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Mendocino County Today: Friday, March 17, 2017

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AS AN ON AND OFF member of Mendocino County's kinda public radio station, I re-upped recently because the new station manager, Jeffrey Parker, seems like a smart, capable guy. Lorraine Dechter, Parker's predecessor, struck me as a smart, capable gal. (Note to Women's Voices; Ms. Dechter is referred to here as a 'gal' purely for alliterative purposes; no oinking diminishment intended.) But Ms. D. soon ran screaming in horrified terror at the mess she'd inherited, and we haven't seen her since. Parker has a major job ahead of him, and we don't envy him his task.

WE LISTENED to last night's candidate's presentations, and relay our impressions here, although The Major is more cynical about station prospects than I am, but only slightly. He often says if everyone presently involved with KZYX disappeared, the replacement parts would be essentially the same.

I THOUGHT John Sakowicz was clearly the best prepared and most knowledgeable candidate. Sako, as he's now known around the county, much as Madonna is known around the world, arrived at the Philo event carrying more baggage than, perhaps, any candidate for any office in county history. The guy's been sliced and diced more than a crate of canned beets, but seems unfazed by the deluge of criticism and abuse heaped on him for a wide range of his perceived deficits.

SAKO'S also very smart, articulate and absolutely correct about KZYX's murky finances, the station's bizarre enemies' list, created and nurtured for years by Mary "Her Hate Is Pure" Aigner, its utter lack of a local focus, and the station board's historical dysfunction, not to say, idiocy. Sako said last night the station's finances must become transparent if it ever hopes to inspire confidence in its management, and that there should be a real effort at "truth and reconciliation," that the many locals banned from participation should be welcomed back into the station's historically treacherous embrace. If the institution, especially with Trump on the rampage, is to survive it's got to be competently managed, locally focused, interesting, welcoming. It if does, it will be for the first time since its cynical beginnings.

SAKO'S OPPONENTS for the at-large board seat are Jenness Hartley, a young woman and relative newcomer to Mendocino County and its long-troubled public radio station. She is the incumbent. And with her, and candidate Minson, commences a severe cognitive dissonance. They don't see any probs, nowhere, no how and, therefore, perfectly fit Most Desired KZYX Trustee, the basic requirement being a slack-jawed credulity and the personalization of all issues. In other words, if the critics would just shut up we could keep our smiley faces on and march on to bankruptcy in peace.

MS. HARTLEY is of course a shoo-in to retain her seat. Why? Because the KZYX membership, mostly, is like one of those hermaphroditic sea creatures that endlessly recreates itself. The membership, in lockstep, mostly thinks Sako is nuts, that critics are not either nice people or Nice People (as found and defined on Ukiah's highly evolved Westside neighborhood), that if everyone just thinks the Correct Thoughts and cordons off Sako and the rest of the non-personed persons, everything will remain as is — simply swell.

Candidates Forum at KZYX (L-R: Valerie Kim, Sako (back to camera), Minson, Hartley, Vaughan)

WHICH ISN'T TO SAY Ms. Hartley is ill-intentioned, but it is to say she has managed, as a trustee, not to notice KZYX realities. Management and trustee irresponsibility is why the station is perpetually in crisis mode.

I THOUGHT Bob Vaughan offered lots of good ideas for strengthening the station and much appreciated his exasperated flashes of candor. He'd be an excellent trustee because he's clearly the kind of guy who speaks up. The only thing he said that I disagree with is that the non-personed persons, and there's a ton of them, were offed by the station because "they violated the rules." Nope. They were banned because Aig or Coate, or the long list of managers prior to Coate, didn't like them. Anybody critical of these outback autocrats, or the forever fumbling station itself, got the bounce.

MENDO PUBLIC RADIO'S founding father, Sean Donovan, structured his creation in a way that enables programmers to control it; on the safe assumption that so long as they can play their tunes, or talk to their friends about this and that, and go to bed satisfied that NPR is telling it like it is, programmers could care less about who their theoretical boss was. (I think all of them, and there's about 200, many of them apparently life-tenured, should pay a modest stipend in return for their on-air slots. Twenty a month, and upped ten bucks every year.)

ANYWAY, Donovan stuffed his first board of directors with the malleable, and then retroactively charged the station about $28k for unilaterally forming it. Donovan banned a bunch of people right outta the box purely out of personal dislike. Or jealously, as I suspect was the case with Marco McClean and Mitch Clogg, both of them media vets.

UNOPPOSED CANDIDATE MINSON. Listening to the poor guy wheeze through a few bewildered statements, I half expected the EMT's to rush into the studio and begin survival protocols. Minson, of Willits, many of whose residents get their local audio news from KMUD or the Coast's A.M. stations, is clueless. He's totally out of it, and unopposed, the perfect candidate for this operation.

I'D SAY it's obvious what KZYX needs to survive, beginning with organizational candor. From there, and why this even needs to be said is an indication of the problem, there has to be a basic recognition that the station exists in a highly competitive media market. There are all kinds of new blogs focused solely on local matters, some of them quite good; there are existing newspapers that do solid reporting on local matters; there are A.M. radio stations that report local stuff — KOZT has done good local reporting for years: and, of course, the daily deluge of electronic input from cyber-space. Mendo Public Radio has to go local and go smart. As is, there's zero reason to tune in. Vote Sako. He asks all the right questions.

