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Mendocino County Today: Friday, Nov. 4, 2016

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IT CAN HAPPEN HERE (and probably does)

by Mark Scaramella

A young Napa Valley winemaker named Jeffry James Hill was indicted, arrested and charged with fraud on Thursday by federal authorities. The fraud involved mislabeling cheap grapes and wine as pricey Napa Valley wine.

Hill has pled not guilty to all charges.

How was the alleged “fraud” uncovered? Did some exquisitely endowed wine palate go to the authorities whining that his $100 bottle of Napa Cabernet tasted more like grape-flavored koolade than a hundred dollar bottle of Chateau WalMart? Did Hill enter his 95-point pinot in a wine tasting contest only to come away with a 70?

No. He got ratted out.

"Mr. Hill's crew was harvesting grapes from Howell Mountain Vineyards when manager Jesus Fernandez received a strange text message from one of his truck drivers saying that Mr. Hill had told him to drop several tons of grapes at Hill's Napa winery on the way to delivering the larger load to its actual customer. The vineyard manager who was not aware that any of his grapes had been sold to Mr. Hill and was suspicious of the delivery. When the same thing happened again the next week, Hill was being watched by an employee of the winery the grapes were intended for. Vineyard manager Hernandez was fired for blowing the whistle so he retaliated by calling the Alcohol Tobacco Tax And Trade Bureau (formerly the ATF) and filing a complaint. Investigators were called in. Documents and computer records were examined, witnesses were interviewed, testimony was taken, and dozens of related incidents were uncovered.

In the wake of the alleged fraud that Hill stiffed his investors, his bank, his suppliers, his customers, his employees, and then filed for bankruptcy soon after the federal investigation began last year.

The Feds finally filed charges this week, more than a year after the investigation began. (Every idiot in the country imagines himself a wine expert, including federal bureaucrats.)

The case has embarrassed the wine industry to the point that several of Hill's victims have referred to Hill as "a vineyard terrorist" (atta baby, Hill!) because of the "chilling effect the thefts have had on the wine industry."

Amazingly, before Hill began his upscale Napa operation, he had previously filed for bankruptcy, albeit on a smaller scale, in 2009. But the gregarious wine promoter was undaunted and proceeded to convince his wife's wealthy uncle (a stockbroker) and aunt (a licensed bookkeeper) to lend him $2.2 million to restart, this time with much more grandiose plans. The aunt and uncle also help them borrow $1 million from Umpqua Bank. (Hey! If you're going to commit big time fraud, who better to have on your side than a stock broker and a bookkeeper?)


Hill proceeded to lease a large Napa winery for $33,000 a month, telling investors that he would upgrade it with the $1 million. But that proved inconvenient, if not too expensive even for magic money, and it never happened. So Hill decided to take maximum advantage of the Napa Valley price mystique by turning much cheaper grapes into high-priced wine and by putting cheaper wine made from cheaper grades into bottles with Napa Valley labels. (The guy clearly knew who he was dealing with.)

Since Hill never got his own winery going, he used his vineyard management connections with other wineries in Sonoma County to conceal the fact that his grapes were not Napa Valley grapes.

"Mr. Hill was committing the perfect crime until his worker spoke up," David Del Dotto, owner of Howell Mountain Vineyard, said in a letter to the court. "He stole just enough grapes so that the amount fell within the margin of error."

Until Hill was caught that “margin of error” was big enough to drive an 18-wheel wine semi through.

Coverage of the case began over a year ago when the vineyard manager first reported the problem and local Napa authorities started looking at the case as a simple theft. This week’s news reports don't go into the case much, reporting only report that Hill has been arrested and charged with wine fraud. (Which may account for the black armbands at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.)

But a few of the earlier reports are full of unintentional humor — unless you're in the wine industry and don't appreciate people like Hill revealing the jive juice business for the, ah, jive it is.

Here's just a small sampling from the earlier coverage of the case:

“The alleged scheme went on between August 2012 and December 2013, if not longer” …” “Since the customers believed the wine was made from Napa Valley grapes, they paid higher prices for it.” … “Napa cabernet sauvignon grapes are among the most valuable in the United States. A well-made cabernet from Lake County, which abuts Napa to the north, typically sells for $25 to $30 a bottle, while a bottle of Napa cab of equivalent quality often fetches $100 or more.” … “Emmanuel Kemiji, who owns Miura Vineyards in Novato, is a master sommelier, a level of wine expertise so difficult to achieve that only 220 people in the world hold the title. In an interview, he said that even top tasters like himself would find it nearly impossible to discern the true geographic origin of a well-made cabernet. ‘You line up cabernets from Napa and good-quality cabernet from Sonoma and Lake County, and it’s really tough to say where they are from,’ Mr. Kemiji said. ‘A lot of guys would be embarrassed.’ (He later tasted Hill’s top-end cabernet and found it green and underripe, but not unusual for the 2011 Napa vintage.)” … “While outright wine fraud is rare, many bottles on wine-store shelves aren’t what they seem because of loopholes in American wine labeling laws, Mr. Kemiji said. Legally, a bottle that says Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon must contain 75% wine from Napa cabernet grapes. A further 10% must come from Napa, but can be a cheaper grape varietal like syrah or zinfandel. And the remaining 15% can be red wine from anywhere else in the state, like Fresno, where cabernet commands one-tenth the price it does in Napa. ‘There is an incentive to fudge because the price of Napa cabernet is so high,’ Mr. Kemiji said.” …

…“Among other claims, the agency said Mr. Hill had falsified documents to misrepresent the wine or grapes he was selling, failed to pay liquor taxes, falsely claimed that his wines were organic on labels and in advertising, and lied under oath when he concealed a previous felony conviction for insurance fraud on his application for a wine permit.”

