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Mendocino County Today: Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016

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by Malcolm Macdonald

The Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) Board of Directors held a meeting Thursday night, September 29th. Maybe you didn't hear about it. No worries, they only approved $4 million worth of uninsured new debt revenue bonds. Don't know what that is? Well, join the crowd of taxpayers and voters from Rockport to Comptche to the southern borders of Mendocino County's coastline. There was apparently no notice in the coastal newspapers about this meeting. This writer didn't note anyone from those papers at the meeting and the email list that yours truly is on for agenda packets includes about 55 people in total; most of those are affiliated with either the hospital itself, its clinic the North Coast Family Health Center (NCFHC), or the Hospital Foundation.

So the audience at the September 29th MCDH Board meeting was predictably made up of 15-20 folk affiliated with the hospital itself, its foundation, or NCFHC. I spotted only two people who could be clearly identified as simply concerned, taxpaying citizens without hospital affiliation.

Other than this writer there were no ordinary citizens at the MCDH Finance Committee meeting of September 27th. Oh, yes, you could have had two days forewarning about the new debt revenue bonds had you made it to the Sept. 27th meeting. Wake up all you folk who complained about four-five days notice before the Fort Bragg City Council voted on the Hospitality Center move into the Old Coast Hotel. By the bye, that was the second noticed meeting on the Hospitality Center locale, there having been one nine months prior regarding a proposed site at 300 N. Harrison Street. In a strictly technical sense the City of Fort Bragg didn't have to hold a second meeting, the Hospitality Center could have simply said something like, “You didn't like 300 Harrison St.; fine, we found the Old Coast Hotel. It would be our pleasure to see you at the Grand Opening.”

That little detail is conveniently overlooked by many of the harshest critics of Hospitality Center. Do not mistake my attention to detail for any kind of wholesale support for the Hospitality Center. Critics should have stuck to the simplest of facts. For years the Board and employees of Hospitality Center have demonstrated an inability to simply manage the delivery of food dispersed at their Fort Bragg flagship, Hospitality House. Feeding the poor and homeless is a worthy endeavor, but Hospitality lets too many of its clients leave the grounds with the food. Much too much of that food ends up dumped, trashed, deposited on the near and not so near neighbors of Hospitality House. It's been going on for years. It's still happening in September, 2016. If the high school or middle school or any Fort Bragg school had a fraction of these kinds of food trashing incidents, the city, from teachers to school administrators to police to parents right up through and including municipal government would be on the case in no time, putting a stop to it. If students dumping school food popped up again as a problem several years on, it would be met with a similar concerted effort. However, a do-gooder non-profit is allowed to let an unhealthy portion of its clientele trash businesses and residences for years and years with the mildest of admonishments at best.

I digress from the hospital situation, but MCDH is a metaphorical mess that has been allowed to limp along for years until it got a pretty full fledged admonishment, bankruptcy. Now it's limping along again only a year or so removed from bankruptcy. MCDH has millions and millions and millions of dollars (I can go on with the millions into the teens, maybe further) of needed repairs that it apparently doesn't have the money for. We are not talking boards and nails kind of stuff. Well, there's millions of that too, but there's four million dollars or more worth of operating room sterilization, nurse call system, automatic transfer switch system (for the times when the PG&E power goes off and state regulations mandate a switch to generator power within ten seconds), and more intricate types of repairs as well as equipment replacement and mandated upgrades in the electronic health records system. That one alone will cost $2 million to $2.5 million. All the others cost a hundred thousand or hundreds of thousands of dollars each. The top five priorities in these repair projects will cost $4,115,000.

Is the dollar figure of $4 million and change (as The Donald might refer to a piddling $115,000) starting to sink in, sound a little repetitive? The $4.115 million amount is eerily close to a $4.15 million figure the MCDH Board and its CEO and CFO are touting as potential proceeds from the issuance of the aforementioned debt revenue bonds.

Risk to us the taxpaying public? Very little according to the bond and an investment expert from William Blair & Company, the firm hired to assist MCDH with the debt revenue bond process. But who knows? Don't ask me to explain the finer details, I was merely a witness to the ramming through of the multi-million dollar bond procedure.

To be completely fair to MCDH administrators the bond idea was first broached in the last week of August at a Finance Committee meeting with breathlessly zealous words about the imperative of voting on the matter as soon as possible to take advantage of lower interest rates. Some plausibility there, in that the Federal Reserve has been holding back all year on what seems an inevitable interest rate hike. However, I must repeat that it seems odd that the MCDH administrators made little or no effort to publicize the multi-million dollar matter during the last month (I use the word “little” in a completely benefit-of-the-doubt manner).

Public representation? The closest you were going to get on this matter lay in the MCDH Board of Directors. Board member Peter Glusker did raise multiple questions. New board member Steve Lund stated that this would be the last time he could vote for such a muliti-million dollar measure. However, ultimately MCDH's Board approved taking on the “new debt revenue bonds” with only Dr. Glusker dissenting in a 4-1 vote. Board members Tom Birdsell, Sean Hogan, Kitty Bruning, and Lund voted in the affirmative.

Was there public input prior to the Board vote? Not unless some reader can point to an as yet unknown letter or email. The nearest thing came from former (as of Tuesday, Sept, 27th) Finance Committee member Kaye Handley. At the Sept. 29th Board meeting Glusker asked that a letter from Handley be copied into the official minutes. Presumably it will be, but who's going to see it? Here's how Handley's letter began, “I am writing to [each Board member] to express my concern about the new $4 million bond issue proposed to fund equipment purchases… While it is clear the new equipment is critical, I am concerned about the “business-as-usual” approach to funding it with new debt. The proposed additional bonds will bring the hospital's long-term debt up to $18 million, barely a year out of bankruptcy. Annual debt service is currently about $2 million and will increase to $2.5 million assuming the proposed terms are achievable. That is roughly equal to all budgeted cash flow from operations for this fiscal year, leaving no cushion or funds for capital investment.

“The problem is, simply, that the hospital is already spending nearly all its free cash flow on debt service with little left for equipment and capital investment. That has apparently been the case for many years — with predictable results. Capital investment needs presented by management for the next three fiscal years total $17 million, at least $3 million of which is deemed urgent. And this does not address the new facility required by 2030.

“Now we find ourselves with critical needs and no available strategy. This debt proposal is an opportunity for the Board to show leadership in taking the difficult steps necessary to bring the hospital's cash flow up to a level that will maintain equipment and infrastructure. This is essential to restoring the hospital's competitive position and attracting/retaining quality physicians. Given the level of deferred expenditures in recent years an annual improvement of at least $3-4 million will likely be needed to maintain a viable independent facility.”

Handley goes on to enumerate cash flow improvement opportunities. One of which is passage of a parcel tax; however, she concludes, “Such a tax alone is not sufficient and voters may be reluctant to 'throw good money after bad'.”

About the idea of closing or significantly modifying the Obstetrics Department Handley states, “An ad hoc committee was supposed to research [the idea], yet this effort has not moved forward. While the public has expressed strong resistance they, too, need more info to develop an informed view.”

Handley's take on the possibility of changing MCDH operations to a “Hospital Fee Structure” in order to qualify for potentially millions more, annually, in state reimbursement monies: “This is potentially the single biggest opportunity to improve cash flow, but it has sat in limbo since January, despite several volunteers willing to explore the issue.”

Handley goes on, “Other potential areas for significant savings should also be explored. These could include ways to improve employee retention in an effort to stop the dramatic rise in Registry costs, as well as working with employees to initiate some level of contributions to health and pension plans.”

Perhaps Handley is unaware of recent administration tactics in negotiating with the hospital's employee union. Until now employees and their immediate family members received full medical benefits without any monetary contribution by the employees. The Administration's negotiating tactic was not asking for something like a ten, fifteen, or twenty percent employee contribution, MCDH administration's first and apparently only negotiating stance was a straight 50/50 split in medical benefit payments. Reportedly the union, after months of stalled bargaining, offered this: employees would pay 10% of family members medical benefit costs. Seemingly, something along these lines is in the final agreement ratified by union vote in mid-September. Substantive rumors about the labor agreement cite a 5% raise for employees countered by a 1% decline in employer contributions to retirement funding. Supposedly, MCDH administration initially wanted the retirement plan to be simply on a matching basis, but the union negotiators balked at this because new and lower paid employees would most likely find it difficult to contribute. From an administration point of view this would have netted sizable savings because the employer contribution would only be triggered once the employee first made their own retirement contribution.

Handley concludes her letter to the Board with this, “There seems to be a perception by the public that difficult changes are not really necessary. I often hear comments that the hospital will ‘muddle through’ or that ‘someone will bail it out.’ Approving this new debt with no further actions will only reinforce such perceptions. This is an opportunity to make it clear that failing to invest in capital needs or continuing to fund them through debt is not an option if MCDH is to become truly competitive and remain an independent entity.”

Two sources stated on Tuesday, September 27, that Handley had resigned her position on MCDH's Finance Committee. Precise reasons/causes were not immediately forthcoming. However, Handley was one of the Planning and Finance Committee members invited to attend a joint meeting with the Board of Directors in late spring, 2016 (the scheduled joint meeting was listed on the committee agendas). When the appointed meeting date arrived MCDH Board Chair Tom Birdsell ignored Handley's efforts to be recognized for comment. A similar event occurred at a late summer committee meeting when the committee chair brought down the gavel to close the meeting rather than hear Handley's remarks on the new debt revenue bonds.

Handley, Lund, and Birdsell are vying, along with several other candidates, for three MCDH Board seats in the November election. Voters may want to check out Mendocino TV's ( recent MCDH Board candidate forum. Birdsell apparently refused to take part.

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Saturday, October 15th at 6:00 PM

The Shed

(Behind Paysanne Ice Cream Shop)


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THE SUDDEN REVIVAL of the controversy around the Mendo College football team's informal dorm at 101 Hortense, West Side Ukiah, has prompted a new round of semi-informed to uninformed comment hosted by the Mendocino Country Independent on-line facebook page. Before we re-print that series of comments (below) we'll give you what we wrote several weeks ago;

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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?

But the point really is Who's responsible for recruiting 29 19-20 year old jocks, putting them up in a former elderly care home on the West Side, and then letting well intentioned folks step in and try to fix things? Why would anyone think two dozen or more football players living in a frat-house environment would slide by without notice? These kids are ripped off by the coaches who recruited them so they, the coaches, can move up the college jock-o ladder to better jobs. The Mendo program has always tried to be big time but the Northcoast simply doesn't produce enough kids who can play at that level. This kind of sports exploitation is nothing new at Mendo college.

I talked to the college prez who said the college isn't responsible, and I tried to talk to the arrogant prick of a Redwood Valley doctor who owns the place and was ripping these kids off for all they could pay. No response from him but he said in the UDJ, I think, and perhaps in the PD (Glenda lives across the street and her boyfriend Sweeney (the Bari car bomber) was among the people bitching the loudest about these kids, that the neighbors were "racists." Which they aren't.

