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Off the Record (May 25, 2016)

MUCH EDU-UNHAPPINESS among parents with children enrolled in the Fort Bragg schools, much of it focused on Superintendent Chuck Bush and Bush's three stolid supporters on the Fort Bragg School Board. Critics want all four gone.

WE OFTEN RECEIVE anon snitch notes, which we check out best we can. Here's one aimed at Heidi Dunham, the County's personnel boss. We passed it on to Ms. Dunham for comment. Her explanation sounds true to us:

DEAR MS. DUNHAM We received this letter in Monday's mail, as did the Supervisors and the Ukiah Daily Journal: 'On Thursday, April 14, 2016 the County Human Resources Director had two of her higher paid staff help her move her daughter's things from one home to another while on County time. This should be investigated.' Copies of this note have apparently gone to the Supervisors and the UDJ. Please comment.

DEAR AVA, Ms. D promptly replied:

Thank you for sharing this with me. I assumed these two employees used their paid time off when they unexpectedly showed up to help me on April 14th. Upon receipt of this email, I verified they in fact did not use paid time off for those two hours and they are submitting corrections to payroll this afternoon. I would never intentionally pay a County employee for non-County time. Sincerely, Heidi M. Dunham, Director, Mendocino County Human Resources Department.

WE KEEP HAMMERING on the MRC mystery. Why does this company seem to go out of its way to alienate local public opinion? Why not spend a few extra bucks to hand fall non-commercial tree species rather than leave acres of them poisoned and standing? Mike Kalantarian points out that in 2013, "I asked John Ramaley (MRC head forester at the time) that same question. He said it cost MRC $180 to poison an acre and $300 to cut it."

NOT THAT big a diff, so one has to wonder if that diff is so momentous to MRC they'd risk their fairly good rep with the greater public (local loggers definitely don't like them for other well-founded reasons) over a relatively small amount of money.

JUDITH VIDAVER WRITES: "I once did a calculation of the value of tan oak sold for firewood (based on what Frank’s Firewood was charging) compared to that of redwood lumber. Tan oak came out way ahead. So the LP guy is right. Plus commercializing tan oak would provide many more local jobs. I’m sure if there were a few enterprising folks out there to set up tan oak processing facilities, MRC might be open to allowing their tan oak problem to be solved in a less hazardous and environmentally destructive manner."

FROM: BOB SIMPSON, who is trying to do just that, re-purpose tan oak. The former General Manager of LP Western Division writes:

"I am writing to recant my support of Measure V. I believe there is a better solution to resolving this matter.

"I INITIALLY supported Measure V because I oppose the use of herbicides in the Coastal Redwood Region. I am retracting my support for Measure V because if approved citizens may use Measure V to file frivolous lawsuits against landowners. I firmly believe the best silviculture and economic solution for overstock of tanoak trees is to create a viable tanoak market that incentivizes landowners to selectively harvest tanoak trees rather than kill them. But until tanoak markets are opened, I grudgingly support the use of herbicides because it is the only silviculture solution to allow foresters to reduce the overstock of tanoak trees. I believe landowners should consult with fire agencies and adjacent neighbors prior to herbicide treatment of tanoak trees to alleviate the concerns of fire safety.

"HERBICIDE-DRIED tanoak trees increases the risk of forest fires because dead and dying trees have considerably less moisture than live trees. Low tree moisture allows trees to ignite much faster and burn hotter. This is scientifically indisputable. I previously stated I had seen MRC maps that indicated the lightning complex fire of 2008 was exacerbated by the density of dead tanoak trees on MRC lands. There are others who will attest to my statement. However, I believe the 2008 Mendocino fires would have occurred with or without the presence of dead tanoak trees. And I know MRC did everything possible to put these fires out quickly.