(Remember, all this was discovered after the fact, after the vineyard manager spilled the grapes.)

“The [bankruptcy] trustee, Judge Lois I. Brady, wrote in a complaint that Mr. Hill operated an illegal tasting room and altered official tags recording the weight and type of grapes harvested and sought to ‘pass off inferior Lake and San Joaquin County wines as premium Napa Valley appellation wine.’ She also disclosed that one of Mr. Hill’s biggest victims, the Sebastiani winery, was seeking $3 million from the bankruptcy estate because it had been forced to recall mislabeled wine bought from Mr. Hill. (The winery declined to comment.) Few of those affected have been willing to talk about the collapse of Mr. Hill’s business. Trinitas Cellars received Lake County cabernet misrepresented as Napa cabernet, according to court documents, but, in an email, the winery’s chief executive, Garrett Busch, said only, ‘Honestly I’ve just gotten through mentally and emotionally putting this behind me and I really don’t feel like discussing it at all’.”

“‘Most Napa wines to me are way overpriced,’ said Tony Westfall, co-founder and chief executive of Invino, an online wine seller based in Sonoma. ‘A lot of people would say Lake County is just as good as or better terroir than Napa.’ To persuade someone to spend $30, $50 or $100 for a bottle of wine, wineries need to not just produce quality juice, but also build an emotional connection with the customer.”…

“Fraud is hardly new in the wine world. Two millenniums ago in ancient Rome, Pliny the Elder complained that wine was frequently adulterated. ‘In the wine business, there’s always been some level of this,’ said Rob McMillan, executive vice president and founder of Silicon Valley Bank’s wine division.”

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The moral of the story? The price of a bottle of wine has very little to do with what it tastes like or what it’s made from. There is very little enforcement of the laws regarding the winemaking process — and even if there were the practice is fairly common and very hard to spot.

And if you think the problem is limited to the wine industry, wait until the Jeffry Hills of the world get their hands on legal marijuana.

In the mean time, GO JEFF HILL!

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Helen Michael Writes: Correct me if I’m wrong, but it is my understanding that the governor would appoint a replacement for a vacancy on the board but I believe it can’t be anyone who ran for the office and was defeated. If that is true then Holly Madrigal is ineligible to be appointed to replace Tom Woodhouse. I may be an optimist, but I would hope Tom will be able to complete his term and a replacement won’t be needed. At any rate, I do hope Tom is doing better soon, whether he returns to the board or chooses not to. I wish him well.

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A Mendo Political Insider Responds: "The Governor appoints a replacement if there is a vacancy but the qualifications for an appointee are the same as they are for a candidate. And they are pretty basic: the appointee must be a citizen who is at least 18 years old and registered to vote in the district. There is nothing to stop the Governor from appointing someone who has run for the office and lost, but that is one of many factors that can be taken into consideration. The closest thing there is to a litmus test is the unwritten rule that the appointee will be from the same political party as the Governor - in this case a Democrat. The Governor's appointments people usually pay close attention to the recommendation of the local Dems, especially if they have a consensus candidate. But before the Governor can appoint there needs to be a vacancy and right now there is not. Even if he wanted to resign, he might not be competent to do so. And a recall would take months plus an election. And even if a vacancy occurs, the appointment process can take months. Which goes to say, nobody should be holding their breath waiting for this to resolve itself."

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THE SINKYONE TRAIL, a reader writes: "I read your old Sinkyone trail hike article in the Oct. 19 AVA. Did you know Jere Melo laid out the trail purposely to be really hard to manage? He was P.O.’d about the whole Sinkyone “baloney” and cackled at the thought of how hard it would be for softies (i.e., non loggers) to hike what he laid out. He was extremely agile, extremely strong, and had endurance like you couldn’t believe! And he laid out the most difficult trail he could. 'Take that' was his attitude. (Just FYI. I was there then.)"

ED NOTE: It's up and down the whole way and, in some spots, you have to scramble up hill. Beautiful, though, and worth the effort. I'd like to do it again some time before I turn up my toes, but I'd stay out three, maybe four nights and take my time. I haven't been out to Usal since, but there were some bad hombres and hombre-ettes that time, and it all looked un-maintained with trash all over etc. And it's beautiful, too. Odd that so many people anymore think nothing of trashing a place like Usal. I think of the vandals as true atheists, with no sense that they're defiling miracles. It's a good thing Melo made the hike so tough, otherwise the dopeheads and drunks would have ruined the rest of it. And thank the goddess the Winnebago people can't get out to Usal! They'd finish it off.

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AN EARTHQUAKE a few miles west of Laytonville registered 3.8. It was felt as far south as Fort Bragg about 6am, which reminds me to remind YOU to read the definitive earthquake book called "A Dangerous Place: California's Unsettling Fate" by the late Mark Reisner, whom some of you will recognize from his better known, and also prescient book, "Cadillac Desert."

NOTE the clever phrase "unsettling fate," especially "fate." The Big One will be unsettling physically and psychologically, and the Big One is, inescapably, our "fate." Which is likely to be unhappy in the extreme, given our population density, precarious architecture, CalTrans highway system, the limitations of emergency services, and the general unheeding build-up in an area where major quakes are inevitable. "A Dangerous Place" describes all this and then presents a fascinating scenario of what is likely to happen in any quake that registers over 6, and, in detail, what is likely to happen when we get one equivalent in intensity to '06. Reisner, who died prematurely at age 51, points out that if big quakes occur with the frequency they did in the 19th century, major population centers like San Francisco could become uninhabitable. Reisner is a clear writer who never descends into un-understandable science-speak.

