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Off the Record (Jan. 11, 2017)

SUPERVISOR WOODHOUSE made it official last week, submitting the following letter of resignation to his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors: “Although I have made significant progress in recovering from my recent [mental] health issues, I have not fully recovered and my current health concerns prevent me from fully representing the interests of the Third District. Therefore, I hereby tender my resignation as a member of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors pursuant to California Government Code S1750(d). This resignation is effective immediately. I extend my best regards to the Board as it continues its work in guiding the County into the future, Thomas M.G. Woodhouse”

LAST WEEK we speculated that the Governor’s appointments office would likely only consider registered Democrats like former Willits City Council Holly Madrigal or former Supervisors Hal Wagenet, with an outside chance that former Supervisor (but non-Democrat) Cowboy John Pinches would get consideration out of respect for his years of service and dedication to Mendocino County, not that Pinches, steadily vilified by Mendolib despite saving the County lots of money and always being available to his constituents, expressed any interest in returning to the 3rd District seat. Willits School Board Trustee Georgeanne Croskey intends to file for the appointment as well, claiming that Wagenet will support her candidacy. Ms. Croskey is a native of Willits whose husband is a detective with the Sheriff’s Department.

MADRIGAL would be expected to lean toward less restrictive versions of the pot regulations currently taking a large percentage of the Supervisors’ time, especially given that the Third District is the heaviest pot growing region in the County.

MS. CROSKEY, a veterinarian by profession, is probably less pot friendly than Madrigal but has no record of involvement in any County or Third District matters. We’ve never seen her at a Board meeting on any subject. In fact, the only time she came to our attention was when she joined all her Willits School Board trustees to approve a $130k expenditure to fund Chromebook laptops for every high school student in Willits — without even any educational or curricular plan on how the machines would be used. (And Croskey was appointed to the seat by her fellow board members, not elected, so her status as a representative of the Third District, if appointed, would be an open question.)

COUNTY OFFICIALS don’t know how long the Governor’s appointment process will take, but if the choice comes down to just Madrigal or Croskey it shouldn’t take that long.

REMEMBER, one of the factors in pushing Woodhouse into his mental health crisis was apparently the conflicting forces surrounding the pot issues, which continue to threaten to overwhelm the Supervisors and County staff. The pot brigades are not of like mind other than they want low taxes and minimal regulation and enforcement, while the rest of the County — the non-stoner part — as measured by the 2-1 defeat of the pot industry’s Measure AF — would like to see the County put some major limitations on pot cultivation and processing.

FURTHER complicating matters is the unclear state and federal marijuana landscape and the constant pressure on County finances that pot tax revenues are seen to alleviate.

ADD DA OF THE YEAR to our 2016 list of accolades: Mendo's very own C. David Eyster. Fast, sensible, fair disposition of criminal cases after years of bumblings out of the DA's office.

“UKIAH, Thursday, January 5. — Another 2016 Year End "award" published by the Anderson Valley Advertiser, this award having been issued by the AVA's courthouse reporter Bruce McEwen. Mr. McEwen is pretty much the only full-time courtroom observer and reporter in Mendocino County:

‘HYPOPHORA PRIZE (Asking aloud what the lawyer’s adversary has to say for herself — then answers for him or her.) The prize goes to District Attorney David Eyster for his use of the device with especially devastating results in the jury trial of Laytonville embezzler Christine Kelsay, and the probation revocation hearing of Boonville embezzler Bronwen Hanes. “Did you at any time take responsibility for your actions? No, you continued to blame others, even the victims of your crime” ’.” (DA’s Facebook Page)


ON DECEMBER 29TH of the glorious year just past, Christopher August, 35, transient, was arrested in Fort Bragg. August, who also goes by Chris Jacobson, had enjoyed meals at Hospitality House and an occasional night in the town's cold weather shelter, also administered by Hospitality House. There is no evidence August was in town to look for work.

ON THE 29TH, AUGUST had been observed shoplifting at Rite Aid. Fort Bragg Police caught up with him a few blocks away. He gave police phony identification and was initially arrested on charges of carrying a concealed weapon (dirk or dagger) and presenting police with a name that wasn’t his.

