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Off the Record (Aug 24, 2016)

THE MAN WHO MADE Mendocino County’s most memorable art. Michael Barton Miller, talented artist and gifted college professor whose murals grace the walls of the Mendocino County Courthouse and The Fine Arts Building at the County Fairgrounds in Ukiah, died close to two years ago at his home in San Luis Obispo. On Saturday, Michael's wife and daughter came to the area to fulfill his request that his ashes be brought to Mid Mountain in Potter Valley, where he lived in the early 1970's, and where he began his spiritual quest. Michael was an accomplished and proficient artist and a well-loved and admired professor at Cal Poly. While he lived in Mendocino County, he coordinated several Art in Public Places projects, the County Courthouse murals being the most visible and admired. Always ready with a story or a joke, Michael had a great sense of humor, endless energy, and many colleagues. This weekend, several of Michael's Ukiah friends and his long-time mural partner, Ed Cassel, met Michael's wife, daughter and stepson, and were graciously allowed to view the courthouse murals. For those of you who knew Michael, you will be gladdened to know that he now rests in Shamaz Valley with his old buddy, Glenn J. For those of you who did not make Michael's acquaintance or are unfamiliar with his murals, stop by the courthouse in Ukiah and take a look at the beautiful and inspiring artwork that adorns its walls. The image includes the murals of Blind Justice and Mendocino County's bounty, and the murals at the courthouse entrance, yours truly at work on the Fine Arts Building, and Michael, back in the day. (Kathy Shearn)


MENDOCINO COLLEGE, or someone close to its football program, is renting the Ukiah house at 101 South Hortense, corner of West Perkins, Ukiah, for a large number of out-of-town football players. The football players are seriously annoying their immediate neighbors, who include judge of the Superior Court Cindee Mayfield; former Ukiah mayor Fred Schneiter; and the Press Democrat's narcoleptic "Ukiah Bureau," Glenda Anderson.

NEIGHBORS of 101 South Hortense are complaining that the football players are noisy (of course), that their trash is piling up, that their front yard is strewn with unsightly debris which includes a mattress that's been there for a couple of weeks.

EVER SINCE ITS CRUDE beginnings in the early 1970s as a kind of outback Olympic Village where the gym, football field and NFL-quality weight room were built before the library, the college has imported football players from all over the country. And every year about this time, as football season commences, there are rumors that the college administration would like to get rid of football, but every year football continues, although there is little interest in the college team in either Ukiah or Mendocino County generally.

THE PROPERTY on Hortense, Jock House, is owned by a Dr. Gitlin, an osteopath with an office in Redwood Valley.

BUT IS IT EVEN CONCEIVABLE that the college is paying $9,000 a month to rent the place? We asked the college president, J. Arturo Reyes, to break it down for us. And we will try to reach Dr. Gitlin to find out how a bunch of young football players can pay him big rent for the doctor's Hortense Street house. Maybe he's got twenty kids in there who each pay rent, but that would still be a lot of rent for young students majoring in football. Maybe a Ukiah football booster picks up the rent. Maybe the doc is the team doctor and gets the rent somewhere else, some other way.

PRESIDENT REYES promptly replied to our request for clarification:

“…In response to your specific questions, the college does not lease facilities for any students. Consequently, I am not familiar with the property and I do not know who owns the property that you are referring to in Ukiah. In addition, the college does not distinguish between athletes and non-athletes as we consider all of our students in the same manner. … If your concerns are substantiated, I remain optimistic that any behaviors by a small group of individual students in the neighborhood you describe will not reflect negatively on the exceptional character of our student body and the excellent academic environment found at Mendocino College….”

A NEIGHBOR OF 101 WRITES: "The UPD Chief has already discussed the issue with the President of the college about the numerous complaints from the neighborhood of loud parties, foul language, music, etc. The UPD has responded many times at all hours. The owner of one rental has attempted to talk to [landlord] Dr. Gitlin, but he refuses to return calls. I have also talked with coach, Frank Espy, about the noise, trash, language, etc. The neighborhood is not getting any response. Reyes response is total hyperbole. We will keep trying."