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ANOTHER BOOK I repeatedly urge upon you — Why don't you people listen to me? Why? — is "Gold: Being the Marvelous History of General John Augustus Sutter." Sutter's history sure as hell is marvelous, and "Gold" is, by far, the best book on California before the Gold Rush. Most of us know, vaguely, about Sutter's Fort in Sacramento, but what remains of it today is a shadow of its grand design and functioning from 1840 until it was overrun by the 19th century equivalent of the homeless, post Gold Rush. Considering that Sutter had a virtual Fort Knox in gold on his own property, how he wound up a pauper is an instructive saga of what happens when civil authority breaks down. Of course Sutter was the civil authority in the Sacramento Valley when the "world rushed in" to dispossess him, as it turned out. Prior to his downfall, Sutter's Fort was the government for much of Northern California, although he was a Swiss national on the lam from creditors and wives in the old country. Sutter's Fort was its own Swiss canton, complete with its own police force of the biggest Indians Sutter could find, outfitted in Russian uniforms he bought when the Russians pulled out of Fort Ross. (He also bought herds of cattle and huge redwood beams he hauled directly east over Indian trails to Sacramento. So much early California history is so dull and badly written, that it took another furriner, Cendars, to tell us what our state was like before California became a state. "Gold" is the book you want if you have any interest at all in the place you live.

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EXPECTING THE EXPECTORATOR: Thessalonian Love, would-be pimp of a Point Arena maiden. Would-be was brought to court Thursday after a long absence, his attorney having fallen ill, and also because the young gentleman has become something of a nuisance to transport, due to his proclivity for expectorating on officers of the court who come within his range.

Mr. Love spat on his lawyer, Jan Cole-Wilson, last time he was in court and there have been reports that he graced others with his spittle as well. Now, it must be said that Ms. Cole-Wilson has not forsaken her client for his questionable social graces. She’s been in the hospital for going on two months now, on medical issues unrelated to the contagion inherent in the saliva of another.

However, Mr. Love’s legal difficulties must move forward wither or no Ms. Cole-Wilson be bedridden or not; so a lawyer was found, in the person of recent Coastal Judge Candidate Patrick Pekin, who was willing to volunteer for such hazardous duty as the case entails.

(Curiously, a figure of considerable liberal repute, the estimable Steve Antler, made a rare appearance in court for the occasion, exciting speculation that racist implications would be forthcoming, in the preciously PC Antler’s wake; Mr. Love is an Afro-American and the way he was brought into the courtroom could be construed — by anyone who wished to dodge, minimize, or misrepresent the facts — as a shaming tactic, because The Expectorator was made to wear what looked like a Pampers® diaper over his mouth, held in place by a mosquito net.)

In expectation of The Expectorator, Judge Ann Moorman cleared all court officers and spectators out of spitting range — including District Attorney David Eyster — who had to be ordered to get up and move.

The actual process of appointing Mr. Pekin only took a moment, then the famous man was taken back to his cell. Mr. Pekin asked for ten days to acquaint himself with numerous charges his new client has accumulated since his arrest and a hearing was set for November 17th — Giving MendoLib time to respond with the “appropriate” contingent of white guilt protestors. (— Bruce McEwen reporting)

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To the Editor:

The unfortunate situation with the Mendocino College athletes has come to my attention and deserves the attention of others. The 17 students, mostly African-American, are now living in a building adjacent to the Assembly of God Church at 395 N. Barnes St. in Ukiah. They now have hot running water in two small bathrooms, with no tub or shower. A refrigerator has been donated for their use, along with a stove for cooking. Since they have very little opportunity for washing dishes, they are using disposable dishes and dinnerware, and need more. Pots and pans are washed in the two tiny bathrooms. They are sleeping on borrowed and purchased mattresses. Small patio chairs are needed for seating, as well as a couple of tables. This living arrangement will end on Nov. 4, when the church has indicated they will need to find other living quarters. Many of the students will be staying on as students at Mendocino College after football season is over, which is a testament to the value they have placed on the quality of education at the college. Anyone can arrange to sign up to provide meals through the following web site: Several meals have already been signed up for but there are many that are still open. The list runs through Dec. 13. It appears that there were no firm commitments by Mendocino College to feed and house these young men, but they have landed on our doorstep and need help. The students have indicated they will be looking for jobs to help them with food and lodging this next semester. We should look at this as an opportunity to show Ukiah as a safe place for young people. If my child went to a small town far away, I would be assured of their safety and general welfare if I knew that the community cared about them. Many thanks to Victoria Golden for the information, and Berry Salinas for establishing the food sign-up portal.

Jim Sligh, Ukiah

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The Caltrans Construction Resident Engineer has been working with the contractor, Bugler Construction, on the construction schedule for the subject project. The repair work on the Albion River Bridge deck is scheduled for November 7, 8 & 9 (Mon, Tues & Wed) between 7am and 5pm. There will be one-way traffic control with flaggers so expect minor delays. The contractor will grind the existing asphalt on the bridge deck on November 7th and pave on November 8th and, if needed, complete the paving on November 9th. Of course it would be best if the Albion locals would minimize travel across the Albion Bridge those 3 days. The fewer vehicles crossing the bridge those three days the better for everyone. — Frank Demling, Project Manager, Caltrans District 1 (707) 445-6554

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On October 26, 2016, Ken Anton (L, Elk) filed an official complaint with the California Secretary of State Investigative Services in Sacramento regarding the Trinity County Elections Office failure to print Mr. Anton’s 250‐word State Assembly candidate statement in the Trinity County voter guide.

