Last week I attended four public meetings in three days. It would have been three in one day if I hadn't taken time out to castrate a bull calf here at the ranch. Who knows how some of the attendees at the missed meeting would have reacted to that endeavor. That get together was the City of Fort Bragg's Public Safety Committee meeting and the agenda item that drew animal lovers proved to be a “Discussion of raccoon issues at the Harbor Lite Trail.” The opening lines of just one correspondence the City received expressed the fervor of animal protectionists. “I have just learned that, yesterday, the City of Fort Bragg sent City workers in to North Harbor to tear out and destroy the “kitty condos” that have been down there for over a decade. The justification was that the cats being fed there are drawing the raccoons ; this is not true and if the City had done their homework & talked to local experts they would know this! There is a long history of cats in the harbor that should be a big part of any solution... not just a hot-headed, unannounced action that is extremely cruel to the cats that were dumped there years ago (and have been ignored by the City and County animal control completely).
Writing on the Mendocinosportsplus Facebook website, Fort Bragg Vice Mayor (and chair of the Public Safety Committee) Lindy Peters stated, “I suggest folks who were stirred-up by the reports on this website concerning the Public Safety Committee meeting today [Wednesday, May 11th] where we addressed safety concerns surrounding the growing population of raccoons in the harbor, take the time to watch Mendocinotv.com video coverage of said meeting. The city never threatened to remove feral cats. The USDA and Department of Fish and Wildlife told the city to take action regarding the feeding of feral cats on City Property. A citizen who lives nearby and is plagued by raccoons on his property approached me personally and asked me to look into this. I talked to the city manager and said we may have a liability issue if the unintended consequence of feeding the cats is, in fact, feeding the wildlife. If so, there is a violation according to USDA and Fish and Wildlife. I asked to put it on the agenda so that the public would have a chance to weigh-in on what I figured to be a hot button issue. No citations were ever issued. No city official or police officer attempted code enforcement. The issue was never feral cats. The agenda item reads: Discuss Raccoon Issue of Harbor Lite Lodge Trail. Somehow the social network spinners turned this into the city aggressively going after feral cats. The people who showed-up at the meeting included representatives from the Coast Cat Project, the Eileen Hawthorne Foundation, the Humane Society and volunteers who help feed the cats. Once they understood the city merely took action to remove the feeding bowls and cat condos from city property due to pressure from state agencies and, in fact, wanted to work with community groups to solve the problem in a humane fashion, they wanted to buy-in and help the city work this out. We are forming a committee with various stakeholders to see if we can come up with a solution that will allow the cats to remain in the Harbor area without feeding them on City property. This problem was brought to the city's attention. The city did not, on its own initiative, arbitrarily go after feral cats.”
Glad I didn't walk into that stirred-up crowd with castration tools in my back pocket. For the curious, the banded method of castration was used. The bull calf in question was up and walking around immediately following the procedure. Though he wasn't eating out of my hand he has displayed no ill will toward humans in the days since the banding.
The first meeting I attended last week was Monday night's Fort Bragg City Council affair. Since January, 2015, when three Fort Bragg City Councilmen voted in favor of a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) that allowed Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center (MCHC) to centralize mental health services inside the Old Coast Hotel on Franklin Street said councilmen, along with Fort Bragg City Manager Linda Ruffing, have become the focal point of criticism in Fort Bragg. The criticism has taken standard patterns, such as letter writing, petitions, and the ballot initiative known as Measure U.
Measure U proponents have long felt frustrated that their voices have been ignored on the MCHC/Old Coast Hotel issue, especially after a petition with approximately 1,600 local signatories was, from their point of view, ignored by the City Council and City Manager. As time has passed some Measure U proponents have delighted in finding any and all faults, petty or not, in their civic leaders.
The public comment section of the May 9th Fort Bragg City Council meeting brought one of the backers of Measure U to the podium to note that since the City was observing National Bike Month she would like to let folks know she had just seen Mayor Dave Turner “blow through” two stop signs on his bike that very day. Later the same citizen said, “I was going through my computer and cleaning out some stuff when I came across something very interesting.” While looking at the councilmen the citizen went on, “I know how all of you are looking out for our homeless here in Fort Bragg, and when I came across this, I thought it was pretty interesting, so I'm just gonna read it to you. It was right after the Segway incident [when the City Council turned away a local from providing Segway tours on the Coastal Trail located in the old Georgia-Pacific mill site].
The citizen went on, seemingly quoting from a letter or email authored by someone else, “There are hundreds of Segway tour groups operating safely in California... nice to see new businesses in town...” Here the citizen interrupted to say, “And I agree with that one hundred percent.”
The citizen, a woman who will remain nameless for now went on quoting from someone else's letter or email, “I know that this particular group will operate safely – not allowed on coastal trails or sidewalks – only bike paths for now – maybe they can run over the homeless. You and I should give 'em a try.”
She turned again to the council members and challenged, “Who wants to own up to those words?” Then, one by one, queried each of them. There were four fairly adamant denials, so it was pretty clear which one of the councilmen she was after.
Anyone who wants to watch the video replay can go to the City of Fort Bragg's website and see who the citizen and councilman in question are. At the time it was apparent that this appeared to represent some sort of personal triumph for the citizen. Having sat there and watched it and thought about it a few times over the ensuing days, the pettiness of the whole thing seems emblematic. For those who can't figure out why it is petty I'd suggest doing some deeper thinking, and perhaps some deeper thinking before you go to the ballot box to vote on any initiative or measure.
As for the councilman who wrote what he considered a joking email to a friend, consider Elmer Fudd's advice, “be wary, wary, wary” when emailing a friend whose wife has a diametrically oppositional view on the MCHC/Old Coast Hotel issue, particularly when she apparently has access to your pal's computer and isn't above sending your “jokey” email on to someone unafraid of reading it in public.
Well, boys and girls, it appears that I've gone on at some length without getting to three of the meetings. So come back next week. Time limits will be adhered to, there will be pettiness, and much money on the table.
(Animals have died, but there are no public demonstrations of castration within the pages and photographs available at Malcolm Macdonald's website: malcolmmacdonaldoutlawford.com)