WHEN August's true identity was determined, it was also determined that he was convicted of child molestation in Alameda County in 1996. He has been arrested in seven counties since for failing to register as a sex offender. He has also been to prison and was on parole at the time of his arrest in Fort Bragg.

AUGUST'S CHOMO conviction 20 years ago clearly didn't inspire his return to the path of the just and the righteous. He's since been arrested for auto theft, a Woodland strong-arm robbery injuring the victim (he's 5'9" 220 pounds), hit and run. He's racked up one official strike while passing through Los Angeles, Sacramento, Woodland, Oakland, Sonoma County, Yuba County, Humboldt County, and Mendocino County, coming to the attention of law enforcement wherever he touches down. August is being held in the Mendo County Jail on no bail, meaning he's on his way back to prison for violating his parole, but here's betting he'll be out in less than a year.

AS SOME of the most violent people in Mendocino County gear up to celebrate non-violent Martin Luther King, Jr., the ava makes its annual reading recommendation: Marshall Frady's Penguin biography, Martin Luther King Jr.: A Life. 

ALL THE PENGUIN bios are very good, and they include everyone from Crazy Horse to Elvis Presley. By good, I mean they aren't these 600-page PhD theses, but 200-pagers by good writers, people like Frady, in fact.

THE STORM ALERTS leading up to last weekend’s rains would alarm Noah himself, so I found myself Saturday morning filling sand bags at the Red Hill Shopping Center, San Anselmo.

CAPSULE MARIN HISTORY: A handful of prescient old ladies, circa 1920, managed to preserve much of Marin's hill country, permanently sparing it the gauche structures fouling upland San Anselmo today and, fundamentally, causing the one flatland creek that serves as runoff conduit for the macadam mountains, to periodically flood low-lying areas of Central Marin. Back in the day, only a few sea-level neighborhoods flooded in the Big Rains. Now, thanks to fairly recent development in San Anselmo’s golden hills, much of the high ground is covered in concrete and pavement. During big rains the water all runs off fast and hard. (Walking around the hill neighborhoods I used to wonder why all the houses looked like dental complexes

SO, back at the sandbag station, here's a young woman dressed like she's on her way to a wedding reception laboriously filling her sandbags with an undersized kitchen dustpan. She refuses several offers of help. The guy next to her has upended a traffic cone and is hand-shoveling sand into his impromptu funnel and on into the bag. Dude, why the extra step?

I TAKE a closer look and understand. He's got a small placard fastened around his neck with what looks like a bathtub stopper chain that reads "Be Here Now."

YOU GET a lot of unsolicited advice in Marin of the Hallmark variety. Mendo, too, of course, which, along the Coast anyway, is Marin North, psychically considered.

I ASSUMED the nearby Subaru was Cone Man's because it had a bumpersticker that said, "Be The Change."

MOST of the sand bagging citizens were totally prepared with gloves and shovels. I deployed my sandbags to anchor my wife's plastic greenhouse, which blew over in last week's high winds because… You guessed it, I didn't tie it to the fence.

LAST WEEK we wrote about the impasse between Mendocino County and Solid Waste of Willits (SWOW) over proposed trash hauling rate increases that SWOW’s owner Jerry Ward says he needs to continue operations.

THE ISSUE has been simmering for almost a year with no agreement on new rates. Last week, after Ward threatened to file for bankruptcy, the issue was turned over to an ad-hoc committee of Supervisors Dan Hamburg and John McCowen for one last attempt to agree on new rates.

NO LUCK. Instead of reaching agreement, Mendo’s new Trash Czar (aka Solid Waste Director) Louise Morris (replacing the recently-retired Mike Sweeney) told Ward he would have to post a performance bond, a nice slap in the face for a guy who has served the County well and employs some 80 people.

“THE AMOUNT of each performance bond shall be 25% of the estimated annual revenue generated (not to exceed $1,000,000), for each distinct and separate Solid Waste Agreement listed above. The cost to SWOW of the performance bond may be recovered as a pass-through rate adjustment … Please obtain these performance bonds at your earliest convenience, but no later than Friday, January 27, 2017.”

