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Off the Record (Oct. 19, 2016)

SARAH BODNAR, the paid campaign manager for Measure AF (the stoner community's initiative to write their own rules) rented a booth at Ukiah's mostly rained out Pumpkin Fest last weekend. Ms. Bodnar posted a photo to the Yes on AF Facebook page of herself and her canine companion in the booth. Despite the rainy weather and sparse crowds, Ms. Bodnar managed to smile gamely for the camera. But the proponents of Measure AF (aka the Heritage Act) can't be pleased at the way the campaign is unfolding. Despite reporting $50,000 in donations against $7,000 for the No on AF side, the Yes campaign has little to show for its money.

THE CENTERPIECE of the Yes on AF campaign has been a series of meetings held around the County. Billed as "educational Town Hall Meetings", they turned out instead to be dog and pony shows for Yes on AF. Meetings were held in Willits, Laytonville, Fort Bragg, Gualala, Covelo, Comptche, and Anderson Valley. The standard format was three or four speakers trading tedious monologues in support of Yes on AF followed by an opportunity for Q&A. The monologues took up a majority of the meeting time and the questions had to be submitted on index cards with no opportunity for follow-up or rebuttal. (Written questions are the time-honored Mendolib method of ensuring nothing but the party line will be heard.) Except in Laytonville, where County trapper Chris Brennan, aka "Dead Dog Brennan," insisted on asking questions directly. Brennan pointedly asked Swami Chaitanya, one of the panelists, if he knew he was digging up a Native American archeological site when he dug up a meadow to create huge planting holes for his marijuana garden. (Brennan has worked as a federal trapper who often had the unhappy responsibility of dispatching feral dogs abandoned by North County pot growers. He enjoys a hard earned reputation for fearlessness.)

BRENNAN MAKES A GOOD POINT, one not covered by Measure AF. Or by the draft county ordinance, as far as we know. Just about any subdivision or use permit is routinely forwarded to the County Archeological Commission to see if a survey should be required prior to the project being approved. If a survey is required everything is put on hold until the survey is completed. If Native American artifacts are found a mitigation plan has to be approved. Mitigation almost always includes not disturbing the site. Is Swami's meadow an archeological site? Brennan claims Swami agreed to let representatives of the local Cahto tribe have an after the fact look. Whether or not Swami's meadow proves to be an archeological site, the allegation exposes a weakness in both Measure AF and the draft county ordinance. Except the draft county ordinance can be fixed. Measure AF can't. (There's an archeological set aside in a vineyard at the north end of Anderson Way, Boonville, where Jed Adams and David Severn found plentiful evidence of an ancient village.)

THE ANDERSON VALLEY TOWN HALL was held last Thursday at the Grange in Philo. Reports are that attendance topped out at less than twenty, even including four Yes on AF presenters and a couple of volunteers in charge of refreshments and tabling. There were also a couple of No on AF volunteers who handed out an anti-AF brochure, but were otherwise silent. Ms. Bodnar, who has managed to pay herself more than $20,000 of the $50,000 raised by Yes on AF was on hand to make the pitch for AF along with Tom Rodrigues of Maple Creek Winery in Yorkville.

AN ARTICLE IN WINES & VINES from 2012 says Rodgrigues founded Maple Creek in 2001 with then-partner Linda Stutz. When the relationship soured in 2010 and the erstwhile couple could not agree on a settlement, a judge ordered the property sold at auction. Rodrigues, an artist for forty years, managed to buy the property back and has developed a following for his ARTEVINO label. The Wines & Vines article, in something of an understatement, says "vineyard water can be a contentious issue in Mendocino County" but says Maple Creek flows year-round so this is a non-issue for the winery of the same name.

RODRIGUES AND RICHARD WILLOUGHBY of Seebass Vineyards (which is located inland but has a tasting room in Boonville) both signed ballot arguments in favor of Measure AF. They are virtually unique among Yes on AF backers, almost all of whom are openly involved in profiting from the love drug. Which naturally leads to speculation that some of the wine and grape guys might really be wine and pot guys. Or at least want to be, and who is better positioned to cash in on the increasing commercialization of marijuana?

