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Off the Record (Oct. 26, 2016)

Volkerts (1973)
Volkerts (1973)

ART VOLKERTS, long-time editor of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, has died on the family homestead west of Sebastopol. He was 96. Mr. Volkerts is survived by his wife of 78 years, Tess Volkerts. Mr. Volkerts lived all his life on property homesteaded by his family in the 19th century. He commuted to Santa Rosa where, for 30 years, he edited the paper when it was at its best as the voice of the Northcoast, with close and comprehensive reporting on everything from local events and personalities to local sports. He retired when the New York Times bought the paper.

MIKE GENIELLA worked for the Press Democrat under Mr. Volkerts for many years. Geniella was the last reporter to thoroughly cover Mendocino County for the PD. Geniella writes of his boss, "Bless him. He was a good, decent man who cared about newspapers and his community. We were invited to his 95th at the house. It was a swell time, and he was alert and laughing with the group about the newsroom stories of old. Art hired me, you know that. And he backed me in the crazy Redwood Summer debacle of new management. ‘What the hell are they thinking,’ he thundered into the phone the day he called me after learning I had been taken off the timber beat. I was honored to be among his cadre of handpicked reporters.”

UNDER VOLKERT'S spine-free successors at the Press Democrat, the paper had succumbed to timber industry pressure to get Geniella removed from covering timber issues. The industry claimed Geniella was too friendly with, ahem, the Boonville weekly and some of the protesters, especially Judi Bari of Earth First! We often consulted, certainly, and I can say we shared a healthy skepticism about many of Mendocino County's personalities, but Geniella always drew his own conclusions. During his years in Mendocino County, Geniella wrote the history of the place as it was at that time. The rest of us in print media filled in a few of the blanks, but Geniella was the author.

BUT GENIELLA merely did what all conscientious reporters are supposed to do — must do — if they are going to accurately tell their stories; he maintained cordial relations with everyone, and his work, particularly during the tensions of the Redwood Summer period, will be crucial for years to come as essential to an understanding of what happened and who made it happen.

BACK TO GENIELLA'S memories of Art Volkerts. "Art was a home grown newspaperman. I think I recall correctly that when he went to enter the service at the outbreak of WWII it was discovered he had TB. During his subsequent hospitalization, he took some journalism courses and when he got out he went to work for the Sebastopol Times, and later the PD. He didn't fancy the god complex that enveloped the PD in later years. My favorite story is how I got the Ukiah bureau post. It took two three-martini lunches at the old Topaz Room to convince Art to let me have the transfer. Everyone else in the main office thought I was crazy wanting to go up to the boonies in Mendo. He had two thoughts then: does [my wife] Terese want to go? (Yes, we wanted to raise our boys in a small town environment), and do you know anything about redwoods? ‘If you don't, learn something and start writing about the timber industry. I think there's big changes coming,’ he advised me. One year after my arrival in Mendoland, Charles Hurwitz took over Pacific Lumber. Over copious amounts of wine, Art and I used to laugh our butts off about the timing, and the huge stories that came from that era. The main office editors with all their credentials had no clue. But the Sebastopol boy did, and he egged me on.”


FROM MIKE KOEPF: “'He [Volkerts] was a community editor at a time when this was a more cohesive community,' Gaye LeBaron said. Yes he was, and a far cry from Pete Golis, his successor, and the current editor whose only 'community' is the biased, liberal nonsense rattling around in their heads. Volkert will be missed, especially as an example of what newspaper editors (and journalists) once were---individuals trusted by readers, no matter who those readers were. Volkerts will be missed. Condolences to those he loved.”


AND WE LEARNED Monday morning that Harry Merlo had died at his home in Portland. Merlo was the long-time boss at Louisiana-Pacific infamous for his ruthless short-term profit-taking and cash-in of Mendocino County forests at the expense of the long-term interests of a viable County timber industry. Harry’s epitaph? “It always annoys me to leave anything on the ground when we log our own lands… We log to infinity. It’s out there, it’s ours, and we want it all. Now.” That was Merlo’s explanation of his business strategy as quoted by Mike Geniella in a 1989 edition of the Press Democrat.

LATE BREAKING ENDORSEMENT. Ken Anton for Assembly. Jim Wood, the Healdsburg dentist, is the incumbent. Wood, a Democrat of course, is running on his record. Darndest thing. We looked for Wood’s record but every where we went we found ourselves in this weird white-out. If he has a record, it’s apparently tucked away somewhere in what’s left of the polar ice cap. Anton is a libertarian and lives in Elk. Our Elk contacts say Anton’s a nice guy, married, two school-age children. Vote for him. He’s not Wood, and every vote against an incumbent Democrat gets us closer to breaking their cash and carry stranglehold on our lives.