THE UTILITIES at 101 are in the football coach’s name. The neighbors to the immediate north (seven unit apartment building at North Hortense and West Perkins) have a two and one-half page listing of the times they’ve called police about problems at 101. Coach Espy may pay the utilities, but who's paying the rent, said to be a whopping $9,000 a month?



RANDOM THOUGHTS on a dog days afternoon: Rare bit of good news — the new County Courthouse is on hold. No one except our cosseted Superior Court judges want it but that didn't stop the California Judges Association, or whatever it's called, from buying land on West Perkins to build it. The land was bought, incidentally, from what's left of the Northwest Pacific Railroad, presently functioning as a jobs program for retired Democrats.

WHILE WE'RE LINGERING on West Perkins, for a chain restaurant the new Chipotle at the freeway entrance to the splendors of Ukiah is quite nice. Of course the other three corners are covered in two service stations and a truly awful McDonalds, but someone made an architectural decision for the good in the Chipotle.


THE TRUMP STATUE isn't funny. Cheapest of cheap shots. If the so-called artist who created it tried the same with Hillary, the libs would burn down San Francisco.


WITH THE DEPARTURE of Lorraine Dechter from her boss job at KZYX, it seems like a good time to re-organize pseudo-Public Radio Mendocino County and re-locate it to Ukiah, where it should have been located in the first place. We're unlikely to ever know why Dechter packed it in, but smart, capable people have never lasted long at the station, not that there's been many of them.

WHAT'S WITH ALL the semi-hysterical, burbly-gurbly laughter on NPR? You can almost hear their lips smacking on bare buttocks when people like arch-nuzzlebum Scott Simon gets down to serious ass kissing, but it’s their sudden arpeggios of insane laughter at the most prosaic remarks that launches this listener into murder fantasies. For years, TV news has been served up with  hysterical group laughter about nothing funny which, I guess, is assumed to make news readers  like Ken and Barb more chummy, more wuv-able when it really just makes them seem nuts.

GOOGLE is the visual equivalent of Chuckle Buddy News. Every day we get an irritating new graphic where a cartoon character is waving at you, doing somersaults and otherwise being just so darn cute you feel like grabbing a baseball bat and killing your computer. Our fine, fat population obviously went infantile some years ago, but short of unplugging the few remaining mass news sources, adult-type citizens are trapped. (Strange, but I couldn’t help but notice this morning that my google is free of the irritating cartoon graphics. I don’t know whether to be happy at the removal of one more of life’s little bummers or concerned that googles hacking snoops see every sparrow that falls.

“I WANT TO WORK ON MENTAL HEALTH. I see a lack of a safety net for not just mental health patients as much as families of mental health patients. My analogy is you have a person who pays taxes their whole life, they raise their family they do everything by standards, what government wants them to do and then when there's a mental health crisis in their family, say their grandson is going to commit suicide, they find out that when they call 911 there is not a lot of mental health resources out there. The safety net that they've always thought was there — the fire engine, or the police car, or the street worker who's going to take care of the dead dog in the middle of the road — you call 911 and they don't literally put you on hold but I think that the analogy could be that they put you on hold. We have an appointment three months from now, which is not where we want it to be. We as a society need to say either we are not going to provide mental health or we are going to do it and this is how we will pay for it, but we can’t have it both ways.” — Sheriff Tom Allman,

AFTER MORE than half an hour was spent at last Tuesday's Supervisors meeting nitpicking the allocation formula for distribution of about $400k of Prop 172 funds to the County’s 20-some fire districts, Ben Macmillan, a member of the Elk Fire Department Board who spent lots of time coming up with the formula and lobbying the County to distribute the money more fairly, added this pointed footnote to his explanation of the formula: “The point has arisen that the [fire] district agencies are not county functions and yet we have to justify the receipt of funds. The Arts Council was up here earlier and they’re not a county agency either, to my knowledge. I just find it unusual that we as emergency services districts have to justify receipt of funds when the Arts Council didn’t seem to have to. I don’t know that. But it just seems like an odd juxtaposition. So…”

GOOD POINT, MR. M. The Supes hand the Arts Council a cool $22k without demur, but nickel nose our firefighters for over half an hour.