MS. MORRIS also told Ward that the County intended to look for other haulers, and that Ward would have to sign a promise not to sue Mendo for any damages that Ward may be contemplating regarding his contract with the County:

“DEAR MR. WARD, It is our understanding, based on statements made to the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors on December 20, 2016, that SWOW is evaluating whether to enter into bankruptcy proceedings due to losses associated with fulfilling the terms of its Mendocino and Humboldt County Solid Waste and Recycling Contracts. Furthermore, we understand that you are concerned about SWOW’s ability to meet immediate payment obligations to your vendors, employees and financial lending institutions.

“BASED upon the above representations of imminent financial insolvency and the fact that the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors did not provide you the anticipated and immediate financial relief you were seeking at their December 20, 2016 meeting, we believe it is prudent to take immediate action.

“IF YOU ARE UNABLE to perform your obligations under SWOW’s County contracts, we must act to ensure adequate transportation and disposal of County solid waste in SWOW’s franchise areas and transfer stations managed by SWOW under contracts with the County of Mendocino.

“PRIOR to County Solid Waste staff conducting necessary outreach to identify alternative transportation and disposal solutions and development of a critical pathway to release SWOW from its contract obligations related to its solid waste and recycling contracts, we require that SWOW sign the attached Covenant not to Sue and Hold Harmless.

“THIS ACTION simply allows the County to explore options while we continue to work with SWOW in an effort to resolve outstanding issues. Please execute and return two original covenants to my office no later than close of business (5pm) on Friday, January 13, 2017. Sincerely, Louisa K. Morris, County of Mendocino, Solid Waste Director”

IT DOESN'T take a close textual analysis to see Mike Sweeney as the author of this ultimatum.

AS OF LAST WEEK, Ward had said that he was on the verge of not making payroll because his financial difficulties had reached the point where his bank wouldn’t cover his costs while the rate dispute went unresolved.

EVIDENTLY, the only thing the last ditch negotiations have produced since then are these high-handed demands that Ward post a performance bond (which obviously will not get any trash actually hauled) and an odd, if not ridiculous demand that Ward promise not to sue the County while Mendo starts to look for another hauler — without any assurance that new hauler would offer rates lower than Ward.

WHAT GOOD does this apparent brinksmanship do for the citizens of Mendocino County? Doesn’t the County have to at least grant some kind of interim arrangement with Ward to get the trash hauled? Hasn’t Ward done a good job of hauling the trash — even if his rates are subject to debate? And, if so, what do these latest demands do besides make matters worse?

MIKE SWEENEY, assisted by former Supervisor and present city manager of Point Arena, Richard Shoemaker, has been scheming against Ward for years. This revelatory report in 1997 by Jim Shields of the Mendocino County Observer alerted Ward to Sweeney skullduggery. (Sweeney and Shoemaker were maneuvering to get the Board of Supervisors to support their over-priced, government-run North State Street, Ukiah, transfer station instead of Ward's more efficient Willits operation. Tim Stoen, hired by neighbors of Sweeney-Shoemaker’s preposterous North State Street transfer station to stop it, successfully did stop it.)

SHIELDS: “Back in 1997, when Ward was first putting his proposal forward, Sweeney and Shoemaker did everything in their power to kill competition from the private sector. On June 9, 1997, Sweeney wrote a memorandum to Shoemaker. It was during this time that Ward was seeking approval from the cities of Fort Bragg and Willits for Sweeney’s proposed transfer station. Sweeney’s memo reveals how the MSWMA process nurtured competition. In the two-page memo Sweeney wrote:

“ ‘I think that it will be easy to stop Fort Bragg from taking any action on Ward’s proposal on Tuesday night. The challenge will be to get them to dismiss [original emphasis] Ward as so unreliable and flaky that he doesn’t justify any further delay in acting on MSWMA’s request. I would be interested to know how hard you think we should attack Ward’s credibility’.”

SHIELDS CONTINUES: “Sweeney’s memorandum is a real eye-opener. Jerry Ward is a solid citizen, respected businessman, and somebody whom the Board of Supervisors and City of Willits have recognized in public session as a valued partner in the private-public solid waste relationship. Ward’s trash-hauling business and trash/recycling centers are models of efficiency and user-friendly enterprises. Yet, inexplicably, Sweeney chose to assassinate Ward’s character at a time when he claims that the MSWMA process ‘yielded a huge benefit to the public.’

“Sweeney’s actions beg the question of just what he perceives as ‘a huge benefit to the public’ in such a process. One thing is for certain, there is no ‘huge benefit to the public’ in paying for two governmental entities handling solid waste-related services.”

