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Off the Record (Mar 9, 2016)

CORRECTION: The Willits News rents its premises from former 3rd District supervisor, Tom Lucier, also proprietor of the Anker-Lucier Mortuary of Willits, hence references to the amiable undertaker as the "jolly reaper." While the buildings housing the Fort Bragg Advocate-Beacon and the Ukiah Daily Journal have been sold from under those chain-owned papers, The Willits News has remained happy tenants of Lucier's for at least a decade.

EVERY PARENT'S NIGHTMARE. Headline on the front page of the Independent Coast Observer, Gualala: "Bullying leads school to reach out for training."

THE STORY by Chris McManus is replete with the usual obfuscating statements of deficient school staff who had apparently ignored or, worse, hadn't seen the months of abuse suffered by an elementary school girl as she was tormented by a female classmate.

POINT ARENA ELEMENTARY finally took action after the child's tormenter launched an all-out physical attack "in which the victim was beaten to the ground and curled into a fetal position," an episode confirmed by a jubilant video spread up and down the Coast by social media.

THE FOG BELT cretins who put that celebratory video up in cyberspace for anyone and everyone to see are as psychopathic as the violent child they're celebrating. Of course it's not news that lots of stupid, brutal people are out there raising stupid, brutal children.

BECAUSE both the victim and her assailant are children their names are not revealed, and because the story is only explicit in the description of the child victim's final beatdown, more questions are raised than answers provided. The story does, however, make it clear that the Point Arena schools are run by irresponsible people incapable of providing safe schools for Point Arena children.

INCREDIBLY, the assailant has not been kicked permanently out of school. She was merely suspended and "put on a probationary period."

PA's latest superintendent, a dithering, jargon-basted roll-me-over-and-do-it-again jelly fish called Brent Cushenberry, announced that the Point Arena Schools have begun a program through a Mendocino County Office of Education-funded grant to train staff in “Positive Behaviors, Intervention and Support.”

LIKE you need training to stop a big kid from bullying a little kid?

HERE'S CUSHENBERRY, as quoted by Ms. McManus: "While there are many components to PBIS a significant one is called ‘restorative justice.’ Simply, restorative justice seeks to repair the harm caused by someone's misbehavior, and also to rehabilitate the offender by reconnecting them (sic) with their community."

TRANSLATION: The child assailant is a victim, too, that she isn't a juvenile psychopath, that she simply made a year's worth of mistakes in an unsupervised and uncaring public school culminating in, well, gee, golly, a dangerous physical attack on another child.

THE VICTIM'S MOTHER: "Every day we put her in the hands of the school, who is supposed to protect her. She has been bullied for over a year. How do we stop it?"

WELL, MOM, if I were you I'd start with a lawsuit against the school district and, in the meantime, home-school your daughter. I'd also campaign to recall Point Arena's perennially derelict school board.

MENDOCINO COUNTY supervisors will of course ratify the latest shakedown of a local public agency by master shakedown artist, Jack Silver, and his bogus nonprofit called California River Watch. River Watch consists of a telephone and an unmanned office in West Sonoma County.

THE COUNTY OF MENDOCINO, although it employs a half dozen lawyers in its County Counsel's office, would rather pass out public money than fight this character, which is how Silver has bilked several million dollars out of cities and counties throughout NorCal. The few that have fought him have given up because it's too expensive to continue in court.

SILVER employs a simple strategy. Pay me for alleged water quality violations or I'll sue you until you give up. Defending against Silver, as Fortuna and other HumCo jurisdictions have discovered, can cost thousands of dollars most cash-strapped public entities don't have. (Not that there's ever any shortage of travel and conference money for their elected officials and top bureaucrats.)

THIS PARTICULAR extortion by Silver alleges that violations of the Clean Water Act occurred at the Caspar Waste Transfer Station.

THE COUNTY will pay two-thirds of a $25,000 reimbursement for investigative, and attorney fees and costs to the California River Watch, or approximately $16,600, with the City of Fort Bragg paying the remaining third of about $8,400.

HOLD IT RIGHT HERE. "Investigative"? Silver rifles the files of Water Quality in Santa Rosa to see if paperwork is up to date. That's the investigation. In this case it probably wasn't, so Silver writes to the involved agencies saying, "You're out of compliance. Pay me or I sue." Since River Watch is a phony front of an enviro group, Silver gets all the money. Since he's been pulling this scam for about twenty years now — he began with a board of directors consisting of family members — he's undoubtedly a millionaire.