Earlier, Shanna S. White (Trinity County Clerk/Recorder/Assessor and head of the Trinity County Elections Office) denied receiving ANY package or materials from Mr. Anton. However, a United States Postal Service investigation requested by Mr. Anton last week concluded that Mr. Anton is correct: his materials were delivered to the custody of Trinity County Elections under the USPS Priority Mail Express guaranteed service in August 2016. This week, Mr. Anton’s campaign office received a letter from Trinity County Elections indicating that his paperwork was in fact located at their office, and stating that his voter guide statement was now posted on the Trinity County Elections website. Mr. Anton’s missing check, intended to pay for the printed statement, was enclosed with the letter.

While under pressure by Mr. Anton, Trinity County Elections additionally uncovered lost paperwork and associated payment for his opponent, whose statement also was not published in the voter guide. Trinity County similarly corrected that error, and returned that payment to Jim Wood.

“I would like to thank the US Postal Service and the California Secretary of State’s office for applying pressure on Trinity County Elections this past week. I feel ready to get to Sacramento and do more things like this. Ironically, the only person in our District I’ve saved money for so far has been my opponent, but hopefully I can start saving money for all taxpayers if I’m elected next week,” Mr. Anton stated.

(Assembly District 2 includes Del Norte, Trinity, Humboldt, Mendocino and the northern portion of Sonoma County.)

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CATCH OF THE DAY, November 3, 2016

Alejandres-Bravo, Bennett, Davidson
Alejandres-Bravo, Bennett, Davidson

JOSE ALEJANDRES-BRAVO, Willits. Under influence.

TIMOTHY BENNETT JR., Laytonville. Probation revocation.

JOY DAVIDSON, Albion. Under influence, probation revocation. (Frequent Flyer)

Gallagher, George, Katz, Kelsey
Gallagher, George, Katz, Kelsey

BRADLEY GALLAGHER, Ukiah. Under influence.

KEVIN GEORGE, Ukiah. Paraphernalia.

ELI KATZ, Mendocino. Domestic assault.

ARION KELSEY, Fort Bragg. Possession of meth for sale, sale of meth, prohibited person with ammo, ex-felon with firearm, failure to appear. (Frequent Flyer)

Lawrence, Neal, Rhoades
Lawrence, Neal, Rhoades

DEBORAH LAWRENCE, Ukiah. Under influence, probation revocation.

PAUL NEAL, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.


Salguero-Reyes, Schenck, Shealor
Salguero-Reyes, Schenck, Shealor

OCTAVIO SALGUERO-REYES, Ukiah. DUI, suspended license.

JEREMY SCHENCK, Ukiah. Probation revocation.

AUSTIN SHEALOR, Ukiah. Court order violation.

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AS A CHILD when did I first hear about trout fishing in America? From whom? I guess it was a stepfather of mine. Summer of 1942. The old drunk told me about trout fishing. When he could talk, he had a way of describing trout as if they were a precious and intelligent metal. Silver is not a good adjective to describe what I felt when he told me about trout fishing. I'd like to get it right. Maybe trout steel. Steel made from trout. The clear snow-filled river acting as foundry and heat. Imagine Pittsburgh. A steel that comes from trout, used to make buildings, trains and tunnels. The Andrew Carnegie of Trout!

— Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing In America

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“The Life and Death of Richard Brautigan”

by Lawrence Wright, Rolling Stone

“His friends remembered when Richard became famous. It was the year the hippies came to San Francisco. Richard had published one novel, A Confederate General from Big Sur, but it had sold miserably 743 copies and his publisher, Grove Press, had dropped its option on Trout Fishing in America.”

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Letter to the Editor

Reading James Kunstler’s fatalistic economic forecast in Wounded Elephant (10/12/16) reminded me of the lecture I got when I was a boy and my dad was using a deck of cards to teach me about odds and percentages and how they inform the wise person’s decision-making. When it comes to predicting the future, my dad guaranteed me, nobody on earth can successfully call the rank and suit of a card getting flipped off an unmarked and properly shuffled poker deck. Since the odds of you correctly “picking a card, any card” are 51 to 1 against you and no matter how many times you try, it’s a sucker bet.

Since there are only two possible outcomes, no kind of prediction is easier than calling the flip of a coin. Since it’s a 50/50 shot no matter how long you play, or how much money you bet, you’ll never get ahead or behind except by a whisker. Which doesn’t mean that one fine day you won’t flip heads ten or even twenty times in row. It means you’ll be betting tails half the time.

But imagine that, when you win, you earn 110% of your bet and, when you lose, you only lose 90% of your bet. Under that arrangement, say you flip coins eight hours a day, six days a week. Thirty flips per minute over an eight hour work shift produces 7,300 winners per day. If there’s no time or betting limit, and if you parlay your winnings, real quick you’re gonna own about the whole damned. . . well, do the math.

No matter how sophisticated your statistical analysis, or powerful your clairvoyance, scholarship, Crystal Ball or Extraterrestrial Perception, nobody beats the odds and nobody defeats the house percentage — the cut the house takes for providing you with the drinks, ashtrays, electricity and entertainment.