THERE GOES SHAR. From the Advocate/Beacon FaceBook page: "Let them eat cake. Today is the day we release our beloved Supreme Commander (Publisher) Sharon DiMauro into the wilds of retirement. After 35 years in newspapers and 23 years at the helm of the Advocate-News and The Mendocino Beacon, Sharon hosted our last First Friday meeting under her command this morning. Tears were shed, gifts were exchanged and hugs were given. We'll have gluten-free carrot cake and cookies at the office (on Main, North of Taco Bell) from noon to 2 p.m. for members of the public who'd like to stop in to help us wish her well and celebrate her phenomenal career. Please spread the word and join us for cake!"

THE ADVOCATE-BEACON is an odd operation for a newspaper of the post-modern era in a town with more than its share of wild people and events to match. But reading the soporific Advocate you’d think you were reading the latest edition of a mahjong club’s newsletter. Presided over by a pair of pleasant but vigilant old ladies who see their function as community sedation, Ms. Brewer (DiMauro) disallowed, as best she could, any comment that so much as hinted at the reality outside the office door.

I MET SHAR once at some phony baloney media panel (I only get invited once to these things) and complained directly to her. “Jeez, Ms. Brewer, How come you didn’t..,,.” How dare you accuse me of censorship? she snapped before I got to the meat of my complaint about her paper. Not even the promise of a full body Boonville hug could ever redeem me in Shar’s eyes.

I DON'T PRETEND to be an expert on the County Animal Shelter in Ukiah. The one time I visited the place last summer it looked clean and tidy and well-run. Lots of people live in worse circumstances.

THESE PLACES used to be called "pounds." But that was before the anthromorphs took animals in completely unrealistic directions. Was it Walt Disney who did it, cutesified animals into infantilized versions of human children?

THE UKIAH POUND, er "Shelter" was impressive, doubly impressive considering its small staff was caring for something like 400 dogs and cats. (I think I also caught a glimpse of rabbits, or maybe the rabbits were small, raggedy goats.)

THE PEOPLE presently besieging the Shelter with daily volleys of errant criticism aren't helping the Animal Shelter. They put out hysterical bulletins on the anthromorph hotline that "25 pitbulls will be killed tomorrow unless we act."

THE TRUTH is only un-adoptable or sick animals are put down. And why is it surprising that some of the healthy dogs, stacked up for months in small cages, get sick when there's a constant stream of sick dogs walking through the door?

AND what do you expect from a "No Kill" facility? No Kill essentially means the County is running a dog and cat orphanage. That's the long and short of it. The animals pile up because there aren't enough people willing to adopt them, and many of these animals are feral, having been abandoned by people unable to effectively care for themselves, let alone a pet.

I THINK the new boss at the Shelter is doing the best he can in an impossible situation made even more difficult by people always ripping the management of place but have no ideas about how to make it better short of privatizing it or putting themselves in charge. A privatized Shelter could adopt out all those pit bulls that dope crooks simply left up in the hills?

THE SHERIFF used to assign inmates to help care for the animals. Maybe that program could be re-instituted. (You'd get a lot of pitbull expertise out of the Jail population.)

IN FACT, the Animal Shelter should be put under the management of the Sheriff’s Department. It works fine that way in Humboldt County. Sheriff Allman has said he'd happily accept it. Animal Control is already part of the Sheriff’s Department and female inmates are already assigned to help out at the Shelter on a limited basis. I'm confident the Sheriff and the new boss, Molinari, could work out ways that would relieve the critics, assuming the critics aren't beyond rational discussion.

MAYBE more anthropomorphically inclined people could be encouraged to volunteer, not that volunteers are likely to keep volunteering if they have to listen to a lot of whining during their volunteer hours.

GIVE THE NEW GUY, Rich Molinari, some time to get acclimated, to fully adjust to the unique reality we have going here in Mendocino County.

WITH THE PARVO outbreak, shelter staff are trying to deal with a very tough situation not of their making. I understand that they’re testing dogs all day, every day, to contain the outbreak. This all-out effort, of course, is piled on top of their other duties.

