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Mendocino County Today: Friday, Dec. 2, 2016

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22 Days After The Election: The Mendo Results

WILL LEE won a Fort Bragg City Council seat (1,623 votes, 35.77%) with BERNIE NORVELL winning the second seat with 1,527 votes (33.66%).

MEASURE AG: THE SHERIFF'S direly needed Mental Health facility — lost by just 165 votes, probably thanks to the obfuscating opposition from Supervisor Hamburg, a recipient of County-paid mental health services for a member of his family. Sour grapes? Yes, because it means no local facility for Mendocino County which must now ship mental health cases to distant facilities and huge cost to the taxpayers.

Measure AG:

YES: 24,190 (66.22%)

NO: 12,342 (33.78%)

Total Votes: 36,532

Needed to win: 2/3 of 36,532 = 24,355

Votes for: 24,190

Margin: 165 votes

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Countywide Turnout: 38730/51035  75.9%


YES 13772 37.93%, NO 22534 62.07%


(2/3rds required)

YES 24190 66.22%, NO 12342 33.78%


YES 22958 63.95%, NO 12941 36.05%


YES 22375 63.04%, NO 13121 36.96%

MEASURE AJ - ADVISORY CANNABIS (Apply proceeds to Sheriff, mental health, roads and emergency services.)

YES 23971 68.54%, NO 11004 31.46%


Turnout: 2820/3674 76.8%

WILL LEE 1623 35.77%

BERNIE NORVELL 1527 33.66%

SCOTT MENZIES 971 21.40%


REX GRESSETT 170 3.75%

Write-in Votes 18 0.40%


Turnout 206/274 75.2%


SCOTT M. IGNACIO 134 29.78%



SHERYL "LIAN" SMITH 16 3.56% (withdrew)



ANNA DOBBINS 95 30.35%

JIM KOOGLE 73 23.32%


Turnout: 1888/2753 68.6 %



MADGE STRONG 749 18.35% (incumbent)


BRUCE BURTON 660 16.17%

Write-in Votes 34 0.83%


Turnout: 10,632/13, 272 80.1 %

KAYE HANDLEY 3136 22.76%

LUCAS W. CAMPOS 3721 27.00% (M.D.)

STEVEN LUND 4165 30.22%



TANYA SMART 2316 27.17%

KEVIN B. MILLER 3384 39.70% (M.D.)


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Bruce Burton, long-time councilman and former mayor of Willits, got the fewest votes this year and is out. Incumbent Madge Strong will retain her seat, edging out Bill Barksdale by a mere 4 votes. The popular Gerry Gonzalez, outgoing Willits Police Chief, received many more votes than his opponents.

Incumbent (appointed) Jim Koogle is out in Point Arena, coming in third for two short term seats.

Also in Point Arena, just one vote determined the outcome for the final long term seat between winner Jonathan Torrez and Jane Jarlsberg.

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The Observer: Vote Not Posted Until Dec. 1

by K.C. Meadows

Mendocino County Clerk Sue Ranochak said Wednesday morning that she hoped to have the election results ready that afternoon “fingers crossed.” As of 10 a.m. Wednesday there were about 2,000 ballots left to be counted. At 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, no updated results had been posted.

Ranochak and assistant Katrina Bartolomie were in the counting room, sending ballots through the machines Wednesday morning. Vote counting got underway again Saturday Nov. 26, the first vote counting to be done since election night when the 6,000 or so votes cast at the polls were counted. Before that, some 6,000 mail-in votes got counted by the machines for a total of about 12,000 ballots, just a fraction of the more than 37,000 ballots that were submitted in the Nov. 8 election.

On Tuesday, three teams of two balloteers each were going through the “provisionals,” mostly votes that were cast at polling places by people who were not from that polling precinct.

Of the 1,160 provisional ballots that came in election night, Ranochak says about 200 were rejected because the person was not registered to vote.

The Clerk legally has 28 days to complete the vote count. If Ranochak finishes Wednesday, she will have taken 22 of those 28 days to get it done. That’s a very poor result and having watched the process this election cycle I can tell you there is no reason for it.

Ranochak got 31,794 mail-in ballots in the November election. Of those, about 6,000 were voted before the election. A couple of days after the election, she sent out a press release saying she had a little over 25,000 ballots left to count. Most of those mail-in ballots – about 20,000 of them – she had on hand before Election Day. If the elections office had gotten all those mail-in ballots counted before Election Day, we would have had a clear – if not officially final – result election night.

One way to do that is to have lots more people opening and inspecting ballots before the election, and lots more doing it during and after. We could know who the winners are with some certainly election night, and almost finally within a couple of days of the election.

Needed Changes: More Balloteers

Before the election, Ranochak limits the number of people (who work in teams of two) opening and inspecting mail-in ballots to six (three teams). As the election neared she increased that one day to four teams and one day to five teams. She needs 10 or 12 teams at a minimum. She says she can’t do that because she doesn’t have the space. But she does. There are several large conference rooms in the administration building where this could be accomplished. Ranochak says she needs them close to her where she or Bartolomie can be ready to answer questions and supervise. Nonsense. Clearly they have, right now, about four people who have been doing this for years who could easily supervise groups of what I have named the “balloteers” in a large setting. You just need to train the balloteers and have people who have done it before, supervise closely. With four experts in the room you could easily have 20 teams of two going through mail-in ballots quickly. They would get about 100 ballots an hour opened and inspected. That would be 2,000 ballots an hour. In a couple of days all the mail-in ballots could be opened and readied for counting.