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ED NOTE: We understand that a key KZYXer's house has burned down. Whose house is not known, but the sad event has discombobulated the Philo operation beyond it's usual state of discombobulation. I called CalFire in Willits where, I learned, they keep no central roster of recent fire calls. I was referred on to Coast CalFire where no one answered the phone. KZYX has made their "emergency" announcement for two days now. At some point, one would think, they will tell us what the emergency is.

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The Trump Administration will be brutal for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Trump hates public media. Trump hates alternative media. Trump hates progressive media. Expect Trump to slash funding at the CPB, if not completely defund the CPB, within the next 12 months. He'll probably do the same at the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

When that happens, what is KZYX's contingency plan? Our contingency plan for less, or no, CPB funding?

Answer: KZYX will have to rely on corporate and foundation funding, as both PBS and NPR do now.

But corporations and foundations will only fund KZYX, if our financials are impeccable, which they are not. Our financials are inaccurate, incomplete, and inconsistent. There are no multi-year reviews of operating statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. Debt is never disclosed -- what we owe NPR, the CA Department of Forestry, American Radio International, and Pacifica. What we owe on our letter of credit at the Mendocino Savings Bank is not disclosed. It's shocking, but the station's IRS Form 990s were filed without the KZYX Board ever having seen them.

Also, corporations and foundations will only fund KZYX if our policies are strictly followed. Currently, our policies are not even posted on our website. This is also shocking.

As someone who is a trained trustee and fiduciary, as someone who is a trained Board director, as someone who has years of accounting, audit, and management experience, I want to help KZYX save itself from itself.

I will fight for best business practices so we can open up new revenue streams from corporations and foundations.

Vote for me. I promise to work with GM Jeffrey Parker and put a premium on collegiality with other Board directors. But I will not wink at "business as usual" as our beloved community radio station goes out of business, and the airwaves become silent -- not as Trump remakes the country in his own image and likeness.

–John Sakowicz, KZYX Board candidate, Ukiah.

PS. Trump wants to cut the NEA and NEH. This is the worst-case scenario for arts groups

To KZYX listeners: Remember that KZYX has received more than $4 million from the CPB, since the station was founded 27-years ago. CPB funding is the "mother's milk" of KZYX. Without it, we will fail -- we will fail, unless we immediately adopt best business practices for accounting, audit, and management.

We will never get private sector funding from corporations and foundations, or a "privatized" CPB, unless we meet their strict funding guidelines, including due diligence standards. Right now, KZYX is light years away from those standards.

What is our contingency plan once the CPB is defunded Or privatized?? That is the critical question for the new KZYX Board.

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PBS Fires Back at Trump’s Budget Elimination: Costs Small, Benefits Tangible

by Brian Flood

On Thursday, President Trump targeted the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities for complete elimination in his first proposed budget. The Public Broadcasting Service isn’t going down without a fight.

“PBS and our nearly 350 member stations, along with our viewers, continue to remind Congress of our strong support among Republican and Democratic voters, in rural and urban areas across every region of the country,” PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger said in a statement.

“We have always had support from both parties in Congress, and will again make clear what the public receives in return for federal funding for public broadcasting,” he continued. “The cost of public broadcasting is small, only $1.35 per citizen per year, and the benefits are tangible: increasing school readiness for kids 2-8, support for teachers and homeschoolers, lifelong learning, public safety communications and civil discourse.”

President Donald Trump’s $1.1 Trillion budget will profusely cut domestic and discretionary spending, while giving $54 million to the Pentagon and border protection. The Agriculture Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the State Department will all be receiving dramatic cuts as well. Trump has named his budge, “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again."

PBS pointed to two national surveys that “reveal that voters across the political spectrum overwhelmingly oppose eliminating federal funding for public television,” according to the network’s statement.

Rasmussen Reports shows that just 21 percent of Americans, and only 32 percent of Republicans, favor ending public broadcasting support.

Trump’s budget would zero out the $445 million budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a substantial source of funding for programming and broadcast operations on public TV stations and NPR radio stations nationwide, per the Washington Post.

The budget would also eliminate the budgets for both national endowments, which stood at $148 million each in 2016, as well as $230 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which supports libraries and museums. Additional cuts would affect two tourist mainstays in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art.

Combined, the four arts organizations account for less than 0.02 percent of the U.S. government’s $4.6 trillion budget.

(San Francisco Chronicle)

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I'm writing to endorse John Sakowicz over Jenness Hartley for KZYX's at-large board seat for one simple reason — speed.

Sako's a policy wonk. He wanted MCPB policy posted on the KZYX website. From the time he was last elected, it took less than six weeks for that to happen. Hartley's an anarchist. She wanted that policy taken down. From the time she was last elected, it took nearly two years for that to happen.

I'm not saying that policy is better than anarchy. No sir-ee. I'm just saying that Sako is faster at making things happen. See for yourself here:*/

I'd post a link to the minutes showing when Sako and Hartley were elected -- but thanks to Hartley -- they've all taken down too.


Scott M. Peterson


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LITTLE DOG SAYS, “I got it, Hunter!"

"OK, Little Dog, you take it.”

