up to the council.”

TROUETTE also pointed out that many Ukiahans are fed up with “meeting after meeting where nothing happens,” and how the City has squandered redevelopment money on high-end jobs and salaries rather than specific projects.

THE DISCONNECT between the civic behavior of the panjandrums of local government and the lives of the people they allegedly "serve" is an ever-widening gulf. I would imagine that when a guy who works as a plumber reads that his town of 16,000 is paying its city manager a quarter of a million dollars a year to run it, the plumber, and everyone else in town who works for a living at a decreasing annual wage, becomes very angry.

FROM TOMMY WAYNE KRAMER'S column in Sunday's Ukiah Daily Journal: "Note: A longstanding but mostly bogus historical rewrite of the closing of California’s state hospitals puts the blame squarely on the desk of Governor Ronald Reagan, who was indeed at the helm in the early ‘70s. The fact is that Reagan could no more unilaterally close the state’s vast network of hospitals down in 1972 than Jerry Brown could today shut down the CHP or CalTrans. Not possible then, nor now. Public opinion had swung against big, prison-like hospitals (think of Nurse Ratched and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and in favor of integrating the mentally ill back into the communities. The California State Legislature obliged."

WELL, NOT EXACTLY. Reagan and the Republicans were, of course, shutting down all government, except the military, and the libs, visions of Nurse Ratched dancing in their always fraught heads, got together to promulgate the myth that by closing the state hospitals and placing the mentally ill in community-based group homes they were committing a great, bipartisan leap forward. In fact California's state hospitals, like the one at Talmage, were humanely run. Natch there was the occasional atrocity, but by and large they were like Talmage — different units for the varying intensities of dysfunction. There were units for the drug and alcohol dependent, children's units, and lock-up wards for those who were dangerous to themselves and others. The second prob with the great shutdown was that there were no community-based group homes for the mentally ill beyond a few for-profit board and care homes run, mostly, by families of recent immigrants who were at a loss to cope with the disturbed.

THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG with the state hospital system as it existed in the time of The Great Communicator except it was expensive and, as we know, then and now, the Republican mission is to shut down government where it helps people in favor of government that either kills people or works to enrich Republicans and their friends. The Democrats can of course be depended on to go along.

(I HAVE A CLOSE relative who was once confined at the Napa State Hospital and another who was briefly locked in at the Langley Porter Clinic in San Francisco. I visited them often and I'm here to tell you their confinements were lifesavers for both of them. They got themselves together and they got out. That was in the pre-Reagan time when there was still a national consensus that people unable or unwilling to help themselves had to be effectively cared for and that we all had a responsibility to pay for that care. Reagan, by the way, before he became governor, had given his famous speech that the MediCare program would "destroy freedom in America." He said that Gramps and Gram would have to explain to their grandchildren what America was like before MediCare destroyed it. The idiot wing of the Republicans still wants to destroy MediCare, but where would most of us be without it?)

AND LOOK WHAT we have now for the mentally ill. I believe it's called the Next To Nothing program where the mentally ill have become funding units for a huge apparatus of Ortner-style ghouls, lavishly compensated administrators of non-profits, and large bureaucracies of publicly-employed "helping professionals."

IN ALL THE HOORAH about the proposed name change for Fort Bragg, a hoorah already totally forgotten, I remembered Braxton's Espresso next door to Doug Roycroft's wonderful bookstore, Fiddler's Green. I had to call on Doug for the name of the guy who ran Braxton's, I'm ashamed to admit, because I always stopped in there for coffee and the proprietor always seemed to be whirling around behind the counter in dervish-like dances to classical music. Doug reminds me that his name was Michael Berenz. His partner was Rella, a well-known anti-nuke activist who was also well known on the Coast for her skill at raising succulents. Doug says of Berenz, "If you had as many double espressos as he did, you'd be dancing around the shop too, music or no..." Whatever else you might say about Mendocino County, we've never lacked for vivid personalities.

NOTICE how surprised newspaper reports on the economy always sound when they're at odds from the propaganda out of the White House that "inflation is in check," unemployment is "down," the job market is "strong." An AP story seemed surprised that "Average US vehicle age hits record 11.5 years." Gosh, you mean most people can't rush out to sign up for a new Ford?

MY '97 Honda Civic has 240,000 plus miles on it. The radiator blew up once. Once. That's it, the only time it hasn't been completely reliable. The interior is rough, so rough my wife complains about it every time she's compelled to be transported in it. "This is like riding in a garbage can," she says. "Can't you at least wash the outside?" Honest country dirt and detritus, my dear, I say. The winter rains will take care of the exterior.

MY MECHANIC has asked me, "No new car for you, huh Mr. Anderson?" I explain that I hope to calibrate the demise of my vehicle with my demise. "I think that'll work," he once told me. "These things run forever."

One Comment

  1. John Fremont August 5, 2015

    Powerful commentary!

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