AN EMBARRASSED silence followed Macmillan's observation as the Supervisors looked at each other for several seconds to see if anyone cared to respond. No one did, and Board Chair Dan Gjerde called the next speaker.

GENTLEMAN GEORGE HOLLISTER of Comptche writes of Prop 64, the marijuana legalization bill on the November ballot: "There are positives: reduction of home invasions; less unneighborly paranoia; less lying; fewer locked gates; fewer pit bulls; lower murder rate; no 'trimmergrants', lower rents; more affordable real estate; more friendly rural communities; more young people seeking honorable ways to make a living; etc."

I'D SAY GEORGE may be overly optimistic here. There are already industrial-size grows in the hills of Anderson Valley, for instance; they, together with the already established industrial grape grows, both of them dependent on an overdrawn and battered watershed whose streams are now fish-free, and both industries heavily dependent on chemicals, I think we'll be trading one set of eco-atrocities for another with full-on legalization. I also think the mom and pop pot people, because they live here, are a much more desirable form of the marijuana industry in every way than the Green Rushers, who rush in and do whatever to the water and the land, and rush out with their profits. Call me a romantic, but waiting about five minutes today (Sunday) to cross 128 on foot, I yearn for the days our economy was based on logging, fishing, sheep, and apples.

JOHN HARDIN, the Humboldt County writer, puts the love drug in more accurate perspective: “Yes the black market marijuana industry account for a lot of the money  that comes into Humboldt County but it also accounts for a lot of the homelessness, poverty and drug addiction we find here too. Like a casino, the War on Drugs makes a few lucky people rich, while it swindles the rest of us with games of chance where the odds are stacked against us, and like a casino, it doesn’t really produce anything, except poverty, social problems, and money. Would you care to place a bet on the future of Humboldt County?” Mendocino County hasn’t descended to HumCo depths, yet, but we’re on the way, legalization or no legalization.

UKIAH HIGH SCHOOL students were welcomed back to another year of rigorous studies with a gift of $300 Kindles, one for each scholar. Ukiah has $300,000 for student toys but still can’t get rid of the cockroaches infesting the Low Gap Road campus.

LIKE MILLIONS of other saps, I slapped a Bernie For President bumpersticker on my car, although I have it in writing where I predicted that Bernie could be counted on to go over to Hillary by Convention time. Sure enough. Bern not only sold out to Hil, he did it enthusiastically and so emphatically you’d have thought he was talking about himself when he nominated Ms. More of the Same. I knew Bern would roll but I thought he'd at least make a more or less brave show of his monumental sell-out.

I DON'T get Bernie. He's an old man. Why not go out with your principles intact rather than abandon them to a person and a system you'd just gone around the country denouncing as rigged?

THERE are still lots of people driving around with Bernie bumperstickers. The most annoying ones say, "Billionaires Can't Buy Bernie." They don't need to. The oligarchs already own both parties, and even if they didn't own Bernie he announced at the Convention that he was for sale. Cheap.

AS A PUBLIC SERVICE for all you Berners still flying his tattered flag on your rear bumpers, here's a photo of what you should do:

I WISH the Green Party didn't have its well-deserved mass rep as a gang of nuts and wusses, the tag our enemies have put on people who think Green. But the Greens, historically in this country, have indeed been a collection of nuts and wusses. (cf the Green Party of Mendocino County, long ago co-opted to extinction by the organized Democrats of the Northcoast. They were so awful as individual persons people fled in horror.)

BUT THE GREEN platform is the stuff that would truly "make America great again." Europeans have already figured out that unregulated capitalism is going to crush millions of people and, finally, those millions will turn on the owners in ugly ways (cf human history). To prevent chaos, and I'd say we're on the brink, you soften so-called free enterprise by making the lives of the people most likely to fall victim to it, or have already succumbed, a little easier. You pay for programs making life easier through a fair system of taxation.

ROOSEVELT did it to save capitalism. A few socialist programs like public works and social security, and with FDR's moderate socialism plus World War Two lickety split there were chickens in all our pots.

WE'VE ALREADY got a permanent war going with the Mohammedans so all we need now is single payer, free college, public works projects at competitive wages, genuinely low cost housing, and so on. Roosevelt saved the whole show by a high rate of taxation on the people who benefit most from capitalism — the big fortunes and the big incomes. It's been done in this country before, and it's the only way to prevent the crash to come, let alone "make America great again."