THE CITY OF FORT BRAGG got out a presser the other day saying how "thrilling" it was that Mendocino County has obtained three “Emergency Solution Grants” to these three recipients: MCHC (Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center) raked in $128,725; Redwood Community Services, Inc. $128,725 both garnering “Rapid Rehousing” funds and Ford Street Project Ukiah) $200,000 for inland Emergency Shelter.

WHERE does this federal largesse wind up? A lot of it goes to the fat salaries of the helping professionals who run various homeless programs. Fort Braggers are still muttering about the $180,000 Hospitality House got for its "Giving Garden," which went mostly for salaries to the Getting Gardeners and a few vegetable boxes.

FORT BRAGG called these grants “a huge step forward.” In living fact, they’re another large step backwards, especially in the current context of Hospitality House's "service" priority of transients, the large majority of them from out of the area and drug and alcohol dependent. These large gifts of public money wafting into Fort Bragg ought to be prioritized to put the local needy first.

WE HAVE PLENTY of on-paper rules for the wine industry and what makes anyone think pot rules will be enforced? The Water Board is woefully understaffed and the complaint process is cumbersome and expensive. Pesticides? The only requirement is that you report what you use to the Ag Department — never mind what chemical it is or how much of it is used. Nuisance? Two words: Wind machines. This no-brainer of a noise nuisance is allowed under the Right To Make Alcohol (by farming) law.

MENDOLIB can be counted on for the anonymous libel, the secret slam, the whisper campaign. True to form, they've started in on Bernie Norvell, candidate for the Fort Bragg City Council. Norvell has posted some un-PC jokes on his Facebook page, some of which made me laugh, I confess, but Mendolib, being so much more evolved than the rest of us, not only found the jokes offensive, but Norvell's anonymous stalker implies that he's a racist. You know, a guy who yearns to slip on a sheet and pointy Klan hat and go out night-riding. So the anon slander of Candidate Norvell begins with an anon condemnation of him as — take your pick, they're a package deal these days — Racist! Homophobe! Sexist! Ageist! And blah, blah, blah. The accused person has no recourse other than denials. "No, I'm not." If I were Norvell, I'd try to ignore this stuff. This is what the Mendolib does. Learn to live with it, but fight back as best you can.

JOHN FREMONT put it perfectly re Bernie Norvell: “I live outside FB and can't vote for city councilor, nor do I know Bernie Norvell, but if you're willing to accuse him of racism and other crimes, then have the decency to identify yourself.”


MEANWHILE, here at Hillary on the Pacific, Mendo branch, Richard Shoemaker, part-time city manager for Point Arena at $50,000 a year, and a Hillary “liberal,” has hired himself an Assistant City Manager for the tiny town of fewer than 500 persons and fewer than 200 voters. (At this rate, PA’s lucky citizens will each have their own manager.) Shoemaker, who’s been hustling local government for years now, has arranged for Point Arena’s easy-over city council to put Shoemaker’s old pal from Ukiah, Paul Anderson, on PA’s burgeoning payroll. Anderson, unlike Shoemaker, is a pleasant fellow who has kicked around Democratic Party surrogate payrolls for years. He was briefly a Ukiah City councilman back in the day and has since functioned as an SEIU rep. (SEIU is another traditional Mendolib sinecure, along with local government positions, all the non-profits, much of the edu-apparatus — everywhere there are large bundles of loosely supervised public cash, you'll find Mendolib.) Nothing against Anderson, but his hire is one more example of the cronyism and in-your-face nepotism characteristic of “liberal” Mendocino County government.

WE LISTENED to an archived KZYX show hosted by Dr. Richard Miller (psychologist) with Fort Bragg’s mayor Dave Turner. What struck us during the slo mo hour was the shared assumption of host and guest that serving on the FB City Council was a form of low intensity martyrdom. “You’re not in it for the money, are you,” Miller commented with a rueful chuckle, as Turner confirmed he and his colleagues get $300 a month and full health coverage for a task Turner said occupied him about 20 hours a week.

WHAT’S FULL HEALTH COVERAGE worth these days, those free luxury plans enjoyed by our selfless civil servants? Lots. I know young working people who are paying $1200 a month for the ObamaCare (minus deductibles and plus co-pays) foisted off on the rest of us by the Democrats.