Remake Inspections Overkill

Part of the opening and inspecting process is looking over each ballot to see if there are any marks, tears or other things marring it that might cause the voting machine to spit it out. Those ballots are set aside to be “remade” by balloteers in teams of two at another time, after they have been inspected by Ranochak or Bartolomie. It seems to me this is an unnecessary step. While watching the voting machines in action I saw ballots being spit back out all the time – clearly not all marred ballots are caught by the balloteers. But more important, if the ballot can’t be read by the machine, it will spit it out. Why not just let the machine tell you which ones it can’t read rather than having groups of people guess which it can’t read and another group second-guess that guess before it even gets to the voting machine?

Use More Voting Machines

As for counting the votes on the ballots, again, Ranochak limits the number of people using the voting machines to two, maybe three. She has 11 voting machines. She says she won’t use more because it’s a small room (so move to a bigger room) and she’s afraid the machines will overload if used continuously. Sounds like time to get newer, more efficient machines.

And that brings me to another point. According to two county supervisors I have talked to during this election process, Ranochak has never asked for more funding to hire more balloteers or buy more, newer, or more efficient voting machines. It appears to me that she simply likes doing things the way she was taught to do them and doesn’t care that it takes almost a month for her to let the voters know who won an election.

Remaking Process Needs Adjusting

As for the remaking of ballots, there’s a slight problem I see with the way it’s done. Two people sit across from one another. One has the marred ballot, the other a clean one. The first person reads the votes as voted on the mail-in ballot, and then other ticks those votes down on the new ballot. Then, to double check their work, the one with the new ballot reads off what she or he has written in, and the person with the original ballot checks to make sure it’s correct as the voter originally voted. The problem here is that if I was the one with the new ballot, and I had a desire to put my thumb on the scale for my preferred candidate, I could fill in the circle of my candidate but when I read it back to my partner I could say the name of the candidate the voter wanted. No one would be the wiser. I don’t think anyone working at the elections office would do that, but if the partners for remakes sat side by side and looked at the ballots side by side, it would make that impossible.

Just Reopen The Polls

And for all this, I think the single most effective way of getting an election result quickly is simple: reopen the polls. By law, all votes cast at a polling place must be counted on election night. If polling places were coming in with their bags of ballots and those ballots were sent through 20 machines over the course of the night, we could have all the ballots counted in no time. Yes, there would still be provisionals to count. Yes there would still be late mail-ins to count. But they would be insignificant to the result of the election. We would all be up late but we would know who won and who lost.

(K.C. Meadows is managing editor of The Ukiah Daily Journal. Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal.)

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BIG ABALONE CONFERENCE this Saturday (December 3rd) at the CV Starr Center in Fort Bragg, noon to 4pm. Fish and Wildlife is hosting the meeting which, of course, occurs in the context of a wildly overfished resource.

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PAUL McCARTHY of the essential MendocinoSportsPlus facebook newspaper, writes:

"No Fort Bragg extreme weather shelter again. Each winter day, someone at the "Hospitality House" has to make the "call" whether Fort Bragg's "Extreme Weather Shelter" will be open. It's apparent the person calling the shots is doing it from the comfort of a heated room. Because if they stepped outside at all today, or yesterday when the shelter was also closed, it would become crystal clear it's damn cold out there - with a biting northwest wind. The shelter is supposed to be open when the temp dips below 40F or rain is in the forecast - but do they consider something the homeless are painfully aware of - wind chill? The following is the NWS (Eureka) forecast for Fort Bragg: "Tonight: Partly cloudy, with lows mainly in the lower 40's. NNW wind between 7-14 mph." The Intellicast forecast says: "Winds N at 10 to 20 mph." Look at the chart below.


Taking the the lowest prediction for the wind (7 mph), it will "feel" like 36 degrees overnight - in the worst case scenario, if the wind gusts to 20 mph, it will feel like 30F - which is, of course, below freezing. And 10-degrees below the shelter threshold to open. Is this a cost-saving measure at the expense of the less fortunate? It certainly seems to be. There needs to be a change on who runs the show up in Fort Bragg - they're putting profit over people, using grant money for purposes it was not intended for...the list goes on & on. When will the board at the Hospitality House wake up and clean house?"

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What if I told you we had an entity with a deeply underfunded retirement plan where all the current contributions by the employees and the employer went to pay the retired employees of the organization? That a single new dollar never was able to enter the plan for the current employees.

What if I told you that not only all the current contributions, but some of the assets had to be sold to pay the retired employees too?

What if that this plan was so underfunded that if it was a private plan the government would mandate that benefits must be cut to preserve the remaining assets for current employees and younger retirees?

What if I also let you know that this organization had been in business for 166 years, but the retirement plan related debt was so large it was bigger than all the assets accumulated by the organization over its entire existence, the retirement plan debt had doubled in the last six years, and due to the delay in reporting there was a about another 32% more debt that we knew was going to be added to the financial statements? Right here you would probably stop me and say something like “Charles Ponzi must be applauding from the grave for a job well done!”. But before we laugh, let’s peel the onion back another layer.

What if I told you that the same flawed funding scheme was still driving this plan and most of those in charge had a vested interest in keeping us locked on auto pilot?

Unfortunately, this is our Mendocino County Employees Retirement Plan, aka MCERA. I am Ted Stephens. I have served on this board for the last six years as the only independent trustee with outside business and financial experience. Besides my undergraduate degrees in Business and Economics, I also have Master’s degrees in both Finance and Taxation. I have been successfully advising families and retirement plans for over 30 years in the areas of finance, taxes and investments. I have never, ever, experienced such a situation as we have with our county retirement plan. Anyone in the private sector wouldn’t allow it.