JUST IN FROM THE ANIMAL SHELTER, UKIAH: No dogs are scheduled for execution. “We are looking to place 25-30 dogs that fit a certain health criteria to rescue groups and shelters this coming week. This is being done with the parvo quarantine in place to reduce the shelter population to assist us in disease sanitation cleaning. I am not sure who started a rumor that is no where even remotely true.” –Rich Molinari.

UKIAH ANIMAL SHELTER stats for 2016, for the record: 1,423 dogs and cats were adopted or transferred to the shelter's partnered rescue organizations. This total number does NOT include the many animals whose guardians came to the shelter, paid the sheltering fees, and took their pets home. I think these are impressive numbers. (breakdown: DOGS adopted: 476, transferred 253; CATS, adopted: 385, transferred: 309.)

THE EDITORIAL EXPERIENCE as brilliantly described by Marco McClean: “When I was making my paper [Memo] I tried to print everything the way people sent it, but that's like the speed of light; you can get close but never reach it. And some things are just impossible. A man in Redwood Valley used to mail me folders of microscopic handwriting going in all directions and filling the pages edge to edge, and diagrams and sketches with arrows and explanations of explanations in nests of parentheses, all about his geometrical flying saucer childhood-acid experience and consequent messages he was receiving from the aliens via wind and lightning, random sounds, overheard strangers' conversations, and the Christian radio show of someone named Brother Camping. Today you can just photograph that sort of art and put it on the web, but then, in the stone age of media, I'd put the text in whatever order seemed reasonable, typeset as much of it as filled a standard column, crossing off what I'd used so far, and call it done. He never complained.

The complaints and anger and venom and stalking came mostly from people who objected to my having printed something by their personal enemy/opponent. Once, a man called me on the phone early in the morning to say that the police and fire people were there because his friend had tried to cut his own tongue out with a steak knife, and that was somehow my fault because my paper was the conduit between him and his other friend, his codependent poet-rival. All three of them are dead now, two by suicide, one by cancer, I think.

And the titles: I'd make up a title for things, and generally that was appreciated (My Saucer Friends; Dear Aunt Phoebe, America's Sweetheart; Sex In Space; etc., but every once in awhile even that was the end of the world, apparently. A man wrote something that reminded me of the song Horse Latitudes by the Doors, so I titled it Mute Nostril Agony for obvious reasons, and when the paper came out he told me off good and proper and never wrote for Memo again, and that was too bad because he was a good writer.

One man stopped me in the Safeway parking lot at night and, smiling creepily the whole time, helpfully informed me that I'm too much of a pussy to have a gun but I should get a riot spray thing or a shock prod and always keep it with me, uh, to protect against people like him.

And then there are the people who vandalize your office door and your car, and who honk their horn outside your radio station and peel away, and so on. It's all part of the divine comedy.

EUPHEMIZER OF THE WEEK, Captain Greg Van Patten of the Sheriff’s Department. Explaining why Woodhouse was released from custody after totally wigging out in a physical attack on his wife and the biting of the two cops who had to taze the berserk 3rd District supervisor into submission, Woodhouse was freed “because of a medical condition not sustained as a result of the struggle.” In fact, Woodhouse was released because he’s a high-ranking County official and a personal friend of Sheriff Allman.”

THE ICO REPORTER who wrote up Woodhouse’s resignation, Chris McManus, further noted, “The Mendocino County website has been scrubbed of Woodhouse’s presence, with a former group photo of the Board replaced by individual photos of the four remaining supervisors, and references to the Third District now saying simply that the position is ‘Vacant’”. Which is totally within the Stalinist parameters of ordinary County personnel practice.


by Damian Sebouhian

Caltrans’ first post-bypass traffic count study indicates a 25 to 35 percent reduction in traffic on the section of Main Street south of the Highway 20 intersection, says California Department of Transportation District 1 Public Information Officer Phil Frisbie.

Caltrans installed a pressure hose vehicle counter across Main Street just north of Walker Road one week prior to the bypass opening, said Frisbie, and continued to count traffic for a week after the bypass opened.

“That way we’re able to compare by day of the week,” he said. “That’s why it varies.”

“The average is probably around 30 percent, varying from 25 to 35 percent per day,” Frisbie explained. “[The pressure hose] counts the number of vehicles by the hour. Then, it records it, and we come by later and download that information from the box.”

