- 175 Open
- Colder Weather
- Ukiah Dispensaries
- Owsley Arrested
- KZYX Records
- Ukiah Utilities
- Westside Rental
- FB Notes
- Albion School
- Poor Speakers
- Gram's Pissed
- Little Dog
- Yesterday's Catch
- Sort Of
- Present Catastrophe
- White Moderates
- Ukiah Symphony
- Ukiah Author
STATE ROUTE 175 Hopland has been reopened between Highway 101 and Mile Marker .75 (California Highway Patrol, News Release, January 23, 5:33am)
SUNDAY AFTERNOON'S RAIN left a fairly heavy snow on Boonville's hills, and the final downpour of the third storm in a row fell fast and hard. Most locations in Mendocino County got over an inch of rain Sunday with Ukiah getting nearly two inches. Around another half an inch is expected on Monday with clearing Tuesday. But now a chance of a sprinkle has developed for Wednesday. Colder temps for Monday morning may reach below freezing in some inland locations with overnight temps in the 30s for most of the rest of the week, dipping below freezing in some north county locations.
THE NAVARRO RIVER PEAKED Sunday afternoon at a couple of feet above flood stage. Highway 128 remained closed, with the possibility of being reopened sometime Monday as the Navarro recedes.
NOW’S THE TIME TO SPEAK UP ON DISPENSARIES
The Ukiah City Council last week introduced its version of an ordinance to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in the city limits. A vote to make it law will come at a future city council meeting.
Mayor Jim Brown and Ukiah City Council member Maureen Mulheren spent a lot of time coming up with what they believe is the best set of rules for dispensaries, treating them like any other business, but adding safeguards particular to this industry.
The city currently bans dispensaries. This ordinance puts no limit on the number that can open in the city. It does limit them to commercial zones and outside 250 feet from each other and schools or other youth facilities. The ordinance also comes with 22 pages of rules around security measures, employee standards, and other measures that address the specialized nature of selling drugs to the public.
It also forces all dispensaries to go through the Planning Commission for a permit — which can be appealed to the City Council. That leaves open an avenue for neighborhood objections that may come up in certain locations.
The ordinance also provides one-year permits that must be renewed annually.
Overall the council feels that the thicket of rules, along with the one-year permit, will mean only serious businesses with long term plans will even apply, keeping the number of dispensaries low — they hope to two or three. That remains to be seen.
Prop. 64, which California voters just passed to legalize recreational marijuana, has a provision perhaps many didn’t know about, which prohibits charging sales taxes for medical marijuana. Therefore, any medical marijuana dispensary opening in the city of Ukiah provides no sales tax benefit. Dispensaries will pay for a business license and their existence allows the city to apply for state grants for drug abuse prevention programs. The city believes having marijuana sales in town will bring tourists who will spend money elsewhere.
The City Council has done, we think, a solid job of coming up with an ordinance that keeps dispensaries responsible and accountable. The question for Ukiah citizens is, do you want dispensaries in the city at all and do you want no limit on the number? Local governments have wide authority to control marijuana sales in their towns and counties.
The dispensary ordinance for the city has been introduced. Now is the time to let your council members know how you feel about bringing this new type of business into town.
Ukiah City Council members: Jim Brown, Doug Crane, Kevin Doble, Maureen Mulheren, Steve Scalmanini; City of Ukiah Civic Center, 300 Seminary Avenue, Ukiah, CA 95482, 463-6217, 463-6204 (fax).
–K.C. Meadows, Editor, Ukiah Daily Journal (Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
STAN, IS THAT YOU?
On Friday, January 20, 2017 at approximately 11:35am, a Deputy with the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office was patrolling the area of Blosser Lane near Robert Drive in Willits. The Deputy noticed a vehicle traveling northbound past his location and observed multiple traffic violations. The Deputy followed the vehicle and conducted a traffic-enforcement stop on the vehicle in the 500 block of Cropley Lane in Willits. The Deputy contacted the driver and sole occupant of the vehicle, who he knew from prior law enforcement contacts as being Jack Owsley, 54, of Willits. The Deputy was informed by Sheriff's Office dispatch that Owsley had an active felony warrant for his arrest issued in the Mendocino County Superior Court. The warrant for Owsley's arrest was issued for probation violations. The Deputy placed Owsley under arrest for the felony arrest warrant without incident. Owsley was subsequently booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held on a no-bail status due to the warrant.
Dear KZYX General Manager,
I'm writing an article that touches on the records management at KZYX. In particular, I'd like to know more about the decision making process that went into content development for the new website here:
Especially when it's compared to the old website here:
It appears that somebody made a decision to remove a number of records including:
- General Manager Reports (7+ years)
- Meeting Minutes (7+ years)
- MCPB Policies & Procedures
- Audited Financial Statements (11 years)
- Form 990s (15 years)
- Registration Renewal Fee Forms (15 years)
Would you mind telling the reasoning behind that decision, and who made it?
Scott M. Peterson
SAKO’S ELUSIVE MIDDLE GROUND
On the merits, UVSD’s lawsuit vs. the City of Ukiah is winnable. Both the facts and the law support UVSD (Ukiah Valley Sanitation District). The evidence, although going back many years and a bit esoteric, as it’s based on a lot of forensic accounting, is strong.
The case is winnable for the UVSD, but at what cost? That is the question.
Personally, I love the idea of a consolidated water and sewer district in the Ukiah Valley. As a start, I think the City should transfer its sewer interests to UVSD. I’ll explain.
Cities should primarily be in the business of public safety — police, fire, ambulance and emergency medical services, and inspection and code enforcement — and not in the business of public utilities. I don’t know how it came to pass that Ukiah, a small city of only 17,000 people, became an “empire” of public utilities — electric, water, sewer, plus all of Ukiah’s RDA (redevelopment) projects.
Nor should a small city like Ukiah have a payroll of over 300 employees, and be paying its city manager a total compensation package of $251,669 in 2016, with numerous other city employees making more than $200,000 (in total pay and benefits).