TAKING ANDERSON VALLEY as an example, the wineries are well positioned to shift into the lucrative marijuana biz, with tasting rooms dotting Highway 128 from Yorkville to Navarro. And the vineyards seem to have an iron clad right to pump an unlimited amount of water from the struggling Navarro River and its tributaries. The wineries already cater to the urban elite driving past on their way to Mendocino. And instead of pulling out an acre of grapes and waiting several years for the new vines to start producing, with unlimited water vineyard owners can raise two or more crops of the miracle drug every year. And instead of selling grapes for $1,500 a ton, they can sell marijuana for the same price per pound. And since they are already in the legal intoxicant biz, it won't be a moral issue for them to start selling state approved commercial marijuana. Given their common interest, it is not surprising that backers of Measure AF began meeting with members of the wine mob months ago to compare notes.

THERE IS a kind of Laytonville weed mafia consisting of Tim Blake, Casey O'Neill and Swami Chaitanya, all pushing for Measure AF and the larger grows that it sanctions. They started the Mendo Cannabis Policy Council which created the Heritage Initiative for the November ballot as Measure AF. Now they have created the Mendocino Cannabis Industry Council, with a registered agent in San Francisco. They give lip service to supporting the small grower but appear to be positioning themselves to cash in from ramped up production. And what better way to do so than form an alliance with an industry that already has the marketing infrastructure and unlimited water?

BUT MEASURE AF seems doomed to failure, mainly because most people don't think the stoner community should be writing their own rules. But also because the Yes on AF campaign has squandered their campaign money on events like the lightly attended Town Hall meetings. (Pot people seem to assume everyone is as fascinated by dope as they are. As most of us know from hard experience, a room full of pot smokers makes for major tedium for anyone not under the influence.)

WHETHER OR NOT AF passes, the small marijuana grower trying to scratch out a living in the hills will probably be out of business in a year or two. The only growers who will be able to afford the high fees and taxes demanded by state and local government will be those who can ramp up production because they have room to do so and abundant water for the thirsty plants.

YES ON AF also held a "Black and White Ball (to end prohibition)" a week ago Saturday at Barra Vineyards. Billed as a major fundraiser for Yes on AF, attendance was on a par with the Town Hall meetings. Which means if Barra (a pricey venue) charged their normal fee, the major fundraiser was really a major money loser. Or is Barra's wing of the wine mob hoping to cash in on the expanding commercial marijuana market?

THE MENDOCINO SCHOOLS are looking for volunteers to sit on a “wellness” committee. (If you enjoy watching old timers sputter and stomp their feet, be sure to say you’re talking about ”Mendocino Village," which the ancient ones remember as "Mendacina," way before the town got all precious and preservationist and teeming with busybodies who think "wellness committees” are a good idea. (Wellness. Strike one.) Unless he has communicable leprosy or is otherwise actively diseased, my kid's "wellness" is my business, not the school's. And unless the school is force feeding their students sugar-coated grease sticks, young people arrive at school with their eating habits already established. A kid raised on fast food is never going to eat an apple, and don’t even try to get him to eat a carrot. (Anyway, most store-bought apples are so bad they might as well be fast food.) Seems to me the sedentary-ness of young lives is more worrisome than their diets. Bad food can be burned off if the kid is up off the couch and moving around, but anymore, unless the child is into sports, lots of kids don't get any exercise at all. Factor in the psychotic input they gaze at all day on their electronic gizmos, and it's a marvel the young 'uns do as well as they do.

A DOG at the Ukiah Animal Shelter has died of parvo, prompting the following statement on the Shelter's facebook page, one of several to come down with the dog-killer. Of course the enemies of Shelter management are claiming the parvo outbreak is management’s fault. As if management has clairvoyant powers of disease detection. I’ve visited the Shelter recently and was surprised at how clean it was, and I was impressed by interim director’s Mary Jane Montana’s presentation to the Supervisors a month or so ago. She’s clearly a smart and capable person, and Shelter staff do a very good job running the place. The animal people critics remind me of certain overly doting human parents — “You’re raising your kid all wrong.” That kind of thinking. Animal people are all experts. They are never satisfied with the functioning of other animal people.