The best prognosticators on the planet are actuaries working for the life insurance companies that deal exclusively with members of our obsolete Aristocracy. Next comes the actuaries for the rest of us, then the handicappers at racetracks and the handful of number-crunchers who produce the daily betting lines for the Las Vegas and Atlantic City Books. Like all “professions” in a dog-eat-puppy society so cynical, fearful, superstitious, mean-spirited, greedy and “far from God,” prognosticating and prophesizing draw their share of amateurs and impostors. The “tout sheets” sold at the gates of racetracks and travelling preachers preaching either Hellfire or Everlasting Bliss is coming for you are just two examples of the grand larceny that’s the beating heart of junkyard Capitalism Unchained. If you’re weak-minded enough, it’s too damned easy to convince you that all you’ve gotta do to buy your way into paradise is drop some paper money in the hat before passing it on. When a TV Superhero promises to mail you a Miracle Cure with free shipping and a money back guarantee, why wouldn’t you pick up the phone to claim your prize?

Last spring Trump warned that a huge recession was coming late summer. Last summer Trump predicted the stock market was going to crash right before the election — “watch out, folks; you’ve gotta watch out if Crooked Hillary is winning.” But Trump is a one trick demagogue who takes great pleasure in telling Hitlerian Lies to pale-hearted senior citizens (and their trusting and benighted offspring) he knows to be scared shitless, needy and radically misinformed.

So let’s keep our chins up. About all anybody can say with a fair degree of certainty about the future of the US economy is that it ain’t gonna collapse any time soon. As Trump and his Dark Money locker room boys prove beyond all reasonable doubt, not all debts come due, not all loans get repaid, and not all crimes get punished. It’s only the poor and the stupid who pay taxes or pay back their creditors — or pay the outrageous bills left by their greedy Mexican landscapers — and the best way to rob a bank, or a casino, is to own one. Up in Paradise, some are more equal than others.

Then I guess I should mention that while such boldly obstinate positions have their place in the fair and honest political discourse we’ve come to expect in these pages, the idea that there’s a “moral equivalence” between Hillary and Herr Trump isn’t meant to be taken literally. Getting the crabs ain’t the same as getting syphilis and there’s no profit in arguing otherwise. As we all know in our hearts, we the people sometimes hafta vote for the lesser of two evils hoping to get less evil and, if we’re properly informed, we win a lot more than we lose.

Anyway, I voted like I’m a newborn, black-skinned baby girl discovering the ceiling lights of the nursery in the hospital where my mom and dad, my big sister and me were born: Cook County General, Chicago, Illinois. I voted like I just got off the boat.

Bruce Patterson, Prineville, Oregon.

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LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Gimme a call sometime at 895-WOOF!”


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THE RECREATIONAL DUNGENESS CRAB SEASON is scheduled to open statewide on Saturday, Nov. 5 — with a health warning in place for crabs caught north of Point Reyes (Marin County). The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has issued a warning to recreational anglers not to consume the viscera (internal organs) of Dungeness crab caught in coastal waters north of Point Reyes due to the sporadic detection of elevated levels of domoic acid in the viscera of Dungeness crabs caught off the northern California coast.

The health warning is effective for recreationally caught Dungeness crabs taken from state waters north of Latitude 38° 00′ N. (near Point Reyes). CDPH believes that Dungeness crab meat is safe to consume, however, as a precaution, consumers are advised not to eat the viscera (also known as “butter” or “guts”) of crabs.

CDPH further recommends recreational anglers follow best preparation practices to ensure that they avoid any inadvertent exposure to domoic acid that might be sporadically found in some crab’s viscera. Domoic acid is a naturally occurring toxin related to a “bloom” of certain single-celled algae.

Fish and shellfish are capable of accumulating elevated levels of domoic acid in their tissue, which can sicken people who eat them.
Last fall and winter, domoic acid along the West Coast interrupted Dungeness and rock crab fisheries from Santa Barbara to the Oregon state line.

This year, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will continue to work with CDPH and the fishing community to collect crab samples from the northern California coast until the domoic acid levels have dissipated.

Consult the CDPH biotoxin information line at (800) 553-4133 or CDPH’s Domoic Acid Health Information webpage for more information. CDFW reminds crabbers of new regulations that became effective on Aug. 1, 2016. For a complete description of the regulations, please go to and click on “New Recreational Dungeness Crab Fishery Regulations” in the Announcements box.

— California Department of Fish & Wildlife

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February 12, 1924 — November 1, 2016

November 2, 2016 — My beloved father died yesterday. He was 92 years old. On his death bed he was proud to tell me that he had early voted. Despite his declining health, he had stood in line for forty minutes to cast his ballot. He said, “I voted…because we have to make America great again.”

His name is Eulalio “Lalo” Carrillo. He immigrated to this country from Mexico City when he was 60 years old. One of the proudest days of his life was when he became an American citizen.

Lalo grew up in poverty and a broken home. Through hard work and frugal living, he was nevertheless able to build a good life for himself and his family. He took pride in his work ethic. With over thirty years at the same company he never missed a day nor was he ever late. But my father was dismayed by the pervasive and ingrained corruption in his homeland. He looked forward to the day he could bring his family to a country that respected the rule of law, a nation strengthened by a constitution that guaranteed its citizens inalienable human rights and freedoms.

Statistics show that many of our elderly pass away after an important holiday or event. As for my dad, dismayed by the ever-increasing corruption in his new homeland, he was waiting for the opportunity to make his voice heard by the power of his vote and to make this country, his country, “great again.”