(Ed note: According to TransparentCalifornia.com there were 36 people making over $100k as Ukiah employees in 2015, the last year posted. With benefits, that number rose to over 100 people getting over $100k in pay and benefits and 11 making over $200k in total pay and benefits).
Back in November, the City of Ukiah claimed to be so broke it needed to pass a special tax to fix its potholes, remember?
Ukiah spends money on the wrong things and does a lot of creative accounting to come up with enough to cover its budget shortfalls, including over-billing the UVSD.
Another example of City mismanagement and creative accounting is the old Vichy Springs dump. Closed in 2001, it has yet to be capped and sealed, despite raising the ire of state and federal environmental agencies. Why? Why the delay of 15 years in the environmentally fragile Sulphur Creek watershed area?
Why, indeed? Is the money really there in an enterprise fund to fund the cap and seal job? Or does the City play a game of find-the-pea with its various enterprise funds to cover shortfalls in other areas?
Ukiah is not a sympathetic defendant.
I think a settlement between the UVSD and the City of Ukiah is achievable in mediation, but Ukiah will have to make concessions. In any case, Ukiah should also downsize.
UVSD, for its part, must realize the total burden this lawsuit is putting on the City. Added together, the lost opportunity costs with “purple pipes” and other capital improvements, the lower credit rating, the missed bond refinancing, the litigation costs, and the emotional costs, are crushing for the City of Ukiah.
The case is winnable for the UVSD, but at what cost? That is the question for both the City of Ukiah and the UVSD.
What is the middle ground? How do we get there?
I pray it happens sooner than later. And I hope to be a leader in going forward.
John Sakowicz, Ukiah
THE QUIETEST RENTAL ON THE NORTHCOAST
$1600 / 3br - 1200ft2 - Nice Westside Home In Ukiah (106 Gardens Ave)
This three bedroom, one bath house, is everything you 're looking for. With a large private backyard, quiet, and safe Westside neighborhood, this is a place to relax. The Westside Market, a premier gourmet food market, is about five blocks away, and it's a short walk to Downtown shopping.
Sorry, no cannabis growing. No cigarette smoking. No BBQ lighter fluid. No chemical/fragrance laundry products, or other chemicals. No wireless networks allowed. No loud music or TV. Very quiet and peaceful neighborhood. The highest vibes get the place.
I'm looking for someone who can work with me to get painting, and flooring in the third bedroom done.
The phone should be working. If I don't answer it's because I'm working. Stop by to have a look at the place and drop me your rental application.
* * *
A PROSPECTIVE RENTER REPLIED: "My body also contains chemicals. I have tried to get rid of them with cleanses but my body won't stop producing them. My doctor says it's a biological process that maintains homeostasis and without the chemicals, I would die. Sounds like some Big Pharma mumbo jumbo to me.”
FORT BRAGG NOTES
by Rex Gressett
I stopped by the Fort Bragg Advocate’s new offices last week to attend the goodbye party for Sharon DiMauro, the retiring publisher of our local paper, The Fort Bragg Advocate. I wanted to see who would show up to say goodbye and of course I got to eat cookies on her dime. She graciously took our picture and sent it to me. As usual I look unkempt and questionable.
It is one thing for people to say that the professionals at City Hall have kept vital information from the public and the City Council to achieve a hidden agenda of their own devising. It is another thing to prove it. Readers and writers must both work hard to see behind the scenes in any government. First of all there must be investigators and writers. The operatives who inhabit City Hall make it their daily business to hide many important truths from the people and the City Council. They have a few tricks, but over the years they have come to rely heavily on our only local newspaper to consistently miss the story. Wonderfully, that simple thing of not seeing makes secrecy possible. By omission of news the Advocate has made itself Fort Bragg City Manager Linda Ruffing’s most powerful tool of deception. Without the local paper she could never have pulled off her reign of secrecy.
Long ago the publishers and writers at the Advocate made a basic decision to put the weight of their editorial and news-gathering (and news omitting) mojo behind the City Manager. Whether they like no news or not (most hate it) Advocate readers are bored to know that the little paper will labor with diligence to spin any story in Linda’s favor or more simply to pan anything that might reflect badly on her.
Not a few Fort Bragg folks see this selectivity and omission as the right thing, the proper thing, the necessary thing. According to this view the powerful organizing capacities of the City Manger are basic to the well being of the city. According to this wisdom the Advocate has only shown a humble editorial reverence for Linda’s superhuman capacities.
When they are asked about it they will tell you that this concern is founded in responsibility. They decline to confuse our untutored and bewildered population with unnecessary complexities. Examining public policy too closely produces stress and upset in people who are not used to it. The exposure of wrongdoing is distressing, bad for business. Our hometown paper understands that it is not their business to be disruptive. For as long as I have been in Fort Bragg The Advocate has been fully committed to maintaining public tranquility without which they avow the City could never prosper.
Of course there is a newspaper besides the Advocate if you know where to look for it, but if the city has to borrow its brains and guts from Anderson Valley it really is too bad.
Scott Menzies’ “Go Fort Bragg” certainly supports the Advocate. They like it. Their tiny organization has invented an actual ideology of the happily uninformed. According to them courtesy and togetherness are the main thing. If there are problems it is best to leave the responsibility for them to qualified people. Harmony and comfortable simplicity is the total platform and agenda of the Go organization. What they mean is for Linda to Go forth and bring home the bacon, and for the rest of you to Go away. Or at least shut up.
I spoke briefly with Linda Jupiter last week. For those of you who do not know, she is a cultured, erudite and highly involved public citizen who I like very much and with whom I disagree on almost every political subject. I think she is a fair representative of the Go faction. Certainly she is a strong supporter of the city system under the command of City Manager Linda Ruffing. Without my prompting, she at once acknowledged the implications of the new City Council on the job security of the City Manager.