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FROM TOMMY WAYNE KRAMER'S essential Sunday column in the Ukiah Daily Journal: West Side Ukiah: Hotbed of hate, intolerance, racism… There is a controversy simmering away about the less-than-fastidious housekeeping standards of a group of Mendocino College football players sharing a big two story house on Ukiah’s west side. I walk by it several times a week and the house and grounds look precisely like the kind of deteriorating dump college kids are famous for not keeping up: aluminum cans at the curb, rubbish piled head-high in the back, a mattress propped up in the front yard for weeks on end, and young guys making far too much noise and ruckus for the sleepy elders in the neighborhood. The guys seem friendly enough. Sometimes I’m strolling by when they’re out tossing a football back and forth on Hortense Street, and if I raise a hand like a downfield receiver, someone is always happy to fire a nice, tight, 70 mile-an-hour spiral right through my chest. But a football dormitory is not a good fit with the neighborhood. And the college president, Arturo Reyes, is playing blind, deaf and dumb. As soon as the story emerged he ducked behind a few glib paragraphs about how all college kids contribute to the community and about how proud he is of their efforts and blah blah gurgle gak. What a bozo. The owner of the house is Robert Gitlin, a doctor who lives a comfortable 20 miles away from the property that enriches him at a tune of $8,000 a month. He instantly labeled any and all criticism from neighbors as racist. Gitlin understands defending the trash and noise generated at his property is an argument he can’t win. But he thinks if he can switch the subject to Racism in America, it’s an argument he can’t lose. Making ugly accusations unanchored to either facts or evidence, he labels people he’s never met (a Superior Court judge, a veteran Press-Democrat reporter, Ukiah’s ex-mayor) as racist bigots. Classy guy, Gitlin. (Full disclosure: A few years ago I hurt my back and visited Dr. Gitlin. Once.) After the trash debate dies out there’s a bigger question. Why do we even have a football program? Mendocino College hires lots of kids from distant time zones to come play football here and I have a few questions for readers: Have you ever been to a Mendocino College football game? Do you know anyone who has? Can you name the football coach? Can you name a single player on the roster? Can you name anyone who has ever played football at Mendo College? Can you name the league or conference the team competes in? Have the Mendocino Eagles ever won a championship? How many games did they win last year? Do you care? Do you think spending a lot of money teaching a few dozen youngsters how to play football is the best use of education dollars?

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WHEN KZYX and Annie Esposito of the Mendocino Environment Center and the defunct Mendocino Country newspaper get together to create news, expect a perfect storm of out of context fragments and misinformation.

THE TSUNAMI blew up yesterday when someone posted a comment re 101 Hortense, the run down former nursing home on the West Side of Ukiah, now housing most of the Mendocino College football team:

"The real question is Who's responsible for recruiting football 29 players, putting them up in a deteriorated and otherwise un-rentable former elderly care home on the West Side, and then letting well intentioned folks step in and try to fix things? Why would anyone think two dozen or more football players living in a frat-house environment would slide by without notice?"

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ESPOSITO AND THE PC GANG re-ignited the controversy Thursday with a planted KZYX report and the following facebook comments, one of which, a person offering 'collard greens' would seem to be your basic unconscious racism. But since the entire Esposito-Mendo Country-KZYX Axis is unconscious, hard to tell if the collard greens remark was mere stupid and patronizing or deliberate:

THE KZYX VERSION Thursday night:

Valerie Kim: A house on the west side of your Ukiah is drawing attention lately. It houses the Mendocino College football team. Some neighbors are complaining about excessive noise and trash. Sherry Quinn has more details.

Quinn: Many Mendocino College football players in the city of Ukiah are at the center of a growing controversy over housing. 26 members of the college football team are facing eviction from a 15-bedroom house at 101 Hortense Street because some of the players cannot afford to pay their share of the rent. Those that can are not paying up only to get kicked out anyway. The landlord told them they had until October 7 to vacate the property. A group of concerned citizens in Ukiah has stepped in to help the students with legalities and also some food. They include a neighbor, and an attorney, a community activist, a pastor and others. According to one of the citizens who wishes to remain anonymous at this time, most of the students are from out of state and are here to continue their education during the football season. But they are now feeling stressed out and let down due to lack of a support system. So much so that three of them left Ukiah in the middle of the night on Tuesday for the airport in San Francisco to return home. The Plowshares Peace and Justice Center has donated some hot meals to the students. According to an e-mail sent out by activist Peter Barrett the students were allegedly told that the college could not assist them with their housing needs because National Collegiate Athletic Association regulations prohibit that. Our source who attended a meeting at the college campus on the issue said that the owner of the house has offered the students rental agreements at Brooktrails lodge which is located an hour away in Willits and where there is no bus line. The issue is currently at a stalemate and the group is seeking more details while working on solutions.

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A COUPLE of the kids have departed for their Florida homes, as the new on-line facebook paper, Mendocino Country Independent reports, as if it's all a new issue:

The 29 Mendo College Football Players Living In One House on Hortense, are now threatened with eviction. They were recruited from out of state, and housed in one large house, with no resources. These are mostly black men following a dream — getting into college through football. They are now in a crazy situation. The coach, apparently, arranges housing with the landlord. But none of these students have a copy of the rental agreement. The landlord is saying the rent is in arrears. But their financial aid checks do not arrive until October. The college knows this. There's no hot water. Many are sleeping on the floor and going without meals. Several people are hoping to help straighten it out, but the students are understandably discouraged. In the recent past, some neighbors have objected to the group, citing noise. But again, this is about 29 young people plunked down into one crowded house with no support. They have since gone door to door to befriend the 'hood, and held picnics for the block in their front yard. They are trying! The powers that hold them there should be trying also!

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Kate Clark: I'll be over next week with 2 boxes of apples,peppers and tomatoes. I have collard greens too.

Kate Clark: Let's work together and leave our politics on the curb. These kids need help.

Mendocino Country Independent Newspaper: That's great! 3 of the students have already given up and left to go back home. I was holding back on their address, but i see it was already published in the Press Democrat. It's 101 S. Hortense, on Ukiah's west side. Thanks to the overwhelming number of you who want to see this kids get a little support.

Mendocino Country Independent Newspaper: P.S. Most of the students arrive back home after school and practice, around 4:30 pm

Alison Rosen: Why isn't the coach being named? Seems like he is mostly responsible.

Terri Kopcho Lawson: Who puts 29 people in one house? Who allowed? This isn't a situation about compassion, this is a situation of stupidity.

Lisa Johnson: This brought tears to my eyes. Not ok!

Roze Ford: Department of rehab may help some

Berry Smith Salinas: Hi All! I created a meal/grocery sign up online to make it easier to coordinate our support. I know all of us (moms especially) want to make sure these guys are fed so this sign up is for food related support only~ but I hope there are some people who can help out with legal/housing assistance too?

Meal/Grocery delivery I'm creating this to better coordinate all of the support that is coming in for the Football players at Mendocino… SIGNUPGENIUS.COM|BY SIGNUPGENIUS

I'm creating this to better coordinate all of the support that is coming in for the Football players at Mendocino…

Mendocino Country Independent Newspaper: will repost this from time to time, so that it doesn't get buried in the comments. thanks Berry!

Natasha Butler: Why isn't the coach or the school. Trying to help if it's them that put these kids there?? Shame on the school and the coach for allowing this to happen

Mendocino Country Independent Newspaper: They college is not legally allowed to help the ball team more than the other students…

Heidi Shimshak: What? Is the hot water fixed?

Heidi Shimshak: Has anyone contacted one of the supermarkets in the area, Lucky?

Heidi Shimshak: How about Food for Less?

Heidi Shimshak: How does the school think this is ok?

Karlie-Ann Gibson Travis Perry: told you this house has made "the news" haha LC Loubet As a former Ukiah resident, I gotta say I'm proud of all the vocal support for these lads. Get these guys fed! Also I saw the turnout in solidarity with the struggle against the Dakota Access swindle, kudos for that too.

Leah M. Anderson Mendoza: Mendocino College needs to be held accountable. You want the sports team, take care of them. Ukiah has an awesome community that always jumps to support. I will do my part, MC do yours please.

Sandy Miller Severson: Are they on Football Scholarships? And why don't they follow up on receipts for there rent? What did they think was going to happen and who was going to pay for all of this? And why hasn't the owner of the house been questioned as to HOW much rent is b...See More

Patty Lara Mar: Let's share this post as much as we can and help these students we are a very nice and helpful community in those cases... Love Ukiah and God bless all!!! Patty Lara Mar Periodico Al Punto Kelly Mannel Tyrrell Espy

Petty Betty: I have positions open at my store Petty Betty Apply at Private message me and I can assist with application process

Kristina Lewis: This is a possible resource for support:

Janet Rosen: I will go there tomorrow and see what needs to be purchased that can't be brought by local gardeners (chickens, milk? Young athletes also need protein!!!) and get some shopping done. Like · Reply · 2 · 17 hrs · Edited

Diana Price: I just want to put on here that a good friend of mine packed all his bags to go out there to play football for this school. He is currently living in the house and this is insane that it is happening to him. He went out there to play football and get a...See More

Jennifer Lucero Fetherkile: This is shameful. These young men should have been given a list of all the resources in the community the day they moved in - or before! Has anyone given them the address, days & hours of the Ukiah community center food bank on N. State Street by Ceja'.

Heidi Shimshak: Is it South or North Hortense?

Jolinda Clark: The recruited ball players have been treated like this for a number of years. In the past plowshares has sent them breakfast foods and bread and peanut butter. This is shameful of the college.

Mendocino Country Independent Newspaper: Plowshares jumped in again this time, and gave them dinner and groceries. Now, there is an organized meal schedule - thanks to Berry.

Meal/Grocery delivery I'm creating this to better coordinate all of the support that is coming in for the Football…

Mendocino Country Independent Newspaper: 'NOBODY HAS EVEN DONE ANYTHING LIKE THAT FOR US BEFORE!" One of the awed footballers, learning about the organized meals that Berry put together.

Sabrina Mendoza: One thing I love about where I live is that most us us Mendo grown residents always show love and come together for the good! It sux these boys are put in this position but I'm confident they will now get the help they need since the problem is being spoken about! I'll be there Friday to fill their bellies! MENDO LOVE! 💜

Sierra Butler: Is there a go fund me page?

Dana Froneberger: I dropped off groceries today. I brought $250 in food. They need paper goods, plates, napkins, bowls for cereal, cups, silverware, any pots and pans, utensils, can openers, food they can take on the go. They spend alot of time at school do they need...See More

Patty Lara Mar: I can help with some fresh eggs and some apples if you can pm me please I would be glad to help!

Shelby Daniel Robert Gitlin, at it again. SLUMLORD.

Yvonne Ortiz: What's the college doing?

Heidi Shimshak: Going to Costco Sat for Staples. Dropped off muffins this morning

Steve R. Brown: Where is the college and the coach.

Heidi Shimshak: Staples have been dropped off. It's good to know what they have and what they need. Thanks Dana Heidi Shimshak Could use a list?!

Leah M. Anderson Mendoza: HOW TO HELP

Heidi Allen: Does anyone know what time is best if your delivering items? I just want to make sure someone is there if I drop off some cases of water Gateraid etc

Mendocino Country Independent Newspaper: Thanks Dominick -- and generally speaking, i think people are home after 4:30 pm, no?