THE DEAL WITH SILVER will read like this: As the parties responsible for the Caspar Transfer Station, Mendocino County and the City of Fort Bragg, and Caspar's manager, Solid Waste of Willits, "would agree to fully implement, update and keep current, its Storm Water Pollution Plan Best Management Practices, submit existing monitoring reports not already available to the River Watch group and allow one site visit for River Watch officials within one year of the agreement effective date."

SILVER ALLEGED that all of the above “routinely violated the substantive and procedural requirements of its general permit relating to recycling services at the facility, by failing to implement Best Management Practices, or effective pollution control, in its Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan for the facility, resulting in the illegal discharge of pollutants, including chemical oxygen demand, pH, iron and aluminum, from the facility as reported to the California State Resources Control Board in annual reports filed by the defendants for the facility.”

IN FACT, Caspar has done everything humanly possible to prevent runoff, and probably done it successfully as could also probably be established in court. But it's not going to court, and Silver is getting another big payday by simply writing a letter threatening to sue.

UKIAH SENIOR CENTER DIRECTOR Diana Clark was exonerated Tuesday when Superior Court Judge Jeanine Nadel agreed with her defense that there was no substantial evidence that Ms. Clark had conspired with an Indian Health Center coworker to commit a crime. Clark had been charged with computer access fraud, eavesdropping or recording confidential communication and copying or making use of data from emails from the Consolidated Tribal Health project in Redwood Valley back in 2014 while she was human resources director there.

Clarke, Fennell
Clarke, Fennell

CHARGES against Clark’s coworker, Peter Fennel, the health center’s technology director, were sustained and will proceed. Apparently, when investigators were searching Fennel’s computer records they found things they believed implicated Clark. But upon further investigation, the emails were deemed to be inconsequential and not criminal. Further there was no evidence that Clark was eavesdropping or recording anything. Fennell is accused of hacking into the Health Center’s computer records and disrupting their machines, reading patient records and damaging or destroying information after being terminated.

TWO MEN are running for Superior Court Judge in the June elections, Patrick Pekin of the Mendocino Coast, Keith Faulder, Ukiah. So far, Faulder is the invisible candidate while Pekin has already amassed a virtual Who's Who of the County's warm-fuzzies, fuzzy-warms and middle-of-the-road extremists like Lee Edmundson, former judge Jim Luther, Rachel Binah, Jim Mastin and so on. Pekin is a relative County newcomer, Faulder has both County seniority and experience on him. We're for Faulder straight-up because he's got a lot more experience than Pekin, and he's smart and honest. Which isn't to say Pekin isn't, but we've always been impressed by Faulder in a courtroom. Pekin, so far, has spent about $16 thou on his campaign, Faulder around $4k. But Faulder better make himself a lot more visible pronto or Pekin's going to waltz on into a life sinecure of the most lucrative sort, as Judge Luther can tell him. The middle-of-the-road extremists and the fuzzy-warms all vote. Defendants tend not to vote, although Faulder as a defense attorney has saved a ton of them from the big time-out room at San Quentin.

BUT FAULDER has also been a prosecutor. Back when he was Assistant DA under Norm Vroman in 2007 Faulder had this to say about a domestic violence case he prosecuted. “Every case is different, of course. Sometimes victims go sideways on us. I have prosecuted cases where the victim has recanted. In fact my very first trial against [then-DA] Meredith Lintott in a domestic violence case on the Coast, she represented the defendant. A guy punched his girlfriend in the stomach so hard that she thought she had a miscarriage. She went to the hospital. He did not go with her. She told the story to the doctors. Doctors are mandated reporters so they reported it. Law enforcement arrested the guy, and we prosecuted him. Then she got on the stand and said she made it all up. But the jury still convicted him. The evidence contradicted her claim. So we still prosecute cases even when there’s a recanting victim if the evidence is there. That’s always the bottom line. Is there evidence that we can prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt? Sometimes we can’t. Anyone who wants to criticize our domestic violence prosecution record has to look at each case fully. They can’t just take the word of somebody who is unhappy with the outcome. By the way, after the verdict for this case with the recanting victim who was hit in the stomach, Judge Lehan gave him 90 days on the spot and he was remanded to custody right away. The victim then came up to me afterwards and said, “Thanks a lot. You have ruined Christmas for me.” And she spit in my face. So she wasn’t happy with the conviction! It was a bit of a wake-up call. So we are tough on domestic violence when we can prove it. We enjoy prosecuting people who commit domestic violence. We enjoy making people take responsibility for their actions. The most important part of domestic violence cases is that they must go into domestic violence treatment. That’s the best part of that law. I know some people are hardened to it and may not benefit from domestic violence treatment. That applies to most of the treatment that the courts order people into, whether it’s domestic violence or drugs or anger management or the alternative to violence programs. You have to try. You have to plant the seeds and see which ones sprout.”