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ADELE PHILLIPS, the woman in the County’s Planning Department who was handling the controversial Blackbird Farm application has resigned to take a position with the Ukiah City Planning Department. No word as yet about who will be picking up the project next. (We have heard unofficially that some number of public comments have been addressed in a revised permit package, but the entire application has been pushed back to May at the earliest due to an overload of pot related work at the understaffed Planning department.) Several people at the Wednesday Night Anderson Valley Community Services District meeting said they hope that Ms. Phillips’ replacement will be long-time Elk resident and Water expert Charlie Acker’s daughter (whose married name we do not know), but who has a good reputation as a County Planner. Instead, we heard late Thursday that a new hire named Monique Gill will be assigned to the Blackbird file.

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Lindy Peters

I received a call from the Governor's office this afternoon informing me that I had NOT been appointed to the California Coastal Commission. The aide said, "The Governor has decided to go in another direction." I know. Sounds like a " break-up" line, doesn't it? I want to personally thank each and every one of you who offered me encouragement and support. A Humboldt County Supervisor, Ryan Sundberg, has been lobbying and campaigning for this seat for months. He was definitely the front-runner. He is also a Native American. There has never been a Native American on the Coastal Commission. Until today. Let's support him in his new position and wish him the best of luck. He will do a good job. I was honored to be Mendocino County's nominee. It has been decades since our County has had a seat on the Commission. Sorry it didn't work-out. My interview went well. It is a political appointment however, and as we all know, if it gets down to politics, you never know. I just hope I represented you well through the selection process. I tried.

— Lindy Peters, Fort Bragg City Councilman

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Ordinance Adopting Chapter 10a.17 – Medical Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance And Chapter 20.242 – Medical Cannabis Cultivation Site

It is proposed to add two new chapters to the Mendocino County Code: (1) Chapter 10A.17, Medical Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance, to the Agriculture Code (Mendocino County Code Title 10A), which will be administered by the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office; and (2) Chapter 20.242, Medical Cannabis Cultivation Site, to the Inland Zoning Ordinance (Mendocino County Code, Title 20, Division I), which will be administered by the Department of Planning and Building Services. Together, these two regulations (referred to as the “Medical Cannabis Cultivation Regulation”) will govern agricultural activities related to the cultivation of medical cannabis and establish limitations on the location and intensity of cannabis cultivation in the unincorporated area of Mendocino County, not including the Coastal Zone. The Medical Cannabis Cultivation Regulation is intended to complement a variety of actions by the State of California to establish a legal framework for the cultivation of medical cannabis.

The Medical Cannabis Cultivation Regulation establishes an annual permit program, to be issued by the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, that will regulate how and where cannabis may be cultivated in Mendocino County, including limits on what zoning districts may be used for cannabis cultivation. For certain zoning districts and cultivation permit types, administrative permits or use permits may also be required. The Medical Cannabis Cultivation Regulation exempts from the permit requirement cultivation of cannabis for medical use by qualified patients, persons with an identification card, and primary caregivers consistent with state law, though such cultivators are still subject to complying with certain requirements. Persons who are granted a permit will be subject to inspections and permits may be terminated for non-compliance. Persons cultivating cannabis who do not comply with the provisions of the Medical Cannabis Cultivation Regulation may be subject to nuisance abatement, administrative penalties and any other applicable legal remedy.

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Changes are proposed to the County’s Policies and Procedures for Agricultural Preserves and Williamson Act Contracts (“Policies and Procedures”), which are currently silent regarding cannabis cultivation.

The proposed changes would make cannabis cultivation a use compatible with a Williamson Act contract, but not a use that would qualify property for a contract. Changes are proposed to the definition of “agricultural use” for the Policies and Procedures that would specify that cannabis cultivation is not an agricultural use. Other sections of the Policies and Procedures, including Sections 5.2 (eligibility), 8.2 (qualifying agricultural uses), and 9.4 (compatible uses), refer back to this defined term. Cannabis cultivation would include planting, growing, harvesting, drying, curing, grading and trimming of cannabis in its natural state. Specifically excluded would be manufacturing, distributing and dispensing of cannabis or cannabis products. Lastly, the Policies and Procedures make cannabis cultivation (and other cannabis uses) incompatible with a Williamson Act contract for open space purposes.

Full Summary: MemoReMCCR

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OMG! METRICS! Planning and Building Services finally prepared some planning and building stats and it looks like they’re going to keep it up on a monthly basis! Will any other County departments follow suit? We live in hope.

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MR. ISAIAH BENNETT requested a hearing to determine if he’d violated his probation. This wasn’t the first time he’d violated it, and Judge Ann Moorman was tired of it – no amount of proverbial carrots dangled before him, no amount of waiving the proverbial stick threateningly at his behind, could induce Mr. Bennett to report to probation when ordered to. So the formality of the VOP hearing went forward. Bennett claimed no, not innocence, but he’d just like another break, your honor.

Deputy DA Barry Shapiro called Deputy Probation Officer Marcella Runnings, formerly of Fort Bragg, currently of the Ukiah Probation Office. She has the unenviable job of handling mental health clients (PC/Protective Custody approved designation) and sex offenders on probation. She said Mr. Bennett had been assigned to her in November of 2016, a felony probationer, and that he was obliged to report on his whereabouts, regularly.

DDA Shapiro: “Was he in custody recently?”

DPO Runnings: “Yes.”