Heidi Allen: I can always swing by after 430 if that time is best

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Official Mendo is updating its “sexual harassment” policy to be include any kind of “harassment,” not just sexual. The new definition of Harassment is:

Harassment means unsolicited or unwelcome words or conduct that are subjectively and objectively offensive to another person. Harassment need not be motivated by sexual desire in order to be unlawful, actionable harassment. An employee alleging harassment is not required to sustain a loss of tangible jo benefit in order to sustain a claim of harassment. Harassment includes, but is not limited to, the following types of behavior undertaken because of a person’s membership in a protected classification:

  1. Verbal conduct such as epithets (nicknames and slang terms), abusive or derogatory jokes or comments, slurs, including graphic verbal commentary about an individual’s body or that identify a person on the basis of his or her protected classification, or unwanted sexual advances, invitations or comments.
  2. Visual conduct such as making, sending, or displaying derogatory, sexually suggestive and/or obscene letters, notes, e-mails, invitations, slurs, jokes, gestures, pictures, cartoons, or posters related to a protected classification.
  3. Physical conduct such as assault, unwanted and/or offensive touching (including pinching, grabbing, and patting), leering, and blocking normal movements or interfering with work.

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THE AVA RECOMMENDS: Please calibrate your vote accordingly. As most of you know, the reason there are so many initiatives is our legislators don't legislate much. We'll keep it brief, but if our critiques aren't brief enough, you can safely vote NO on everything without going too far wrong.

THERE'S A BUNCHA bond-funded state initiatives on the November ballot, and right here we'll point out what we always point out at election time, which is that there is already so much bond indebtedness in this state that it will never be paid off. So what's a few billion more? The people who buy these things get a very good deal because they make a lot of money on what are essentially loans guaranteed by the tax payers. Since we're already on the hook for more money than can ever be paid back, and if that bothers you, vote no on everything funded by bonds. If you wisely assume the whole show is a vast series of interlocking Ponzis soon to go blooey, speed the collapse by voting Yes on bond funding.

PROP 51: Vote No. Should the state issue $9 billion in bonds for constructing or improving public schools? The construction industry wants to know, because if you vote yes they get to build a lot of structures in which learning allegedly takes place. Bear in mind, however, that the greatest teacher ever, besides the Nazarene carpenter of course, was Socrates, and he did his teaching under an olive tree. $3 billion to build new schools $3 billion to modernize existing schools $2 billion to buy, build, and improve community colleges $500 million for charter schools $500 million for technical education facilities

Who’s Voting Yes on Prop 51? The edu-bloc, both political parties, the State Chamber of Commerce — your basic collection of undesirables, in other words,.

Who’s Voting No on Prop 51? People opposed to sprawl, and everyone who knows that 51 was put on the ballot by the construction industry.

PROPS 52, 53, 54

PROP 52. VOTE NO. The state Democrats have teamed up with the more mercenary hospitals (Adventist in Ukiah and Willits, for handy instance) and hospital administrators, that would require a two-thirds vote in the legislature to change how the state funds Medi-Cal. Prop 52 is opposed by hospital unions and people who watchdog Medi-Cal funding on behalf of ordinary people. The watchdogs say that, if passed, millions of public dollars will bypass sick people to create a state health-care bureaucracy.

PROP 53. Yes. More or less fiscal conservatives are for this one, which would require that voters approve any bond that puts the state over the $2 billion in public-infrastructure bonds that are already out there. And which, added to all the other bond debt out there that will never be re-paid. But everything is falling apart — roads, bridges, what's left of railroads — because Democrats live in fear of the oligarchy and don't dare tax them to pay their fair share of the common load. Governor Brown, the state's Chamber of Commerce and, natch, developers, are opposed to 53 because they're not much for infrastructure work. Vote YES although endless bonds are not a sensible long-term way of paying for basic amenities in lieu of a fair system of taxation, which we do not have because of people like Jerry Brown. Bonds are basically loans issued, mostly by big banks, who make double what the bond is worth from ordinary taxpayers.

PROP 54. Vote Yes. Ever hear of "gut-and-amend"? Our noble legislators sneak bills through at the last minute with all kinds of giveaways to bad interests. Proposition 54 would mandate that the content of bills be published 72-hours prior to the vote. Everyone is for this across the board, except for, guess who? California Democrats of the elected type who fear voter reaction to their many treacheries.

PROP 55: Yes. "Help Our Children Thrive." Gee, guess who's backing this one? Answer, The edu-bloc and Big Lib, and right there is a major temptation to vote no. They're always for the kids, right? Why, right this minute out at the Mendocino County Office of Education at Talmage superintendent Warren Galletti, $140,000 a year plus fringes, is pacing the lush carpeting of his office, darn near distraught with worry, "How the heck can I do more for the kids?" The edu-bloc has said for years, "Give us more money and boy o boy o will your kids learn more better." Of course the public ed apparatus votes as a bloc for Big Lib, hence their mutual support for maintaining a tiny tax on incomes over a quarter mil annually. And the money raised will go straight to the classroom, just like the lottery money went straight to the classroom. But clamp a clothespin over your nose and vote Yes.

PROP 56: NO. Another two bucks a pack on smokes. I find myself wondering, "Why not just put the tax on cigarettes at a hundred bucks a pack and be done with it?” It seems like every other state ballot ups the sin tax while sanctioning other sins like gambling. I also note that of the four pot initiatives on the ballot, three of them originating in Mendocino County, America's intoxicants capitol, none mention the damage done to the lungs of millions of heedless dopers by heavy use of the love drug. The cig tax goes partially to several nebulous purposes, including alleged prevention and, more vaguely, "child development," meaning jobs for the blah-blah people. If we're going to tax people doing dumb things to themselves like smoking, how about a tax on people watching Fox News, 60-year-old women dressing like teenagers, old men in short pants, and maybe a hundred each on neck tattoos? The AVA recommends: Whatever.

PROP 57. Yes. Parole for non-violent prisoners. This is a hot one, so hot a No On 57 guy sent me a stack of baseball card-like pictures of felons who've committed appalling crimes, saying that these guys would get out under Prop 57. The DA is also recommending a No vote on Prop 57. Why are cops voting No? Because lots of them secretly believe that everyone is either an active scumbag or a scumbag who hasn't been caught yet. Which, as a general principle, seems irrefutable, but as a practical matter we can't lock up everyone, can we? Me? I think it's clear that generally speaking people get sentences out of all proportion to what they've done. There's got to be an objective process for the orderly release of people who try hard in prison to improve themselves. I've thought for a long time we ought to go back to the future when committees of inmates and staff evaluated people for release. Who better than the people who see them every day, work with them every day, often know them better than their own families, to decide who's a menace, who isn't? More than one former inmate has put the number of true menaces to society at 20 percent. These are guys who should never get out even if they're in for shoplifting. Under the present system, a maniac can do his time and get his release even if all he's done in prison is watch television. We recommend a Yes vote on 57. The whole system desperately needs reform, and this is a good place to start an orderly release system.

On the other hand, you have people like Thess Love, would-be pimp, busted in Point Arena for trying to make a street prostitute out of a fog belt maiden. Just today (Thursday), this guy spit on his court-appointed attorney, Jan Cole-Wilson, in the courtroom. He's lucky to have someone as skilled and decent, but tell that to him. Earlier he had spit on the probation officer preparing his report. Is it just coincidence that Love has written letters - jail has copies - advocating family and friends to vote for Prop. 57 because he sees himself as a beneficiary? As it is he apparently believes the spitting incidents will bring misdemeanor battery charges, delaying his transfer to state prison. He knows the misdemeanors will be wiped clean when prison authorities determine how much time he will actually serve. So not only is he delaying serving his prison time, he's hoping to benefit from Prop. 57 if it passes, and if it does this low-rent punk will be 57-eligible. Guys like this deserve all the time they get.

PROP 58. No. Basically the return of bi-lingual classrooms. Like it or not, America is an English language country few of whose citizens, even those born here, ever quite grasp their native tongue well enough to fully decode their native tongue — hence this election's presidential candidates. Mexican kids aren't done any favors by encouraging Spanglish, which is what emerges from bi-lingual ed. The better you speak and write English, the better you will do in a system organized to rip you off.

PROP 59: Yes. Citizens United has allowed the Koch brothers (owners of Fort Bragg's oceanfront, as it happens) and their fellow oligarchs to funnel billions of dollars in secret donations into our elections. Corporations are people, you see. The Supreme Court said so. Citizens United has paved the way to a new era of corporate spending and special-interest influence through the invention of the “SuperPAC." Prop 59 is a step to unraveling the nefarious influence of big money in politics, not that we're ever likely to get it out.

PROP 60. Yes. Boonville's beloved newspaper has always argued that pornography itself should be banned. But now that the ritual humiliation of half the world's population is not only sanctioned but celebrated, and so pervasive it's available to children, and that fact is certainly one more sign that America's slide into the moral abyss will not be arrested any time soon, the degenerates who abase themselves in these films should probably be protected (sic) from themselves by being required to wear condoms. Vote yes as you watch the daily increase in sex crimes everywhere in the world and wonder why such a relatively trivial issue as this one found its way onto a state ballot. Is the AVA saying pornography causes sexual violence? Yes. Can you prove it? No. But do the math. Millions of isolated men watching this stuff for hours at a time everywhere in the country is like arming a kindergarten class with loaded guns and telling them to go outside and play cops and robbers. (I don't think the analogy quite works but you get my drift, I assume.)

As it happens, the New Yorker of last week (26 September) contains an article about the contemporary porn industry. It's called "Lights, Camera, Action" and runs through the sordid realities of the business before it gets to a startling fact: 75% of the films viewed on-line are the work of amateurs, which seems to confirm that we are now a nation of pervs.

PROP 61. This baby is funded by Big Pharma, and Big Pharma is spending a lot of money to get it passed. The drug manufacturers have gulled some Vets groups into supporting it, but nurses are opposed, as is SEIU. I find nurses absolutely reliable in a political sense, and SEIU at least more trustworthy than the drug companies. Vote NO on 61, and don't even try to decode the particulars because they're confusing and contradictory. If you think Big Pharma would actually get behind something good for people, go ahead and give it a thumbs up.

PROPS 62 & 66

WE WILL HAVE TWO death penalty propositions on the November ballot. One repeals the death penalty, the other speeds it up. The argumet for repeal is the old one: it doesn't deter much of anyone, it's unfair because only poor people get it, and life without is cheaper. The reasons for speeding it up are also familiar, and include: These bastards have it coming; it's the law; lawyers drag out appeals and so on.

WE AGREE that most of these bastards have it coming, but we don't like dispatching them by midnight needles in hospital settings. We also don't like the state being authorized to kill people because in certain circumstances the state would kill us. And innocent people can and have got put to death. But we think executions should be public — football stadiums would be perfect venues — with admission charged, television rights sold, and all proceeds to the families of the victims. We would also require that the families would have to do the killing or at least authorize it, and the method should be by firing squad, which is quick, humane and even romantic if the condemned gets a last word and a cigarette. This way, The People, in whose name the execution is carried out get to witness what is being done in their name.

IN THE MEAN TIME, and we live in a very mean time indeed, we recommend a Yes vote On Prop 62, a No vote on 66.