A big part of the problem is the state laws governing these pensions. They are designed to have a moral hazard and political greed have a super majority control. They are designed to have low contributions based on full risk investments guaranteed by the taxpayers and users of county services. It is also unfortunate that these plans are so mind numbingly complicated that nobody seems to be able to understand them (especially the actuaries as evidenced by the ever increasing debt; it appears Charles Ponzi may understand them best).

This is the time of year that contribution rates are set. Anyone paying attention would say that we have to put in more money or we need to cut benefits. Since benefits can only be cut in bankruptcy, it appears to this fiduciary that the only reasonable thing to do is to contribute more money to try to save the plan. We currently have a rate of return for the plan that is about a percent higher than our investment advisor says is reasonable for the next 10 years. Our plan rate of return is about 1.5% higher than we have received in the last 10 years.

Many on the retirement board say we just have to be patient. From the last two years alone we know we will add another $64 million in debt that hasn’t hit our county financial statements yet. It is one thing to have debt because you have an asset to show for it; it is a fool’s errand to continue to build debt for past operational costs. I ask how much more of this logic or patience our county can stand?

High plan expected returns mean low contributions for the employees and low current contributions for the county. Many outside the plan think they see a “wink wink” when the vested interest trustees vote to keep the low contributions as they know the rules will mean the taxpayers and users of county services must then pick-up both sides of any shortfall. What we have is an artificially high “full risk” rate of return being guaranteed as “risk free” by the taxpayers and users of county services. I would also argue that the current younger county employees also have a terrible amount of risk.

Many politicos, and want to be politicos, say that paying the true cost of higher contributions now will ”bankrupt the county”, but I have yet to see how avoiding the actual cost, then having to pick up the employees shortfall too, while also paying interest, would help us to avoid bankruptcy. If you can’t pay the one side today, what makes you think you can guarantee both sides with the added cost of interest tomorrow? This financial professional doesn’t understand the “new math” in this logic!

If we lower our rate of return expectation to 6.25%, which our investment counselor says we have a 50% chance of achieving, we would at least be putting in enough contributions were we wouldn’t need to sell assets from the deeply underfunded plan to make benefit payroll. There still wouldn’t be any material new money coming in from employees or employer contributions, but at least we wouldn’t be depleting plan assets too. Although this seems like a bare minimum action to implement, you will be amazed at the total resistance to this logic (it will probably become clear to you why the pension debt has wiped out all accumulated assets on our county financial statements and why our pension debt is continuing to grow). I believe we can, and must, do better.

Since this is the time of year the county will be setting rates for our next fiscal year, if you have any interest or comments please come and help me understand all this at our MCERA retirement board meeting. This may seem like a small part of your government, but it where almost all of your county debt comes from. What other department could totally wipe out the total net worth plus from our entire 166 years of existence? This is truly an existential discussion! Our next meeting is at the retirement board office on King’s Court Wednesday, December 14 at 8:30 AM. Thank you.

Ted Stephens


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FORMER 5TH DISTRICT SUPERVISOR, Norman deVall, has sent us an alarming message: "Just got it confirmed that the Mendocino County Retirement Fund monthly distributions are $1,000,000 more than earnings."

WE THINK DE VALL is confusing contributions with earnings. Contributions are what is paid into the system by the plan participants, both the employer and the employees. These amounts are relatively stable and predictable from month to month. Earnings are the return on the investments and fluctuate constantly depending on how the stock and bond portfolio is doing. (Boffo, at the mo) In any given month the investments could be up or down by tens of millions of dollars. The plan is not designed to pay the retirement obligation solely from contributions but from a combination of contributions and return on the investment.

JUST BECAUSE the plan pays out $1 million more in any given month than it collects in contributions does not mean the plan is "losing" a million. To determine if that is true, you need to know the total assets of the plan and the monthly increase or decrease. In any given month the plan could be selling $1 million worth of assets to write retirement checks while at the same time it could be "earning" (or losing) millions of dollars in book value on the investment.

DE VALL, who probably gets his information from alarmist Republicans Dickerson and Stephens has fallen into the trap of over-simplifying a complex equation. In short, the County retirement plan has a large unfunded liability but the day of reckoning is always 20 years down the road. Which means the current situation can continue until the final collapse of end-stage capitalism. Think Social Security. There is no "trust fund" and if the federal government had to fully fund the plan right now, the government would be bankrupt. Instead, the system can keep lurching along indefinitely with relatively minor tinkering. Sooner or later, natch, our financial system, the whole show, will collapse like the Ponzi souffle it has become.

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A CLOSE OBSERVER of the County retirement system comments: "Again, there is nothing new here. Most of the comments regarding how the plan functions and the fact of a large unfunded liability are true. The county employees, like public employees almost everywhere, especially in California, have a very sweet deat that most private sector employees can only dream of. No one in the private sector expects to get a defined benefit plan with the employer taking 100% of the risk for any shortfall in plan performance. What is not true are intimations that the plan or the county are on the verge of collapse. Or that there is some simple fix available locally."

"REDUCING the assumed rate of return will increase the county contribution to the retirement plan by millions of dollars every year. Puting more money into the black hole of the retirement plan makes things look better on paper but reduces by an equal amount money needed for services today. The choice is to keep betting on the Wall Street Ponzi and watch the retirement debt increase, or steal millions more from services to put an expensive bandaid on a broken system. Yes, this is kicking the can down the road but the day of reckoning is always 15 or 20 years into the future. And in that time real reform may take place or the entire system may collapse. The alternative is to quit paving or maintaining the county road system today and for the next twenty years. Like always, Stephens is better at describing the problem than he is at providing a realistic solution."