HEAR THAT, candidate Pekin? Let's hear a true life story outta you. And outta the botha yez, Do you think Mendocino County needs a new County Courthouse?

THE PAVEMENT CONDITION INDEX (PCI) is measured by the County Department of Transportation and for the cities by their municipal Public Works Departments. The PCI is intended to be an objective measurement of the condition of the roads and can help prioritize the best use of available road dollars. Road segments that score 70 and above are rated good to excellent. Segments that score from 50-70 are considered “at risk” with those below 50 rated “poor” and those below 25 considered “failed.” Applying slurry seal to a road in the lower range of “good” or chip seal to a road rated “poor” is much more cost effective than waiting until a road is in poor or failed condition and needs to be rebuilt.

THE PCI FOR WILLITS AND FORT BRAGG has gone up close to 20 points in the last 10-15 years because they each passed a half-cent sales tax dedicated to roads. During the same period, the PCI for Ukiah and the County has gone down by about the same rate. The difference is that neither Ukiah nor the County has a sales tax for roads. Ukiah passed one for "public safety" but it can only be used for police and fire. It seems pretty clear that without an additional source of revenue, the overall condition of the roads in Ukiah and the County will continue to decline. Mendocino County “maintains” about 1,000 miles of roads, about a third of which are gravel. Without additional funds it is likely that some of the roads in the poorest condition will convert to gravel.

SUPERVISOR GJERDE, who has made improved roads one of his top priorities, and Supervisor Woodhouse, who says roads are the most important issue in his district, are believed to be pushing for a half-cent sales tax for county roads. As members of the Mendocino Council of Governments (MCOG) they pushed for funding an opinion poll in Ukiah and the County to gauge public support for a possible half-cent sales tax for roads. Phil Dow, who runs MCOG, told the Board of Supervisors last Tuesday that the poll showed strong support for a road tax. Because it could only be spent for roads, it needs a two-thirds vote. One problem apparently not covered in the poll (or at least not made public) is Sheriff Allman's proposed half-cent sales tax for mental health. When more than one tax measure is on the ballot, it’s more likely the combo will trigger a blanket "no" vote. The Mendocino Coast Hospital and the Little Lake Fire District are also considering local tax measures which would all end up on the same ballot.

SHERIFF ALLMAN'S PROPOSED half-cent sales tax for mental health facilities also faces the same potential hurdle as the newly formed Firefighter's Association proposed initiative to require the Board of Supes to give 30% of the Prop 172 public safety sales tax to the fire districts. Acting County Counsel Kit Elliot, acting "as an individual in her official capacity" challenged the proposed measure as an unconstitutional interference with the budget process. After a lot of legal wrangling, Superior Court Judge (and former County Counsel) Jeanine Nadel agreed with Elliot and tossed the proposed initiative. Willits attorney Chris Neary, representing the firefighter association filed an appeal on February 10 with the State Supreme Court, bypassing the Appeals Court on the grounds of urgency. The Supreme Court, which only hears a tiny percentage of the cases submitted to it, transferred the case back to the Appeals Court where it should have been filed in the first place. The Appeals Court promptly issued an order summarily denying the appeal. Allman has yet to release a draft of his proposed initiative so it remains to be seen if it will be vulnerable to a legal challenge on the same grounds as the failed Prop 172 initiative. The plan is to increase the sales tax to raise money to build a mental health building, but exactly what services would be provided (or how they will be paid for) has yet to be disclosed.

ENCOURAGING TO HEAR the Supervisors beginning to talk about a trail along the Point Arena bluffs, now dubbed the Pelican Bluff Trail. The Stornetta National Monument would draw a lot more people if tourists could walk along the bluffs to get there.