PROP 63 Here's another ballot proposition that appears only because legislators are afraid to take it on, doubly fearing the organized Gun Nut Lobby. The gun people live in fear of everything from lurks breaking in on them in the middle of the night, to the government taking completely over for the specific purpose of gun confiscation. As if. As if, say, a 3am tweaker bent on machete mayhem penetrates your perimeter defenses, gets all the way into your slumber chamber… He's got you. You're drunk and so deeply wrapped in Morpheus's arms you're decapitated before you can get to your Tec 9 and your back-up large-capacity magazines, loaded and ready to slap in on full-auto. Then there's the government: When it comes for you they'll do a Ruby Ridge or Koresh on you, no problem. Their guns are bigger and there's lots more of them. On the other hand, guerrilla resistance, if it ever comes to that, you're going to want weapons. Prop 63 would ban the giant mags and require a background check on people buying ammo, and the paranoids are buying ammo in literal wholesale lots. I should confess I own three guns myself without really knowing why other than they give me a sense of security I know objectively is false. The kind of people who buy bulk ammo and lust after big mags generally aren't criminals, and most of them already have this stuff. I think 63 is mooted by existing conditions, but go ahead and vote Yes just for righteous hopelessness of it.

PROP. 64. Dope. Unlike Proposition 19 back in the day, the prior state initiative to legalize marijuana, the new pot initiative allows cities and counties to add their own regs, taxes, or even bans, on marijuana businesses, as is the statewide case now with medical marijuana. Prop 64 would permit local governments to ban outdoor cultivation. And 64 would leave it to employers to prohibit marijuana use during the workday. Prop 19 would have allowed workers to light up on breaks and lunch hours. What Prop. 64 does: Legalizes marijuana use for adults 21 and older. Requires licensing for cultivation and sale. Establishes state excise tax of 15% on retail sales, and cultivation taxes of $9.25 per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce of leaves. Standard sales taxes also would apply. Creates packaging, labeling, advertising and marketing standards. Allows local governments to impose additional regulations and taxes on marijuana. Provides resentencing consideration for prior marijuana convictions. Leaves intact the medical marijuana system created by Prop. 215 in 1996.

PROP 65 Yes. The money collected by stores when you buy a bag goes to the Wildlife Conservation Board. Of course. If you can't manage to bring your own bag — I've yet to remember to carry mine into a store — and you pay a nickel for a big brown paper job, the nickel goes to what's left of wild life.

PROP 66 (Faster death penalty) NO. (Reviewed above with Prop 62)

PROP 67 would ban plastic bags, and one more example of a ballot initiative put to the voters because our legislators are afraid of the "American Progressive Bag Alliance" (sic). We've all known old bags and lots of us have, from time to time, been in the bag, and every day we tie on a feedbag. But we seldom associate plastic bags with nationality or progressivism. The plastic bag lobby has outdone itself here with their patriotic effort to foul our fair land and waters with their deadly, forever product. The American progressive people opposed to banning plastic bags are, you guessed it!, the people who manufacture the things. YES on 67.

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BAD NEWS FOR NECROPHILES: California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that mandates state prison time for those convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious person.

Brock Turner
Brock Turner

The legislation was in response to the Brock Turner case, in which the Stanford student was given a short jail sentence after being convicted of raping an unconscious woman. Turner ended up serving just three months behind bars, and his case received national attention when his victim’s letter excoriating his defenders was made public. The judge was also a Stanford grad.

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CATCH OF THE DAY, September 30, 2016

Andres, Bradbrook, Brown
Andres, Bradbrook, Brown

CHAD ANDRES, Branscomb. Battery.

JONATHAN BRADBROOK, Gualala. DUI, probation revocation.

JAMES BROWN SR., Redwood Valley. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)

Fischer, Gomez, Holm
Fischer, Gomez, Holm

AARYAN FISCHER, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.

ROLANDO GOMEZ JR., Stockton/Covelo. Failure to appear.

ANDREW HOLM, Ukiah. Under influence, probation revocation.

Llamas-Garcia, Reperz-Sanchez, Rodriguez
Llamas-Garcia, Reperz-Sanchez, Rodriguez

MIGUEL LLAMAS-GARCIA, Ukiah. Pot cultivation, sale, offenses while on bail.

RICARDO PEREZ-SANCHEZ, Ukiah. Pot cultivation, sale.


Schmidt, Spencer, Urhammer
Schmidt, Spencer, Urhammer

HEATHER SCHMIDT, Ukiah. Controlled substance.

RANDI SPENCER, Ukiah. Suspended license.

RICK URHAMMER, Hopland. Failure to appear.

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Is it possible that something can grow too big to be managed? For example, you have a dog. You walk him on a leash every day, with no bad consequences. However, you are over-feeding your dog and he gets grossly obese. So heavy, in fact, that when you take him for a walk he pulls you off of your feet and you crash to the ground.

What if it is the case that our national and our global economies are too big to be managed for our long term benefit. Too much debt, too much inflation, too much planned obsolesce, too much negative environmental impact, too much poverty, and so on.

Scale is important. Sustainability depends upon having the proper scale. The optimum sustainability for the Unite States is a population of 125 million. We are now at 308 million and growing. The global population is now 7.4 billion, and growing.

I think that environmental health is a derivative of economic health, and our economic system is not "healthy". In essence it is a Ponzi scheme, fostered upon the masses by a small group of bankers and economists at the Federal Reserve called the FOMC. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the branch of the Federal Reserve Board that determines the direction of monetary policy. The FOMC is composed of the board of governors, which has seven members, and five Reserve Bank presidents.

If the crash of 2008 did not wake us up then the next one will; coming soon to your neighborhood economy.

How is it that we have set it up such that a few people at the Wall Street Stock Exchange can determine how much, if any, food is on our tables? Whether the market is bull or bear and whether it will remain that way or shift, depends, now, on the whims and guesses and fortune telling of those few people.

Very few Americans have significant amounts of investment in stocks and bonds. Yet what they think/feel about the market determines what Wall Street does or doesn't do, which impacts greatly on our personal lives.

All of this is based upon magical thinking. It is based on the concept of perpetual growth. The GNP is the new god, and the people on Wall Street are the new priests that serve that god.

A Ponzi scheme is based upon the idea of perpetual growth. Everyone makes money until nobody does when it all comes crashing down. There are many very serious thinkers, both in and out of the Ponzi scheme that is our economy who think that it will all come crashing down very soon. But the emperor has no clothes. Even the candidates for the Democratic Party nomination did not call it what it is, but instead, talked about economic growth. The Republican candidates, all 17 of them, worship at the feet of continual growth.

How fat can your dog get before he becomes uncontrollable? How large can an economy get, whether national or global, before it becomes unmanageable and the scale pulls it all down. This has to do with monetary policy and the amount and cost of credit available. Our current version of these two factors are based upon make-believe.

Any Ponzi scheme is based upon the concept that it can keep on growing and growing with no limit in sight.

Perhaps an apropos slogan would be, "Scale down, not up". This is the opposite of "More is more". Instead, a better one would be, "Less is more". That is the opposite of what the FOMC and Wall Street strive for. They tell us that we should have 'faith' in the dollar.

If faith is the only thing keeping the economy afloat we are in big trouble. Faith in economic growth is no more efficacious than religious faith in prayer. Both are magical thinking that keep us under the control of the high priests. Sooner or later reality creeps in. Do we have time to wait?

Lee Simon

Round Hill Farm, Virginia

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I don’t support the soda tax. Not because it’s a tax, although I generally oppose new taxes, but because of the disingenuous nature of the proposal. Proponents say that the purpose of this tax is to reduce soda consumption by kids to protect their health. Hogwash. I’ve lived in San Francisco for 35 years and I have never seen any public service ads or billboards advising against soda consumption until the idea for this tax came along.

This is just a tax with the proceeds going into the general fund. If you think my view is somehow outside the norm, then why is it that not one of the billionaires in the Bay Area is openly supporting this dishonest money hunt? The only person putting money behind this tax is Michael Bloomberg, a Wall Street denizen and former mayor of New York City, which rejected his soda tax. Proponents could only find support from a carpetbagging Republican in a city without a single elected Republican. What does this tell you?

Bill Lofton, San Francisco

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Governor Jerry Brown signed SB-10-46 into law Wednesday requiring interlock ignition devices be installed in the cars of most convicted drunk drivers.

The device acts as a breathalyzer. Anyone who blows over 0.03 blood-alcohol content will not be able to drive because the ignition of the car will not turn on. The legal limit is 0.08.

First time DUI offenders that cause injury will have to have the device in their cars for six months.

First time DUI offenders who don't cause injury can choose an interlock device for six months in exchange for full driving privileges, or a one-year license restriction.

"I had someone who was so intoxicated someone helped them to their vehicle, which is scary on it's own," said Phillip Woodward, who installs the devices at Johnson Auto Electronic in Eureka. "When they got into their vehicle they blew into the device and it would not let them access their vehicle. They actually called me the next morning and thanked me."

According to California State Senate research, 20,000 people are injured in DUI accidents each year.

Installation costs anywhere from $70-$150 for the I.I.D., then $60-$80 per month after that.

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Former home of Rookie-To Art & Gift Shop, Downtown Boonville
Former home of Rookie-To Art & Gift Shop, Downtown Boonville

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In the rush for profits workers lives are sacrificed.

Remember the Metro-North Railroad Hudson Line passengers train derailed December 1, 2013 - killing 115 passengers, and injuring another 61.   It was caused by a Lack of safety controls.

Remember the Amtrak Northeast Regional train that derailed in Philadelphia May 12, 2015 - killing 8 and injury over 200, 11 injured critically.   It was caused by a Lack of safety controls

There is a positive train control system that automatically slows or stops a train but they were not installed due to Congressional inactivity, euphemistically know as “budgetary shortfalls”.

Other obvious protections would be to have a minimum of 2 engineers in the control room of all trains at all time. Installation of Dead man’s switches in all trains, Speed controls on tracks and trains and a reduction of the work day could all be instituted.

What about the crash that critically injured Tracy Morgan, TV actor on “30 Rock Star” show. It was caused by Wal Mart’s employee’s Truck Driver Fatigue, a preventable condition that is responsible for killing over 5,000 people a year.

These deaths can be prevented by Legalizing, Regulating and Enforcing shorter working hours, adequate sleep, time for commuting, time for family and time for meals as well as adjustments for work shift affects on Circadian Rhythms.

It was recently reported in the AP, August 11, 2015, that a report showing air controllers work schedules were causing them to miss sleep chronically and thus contributing to 50% of the errors made by air controllers. Instead of immediately insuring that air controllers get 8 hours sleep The US Government kept the report secret for years.

The Government in general works to maintain the profits of the bosses, their finance and industry, not the health of the working class as the above adequately demonstrates. Public health refers to all the organized methods used to prevent disease, promote health and prolong life among the population as a whole. The US Government’s Public Health Activities receives only 3% of the over Two Trillion dollars spent for health related services.

Only when workers have total control of their working conditions will we have the possibility of making the safety of working people one of the highest priorities of our society.

Dr. Nayvin Gordon


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“Marc Newhouse describes his mother’s VSED (Voluntary Stopping Eating and Drinking) experience:

I had been a nurse for a decade, and the traditional wisdom is that a death by dehydration is agonizing.

I did the research … there were reports that it had been done, and that it was not as uncomfortable as I had assumed.
I had read that the body might produce endorphins after the third day of the fast. I had also read that the sensation of thirst and hunger fade and perhaps disappear after the third or fourth day.

My mother disputed that. But she also said, “it hasn’t been too bad,” when someone asked her what it was like, to be five days without food or drink.

The last week of her life had a serenity and depth that affected everybody … even the man who came to pick up her corpse; he heard the story, shook his head, and said, “that’s the way I want to go.”