"I FIRST witnessed the impacts of 'hack & squirt' treatment of tanoak trees in May of 1992 while serving as GM of Louisiana-Pacific’s Western Division. The location was near the Navarro Store. I was horrified by what I saw and I knew LP had to provide its foresters a better silviculture option for reducing the overstock of tanoak trees. I previously indicated LP eliminated the use of herbicides in 1993. I was wrong. After reviewing LP internal purchase requisitions, it is clear that LP’s use of herbicides continued. However, by 1995 LP consumed and exported a total of 400,000 green tons of tanoak per year which resulted in a negligible use of herbicide. A 1995 picture of the Calpella tanoak whole log chip yard provides a visual of LP’s tanoak program. Unfortunately, the tanoak pulp chip market is no longer available. Until new tanoak markets emerge, I find myself grudgingly willing to support herbicide use because it is the only silviculture practice that will reduce the overstock of tanoak trees. And an overcrowded forest will not grow quality hardwood or softwood timber. I encourage supporters and opponents of Measure V to work cooperatively to alleviate safety concerns and to support the effort to open new markets for tanoak trees. Sincerely, Bob Simpson, Willits"

PS. I am not a Mendocino County registered voter. My primary residence is in Granite Bay, CA. I own property in Mendocino County (Potter Valley). I own property in Humboldt County (Samoa). My startup company is Simpson Tanoak Products. The company will be located in Samoa, CA. The company is not expected to be in production until October 2016.

MRC’S ANTI-MEASURE V FLYER claims that hack’n’squirt is a “state of the art technique” and “internationally approved forest management science.” We googled “state of the art” and “tree killing” and we got back a book reference to a tree-climbing robot — That would be “state of the art.” The rest of the search results were a bunch of non-relevant options about climate change, insects, tree rings, etc.

HACK-N-SQUIRT — chopping a crude gash into a tree with a hatchet and squirting systemic poison into the gash — is not “state-of-the-art” nor is it “internationally approved forest management science.”

WE ALSO LOOKED UP GIRDLING — using a chainsaw to cut a bark-free band around a tree trunk — which some experts say will kill a tree in a month or two. Apparently this method works better than hack-n-squirt, does not require poison, but it takes a little longer to girdle the tree than to hack-n-squirt it. (But it saves on poison cost.)

WHICH MAKES MRC’s OTHER CLAIM that hack-n-squirt results in “300+ local and family wage jobs” (everybody knows they send low-wage Mexican crews out into the woods to do the hacking and squirting) when they could use local loggers (Mexicans included) and firewood entrepreneurs to girdle the trees. And, since it takes a little longer to girdle the trees, it would spread the fire hazard out over more time and not create the almost insta-mega-hazard that killing thousands of trees at a time does.

GEORGE HOLLISTER of Comptche is a logger and an owner of productive timberland. He writes:

“We also looked up girdling — using a chainsaw to cut a bark-free band around a tree trunk — which some experts say will kill a tree in a month or two." I have looked up some things about the newspaper business, but for good reasons, I stay away from telling people in that business how to do what they do. But that is OK, the crowd in the Mendocino forestry peanut gallery is a large one.

The reason girdling tan oak is not done, is because tan oaks vigorously sprout back after the above-ground portion is killed from girdling. This is no minor problem and the result is a potentially worse situation than existed in the beginning. Girdling conifers, other than redwoods, is a tried and true method for creating snags. A douglas fir that is properly girdled, will die in about a year.

I don't know what “low wage” is here. The men who perform hack and squirt are highly skilled and make pretty good money for doing what they do. The work is not something your average 20-something is capable of doing.

Also, there is a place for chainsaws, but there is more to girdling a tree than using a chainsaw. Girdling works best when the bark is slipping, which is when loggers are working logging and are not off in the winter. The best technique for girdling involves using a small chainsaw to make two cuts about a foot to a foot and a half apart on the stem of the tree near the base. Each cut should go around the stem, just through the bark and hit the wood portion. Then an axe can be used to knock off the bark between the cuts. This procedure when done efficiently, by someone in better shape than me, can be done in about 2 minutes when the bark is slipping. If the bark is not slipping, it can take a lot longer and try your patience. Then it is easier to fall the tree. Of course if the upper part of the tan oak is killed and the root left to sprout, the sprouts need to be sprayed or you are back where you started from."