HUMBOLDT COUNTY judges have warned people they better show up for jury duty or face mostly low-intensity consequences but could find themselves jailed. Prospective HumCo citizens summoned for jury duty are showing up at the rate of 25% of those called.

I WAS ABOUT to say, “Don't get me started…” but it's too late. Never has the judicial system been more remote from public control. Judges are automatically re-elected, and they never really leave office, because even when they do "retire," they work for exalted stipends as fill-in judges around the state. At the moment, I believe Mendocino County has about 20 "retired" judges pulling down a couple hundred bucks an hour saying, "I'm going to continue this…" Until the other guy gets back.

THE JURY SYSTEM, as it dysfunctions here in Mendocino County, is as inconvenient to the citizens it allegedly serves as it is in Humboldt. Much public distress with the jury process would disappear if their majesties merely took the first 12 people to show up as the jury. After all, we vote and it's the voter registration rolls from which our names are drawn for jury duty. One civic-minded registered voter is as good as the next, one would think.

INSTEAD, we drive from all over vast Mendocino County to sit in the County Courthouse basement where we watch a highly idealized video on how it all works then, since the lawyers upstairs have played Let's Make A Deal with the would-be defendant, and we're all sent home.

IF THE CASE GOES FORWARD, we're summoned from the basement for fine-tuning. We get to watch the lawyers on either side play Perry Mason, as they narrowly consider reactions to subtle questions like, "You know the defendant?" Seated as a juror, you listen to mostly incoherent arguments about the guilt or innocence of a person almost always caught in the act of committing a crime.

(JUDGES, HOWEVER, RECUSE themselves on the flimsiest pretexts to duck out of politically sensitive matters. I watched a judge remove himself once because he said he'd done some business with a relative of a witness. How hard is it in a small town like Ukiah not to do business with a person twice removed from a witness? And we won't even mention the cowardice of the local justice system when the person who should be tried is not because he's, gosh, a Nice Person who “would never do anything like that.” (cf Doctor Peter Keegan who beat his wife to death nearly six years ago and has gotten clean away with it.) Or the guilty person can afford a strong defense? He's not going to jail even if they have movies of him committing the crime.)

I USED to show up for jury duty until the day both lawyers laughed as I was dismissed. "Oh, no. Not you. No way you're getting on a jury." And defense attorneys, for years now, have quizzed potential jurors, "Do you read the Anderson Valley Advertiser?" If the answer is Yes, no jury duty for you.

FOR MANY YEARS, like many people, I simply ignored summonses for jury duty. Why show up for an automatic rejection? I can stay in Boonville and get rejected every place I go without driving to Ukiah to get slam-dunked.

I FINALLY WROTE a letter saying don't even bother summoning me because I am not coming. And that's where it stands with me. Put me in jail. It's bad enough that the courts are so casual about your time and travel and inconvenience, but ask The Robes some time why they don't come to us like they used to. That’s a question they will avoid answering.

YEARS AGO an arrogant, entitled little fellow called Combest, a judge out of Covelo, complained that he had to drive to Point Arena to hear a case. Combest said it was tough for him to make the trip all the way from the far east of the county to the far west of the county. But it's not inconvenient for Point Arena or any other outback citizen to drive to Ukiah for jury duty or other court business, and that's what citizens of Mendocino County have had to do for years now — drive from wherever they live to Ukiah to sit in the basement, watch an insulting instructional movie that bears no relation to the reality upstairs, get dismissed because the case has been settled out of court or simply because one of the yobbo lawyers don't like your looks.

FORT BRAGG'S TEN MILE COURT? Privately owned, leased back to the County at extortionate annual rates. It was sold as a boon to Coast people, to spare them a trip to Ukiah, although lots of stuff still goes to Ukiah. Or Willits. Oh, wait. They closed the Willits Courthouse because it started to fall down about a month after it was built.