She said farewell to her friends, she resolved three unfinished pieces of business, and then, on the eighth day of her fast, she fell into a coma.

And died three days later.

Studies have shown that the majority of dying patients never experience hunger, and in those who do, small amounts of food and fluids, offered whenever the person wants, relieves the hunger.

And regarding dehydration:

Dehydration in a seriously ill person with a terminal condition, and in the frail elderly, is not painful. In fact, frail elderly persons have a blunted sense of thirst, which allows them to slip rather easily into a dehydrated state. This is generally characterized by increased sleepiness and less mental alertness without other signs of distress. In the dying patient, studies have shown that the majority never experience thirst, or only initially, and the thirst that occurs is easily alleviated by small amounts of fluids or ice chips given by mouth, and by lubricating the lips.”

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by Kym Kemp

Government agencies and officials toured homeless encampments “on private (and some State owned land) on the north end of Redway,” according to Supervisor Estelle Fennell (who posted the accompanying photos and more on her Facebook page.) She was accompanied by members of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department, Humboldt County Health Department Director Connie Beck along with Mental Health, social workers, Environmental Health.

“One big takeaway is that local efforts are really making a big difference in cleanup efforts,” wrote Fennell. “The first camps we visited had been the subject of sustained and concentrated efforts by So. Hum. Locals on Patrol and the Eel River Cleanup Project.”

Fennell said, “It was obvious that there had been an extensive network of camps and a significant impact on the environment but the area had been thoroughly cleaned up.”

However, there were many areas still needing work.


“A camper was in the middle of excavating this deep hole.,” wrote Fennell. “It was unclear what was intended but it’s on the edge of a steep hillside and dangerous in many ways.” [Photo by Supervisor Estelle Fennell]


Fennell was grateful to the various agencies and the local volunteers who had been working to clean up the encampments. She wrote, “A big “Thank You” to Director Beck and her crew as well as Sgt. Taylor and his team and also to the community for stepping up.”


For more photos of the extensive encampments, click here to go to Supervisor Fennell’s page.

NOTE: The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office states on its Facebook page,

On 09/29/2016, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office conducted a one-day operation in Southern Humboldt homeless camps. This operation was in response to ongoing trespass camps that surround the Garberville and Redway areas. Also joining the operation were members from the Department of Health and Human Services, Environmental Health, District Supervisor Estelle Fennell, and a local property owner.

Due to the persistent efforts of Southern Humboldt Locals on Patrol, Eel River Clean Up, and Southern Humboldt property owners, most of the camps were unoccupied and cleared out. There were several health code violations and water diversions that were located and will be further investigated.

The Sheriff’s Office would like to inform any property owners, who are experiencing trespassing, and would like assistance in dealing with transient camps, to call 445-7251 to make a report.

(Photos by HumCo Supervisor Estelle Fennell. Courtesy, Redheaded Black Belt/

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Mendocino Medical Marijuana Advisory Board/MMMAB has become a dissident voice within the Heritage Campaign, regarding policies and strategies we believe are best suited to further the cannabis community's goals and interests. We present ideas from a different perspective that we hope will make you a more informed voter.

MMMAB is recommending No on AI, the Cannabis Tax Initiative, and Yes on AF, the Mendocino Heritage Initiative, contrary to the Heritage Campaign's message to vote Yes on Both.

Both can't win in Winner Take All. If AI gets the most votes, it will win and void the relevant tax sections in AF in their entirety, and leave us with a new cannabis crime -- a criminal misdemeanor for 'any' violation of the cannabis tax code.

The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors Cannabis Tax Initiative reads as follows:


Any person violating any of the provisions of this Chapter shall be deemed guilty of a Misdemeanor and shall be punishable therefore.

The BOS has sunk to a new low by creating a new cannabis tax crime, "deeming" "any" violations of the tax code criminal misdemeanors instead of civil infractions with punishments of jail or fines or both.

Having done our research with due diligence, MMMAB has uncovered a trend of prohibitionist public officials around the state, who are adding the clause: "any violation is deemed a misdemeanor" to their new cannabis tax measures, as an ingenious way to extend cannabis prohibition in perpetuity via tax law, just when it looks like it's ending.

MMMAB sent out a question thru CA NORML, asking attorneys if any of them knew of a new cannabis misdemeanor embedded in cannabis tax law?

NORML Attorney Richard Rosen responded and confirms that this is also happening in Monterrey County which enacted regulations for commercial and personal cannabis cultivation. "Section 7.95.140 for personal cultivation provides 'any violation of the regulations is a misdemeanor'. No proof of knowledge, intent or other mental state is required to establish a violation. Similar provisions are included in regulations for commercial grows. A county tax ordinance is on the ballot this November. I believe this also includes provisions making all violations misdemeanors.

"These regulations are recriminalizing actions that the state has decriminalized. The provision for personal grows removes the requirement of mental state and creates a criminal offense that is more onerous than anything in the CA Penal Code or Health & Safety Code. All state and criminal regulations require proof of knowledge and general criminal intent. This is outrageous public policy and I hope we can show it is unconstitutional as well." MMMAB supports plaintiffs filing a court challenge to enjoin the new cannabis crime on constitutional grounds, so that it never gets off the ground on appeal.

The misdemeanor bomb in Measure AI's Cannabis Tax Act is reason in itself to vote No!! A Yes vote for AI is a vote to subject the entire cannabis community to a new misdemeanor crime and the prospect of cultivation recriminalization instead of reasonable regulation. This ruse is designed to trap well meaning growers who want to be legal into a situation they may not realize awaits them with the slightest misstep in the regulatory process, for instance lateness... "any" violation. These are intended consequences.

Vote No on AI to stop the new misdemeanor crime in the Cannabis Tax Act and Yes on AF, the Heritage Act, to save and protect the family farm, the economic backbone of the cannabis future.

Pebbles Trippet, Paula Deeter, Ralf Laguna

Mendocino Medical Marijuana Advisory Board/MMMAB

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CNN’s DEBATE NIGHT COVERAGE was sponsored by Vote 4 Energy — a front group of the American Petroleum Institute.


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THE ALBION NATION: Communes on the Mendocino Coast

by Cal Winslow

“It is still in so many places a beautiful country, and many of us can work, in different ways, to keep and enhance it. I have had the luck to thin a wood and watch the cowslips and bluebells and foxgloves come back”
 —Raymond Williams, The Country and the City

The ’60s communards came to Albion Ridge as settlers looking for land. The ranch at Table Mountain was seen first from the air; Walter Schneider, formerly a Navy pilot, more recently of Timothy Leary’s Millbrook Estate in upstate New York, found it. Together with his friend Duncan Ray, also of Millbrook, they bought it—120 acres for $50,000, paid for with Ray family money. They invited friends up from Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, including Zo Abell and her young daughter and Allen Cohen, poet and editor of the San Francisco Oracle. In 1968, the commune at Table Mountain Ranch became the first of many on Albion Ridge. In the decade following, hundreds of young people would join them on the Ridge, sometimes permanently, more often not; thousands would pass through. This is the story of the Albion “nation”—a community of communards and back-to-the-landers, as well as a miscellany of antinomians who made their homes here. It begins a little known but important chapter in the history of utopia in Northern California, one that focuses neither on media stars, nor on the most bizarre and outlandish but on the experience of groups of ordinary young people who came to the Mendocino coast in the ’60s and ’70s, many of whom continue to reside here. The Albion story is significant in its own right but also because it raises important questions about communal life as well as the values widely shared in the counterculture of these years. Just what was the experience? More work needs to be done, though it is already clear that there is much to be learned from this history. What, if anything, can this experience contribute to the discussion of what we would like for the future? What constitutes a genuine alternative to our own patterns of work, consumption, and life, and our 21st-century afflictions, primarily permanent war, driven in an era of austerity and imperial decline by neoliberalism and its armies? This implies reflection on the nature and purpose of alternative visions and the tension between realism, desire, and imagination. Is such a conversation wanted? Can it be useful, even possible, in view of contracting timelines and approaching ecological disaster? This remains to be seen. What follows is intended as a contribution. It examines the experience of some hundreds of people, who “dropped out” in the language of the times, and “left it all behind” for Mendocino, to live a life in common. It examines this “from the bottom up” and suggests elements of their legacies.

We begin with what we have already lost. The ’60s settlers were not the first to migrate to the Mendocino coast. Albion Ridge sits above the village of Albion, where the Albion River, south of Mendocino, empties into the sea. This land was home to Northern Pomo people, inheritors of thousands of years of habitation. The site of the village had been claimed by the Spanish, seeking souls; raided by Russian fur traders; then, in 1822, taken by Mexico until 1850, when it was passed on to an English sea captain who, in the imperial spirit of that age, gave the site and its river the ancient name of England—Albion. Settlers followed, first Americans, both citizens and soldiers. Anglos overwhelmed the Pomo homelands. In a pattern typical of the American West, these newcomers came as conquerors and colonizers. In cruel campaigns, they made “a bad situation worse.” In 1850 alone, 200 Pomo were murdered, their villages ransacked, their lands stolen. In 1856, they were imprisoned in Mendocino, 11 years later, turned out, “homeless, landless, and with no legal rights.” The horrors of these wars stain memory here; the Anglos succeeded in driving out the Pomo, though not entirely. Survivors regrouped, then regrouped again; they continued summer treks through the coastal mountains to the sea to harvest and dry abalone, mussels, clams, seaweed, and salt. They still do. The Anglo settlers failed as miners and agriculturalists; timber was another story. Albion sits at the coastal edge of the once great Redwood forest—two million acres of giant, ancient trees, a forest that stretched from the Oregon border to Big Sur. The first mill on the Mendocino coast was built on the Albion estuary in 1853. The onslaught unleashed was unforgiving: nature was spared no more than her peoples, each victims of civilization. The California Indian Wars of the 1850s, then, coincided with the beginnings of the ravaging of Mendocino’s coastal mountain ranges and the destruction of this forest. The timber men came along with investors, speculators, thieves, and swindlers, wheeling and dealing; they gathered up the land, consolidated it into massive tracts, then lured in the loggers and itinerant laborers—mostly men, though some with families. They came from Maine, Michigan, and Minnesota, as well as from much farther: Sweden, Finland, Italy, Portugal, and China. The workers felled the giant trees, often 300 feet and more in height, trees impossible to move in one piece. The loggers cut the huge logs into sections, forced them down streams and rivers, and then hauled one section at a time first by mules, then by rail, to Albion and the mill—one of dozens built along the Mendocino coast. The mouth of just about every river and creek became a center of heavy industry. This came with a cost. The loggers took down every tree within reach. A mass of rubble was left behind: slash that was burned, limbs, bark, other trees, undergrowth, birds and animals, beds of Redwood Sorrel, the ferns and flowers, everything that could not escape. Entire (mini) ecosystems were destroyed, leaving the ridges charred, streams unrecognizable. The loggers themselves often emerged from these fires blackened as coal miners, lungs ravished, bodies bent, sometimes broken. Conditions were dangerous in the hills and brutal in the mills. The mill sites festered like open sores along this wild shoreline, producing deafening noise, fire and smoke; they were surrounded by a bleak hodgepodge of outbuildings and wooden shacks—instant, temporary slums, together forming a coastal necklace of distress stretching the length of the County and beyond. This was no “golden age.”