"THE PLAN is basically locked in stone as a result of state and federal law and court rulings. The California Supreme Court is going to hear a case that may change that. An appellate court has ruled that employees are entitled to a "reasonable pension" but not to the highest possible pension imaginable based on past decisions. The appellate court recognized the right of a public employer to reset the benefit level for work not yet performed. If this is upheld by the State Supreme Court it could result in meaningful reform."

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After a century of study, researchers still search for clues in pygmy forests

by Stephen Nett

In the summer of 1956, a small team drove up from Anaheim into the pygmy forest east of the village of Mendocino. They were on a mission: to bring back specimens of the rare miniature trees that grew there.


With the help of a state park ranger, Walt Disney’s crew carefully extracted an ancient, gnarled pygmy Bolander Pine, drove home and transplanted it in the new dwarf forest Walt was creating for Snow White in Storybook Land. There, to everyone’s surprise, it reportedly resuscitated and began to grow toward its full natural height, 10 stories tall.

Hidden within a long, narrow strip of the westernmost coastal hills of Mendocino and Sonoma counties, the pygmy forests still have an aura of enchantment today. They are inhabited by stands of rare wispy pine and cypress trees, some more than a 100 years old, but still as thin as broom handles and barely as tall as a standing adult.

The stunted trees live in a realm of their own, an ecological niche of white bleached soil and lichens, awash in sunlight, an eerie oasis surrounded by dense forests of towering redwoods and firs.

The raised platform protects the unique ecology from damage along the pygmy forest trail in Jug Handle State Natural Reserve. Trees that survive here may only grow inches in decades.

Dwarf pygmy cypress growing with lichens and moss. The harsh soils of the pygmy forest support a unique community, and some plants that grow only here.

After nearly a century of study, the mystery of why they only grow here, and stay so small, is still being unraveled, although a handful of dedicated investigators have been steadily collecting the clues.

When people come to study the pygmy forests, the expert everyone calls is Teresa Sholars, a trim, energetic local ecologist, who obliges with personal tours, encyclopedic knowledge and an educator’s passion for her chosen subject.

Now an emeritus professor, Sholars was 21 when she first encountered the pygmies with her botanist husband, Robert. Coming to Mendocino in the ’70s, they fell in with a colorful Swiss researcher who was commuting from UC Berkeley, Hans Jenny.

Jenny, the top soil scientist in America and internationally renowned, was trying to understand the unusual earths of the pygmy region, and fighting to rally protection for their globally unique ecology.

Teresa spent the next 40 years studying the forests, and working to preserve them, first with her husband, and after his death, as a professor and an expert with environmental, native plant and community groups.

The first clue to the pygmy mystery, and the one Jenny uncovered, is buried underfoot. Drive along winding Highway 1 near Mendocino and in places you’ll find yourself on a flat straightaway. To the west, the flat coastal plain drops off a cliff into the blue Pacific, and to the east, a rank of forested hills climb, one above the other, 1,000 feet or so.

It’s not obvious from the car, but if you walk up into those hills it’s possible to see they’re actually a series of relatively flat platforms, separated by fairly steep slopes — a giant staircase — all the way down to the sea.

On the staircase, under carpets of redwood forest, tan oak groves, huckleberries, ferns and soil, Jenny and other investigators discovered ancient sand dunes, and then seabed. The platforms weren’t hills, but a series of marine terraces, giant flat slabs of wave-cut sandstone from the ocean floor.

The individual steps were carved by the high sea levels between Ice Ages, and then left exposed when the ice returned, lowering the sea level again. When sea levels were low, cliff faces were cut in the seaward edge of the exposed flat platforms by the Pacific surf, and then the steps were preserved, one after the other, as the entire coastline was pushed up over time by tectonic forces.

The time gap between Ice Ages and the formation of each terrace was about 100,000 years, and as a result, each step on the staircase is 100,000 years older than the one below it. And at the top, beneath the Mendocino pygmy forests on the fifth terrace, the ground is half a million years old or more.

The hike up the staircase from the beach bluffs is a moderate climb, and Sholars recalls, back when she was doing her dissertation and taking core samples at the top, they would ride there on horseback. The trail climbs through a succession of ecologies from step to step, including crane-your-neck tall groves of redwoods and firs, with trunks as wide as cars, before emerging onto the brightly exposed pygmy plateau.

“Locals like the pygmy forests” she said, “because they’re sunny, and you get a break from the perpetual shade of the woods.”

The transition to the short, spindly trees is dramatic. What makes these ancient terraces so unusual is that over the millennia they were uplifted flat, not tilted or fractured, and against all odds, have remained both intact and level to this day. As a result, their surfaces have sat exposed to thousands of centuries of weather. So long, in fact, that the oldest soil, at the top, has now been leached of nearly all nutrients.

And the soil is not only nearly infertile, it has become as acidic as vinegar, and has formed a shallow layer of concrete-like hardpan that’s impervious to water. It was this extreme weathered soil, Jenny suspected, that shaped the pygmy life that grew on it. By earth’s standards, the soil is extremely inhospitable, more like an alien environment.

Only a handful of living things manage to grow here, a select, small community of plants that have adapted to conditions at the very edge of life. How they do it still isn’t fully understood. But those that survive, are terribly stunted.

And if the trees are placed in fertile soil, like the Bolander Pygmy in Disneyland, they begin to grow normally again.

Sholars agrees that for the average visitor, calling these special places “forests” can be misleading. For one thing, the trees aren’t photogenic, and given their size, it may be hard to see them as trees at all. More than one reviewer on social media has expressed disappointment. But others see the magic of the place.

In the realm of the pygmy cypress and Bolander pines, with their thin trunks, spare branches dressed in lacy grey-green lichens, meager needles and scaly grey bark, it takes a conscious effort to remember that some have been growing here since Woodrow Wilson was president.