DanHamburgSOME COUNTY EMPLOYEES are grumbling that Supervisor Hamburg gets to bring his “comfort animal ” to Supe’s meetings and all other public business. Line workers aren’t allowed, by law, to bring their animals to work because some prescient County bureaucrat saw the Pepsi Generation coming, and put the kibosh on flagrant self-indulgence of the bringing-of-pets-to-work variety. But Hamburg has always been an entitled dude who operates on the royal assumption that rules don’t apply to him because, well, because they don’t.

I’VE GOT IT! I think we can slay a couple of chihuahuas here with one dog biscuit! The County’s Animal Shelter is stuffed with surplus pitbulls. Shelter critics rightly complain that these orphaned creatures spend their days in tiny cages, unexercised, bereft of human company. If every County employee would simply pick up an orphaned dog every morning on his and her way to work….

MENDOCINO COUNTY REPUBLICANS GO DEEP. Bonnie Carter, wife of Republican bigwig and go-to Ukiah fixer-man attorney, Jared Carter, rallied inland troops for a primitive free propaganda movie called “Hillary’s America” screened at the Ukiah Theater last Thursday night. This thing has been around for at least a year. I saw it in San Rafael several months ago, and like the moron I’ve always suspected I am, paid to get in. I lasted about 20 minutes as Dinesh D’Souza, the Republican’s idea of an intellectual, smirked his way through the usual catalog of Billery’s sins, real and conjured. This hit piece is so dumb, so boring it’s offered free in Ukiah. I laughed when I saw the flier warning, “Limited Seating” and the film described as “utterly terrifying.”

THE COUNTY FISH & GAME COMMISSION has voted unanimously to recommend a "NO" vote on Measure AF, the marijuana community's attempt to write their own rules. The Board of Supervisors and Fish & Game Commission held a joint meeting on October 18, followed by the regular meeting of the Commission. During the joint meeting, the F&G Commissioners expressed concern that the county draft cultivation ordinance didn't go far enough to protect the environment. So it was no surprise that the Commission endorsed "NO" on Measure AF, which opens up the entire county to a dramatic increase in commercial cultivation with very limited oversight.

THE FISH & GAME COMMISSION cited the likely impacts of Measure AF on wildlife and watersheds from increased marijuana growing, without effective enforcement of environmental regulations. Particular concerns were Measure AF's lack of a requirement for fencing around grow sites to exclude wildlife, and the erosion, noise, and damage to rural dirt roads from expansion of marijuana growing in remote areas.

LOTS OF WILDLIFE, including endangered species, are routinely shot or poisoned by growers protecting their cash crop, so why drop the fencing requirement that would protect wildlife by keeping it away from the marijuana? The answer seems to be that fences cost money. AF claims to protect the environment but their proposals were clearly written by growers to protect their interests.

THE SIERRA CLUB REDWOOD CHAPTER has also released a statement in opposition to Measure AF. According to Victoria Brandon, Chair of the Sierra Club Redwood Chapter, "Although the Sierra Club supports regulation of marijuana cultivation and distribution, we oppose Measure AF because it contains no meaningful environmental protections. To the contrary, it would allow medical cannabis cultivation in almost every land use category and potentially result in both the fragmentation of sensitive natural ecosystems and unsustainable demands for water. Please vote 'no' on AF." Which means the list of environmental, educational, community and governmental groups endorsing No on AF is now approaching 30.

THE ONLY GROUPS supporting yes on AF are the Emerald Growers Association and the Small Farmers Association. Both groups, as their names imply, were organized to advance the interests of marijuana growers. The line-up of endorsers - with only a couple of cannabis industry groups supporting AF, and everyone else opposing it, simply confirms that AF was written by growers for growers with little, if any, concern for the general community or the environment.

DEB KUBIN, UUSD SUPERINTENDENT also weighed in with the following statement posted on Facebook: "Mendocino County: As you receive your ballots in the mail, remember to vote no on Measure AF. If you have spent time in a classroom lately that is close to a grow, you will know that the smell is obnoxious. Our teachers and kids have to be in this space all day. Allowing a grow to be even closer to a school will make this problem worse. Measure AF will allow marijuana to be grown closer to our schools. Please, for the sake of our children and staff in the classrooms, VOTE NO ON AF."

