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Off the Record (April 26, 2017)

PERSONS of a certain vintage may recall the old assumption about employment: Government work doesn't pay well but it's easy work and it's secure work. Once you're in, you never get fired. So, we have the Ukiah City Council gifting its managers more than $425,000 a year for the two of them, not including full packages of fringe benefits for them and their lucky families. Ukiah has a population of 16,000 but supports a city government larger and more expensive than Rome's at the time of the Caesars. (The average Ukiah citizen makes $26,000 a year.)

OVER in Point Arena, we find two managers for a population of just over 500 persons. The lead manager, Richard Shoemaker, makes $50 grand for half-time work. He's assisted by another career Ukiah guy who will succeed his old bud in PA. Shoemaker has feasted at the public employment table for thirty years.

FORT BRAGG has a large and lavishly compensated managerial apparatus running its town of 8,000 people. Shoemaker's girlfriend, Linda Ruffing, manages FB's civic show at upwards of $150k annually.

WILLITS, the County's second largest town, enjoys a somewhat leaner government than Ukiah's but none of its administrators are on food stamps.

THE COUNTY OF MENDO? A whole lotta managers are way overpaid for what they have to know and what they have to do.

THE BIGGEST outrage going anywhere in Mendocino County is the Mendocino County Office of Education, an entirely redundant agency that spends maybe $36 million* a year not doing anything that couldn't be done more efficiently and less expensively than the individual school districts of the County.

SO, how did all this government for fewer than 90,000 Mendo people happen? It happened because the public management class took advantage of weak elected city councils and school boards to pump up their own salaries to where they are now simply thefts of public funds. It also happens because the kind of people who get elected are easily captured by the persons they allegedly supervise in the public's interest. The over-large salaries they lavish on their managers is not paid out of their own pockets, of course, and the greater public pays no attention to local government, which is not covered by local media unless scandal breaks.

(*WE ATTEMPTED to check the MCOE budget number by looking at their on-line figures.

But, like almost everything else the educrats publish, the MCOE budget is a completely unreadable document. No summary page. No simple breakdown of costs. No grand total. Jargon laden. Way too long. In round numbers, it looks like their general fund is about $15 mil plus another $16 mil in Special Ed (a completely unaccountable program which absolutely no one manages or tracks spending on). There appears to be $x mil more in reserve and special funds such as a capital improvement fund for unspecified big ticket accumulations (not scheduled to be spent this year). Former MCOE Superintendent Paul ‘Gump’ Tichinin said the MCOE budget was $36 million back in 2008 in a campaign statement, so what the hell. $36 mil, maybe a bit less this year...? — Mark Scaramella)

RANDOM fallout from a failing mind: Out the door early Friday morning for an hour walk up and down hills, an architectural maze of dentist complex-like homes characteristic of upper San Anselmo. Down on the flats, there's the modest hodgepodge of little houses you find in Boonville or Ukiah but appraised at upwards of a million each. It occurs to me that lots of the hill homes look like medical complexes because they are occupied by medical professionals. I wonder what the suicide rate is in these neighborhoods, the incidence of mental illness? The absolute order, the tidiness, the unremitting silence fairly screams insanity. I pass an occasional old woman walking an effete little dog, a warm-up act for the old men who walk effete little dogs in the afternoon hours. I pass a male-type geezer standing in the middle of the street windmilling his arms. "Cleared for take-off, Captain," I comment, striding on by. "Who asked you?" the old boy snarls.

THE BIG POLITICAL ISSUE in this part of Marin is a charter school breakaway that siphons money and students from the public system. The charter parents are largely Crackpots, The Next Generation — neo-hippies, diet cranks, anti-vaccers, people who name their children River and Stream. But there are enough of them to cause the public school parents great anxiety because the charter people cost the public schools a lot of money. Yard signs reading "Go Public, Not Charter" festoon the streets of San Anselmo, meaning a charter parent and child negotiates a daily gauntlet of hostile messaging aimed directly at them. School board meetings are quite exciting as the mellow in Marin is put on hold for monthly interludes of strident acrimony

THE FAMOUS TENNESSEE runaways who were finally run to ground in Siskiyou County after passing through the legendary Black Bear Commune, got me a-thinkin' about the communes of Mendocino County that flourished in the early 1970s. If the portly Tennessee teacher and his underage Lolita had landed in Mendo circa 1972, they would have been welcomed as exemplars of Do Your Own Thing-ism. Mendo communes were teeming with hippie-sanctioned sexual predators, but in 2017 the Tennessee teacher is simply assumed to be a chomo, the girl a kidnap victim. But isn't it at least conceivable there was great mutual affection between them? Are teenage girls incapable of choice? Yeah, yeah. Of course a teacher blah blah blah, and we’ll cut here to standard statements of righteous indignation from professional viewers with alarm.