My father would want to share with you his words of wisdom that he learned from a long and full life. He would tell you because he would want the best for you and your loved ones. He would tell you that what makes a person and a nation successful is this:

Family and faith first. Honesty, hard work, tolerance, loyalty and respect for the rule of law. He would tell you never to take your family or your country for granted. It takes effort to keep both intact, but it pays off in the end.

The last thing I think my father would say to you, at this time, is to make your voice heard and please go out and vote.

Ron Carrillo

San Antonio, TX

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IRV SUTLEY strictly enforces separation of church and state north of the Golden Gate Bridge, so strictly he's been accused of ruining Christmas for all of Sonoma County, a feat he justifiably takes great pride in. Ever alert to religious symbolism in public places, the following is Sutley's opening skirmishes with the Sonoma County Library.

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From: Irv Sutley []

To: Kiyo Okazaki <>

Subject: Religious displays in library

I just asked Jennifer Duran at the Rincon Valley Library to remove the overtly religious symbols from a Day of the Dead display which she agreed to do. Ms. Duran characterized the display as an altar which in this case is a christian religious display. Duran told me this type of display is also at other branch libraries.

Such promotion of a certain religion is both a federal First Amendment violation as well constituting violations of certain sections of the California Constitution which forbid state government entities from giving preference to or promotion of certain religions.

I believe you are constitutionally obligated to remove these religious endorsements from throughout the library system, both the overtly hristian and the altars.

* * *

From: Kiyo Okazaki <>

To: 'Irv Sutley' <>

Subject: RE: Religious displays in library

Hell Mr. Sutley,

Thank you for writing.

I would like to speak with you… perhaps tomorrow since I am on my way to a meeting in Healdsburg this afternoon.

May I have your phone number?

Or if you prefer, please call me tomorrow before 10:30 a.m. or after 2 p.m.

Thank you so much!

Kiyo Okazaki

Public Services Division Manager

* * *

From: Irv Sutley []

Sent: Friday, October 28, 2016 12:22 PM

To: Kiyo Okazaki <>

Subject: Re: Religious displays and programs in Sonoma County, CA public libraries

I was away doing auto repairs yesterday. I do not have a cell phone and you did not include a work phone number where you could be reached. The altar is still in place today at the Rincon Valley library. I am also concerned that the Coddingtown branch may again present a December program of christian music which was blasted throughout that library in earlier years where patrons were subjected to this religious bigotry.

Please advise me of what steps you are taking to end these government sponsored religious programs and displays at our public libraries in Sonoma County.

* * *

From: Kiyo Okazaki <>

To: 'Irv Sutley' <>

Subject: Our phone meeting

Good morning.

I am so sorry I did not include my phone number in my message.

I am also sorry that I was in the workshop all day on Friday, and did not get back to you sooner.

Please call me at 707-545-0831 ex.1536.

I am in-and-out quite a bit today, but should be here between 4:30 and 5:45.

Or if you have a number where I can reach you, please do so, and I will try to catch you today.

Thank you so much!

Kiyo Okazaki

* * *

From: Irv Sutley []

Sent: Tuesday, November 01, 2016 10:45 AM

To: Kiyo Okazaki <>

Subject: Re: Our conversation

Kiyo Okazaki,

I think we need to continue this conversation by email rather than phone.

I would like to know what the library system is going to do to stop promoting and sponsoring religious displays, religious programing, and religious messages. These do not belong in a public institution, a government entity paid for with tax dollars.

Also I would like to know when the Library Board of Directors meets, as well as where, what times, etc.

* * *

From: Kiyo Okazaki <>

To: 'Irv Sutley' <>

Subject: FW: Please review - response to 'ofrenda' objection

Mr. Sutley,

Thank you for sharing your concerns with us.

I have taken necessary measures regarding your concerns.

As for your question regarding the Northwest Branch, they do not have any holiday music events planned in December.

Sonoma County Library Commission meets on the first Monday evening of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Santa Rosa City Council Chambers, 100 Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95404.

The November meeting will be held on November 14 (2nd Monday) at 6:30 p.m.

Thank you,

Kiyo Okazaki

Public Services Division Manager

707-545-0831 ex, 1536

* * *

From: Irv Sutley <>

Date: Thu, Nov 3, 2016 at 11:13 AM

Subject: California Public Records Act request

To: Kiyo Okazaki <>

Kiyo Okazaki,

Please send me the "necessary measures" about my concerns which you refer to in your email immediately below (your second sentence). My request is for all communications made by you to employees within the library system as well as to the Library Commission.

I take it to mean the displays on a ritual altar when you use " 'ofenda' objection". The Rincon Valley library for the past several days has a memo on their altar labeling it as a "community altar".

* * *

STAY TUNED. Sutley will not be deterred, and he's never lost. It will be interesting to see how the Library Commission reacts to a demand they cannot constitutionally refuse.

* * *



At the Wednesday, November 2, meeting of the Retirement Board, the issue of GASB 67 loomed large. Generally, GASB 67 and 68 are a subject of considerable "fear and loathing" in the public pension world, because they "true up" our liabilities. The old standards hid the truth about our pension liabilities. They allowed us to kick the can down the road.

But before we dispel the myths and misinformation, along with all the fear-mongering surrounding GASB 67 and 68, let's look at key takeaways from Wednesday's meeting.with our actuary at the Mendocino County Employee Retirement Association (MCERA) -- Segal Consulting.