BEFORE THE PRESENT judicial arrangement of Everything to Ukiah, we had justice courts all over the county. And each community elected its own judge who did not have to have a law degree. People simply voted in a man people thought was fair and honest. People with law degrees, you see, are more honest and more fair than your neighbor who you know for a fact from personal experience is honest and fair.

THE LAWYERS who comprise our state legislature, by fiat, destroyed the old system. The justice court jobs (among the most lucrative sinecures anywhere in the land) went to people with law degrees, people who passed the State Bar Exam. Here in Boonville a dopehead who'd been playing naked grab-ass in the hills as an interim hippie after law school was soon sitting in judgment of us. Stoner Dude is still shuffling around the state as a substitute judge off the few months he sat in the Boonville Justice Court, which was subsequently abolished when the whole show went over the hill to Ukiah.

THIS ON-LINE COMMENT from Lost Coast: "I go in when summoned and have never been seated on a jury. Just dismissed sitting in the basement. How 'bout I have the judge and lawyers come to my house first thing in the morning, waste a quarter of their day and then send them back to work. This does not seem like there is a lack of folks, just more inefficiency in our court system.”

I THINK it’s more like a system that puts its own ease and convenience first.

JIM ARMSTRONG REMEMBERS: “Back in the 70’s and earlier, when enough jurors had not shown up to conduct the day’s business, the Court Constable (for a while Ulis Briggs, also the Postmaster) would come down the front steps of the Courthouse looking like Gary Cooper and round up whatever citizens were in the vicinity and drag them back to the courtrooms. The first time I saw this I had wondered why Perkins, Standley and State streets were deserted at 10 AM, his favored hour for jury filling. Everybody knew, often from first hand experience, that one’s day (or longer) could come to a screeching halt if you were in view. I wish I could remember when and why this practice ended. “

LAZARUS OBSERVES: “In my reality… questioned by many, Jury Duty conservatively speaking, 70% of the time is a last minute deal that eliminates the need. Last time we sat for two hours in the jury room. Finally Judge Ann Moorman walked in and apologized profusely for wasting our time. Many had traveled and lost work with no compensation… but like me, most were relieved to be excused for another year. Generally what happens is checking online or by phone the night before reveals that the system does not want a jury trial. That must be the case, because so many are settled in the hours before jurors are due to report. If I do have to report I’m always amazed at those who practically beg to be picked but seldom are. I have never been picked, I’ve never begged either, but I generally have and convey my opinion about what’s going on in the courtroom. A Judge even cautioned me once. Sternly he said, “Watch it Mr. Gregory.” The DA followed with, “Juror number 7 is dismissed.”

A LOT OF CASES are settled because the defendant, who is almost always guilty, is threatened that if he goes to a jury, with all the expense and time a jury “costs” the courts, and he’s found guilty as he almost certainly will be, he’s gonna get himself maxxed out all the way into the state pen for max time.

SUPERVISOR DAN GJERDE told us Thursday that Supervisor Woodhouse’s absence during October will probably NOT affect the Board’s cannabis deliberations since the three remaining Supervisors are more or less in agreement with the current piecemeal steps being taken to deal with the various aspects of pot and its semi-legalization or potential legalization. At their next meeting the Board will consider a draft of a cannabis business license process (but probably not vote on it), and then in upcoming weeks additional aspects of local pot regulation and processing will be dealt with.

GJERDE POINTED OUT that the major categories of regulation listed in Measure AF (the Pot Growers’ initiative) will be addressed by the Board over the next few months and may (or may not) end up looking like Measure AF segments in part. But the proponents of Measure AF are trying to get it all done at once in their own way to avoid pesky processes like public hearings and environmental impact reports that the Board will tediously wade through before they come up with final versions — presumably under the complicated statewide framework.

WHATEVER THE BOARD comes up with will probably mean higher retail prices for “legal” weed. Which will mean that the pot growers who don’t want to go through all the permits, lawyers, water consultants, fees, taxes, rules, restrictions and so forth and prefer to sell on the black market may actually see a window of opportunity to sell somewhat below the legalized high prices.

