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Off the Record (Dec. 14, 2016)

A CLEVER and enterprising fellow called Stuart Bewley appeared with Laytonville's Swami Chaitanya, aka Bill Winans, before the Planning Commission last week to lobby for the opening up the County's rangeland for marijuana cultivation. Bewley grows grapes on a 6000-acre parcel near Laytonville and owns another 14,000 acres off Bell Springs Road called the Adanac Ranch, said to be the best wildlife habitat left in Mendocino County. It's the 14,000-acre place the Swami and Bewley, the inventor of the wine cooler, want to grow dope, er, medicine, on.

Stuart Bewley

BEWLEY AND THE SWAMI, and perhaps a third person not yet named but the ubiquitous Tim Blake is often mentioned, have applied for five grow permits on Bewley's otherwise pot-free 14,000 acres. Bewley and the Swami, an odd couple indeed, are claiming, as per local pot law, to have the necessary proof of a pre-existing grow on Bewley's vast holdings, but have produced only some receipts for pot gear from Spare Time Supply in Willits and a photo of the interior of a greenhouse, proving nothing at all except, perhaps, unreasoning faith in the blind credulity of local officials.

THERE ARE SO MANY pot gro applications piling up at Mendocino County's Ag office that's it's clear the Green Rush, which has overwhelmed Humboldt County, is certain to rush in to Mendocino County, especially if land zoned range land and for timber production can be waived for marijuana production. We hope the Supervisors will deny any application pegged to a de facto re-zone.

HEADLINE from last Thursday’s Press Democrat reminds us that it's probably time to permanently cordon off Lake County: "Lake County man accused of killing Chihuahua with machete."

THERE ARE LEGIT requests for public information then there's pure harassment. But the County's Animal Shelter is being bombarded with so many requests — from the same parties — that the info demands long ago ceased being legitimate. Come on, two requests for all kennel cards for animals entering the shelter from August through October? All the drug records for the same period? More than 600 pages of information in two files which were uploaded to the County's Public Records Access (PRA) site on Tuesday. It took more than eight hours of staff time to collect and make copies when they should be doing things related to animal care and adoptions.

PREDICTION: The Woodhouse matter won't drag on indefinitely. The DA is poised to step in. If the mentally unsound North County representative doesn't resign his Third District Supervisor's seat, the DA just might go to a judge and get Woodhouse resigned without Woodhouse and his attorney's involvement. There is legal precedent. Additionally, the two cops who were bitten during one struggle to restrain the berserk Woodhouse aren't happy about it. Biting cops is against the law, even in Mendocino County, even if supervisors do it.

BRING BACK FJORD'S. You qualify as a Mendo old timer if you ate at the legendary North State Street buffet. The 50s-era structure that sat empty for years as a 4-Star eyesore at the north end of Ukiah, its ghostly old sign jutting forlornly up about fifty feet in the air, was Ukiah's very own post-industrial landmark.

SO FJORD'S finally gets bulldozed and here comes In 'N Out Burger, a very large In 'N Out Burger, so large if you didn't know they were going to simply sell burgers and fries outtathere, you might think it was a giant car wash, a giant LA carwash complete with two giant palm trees awaiting the rest of the landscaping. More or less at the other end of the County seat, the new Chipotle at the foot of Perkins is packing them in. Bottom line question? Can Ukiah stand the culinary excitement?

SPEAKING of which — culinary excitement, I mean — and apropos of nothing at all, I ate lunch Tuesday at Star's in Ukiah, a restaurant popular with the geriatric set, where who should walk in at twice the size I last saw him? Myron Sawicki, former Assistant DA to DA Susan Massini. Myron worked long and hard on the Fort Bragg Fires investigation only to watch his boss, Ms. Massini, let the statute of limitations run. I've heard there were over 30 boxes of material on that particular outrage, including the results of FBI and ATF findings. The boxes, and more than enough evidence to prosecute the people behind the '87 atrocities, have since disappeared, vanishing with Massini's departure from office. Sawicki appeared to be with another local attorney, James Griffiths. Not the place to de-brief Myron but I'd like to some time.

