MOST ENCOURAGING ELECTION: Fort Bragg City Council, Mayor Lindy Peters.
LEAST ENCOURAGING: Point Arena where city councils new and old think a part-time city manager at $50,000 a year is necessary to run a town of 449 persons.
ON BENDED KNEE with full lip puckers to the Board of Supervisors for applauding Assemblyman Jim Woods' recent appearance before them. Wood, a Healdsburg dentist in his other life, narcotizes all audiences, but our supervisors had to restrain themselves from throwing flowers and shouting, "Bravo!" at what was, objectively, a tedious recitation of the politically obvious.
MOST FAST FOOD franchises in NorCal per population: Ukiah where a Chipotle just opened with In 'N Out Burger about to open and citizens go to bed dreaming of a long-rumored Dunkin' Donuts.
SLO MO of the year: Mendo County Clerk Ranochak whose election 2016 final vote count was tied with Lake County for the slowest in the state.
ABOVE AND BEYOND official of the year: Supervisor McCowen of Ukiah who spends his free time cleaning up homeless camps on inland waterways.
"GOD KNOWS I TRIED" Public Official Of The Year: Sheriff Tom Allman whose sensible and much needed proposal for an in-County psychiatric facility was narrowly defeated, Supervisor Hamburg leading the opposition. Voted down by a whisker; if 83 more voters people had voted Yes, it would have passed.
SILLIEST EXPENDITURE of the year: Mendocino Redwood $197,000 spent on ineffective advertising opposing Measure V (hack and squirt)
BIGGEST DEFEAT for criminal defendants: Keith Faulder gets elected judge. (Faulder had represented presumed wife killer, Dr. Peter Keegan of Ukiah, who, we understand, has retained crack SoCo defense attorney Chris Andrian.
ENABLERS of the year: Plowshares, Ukiah; Hospitality House, Fort Bragg. Their services keep suicidal drunks and the drug addicted, plus a minority of the mentally ill and a small population of transient criminals, unserved on the streets with no end plan other than more grants and more public money to keep the ever-growing numbers of voluntary homeless unhoused. At some point, government is going to have to build shelter. There are many creative ideas for genuinely low cost housing either ignored or unknown to local authorities.
HERE'S YOUR HAT and What's Your Hurry: Tom Pinizzotto. Engineered first privatization of County mental health for his former employer, Ortner Management Group, then went to work for Mendocino County at high pay admin position. Mental Health was then privatized a second time to the Ukiah-based Redwood Quality Management Company, formerly Redwood Children's Services. The police forces of Mendocino County continue to do almost all mental health's heavy lifting.
LEAST MISSED COUNTY SERVICE PROVIDER: Ortner Management Group (OMG!) of Yuba City. Wired into the contract by their former executive staffer Tom Pinizzotto who got himself hired on as Mendo’s mental health director and key decider when the County privatized mental health services for no good reason, it only took the County three years to realize how big a mistake they’d made with Ortner, and only then after paying over $50k more to be told what everybody else knew: Ortner was ripping off Mendocino County to the tune of millions of dollars with almost nothing to show for it.
BEST NEW HIRE: Richard Molinari at the County's troubled Animal Shelter. Molinari seems adept at both the mechanics of running the no-kill facility and, so far, he's also been able to pacify the anthromorphs who constantly besiege the place with neurotically unreasonable demands.
SORELY MISSED County official. Former Third District Supervisor Pinches, a consistent voice for commonsense and frugal public spending. Best hopes for Pinches' successor, Tom Woodhouse, who is on what seems to be permanent leave for mental health issues.
MERCIFULLY SHELVED BOONDOGGLE of the year: A new County Courthouse.
LONGEST-RUNNING BOONDOGGLE, now a decade old, the Palace Hotel, Ukiah. Present owner doesn't have the money to rehab it, Ukiah City Council dithers, then dithers some more about what to do with the ghostly old structure in the very center of town.