Shapiro: “Do you know his release date?”

Runnings: “February 11th of this year.”

Shapiro: “Did he report his whereabouts after he was released?”

Runnings: “No, he did not.”

Shapiro: “Is it a condition of his probation that he fill out a monthly report form and submit it to your office?”

Runnings: “Yes it is.”

Shapiro: “Did he do so?”

Runnungs: “No.”

Shapiro: “Nothing further.”

Mr. Dewan of the Office of the Public Defender was asked if he wanted to cross-examine the witness. Like a man who had been handed a fizzing stick of dynamite, Dewan thought fast and said, “Uh… sure!”

Judge Moorman: “Go ahead.”

Dewan: “You know Mr. Bennett on paper, only?”

Runnings: “That’s right, but not in person.”

Dewan: “When he was released, did you mail him a form to send in?”

Runnings: “No.”

Dewan: “Did anyone?”

Runnngs: “To my knowledge, no.”

Dewan: “Did anyone call him?”

Runnings: “No, I didn’t have his phone number.”

Dewan: “Nothing further.”

Moorman: “Does either side wish to argue? [negative silence] Okay. What about you Mr. King, I’m going to swear you in. Raise your right hand…”

Probation Supervisor Timothy King: “He [Isaiah Bennett] was ordered to contact probation as soon as he was released. All he had to do was walk across the street. He was ordered to do so by the court.”

Dewan: “On what date was Mr. Bennett last in court?”

King: “I don’t know without looking in the file.”

Dewan: “Were you present in court when the directive was given to Mr. Bennett?”

King: “I was.”

Dewan: “Do you remember who the judge was?”

King: “Yes, it was Judge Nadel.”

Dewan: “Nothing further.”

Moorman: “Based on the testimony of the two probation officers I’m gonna find Mr. Bennett in violation of his probation. Mr. Dewan, what are you asking me to do?”

Dewan: “Mr. Bennett wants less than the required 90 days for the VOP [violation of probation], your honor.”

Moorman: “He’s very close to losing probation altogether. And he’s close to running out of time; he’s about timed out.”

This is not a time-out where you go stand in the corner. It means you’ve used up your year of jail time, and by law you must leave the childish things behind, before a year is up, put them away, and grow up. What it means is after a year of thumbing your nose at probation, you go to prison.

Moorman: “Mr. Bennett, on every single petition to revoke your probation, you have not reported to probation, so I’m not buying it; I’m just not buying it.”

The judge thumbed through the stack of petitions to revoke the probation, wagging her head dismally.

Moorman: “Now, you can either report to probation or I’ll send you to prison. You have been treated with leniency by both myself and Judge Behnke and that hasn’t helped. You wanna run the schedule to fit your own schedule and that’s not the way it works. So I don’t know why we should put him back on probation, Mr. Dewan. And there’s not that many days left of the 365…”

King: “He’s got 323 actual days he’s served.”

Moorman: “Okay, you think about it Mr. Bennett, and we’ll come back for sentencing on March 26th at 9:00.”

(Bruce McEwen)

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4e) Approval of Amendment to Agreement 15-056 with Thomson Reuters/Aumentum in the Amount of $83,240 for the Acquisition of County-Wide Property Tax Software System - Addition of the Cannabis Related Tax and Licensing Collection Program; Authorize the Chief Executive Officer or her/his designee to Execute any and all Documents in Relation to the Transaction; and Authorize the Chief Executive Officer or her/his designee to Sign Any Future Amendments to the Agreement That Do Not Alter the Fiscal Aspect of the Thomson Reuters/Aumentum Master Agreement for Licensed Software, Hardware, and Services

Recommended Action: 
Approve Amendment to Agreement 15-056 with Thomson Reuters/Aumentum in the Amount of $83,240, for a new total Agreement amount of $1,787,669, for the acquisition of County-wide property tax software system - addition of the cannabis related tax and licensing collection program; authorize the Chief Executive Officer or her/his designee to execute any and all documents in relation to the transaction; and authorize the Chief Executive Officer or her/his designee to sign any future amendments to the Agreement that do not alter the fiscal aspect of the Thomson Reuters/Aumentum Master Agreement for licensed software, hardware, and services.

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Read ‘em & weep:

PBS Proposed Project Fee Schedule 2017

PBS Proposed Fee Revenue Spreadsheet

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Dearest Editoria,

I don’t know how the “sponsored” adverts are introduced into the format of the online version of Mendocino County Today, but this pairing cannot go unremarked, given the striking contrast with the content of the essay (another beauty by Yearsley) alongside it: I’ll assume the irony is intentional, and congratulate the owner of the eagle eye that espied this lurid match — long live the AVA!


Hi Betsy,

That's a Google ad, and welcome to the world of online advertising. Google has a huge stable of ads they serve in such slots, and before the ad is served, they not only read the content of the page (in order to serve something of relevance) but they also take into account any information they have on the viewer. For instance, I've had the experience of researching something (like a wood splitter) and then seeing ads for wood splitters on (immediately afterwards).

We are being watched and monitored.

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The Swingin' Boonville Big Band is performing At Eagles Hall in Fort Bragg on April Fools day. Music starts at seven and goes to ten. $15

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by Rex Gressett

In two successive Fort Bragg City Council meetings extending over exactly one month, February 13 to March 13, the Council has quickly and strangely repositioned itself to vote on a far-reaching change in policy regarding the GP mill-site development. Changes that (excuse me) the Council themselves could be observed to barely understand.