THAT FORT BRAGG FIRE midnight Monday at 16900 Franklin Drive south of town seemed immediately suspicious to firefighters because separate buildings on the property were fully engulfed when they arrived, indicating they had been deliberately but separately set ablaze. In one of them the remains of Cathy Westerling were found. She was said to be deeply troubled. The elderly Mr. Westering, some years his wife's senior, lives apart in Westport. He owns the Depot Building in Fort Bragg.

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT quoted a Fort Bragg firefighter as saying, “There were flames coming out of every orifice of both buildings," which is much more vivid than tired old "engulfed."

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: Two movies from Scotland (My people! My people!). (1) An ultra-vi thriller called The Disappearance of Alice Creed and (2) The Angels' Share, the former a clever kidnap saga, the latter centered, more or less, in fine whiskeys. Both are by the great director, Ken Loach, whose dramatic film about the Spanish Civil War, Land and Freedom, is wonderful beyond wonder. Alice Creed and Angels are also interesting as blue collar slices-of-life. I won't spoil things for you with plot lines — NPR's movie critics give away everything, and do it in these simpering yet breathless tones that make the whole package so hyper-annoying you want to track them down and, and, and.... vote for Trump. Well, not quite, but aggravated assault is not always wrong — Anyway, as most of you know, the Brits (we'll include the Scots as Brits here, much as many of them would rather not be included) employ actors who (1) can act (2) look like real people, not the Barbies and Kewpie Boys who dominate our movies, not that there aren't some good ones down there in Tinsel Town. And, boy, can the Scots swear! Americans are pretty darn good at turning the air blue, but how many us can deploy the F-word as every part of speech in one not very long sentence?

WILD DOGS are a recurrent problem in northern Mendocino County, southern Humboldt County. The following are comments from Kym Kemp's website, Redheaded Black Belt:

(1) "There are people who think that dogs kept under control will not enjoy Freedom. These are the same people who do not castrate their male dogs, or spay their females, because the owners confuse their own testicles with the testicles of their dogs; and owners of unsprayed females have actually told me that a bitch who has not had a litter of puppies is not 'fulfilled.' In the US, ten thousand puppies are euthanized daily as a result of these citified cretins and their abysmal treatment of their pets. Really. Unfortunately for everyone, dogs allowed to run 'free' are rarely vaccinated or licensed. Why? Because the tags, if worn, can be traced to their owners. And if the dog(s) are caught, they are not claimed because the owner can be charged with huge fines to cover the livestock losses. (Last time we had a nut-case like that in our neighborhood, the restitution for a weaner pig was $1200…) The fine was paid, and then the dog was shot. The kids got a hamster instead. Good call."

(2) "I have cows and what dogs do to them is terrible. They kill for sport. First, if it is an adult cow they will rip off the milk bag or tear off the penis and sack if a bull. Then they go for the ears, or tail. A lot of times they never eat the cow just leave it for the owner to shoot."

INTERESTING STORY by Loran Lewis in The Willits News suggesting major discipline probs at Willits High School. Lewis describes the presentation of a list of complaints about high school discipline arising from, so goes the allegation by teachers, superintendent Robert Chavez's absences while he attends to a legal matter arising from his work at another school district. "Because of Chavez’s involvement in the court case, Roeling said his absences had contributed to a lack of leadership at the school and this had led to a problem with student discipline."

MS. ROELING is the librarian at Willits High school. She was speaking for a number of high school faculty. "Roeling said intoxicated students at the school have been returned to class 'within the hour' and that students are often defiant of teachers because of a lack of consequences. This situation has caused teachers to not feel safe at work. The overall condition at the school has created an environment in which “30% to 50% of teachers presently at Willits High School are considering leaving the campus, according to the teachers’ list. Roeling added that young teachers 'feel so unsupported that they are taking the first opportunity to leave the district.’ ‘We are devoted, sirs, madams, to being the staunchest advocates for the education of our youth,’ Roeling concluded, ‘even to the point of escalating this situation beyond the bounds of the district’.”

"IN HIS REMARKS LATER, Chavez told the board things were improving at the school. He said he had met with the teachers before the board meeting and 'gave his blessing to come to the board’."

DRUNK STUDENTS? Sent back to class in an hour? (Before they even sober up?) Yeah, I'd say Willits Unified has a problem.

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