Caltrans has yet to conduct any traffic counts north of the Highway 20 intersection. Frisbie is anticipating “some future counts at the north interchange, but we’re not sure when those are going to be available,” he said.

Since the bypass opened on November 3, the area of Main Street north of Highway 20 now officially belongs to, and is the responsibility of, the City of Willits, while the area from the southern interchange to the Highway 20 intersection remains under the purview of Caltrans.

“That’s still our jurisdiction,” Frisbie said. “We were looking to see how the bypass is affecting that area.”

The City of Willits has no plans to conduct its own traffic studies; the city will rely on the data Caltrans provides.

Regardless of what that data shows, however, based on feedback from a number of Willits-area residents – including City Planner Dusty Duley, Little Lake Fire Chief Carl Magann, Mendocino Transit Authority bus drivers, postal carriers, and others – the traffic reduction is not only significant, but welcomed.

“I’ve been able to make left turns out of businesses where before it was enough of a hardship where I might take a right and circle the block,” Duley said. He added that his wife – who comes home from Ukiah during peak hours – has been having a much smoother commute.

“Where she used to get backed up from the Highway 20 intersection stoplight past the Super 8, now she’s maybe waiting on one green light,” said Duley.

Longtime MTA bus driver Patrick Charlson voiced his surprise about the amount traffic has been reduced since the bypass opened.

“[At first] I wasn’t in favor of the bypass,” Charlson declared. “But, I must admit, it’s made my job a hell of a lot easier. Traffic has really let up. We don’t have trucks coming through town [as much] any more. I drive three days a week, about 100 miles a day inside the city limits of Willits. It’s bare. It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of traffic.”

Carlson explained he used Thanksgiving week to gauge the significance in the reduction of traffic.

“Traffic used to pick up on the Tuesday” before the Thursday holiday, but this year, Carlson said, “we had hardly any traffic on Tuesday, and on Wednesday it was a piece of cake to drive through town.”

Willits Postmaster Dale Briggs reported a unanimous vote of appreciation for the reduction in traffic from his postal carriers.

“It makes their jobs easier,” Briggs said. “They like the fact they have the ability to turn left on Main Street without having to wait for several minutes for traffic to clear. They have clearer vision, so it helps them and takes stress from them to not have to deal with the heavy traffic flows. Obviously, safety goes hand in hand with less traffic.”

Fire Chief Magann concurred with Briggs. “We’re happy with the amount of the traffic in the downtown area since the opening of the bypass,” said Magann. “We’ve had a lot less accidents within the city limits.”

But Magann added the true test in figuring out the impact to traffic will be during the summer and holiday travel times.

Citizen/commuter feedback

Willits Weekly asked a number of citizens, most of whom are frequent commuters, about their observations and opinions regarding the state of city traffic since the bypass opened.

Carina Lopez commutes from Redwood Valley to her job as office manager for Willits Charter School.

“It’s very easy for me to make the left out of [the charter school] driveway and go southbound,” said Lopez. “The southbound traffic seems lighter to me in the afternoon. I never had any issues northbound in the morning, but I’ve noticed there’s been less traffic in general on Main Street in Willits since 101 opened.”

Sheryl McFadden, owner of Room to Bloom, said: “Before I would wait anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes in traffic. Now I zip right through town with hardly any issues – maybe only a red light to slow me down.”

Josh Swearengin, a Ridgewood Ranch resident and bass player for Schindig, said: “The bypass has had a positive impact traffic-wise from my perspective. I also like that I didn’t have to run across the street at night when I was trying to go to the bank to get more money when we were playing Shanachie Pub on Friday. It was plenty clear for me to be able to walk safely across without fear of being hit by someone who wasn’t looking for pedestrians.”

Rachel Farkas, a full-time Mendocino College student, said: “It’s easier when I come into town after a long day, and I just want to make a couple of stops; it’s doable. It doesn’t feel like – by the time I get into town, I just want to go home. I can actually zip in and out of places and do some errands.”

Farkas added she’s received feedback from ranchers in the valley, who have “lost their peace and quiet. When they go to feed their horses, all they hear is rumbling on the highway. I feel for them. It’s sound pollution.”

April Tweddell, who said she “lives right next to the new bypass,” acknowledged the increase in noise.