WELL, I'll be damned. Look who just walked through the door. Good afternoon Dr. Stein. Please give us your opinion on the true state of the nation.

"Thank you, Mr. Anderson. Can I call you Bruce?"

If I can call you Jill, Dr. Stein.

"Without further ado, Bruce, this is exactly where it's at: Americans deserve real solutions for the economic, social and environmental crises we face. But the broken political system is only making things worse. My Power to the People Plan creates deep system change, moving from the greed and exploitation of corporate capitalism to a human-centered economy that puts people, planet and peace over profit. It offers direct answers to the economic, social, and ecological crises brought on by both corporate political parties. And it empowers the American people to fix our broken political system and make real the promise of democracy. This plan will end unemployment and poverty; avert climate catastrophe; build a sustainable, just economy; and recognize the dignity and human rights of everyone in our society and our world. The power to create this new world is not in our hopes, it’s not in our dreams – it’s in our hands.”


AVA Notes:

Fort Bragg: Neither incumbent (Scott Deitz, Doug Hammerstrom) is running for re-election. Bernie Norvell, Scott Menzies,  Will Lee, Curtis Bruchler, and Rex Gressett are running for the Fort Bragg City Council.Point Arena: Looks like all five PA seats (3 long term, 2 short term) are up for election. All three incumbents (two of which are appointed) are among the candidates.

Ukiah: Nobody is running against incumbents Douglas Crane, Stephen Scalmanini.

Willits: Incumbents Burton and Strong are running for re-election, but not Holly Madrigal. Among the new candidates is Willits Police Chief Jerry Gonzalez.

Coast Hospital District: Long-serving director/incumbent Sean Hogan is not running for re-election and Dr. Rohr, a critic of the District’s budgeting process and long-term revenue projections, has resigned from the board as three people are running to serve out his (two-year) term.


Measure AA - City Of Fort Bragg - Tot (Bed Tax) Increase — Shall Ordinance No. 924-2016 amending portions of Chapter 3.12 of the Fort Bragg Municipal Code to increase the City of Fort Bragg's existing Transient Occupancy Tax (a bed tax paid when overnight visitors rent a room) from ten percent (10%) to twelve percent (12%) to fund public services and maintain public areas, effective April 1, 2017, which proposed rate increase and amendment is anticipated to raise an additional $400,000 per year in revenue and which will continue until repealed by the City Council or the city voters, be adopted?

Measure AB - City Of Fort Bragg - Advisory Measure — If Measure "AA" is approved by voters, shall the People of the City of Fort Bragg advise the City Council to use the additional funds in the following manner: (i) One-half of the revenues to substantially increase promotions, events, and marketing for Fort Bragg; (ii) One-quarter of the revenues to enhance Coastal Trail maintenance and security; (iii) One-eighth of the revenues to support establishment of the Noyo Center for Marine Sciences as a premiere visitor attraction; and (iv) One-eighth of the revenues to undertake special projects that support tourism and benefit the community including, but not limited to, repair and enhancement of local athletic fields?

Measure AC - City Of Point Arena – TOT/Bed Tax Increase — Shall Ordinance No. 227 amending portions of Chapter 3.30.030 of the Point Arena Municipal Code to increase the City of Point Arena's existing Transient Occupancy Tax (a bed tax paid when overnight visitors rent a room) from ten percent (10%) to twelve percent (12%) to fund public services and maintain public areas, effective April 1, 2017, which proposed rate increase and amendment is anticipated to raise an additional $17,000 per year in revenue and which will continue until repealed by the City Council or the city voters, be adopted?

Measure AD - City Of Point Arena - Advisory Measure — If Measure "AC" is approved by voters, shall the People of the City of Point Arena advise the City Council to use the additional funds generated by the additional 2% of the Transient Occupancy Tax in the following manner: (1) One-quarter of the revenues to substantially increase promotion and marketing for Point Arena; (2) one quarter of the revenues to support events such as the Independence Day Celebration and Harbor Festival; (3) one quarter of the revenues to fund maintenance and improvement to the Arena Pier and City Property at the Cove; and (4) one quarter of the revenue for Park and Parking Improvements in the downtown area that support tourism and benefit the community?