And some are species so adapted to their unique environment, that they grow nowhere in the world but here.

As mysterious as the trees may be, the true marvel of the place may be something else: the chance to walk deep into time, and stand on earth that was here before our species had even evolved and departed Africa.

That’s a ride even Walt Disney couldn’t design.

(Stephen Nett is a Bodega Bay-based certified California naturalist, writer and speaker. Contact him at

Trees around the pygmy forest just east of the village of Mendocino tower above the stunted pygmy trees of the same age seen just down the trail. A grove of dwarf pygmy cypress lies in deep fertile soils nearby, the same trees can reach heights of 150 feet, with trunks 7 feet in diameter.


(Right) A 16-inch-tall pygmy cypress. One hundred-year-old trees here can be less than 10 feet tall. The leached acid soils make survival difficult for the few plants who manage to grow here.

(The Santa Rosa Press Democrat.)

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Hey Friends! Folks who will be in Ukiah on Friday, please join us as we phone bank for Standing Rock in front of the courthouse from noon-3. We will be calling Obama and other elected officials to express our disapproval of the eviction orders for Oceti Sakowin camp and let them know that we are watching.


And, just wanted to thank Denver, Krishan, Lori K,, Kaitlin and Michael and their Mom Michelle, Lenee and Will for all they did to prepare for our FareWells Fargo gathering. The banners are so attractive! A handful of local people withdrew over $30,000 yesterday! Ukiah is a great community, even the bank employees and the gentle mannered cops who just wanted to make sure we did not obstruct traffic were sympathetic to our message. And thanks to those of you who were there. Lots of feel good solidarity from our group and the honking cars driving by.

— “Linden”

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CATCH OF THE DAY, Dec. 1, 2016

Edwards, Fischer, Fryman
Edwards, Fischer, Fryman

DAVID EDWARDS, Laytonville. Drunk in public.

AARYAN FISCHER, Ukiah. Controlled substance, probation revocation.

JASON FRYMAN, Willits. DUI-drugs, probation revocation.

Fuentes, Hoisington, Johnson, Lofton
Fuentes, Hoisington, Johnson, Lofton

OSCAR FUENTES, Willits. Community Supervision Violation.

MICHAEL HOISINGTON, Ukiah. Receiving stolen property, probation revocation.

JASON JOHNSON, Ukiah. DUI with priors, domestic assault, reckless driving, driving on DUI-suspended license, petty theft, ID theft.

RICHARD LOFTON, Twin Peaks/Ukiah. Unspecified misdemeanor.

Pickett, Pritchard, Shannon
Pickett, Pritchard, Shannon

JASON PICKETT, Willits. Paraphernalia, probation revocation.


GARY SHANNON, Calpella. Controlled substance, vandalism.

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From Richard Hall in The Marin Post (Assessing the True Cannibalization Cost of SMART):

SMART claims that it was paid for by the 1/4 cent sales tax and has only cost $429 million. So I decided to dig and understand if this was the real story.

Remember as you read this SMART clearly states they do not help solve congestion, they position themselves as an "alternative" or "option." (Source: KQED Forum on the Road, June 2016, 16 minute mark.)

SMART promised never to divert funding away from other transportation projects. They purported to be self-sufficient on its 1/4 cent sales tax, for which it claimed in Measure Q to be able to deliver a line from Cloverdale to Larkspur and a multi-use path. Neither of these are being delivered and the excuses continue to pile up. But what about the funding? Has SMART adhered to its promise not to divert?

Here's a list of the SMART's funding to date---this funding is in addition to those generated by the Measure Q sales tax…

As predicted, the SMART train is cannibalizing regional transportation funding that would be better spent and more desperately needed elsewhere. Rather than fighting global warming it is not only increasing greenhouse gas emissions, but it is diverting funding away from projects that would genuinely have helped with that fight.

One might say, "It had better have very high ridership if it costs this much," but ridership estimates rather than being a pivotal consideration have been a secondary consideration. The SMART Board is all at sea when it comes to working out what fares might attract reasonable ridership— finally landing on higher fares sure to make SMART's ridership even lower...

See also Is SMART smart? and Kinsey hired by San Rafael to guide downtown changes.

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The comments to the above article are a must-read.

The same cannibalization charge can be made against the state's high-speed rail project:

In addition to the[$2.5 billion] stimulus grant, the California project is receiving about $500 million a year from state greenhouse gas fees and an additional $1 billion federal grant approved in 2010. But it faces an estimated $43.5-billion shortfall to complete the San Francisco to Anaheim system by 2029...

It never was likely that the federal government was going to provide the money required to build this system. It's particularly unlikely now that the Republicans control the government. That's a lot of money already wasted on a system that's unlikely to ever get built that could have been used to repair roads all over the state, including in San Francisco and in Marin.

(Courtesy, Distric5Diary)

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TRUMP has talked a lot about "draining the swamp" as he scours that swamp for his cabinet. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who would have beat Trump like a rabid dog if she'd been the Democrat's candidate, stated the obvious on Wednesday, that Trump was creating an administration “on bigotry and Wall Street insiders’ trickle-down economics.” Warren ripped Trump’s appointment of Stephen Mnuchin to lead the Treasury, a move by Orange Man that contradicts his campaign promise to “break the connection between Wall Street and this Congress,” accurately describing Mnuchin "as one of the people who helped do all of those lousy mortgages that not only broke the economy, but broke millions of families, a guy who turned around and bought a bank that then became infamous for how hard it squeezed families that had already been cheated. What Donald Trump is doing is he's literally handing the keys to the Treasury over to a Wall Street banker who helped cause the crash. Mnuchin, 53, is a former Goldman Sachs partner, hedge-fund manager, and Hollywood financier. He has said his top priorities would be to overhaul the federal tax code, roll back some financial regulations, and review trade agreements.