MIKE KOEPF NOTES: “The pretentious gate to the pied-à-terre is located near the end of Cameron Road. Yes, the wealthy elite are moving in to escape the urban mess. I’ve met several in Elk and have had dinner at their homes including a couple who recently arrived who made a fortune supplying troops in Iraq. I suspect, without proof, that they may have been hooked up to the CIA. None of these recent arrivals have any interest at all with what is going on socially, politically or economically in this county. Most are nice people, and one and all they are liberal and progressive; supporters of the Clinton’s and Barack. The paradigm of our younger years is completely turned about. Save for a small established compromised elite, Republicans are no longer the party of the rich. From Goldman Sachs to Hollywood; from the Ivory towers to the New York Times, Liberal Progressives rule this land.”


RANDOM STATEMENTS OF THE OBVIOUS and other rainy day distractions:

THE TV CHUCKLE BUDDIES made the light rains and wind of the last couple of days sound like we faced serial calamities so severe Wolf Blitzer would be bouncing off the walls of CNN's "Situation Room." It rained some, and the wind blew.

MAYBE IF PG&E didn't pay its execs so much, and didn't take the Public Utilities Commission on so man fancy lunch and dinner dates, maybe they'd have the money to bury a few power lines. Boonville's been on the waiting list for at least twenty years to bury the lines, while, ahem, less happening venues like Elk, Hopland, and Gualala already has them underground.

SORRY TO SEE Chron columnist C.V. Nevius shuffle off into retirement. A good, clear writer with a purely local focus, Nevius' clearheadedness, especially on the homeless problem in San Francisco, will be sorely missed. His is one more important Frisco voice now stilled. Or at least no longer appearing in the Chron.

NEVIUS probably got out while the getting is still fiscally viable. Print is dying. The big papers can't figure out how to make on-line pay. And now that everyone has his own newspaper via blogs, Facebook, tweets, and twitters, and we can limit our info intake to people who think exactly like we do — well, every time I hear a mainstream politician talk about "bringing US together," I step into my own echo chamber where my hollow laughter resounds louder. But newspapers, as paper-papers, are just about over.

SPORTS PEOPLE, and almost everyone else, knows that pro franchises mostly play in stadiums and arenas erected for them by local taxpayers. Why people go for these rip-offs is one more mystery of American life. The Green Bay Packers are owned by the city of Green Bay, as is the stadium they play in. The town does right well from the Packers. But here we have Al Davis Jr. hoping to move the Raiders to Las Vegas whose city (and state) fathers and mothers have offered to build him a new stadium! Oakland's government being almost as unfocused and as generally feeble as Frisco's, won't be able to keep the Raiders in the Coliseum, which Oakland's long-suffering taxpayers built for them. The saps in Santa Clara are now re-thinking their commitment to the 49ers, discovering their municipally-financed stadium is not the big money maker they thought it would be.

THE SMART TRAIN was conceptually crazy and is proving crazy expensive as it staggers to its endlessly delayed opening, now put over until some time in 2017. Millions of public dollars wasted on a train that goes from no place to nowhere, and one "technical" problem after another. To think that two trains ran each way between Tiburon and Sausalito and Eureka every day as late as the 1950s, with a connecting line, the Skunk, running from Fort Bragg to Willits where you could catch south and northbound trains.

A FRIEND ASKS, "Who was the first openly gay major league baseball player? Answering his own question, he says, "Phillies outfielder Bill ‘Swish’ Nicholson.”

I SAID I thought Glenn Burke was the first openly gay major leaguer and, as it happens, a frequent visitor to Boonville to see a boy friend who, at the time, was Boonville's Superintendent of Schools.

FRIEND, GETTING back to Nicholson, replies, " '47-48. He was a power-hitting outfielder. The Phillies fans used to chant 'Swish' when he was taking his warm-up swings. I assume he was straight. It was an attempt at a joke, arcane and vaguely perverse."

DENNIS PERON is opposed to Prop 64, legalization of marijuana. The legendary, Frisco-based, pioneer voice for sensible drug policy, in an interview with the Eureka Times Standard, listed his reasons for opposition.