In a worried and concerned way she told me that she was not worried. The dire implications of the election have been exaggerated. There is nothing to worry about — Linda will survive and prosper as she always has, Ms. Jupiter said, looking into the distance reflectively. Whatever it is, Linda can handle it.
She has a point.
Of course everyone with a professional interest or a hand in the pot and City Hall has done their very best in the last few weeks since the election to put a provisionally happy face on the election. Linda Jupiter’s confessed concern was but a tiny breech in the wall of Go complacency behind which they yet hunker.
Maybe the optimists at City Hall have it right. The new councilmen are not — at least to look at them — barbarians, and so it is still reasonable to hope that they will not violate that basic principle of congeniality and courtesy behind which past city council administrations have always hidden as they declined to do the people’s business.
It is true that these newbie councilmen made little rude noises when they were running, but these were after all minimal. If the last election was notable for anything it was the depth and breadth of what was not said.
All the same, a lot of us thought that in the door to door campaign, and very certainly in the expectations of the people who came out and voted, it was damn clear that the new guys were elected to put a wrench in business as usual policies of City Hall and to stop the raging inertia and crude misdirection of civic policy by City Manager Linda.
Only one of the five candidates for the City Council made it his program to endorse and support the long term policies of the professional urban planning professionals at City Hall.
The two councilmen who got elected and the two who did not, all made it the basic premise of their campaigns that they would at least shake the foundations a little. We thought they were promising to oppose the root rot and implacable inertia that possesses our fair city. We thought that we had their promise to not be afraid to buck the heretofore unopposed City Manager.
One cannot contemplate the economic/political landscape in Fort Bragg without the fair admission that the big projects that the City has to face have up to this point routinely and officially been swept beneath the official rug. It is pretty raw. I was not the only one who assumed there was a strong implication that the new Council, if we got one, would fire Linda Ruffing. We had the idea that was what the candidates meant by courage.
Now the City has awakened to find that whether the City Council likes it or not they have fallen under the protective umbrella of deliberate non-reporting. It may not be that conducive to the reform that they campaigned for, but it really does take the pressure off.
I wrote recently about the partial collapse of the dam on Pudding Creek because some poor guy overslept. I wrote indignantly that Linda in her formal presentation to the Council had with plain and evident contempt for veracity chalked the whole thing up to natural causes, not mentioning any oversleeping.
It is not that I wanted particularly to blame anybody, but there were numerous small gaps and holes in the City Manager’s story. I thought the Council should react.
But no, the City Council sat quietly and obediently through the whole performance. I assumed that they had been fooled. It was only as the weeks went by that I discovered all of them, or at the least most of them, knew about the oversleeping at the time, and knew very well that Linda was shilling and covering and amplifying and omitting. I guess it is a given that she is going to choreograph her performances at Council meetings.
The Monday after the Friday that Sharon DiMauro had her retirement gathering, I saw Chris Calder, the editor of the Advocate, at Headlands Cafe. I bump into him from time to time. He always looks like he suspects that if provoked I might bite, but within limits he is cautiously congenial.
“New publisher cleaning house?” I asked without much irony as we put stuff in our coffee.
“Oh yes,” Calder said. ”There are a lot of things that she wants to cover.”
“Bummer,” I replied “I thought I could milk it all for my own paper.”
He sort of laughed.
* * *
A few hours before the last City Council meeting I met with an unnamed source deeply involved in City Hall operations. Although this cannot at this time be confirmed, in direct conversation with the City Manager, this individual was told that a member of the City Council could not put an item on the agenda.
The Fort Bragg City Council agenda is a list of items that will be discussed by the Council at their meetings. The agenda is the blueprint for the meeting. Deviation from it during a Council meeting is possible in an abstract way, just as discussion, questions and debate are in theory possible. In practice, none of it happens very much.
In Fort Bragg our form of self-government is a kind of political theater in which the Councilmembers march down those items on the agenda under the watchful gaze of the City Manager who writes the agenda and decides what is and what is not on it. In a worst case scenario a Councilman might raise a few points of objection before he caves.
Those items that are in any degree controversial or are direct giveaways, personal favors, or involve in some manner public safety are relegated to the consent calendar, which is that portion of the agenda that is explicitly exempt from discussion. A safe zone. Items are rarely but occasionally removed from the consent calendar upon the objection of a Councilman. It happens. Rarely.
The system is what it is. I could possibly object to the terms of the Brown Act, but if I want to piss in the wind there's no blow back on the Haul Road.
The law of California is not only explicit in its description of how things have to work as a system, it also says clearly and boldly, and I think nobly, that in California, general law cities with a councilor government, which Fort Bragg is and has, the City Council is tasked with providing the vision and the purpose for our local government. It is for the Council, not the City Manager, to discern the interests of the people and the direction of policy.
The City Council does none of these things, although they always claim that they are going to when they are running for election. The City Manager handles all of it by putting her agenda through in the Agenda.
So, when my unnamed source told me that City Councilmen were not able to put anything on the agenda, I went to the meeting, and at the appointed time rose and went to the podium to seek clarification and understanding. I was pretty sure of my source, damn sure of the character and integrity of this individual. I also have a depth of experience with the prevarications and misrepresentations of the City Manager and know full well and from my own personal experience that what she says privately or in committee meetings may or may not be what she says in the Council meetings.
But on this particular point I was indignant certainly, but not entirely sure of the actual facts. So when I got up there I spoke with uncharacteristic humility, asking rather than stating an accusation, which is more my style, generally speaking.
The City Council, under the great defining law of the State of California (the Brown Act) is not allowed to respond to public comment. They must sit there like Buddha and try not to roll their eyes or grind their teeth. However, as we know such a rigid restraint is too much for them in many instances.
The former mayor, Dave Turner, of unfortunate memory, used to abuse David Gurney with no visible restraint at all. They all do it to some degree. This time when I asked my little question, or actually made my allegation in the form of a question, The Linda herself jumped like she'd been pinched and made an immediate clarification.