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by Ted Rall

If Jill Stein and die-hard Democrats get their way, recounts in three key states will take the presidency away from Donald Trump and hand it to Hillary Clinton. While this effort is probably doomed to failure, the attempted do-over prompts a question: what exactly are we losing with this mother of all paths not taken, a Hillary Clinton administration?

What elevates this theoretical exercise above a parlor game is the deep grief felt by tens of millions of Democrats, especially women. They believe not just that Donald Trump is a disaster, but that the United States will miss out on a great, inspiring leader in Hillary Clinton. For these bereft citizens, Hillary’s departure from the national political scene ranks alongside those of Adlai Stevenson and Al Gore — losing candidates who were clearly superior to the winners, whose loss left America much worse off.

I agree with the Clintonites’ horrorstruck reaction to Trump. But are they right about the rest? Have we really lost much with Hillary? Let’s look at what we know, or can assume with reasonable certainty, would have happened under the first few years of Madam President.

The Cabinet: Hillary’s cabinet would have been drawn from the ranks of her campaign aides, allies from her tenure in the Obama administration, and old hands from her husband’s 1990s heyday. Judging from the center-right Democrats with whom she has surrounded herself, her choice of center-right Tim Kaine as vice president (as opposed to a liberal counterbalance like Elizabeth Warren) and her campaign’s unusual snubbing of staffers who sought to migrate from Bernie Sanders’ progressive campaign, it’s safe to say that Hillary Clinton’s cabinet would have been composed of the neoliberal militarists who’ve been running things for Obama. Like Obama, she probably wouldn’t have appointed any progressives.

Supreme Court Nominees: Not wanting an early fight with Senate Republicans, she’d probably fill archconservative constructionist Antonin Scalia’s empty seat with another Republican, restoring the 2015 ideological balance of the court. She might have gotten to fill another two or three seats, and here is where she might have made a real difference for the liberal cause. The 5-4 question is, would she have gone to war with the GOP by appointing a Democrat to replace a dead or retiring right-winger? Could she win if she had? I lay 50-50 odds on both questions.

Taxes and the Economy: Clinton proposed a slightly more progressive tax structure during the campaign. She only wanted a $12/hour minimum wage — less than many states and cities. Even though NAFTA and trade were her Achilles’ heels, she didn’t propose a job retraining program or welfare plan for workers displaced by globalization. Largely, she pledged to continue the gradual Obama recovery, which has left most workers behind. In the absence of an unforeseen boom or bust, your wallet would have felt pretty much the same as it has over the last few years.

Privacy and the NSA: Even in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations (when she called the whistleblower a traitor), Clinton stridently defended the government’s illegal spying against every American. Spooks would have had a friend in Clinton, as under Trump.

Healthcare: Obamacare would have remained in place in its present form. A few vague promises to add a “public option” do not amount to a pledge to spend political capital to get it past Congressional Republicans. But premiums are skyrocketing, so Hillarian inaction might have led to wider calls for ACA repeal, a big step backward. (No one knows what Trump will do. Not even him.)

Gay and Transgender Rights: Clinton opposed marriage equality until 2013 — after most Americans told pollsters they were for it. She is weak on transgender issues. On issues of individual rights, the Clintons have always followed, not led. She would have had little effect on these struggles, on which Trump has actually been pretty good.

Women’s Rights: No doubt, the election of the first woman president would have been incredibly inspiring to women and girls. Would Clinton’ impact on the feminist movement have gone beyond the symbolism of identity politics? Probably not. The next logical legislative steps to advance women’s rights — paid family leave for a year, federal child care for freelancers and self-employed workers, a federal pay equality law, reviving the Equal Rights Amendment, a full-scale campaign against rape culture — received zero support from the defeated nominee.

Abortion: A federal law legalizing abortion would resolve the SCOTUS wars and guarantee that women in the South had the right to choose. But Clinton seems satisfied with the status quo.

Social Programs: Neither Clinton has ever proposed a major new anti-poverty program. There’s no reason to think that that would have changed. Ditto for Trump.

War and Peace: Hillary has a long history of hawkishness. She didn’t push through any peace deals as Secretary of State. During the campaign, she called for a no-fly zone over Syria, a tactic designed to provoke hostilities. And her hot rhetoric so freaked out the government of Russia that Kremlin military analysts worried about World War III if she won. Trump is a hothead. But Hillary might have been more likely to start a war.

The Middle East: Any breakthrough would have to be brokered by someone who was not as much of an unqualified supporter of Israel as she is. (So is Trump.)

Human Rights: Clinton’s record is dismal. She coddled dictators at State. Her foundation solicited money from the murderous Saudi regime. She rarely mentioned the issue during her campaign. I’d expect more of the same from her — or Trump.

Torture: Obama continued to authorize torture by the CIA, and refused to investigate torturers. Clinton would not have reversed these nauseating policies, which she has endorsed, and will continue under Trump.

Drones: Like Obama and Trump, Hillary is a big fan of using killer robot planes to slaughter thousands of innocent people abroad.

Secret Prisons/Guantánamo: It’s a safe bet that Gitmo torture gulag would have remained open under Hill, though perhaps with fewer inmates than Trump says he wants to send there.

Hillary fans can credibly argue that she would not have made things worse, or at least not as bad as they will be under Trump. By objective standards, however, it defies reason to claim that she would have presided over a halcyon era of progress. At best, President Clinton II would have held the line against Republican attacks. As we know, however, voters are not in the mood for more of the same.