Out of the blue they announced a surprise abandonment of the long defended Specific Plan and the return to precisely square one from which we embarked on the Mill site project 15 years ago. We were going to jettison 15 years of defending and fighting for the Specific Plan and return to the strategy we had in the long ago era of the late councilman Jere Melo. This stunner followed hard on the surprise presentation of the DTSC (the Department of Toxic Substance Control) asking us to forget about a clean mill site. It could not be done. It was just too many surprises.

To those of us in the county familiar with the methodology of the team at the Fort Bragg City Hall, coordination and timing in what is presented and discussed before the city council is understood to be a principle tool of the city manager. Careful orchestration of the city process is routine. City Hall chuckles when I call it conspiracy. They ridicule the term.

What we can know are the facts. How they got that way we cannot always know. But at the Monday night meeting because of a stupid blunder by the development director Marie Jones we were permitted in a flash to bear witness to a bald unmistakable conspiracy committed in cold blood.

In the rollicking pace of the astonishing and the inexplicable we had been officially informed the new policy was simply a fresh approach to our perennial Fort Bragg fumbling with the toxic abandoned mill site. By returning to our old application for an old-fashioned alteration in the LCP (local coastal plan) our coastal zoning ordinance, we could go back to the beginning and clear the decks for the relocation of up to five local businesses out on the mill site. Businesses we supposed that were waiting for an impartial decision by the council and the conversation in the city and in the free press and otherwise before committing funds. Naturally.

There was something crazy about it all. It just seemed that this proposed concession to local avarice and ambition would distinguish the city of Fort Bragg as a down to earth place where a useless world class jewel of incomparable coast could become a useful industrial park. Through the City Manager the council was being asked to address honest applications for permission to slice up our mill site and put to local and practical use a big empty space. They were only asking. We were not permitted by a professionally reticent development director to penetrate the privacy of the discussions between these erstwhile citizens and the development director. (Although the law says we should be). But no, she would not, could not, tell us who they were.

Then just when they were finishing up the Council meeting Monday night and nailing it all down, in a nervous rambling giggling and disjointed presentation Marie Jones inadvertently (we are very certain) blurted out something she wishes that she had not said. We knew that five businesses that had "approached" the development director but one of them, Marie glancingly informed us, was already in contract with GP and had the money for the purchase in escrow.


To put a blunt construction on this. Someone entered a contract to purchase a piece of the mill site. They got a discount price from GP (this the development director told us). They have encouraged the City Manager or else she has in the spirit of goodness and civic responsibility decided to help them by dumping the Fort Bragg long-term plans for the development of the mill site, which plan supposedly incorporates the broad range of suggestions and input from the community: "our vision." (It does not do that, but purports to be.) Anyway, all of this community thing gets dumped. And Fort Bragg goes back to square one from whence Jere Melo started us off so long-ago.

If the policy change advocated by the City Manager, and the development director is successful this speculator who has cash in escrow gets a bit of a bump in the value of his equity courtesy of the city manager. A hell of a bump. I would call it in the colloquial a possible killing. The inquiry by these five businesses to the development director was sort of public, only the identities were hidden. But the hard money deal was secret. The money is in escrow, that price is fixed. A killing.

All of this arrangement has taken place without any public notice or any discussion and specifically without any knowledge of it by the Press. This article is the first you are going to have heard of this major disclosure by the development director save for those many of you who saw it live on the net. Up to that moment no hint had been made in an elaborate and ritualistic introduction of new public mill site policy. The king was dead, there was a proposal for a new king. They made it complicated. In those two meetings with two printed agendas no one thought to mention that a contract had been signed. The changes that were proposed before the city council we were solemnly informed were aimed at doing the fair thing for locals as a general principle, no one knew that that it could be a huge favor as well to a speculator already in escrow and already in contract with GP.

There was nothing in the last two meetings concerned to indicate a concerned contracted party in the new weirdly optimistic policy of returning to the LCP. There was not the vaguest hint that a deal had already been made. In those many moments in the extensive city council dialogue between the development director and the council where that basic fact might reasonably have been conveyed and even under questioning there is only deception by omission.

And so, it is even as those moments just after the ship hits the rocks. (I know all about it) when you see the whole course of events and decisions that led to that moment of shocked incredulity. Instantly it was apparent that they have been at this behind closed doors for a while now. That someone had to get in contract with GP, that they had to call the City Manager and make a deal and get the development director and the DTSC on board they had to think about timing and figure out a way to get the public meetings that they have extensively planned to occur after the decision has been made. They had to whittle it down to two amendment changes that effected an upending of all planning but were short and simple enough to sell to the council. They did all of that and they did it without anyone knowing what was behind it, until Marie slipped.

The vote for all they wanted was going through Monday night. Linda had finessed it. The city council in two super dense fast paced meetings utterly undigested in any press had lined up for the manager. The proposal was not even slightly understood by the public.

Late Monday it very much looked like they were going to do it. The council sure thought they were going to vote for it. They were ready. Even after the Marie blunder the council was so naive and so new to the whole thing and so lined up, by whatever prevarications they had been heretofore sold by slick Linda, which is to say they had been whipped into line so thoroughly that they still would have voted for it even after Marie dropped the bomb. Newbies.