TOTALLY SCREWED prisoners of the year: Kenny Rogers of Westport, miraculously convicted on no evidence, and Mark Sprinkle of Ukiah, sentenced to 45 years-to-life on allegations by three junior floozies who, of their accord, suddenly removed their clothes in Sprinkle's car then claimed that he sexually touched them. (Perhaps the oddest case in Mendo's consistently sordid legal history.)
DOUBLE RECOGNITION as landlord/ humanitarian of the year, by acclamation, Dr. Robert Gitlin of Redwood Valley. Gitlin rented uninhabitable premises on Ukiah's Westside for $9,000 a month to Mendo College football players imported from Florida. The athletes paid this extortionate rent for a falling down house without hot water. Just this month, Gitlin rented a ramshackle property he owns on South State Street, Ukiah, for $3,300 a month to be used as a cold weather shelter. The County of Mendocino contributed $30,000 public dollars towards fixing up Gitlin's property a donation that ordinarily is regarded as a gift of public funds to a private individual.
UNLIKELY LOCAL BUSINESS of the year award goes to OneTaste, a sexual "educational" business committed to instruction in "spiritual" masturbation. The onanists paid $4.9 million for a Philo property where, for $5,000 a weekend, men and women, previously unknown to each other, are taught "orgasmic meditation."
EDUCATIONAL SCAMMER of the year, and just up the hill in Philo from the upscale whack-off artists, goes to John Hall, an LA hustler who has amassed a fortune in publicly-funded charter schools. Hall imports "at risk youth," bunches of them at a time, all paid for out of edu-funds, to experience rural life at his burgeoning Blackbird Farm. The at risk youth (aren't all youth 'at risk'?) hand paint horses and live in hastily-assembled ,non-code yurts. Rumors that Hall's Blackbird Farm and his neighbors at OneTaste are contemplating student exchanges are unconfirmed.
ANIMAL OF THE YEAR: Little Dog of Boonville.
Runners-up: the four pitbulls next door: Moe, Curly, Larry, and Cannabis. Honorable mention, Supervisor Hamburg's "comfort" dog, a rat-like chihuahua who appears to be either permanently sedated or dead.
RETURNED EXILE of the year, Kelisha Alvarez of Ukiah. Banished to Oklahoma in a sure-to-fail deal engineered by the DA's office, the volatile Ms. Alvarez soon returned to Ukiah where she resumed frequent encounters with the Ukiah Police Department.
FREQUENT FLYER OF THE YEAR: John Bolton (the Fourth) of Willits made 15 appearances in Catch of the Day during 2016. Which sounds like a lot until you compare it to his astounding 24 appearances during 2015. Here's hoping the trend continues.
2016: Dec 18, 20, 29, 31; Nov 23; Aug 31; June 11, 16, 22; May 11; Jan 6, 8, 21, 23, 26.
2015; Dec 16, 20; Nov 2, 30; Oct 5, 7; Sep 2, 30; Aug 2, 16, 21, 26; Jul 18, 19, 30; Jun 3; May 28; Apr 29; Mar 8; Feb 16, 20, 21, 23; Jan 16
LOCAL HISTORIAN OF THE YEAR: Yorkville’s Valerie Hanelt for her impressively detailed catalog of Valley cemeteries and those buried there.
DUMBEST COUNTY PERSONNEL MOVE: Fort Bragg turning down the Police Chief job to local hero John Naulty who shot and killed the rampaging cop-killer Ricardo Cheney of Oregon, who had shot and killed popular North Coast Deputy Ricky del Fiorentino.
TRANSGENDER WITHOUT A DIFFERENCE AWARD: Dr. Rohr, Coast Hospital, who announced upon his retirement as medico and Coast Hospital board that he was now she. Frankly, except for a little more makeup and some earrings, nobody could tell he/she changed anything. He/she is still married to his/her wife/husband. The still happy couple has since moved to Maine.
MOST MISSED LOCAL GENERAL MANAGER AWARD: Lorraine Dechter, former General Manager of KZYX whose abrupt summer departure deprived the station of its only chance to become relevant to Mendocino County through honest management and transfer of station HQ to Ukiah.