Measure AE - City Of Point Arena - Marijuana & Cannabis Business Tax Measure — "In order to help fund general municipal services, including but not limited to such matters as maintenance of public facilities such as parks and buildings, economic development and general improvements throughout the City, shall an ordinance to impose a tax at a rate of not more than seven (7) cents per each $1.00 of proceeds or fractional part thereof on non-medical cannabis or marijuana businesses and a tax at a rate of not more that three (3) cents per each $1.00 of proceeds or fractional part thereof on medical cannabis or marijuana businesses operating in the City of Point Arena be adopted?"

Measure AF - County Wide - Regulate Medical Cannabis — "Shall an Initiative of the People of the County of Mendocino to Regulate Medical Cannabis Cultivation, Processing, Testing, Distribution, Transportation, Delivery and Dispensing be approved?

Measure AG - County Wide - Mental Health Initiative — “Shall an initiative of the people of the County of Mendocino to add a temporary half-cent sales tax to fund facilities in Mendocino County to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health and drug dependence be approved?"

Measure AH - County Wide - Enacting Language For Measure AG

Measure AI - Unincorporated Areas - Mendocino County - Cannabis Business Tax — "Shall Chapter 6.32 be added to the Mendocino County Code, placing a business tax on cannabis cultivation and dispensaries (not to exceed 10% of gross receipts) and cannabis distribution, delivery, manufacturing, nurseries, testing laboratories and transportation businesses ($2,500.00 per year, to be adjusted in accordance with consumer price index increases) of medical and nonmedical cannabis where legalized by state law, potentially generating millions of dollars annually to help fund county services be approved?"

Measure AJ - An Advisory Measure On Spending Cannabis Business Tax Revenues. Advisory Vote Only. — "If Mendocino County adopts business license taxes on cannabis businesses by the adoption of the measure adopting Chapter 6.32, Measure AI, should the County use a majority of that revenue for funding enforcement of marijuana regulations, enhanced mental health services, repair of county roads, and increase fire and emergency medical services?"


One. Has [Fort Bragg City Manager] Linda Ruffing ever benefited financially from any of the decisions being questioned (other than drawing her salary)? Same question for Dave Turner. Are there kickbacks? Side deals? Conflicts of interest? Any reason to believe they made these decisions other than for what they believed was in the best interests of Fort Bragg?

Two. Why was the Noyo Center located where it was? Was there a "secret" meeting among people who decided to put it next to sewer plant, instead of some more optimal area? If so, why did they do that? Again, is there any evidence they did that just for their own benefit?*

Three. What evidence is there to support the assertion that Mendocino College is burgeoning? Is there any reason to believe that Mr. Patton has some better use for his property (other than charity)?Four. Is there any evidence the Kochs have anything directly to do with any of these decisions?

These are just questions. I don't live in Fort Bragg. Am not running for election. Just throwing in some cents. Personally, I remain optimistic about Fort Bragg and do not believe its problems lie with how it's run. But, I am glad people are paying attention.

IMO, the city needs jobs. A light manufacturing industry. A specialization. There are towns giving away real estate to entice doctors to move. Fort Bragg should be ahead of the curve on that. Maybe a wellness space, instead of a mall (someone with one tenant and a tax credit might be willing to negotiate for multiple tenants and a tax credit). Or an anti-aging institute. Offer credits to doctors who specialize. We are in an age of transition...anything is possible. At the end of the day, the government has a role to play, but it can't supplant people. And that is where the buck ultimately stops.


Excellent questions. I sure don't have all the answers, but here goes with the best I can do:

One. Small town cronyism has indirect results. Favors given for one particular project or issue can be return payment for a favor given six months ago, on some seemingly unrelated project or issue, and vice versa. It's pretty tough to unravel, unless you want to become a full time spectator of of small town politics, and I don't. The fact that City Council members make about two-and-a-half percent of the cash salary that City Manager Ruffing makes (in other words, Ruffing makes 39 times the salary of a councilman) would seem to make them feel like they deserve some sort of kickback. That is, unless it's agreed that being a city council member is volunteer community service work, and it isn't. That's why this set-up has got to change. The fact that the Koch Brothers are now in the game takes it all to a whole new level. We'll see what happens when Ruffing and crew wheel out their back room deals for the planning of "Kochtown" - on the 350 acres of mill site waiting for "redevelopment."