And in 2020, we’d be right back where we are now. Four years into President Hillary, the anger that unleashed Trumpism would turn into boiling rage.

Odds are, Hillary would have committed many of the same outrages as Trump will. As a Democrat, however, she wouldn’t have faced the same level of protest or resistance from the Left — or a media willing to cover it.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower.)

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"When I went outside this morning, I thought of that poem by whatshisface, the fascist, but there were only five faces I could see. “The apparition of these faces in the crowd; 
petals on a wet, black bough."


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We are happy to announce the return of The Gloriana Carolers. Dressed in Old Fashioned Victorian Costumes, they volunteer their holiday cheer and are ready to hire for your business organization or home to sing carols during your parties, events and festivities. Proceeds go towards the Gloriana Scholarship Program. If you would like to hire the carolers or have additional questions please contact Jan Littrell at 925-200-3220 or go to

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AN INSPECTOR CALLS continues this weekend...

The Mendocino Theatre Company's production of J. B. Priestley's classic whodunit AN INSPECTOR CALLS continues this weekend with four performances. Tickets are available online or through our box office, 707-937-4477.

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Mendocino K-8 School Name and Mascot Survey

Dear Mendocino Unified School District Community Member,

A committee of administrators, teachers, students, parents, and community members created this survey regarding a possible name change to the Mendocino K-8 School. Based on student feedback, there are 5 choices for the school name and 6 choices for mascot. The current name of the school, Mendocino K-8 School, is not one of the choices because the school serves transitional kindergarten (TK) through 8th grade students. The committee felt it was important to make that note. This survey will be open until December 31st, 2016. The committee will meet in January to review the results and consider making a recommendation to the school board. Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey. Please click on the link below to take the survey. The survey is also available in paper form at the Mendocino High School, Mendocino K-8 School, and the Mendocino Unified District Office.

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Over the last 25 years the Republican Party has been moving steadily rightward, and the Democratic Party has followed this drift.

In 2004 a friend, J.S. sent me a postcard entitled “Early Warning Signs of Fascism”. The card then listed the following:

  • Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
  • Disdain for Human Rights
  • Identification of Enemies as a unifying Cause
  • Supremacy of the Military
  • Rampant Sexism
  • Growing Racism
  • Controlled Mass Media
  • Obsession with National Security
  • Religion and Government Intertwined
  • Corporate Power Protected
  • Labor Power Suppressed
  • Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
  • Obsession with Crime and Punishment
  • Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
  • Fraudulent Elections

Arguably, the Republican Party has now become a Fascist Party. We should call it like it is — Fascism

Now let’s mobilize for battle!

Dr. Nayvin Gordon

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Many years ago I visited a lady friend who just had a baby and was on maternity leave. She was sitting in a chair with her newborn son and she then started crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she said in the most melancholy voice imaginable that ‘the days just pass by so quickly and soon she would have to return to work’.

Dropping an infant off at a day care center is an incredibly traumatic experience, or so I imagine. And it no doubt strips away at least a fraction of one’s “inner femininity.” Especially when amplified by the stress of the workplace and innumerable cups of coffee/caffeine. But we shouldn’t circumscribe this tragedy from the greater economic environment that basically relegates those seeking to attain or remain middle class into two-parent working families: Not all women working are doing so for “feminist” reasons.

But it’s not just women. Men too, don emotional armor, becoming harder and harder in their attempt to remain impenetrable and impervious to life’s inevitable surprises and mischief. It seems to me, that the harder we become, the easier we break, like a dry fall twig snapping under the least amount of pressure.


  1. Craig Stehr December 2, 2016

    The 7th annual east bay alternative book and zine fest will be held December 10th at Venue Ballroom located at 420 14th Street in Oakland, CA from 11 A.M. to 6 P.M.

  2. Harvey Reading December 2, 2016


    Tbe democrapic ‘party’ (actually one of the two right wings of the single corporate party) is no better. Both serve only wealth and the corporate interest, both are authoritarian and nationalist, etc. Or, maybe you forgot, the murderer, war criminal, and whistle-blower-hater, Obama, claims to be of the democrap wing of the party. So do the she-monster and her husband.

  3. Rick Weddle December 2, 2016

    re: Our great financial system ‘Ponzi souffle…’…

    What!? That’s too perfectly apt, a couple words worth a thousand pictures. If Trump is what’s visible of the Turdberg in our path, what other festering mats of alleged brain cells stalk the land? Debased, deranged, armed way out past the teeth and in solid possession of the microphone and cameras and the LIVE/DIE switch…could reality actually converge with National Enquirer? What’s to stop it?

  4. Bruce McEwen December 2, 2016

    Highly disgruntled that the AVA didn’t make the list of 200 news organs — among them such names as CounterPunch and TruthOut — listed as fake news and “tools” of Russian propaganda.

    I guess we shouldn’t feel too bad, though, cause the twits at PropOrNot who made the list also overlooked ClubOrlov and ClusterFuckNation, even though Dimitri Orlov tried to needle HRC with boasts about how the Russian army would treat America’s “gay army” if she were elected and pursued all-out war with a no-fly zone in Syria.

    The fact that the Washington Post used the PropOrNot list to fact-check (sic) a story by former CIA creature Craig Timberg, shows just how far the Washington Post has slid into “fake news” since Mr. Bezos of bought the broadsheet — which Alexander Cockburn and Jeffry St. Claire had already exposed as a propaganda organ of the CIA.

    Still, it would have made me proud to see the AVA in that elite company of 200 falsely accused of fake news and propaganda outlets.

    • james marmon December 2, 2016

      Consolation, McEwen, you guys are number one on my fake news site list.