THEN HAL TITEN, registered sex offender, sat down in the booth in front of me. It had begun to feel like the ghosts of Christmases past. Titen, once upon a time riding high as an overpaid administrator with the over-administered Mendocino County Office of Education, was finally shuffled off to the state pen for making pornographic films with under-age girls in the back room of a bar he owned on North State Street, using video equipment purchased with educational funds. Titen's boss, Jack Ward, also went to jail. Titen doesn't look much changed but has presumably aged out as an active perv. Ward, natch, went off from his stay behind the welcoming bars of the County Jail to running schools on a SoCal Indian reservation. Several other MCOE edu-wizards still roam I-5 leading our nation's future to their highly dubious future.

IN OTHER PERSONNEL NEWS, we note the return of Mendocino County's most famous cop, Peter Hoyle, to his mothership, the Ukiah Police Department. Hoyle had been on indefinite loan to the County's dope unit.

FOR YOUR MEDIA FILES: THE SF CHRONICLE reported today: NBC News paid for a hotel room for the man who ran the Ghost Ship, the Oakland warehouse-turned-artists-collective that burned down Friday night, killing 36 people at an underground electronic music show.

FORT BRAGG FACEBOOK PAGES reveal lots of people complaining about a more aggressive and generally "scarier" homeless crew roaming the town, as some residents, not known to be fraidy cats, say they feel more insecure walking city streets, encountering more "undesirables" and so on.

RATS! The four-footed type also seem to be on the increase in FB. That infestation, according to rat trackers, may be due to the recent removal of harbor cats; the food left out for them by cat people attracted more and more. raccoons.

HELLO, MY FRIENDS at the AVA, I thought you would be interested in this excerpt from my new book, still a work in progress, but tentatively called, "NO, I WON'T LEND YOU A DIME — My Life as a Small Town Banker" by Charles 'Chuck' Mannon, president, Savings Bank of Mendocino:

“When I was a boy, I much enjoyed Donald Duck Comics, especially the stories featuring Scrooge McDuck, Don's uncle, who would fill his bathtub with cash and just kind of roll around in it, luxuriating in the mounds of coins and hundred dollar bills. Years later, when I built my new bank headquarters in Ukiah, and of course unbeknownst to the worker bees downstairs at the teller windows, known only to me and the architect, I built a hidden room off my top floor office. This very special hideaway is secreted behind a wall of books. I press a button and the wall recedes revealing a huge old fashioned, custom made, claw foot bathtub, filled with Civil War gold coins and probably five hundred pounds of silver dollars, every last one of them burnished to a fine sheen by my Mexican cash polisher. I slip out of my banker's blue and into a replica Roman toga and burrow down into the money, just lying there thinking about the innate genius of usury and the thousands of rubes whose eternal mortgages and repo car loans have made me the richest man in Mendocino County! I play with this money by the hour, piling it, and re-piling it on top of me, sometimes pausing to draw back to the far the farthest corner of the room to take in the splendor of it all, knowing that it's all mine. ‘Ah, the dear money, the dear money,’ I whisper. ‘I love you so!’”

CRUISING the on-line archive of the Ukiah Daily Journal, an improbable sports item caught my attention: ".... Smooth Dave Eyster led the Sports Attic with 19 points..." Smooth in the courtroom for sure, but "smooth" in the basketball context conjures up Earl 'The Pearl' Monroe, Walt Frazier, Steph Curry, for god's sake. That particular hoop's standard is stratospheric and, no offense to Mendocino County's lead law enforcement officer, but the writer, Mostyn Thayer, must have had a DUI pending. Most of us would commit a major felony for a sports press notice like that one.

BETSY DEVOS, the nominee for Secretary of Education is a multi-millionaire, has no experience in higher education, supports for-profit charter schools, and is a strong advocate for private school vouchers. Without irony, she has described her role in education as one way to "advance God's kingdom."