Oh no no no, saith she. A Councilman can put something on the agenda anytime he wants.
Samantha Zutler, the city attorney from The City (San Francisco) also chimed in and cited the Brown Act for my edification, promising more detail when she and I could arrange a few minutes. I sat down chastened and informed, wondering.
What is said privately in Linda Ruffing's office of course can not be known. But the nature of the City Council meeting, including the institution of the agenda and the form of government that it represents, are known to everyone. In a matter of substance or controversy, when a vote of the Council is mandated, the matter under consideration must be made known to the public at least 72 hours prior to the meeting. Only fair, right?
The voting public has observed that this is done by printing in tiny print a notice buried in the legal notices alongside the fictitious business names and other interesting legal stuff.
When so noticed the Council votes four days later. That gives the public time to brace themselves. Four days, well, two whole days, and a weekend is thought to be plenty of time for the public to contemplate what might be done to them. As a system it would tend to keep one on one’s toes. Unfortunately for the public tranquility, social media generally is able to mobilize fairly effectively even in that short interval. The City Council retaliates for the embarrassment of pubic outrage when it occurs by voting in four days anyway, even on (especially on) matters of controversy. But at the least we get to see them do it.
The agenda itself only arrives at the doorsteps of the City Council four days before a Council meeting. The consent calendar, those points of consideration that are detached from Council consideration, arrives in the same four days.
Think of it as a kind of game. From the time the agenda leaves the City Manager to the time that the bewildered Council acts, is a mere four days. Some very few things go to committee but most things don’t. The City Manager puts what she wants moved right past public or Council opposition or debate in the shortest (legally) possible time on the consent calendar. It is a kind of political slider.
I thought to myself after the meeting that I had never had the experience of actually seeing an item brought to the Council by a Councilman, but it was nice to know that it could have happened. Or even that it might in some ideal future.
The next day I had occasion to speak to my unnamed source. Of course they could not confirm the content of a private session with The Linda but the source gave me another interesting tip (clue?). The manual issued this year for the first time to assist the newbie Councilmen in the performance of their duties, is quite an improvement on the Nothing that has been issued to incoming Councilmen until now.
This document has many interesting features. It is beautifully done in vivid color with binders and dividers and a comprehensive description of Council duties and privileges.
It says not one word about putting an item on the agenda.
FUTURE OF ALBION SCHOOL UP FOR DISCUSSION
Meeting This Tuesday, January 24th at 6:00 pm at the Albion School to discuss the declining enrollment at the school
Dear community members,
Jason Morse, the superintendent of the Mendocino Unified School District, sent an e-mail to this list on January 4 inviting the community to attend this important meeting.
I am encouraging you to attend. Pass the word on facebook, twitter, or otherwise to Albion residents, former students of the Albion School, their parents and to anyone that can come up with creative ideas.
Thanks, Annemarie Weibel, Fort Bragg
* * *
There will be a meeting on Tuesday, January 24th at 6:00 pm at the Albion School to discuss the declining enrollment at the school as well as to review some options and ideas going forward.
Please attend this meeting if you would like to hear more information or to provide input regarding the future of the Albion School.
Mendocino Unified School District
A HUGE NEGATIVE for contemporary demonstrations is the truly awful rhetoric out of the selected (self-selecting in Mendocino County) speakers. Young people turn out in droves for these things only to be force-fed hours of tedium even if they try to pay attention.
YESTERDAY'S march on Washington began with statements of the obvious from Gloria Steinem on through painfully stupid remarks by vulgar "celebrities" like Madonna and other national embarrassments. Any kid who listened to this "leadership" is probably re-considering Trump.
LOCALLY? A reader who attended the Ukiah rally said the first speaker, Estelle Clifton, "was really good and right to the point. After her it was the usual parade of usuals, so a lot of people, like me, drifted off to talk with friends while the whoever they ares droned on."
FORT BRAGG? No idea who spoke out there, but I doubt the rhetoric was any better than Ukiah. (The liveliest, most articulate, funniest, and most pointed speaker I've seen in years is Rex Gressett of Fort Bragg who comes with a bracing Old Testament look to go with his thundering presentations. Agree with him or not, the guy puts on a great show.)
NOTE TO "ACTIVISTS": Words have meaning. Some people are better at speaking words than others. Yeah, yeah. Ukiah and Fort Bragg are the rhetorical minor leagues, but where are the major leagues? Frisco's rallies are the same interchangeable collection of bores and crackpots, their talking points right outta Democracy Now but much less coherent. Hell, if a national rally can't manage a single good speaker, how can we possibly expect one in Ukiah?
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “I had a date in Fort Bragg with that two-timing poodle, FiFi. She doesn't know I can get out there through Comptche. She and her other boy friends are in for a big surprise, er, Little surprise.”
CATCH OF THE DAY, January 22, 2017
JOSE ACEVEDO, Willits. Battery.
OMIE BEHRNS, Fort Bragg. Domestic battery.
CHRISTINE COOK, Willits. Misdemeanor hit&run, probation revocation.
LINDSEY DUNHAM, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
MICHAEL HIGGINS, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
JEREMIAH JUSZCZAK, Ukiah. Domestic assault.
ANTHONY KOCHIE JR., Ukiah. Paraphernalia, failure to appear.
ARMANDO LLAMAS, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
BRADLEY MAXFIELD, Willits. Probation revocation.
JACK OWSLEY, Willits. Probation revocation.
RYAN PADGET, Laytonville. Trespassing, probation revocation.
ROBERT VIALE, Fort Bragg. Vehicle theft, receiving stolen property.
HARLAN WILLIAMS, Covelo. Parole violation.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I recall watching the live broadcast inaugural proceedings for JFK in 1961, in black and white. So much better in color.
Wouldn’t it be nice if our streets were always as pedestrian-friendly as Washington streets are right now. Public transit would help.