The two key components of the Net Pension Liability of MCERA were reported by Segal to be as follows:

The Association’s Net Pension Liability (NPL) as a result of GASB 67 jumps to $205.7 million in 2016 from $166.2 million in 2015.

The Plan's Fiduciary Net Position as a percentage of the Total Pension Liability as a result of GASB 67 drops to 67.5% in 2016 from 72.8% in 2015.

Additionally, in a separate report by Segal called the "Valuation Report", MCERA's unfunded actuarial accrued liability (UAAL) as of June 30, 2015, was $182.2 million. In this year’s valuation, the UAAL has increased to $185.3 million. That's not good.

Think about it. $205.7 million is a lot of money to owe our pension plan..Think about the 67.5% funding status, too. The glass is only two thirds full.

What is GASB?

Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental regulatory body charged with setting authoritative standards of accounting and financial reporting for state and local governments, including school employers. GASB accounting standards are the primary source of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles for state and local governments, including the Mendocino County Employee Retirement Association (MCERA). .

What are GASB 67 and 68 and why are they important?

Statements No. 67 and 68 may be the most significant change to pension accounting standards in about 20 years. Statement No. 67 replaces the requirements of GASB Statement No. 25 and specifically affects pension plans like the Mendocino County Employee Retirement Association (MCERA). Statement No. 68 replaces GASB Statement No. 27 and applies to employers who participate in pension plans, as well as entities that make contributions to pension plans, but are not actually employers.

The most significant impact of GASB 67 and 68 is that they change the way the liability for pensions is calculated and require employers like Mendocino County to recognize a portion of the liability in their financial statements. Under the new standards, the Net Pension Liability recognized by employers could be very significant, affecting their credit ratings and ability to issue debt. For a small county like Mendocino with a credit rating that is recovering from near junk bond status, GASB 67 and 68's impact is significant.

Do GASB 67 and 68 establish requirements for how governments should fund their pensions?

No, the new reporting standards break the link between actuarial funding and financial accounting for pensions. Previous GASB standards required pension plans to calculate the annual required contribution (ARC) and report payments toward the ARC. This measured the plan’s funding of the pension obligation. The new standards consider only how plans and employers account for and report pension costs.

How is the pension liability calculated differently under GASB 67 and 68 as compared to the previous standards?

The Unfunded Actuarial Accrued Liability (UUAL) was the pension liability calculated under the old standards. The UAAL was disclosed in the notes to MCERA financial statements, but it was not recorded in the MCERA statement of net position. The UAAL was similar to the Unfunded Actuarial Obligation in MCERA funding actuarial valuations. The Net Pension Liability (NPL) is the pension liability calculated under the new standards. The NPL is calculated for MCERA's plan as a whole.

GASB 67 and 68 (new standards) — Total Pension Liability (TPL) Less: Fiduciary Net Position. Net Pension Liability (NPL)

GASB 25 and 27 (old standards) Actuarial Accrued Liability (AAL) Less: Actuarial Value of Assets (AVA). Unfunded Actuarial Accrued Liability (UAAL)

One significant change is that the new standards require the use of a 20-year municipal bond rate to discount future benefit payments past the point where our net assets are exhausted. Discounting future cash flows to their present value is a widely used practice in the actuarial field, accounting, and finance that accounts for the time value of money and allows the measurement of future cash flows in today’s dollars. The rate used to discount future cash flows to their present value is called the discount rate. There is an inverse relationship between the discount rate and the liability. In other words, the higher the discount rate used, the smaller the liability.

Under the previous standards the discount rate was equal to the assumed rate of future investment returns. Under the new standards, the assumed rate of return on investments can only be used up to the point in the future where MCERA has assets to pay benefits. After the point at which net assets are exhausted, a 20-year municipal bond rate must be used to discount future benefit payments. The 20-year municipal bond rate may be much lower than the assumed investment rate of return. For example, MCERA's assumed investment rate of return for the plan was 7.25 per cent as of June 30, 2014. However, the 20-year Bond Municipal General Obligation Index from the benchmark -- -- a yield of 4.29 per cent at the same date.

The single discount rate that combines the assumed investment rate of return with the 20-year municipal bond rate is referred to as a blended discount rate. If the 20-year municipal bond rate is lower than the assumed investment rate of return and a blended discount rate is required, then the blended discount rate will be lower than the assumed investment rate of return. Benefit payments are projected more than 30 years into the future, so small changes in the discount rate can have a large impact on the pension liability.

In addition to the change in the guidance on the discount rate, the calculation of the NPL uses the market value of assets instead of the actuarial value of assets. The actuarial value of assets smoothed investment gains and losses over three years, whereas the investment gains and losses are recognized immediately in the market values of assets. The market value of assets is more volatile than the smoothed actuarial value of assets; therefore, it makes the NPL more volatile than the UAAL.

What does all this mean?

It simple. The county and its workers must increase their contributions to MCERA.

The Retirement Board can force this by dropping its target rate of return from 7.25 per cent. But dropping it too much would bankrupt the county. The drop must be incremental. It must happen slowly over time. And it must be a prudent decision informed by our actuaries, auditors, investment consultant, and legal counsel. Killing the goose that lays the golden egg -- bankrupting the county -- is not in the best interests of the county, its workers, retirees, or taxpayers.

To that end, the Retirement Board directed MCERA staff at the Wednesday meeting to prepare an informational report about the impact of dropping the target rate by 25 basis point increments up to 100 basis points -- in other words, a full 1 per cent. We did not ask for a recommendation from staff. We asked only for an informational report. As fiduciaries, the Retirement Board would require an "experience study" from Segal for any recommendation regarding target rates on which we might act.