WHAT A RELIEF, writes Bruce McEwen, to have the Emerald Cup nobility move their egofest to Sonoma County — it befits the more snobbish SoCo, to my mind, better than it ever did pedestrian venues like Area 101 or the Mateel. At the end of my seventh year reporting on crime in Mendocino County, I have begun to glimpse a faint glimmer of understanding into the nature of what is colloquially called “the cannabis community,” and the reasons it is fraught with violent crime — for it must be said, that almost all the homicides, and many of the violent assaults, robberies and burglaries are directly related to the production and sale of marijuana — and while it is no surprise that the money for the product is at the root of the crime, it is also true that so is the social status, the personality cult that accrues to the growers, the ascendancy of the hippest, the coolest (the winner of the Emerald Cup being the apex of the local social triangle), for once you have the money the next human need is respectability, and therein germinates the seed of an ambition more ruthless than mere riches can inspire. The pot people — “oh, how blasphemous! How dare you call our noble Cannabis Community ‘pot people’? We’ll ostracize you for that, damn you, Bruce McEwen” (and so you have) — I say, the pot pharm fops, of course, dress their cupidity and vanity in the faux wardrobe of ersatz humility, the studied proletarian-look, the fashionably agrarian style, as it were, in much the same way gentlemen tobacco farmers like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington did (and here in Mendoland we have our equivalent* of Parson Weems to knit, out of whole cloth, heart-warming yarns to fit figures like Fifth District Supervisor Dan Hamburg), while in fact they rarely do any physical work at all, concentrating all their charisma on chatting up potential buyers, concocting sales strategies and market development, branding their product with cutesy names, polishing their knuckles, and suchlike.

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT rambled on Sunday morning for a thousand words about how neighbors of a proposed church-sponsored parking-lot camp for the homeless are very unhappy about it. Of course the neighbors are unhappy about it because, like everyone else except the Press Democrat, they know that "homeless" is a euphemism for people addicted to drugs and alcohol, people who prefer addiction as a way of life, a way of life subsidized by free lunch programs and handouts here and there in lieu of effective public strategies to get the walking wounded off the streets. There are unaddicted, normally functioning people made homeless by misfortune, a lost job plus today's extortionate rents, but you generally don't find them in homeless camps because like everyone else they avoid concentrations of untamed pathology. A commenter pointed out there’s an empty hospital complex in Santa Rosa that could be converted to a homeless shelter, but whenever it’s suggested to the authorities they change the subject.

A SECOND FALLACY that gets in the way of an honest discussion of the homeless is the pretense by municipalities like Santa Rosa, Fort Bragg and Ukiah, and their civic equivalents everywhere, is that they can somehow independently offer effective succor to the ever-larger army of badly damaged people living on the streets. Even if that much discussed vacant hospital in Santa Rosa were available as a homeless treatment center, the “clients” housed there would require paid pros to manage them, and most areas don’t have the money. So, here come the non-profits with annual gobs of public money shoveled to them to take care of the homeless. And the non-profits — see Hospitality House in Fort Bragg — pretend to do something about it.

HOMELESSNESS in the true sense of the people who derange themselves via dope and booze is a national problem that will only get worse until there’s a national housing, cum mental health strategy, to address it. In the mean time, and it’s a very mean time indeed, it would truly help focus on what needs to be done if the apparatus of helpers out there, lots of them very well paid, would start lobbying their elected people — Huffman, The Dentist, Little Mike — to get public money to where it actually gets people indoors and detoxed.

THE NICE THING about writing here in Amnesia County is every coupla years I can tell the same story over again. Here goes: Back in a rainy 1990’s winter, the late Roanne Withers, then an employee of America’s least effective county mental health department, which is Mendocino County’s Department of Mental Health, got a modest grant to create emergency winter housing for the homeless in the Fort Bragg area. Roanne went out and rented a big tent, which she erected on an empty lot off South Franklin Street. It was a nice set-up — Porta-Potties, portable showers, the works, with Roanne running a very tight ship. Anyone could stay there overnight so long as they were sober or otherwise not under the influence. A couple of old school bums, sober type, spent a few winter nights under the big top (capacity about 40) but everyone else was a mix of young students, male and female, enrolled in the Coast’s famous woodworking classes, and young people from a variety of countries making their sprightly ways around the country as low end tourists. I remember looking around at this crew and thinking to myself, “Most of these people are not homeless.” Even the handful of older men, the hobo types, were straight as strings. “The homeless” didn’t qualify because, of course, they weren’t allowed in the tent if they were loaded. And most of the homeless everywhere are perpetually loaded. Roanne’s program ended one night when the tent blew down about three in the morning. Nobody was injured, but the tent planners hadn’t anticipated the big winter blows off the Pacific.

THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT wore me down with repeated assurances I'd finally get a look at the report on Mayor Turner's late night adventure as he and his family camped east of Fort Bragg. Which I never got. Whatever it was that happened caused a panicked call for help from Turner. We've learned informally it involved a couple of homegrown Fort Bragg tweakers and the alarm their appearance at the Turner camp caused the Turners. Not all that big a deal, and why the hush-hush is odd, for sure. (Maybe the tweaks, in sober moments, were Turner voters.)

THE TURNER LEGACY? One citizen puts it this way: "Our homeless are not locals. That is a myth, pretty much. Working poor should be housed first, not bums. Turner’s golden legacy: a town full of bums, run by social workers who live elsewhere, and out of town rich lbs who sit on boards."

I ONLY GET to Fort Bragg a couple of times a month, but I'd say there has been a pronounced spike in transients, but I think the problems the town faces aren't unique to Fort Bragg, but stem from overpaid managers to whom elected authority too often abdicates when it shouldn't. The Old Coast Hotel deal never should have happened, but it did and the people have voted out two of the people who signed off on it.

LOOK AROUND THE COUNTY. The Supervisors long ago abdicated to their CEO, Carmel Angelo. Ukiah is run by a wildly overpaid city manager on behalf of somnolent elected people. Point Arena, clearly not ready for self-government, pays a career public job holder $50,000 a year to manage, part-time (!) a population of a little more than 500 people, and has apparently agreed to let Mr. Fifty-G's appoint his own successor, Paul Anderson, another career public job holder who is getting paid while Fifty-G's, aka Richard Shoemaker, the love interest of Fort Bragg's overpaid city manager, Linda Ruffing, prepares for retirement, and watch them both pop up as paid consultants. Orange Man talks about "draining the swamp" while he throws in more alligators, but Mendo's government swamp is all alligators.


THE SMALL FARMERS ASSOCIATION (SFA) spat, between past and present board members and employee Julia Carrera, illustrates what seems to be chronic dysfunction among local marijuana advocacy groups. An unsigned letter of resignation, purportedly from the SFA board of directors, accused an unnamed employee (later confirmed to be Ms. Carrera) of various improprieties, including tapping the SFA bank account to pay her mortgage. Ms. Carrera responded that she would not respond (being too busy inspecting marijuana gardens) and sent "healing prayers" to John Mark, the apparent author of the letter of resignation.

THE NEW SFA BOARD chimed in saying they were elected "in direct response to the lack of leadership of the previous board." But in typical passive aggressive Mendo style they accepted the resignation with sadness and voiced respect for the hard work of founding board member John Mark. The online Mendocino Voice then quoted John Mark reciting a litany of complaints against Carrera.

ACCORDING TO MARK, the problems began a few months ago when Carrera and the board split over SFA's endorsement of Measure AF (which was trounced 2-1 at the polls) and Proposition 64, the statewide initiative which legalized adult use of recreational pot. Mark claims Carrera cut off access to the SFA membership rolls and their social media accounts. At some point, several board members resigned. Which means that the recent anonymous mass resignation of the board may only have included Mark.

LEFT UNSAID is the on-going rivalry between SFA and the California Grower's Association (CGA) which was originally known as the Emerald Growers Association. The two organizations, (which both claim to represent the interests of marijuana growers) have always been in direct competition for members. CGA is headed by Hezekiah Allen, a Humboldt County marijuana grower. Allen first came to regional attention when he ran for Assembly but dropped out of the race and went to work for CGA after being terminated for unstated reasons from his position as head of a Mattole watershed group. Carrera got her start as a third party inspector in Mendo’s 9.31 permit program that allowed growers to cultivate up to 99 marijuana plants with a permit from the Sheriff. After the US Attorney ordered the permit program terminated in 2012, Carrera helped found the SFA. The two organizations have competed for members and influence ever since.