I just heard a Fox woman commentator observe that Chief Justice Roberts had administered “the sort of oath of office”. Sort of? Was it the oath or not? This inability to use language is becoming an epidemic. It is spreading along with an inability to think. This does not bode well for us.
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA & THE PRESENT CATASTROPHE
by David Yearsley
Staring down the wrong end of the barrel of a Trump Presidency, I ran for cover into the nearest liberal safe space last night — Ithaca’s local art cinema. Along with current European fare that might just get the plug pulled on it by grumpy Trump tariffs, Ithaca’s best movie house serves up a varied roster of indie films, open-minded and occasionally provocative on the checklist of approved topics — gender, environment, and race. There’s little to nothing radical in these offerings, and you’re pretty damn unlikely to bump into Tea Party types waiting in line to get a cup of fairly-traded tea before heading into your screening.
Word-of-mouth and the tiresome, but somehow tantalizing PR pieces placed in the New York Times in advance of the Academy Awards was sent to me about Manchester-by-the-Sea, written and directed by Manhattanite auteur Kenneth Lonergan. It turned out to be an odd choice for someone in an escapist mood more dire than the usual one that launches me towards the movies.
The two questions that kept beating me about the head and shoulders as I watched the tormented figures make their way across the screen and their broken lives were: Did these characters vote for The Donald? And if so — or for that matter, even if they voted for The Hillary, The Jill, The Gary or The No-One-At-All — why are we being subjected to a soundtrack of suffocatingly Romantic, superpathetic, cranked-to-high-volume, hackneyed classical hits?
Lonergan’s 2011 Margaret was a critically acclaimed money-loser set in the filmmaker’s native urban habit. His latest movie migrates up the Atlantic coast from New York Yankee territory to Boston Red Sox turf (actually more often in this wintery film, Boston Bruin’s ice), from the tony precincts of the Upper West Side to the lower-middle class grit of the Massachusetts North Shore. A crux scene in Margaret takes place in the Metropolitan Opera House with Gounod’s Damnation of Faust doing some dangerously heavy lifting on stage for Lonergan and his film’s confrontation with the trap of moral equivalence.
We don’t see the Met in Manchester-by-the-Sea, but it’s definitely there just out of frame on a massive offshore barge, and when some unseen maestro waves his baton, the orchestral sound swamps the whole show like a rogue wave. Worse still, the opera house relocation job must have been done by working people like the characters in the film — and not at union scale. Call it the scab soundtrack.
These violations against labor laws and good taste don’t come at the start, however. The film’s first shots suggest seascape affluence: grey-blue winter views of yachts bobbing at anchor with freshly-painted clapboard mansions looking on from the far, snowswept shore, the opera house not yet hove into earshot. The intro is instead intoned by boy sopranos singing composer Lesley Barber’s “Manchester-by-the-Sea Chorale,” its weightless procession of puritan harmonies suspended above a shroud of sustained electronics. An occasional dissonance troubles this opening prayer as if to conjure the stain of sin, yet the purity of the young voices is also a harbinger of the tragedy at the center of the story: with an austere beauty, the credit music reminds us that we are in the ancestral lands of the puritans, and that redemption will not be had on two-day free delivery from amazon prime. Lonergan is to be praised for his resistance to the seductions of Hollywood’s default absolution narrative.
A recurring flashback takes us farther off shore to a trawler piloted by Kyle Chandler (Joe Chandler) with his younger brother Lee (Casey Affleck), who’s teaching his nephew (the younger version of this character is played by Ben O’Brien) how to fish, while describing to him the marine geography. Lee points to an island and says it was bought by some “rich guy” so no one can go there now. The boat of the Chandlers (a venerable nautical name) is separated from this hedge fund potentate’s fortress not just by leagues of open water but also by roiling class resentment.
It is right that the only music here is the leitmotiv chugging of the motor, itself an anguished, if relatively minor character in the film.
As for the opera armada: the tugs are still pushing the Met into its position within haling distance of the town. The most luscious of its sonic salvos will be fired late in the proceedings over the heads of the troubled working people on screen. It’s an overused aria from Chérubin by Jules Massenet (Massenet!) premiered in 1905 in Monte Carlo — a seaside locale about as far you can get in every way from Manchester-by-the Sea. The aria Lonergan chooses from the work is the one everyone chooses: “Lorsque vous n’aurez rien à faire.” However ridiculously this music resonates against the lives portrayed on screen, the text (“When you have nothing to do”) is ironically appropriate for the downsized and disaffected.
But the most deafening sonic barrage comes near the midpoint of the film during Casey Affleck’s tour-de-force of acting when he vaults from numbed grief into action. Here it’s not just Gounod, not just Massenet, but Albinoni. That’s right, Albinoni! And not just any Albinoni — but the Adagio in G Minor for organ and strings. But it’s even worse than that: it’s not even really by Albinoni, but a pastiche based on a few bars of bass-line by the celebrated Venetian cooked up into a full-fledged symphony of schlock by the twentieth-century Italian critic and composer, Remo Giazotto. Hoax or not, this super soupy tear-jerker has already been shanghaied into dozens of films, among them Rollerball, Flashdance, and Gallipoli. Lonergan’s film earns the dubious accolade of making a run at Peter Weir’s World War I melodrama for most egregious use of this “classical” concoction.
In a word the “Albinoni” “Adagio” is “iconic” — a term and a tune that should have been made to walk the plank long, long ago in an ocean far, far away. Even if there is no singing in the piece it corresponds to Lonergan’s apparent notion that opera is all about excesses of emotion.
While the pseudo-Baroque dirge’s pizzicato bass trudged along, those questions nagged and needled ever more urgently. As a state Massachusetts went overwhelmingly for Clinton, but the electoral map shows some pockets of support for the Republican nominee, even along the North Shore. Even Manchester-by-the-Sea went two to one for Hilary, but there were nonetheless nearly a thousand residents who voted for him. The hard-drinking, debt-ridden, working folk of this film seemed to me like they belonged to this lot of protest voters—assuming apathy didn’t keep them out fishing or bellied up to the kinds of bars we see in Manchester-by-the-Sea.