“Let’s just say I’ve made peace with the fact that there no longer will be silence in my life when I go outdoors,” Tweddell said. “Life changes. We had 25 years of quiet, and now we’re experiencing something else. Life is good. In town, the lack of traffic from large trucks is heavenly!”

Other consequences

While there was no negative feedback regarding the reduction in Willits traffic since the bypass opened, several people voiced concerns about faster drivers, highway signage, and the effects of less through-traffic on local businesses.

“One of the things we’ve predicted that seems to be coming true is that people are now driving faster going through downtown,” Duley noted.

“When we redesign Main Street, coming up with [traffic calming measures] will prove to be beneficial to us.”

Duley acknowledged that, with less people driving through Willits, “comes fewer people stopping at businesses,” therefore “we’re continuing to explore those opportunities to use highway signage to help promote Willits and our local economy and small businesses.”

“If you drive to Cloverdale, you’ll see that they have a number of signs in each direction, noting downtown Cloverdale.” Duley and other city staff are encouraging Caltrans to provide the same for Willits.

Chief Magann agreed better signage at both ends of the highway should be a priority.

“I had a vendor in here yesterday, and he said he was in Ukiah before he realized he had driven by Willits,” Magann said. “I’ve heard from other individuals that the off-ramps aren’t really marked clearly enough.”

Magann added Highway 20 signage needs improvement as well.

“I know people who [exit] on what is now South Main Street, and there’s no signage that says ‘20 this way.’ I’ve gotten some comments that [Caltrans needs] to mark that a little better for the Highway 20 connection.”

THE LANSDOWN FAMILY ART SHOW at the Cobalt Gallery in Mendocino will run from January 14 through March 3. Jessica Lansdown is a designer of memorable costumes and stage sets. Her dad Eric, a woodworker, specialized for many years in the construction of ornate, beautiful dollhouses and aviaries As Khrushchev used to say, "I'm no art critic, but I know what I like." —Fred Gardner

THE AVA WEBSITE ran much heavier comments on the subject of Electroconvulsive "Therapy" than did the New York Times. The Times ran an obsequious letter from a elf-promoting LA shrink named Procci: "Kudos to Kitty Dukakis for her courageous championing of the inestimable benefits that she has received from electroconvulsive therapy, and to The New York Times for bringing it to our attention. While this treatment has long been shrouded in controversy, it remains, when used selectively and judiciously, a very effective treatment for some cases of serious depression..."

The Times also ran a letter Jan. 6 protesting recent articles that showed Syngenta, the Swiss-based agrichemical manufacturer, pressuring scientists to find their products blameless with respect to Parkinson's and the collapse of bee colonies. The letter was signed by Erik Fyrwald, the CEO of Syngenta (soon to be owned by ChemChina). The boss played his ace in the hole, peer review as guarantor of The Truth:

"...The article tries to link the herbicide paraquat, used for half a century, with Parkinson’s disease. Syngenta’s studies, based on the most widely used experimental mouse model, show unequivocally that paraquat does not cause Parkinson’s-like pathology. These findings are published in science journals requiring peer review by scientists with no connection to Syngenta."

Peer review is the last refuge of a marketer.

—Fred Gardner

CASSANDRA PHILLIPS was sentenced last Friday to nine years in state prison for several counts of forgery amounting to nearly $10,000 in checks drawn on accounts at the Redwood Credit Union in Ukiah. She was ordered to pay this money back in restitution, and a $10,000 fine was levied, then suspended, in light of Ms. Phillips financial straits; her prison sentence was also suspended, in light of her maternal circumstances. Instead of remanding her into the custody of the Sheriff for delivery to the California Department of Corrections, she was ordered released from custody so she could go to her doctor on Monday, January 9th for a c-section delivery of her baby.

In my day, the father would be brought to the altar at the point of a shotgun; now, the Nanny State weds the miscreant. None too proud of the blushing bride, neither, it would seem since details of the case were not mentioned in open court. Ms. Phillips’ family — what looked to be her parents, judging from their age, and two small children — were waiting in the back of the courtroom, and Deputy DA Luke Oakley went back to give them the details on how and when to call at the jail for the young mother/forger.

It reminded me of that country song by David Allen Coe about being born the day his mom went to prison, but with a progressive twist for our newer, more enlightened age.

(— Bruce McEwen)

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