THE UKIAH UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT already voted to endorse No on AF so it’s a pretty safe bet for Superintendent Kubin to make what otherwise might be seen as a bold statement. (Bold by edu-standards, that is.) And of course Kubin's statement is cloaked in the typical educrat mantra of concern for the kids. This time the concern is legit, but "doing it for the kids" is a tired cliché usually invoked in support of higher salaries, shorter hours or less accountability.

NO ON MEASURE AF keeps racking up the community endorsements while Yes on AF keeps hosting ineffectual and nearly invisible community meetings. The latest being "a tea-time discussion of Measure AF in the coastal village of Mendocino" which was held at the Leonard Moore Collective, a Mendocino dispensary run by Gabe Martin who has donated $7,000 to the Yes on AF campaign. Holding a tea party at a local pot dispensary seems like an odd way to get the message out to the general public. But give Sarah Bodnar, the Yes on AF campaign manager, high (sic) marks for trying to drag a disinterested-to-hostile public onto the doomed AF bus.

SO FAR, MS. BODNAR has collected more than $20,000 out of just over $50,000 in reported campaign donations for leading the charge for Yes on AF. With no experience at running a campaign, Ms. Bodnar decided to hold a series of town hall meetings, convened all over the county, asthe centerpiece of the Yes on AF campaign. Held in late September and early October, a time when most growers are sticking close to home to protect their crop, it was predictable that the meetings would be lightly attended. And probably lightly attended anyway because even potheads find the subject boring. I mean, really, is there anything more to be said on the subject?

THE CAMPAIGN FOR MEASURE AF has been marked by in-fighting from the beginning. They almost missed the filing deadline to submit the argument in favor because the marijuana masterminds were arguing about the wording until an hour before the deadline. The group openly split over the decision to endorse both Measure AF and Measure AI, the county-sponsored marijuana tax, with Pebbles Trippet and Paula Deeter breaking ranks and calling for a No vote on Measure AI. And now there are grumblings inside the altered consciousness community about the nearly invisible campaign in favor of Measure AF and Ms. Bodnar's hefty payments to herself.

CYNICS COMPLAIN the town hall meetings were an effort at self-promotion that gave Ms. Bodnar a chance to meet and network with growers around the county to pick up new clients who can benefit from her media relations and consulting services. She's smart and personable, but AF was a loser the day the large-scale entrepreneurs lit it up, so to speak.

THE STANFORD ALUMNI ASSOCIATION, Mendocino County: Tim Stoen; Mike Sweeney; Dan Hamburg; Dr. Peter Keegan; Dave Turner; Judge David Nelson. Which one would probably not want to be included?

Stoen, Sweeney, Hamburg
Stoen, Sweeney, Hamburg
Keegan, Nelson, Turner
Keegan, Nelson, Turner

STICK A FORK IN IT. Mendo College football is done. Dr. Reyes, college president, is privately telling people that this season is the college’s last kickoff. Football at the school became controversial last month when Westside Ukiah neighbors complained about a ramshackle former nursing home stuffed with imported football players. Being spirited young fellows, the ballplayers, as many as twenty of them, all black, made noise and weren’t committed to housekeeping or yard maintenance. Then it was revealed that the house was owned by a mercenary medico named Gitlin, offices in Redwood Valley, who was charging the young guys $9,000 a month for housing that often lacked hot water. Gitlin, clearly alarmed that he was now unlikely to be able to continue squeezing nine grand a month out of a property that ought to be bulldozed, denounced the complaining neighbors as racists, and suggested that some of the kids move out of range of the racists into cabins at Brooktrails, which Gitlin also owns. Meanwhile, Ukiah libs had swung into action for the now homeless ballplayers with donations of backyard zukes and, from one donor, collard greens (!), and a good time was had by all — except slumlord Gitlin and Coach Espy, neither of whom were able to explain how it was that most of the team came from Florida, and when they got here they were majorly ripped off by Gitlin. It has belatedly occurred to the college’s perennially somnolent board of trustees that if Mendo College has to bring athletes all the way from Florida to field a football team, maybe the school should re-think football. The school is re-thinking, and football is about to be officially announced as over.

THE GUALALA PROPERTY at 40495 Old Stage Road has been interesting to watch. It is owned by Joseph Cullen who has been popped several times over the years for possession of drugs. The place is referred to as "The Boat House" as it has a 30 plus-foot sail boat down by two double wides on a lot not permitted for that kind of crowded occupancy.

SEVERAL YEARS AGO, the owner installed a galvanized sheet metal fence and roped the whole place in so no one could see what was going on. The county, with help from the Sonoma County Sheriff and Mendo deputy Greg Stefani, went in and pulled the fence down and removed abandoned cars and all sorts of hazmat-quality debris at a cost to the county of more than $100,000 with a caveat that the guy clean up the rest of the property and pay his dues.