They’re much more likely to listen to Springsteen, even if he is the consummate Obama entertainer. Just last week The Boss did a private acoustic concert in the White House that bookended his presidential service begun at inauguration eight years ago with his hymn “The Rising” done on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Or maybe the American Mancunians of Manchester-by-the-Sea would have favored minstrels of the Trump inaugural concert like the dreadful 3 Door’s Down and their long-ago-hit of the early 2000s, “When I’m Gone,” a song that his now been elevated by the forces of darkness to a patriotic anthem. The playlist of classical pops in Manchester-by-the-Sea sounds more like the background music for a Clinton fundraiser in one of those grand beachfront Victorians we intermittently catch sight of.
Taking many steps back from the art house screening of Manchester-by-the-Sea you realize that what you’re looking at are Democrats in their seats watching Trumpites on screen.
When I visited the town back in the 1980s it was still called Manchester, the subsequent name upgrade suggestive both of real estate (insert generic copy) and the kind of economic and social divisions that bring us Trump today.
Promoting the movie as he navigates towards an Oscar for Best Actor, Casey Affleck had time to tell Variety back in October that “There’s a few loudmouth idiots who make a lot of noise to make it seem like Trump has supporters … I think most people look at him and can tell he’s a dangerous fool.” The characters in Manchester-by-the-Sea don’t have a word to say about politics, but this film and its music will tell all you need to know about the present catastrophe.
(David Yearsley is a long-time contributor to CounterPunch and the Anderson Valley Advertiser. His recording of J. S. Bach’s organ trio sonatas is available from Musica Omnia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
A DANCE OF RELATION:
Argentine music and dance concert stretches the envelope
by Roberta Werdinger
The Dances of Argentina, the third concert in the Ukiah Symphony Orchestra's 2016-17 season, will be presented at the Mendocino College Center Theatre on Saturday, February 11 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, February 12 at 3 p.m. The concert will present a rich panorama of Argentine culture, beginning with harpist and impresario Anna Maria Mendieta performing Alberto Ginastera's Harp Concert, Opus 25 accompanied by the Ukiah Symphony under the direction of conductor Les Pfutzenreuter, followed by a performance by tango master Marcelo Molina along with a surprise guest, and concluding with the orchestral suite Estancia: Four Dances, Opus 8A, also by Ginastera.
"We are very thankful to be in Ukiah again," Anna Maria Mendieta says. The Bay Area harpist swung through town last year with her national touring group, Tango del Cielo ("Tango of Heaven"). Undaunted by her long list of credentials—she's played for a pope, presidents, and celebrities, on stage and screen, and had concertos especially commissioned for her—Mendieta's primary arc could be described as stretching the envelope: extending a tradition she loves by innovating in it. For example, hearing the music of Astor Piazzolla, the famed tango composer and musician, she thought, "I would love to play that on the harp." When people scoffed at the idea, she was even more determined. "When people tell me something can't be done, it makes me do it even more. I started creating my own arrangements," she recalls, which were performed for the National Harp Conference in 2006 and were highly influential.
Mendieta believes that musicians and dancers exist in a long line of both tradition and innovation. "We're seeing a progression here," she observes, noting how Ginastera "stretched the envelope" in the Harp Concerto, making use of percussive instruments that reflected the indigenous traditions of Argentina. Piazzolla, a student of Ginastera's, greatly extended the range of tango music by incorporating influences from jazz and classical realms, so much so that his music was played more in other countries than in his native Argentina at first. (They later earned widespread acceptance.) After Piazzolla died in 1992 one of his band members, Pablo Ziegler, enjoyed a fruitful solo career without the use of the bandaneón, an accordion-like instrument commonly used in tango—despite people's claims that tango music couldn't be played without it. After Ziegler won a Grammy for best tango album, Mendieta became his student. Of the experience, she says, "It was an incredible and honorable experience to study with him. It cannot be put into writing. It has to be passed on."
Mendieta became so interested in the tango form that she eventually learned the dance, traveling to Argentina to do so. She might make an able partner for Marcelo Molina, who will be featured in the dance portion of the show. Hailing from Córdoba, Argentina and trained there and in the nation's (and tango's) capital, Buenos Aires, Molina now makes his home in Fresno. Lucky Californians get the benefit of Molina's unique grace and strength as a performer and as a choreographer, which have earned him two first place awards in international tango championships in Buenos Aires. Molina has also toured the U.S. with Mendieta's Tango del Cielo group, as well as with other tango ensembles.
Tango—as movement and as music—is, first and foremost, about relationship. The partners, traditionally a man and a woman, make close contact and move together, connecting at arms' length, or at the chest or the hips, depending on the style of tango. Feet are kept close to the floor, lending the form a sultry feel, except for moments of sudden grace when the male or the female partner may kick their leg up, sometimes even (in the female's case) landing it around her partner's neck. While the man is designated as the leader and the female as follower, in the best tango dances a spirit of joy, play, and respect comes forward as the two explore the parameters of their partnership.
Tango has now taken root in many countries. Devoted dancers and musicians import Argentine teachers and travel there to learn the form, while also adapting tango to their own culture. Molina notes, "We dance how we are as a society." There is American-style tango, Uruguayan tango, even Finnish tango. As tango continues to evolve, new art forms will evolve from it. What is constant is the sweat necessary to make a graceful gesture, and something that cannot so easily be put into words. As Mendieta puts it, "Tango is not just about physical contact but about hearing the soul of the other person."