Two. In October, 2010, the City of Fort Bragg got a $500,000 grant from the California Coastal Conservancy - where Sheila Semans worked at the time - so she presumably helped negotiate the sale. The City claims in documents that the sewer plant site was arrived at though a "strategic planning process." - in other words, secret meetings. Exactly how Georgia Pacific and the Koch Brothers managed to unload 11.5 acres next to the sewer plant for half a mil to Semans and the Noyo Center, in what they must have known was worthless buffer zone property, remains a mystery. But they I bet they were laughing all the way to the bank.

Three. Mendocino College is definitely burgeoning, and is the best thing around for young people in this community.  If Mr. Patton had for more concern for the community of Fort Bragg (that he abandoned years ago) than he does for his own greed, he'd regard both the College and that property with a lot more respect.

Four. It'll be hard to pin drown the Kochs in any of this, since they obviously have the money and the experience to guard their secrets well.


"The City Manager publishes ‘city notes’ every two weeks where people can get updates on the mill site and the remediation process, as well as many other city activities. There is a fairly detailed one just about the mill site published on January 1, 2015.

According to this note, the former Fort Bragg Redevelopment Agency (not the Coastal Conservancy) purchased the 11-acre parcel for the Noyo Center for Marine Science back in 2011. I am unaware of any connection between the FBRA and Sheila Semans."


This is a good example of Linda Ruffing's prevarications on her "City Notes" column as her mouthpiece, The Fort Bragg Advocate News. (I was recently reading her gushing column about Fort Bragg's wonderful city streets, right after the City Council meeting where she took a report on how the contractor has screwed up on the many hundred thousand dollar repaving job on Franklin Street a few years ago — a job that is already failing).

Anyway, regarding your claim that "the former Fort Bragg Redevelopment Agency (not the Coastal Conservancy) purchased the 11-acre parcel for the Noyo Center for Marine Science back in 2011." The fact is, despite what Ruffing wrote, it was the Coastal Conservancy who provided the funds, in the form of a $500k grant, regardless of who actually made the purchase.

Although Sheila Semans connection to the purchase and siting of the Noyo Center may be shielded by the ambiguity of the "FBRA," the fact of the matter is that she, the wearer of many hats, was working for the Coastal Conservancy at the same time these deals were being made.

PS - YOU ALSO WRITE: "it is much more difficult to do the hard work of cleaning up their mess and running a view-rich but pocket-poor city like Fort Bragg."

This is not borne out many recent extravagant expenditures by the City of Fort Bragg. Though the residents may indeed be poor, those running the show, both above and below the table, certainly are not poor. I also want to make it clear that I commend all the people who have put so much time and effort into trying to clean up the mill site, and the good people who work at, and dream of, a great future for the Noyo Center.

One Comment

  1. Eric Sunswheat August 29, 2016

    Oberon Zell-Ravenheart (born Timothy Zell, November 30, 1942, St. Louis, Missouri; formerly known as Otter G’Zell), co-founded the Ecosophical Research Association in 1977, an organization that explores the truth behind myths. This group was known for the “living unicorns” they created by minor surgery to the horn buds of goats. One of their unicorns, Lancelot, toured with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.[6]

    Oberon Zell is a renowned Elder in the worldwide magickal community. In 1962 he co-founded the Church of All Worlds, a Pagan church with a futuristic vision, and he has been involved in the founding of numerous other major groups and alliances.

    First to apply the terms “Pagan” and “Neo-Pagan” to the newly emerging Nature Religions of the 1960s, and through his publication of Green Egg magazine (1968-), Oberon was instrumental in the coalescence of the modern Pagan movement.

    Founder and Headmaster of the online Grey School of Wizardry (, his current project is the Academy of Arcana ( in Santa Cruz, CA

    For more about Oberon visit his website at

    Oberon currently resides in Santa Cruz County, California.

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