MOST ILL-FATED LOCAL MEASURE: Measure V, the anti hack&squirt initiative passed by a large majority of local voters who didn’t like the use of poisons to kill hardwoods thus creating a huge fire hazard in affected areas. V quickly became DOA because MRC soon claimed that they are exempt from "nuisance" declarations because their ill-considered forest practices are “agriculture.”
MOST EFFECTIVE JOB SECURITY CIRCLE: The MendoLib Posse of otherwise unemployables: Dan Hamburg, Richard Shoemaker, Steve Antler, Lee Edmundson, Meg Courtney, et al.
MOST LIKELY TO REPLACE JUDGE CLAY BRENNAN: Patrick Pekin, who lost to Keith Faulder in a closely contested race for Superior Court Judge.
MOST LOW DOWN CRIME/CRIMINAL: Caleb Silver of Fort Bragg/Boonville who killed recovered alcoholic (and former Boonville resident) Dennis Boardman after Boardman graciously allowed him to sleep a few nights at his seaside home.
LEAST APPRECIATED COUNTY MARIJUANA INDUSTRY SUBSIDY: Capturing, salvaging, fostering and placing pot growers’ abandoned outback pitbulls at the taxpayer funded County Animal Shelter.
LEAST EXPECTED NEW AVA CONTRIBUTOR: Retired Superior Court Judge James Luther who has submitted several interesting local articles in recent months despite having sent the AVA Editor to jail during the Bear Lincoln trial for refusing to turn over a letter the DA wanted at the time.
MOST WORRISOME TOURIST PROSPECT: Marijuana tasting rooms competing or joining wine tasting rooms all along Highway 128 to the Coast.
WACKIEST OPPOSITION TO A PROJECT AWARD: Ukiah Mayor Steve Scalmanini who objects to a Costco at Airport Park in Ukiah because the store won’t have solar panels on its roof.
BIGGEST WASTE OF MONEY: Fort Bragg's $187,000 "Giving Garden" which proponents said would “provide homeless adults with vocational training in small-scale crop production through a collaboration between the Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center and the Noyo Food Forest. Most of $187k was “given” to Hospitality Center management, not the “garden,” not the “homeless adults.”
TIGHTWADS OF THE YEAR: MRC's demand that the County and/or the Albion-Little River Volunteer Fire Department refund about $9,000 to them in fire protection taxes in a petty, vindictive retaliatory move against the fire department's promotion of the successful anti-hack&squirt initiative, Measure V. Special First Class Ingrate Award Upgrade: MRC still expects the Albion-Little River’s volunteers to respond to fire and medical emergencies on their land.
LUCKY TO BE ALIVE AWARD goes to Ricardo Garcia, rock thrower and slow-draw machete man. Garcia charged patrol sergeant Darren Brewster with a machete and would have been shot by the cop in most places, but due to Brewster's quick pass rush, Garcia, Machete Man, lived to screw up again.
BEST REMEMBRANCE OF THE YEAR: Rex Gressett's July tribute to the late Tommy Ancona, Noyo Harbor's elder statesman.
ANNA ROSEBERRY: In both a tangible and symbolic shooting, plugged her boyfriend, Gary Fuller, in the pills as Fuller stood in his Covelo pot garden. Ms. Roseberry claimed attempted fenestration was her only option when, she alleged, Fuller brandished a knife. She was convicted and sent to prison in July by a reluctant Judge David Nelson.
CRIMINAL OF THE YEAR: James Norton of Willits caught in the act of slashing tires because he enjoyed the whooshing sound as the tires went flat.
LEAST LIKELY TOKER of the year: Republican Party stalwart, Willits Hospital Board Chair, and life-long opponent of marijuana, came out in favor of the marijuana last summer saying, "I see the emerging cannabis industry as something that can be a cutting edge industry for our community as well as the County," adding, "I have never smoked pot or taken products that will make me high."
MOST UPSIDE DOWN INITIATIVE NAME: "The Heritage Initiative," ignoring Mendo's real heritage and attempting to toss it all and replace it with Mendo's pot growing experience.
DA OF THE YEAR: Mendo's very own C. David Eyster. Fast, sensible, fair disposition of criminal cases after years of bumblings out of the DA's office.