Argentina, like America, is a young country that has produced cultural forms reflecting the rawness and grandeur of its frontier. While America has cowboys, Argentina has gauchos, who worked the ranches and managed the large cattle herds there. All this is evident in the last part of the concert, where the orchestra returns to play Ginastera's work Estancia: Four Dances. "Estancia" means "ranch" in Argentine Spanish; Ginastera built the work around a love story that takes place among the gauchos, presenting it as a four-part orchestral work in 1943 and in 1952 as a ballet. Rippling with the rhythms of traditional Argentine music as expressed through the grace and elegance of the European classical tradition, the piece builds to a rousing conclusion with the last movement, “Danza final (Malambo)." Malambo is an indigenous-derived dance that arose on the pampas (grasslands) of South America. Danced by men--sometimes wearing gaucho boots--to prove their prowess, the percussive quality of feet stamping on the earth will be reflected in the vigorous playing of the orchestra.
The Dances of Argentina is sponsored by Rich & Jean Craig, Savings Bank of Mendocino County, and Selzer Realty/Realty World. Tickets are available at Mendocino Book Company in Ukiah, Mail Center, Etc. in Cloverdale, and online at www.ukiahsymphony.org. Prices are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors age 65 and older, and free for students with ASB card and those under 18. For further information please call the Ukiah Symphony hotline at 707 462-0236.
New book celebrates history of Ukiah Valley health care
by Roberta Werdinger
On Sunday, January 29, at 2 p.m., the Grace Hudson Museum will host a free reading and reception for a new book by Ukiah writer and photographer Jendi Coursey, "Perseverance & Passion: The People Who Shaped Health Care in Ukiah, California." The book commemorates the 60th anniversary of the founding of Hillside Community Hospital, which later became Ukiah Valley Medical Center (UVMC). The project was commissioned by UVMC president, Gwen Matthews. Packed with archival black-and-white as well as contemporary color photos; fascinating and little-known anecdotes, some of which Coursey will relate; detailed research on Ukiah history and on the dizzying transformation health care delivery has undergone; and sidebars highlighting the individuals who contributed to Ukiah's health care—doctors, nurses, administrators, and innovators—the event will be of interest to anyone who has benefited from the scientific curiosity and kindness that motivates one human being to heal another.
"Perseverance & Passion" got its start at a Stars restaurant in 2014 when Matthews and her husband, Sam, were studying the menu. Noticing that the history of the restaurant was printed on the back, Sam asked if the hospital had done anything similar. Realizing that it hadn't, Gwen commissioned Coursey to write the book. Coursey, whose own son survived a bout with cancer as a baby, was instantly interested in the task. She enlisted local talent, including Theresa Whitehill and Adrienne Simpson of Colored Horse Studios on layout and design; Dr. Paul Poulos, Lisa Ray, and other members of the Mendocino County Historical Society; photographer Evan Johnson; and others.
The result is an intimate portrait of growth, struggle, and change in a place that is both like and unlike other rural communities. Rivalries were certainly personal and intense, with patients tending to remain loyal to one of three hospitals: Community Hospital, then on Bush and Low Gap where the county offices are presently located; Ukiah General Hospital, then on Dora Street; and Hillside Community Hospital, on Laws Avenue where a community clinic is presently located. (The latter two entities later merged to create the Ukiah Valley Medical Center.) Other features made Ukiah stand out. When Ukiah General opened in 1976, it was the most expensive hospital in the country because it had incorporated newly created seismic regulations. Then there was the Mendocino State Hospital, located in Talmage on the present-day site of the Buddhist temple City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, which in its time resembled a city within a city. That institution, originally named Mendocino State Asylum for the Insane, closed in 1972 as part of a wave of deinstitutionalization initiated by Ronald Reagan, who was governor of California at the time.
Writing the book "helped me crystallize why I love this place so much," Coursey reflects. Ukiah's rural setting and tendency to attract creative people has produced "this can-do spirit. People don't whine about what could be done for them; they just go out and do it. It's a special place where we take care of our own." Whereas in a big city, primary care doctors could refer patients with complex medical problems to specialists, local doctors have had to figure things out without help. "In Ukiah, look in the mirror, buddy, that's who you've got to help you." Doctors have been asked to handle everything from an earache to injuries resulting from being gored by a bull. The interpersonal connection between healer and patient has always been central to Ukiah's community ethos.
That emphasis on personal contact, along with the can-do spirit and a fierce independence, has remained the same in the time period the book covers, while so much else has changed. Coursey notes that health care progressed from doctors sitting with patients while they died because they had so little to offer in terms of technology or medication to the fantastic array of procedures and techniques that has extended contemporary Americans' life spans. "Nurses went from holding instruments and 'Can I get you a cup of coffee, doctor?' to being incredibly well-trained professionals in their own right," Coursey adds, noting that both Gwen Matthews and Heather Van Housen, the President and Vice President of the hospital, are nurses. The list of health practitioners who innovated in and improved the Ukiah Valley's health care is long, and includes Dr. Robert Warra, who helped set up a hospice system for end-of-life care; Lynn Meadows, who started a birth center to provide women with alternatives to a hospital-centered birth; Mendocino College faculty member Dan Jenkins, who helped start the nursing program at the College that has become one of the most successful in the state; and Dr. Mimi Doohan, who practices what is called "street medicine," bringing health care directly to the people who need it most in such settings as the Plowshares community kitchen.
"Perseverance and Passion" ends with a look forward at the future of Ukiah's health care. After so many decades of technological breakthroughs, the trend now is moving back toward a more personal approach that treats the patient as a whole person, and on preventive care. Alternative techniques such as color therapy and aromatherapy are being introduced. Also, like many rural areas, Ukiah struggles with a severe physician shortage. Some specialists practice in such a narrow part of the medical field that the Ukiah Valley does not have enough patients to support them, while primary care physicians often find themselves underpaid and overworked. "Doctors aren't making widgets," Coursey reminds us. "They're healing humans, and that's a lot of weight to carry. Many who have chosen to pursue a long career here have made a choice about how to practice medicine and what's most important to them." As Dr. Jim Withers, founder of street medicine put it, "The only way we solve problems is to treat others the way we want to be treated and demand that that's who we are."