I am not certain just when this vast section of Northern California came to be called the “Redwood Empire,” but the name is apt. This empire of timber and mills became a source of great wealth, extracting profits and power, in this case for the San Francisco robber barons who operated them. But empires seem inclined to dig their own graves: they come and go; they kill the goose; the robbers move on. The Albion Mill was shut down in 1929; Fort Bragg and Southeastern Railroad ceased operations two years later, leaving behind a savagely wounded earth. By 1937, a San Francisco News reporter produced a series on Mendocino coastal “ghost” towns, where “no trace of earlier habitations remained … except … some blackened ruin, a few rusty chains hanging from a rocky coast … weather beaten and lichen covered shacks stand gaping open.” No mention of surviving Pomo. No mention of ghostly stumps and barren hills. There was “recovery” in the 1950s: chainsaws, bulldozers, ribbons of roads, and trucks took the industry into each and every last enclave of standing timber, but, by the end of the century, little more than 100 years on, only the giant Union Lumber Company mill in Fort Bragg remained on Mendocino’s coast. It, too, is now closed. Perhaps 3 percent of old growth survives, probably less. The new settlers were not, strictly speaking, environmentalists, though few were unaware of this movement. The first Earth Day was celebrated in San Francisco in March 1970. They were quickly converted, however, by the discovery that big trees were few and far between; by the sight of sparkling streams turned chocolate brown following the first autumn rain; and by the muddy plumes of the Navarro, Albion, and Big Rivers carrying the soil of clear-cut canyons far out into the sea. Salmon, since time immemorial the direct and indirect staple of almost all coastal creatures and peoples from Alaska to the Monterey Bay, were already few and rapidly disappearing.

The settlers came, rather, as revolutionaries eager to live free and in common, while enlarging these spaces, countercultural zones built in defiance of industrial capital; capitalism remained, even in the best of times, transparently cruel and destructive, even when only young eyes could see this. And they were almost entirely youth; some were “small-c” communists, others refugees, escapees fleeing an embattled nation, war in Vietnam, rebellion at home, bitter battles in the mean streets of San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. In the Haight, homelessness, hunger, drug problems, and crime had become endemic; “Lil’” Bobby Hutton, the youngest Panther, was gunned down by Oakland police. In Berkeley, at People’s Park, snipers and armored vehicles were deployed. James Rector was shot and killed. “The mood of the movement was heavy, violent” (Helen). Others were simply desirous of a life with nature. All were in search of freedom and a garden in which they might find it. They discovered, incredibly, that the land remained beautiful. Not entirely, to be sure: huge stumps endure, standing sometimes in formation, reminders of past forests, testaments to what can never completely be restored. But it was recovering. Property on the steep hillsides of Albion Ridge, Middle Ridge, and Navarro Ridge was cheap, very cheap: $50,000 seems like a lot; it was, nevertheless, within the range of a modest inheritance, the latter not so unusual in a largely white, middle-class movement. It was also, apparently, in keeping with budgets of new “hip” entrepreneurs, as well as successful dealers. So were abandoned homesteads. Inhabitants were few: “only a handful of residents, ‘old timers,’ could be counted along the entire Middle Ridge” (Moonlight). Some were friendly, others not. More than a few rescued stranded visitors, picked up hitchhikers, and shared rides to town. The Hamm brothers, two old men who lived in a barn, were the most welcoming. Their home, once their mother’s house, had burned down. They were old leftists, probably Wobblies; they shared country skills and a library of tattered volumes and pamphlets, the stories of earlier generations of revolutionaries. They owned one of the few TVs on the Ridge and so hosted Saturday morning cartoons for the communes’ kids.

The climate was mild: fog along the sea, a long rainy winter, cool, dry summers; the panoramic prospect that opens as one descends the Albion Ridge is as glorious as any on this spectacular coast—the sea seems as vast and inexhaustible as the forests once must have. Up the coast, Mendocino then housed a small art colony. Fort Bragg, 10 miles farther North, a lumber mill town, seemed quite far; it was blue collar, redneck, but in its own way. There had been Finnish collectives in the woods just to the East; there were still communists in the mills. Fort Bragg was another world; nevertheless, it was the only source within reach of all those things that towns can provide.

The late ’60s were “gypsy years” in California—kids in cars, hitchhikers, draft-dodgers, runaways, outlaws, wanderers; the communards and back-to-the-landers sought property. Historians of immigration have revealed the creation of chains of migration—chains composed of humans and their settlements, colonies, and networks. The first to appear are the “pioneers,” followed by the “birds of passage,” itinerants going back and forth, and then the settlers. This pattern fits Northern California migrants who disregarded boundaries, spatial as well mental and cultural, migrating north, creating an archipelago of communal settlements, most of them in the coastal counties north of the Bay Area.

Berkeley and San Francisco were both destinations and points of departure, sometimes just stop-over spots. The counterculture traveled north through Marin, then Sonoma, then Mendocino and Humboldt Counties, and on to Oregon and back again. Communards found outposts along the way: Morningstar at Occidental and nearby Wheeler’s Ranch; Olompali in Sonoma; Rainbow near Philo; Table Mountain, Big Foot on the Noyo; and Black Bear in Humboldt. In these years, the ’60s and ’70s, Timothy Miller has identified scores of such places, “a wave of new communes … of tsunami proportions.” Of the “thousands upon thousands” of new communes founded, Miller suggests, “the largest number” were found in the coastal counties north from San Francisco to the Canadian border. In contrast to Morningstar, Table Mountain Ranch was remote, seven and a half miles up the ridge on a county road, then a mile of unpaved road. This was easily three or four hours from the Golden Gate Bridge, including two hours on the narrow, winding road from Highway 101 at Cloverdale to the coast. By the end of the first winter, there were perhaps a dozen or so settlers at Table Mountain, including a child. But this figure is misleading. It was clear from the start that the commune was not for everyone; there were people who made it obvious they didn’t want to be there. They left, though this seems to have strengthened a core group. More problematically, the visitors were relentless, “in just January 1970 alone, more than a hundred passed through the Ranch” (Bill). The land at Table Mountain was cut over—it may once have been a dude ranch, or perhaps a hunting lodge. There was a ramshackle ranch house left behind, a “dump” built on stumps with lots of small rooms and a central patio. There were sheep on the grounds, kept by an elderly couple. The first summer, many camped out, some in teepees. Chicken shacks were converted into bedrooms. In 1971, Robert Greenway, a Sonoma State professor and Sally Shook, formerly a suburban Washington, D.C., housewife, and their collective seven children settled at nearby Salmon Creek Farm on Middle Ridge and invited others to join them. Closer to Albion, Carmen Goodyear and her partner Jeannie Tetrault established Thai Farm, a “women’s land” and a small collective/commune. Trillium, also a women’s commune, was settled just down the road. It was not so intentional. “We were just trying to get to more of a country scene. I didn’t move up here to be a commune. I didn’t move up here because of the women. I just saw the beauty, the Mendocino coast” (Weed). Sabina’s Land was on the Navarro Ridge—later it became Lord’s Land. Bo’s Land was not really a commune; it was closer to “open land,” purchased by Bo Romes, a San Francisco artist. “Bo bought 20 acres on Albion ridge … an old house, outbuildings, big plans, little money … people started asking if they could stay the night, then the week, the month, the year … all anarchists, life in the moment” (Janferie). Bo offered Peter Matlin room and board in exchange for building a sauna. Bo’s land is still shared, today called Spring Grove. Azalea Acres hosted fairs. In between, there were rusticators of all sorts, back-to-the-landers as well young people who “just wanted to share some land”—four such simply called their place “The Mune.” Big River Ranch was established near Mendocino; just up the coast there was the Compound at Caspar and Big Foot. Visitors camped in Little River Park and Jackson State Forest—to the dismay, of course, of the authorities. One estimate is that by the mid-’70s, the communards/back-to-the-landers, that is, “‘permanent’ settlers on Albion Ridge may have numbered 500 or more” (Moonlight).

In its first year, the Ranch was all but overrun: the elementary projects of settling in, physically constructing the commune, establishing an economy, the very basics of survival were all overwhelmed by the scale of visitation. “Things just got out of hand. So many people were coming and going in the spring of 1970 that we had to do something” (Bill). Half the original settlers had left. So Bill, Marshall, and Zo met and essentially closed the gate—“anyone who wasn’t here at the last Thanksgiving had to leave” (Bill). This was the end of free land and the beginning of rules—others would follow. At Salmon Creek Farm, later on, a six-week trial period was established for membership.

The house at Table Mountain had to be rebuilt, sleeping quarters constructed—they were scattered around the house in woods connected by paths. Gardens were begun, animals—goats, sheep, geese, a pony, and chickens—gathered and tended in a process that became the norm and was followed at Salmon Creek Farm and at the women’s communes down the ridge. The sleeping houses were built sometimes from the rag-tag outbuildings that abounded on such homesteads, sometimes from scratch by hand. The “big” house was communal, with a kitchen and a place for important gatherings; the sleeping houses were more or less private. The communards sought to avoid “the economic system,” favoring barter; they helped demolish an abandoned hotel in Fort Bragg in exchange for the scrap. The owner of a Philo mill “paid” for labor with lumber. They sought out salvageable, recyclable, building materials—finding a trove of these in the legendary radical chicken farms of Petaluma. The harvest of gardens was supplemented by traveling as far as to the Central Valley to glean in orchards and fields, then pickle and can.

Conditions on the communes were primitive; they remained so for years. There was no electricity, no phone, no indoor plumbing; the winters were wet, sometimes cold. There was one vehicle at Table Mountain, shared, and, at first, one chainsaw. There was a little store in Albion, the site of the nearest pay phone. There were doctors in Mendocino, but the nearest emergency room was in Fort Bragg. If life was good, it was also difficult; there were obstacles, beginning with staying dry, keeping warm, staying fed. “Everything was pretty loose at first. Everyone had to eat, they needed shelter, and sanitation was a big issue” (Zo). Very few were experienced, let alone skilled in the tasks they set themselves; they were ill prepared for the realities of “living off the land.” Soon enough, Country Women, the magazine produced by a collective of Albion women, set out to rectify this, at least for women: in each issue, articles on women’s liberation were accompanied by practical material—“how-to-do-its” on “country survival skills,” carpentry, husbandry, mechanics, gardening, childbirth, and child rearing.

From the beginning, there was the problem of “boundaries”—of the world of barriers, rules, and restrictions a whole generation had seemed intent on demolishing. Now there were new questions. How do you stay open hearted and still have boundaries? Rules began to come back, now as new necessities. “We had to make some rules. It wasn’t ever clear just who was and who was not part of the commune. Guests policies were developed. Who can stay and who can’t and why?” (Bill). This issue was especially perplexing when it came to lovers, central as this was in the lives of young people seeking sexual freedom, avoiding marriage, and monogamist fidelities. It was well known that the open communes were already failing. The issues of responsibility and trust were made all the more intense by belief in consensus.

“We basically had love affairs, raised food, and raised kids” (Anon.). The Albion communards, so unlike other utopians, past and contemporary, shared no grand vision, no religion, no structures; they were not the followers of a particular leader, there were no gurus. “It’s not that we were willfully ignorant; we knew the history of the communal movement. We wanted something different” (Moonlight), “We did not kowtow to / any / authority … we were non-religious, in terms of formal religion, so there were no religious leaders, and we had to develop these systems as gently as we could, without using the techniques that are usually used—the authority of religion and the authority of politics and the authority of money, the power of money” (Allen). No plans, no high ideals, living one day at a time.