TIM BLAKE and a group of Laytonville area growers joined with coastal marijuana advocates to form the Mendocino Cannabis Policy Council (MCPC). Blake and company were put off by the timid approach of both SFA and CGA which focus on lobbying state and local governments. But a split soon developed in the MCPC with the more radical faction forming the Mendocino Heritage Initiative Committee. The 2015 version of the Heritage Initiative (a stoner's wish list of how to write their own rules) failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

THE HERITAGE INITIATIVE steering committee next hired Sonoma County marijuana defense attorney Omar Figueroa to write the 2016 version of the Heritage Initiative. This time, with the help of paid signature gatherers, the Heritage Initiative (labeled Measure AF) qualified for the ballot. The decision to endorse Measure AF sparked dissension within SFA and CGA. Many of the members of both groups (who are truly small farmers of the Mom & Pop variety) had trouble seeing the benefit of letting newcomers to the trade buy up land in any zoning district and start growing up to an acre of pot.

TWO SFA board members resigned immediately after voting to endorse Measure AF, leaving the group without a quorum. The local chapter of CGA, heavily influenced by Blake and the Laytonville area weed mafia, also endorsed, despite grumblings from the rank and file. Mark says the SFA board spent months writing a white paper in support of Measure AF but Carrera wanted to rewrite it. Mark never says why the SFA board, if it was functional, did not insist on releasing the pro-AF white paper; terminating the uncooperative contract employee (Carrera); or going to court to ask a judge to force Carrera to turn over control of SFA.

THE HERITAGE INITIATIVE steering committee (which consisted of Blake, Swami Chaitanya, Pebbles Tripett, Noel Manners and Jude Thilman) was also plagued with infighting. With less than an hour to go before the deadline to turn in a ballot argument in favor of Measure AF, the group was still fighting over the wording. Which is why they were only able to have one signer instead of the usual five. Sarah Bodnar, the campaign manager for Measure AF finally issued an ultimatum: either Pebs and Manners had to go or she would. Bodnar, a local food policy activist, is smart, personable, and social media savvy. In other words, she was everything the Heritage Initiative steering committee was not. Which is why they hired her. And why they acceded to her demands and purged Pebs and Manners from the steering committee. Casey O'Neill, local chapter president of CGA joined the Heritage Initiative committee as a replacement but resigned weeks before the election. Was there another falling out? Or did O'Neill want to distance himself from Measure AF which was looking more and more like a lost cause.

THE TOMMY CHONG ENDORSEMENT was as previously reported in this space:

It revealed the connections between the local pot growers, venture capitalists, wine growers, and high priced ad agencies. The implications were clear that Measure AF, the so-called Heritage Initiative, was written to benefit the ganja elites, not the “heritage” of small local farmers.

BUT DESPITE the political infighting and dysfunction, the stoners do know how to throw a pot party. The 13th annual Emerald Cup, in its third year at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, attracted sell-out crowds this last weekend. And thanks to the defeat of Measure AF, review of the County's draft cultivation ordinance will continue on December 15th before the Mendocino County Planning Commission.

AND THE SFA will hold its annual meeting (modestly billed as a "Round Table Extravaganza") at Barra of Mendocino on Wed. Dec. 14th. The only items listed on the event flyer are a workshop titled "Intimate Evening Future Planning (IEFP)" and a Roundtable with the "Speaker of the House of Representatives & Pro Tem of the Senate." Assuming Speaker Paul Ryan of the US House of Representatives is not coming to Mendo to celebrate the love drug, it seems likely the SFA is experiencing some confusion around the titles of state legislative leaders.

CONFUSION ASIDE, it will be something of a coup for the SFA if President pro Tempore of the Senate Kevin de Leon and either Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon or Speaker pro Tempore Kevin Mullin make the trek to the wilds of Mendo County. The meeting is also advertised as including state officials involved in regulating cannabis, a representative from Proposition 64, seed propagators, and banking pilot program representatives. (The federal government is blocking access to banking by cannabis businesses at the same time cannabis is becoming increasingly legal at the state level; which places the feds in the unusual position of hindering efficient documentation and collection of taxes.)

THE INTIMATE EVENING Future Planning workshop (which could either be an intimate evening of future planning or a celebration of the naked human piles of the early back to the land movement) begins at 3:30 and is free to SFA members and $30 for non-members. The Roundtable with state legislative honchos begins at 5:00 and is $10 for SFA members and $25 for non-members.

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