But Linda Ruffing the architect of policy, a genuine home grown Richelieu looked up from her Zen trance City Manager listening mode and stopped the circus by raising a finger. She knew the implications. “No need to do it so fast.” She said it very cool, like something out of an Elizabethan drama about royal absolutism. No need to do it so fast. Everybody on the dais was startled and then fell quickly into line. No vote after all.

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It must have been about 20 years ago I traveled the washboard road East of Lone Pine, South to the Devil’s Pond, to enjoy a hot spring in Death Valley frequented by dead heads between tours on the West Coast. It was there I met Jack who could have been a character in a Tom Robbins seriocomedy as his pick up had an upright piano he played from the back of his truck inspiring musical outbursts. It so happened when I needed a ride home Jack was heading that way.

Jack was a John Galt type of guy. He was brilliant as the world was dull. Tuning pianos also meant disposing pianos he actually appreciated each as an art within itself. Former piano player’s emotions continued to resonate on strings and hammers as Jack heard them all to infinity when he tuned them as some strings never recover from the emotions they experienced.

It was a musical experience of it’s own riding with Jack as the piano would play to the bumps in the washboard road. He didn’t have a radio in his truck which was interesting as I have never tuned in to radio. I’m allergic to white noise and so was Jack who had some very interesting ideas about megahertz and how radio was programming people with sound waves driving them insane. I had never thought about it. I liked the sound of nature. I have a communion with nature as it’s sounds are important information to me which radio interferes in not so nice a way.

Jack asked if I would like to go to where there is no white noise making a turn onto another washboard road driving about 40 miles to what might as well be the most pristine place on Earth as Jack explained the only thing pristine about life was death, like the piano, which he climbed into the back of his truck and played.

B.B. Grace, Fort Bragg

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by Stephen Nett

After an absence of more than a decade, a trickle of salmon are finally finding their way back to Sonoma County streams, thanks to private landowners and a coalition of conservationists.

Roughly 22 million years ago, the fish we know as salmon evolved the complicated biology they needed to commute between inland freshwater streams and the open salty ocean. Thus began one of the most remarkable life cycle journeys known on the planet.

Two million years ago, on the ancient California coastline, the salmon would have found a perfect cold and clear waterway emptying into the Pacific near the mouth of today’s Russian River. Running a hundred miles back among high ridges and dense redwood forest, its widely branching network of creeks and tributaries made ideal habitat for the spawning fish and its young.

And that paleo-Russian River has been the salmon’s home ever since.

So it came as a shock in 2001 when naturalists, fishermen and the community discovered that the number of coho salmon counted returning to the Russian River, once totaling 100,000, had dwindled to only 5.

It was found that throughout the watershed, the populations had crashed, and the salmon were disappearing, stream by stream. By 2004, only 3 of 39 tributaries and creeks in the entire watershed held any coho at all.

This past December, in a quiet event out of public view, red-flushed mature coho salmon were once again found spawning in the tree-shaded upper reaches of Mill Creek west of Healdsburg, where they had been virtually absent for decades.

That small, exciting homecoming was no accident. It came after more than 10 years of study and planning, captive breeding and painstaking stream rehabilitation by a smorgasbord of local, state, and federal agencies, private groups, academic institutions, community coalitions and concerned individuals.

And the vital key and the unsung heroes of the salmon rescue, according to those involved, are some of the private landowners whose property surrounds Mill Creek. In a scene that’s playing out along hundreds of miles of streams and creeks across Sonoma County, individual landowners are proving to be the crucial link in bringing the salmon home again.

Tracking the salmon

Everyone involved with salmon rescue in Sonoma County knows Mariska Obedzinski, because it’s her job to count the salmon. A fisheries biologist, Obedzinski is the coho monitoring coordinator for UC Sea Grant. Counting, for Obedzinski and team members Nick Bauer and Zac Reinstein, involves daily checks of underwater traps during the spring, snorkeling through chains of creekbed pools during the summer, and monitoring remote sensors to spot salmon carrying tiny implanted tracking devices.

Before the coho can be upgraded from the red-line federal “endangered” classification, Obedzinski must find 10,100 salmon in the watershed for three consecutive years. This past January, the estimate was 456. That makes every single salmon spawning again in prime habitat like Mill Creek vitally important.

Challenges for the coho

Mill Creek collects water from mountains in one of the wettest spots in Sonoma County, near Venado. Then it burbles and winds for 15 miles through wooded mountain canyons and second growth redwoods, before entering Dry Creek about a mile from the Russian River, and 35 miles from the sea.

Experts consider the upper reaches of Mill Creek to have the perfect mix of what coho need to survive: steady flowing water, woody cover, cool pools and clean gravel beds for salmon eggs. Water flow is especially critical: after hatching, juvenile coho spend an entire year or more in the stream before heading to the sea. “Their biggest challenge,” Obedzinski says, “is surviving that first summer, because streams begin to dwindle and pools shrink as soon as rains end in February or March.”

Unfortunately, civilization has not been kind to the salmon’s streams. Today, about 95 percent of Sonoma County’s million acres are privately owned, and that means to survive the salmon must compete for water with the residents, ranches, vineyards, dairies and farms along their streams.