What could impact of our future experience on contribution rates? Would would be contained in an experience study by Segal?

Future contribution requirements may differ from those determined in the valuation because of the following:

difference between actual experience and anticipated experience;

changes in actuarial assumptions or methods;

changes in statutory provisions; and

difference between the contribution rates determined by the valuation and those adopted by the Retirement Board.

Finally, there's something else. It's important. Very important.

We know that the county probably cannot afford both salary raises for workers and increased contributions to the retirement system. One, yes. But not both. We just don't have the money. County tax revenues are flat. Meanwhile, health and retirement costs for county workers are escalating sharply.

For all of the reasons discussed above, when entering into labor negotiations in the upcoming year, the county and its workers must decide which they prefer -- an increasingly expensive defined benefits pension plan or higher wages.

We can afford one. But not both. We've hit the wall.

John Sakowicz, Ukiah

Disclaimer: Although I am a member of the Retirement Board, I do not speak on their behalf. The opinions expressed in this article are mine alone. I speak as a private citizen only.


  1. Eric Sunswheat November 4, 2016

    Marin ‘pension spiking’ appeal draws national attention
    – – –

    Recall proceedings may not be commenced… (if)… The (County) officer’s term ends within six months or less.
    – – –
    A copy of the notice of intention must be served by personal delivery or by certified mail on the officer sought to be recalled. In addition, the original of the notice of intention, along with an affidavit of the time and manner of service, must be filed with the local elections official (the County Clerk or Registrar of Voters) within seven days of being served.

    The “proponents” of the recall are those voters who initiate the recall proceedings and have control of circulating and obtaining signatures to the recall petition. All of the required proponents of a recall must be registered voters who, based on their residence, are qualified to vote for the office of the officer they seek to recall.
    – – –
    Chapter III — Recall of Local Officers
    Preliminary Steps

  2. BB Grace November 4, 2016


    “…pave on November 8th…Of course it would be best if the Albion locals would minimize travel across the Albion Bridge those 3 days. The fewer vehicles crossing the bridge those three days the better for everyone.”

    Tuesday, November 8th is election day, a very special day if not the most special of all days to the good people of Albion who make their pilgrimages across the Albion River bridge up Navarro Ridge Road to the Whitesboro Grange Hall to vote.

    Folks who live in other prescincts drive out of their way to deposit their mail-in ballots. The recluses and old “new settlers” going into third generations now, folks from pioneering families, the intellectual hermits and those who are rumored to exist give the Albion Nation proof they live by showing up to the Whitesboro Grange to vote.

    For 85 Years Marie Koskela worked the polls. Her mother depended on Marie and brought Marie with her to work Albion in the old, old school house when Marie was seven. Marie retired as the Inspector last year age 93. There’s alot of history sharing and catching up on election day, where the magic continues to flow. Where else would someone named Bernie enjoy a long visit giving the Albion Nation the opportunity to say, “Bernie!” within 100′ of the polls and not be booted out?

    Bernie, Bernie, Bernie, Bernie.. my head is still ringing.. my gosh. Bernie. Ah but those smiles.. those smiles for miles back and forth across the Albion bridge on election day.

    Cal Trans is interfering in the election procession ruining the parade across the Albion River bridge where folks wave their sample ballots and I voted stickers, honk their horns and even wave flags, U. S. flags, rainbow flags, peace flags.. it’s election day!

  3. james marmon November 4, 2016

    Didn’t we have a supervisor go nuts before? started carrying guns to the meetings?

    I hate to say it, I was packing a gun in a lot of board meetings,” Supervisor Jim Wattenburger said during a videotaped Dec. 15 board workshop.

    “WATTENBURGER isn’t the first crazy person to serve as Mendocino County supervisor. And he isn’t the only elected official in the County to carry a gun — several judges also conceal weapons beneath their black robes.

    AT LEAST TWO, perhaps three, of Wattenburger’s colleagues — Colfax, Smith and Delbar — would seem to enjoy only a precariously balanced mental health, but Colfax’s Queeg-like ramblings, Smith’s new-agey monologues and Delbar’s pornographic e-mails to the tootsies in the front office fall well within Mendocino County’s infinitely elastic definitions of mental health.”

    • james marmon November 4, 2016

      If I recall, he had a break after those two air tanker pilots were killed on that fire. They blamed the fire on a friend of mine, Frank Brady, Sonoma County Hells Angels.

      My cousin David was in another air tanker just about 50 yards from the crash. He actually testified to Congress in Washington regarding the crash and the death of his two co-workers and friends. He didn’t care who started the fire, he was concerned about the breakdown from the ground (Watenburger) and the spotter plane.

      Wattenburger had a break after that remember?

      My cousin testimony over the crash led to technology being equipped in all tanker planes that now allows pilots to know where the other planes are when they are attacking a fire, and not solely depend on people like Wattenburger, who was directing air traffic from the ground.

      My cousin turned 50 two years ago and no longer flies a tanker. He is now the unit captain out of Chico and flies spotter planes. In the last two years he has spent a lot of time on the Lake County fires.

  4. Randy Burke November 4, 2016

    Nice catch B.B. Grace

    • BB Grace November 4, 2016

      Thank you Mr. Burke. I reported Cal-Trans interfering with the 2016 General Election to Sue Ranochak and expect someone named “Jill” to come early and have a nice long visit Tuesday, November 8th, at the Whitesboro Grange Hall.

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