The Grace Hudson Museum is at 431 S. Main St. in Ukiah. The Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4:30 p.m. For more information please go to www.gracehudsonmuseum.org or call (707) 467-2836.
by Steve Heilig
With apologies to A. Ginsberg (and America)
I saw the worst candidate of any generation elected
by a minority, lying shouting tweeting,
dragging our poor nation into the swampiest of backlashes
with a hostile takeover of democracy,
frustrated voters besieged by simplistic slogans inflated fears
and false assertions somehow becoming convinced that a
con man could Make America Something it never was, even
though he is a serial bankrupting deplorable;
who began his political career with an undeniably crazed racist
accusation that our first black president was a Kenyan and
kept that up for years until denying he ever did so,
who said Obamacare is a "disaster" even though he clearly
knows not what it is or who it helps nor what to replace it with,
who has tax and healthcare and other proposals that will make
the rich much richer while throwing crumbs to middle class and
poorer citizens while cutting their services,
who called climate change a Chinese hoax thereby baffling not
only scientists but the Chinese themselves,
who vowed to get rid of the EPA even though it protects not
only the environment but the health and future of all,
who said those who get or give or favor abortion should be
punished and defunded even though Planned Parenthood
prevents more unwanted pregnancies than any so-called
"pro-life" activism ever has or will,
who mocked a disabled journalist who questioned him and
then said he didn't though no objective viewer would buy that,
who denigrated POWs and war heroes saying they should
not have been captured or killed while being a draft-dodger
and calling his avoidance of sexually-transmitted diseases
his own personal wartime service,
who towed the line of the venal profiteering NRA and even
suggested that "second amendment people" might be useful
for getting rid of his opponents,
who gleefully boasted on tape of grabbing and groping women's
genitals and getting away with it because he was famous,
who was accused and/or sued by dozens of women who he
assaulted insulted denigrated, having said "Women - you
have to treat them like s__t",
who started a fake university named after himself to defraud
hopeful students, eventually paying out $25 million to avoid
having to testify about it,
who has such shadowy connections to the Russians that old
Joe McCarthy must be fulminating in his hellish grave but
now toadying Republicans just say Oh so what, fake news,
who baited and insulted everybody but white males and
fomented a rash of violent bigoted hateful events nationwide
but ignored that until pressed and even then would only
offhandedly say "stop it", period,
who called himself a Christian when pressed on that but knew
nothing of the Bible and would seem to have violated virtually
every teaching of Jesus,
who would not release his tax returns like all other candidates do
as there are likely many things he would not want decent
people to see therein, including conflicts of interest that could
disqualify him, evidence of paying no taxes, etc, but said he'd
so so after the election and then, once elected, said Nope, sorry,
joke's on you, suckers,
who publicly mocked the weight gain of one of his beauty pageant
winners saying she was no longer pretty enough for him,
who stiffed many of the contractors and workers who worked on
his many projects using pure financial power to beat them down,
who promised to build a wall to keep out Mexicans he called
rapists terrorists criminals who in fact had already been
leaving in numbers greater than they were coming and commit
crimes less than legal residents and pay more taxes than he does,
who said he'd ban all Muslims from becoming Americans even though
a tiny minority of them are any threat,
who created a fake charity under his name but spent the money only
on things like a $20,000 portrait of himself and his own legal fees,
who insisted the African-American youth who were falsely accused
of murdering a woman in Central Park were guilty even after proven
who said a Latino judge was not qualified because he was Latino,
which even Republicans called a textbook example of racism,
who hinted that nuclear weapons might be a usable option
if he said so making even our allies overseas shudder,
who didn't even write his own most-sold book but the
writer who did so came to see him as a true sociopath,
who inherited millions yet still declared bankruptcy over
and over while under-performing the market throughout
his career and living on debt,
who was so professionally unqualified and personally
reprehensible that virtually every newspaper and
journal and professional group in the nation opposed
him, other than the KKK and National Enquirer,
who said his own daughter had a very nice figure and
if she were not his daughter he might be "dating" her,
who vowed to drain the swamp of political corruption
but once elected by less than a quarter of those
who could vote and by 3 million less than who did
vote began assembling a cast of the richest most
ethically-challenged figures ever to crawl out of
swamps towards Washington,
who has many supporters who will sooner or later realize
he is still a professional con man and fooled them but
who should not be shamed but rise against him,
who is judged by so many to be so ethically, temperamentally,
and professionally unqualified that the biggest protests in
American history ignited the day after his tacky inauguration,
who - oh, this could go on and on and on but soon
it becomes pointless and despairing unless enough true
patriots see it in themselves,
to recreate the resistance needed from the streets to the
courthouses and halls of government and minds and
hearts of those who believe in true human progress
and values of compassion equity peace civil rights
feminism environmentalism and just plain human progress
towards the arc of justice,
with the American Dream still intact yet not limited by
riches color creed;
America you have always had some big bad "issues"
but I want to believe in you anyway.
America there are more of us than there are of them.
America it turns out there is indeed a "moral majority"
and now it resides most everywhere but in the
America Washington Lincoln Roosevelt Kennedy are
aghast and depending upon us from beyond.
America let us put true democracy back on top
where it belongs.
America you are better than this,
America please prove that is true.
(lest we forget)*
Locker Room Talk
by Donald Trump, (59, newlywed)
I did try and f__k her.
She was married.
I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there.
And she was married.
Then all of a sudden I see her,
She’s now got the big phony tits and everything.
She’s totally changed her look.
I’ve gotta use some Tic Tacs,
just in case I start kissing her.
You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful
… I just start kissing them.
It’s like a magnet.
I don’t even wait.
And when you’re a star
they let you do it.
You can do anything…
Grab them by the pussy.
You can do anything.
(Steve Heilig is a professional healthcare ethicist and policy wonk, environmentalist, and amateur poet in San Francisco and Marin.)