HERE'S A WEIRD ONE: Remember that "explosive device" discovered near a tee box on the golf course at the Little River Inn last week? A Humboldt County bomb squad hustled down from Eureka and detonated the thing. It's vaguely described by the Sheriff's Department as "small" and "homemade."

GOLFERS have been known to irritate large numbers of people, but Capt. Greg Van Patten of Sheriff's Department said Tuesday that the cops are as mystified as everyone else as to why anybody might want to explode one. Van Patten said there are no suspects. Anyone with information regarding the incident may contact the Sheriff’s Office tip line at 234-2100

WE ASKED THE SHERIFF about all those “failure to appear” and “failure to pay” bookings that appear in the daily catch of the day booking log.

SHERIFF ALLMAN REPLIED: "The vast majority of misdemeanor warrants are handled by deputy sheriffs with a simple citation. A signed promise to appear. If the subject fails to appear (again), then most judges issue "DO NOT CITE" warrants. If we happen to run into the subject, they are physically arrested and booked into county jail where. ....they are usually released with a signed promise to appear. Yes, it happens again when they fail to appear, get re-arrested with a no bail warrant and then appear in front of a judge."

KELISHA'S BACK. That would be Ukiah's Kelisha Alvarez, the frequently arrested local woman who agreed to live with her mother in Oklahoma to avoid a felony vandalism charge. A large, very strong and nimble woman prone to violence, Kelisha typically requires more than one officer to subdue her when she goes off, and she tends to go off at the slightest provocation. Local cops breathed a collective sigh of relief at her Oklahoma exile, which began March 25th with a murky deal worked out by the DA's office. Many Kelisha-watchers predicted she would soon return and here she is.

DOZER GROWS. That’s what Humboldt Third District Supes candidate Uri Driscoll calls the big outlaw grows in HumCo. A good term. Driscoll said that the only way to regulate pot at this point is to limit the size of the grows: “Keep it simple, keep it small,” says Driscoll. Could apply to grapes too, although it’s obviously pretty late for grapes.

SAGE MOUNTAINFIRE has been, or will soon be, reinstated as boss at County-run animal shelter in Ukiah. Interim shelter supervisor, Mary Jane (last name) will stay on as manager. Mountainfire, long-time chief at the shelter had been placed on paid leave while a variety of charges against her management, including some $28,000 in missing cash, were sorted out.


SHE'LL DO HER TIME ON LOW GAP ROAD. Willits' Christine Kelsay received the five-year maximum sentence in Mendocino County Superior Court Thursday for embezzling nearly $500,000 from Geigers Long Valley Market in Laytonville over seven years. She was ordered by Judge Ann Moorman to spend at least four of those years at the Mendocino County Jail, with the rest of the term to include supervised probation. Meaning, the unrepentant Ms. Kelsay got off with serious time but will serve it the relatively pleasant local lock-up rather than the state's hellish Orange is the New Black. Odd case from the beginning. A rural market generates the kind of money that it takes them a couple of years to notice their till has been tapped for half a mil?

MONTANA PODVA, candidate for Supervisor, 1st District, against super-entrenched incumbent Carre Brown, offers this idea for homelessness: "Homelessness must be addressed by providing low cost housing that a person on disability or Social Security can afford to rent or own. This could include insulated teepees under $10,000 with solar panels for heating, cooking and lighting." Let's not stop there. Maybe we could dress the teepee people up as Indians so they could rush out like Chief Knock-A-Homa and do a facsimile war dance. Hell, we might have the seeds of a tourist attraction here.

PILING ON. Our hard-hitting legislators will certainly endorse an initiative that will place a $2 tax on cigarettes per pack. Enough signatures have been elected to qualify an initiative boosting the sin tariff for the November 8th ballot, making it an average of $7.50 to wreck your lungs. The legalization of the recreational use of marijuana will also be on the ballot, but pot smoke is, like, harmless, dude. These cringing mountebanks will tax everybody and everything but their sponsors, and we know who they are, don't we.