They held, however, some very basic ideas—they wanted to share, to work cooperatively, to live in common, and to raise children in common, in a community—equally, no laws, no rules, not at first anyway. They believed in experimentation and spontaneity, rejected the idea of limits, and sought life without inhibitions. The question was “how far can we go?” and inevitably this involved risks and tensions, but these were turbulent times. They argued that “no one owns the earth”; they were interested in alternative education and philosophies. They became deep environmentalists, quickly turned to organic gardening, and made tofu from scratch. At Table Mountain and Trillium, they shared money. Meals were communal in the big house. A day might begin with nursing the baby, going up to big house, building the fire, cooking breakfast, then “who’s going to town, who’s taking the kids to school?” Work in the garden, get the kids, care for the animals. Cooking and kitchen chores were shared: making granola, baking bread, cooking pots of beans, preparing evening meals. “Walks in the country, lots of visiting, smoking pot, it was totally nice a lot of the time” (Helen).

They spent much time getting and keeping the sleeping houses together. In general, building was utilitarian, do-it-as-you-go work in progress. Dawn “built a small cabin with plans from a U.S. government pamphlet called ‘low-cost building.’” There would be few domes on Albion Ridge—instead, the “imperfected pragmatism,” as Simon Sadler suggests, of “self-built ex-urban shacks.” There were stump houses (dwellings built into the burnt-out hollows of giant redwood stumps, near nature to be sure), fantasy houses, stained glass and flowers, quaint outhouses, compost toilets and pits, as well as very crude shelters. At Salmon Creek Farm, communards constructed a sweat lodge.

There were code wars in Mendocino County but nothing as brutish as in Sonoma. In Mendocino County, a disgruntled developer attacked the communes (as well as other sites where there was group living) for violations of the housing codes, a conflict that lasted into the 1980s, when, with new friends on the Board of Supervisors, the authorities allowed for a “clean slate.” Various cabins, outbuildings, and houses were then grandfathered in under “Class K,” a relaxed construction standard available for owner-built rural dwellings. In this, the back-to-the-landers were joined by “old-timers” who themselves had built without permits. There seems not to have been, as Felicity Scott argues in the case of Morningstar and Wheeler’s Ranch, “symptomatic attempts to loosen the grip of, or even to sponsor a mass exit from the regulatory and administrative functioning” of the authorities. “Many of us didn’t even know such codes existed. We were just living our lives” (Weed). This common cause produced, interestingly, a peculiar convergence, counterculture and rural anarchism, which is still widespread here.

What money the communards had often came from welfare. There was also occasional working for money plus sometimes a gift from home. Some took jobs in town: waitressing, gardening, carpentry, mostly part-time and temporary. There would be one or two trips to Fort Bragg each week to do laundry and similar tasks, but these were shared so that an individual might pass months without being in town in a self-imposed separation from the city. There was a lot of free time, idle time—time valued and seen in sharp contrast to schedule-driven cultural norms. At the dinner table, all first joined hands and chanted; a hippy religiosity developed, sometimes with “an Indian flavor like using the Indian method of circle readings, one person talking at a time … things we picked up from the American Indian culture” (Allen). There was also spirituality with an Eastern edge and a Jewish tint, but this was never universal or particularly deep. After dinner, there was hanging out, playing music, smoking dope, drifting in and out. On special occasions, there were drug rituals, sometimes peyote circles. Today, the attraction of hippy spirituality seems elusive; nevertheless, at the time, it was near universally seen then as the “glue” that held these bands together. The “business” of the commune was conducted at Sunday morning circles. All this seemed the antithesis of the celebrated loneliness of rural life; on the contrary, communards remember the intimacy of life on the commune and the power of the group identity.

There were implicit if not intentional social structures in Albion—hence “the Albion Nation.” It was an informal structure that tied inhabitants of the Ridge together, with links, tenuous to be sure, to communes and back-to-the-landers as near as Rainbow in Philo and as far as Black Bear in the Trinity Siskiyou’s. A Community Center was established in Albion; it hosted events, offered meals, and was a sort of way station. “You could get a good meal for a dollar” (Weed). There was a natural food store, now “Corners of the Mouth” (a “workers” collective since 1975) in Mendocino; also Down Home Foods and Thanksgiving Coffee in Fort Bragg. They continue. There was a weaving co-op. There was music; there were routine festivals, including the “Albion People’s Fair,” though some felt that it “got too big, too many drugs” (Helen). There were craft fairs and outdoor dances on Navarro Ridge. The Country Women collective engaged in national/international feminist movements; the magazine was widely read, and its staff participated in national and regional conferences and hosted women’s retreats and festivals at the Woodlands, a nearby lodge and campgrounds built in the 1930s by the WPA.Times Change Press at Salmon Creek Farm published accounts of communal life (January Thaw), as well as, among other things, Emma Goldman’s feminist writings.

In many ways, Albion’s crowning achievement was the establishment of the Whale School at Table Mountain in 1971. Created first for the commune’s children, it soon opened its doors to other nearby children, becoming an alternative community school up to high school grades. Ultimately as many as 50 children attended, taught usually by four or five full-time teachers and an array of volunteers. Zo Abell managed the Whale School. A sexual division of labor prevailed: men contributed to building the schoolhouse and the bus driver was a man, but most (though not all) teaching was done by women. The Whale School practiced methods of progressive education popular at the time when public education was under fire from the Left, not the Right. “The IRS saw us as a private school, they wanted taxes. I just told them we weren’t private, we were just a school. In the end, we affiliated with the Mendocino Unified School District as a center of ‘Independent Study.’ In that way we were accredited.” (Zo)

There were sex, drugs, and rock and roll. “Yes, it was your mother’s worst nightmare” (RW). On one hand, it all seems rather innocent in light of later developments. Partners were often shared. There was promiscuity and experimentation, though more at first than later. There were couples, some longstanding. There were indeed times when the hippies would stream into town and line up at the clinic in Fort Bragg for penicillin shots. Was there more sex here? Was sex better than elsewhere—on college campuses, during political campaigns, in the collectives, cults and sects, in the suburban bedroom? It was, after all, an era of contradictions, of the sexual revolution, the pill, the porn craze; it was a time before HIV. For better or worse, we live with its results today. Compared to the 1950s, there seem to have been advances, yet there was so much room for improvement. There were frustrations and there were predators, though the latter not always in guru form. There was exploitation, people were taken advantage of; there was one well-known case of pedophilia. There were real dangers—including the perils of country lanes, archetypically in the form of young rednecks in a pick-up. Some deny this: “It was never dangerous—or stressful” (Peter). But others remember “tales of rape, near rape, and then bodies … a girl from Toronto on Big River beach … then there were the Azalea Acres bad boys” (Janferie). These were young locals rumored to be terrorizing hippie newcomers.

Sexual tensions could be pervasive in morning meetings, as could sexual jealousies, leading to excruciating feuding that eroded the collective. The results, then, of sexual experimentation, remain mixed. These will, in the negative, be said to reveal a fixed “human nature” and youthful naiveté, but this seems unlikely to be true. “Conventional wisdom” continues to inform us that male/female conflict—the “battle of the sexes”—is a given. The communards at Albion rejected this; their inability to achieve sexual freedom in any lasting sense speaks as much to the weight of the past, culture, and tradition, as it does to their “failures.” Moreover, visions of “free love” persist, while acceptable 21st-century practices seem to have little positive to offer.

The drugs of choice at Albion appear to have been marijuana above all, followed by hallucinogens including peyote. Interestingly, none of the communes I know turned to the commercial production of marijuana even as so many neighbors, including back-to-the-landers, did, often at great profit. The communes were, after all, anticapitalist; by and large they were nonviolent. Hence, they managed to get by the ultimately destructive developments in the marijuana industry—the industry, involving another curious convergence, the children of both the counterculture and the rednecks that dominates the Mendocino economy to this day. There seem to have been people who smoked too much, but that is not so unusual or remarkable.

In regards to music, the story is much the same: what seemed so radical then and what was shocking to many, is ordinary now; alas, it can all too often be heard riding elevators. There was plenty of music on the communes: there were regular festivals, a tradition that persists though more commercially. Acid rock came and went, but music was and remains a vital part of Mendocino life and culture; importantly, local people compose, play, sing, and dance seemingly more than in most places. But tastes now seem rather frozen: white rock persists, though it has lost its edge with the passing years; country music has its limitations, if we want to consider music as liberating. The fare here invariably strikes one as rather tame, all the more so in comparison to the music revolution that was so much a part of the ’60s. On radio stations there is nostalgia, but not for the Southern blues, Motown, or rhythm-and-blues. Hip-hop seems to be enjoyed privately, if at all.

How, then, are we to assess this experience and what went wrong? This is often the first question—failure is taken as given. True, these communes did not last forever. Yet, it’s not so clear to me that the communes failed, except insofar as they were part of the more general defeat of the ’60s movements and the retreat of the remnants. Critical analysis is, of course, essential—this report, after all, is not intended as one more chapter of the “greatest generation.” And it is not the end of the story. History proceeds; we can learn from what has passed.

In 1980 the counterrevolution was enthroned, and the results of Reagan’s election began to weigh heavily upon us, far more than we would have suspected at the time. Beneath this, on the ground level, severe difficulties rose inside the communes themselves. First and foremost, the internal relations were intense and ultimately paradoxical—these were, after all, very small societies. Survival, the tasks of day-to-day life were difficult enough. Whatever structural weaknesses underlay communal existence, interpersonal conflict persisted, thwarting consensus and threatening the entire project. It is indisputable that the ’60s “movement” was badly in need of behavioral remediation and attending to the personal, surely in gender relations. But elevating the personal brought its own difficulties; there were limits to individual improvement. The gap between external change and inner spiritual transformation seems never to have been truly bridged.

Sexual issues, jealousies, concerns of exclusion, conflicts over parenting, conflicts concerning whether to have children at all, participation—these never went away. They were not the only sources of tension; for some, the Sunday morning meetings became endless sessions of disputes and conflicts. Over rights and rules—should we hunt deer? No, we can’t have guns. And chores, was everyone involved? There seems always to have been those who were not, those who didn’t do their share. But it is widely believed that male/female tensions exacerbated conflicts; the question “what’s really happening here?” lurked behind every dispute. This was perhaps inevitable, given the age of the participants. It was a widespread phenomenon throughout the ’60s movements. But it may well have been ubiquitous on the communes. It was “as if there were an area where everything was peachy and wonderful and spiritual, getting high, and in tune with nature, and then this other area of whenever crunch came to crunch, there were these tremendous internal turmoils. There was a male-female split, there was an inability for the males to cooperate in the way the females were learning how to do, the women were learning” (Allen). Concurrently, it seems that personal relations were less strained on the women’s communes.

This, too, perhaps was/is to be expected. Communal life was overwhelmingly a domestic life. John Gillis, a historian of the family, suggests that women do better in small societies which they enter better equipped to deal with the rhythms, routines, challenges, and rewards of the new life and with some training and skills in domesticity, most notably childbearing and raising, and in cooperation. Were these new societies families? It remains unclear. While the stereotypical suburban nuclear family was often rejected, it was not clear what was being put in its place. Was it the “family we never had?” (Weed).