AIN'T HAPPENING.The tweekers have rebounded, accumulating more junk out in the entry way. What neighbors want to know is how did the county provide for the costs in the original clean up, and why is the situation unchanged?

A RESIDENT of the area wonders, " if it would make a difference in the neighborhood if the shitstorm down there would become long gone. Nobody seems to care, and we have the walking dead around here all the time (the other day one of their inhabitants was 'cleaning the forest floor' while smoking a cigarette). They don't steal from us, but what kind of accounting is due from the county in this rural area? I bet Hamburg is not even aware of the money spent so far to clean up this mess. More and more vehicles with flat tires, bent metal works and broken windows appear on the site. I have not contacted the respectable Tom Allman on it, but you know, I should not have to. Get this shit out of here ASAP!"


FLYING over San Francisco on Saturday afternoon, was a little Cessna trailing a banner reading, "Ca Chinese Americans For Trump." Both of the Chinese Trump supporters were probably in the plane. Hard to say, though. Immigrant Chinese are very conservative, as are many of their children. But in Frisco, the libs have long deployed Chinese-speaking Chinese to produce a big Chinese vote for Democrats. The Frisco ballot, by the way, is ridiculous. It’s four pages long. How voters, even the most conscientious ones, are supposed to intelligently assess all this stuff…..

THE AL SMITH "roast" featuring Hillary and Trump was explained as an opportunity for the candidates to "showcase" their sense of humor. Trump has one, harsh as it is, Hillary doesn't. The few minutes I saw were painfully unfunny. That the corporate media foists these vulgar affairs off on us is simply more evidence of their own ”showcase" toadyism. And can you even imagine any candidate for president submitting him or herself to this kind of thing before, say, the Bush Gang?

MAUREEN DOWD best described post-election Trump: “An orange meteor streaking into the sea, never to be seen again.”

I THINK TRUMP and Hillary have unleashed majorly bad mojo, ripping the scab off all the raw wounds of contemporary American life. Trump rightly insists that the system, including media, is rigged, not that he'd un-rig it. He's as committed to the One Percent as Hillary, but give him credit for publicly confirming what most of us at least suspect, and many of us know in our bones. Hillary says she can make the system work for struggling citizens. She can't, and there's no evidence beyond fuzzy rhetoric she even wants to, and she has a long history, with her husband, of making everything worse for struggling citizens. She represents comfortable people. Period. Trump has no discernible plan beyond The Wall, which is pure fantasy. And he’s a slob. Hillary will continue things as they are, until they aren’t and the National Guard is called out to keep order.

ALWAYS ENJOY announcements of “controlled burns.” There’s one planned for Hopland, and how many of these exercises have gone quickly out of control? Many.

THE IRONY of frenetic night life in a rural setting began about 1969-70 with the back-to-the-landers, aka the hippies. In this rural county of 90,000 there was suddenly an explosion of dances, festivals, concerts, and every manner of formerly urban group activity that continues to this day.

AF, THE MARIJUANA INDUSTRY’S in-county ballot initiative, seems doomed. Don’t tell its organizers, but one stoner is seldom a model of efficiency; a committee of stoners… comes up with the 60 pages of confusion and unworkability that is AF.

AFTER READING "Get The Shotgun" by Flynn Washburne from last week's AVA on KNYO/KMEC radio last Friday night, Marco McClean commented:

I probably heard those shots that Flynn fired at that house not too far away from my house, not far away from where Ruth and Paul used to live. I have not seen either of them in a long long time. I thought maybe Ruth died of old age. But maybe not. Maybe they are both still there. [Long pause…] Now I'm thinking about all the things — all the stories — all the things other people have told me about Ruth and Paul. She was a pretty famous poet in the old days. And an interesting person. And it's not a German accent, Mr. Washburne. It's more French than German. She's a little more French than German I think. Maybe French-German. Sort of a French-ish German-ish accent. Maybe something like that.

I THINK PAUL BLAKE is no longer with us, but he and ruth weiss, no caps, must be the persons referred to here. ruth is a fine poet, usually included in the big “beatnik” tent of poets, and Paul was a very fine artist. ruth was born in Germany, I believe, but got out before the Nazis could get her. Paul’s work is found in museum collections here and there. I think. Maybe galleries. But he was a talented guy. I can’t imagine gun play involving them….

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