A READER COMMENTS on Measure W: "The county already takes forever to come to decisions and to my thinking, the charter concept is just another layer of butt, with aging, arrogant hippies and self-righteous millennials calling the shots."

SIGN HERE to register as a felon. The Board of Supervisors’ Medical Marijuana Ad Hoc Committee "presented an urgency ordinance amending Chapter 9.31 of Title 9 of the Mendocino County Code. The urgency ordinance was declared necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety. (Har de har.) It was reported that the amendments to the existing Chapter 9.31 of the Mendocino County Code are necessary to establish registration and permitting requirements, as well as additional measures to protect the environment, that will provide for additional enforcement capability by the County and limit further degradation of the environment. (Stop, you're killing me. This is simply too hilarious.) In addition to protecting the public peace, health and safety as stated above,  (which it demonstrably won't do) the urgency ordinance adopts a more stringent definition of legal parcel than was previously in effect; adopts new requirements for wildlife exclusionary fencing, secure storage of fertilizer and other soil amendments; and requires anyone cultivating more than 25 plants to apply for, obtain, and comply with numerous conditions designed to limit community and environmental impacts." Etc. (Total waste of public time. The scofflaws will keep right on scoffing.)

I WAS DRIVING through central San Rafael the other afternoon when, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I caught a glimpse of a communist, facsimile thereof. Communists in San Rafael? Couldn't be. There were communists in Marin up through the 1960s, but that was before hot tubs and peacock feathers as a way of life took hold. During the 1950s when there was still a Communist Party, communists called themselves "progressives," a vague designation since appropriated by liberal Democrats to distinguish themselves from Hillary.

AS A KID I remember seeing "Save the Rosenbergs" stencil-painted on the old wood bus shelters. When I asked the usual unreliable adult authority, school type, who the Rosenbergs were, they said something like, "They betrayed our country. Now sit down and shut up." It was a time when little kids not only pledged allegiance to the flag, we sang America the Beautiful every morning. God had not yet made His appearance in the Pledge or the money. America was still beautiful in 1955 but you have to search it out sixty years later. A woman named Ann Smart went around Marin bullying school boards into banning certain books from the high school libraries. At my high school you needed parental permission to read the dangerous books, which were kept in a locked case behind the librarian's desk. Of course lots of kids, me included, got the required permission and plowed uncomprehending through what my father called, "crank literature," by which he meant books by vegetarians and pacifists, which made up the bulk of the banned books. Mrs. Smart saw communists everywhere, much like some people see terrorists everywhere today.

THE ONLY for real communist I personally knew who also lived in Marin was Alvah Bessie, a very nice man who fought fascism in Spain and then fought off the FBI here in Liberty Land when he tried to find work after a stint in federal prison for refusing to name names before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. I've known lots and lots of communists since, and the idea that they'd once set America all a-tremble is very, very funny.

ANYWAY, at 1000 5th Avenue, San Rafael, there's the darndest little museum you'll see anywhere in the Bay Area. It's called the Museum of International Propaganda, open Wednesdays through Sundays, 10-3, with Thursday and Friday evening events. It consists mostly of posters from around the world, both fascist and leftwing and both where they intersect at Stalin, The Great Helmsman and the North Korean lunatic. Big omission, though. There's no New York Times exhibit.

THE PROPRIETORS, docents, I guess, are a pleasant Czech couple who were busy with other visitors the day I dropped by so I wasn't able to ask them what had moved them to rent undoubtedly expensive space to exhibit propaganda art which, as art, is quite good. As Czechs by birth I'm sure they couldn't be Stalinists or any other kind of communist, but their displays, especially for a blandly no go art zone like Marin, where Bernie, a Roosevelt Democrat, is as radical as it gets, there's never been anything like this place, which is certainly worth a visit.

A READER passes along this story of his real life encounter with our political leadership.