The idea that one could live simply and ecologically itself became troublesome—where was the line between simplicity and poverty? Between necessity and desire? “I didn’t come to Mendocino to live in a chicken shack” (Weed). Scarcity, both material and cultural, compromised the communal project. As the years passed, then as children grew, individuals’ desires were transformed (though rarely, it should be said, entirely). And, as this happened, the communes, so small to begin with, came to feel increasingly confining and inflexible, restricting rather than facilitating personal growth and development. The communes, in fact, became isolated in a way that had not existed at first, and just at the time when the social terrain was becoming increasingly inhospitable following the decisive political shift against radical activity in the ’80s. What had once been seen as a world to win, now seemed more a wilderness into which the flock had been scattered. The communes rather than “the wave of the future” (River) were more likely a haven, toiling in defensive isolation in a hostile world. Survival now demanded rules and fences, all self-imposed. And it demanded accommodation. Then, too, sources of new blood disappeared, precipitously in the sudden crash and death of the youth and student rebellion, and there seemed little in place for the next generation. There were other problems, of course, but continuing this laundry list is of limited use, certainly in the face of the Herculean tasks that the communards had set for themselves.

Consensus, as a method, has its limitations, indeed its own tyrannies, all the more so, it seems, when the issues are personal. The personal issues, of course, were often political; this made solutions, however, no less deceptive, no less intractable, and no less problematic as keys to sorting out behaviors and perspectives. Majorities can be oppressive. So can endless debate. There are times when consensus cannot be reached. Talk cannot continue when things need to be done, when structurelessness implies the “the last man standing” rule and is not useful. This seems self-evident. “I just didn’t want to sit for four hours every Sunday” (Peter). In the stories of the communes, this sentiment often echoes in every discussion of the experience. “I had this feeling of relief whenever I left for any length of time” (River).

Those who wished to change the world had not succeeded, while those who wanted only escape had not been able to do so either. In fact, as years passed, things steadily became rather worse. The communards were not indifferent to all this. Their intention had not been to confront authority, but they did so whenever they were forced to and fared not so badly as critics might think. The counterculture survives in a variety of forms today; Albion remains a center of feminism and this is all the more impressive in light of the chauvinisms of country culture. There was little support here for war and empire, nor for Reagan’s Central American adventures in the 1980s, nor the Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama crusades in the Middle East. In terms of issues of race and racism, the legacy of slavery, the despoliation of conquest, the persistence of segregation and race hatred have been undoubtedly simultaneously both an engine of social change in the United States and its greatest stumbling block. The communards did often flee before confronting such issues, or failed to relate to them, or at best felt themselves helpless in face of it all. “The problem of the 20th century” continues to be the problem of the 21st, as historian and Pan-Africanist W. E. B. Du Bois stated in The Souls of Black Folk. The American “color line” is as complex as ever today and the United States is more segregated than ever. This includes Mendocino County, where, as in the rest of California, two worlds exist: one “white” or Anglo, the other Latino, the latter rapidly outpacing the former. Moreover, the Latino population is young, growing, and energetic, but unrepresented in government, in law enforcement, in education, and in the providers of healthcare—this 21st-century reincarnation of segregation by definition undermines whatever visions of community have guided coastal inhabitations, including those of the counterculture. This, in turn, is connected to the communards either ignoring or being confounded by both the problem of race and the issues of agency. In this, they were, and are, not alone.

The history of communes thus needs to be seen in the larger context of the generational exhaustion of the social movements and the implosion of the New Left. The demographic sources of these movements were all but the same; indeed some timelines are virtually identical. It is also striking to me that there seems to be a common trajectory in individual lives as the life patterns of communards fit so easily with those of the entire rebellious generation: the explosion of the movement in 1967 and its collapse; the dispersal into communes, collectives, sects, and cults in a diaspora of sorts; “digging in” in the 1970s, industrial colonizing, community organizing, back-to-the-land. Some of these projects evaporated immediately; some lasted just a year or two. But others carried on in cities, in communities, in the country. Salmon Creek Farm lasted 10 years, Trillium 12, Table Mountain nearly 20, and the latter’s land continues to be owned in common.

The 1980s were a fundamentally different time. The world did change, but for the worse. I think the communards, like the counterculture and most of the Left, retreated in the face of this; they had run out of steam, things were just too hard, the rewards were not so great, and so individuals looked for alternatives. They returned to school, took jobs, started families, found new homes, and tended private gardens. “What seemed appropriate at 28 didn’t work at 45” (Peter). Yet, the radical spirit persists here in Albion, however eccentric: nonconformist, contentious, prone to conspiracy theory and catastrophism, aging, permanently dissatisfied, peaceful, intolerant of rules and regulations. Few say they wouldn’t do it all again (mostly).

The most interesting and most revolutionary aspect of this all, it seems to me, was not so much the drugs, the sex, and the rock and roll, or any particulars of life on the commune (though all important in their own right), but the whole notion of creating another world—of turning the world upside down, of creating a world outside slavish devotion to the market and the shopping mall, free from economic and culturally imposed patterns of personal oppression and economic exploitation.

There are some who will deny this characterization as romantic, an exaggeration; others will contend that it imposes the political on projects that were not intended as such. There is some truth in this, though it is also true that the unconscious precedes the conscious. What stands out to me is how thoroughly these young people—and the much wider movement with which they were associated (like it or not)—rejected bourgeois life in industrial capitalism and attempted to a live a life that was its antithesis. Consciously or not, they rejected the materialism of postwar United States at the height of its prosperity; they rejected its consumerism. They rejected war and refused to fight in Vietnam. They despised the empire; they opposed organized religion. They abandoned the family. “Abolition of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists”: that’s Marx and Engels in 1848. They attempted to do all this through practice: “I left Brown University. I wanted to move beyond the talk of revolution; I wanted to live it” (RW).

Many of us are already familiar with the critique of this project, “the realist” response to the utopians, particularly severe in the language of Marx and Engels: What about the state? What about the working class? What about power? Still the founders of modern socialism themselves were not without some very kind words for the utopians; after all, they “attack every principle of existing society … they are full of the most valuable materials for the enlightenment of the working class. The practical measures proposed … such as abolition of the distinction between town and country, of the family, of the carrying on of industries for the account of private individuals, and of the wage system, the proclamation of social harmony, the conversion of the functions of the state into a mere superintendence of production.” All this was recognized as invaluable by Marx and Engels. But a critique from the Left persists, characterizing the counterculture as apolitical if not reactionary, and communes as “islands in a sea of capitalism” or worse, “little workshops of capitalism.” Certainly some were all of the above. But compared to what? Albion was never a true utopia. How could it have been? But it was also not so apolitical as might be imagined. They battled with the county in the Code Wards and won. In 1975, there was a campaign against offshore drilling, followed by confrontations with Japanese whalers in 1976. A successful campaign was waged to elect a progressive candidate for county supervisor to represent the coast. The Abalone Alliance opposed nuclear power. In 2006, Albion residents voted by a margin of four to one in favor of a county resolution, Measure Y, calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. In Bear Gulch, a remote hippie enclave that persists in Northern Mendocino County, the vote was 100 percent against the war. There have been continuous battles with the timber companies in attempts to protect old growth redwoods in Mendocino and Humboldt Counties. Communards anticipated the current environmental crisis as well as positive trends in health and food politics, though they never reached self-sufficiency or food security in the 1970s and ’80s.

In conclusion, I would like to follow up on Kate Soper’s highly germane contribution to the Socialist Register volume, Necessary and Unnecessary Utopias (2000), in which she proposes a “defense of the emancipatory role of utopian visions,” the need for “an ongoing and democratic ‘conversation’ on the quality of the good life,” and assurances that life’s “pleasures” will not come “only at the cost of human misery and ecological degradation.” “Socialists,” she writes, “may diverge considerably on the details for what makes for pleasure and right living, but they will agree that all the more subtle, refined, and complex pleasures will be grounded in the simpler satisfaction that comes through the elimination of suffering and exploitation.” The idea that such thinking is elitist, that it involves imposing our values on the future seems trivial in contrast to the presumptuousness of asking others to follow us “who knows where?” So does the idea that it is unnecessary: “I do not write cookbooks for the kitchens of the future,” claimed Marx. In refusing to offer us a vision of the future, Marx and Engels “left open a dangerous vacuum in the theory of communism that in the event came to be filled by a totalitarian form of politics.” More, as Iain Boal writes in the prologue to this volume, “In the United States, antiutopianism is linked to fear and contempt of anything that smacks … of communism.” We live in turbulent times again. All the more important, then, that conversations within Marxism and anarchism proceed; they are, as Soper suggests, entirely appropriate, even necessary. And such conversations can surely be enriched by recognition of the actual “utopian” experiences of the 1960s and ’70s, by the dreams and desires of the communards as well as their illusions. If the past is like a foreign country, the future is unknown territory, a new world. Surely, some speculation, then, is justified; the “what would you put in its place” question still haunts us, and we need some answers.

(Excerpted from West of Eden: Communes and Utopia in Northern California, edited by Iain Boal, Janferie Stone, Michael Watts, and Cal Winslow (PM Press, 2012). For more details, go to


    • james marmon October 1, 2016

      I was just looking at my “SEIU for Obama” baseball cap I wore in 2008. Many of you local members will remember that I was a big SEIU person, even went to work for them in Oakland for a while. I have that stupid thing hanging in my living room. I’m doing much better these days, and most likely I will retire the cap soon. It’s a nice hat, not a cheap one.

      James Marmon MSW

  1. Jim Armstrong October 1, 2016

    Brock Turner was not convicted of rape.

    • LouisBedrock October 1, 2016

      Nor was Henry Kissinger convicted of mass murder.
      I could make a long list of others who remain un-indicted and un-convicted.

      • Jim Armstrong October 1, 2016

        Useful comparison, Louis.
        Charges of rape against Turner were dropped before the trial.

  2. George Hollister October 1, 2016

    Malcolm Macdonald does a good job reporting on MCDH. That is too easily said because no one else does it. Saying what is obvious, because that is sometimes necessary, there appears to be a leadership void at the MCDH. When this train runs off the tracks, many people will be effected, and most won’t know anything until after the fact.

    • james marmon October 1, 2016

      One of the MCDH leaders, Sonya Nesch, Director of Emergency Medicine, is now heading up the Sheriff’s Mental Health Jail plans.

      “Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman made an impassioned case at Thursday’s voter forum for the ballot initiative he has led to develop a mental-health center for residents in the county, vigorously defending measures AG and AH against detractors who question the financial feasibility of the proposed facility.”

      For the life of me, I do not understand why the sheriff is so interested in treating the symptoms of mental health and substance abuse in the County instead of dealing with the causes. And then to top it off he wants to turn it all over to two of the biggest contributors of the problem, local medical and treatment professionals and big pharma. Of course its going to be a money maker.

      As crazy as ever.

      James Marmon MSW

      • james marmon October 1, 2016

        P.S. He should be looking for a place to put them.

  3. Randy Burke October 1, 2016

    Seems today, more often than not, that nobody is seeing “The emperor has no clothes” syndrome as existing to its fullest. Take Trump….Huh? What the hell is he doing in our vision? Then take MCDH…Are these people blind or just Citiots? We are in deep trouble, but if the emperor has no clothes and we are in denial of seeing it, then I guess we are intellectually undressed as well. Nice read on the Albion Nation, and the communes.

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