1. Converts recreational use to big business rather than what Peron calls "the honesty system," i.e., meds and relaxation.

2. Peron was instrumental in getting 215 passed to prevent criminalization of AIDS patients who were getting arrested for using pot to relieve pain. 64 will make certain aspects of the drug's present status, illegal.

3. Peron thinks government regulation of marijuana would over-regulate the drug, deciding who, how, and when people could legally use it. Peron, who was shot during a police raid on his Castro District home some years ago when he was regarded by the SF cops as Public Enemy Number One, is rightly suspicious of government. “People don’t realize that money is a form of tyranny. You pay them and you won’t get busted, that’s how they control people and this will force an even greater underground market to form. They made up recreational to demonize and trivialize the people who use marijuana. People who use cannabis for medicinal uses aren’t getting high, they’re getting normal from the treatment. Prop. 64 is a misrepresentation of what marijuana is primarily for, and this kind of legislation will hurt a lot of people, especially small growers and businesses who are trying to provide to their clients but can’t afford to because of the excess regulations and taxation on their products.”

4. Peron says small farmers will be replaced by a mediocre marijuana product produced by big-gro corporations. The “honor system” of selling and cultivating medical marijuana was better than a heavily regulated market.

5. “Money. It’s always money. It’s so cynical. They say they want to help us but they actually want to hurt us. For some reason, they feel like we have to pay taxes because we use marijuana, but if they increase the costs, they limit access to medication. In 1996, it was like a dark room that had been left for so long without any light. I let a little light in. A light of compassion, hope and empowerment. We empowered the patients and the voters and the people that don’t believe marijuana is a crime. But Prop. 64 will destroy that power that we’ve had for the last 20 years.”

ON THE LATEST GROPING CHARGES: “We cannot know for certain what is true, but my experience in such matters is that when a woman makes such a charge she is telling the truth. In a lifetime of fairly wide acquaintance, I’ve not known a woman to lie about sexual misbehavior or assault. I believe Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey, and I believe the women making the charges against Mr. Trump in the New York Times. The mainstream media of the United States is in the tank for the Democratic nominee, to its great and destructive shame: They add further ruin to the half-ruined reputation of a great American institution. That will make the country’s future harder and more torn up. But this story, at least as to the testimony of its central figures, does not appear to be an example of that.” — Peggy Noonan

A READER NOTES: "I'm not sure if you have heard of the guy stationing himself on Highway One taking pictures of everyone driving by. He takes both still pictures and movies. His name is Craig Johnston and his website claims he is based in Mendocino, but he seems to be from Colorado. He's got a business as descried at his website taking photos of people driving up and down Highway One. He probably doesn't know that a lot of people around here, particularly at this time of year, don't like strangers taking pictures of them and their transportation.

EXCITED HED from the Press Democrat: "American Airlines nonstop to Phoenix from Sonoma County Airport." There's enough air traffic between the Rose City and Phoenix to justify direct flights? I spent a couple of days in Phoenix once, and found the place so unrelievedly awful I was tempted to start walking home to Boonville a half hour after I got there. I'd flown down to see my cousin, Jim, who'd just been released from the federal prison at Lompoc where he'd been confined for three years for refusing to register for the draft, the first, and perhaps only, guy from Arizona to take on the Vietnam War all the way to prison. His face regularly appeared on the front pages of the Arizona papers as Public Enemy Number One. Jim was about 19 at the time of his initial fame, and a Trotskyist. Jim's sentencing judge was so nonplussed at his stand he sent Jim to a nut house for observation, adding six months in a violent psycho ward to his three-year prison sentence. Cousin Jim arrived at Lompoc the day my youngest brother was leaving the prison. Younger brother had been sentenced to 18 months out of San Francisco where, from the early 1960s on, opposition to the war was fierce. Cousin Jim eventually received a Presidential pardon and became, you guessed it: a lawyer in Mendo, Lake and San Francisco counties. My brother said he wouldn't pardon the government and didn't care if they pardoned him or not.

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