I live in a rural subdivision south of Ukiah. The road is narrow, winding and unpaved. All of us who live there proceed with extreme caution, and because of the poor condition of the shoulders it's basically a one-way road. We drive right down the middle to avoid the shoulders. The other evening I come around a corner and there's a car stopped in the middle of the road with its door open and no one in sight. I make my way around it and drive around the next bend in the road where there are two vehicles completely blocking the road. Are they law enforcement? Was there an accident? That's my first thought. Nope, there's a Prius and a guy with salt and pepper hair holding a tiny rat-looking dog chatting with an attractive middle age woman who also has a tiny rat-looking dog. Rat Dog Owners of America? Funny place for a club meeting. She's in a Subaru. Of course. A Subaru and a Prius. I'm in the presence of Mendo royalty. I ask them, "What are you guys doing in the road?" The guy with the salt and pepper hair says, "Don't worry, we're not doing it. Hah hah hah." His attempt at the lamest of lame jokes annoys me. I say, "Hey, can you move your cars so I can get by?" They turn on me, and, almost in unison, bark, "What's your problem?" I reply, "My problem is you're blocking the road and I want to get past." Mr. Salt and Pepper replies, "No we're not." Which surprised me because they absolutely were blocking the road. I say, "If you two are just socializing move aside so I can get through." Salt and Pepper says, "Wow, don't you have an attitude" I ask him if he's a landowner and if he pays road association dues. The woman hustles over to my window with her rat dog and leans in at me. Rat dog tries to nip my nose. "O look at you," she says like I'm being totally unreasonable. Salt and Pepper demands, "Who are you? What's your name?" I answer, "I don't have to tell you, Dan, but I'm a guy who doesn't answer to you." The woman had moved her car so I could pass. She glares major hate vibes at me as I drive on with a merry, "I love you guys. Bye."

JudyPrudenAT LAST an honor for a truly deserving person. "Plaque honoring Judy Pruden to be dedicated Thursday May 26. Regarded as a major pain in the labonza while she was alive, Ms. Pruden, often alone, fought all her days to make Ukiah look good. Could it look worse? Yes, lots, but thanks to Judy it doesn't.

THE WORD "VISIONARY" always gets a groan out of me, as it probably would have from the late Ms. P. In the presser announcing her plaque, Ms. P is referred to as "local visionary Judy Pruden." Like it takes a mystic to imagine State Street as something other than the four straight miles of greasy-air squalor it is today?

THE FOLLOWING is what passes for progress toward "affordable housing" in Mendocino County:

"Matters from staff: Inclusionary Housing Ordinance Fund Balance and Potential Uses."

Chief Planner Andrew Gustavson: "There is more money in the fund than I thought. A couple of years ago it was about $34,000. Now we have $65,926.37, so it's been growing, it's a good trend. At some point we will be coming back with modifications to the existing inclusionary housing ordinance, but at this point it is not yet scheduled to come before you, but we do have to address some minor changes to make it consistent with state law."

Commission Chair Madelyn 'The Inevitable' Holtkamp: "I would love you to share what you told me yesterday about there actually will be some affordable housing."

O HELL YES. We'll be able to squeeze, ah, Madeline? Madeline? How many units of low cost housing can we get for $66 thou?

MADELYN: If they were like teensy weensie people I bet we could build them a teensie weensie house somewhere outside Covelo or up on Spy Rock, and if they were really tiny we could probably build a house that would fit ten of 'em. I didn't really say that, but this paper always misquotes me. What I really said was, I'm happy to be here with the rest of you thumbsuckers eating jelly donuts and pretending like affordable housing will ever be built anywhere in Mendocino County ever again.

"Yes, we have one project that will be coming before you. RCHDC [Rural Communities Housing Development Corporation] is acting on a proposed senior housing project on the south side of Brush Street, adjacent to the Brush Street Triangle and blah, blah, blah.