The other challenge coho face is the marathon swim home. After living two or three years in the Pacific Ocean, male and female salmon will successfully navigate upstream, through strong winter currents and rock-strewn mountain canyons, swimming to elevations of more than 1,500 feet, to find their ancestral stream and each other, to start the next generation.

Unless, of course, they meet a dam.

And that was the problem with Mill Creek: about a mile up, there was a dam. First built in the early 1900s in a narrow steep-sided canyon, it sits on four adjoining private properties, and is still being used as the source of drinking water for two creekside homes.

Just downstream of the dam, where the creek goes dry most summers, Obedzinski and her team found clusters of salmon egg nests, called redds, which the fish prepare in the gravel stream beds for spawning. But there were few to none in the next 11.5 miles upstream of the dam, in prime salmon habitat, where water flows even in the worst summer of the drought.

If there was any hope of recovering fish populations in Mill Creek, designated one of the top priorities for restoring salmon in the entire Russian River watershed, the obstruction, on private property, had to be breached.

Restoration project

In 2008, the Sonoma Conservation Resource District, a group with longstanding roots in the Mill Creek watershed, took up the challenge. RCD’s were born in the dust bowl days of the Roosevelt administration, to partner with farmers and ranchers to conserve and steward the land, by sharing best practices and information. Since the ’90s, local RCDs have also been involved in watershed conservation.

Sonoma RCD was in a unique position to approach the landowners. Their cultural philosophy, as Kara Heckert, Sonoma RCD’s executive director, explains, is to focus on mutually beneficial projects, as collaborators. They’re not regulators, and that is a key concern of rural residents and agricultural landowners, who are often deeply wary of government regulations, intrusion, and loss of independence.

“We empower private land owners to do what they can on their own,” Heckert notes. And by working with generations of ranchers, farmers and dairymen here over the past 70 years, they have earned their trust.

In 2009, the Sonoma RCD, working with the Sonoma County Water Agency, contacted the landowners to discuss a possible fish passage design, to be developed by Prunuske Chatham, Inc., a Sebastopol-based environmental consulting firm specializing in watershed rehabilitation. But in 2010, the landowners declined to go forward, uncomfortable with the scale of construction, months of heavy equipment and access roads and the potential loss of their drinking water.

The project found new life in 2013, as PCI Geomorphologist Lauren Hammack explains, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Trout Unlimited, a nonprofit grassroots organization working to restore and protect salmon and trout habitat, and PCI renewed contact and asked the creekside residents to reconsider. “To everyone’s immense gratitude,” Mary Ann King, director of Trout Unlimited’s Coastal Streamflows Restoration Project, says, they did.

Permitting and grants in hand, the design called for building up a new rising boulder creekbed below the dam, and a bypass to give salmon passage without removing the structure or water source for the homes.

PCI completed the project in October 2016.

By February 2017, more than eight coho redds had been counted upstream of the dam. And each redd may contain up to 2,500 eggs.

Salmon homecoming

The successful partnership on Mill Creek has provided a boost of optimism, particularly in light of similar ongoing efforts occurring across the entire watershed with streamside property owners.

On a mid-March morning, among the 80 specimens and seven species of fish found in their daily check of the Mill Creek monitoring station, Reinstein and Bauer found one 5-inch juvenile coho, called a smolt, heading to the ocean. The early smolt is a good sign. The peak of the run comes later, in April.

Every December in the ocean a hundred miles or so off the coast of California, a small spark awakes in the sleek silver coho salmon. Three years after entering the Pacific to feed and grow strong, a surging change in hormones turns the swimmer increasingly restless, and starts it on a marathon journey toward its spawning ground, and the creek where it started life.

Less than one percent of all the salmon that hatch or are stocked in the watershed will ever complete the round trip back home.

But thanks to the support and participation of Sonoma County landowners, this year, more will.

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

* * *

CATCH OF THE DAY, March 16, 2017

Bucher, Coleman, Demits, Dickerson


ARTAVIOUS COLEMAN, Phoenix/Ukiah. Misdemeanor hit&run.

TED DEMITS, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.

RYAN DICKERSON, Covelo. Failure to appear, probation revocation.

Donahe, Gunter, Guy, Hamilton

MICHAEL DONAHE, Ukiah. Drunk in public, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)

CLINT GUNTER, Ukiah. Under influence, failure to appear.

ANDY GUY, Fort Bragg. Court order violation with priors.

JERRY HAMILTON III, Willits. Failure to appear.

Joaquin, Jones, Super

DAVID JOAQUIN, Covelo. Possession of meth, community supervision violation.

RANDY JONES (repost from March 15 with booking photo), Domestic assault, elder/dependent abuse resulting in great bodily harm or death.

RICHARD SUPER, Talmage. Outstanding felony warrant.

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John Redding wrote: So, let me see if I get this right. You are willing to overlook the 100 million+ people deliberately killed by communist governments (Mao, Stalin, Castro) and by socialist governments (Nazi Germany) because of an incident involving CIA torture? Enlighten me on why we should stop the discussion on socialism and communism and move over here to CIA torture.