        • Bruce McEwen December 3, 2016

          Lo the poor Cheyenne who lifted Lt. Fetterman’s scalp, and “the Lieutenant couldn’t have been that bright because two weeks earlier a party of Suoix just about bagged him in a similar ambush” and “he was sucked to death by a strategem antedating the Punic Wars… He met a weak party of Indins, just out of reach.”

          • Bruce McEwen December 3, 2016

            this description comes from one of his kindest biographers, and we’ll let it go at that.

          • Bruce McEwen December 3, 2016

            Lo the poor Arapaho who had to go to the Wind River Rez and give up the downtown… “the Hotel Boulderado, at the dark end of the hall, I gotta shake my head and wonder why it bothers me at all…come back to us Barbara Louis, Hara Chrishna, Beauguard…”

            Thanx J. Prine

          • james marmon December 3, 2016

            When I lived on the Wind River Rez my favorite watering hole was the Teton Room in Riverton. Had a ferocious battle with a local chief one night witch resulted in jail and banishment from the establishment forever. Have you ever been there?

            I also enjoyed the Gaslight Bar and Grill until I was kicked out of there too.


            The 70’s were not all fun and games though.

          • james marmon December 3, 2016

            The chief was Shoshone. I loved the Shoshone, just not that guy.


            I got along pretty good with the Arapaho who also shared the Rez.

  5. Eric Sunswheat December 2, 2016

    AVA might consider re-design of front webpage to allow vastly longer list of Recent Comments, and a separate much longer page Directory of Recent Comments.

    This could be part of its online transition, sort of along the lines of Alan Watts and his 1969 published: ‘The Book, The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are’.

    In light of defeat, Measure AG & AH (mental health puff) sales tax, the following:

    The Rat Park comic by Stu McMillen, highlighted a suppressed study into true cause of drug addiction recovery and social environment, which was conducted in the late 1970s (and published in 1981). . Wikipedia can verify. The link was posted by sohumlily on AVA blog Off The Record November 30, 2016.

    A good complement addition is a dated 1983 article by Jon Ott, which describes some of the effect of light and health.

    The public and many Mendocino County officials would agree that there is a methamphetamine crisis in the County. But because meth remains in the blood for just a few days, blood test may not fully diagnose, and hair analysis is rarely done to show a chronological record of chronic use.

    A significantly large portion of individuals undergoing meth induced extreme mental health crisis, may not need the ‘PUFF’ Unit often administered partial chemical lobotomy (irreversible change in brain function – See Dr. Richard Miller, past KZYX radio show(s)).

    This phenomena may be induced with incompletely tested Big Pharma protocol patent drugs administered by employed licensed mental health professionals, but these patients could benefit often with time out in a protected low impact enlightened environment.

    Current treatment modality for crisis intervention, could be interpreted as a misuse of scarce resources, and risks abuse of patients in care.

    With re-prioritization and revised practices, law enforcement and health professionals could better serve critical public needs, for protecting property and safety of all, without addition of a regressive sales tax, which most adversely impacts low income residents.

  6. Rick Weddle December 2, 2016

    re: ‘pygmy’ forest…

    The Mendo Coast’s pygmy forest is fascinating and the site of volumes of interesting stories from over the past several decades.

    It is homely, fragile and not especially friendly, but I’ve always kind of liked it, and admired those who can live and work there without disrupting it, much. I do recall mention that there is, in Siberia somewhere, another little patch of land very nearly identical to the Mendo pygmy…heard that in the early 70’s around the old College of the Pacific field station on Albion River dedicated specifically to Pygmy study…

  7. james marmon December 2, 2016

    Has anyone but me noticed how white today’s catch of the day is? All men too.

    jus sayin.

  8. Judy Valadao December 2, 2016

    I find it odd that Paul Davis of the Hospitality Center/Hospitality House has to get his info regarding the weather from Ukiah to make the determination if the Shelter in Fort Bragg will be open or not. (I’m not blaming Paul, apparently Ukiah is where the weather forecast has to come from). So when the Fort Bragg shelter is closed on very cold nights Ukiah has a shelter that is open every night.

    From the voice:

    Ukiah, CA. November 16, 2016. In response to the impending cold and wet weather and the lack of a year-round shelter, local organizations and agencies have collaborated to develop an emergency winter shelter, scheduled to open in December.

    The Inland Valley Emergency Winter Shelter for the Homeless, proposed at the rear unit of 1045 South State Street in Ukiah, would be open for approximately six months and would provide safe, supervised shelter for the most vulnerable of the area’s general homeless population.

    This effort is coordinated by the Homeless Services Action Group (HSAG), with funding and resources contributed by the Ukiah Valley Medical Center, the City of Ukiah, the County of Mendocino, the Health and Human Services Agency of Mendocino County, the Community Foundation, Sheriff Tom Allman, and other community members.

    The proposed shelter would be open seven days a week from 6 PM to 8 AM. It would provide more than 40 beds, shower and bathroom facilities, as well as crates for homeless pets and a state-of-the-art kennel, loaned by Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman.

  9. Bruce McEwen December 3, 2016

    In closing I was going to post up the latest on our latest homicide but I’m delighted to report I at long-last have help in the press box at the courthouse, a vacancy I’ve cried over ever since Tiffany Revelle and her rebellious daughters left me to handle the Mendo Courts all by my lonesome these past several years; hey, Steve-o, stand us a round, eh?.

    I am humbled. The Voice of Mendocino scoo…oooped[burp!] me big-time! on the latest.

    What a pleasurable challenge it is to fight for your right to disagree w/moi!

    Plus, the dignity of the Press Box has been sorely abused by the lawyers and State’s witnesses, that frankly, an old monkey like me needs a bit to stand up to ’em, the dogs!

    Love ya!

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