ED NOTE: The so-called Brush Street Triangle is owned by a development group lead by the late Ukiah uber-realtor Jack Cox. Mr. Cox’s daughter, Kerri Vau, along with former Ukiah Area Supervisor John Mayfield were constant presences at Ukiah Valley Area Plan meetings. The Cox family and Mayfield, along with one of the Thomas brothers (former pear growers in Ukiah Valley), control the Brush Street Triangle, now slightly less triangular since Cox sold the piece of it mentioned above to the Rural Communities Housing Development Commission based, naturally, in Ukiah. The Cox realty group has made it clear that they’d be happy to sell some of their land in the Brush Street Triangle to any government agency that’s interested because the government pays full market prices. (These people are otherwise opposed to government but come running wherever they can get government money.) The Cox combine stands to make a nice buck off of any "affordable" project in that area and is active behind the scenes trying to get something moving.


It's unfair and annoying to many fans of the Golden State Warriors and the fans of other teams: After broadcasting all 82 of the regular season games, the home team broadcasters are pushed aside in favor of network bigshots. I want Fitzgerald and Barnett to do the games when the Warriors are in the playoffs, not Reggie Miller and Marv Albert.

Same goes for the Giants during the MLB playoffs, not to mention the World Series. I want Kruk and Kuip to do those games, not big network names who haven't done a Giants game all year.

My proposal would be like the designated hitter rule: In baseball when National League teams play American League teams in American League stadiums, the designated hitter rule is observed but not in games played in National League stadiums.

The same principle should apply during the playoffs: hometown broadcasters should do the games played in the home team's stadium.— Rob Anderson, District5Diary

I THINK STEPH CURRY is the most exciting athlete I've ever seen and the Warriors, when they're playing as a unit, by far the best basketball team I'm ever seen. I also think Dramond ought to get some suspension time. He obviously kicked Adams in the nuts Monday night. Basketball, given the contact the pro refs allow, could devolve into hockey if dangerously flagrant fouls are tolerated. Like everyone else, I love Dramond and the passion he brings to the game, but he went over the line Monday night.

LAW ENFORCEMENT is looking for a missing man who apparently disappeared under suspicious circumstances near the Covelo area earlier this week.


Timothy Sweeting was last seen Tuesday, and on Thursday, his 1999 white Chevrolet Tahoe was found abandoned at milemarker 32 off Highway 162 near Round Valley, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.

Sweeting, from New Hampshire, has reportedly been living in Covelo for at least a month. He has also resided in Lake Tahoe in the past.

Anyone with further information on the disappearance of Sweeting, or who saw his vehicle between Tuesday and Thursday, is urged to contact MCSO Detective Luis Espinoza via the tip line at 707-234-2100.

OBJECTIVELY, the entire area east and north of Willits all the way to Eureka is a kind of landlocked Bermuda Triangle where whole neighborhoods of people have been known to vanish. If this kid turns up alive he will have beaten the odds.

One Comment

  1. George Hollister May 25, 2016

    “Why not spend a few extra bucks to hand fall non-commercial tree species rather than leave acres of them poisoned and standing?”

    If fire risk is the primary concern, hand falling non-commercial tree species creates more fire risk than creating snags. The increase in fire risk is one of the main reasons this method is not used.

    Unfortunately, the focus on increasing fire risk of snags, has potentially sensitized people to fire risk in dealing with non-commercial species as if differences in relative fire risk in forestry did not already exist. Pre-commercial thinning, a standard and necessary practice, also creates a temporary increase in fire risk; so does pruning; so does the creation of young forests. Like the creation of snags, these high fire risk conditions are temporary.

    What we call fuel for fire is also organic matter, an essential component of a productive forest soil. So in forestry, organic matter/fire fuel is there, is good/bad and has to be managed. If you are a fire prevention guy, you want to get rid of it. If you are a forest soils guy, you want to increase it. From a larger sense, remember forests, like all native landscapes are made of combustable material, and are made to burn. The worst forest fires are in unmanaged forests with good fire fuel continuity. Maybe we should declare unmanaged forests a public nuisance?

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