Marco McClean replied: Why do you keep insisting that, say, Swedish-style socialized medicine and Stalinist communist labor camps are the same thing? They're not. If they were foods, they wouldn't even be two different kinds of food; one would be a pretty good meal and the other would be a can of poison shit. And like the way milk doesn't guarantee eventual heroin addiction, there's no reason to expect one to turn into the other. Long before milk goes bad you've already either drunk it or thrown it out and got fresh milk again. And the can of poison shit says poison shit on it before you even get near, like what we're experiencing, and about to experience, with the spoiled capitalism you champion. It says right on the can. It announces itself.

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But even without loose talk of national break-up, the scorn poured on those heartland voters by their self-proclaimed, data-and-evidence spewing “betters” does not bespeak “good” intentions. Rather the opposite. Never mind data and evidence, there’s a stout refusal on the part of the allegedly better educated to see what’s plainly at the root of the Trump phenomenon, there’s an astoundingly irresponsible denigration of Trump voters (let’s just call it school-yard name-calling) as racists and fascists, a de-legitimization of their economic interests, a sneering re-write of economic and social history in the denial that the Leave-it-to Beaver past (where Dad had a job), actually happened.

So now there’s Trump. OK let’s just for argument’s sake give the supposedly enlightened BubbleLand clerisy their way and concede that Trump is a buffoon. I would therefore urge Bubble Landers to look at the bright side. Because if the Bubble Landers are right, and what underlies Trump’s support is as sinister as they say, then this is history repeating not first as tragedy, this is history repeating first as farce. As such it buys some time. Because what follows could very well be tragedy so use the time wisely and head-off the coming calamity.

What underlies Trump support isn’t sinister. It isn’t what the Bubble Landers insist. Nonetheless, Trump’s presidency does buy some time. For what? To see what’s plainly under everyone’s nose, that’s what. To smarten the fuck up, get your shit together, loosen the intellectual shackles, look past the New York Times, or the Atlantic, do what David Brooks said and “intermingle”.

There’s a harsh reality in the heartland that has got bugger all to do with racism and fascism, one that’s economic in nature, one that’s been routinely and deliberately misapprehended in the Washington-Manhattan power corridor. But if that reality isn’t dealt with, then consequences follow. Trump is one of them. But what follows Trump could be exceedingly unpleasant. It may have some of the trappings of fascism, but assuredly it will be rooted in local and modern realities and it won’t be what afflicted the 20th Century.

Whereas 20th Century fascism was expansionist, IMO the coming unpleasantness won’t be, it will be the opposite. And if hipsters are talking national dissolution, if this is what they want, well, they make get their wish. IMO disaggregation will characterize much of the coming century. But if history is any guide, it could happen at the barrel of a gun. A whole lot of them.



  1. Bill Pilgrim March 17, 2017

    RE: Online Comment. It’s correct to point out the economic plight of heartland voters being somewhat behind their Trump vote. But too many pundits and analysts are overlooking the obvious. Most of these folks are fundamentalist Christians. Fundamentalist Christians always vote Republican because…they always have and always will. It’s an ideology. Fundamentalist Christians vote Republican because… Jesus.

    • BB Grace March 17, 2017

      Free Kekistan!!!

    • Harvey Reading March 17, 2017

      Bill, your stroke is a bit broad. My parents were dyed-in-the-wool Southern Baptists as well as dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, of the New-Deal variety. They supported Johnson in the primary but voted for Kennedy (a conservative by the way) in the general election, even though he was, oh, horrors, Catholic. As well, up until the civil rights legislation of the 60s, most southerners, also generally fundamentalist Jesus Christers, were Democrats as well, since that party supported Jim Crow.

      • Bill Pilgrim March 17, 2017

        Those days are gone, Harvey. Historic analogies are irrelevant. The dyed-in-the-wool (white) Baptists today have hitched their wagons to the Republicans, if for no other reason than so many Repub politicians cynically quote chapter and verse (while promoting legislation that is the antithesis of Jesus’s teachings on social & economic justice.)

        • Harvey Reading March 17, 2017

          You used the term, “…always have…,” which seems to me an historic analogue of sorts. Besides, history is always relevant to any discussion of the present. It’s the only record we have of how we got to where we are now.

          • Bill Pilgrim March 17, 2017

            So, by that logic, all the Dems have to do to turn (white) fundamentalists is stick to revanchist thinking – overturn Woe vs. Wade, reinstitute Jim Crow laws, throw all the darkies out, restrict women’s rights, make the government a Christian theocracy, etc.
            That won’t do anything to solve the crises of the day.
            A revolution of values is what’s needed, not sucking up to Old Testament hee-haws.

          • Harvey Reading March 17, 2017

            Bill, you lost me completely with your last response. In fact, you lost me with your statement that historical analogies are irrelevant. I heard enough of that from the middle class young people in the 70s.

  2. Alice Chouteau March 17, 2017

    Jones is the worst kind of developer, the ‘anything for a quick buck’ type, who sees any open space as something to be paved over, built on with god-awful architectiure… Taxpayers should be upset too, since taxes paid staff for 15 years of jettisoned planning, including her reports. Good urban planning would encourage the five businesses to develope property in the existing city, where there are far too many empty commercial buildings now, not plunked down on the mill site. The mill site is the most significant asset in Fort Bragg; Jones is not competent to decide its future. The city council should re-think their support.

  3. Bruce McEwen March 17, 2017

    Shop it around, do what you will, but I challenge you, my friend….

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