NOT EXACTLY a case in point, but given the electronic porn swamp, a teenage girl of 2017 is not the teenage girl of 1955, and the babes of yesteryear, in my faded memory, wouldn't be confused with vestal virgins either.

TAKE CHRIS ANDERSEN, the famous basketball player. Because the vocabulary of a whole generation of young people has devolved into a kind of grunting shorthand and cyber-symbols, a Canadian shut-in created an entire on-line romance between the millionaire athlete and an under-age Kim Kardashian look-alike named Paris Dunn.




THE SHUT-IN, a very odd Native American 30-something female from a Canadian rez deep in the middle of literal nowhere, arranged a weekend boff-a-thon between Mr. Slam Dunk and Young Kim, both of whom all along thought they were talking to each other LOL. Young Kim, with full permission of her mother (!) flies from LA to Denver to, as the young people say, "hook-up" with Slam Dunk. The Canadian shut-in then posts shots of the couple’s boff-a-thon for the world to see. Slam Dunk is immediately globally denounced as a cho-mo and all-round degenerate before he realizes he and Kim had been had by the Canadian e-puppeteer. It's an astounding story but a primo example of how millions of young people communicate that's so primitive the young are literally interchangeable, so interchangeable that a Canadian weirdo can create their entire relationship by remote control.

THE ALT RIGHT is playing Berkeley for saps, and who says college students get to say who can talk and who can't? Twenty thousand bucks for Ann Coulter? God’s teeth! Banning fascisti provocateurs like Coulter is a serious tactical error. What libs should do is require that Coulter appear in a debate format. There are still lots of left-libs in the Bay Area who can talk and who would have no problem intellectually swatting these repulsive characters like the bugs they are.

BTW, the notion kinda prevalent among the white working class that people like Coulter and that repulsive Greek are standing against left bigotry on behalf of working people is a huge delusion. Anybody who works for a check every two weeks and thinks the alt right is on his side is aiding and abetting his enemy, much as he might enjoy race and fag bashing. The rightwing wants the permanent ascendency of white billionaires, that and the elimination of all government programs that make life a little easier for ordinary people, beginning with Social Security and right on down through food stamps.

AT THE MOMENT, the biggest obstacle to the interests and welfare of the working classes is the Democratic Party, currently stuck on issues irrelevant to most people. When Bernie popped up with a soft economic socialism he resonated with millions of people before he disappeared into the Demo swamp and the Liberace Hotel became president. It's a bad time for working people. They have nobody repping them.

SHALL THE CIRCLE be unbroken! Noting former County Clerk Marsha Wharff in court every day for the trial of One Punch Charles Reynolds, we discovered that Reynolds is a nephew of Marsha's.

FOR THOSE WHO CAME IN LATE: Charles Reynolds is the tough guy who sucker punched Ken Fisher and killed him outside Boomer’s Bar in Laytonville in August of last year. Reynolds was found guilty earlier this month of assault with great bodily injury and awaits sentencing.

JANE FUTCHER is among Mendocino County’s primary marijuana advocates. A lively woman whose grandmotherly manners doesn't so much as hint at ancient stoner stereotypes, but as close as she is to the local industry, Ms. Futcher seems surprised by all the bureaucratic hoop-jumping and costs associated with complying with the new Mendo (and state) regs for legally growing medical) pot.

MS F interviewed a small-scale pot grower named Hoskins on KZYX’s news last week. Hoskins explained that permit and licensing fees are financially burdensome to many small local farmers. “Lots of small farmers have other expenses to get compliance,” Hoskins said, “when there are other things money could be better spent on on the [pot] farm.”

ON TOP of everything else, the new rules add an expensive track and trace program that imposes costs on everything growers ship. Hoskins thought the track and trace requirement could wait until the state rolls out their program.

FUTCHER, as if she hadn't heard what he said, then asked Hoskins if the cost of compliance was burdensome? Of course it is, especially to small cultivators. Lots of small growers are becoming “dissuaded,” as Hoskins diplomatically put what is sure to become massive non-compliance. Futcher then asked if the new rules were making it “harder for underground farmers to sell their wares [sic].” (Jane! Wake up!)

HOSKINS said that Mendo’s limit of 10,000 square feet (100 x 100 feet) would, however, help Mendo brand itself as a “small craft pot community,” adding that while track and trace will allow Mendo pot to be recognized outside Mendocino County (with presumably higher boutique prices), it won’t help in the short run if it discourages farmers from coming into compliance with the new rules.

WE DIDN'T CATCH the name of a lady from a pot retail operation who offered the highly dubious statement that most of Mendo’s small cultivators are single, older white women with $38k of annual income, and that compliance with the new rules costs more than half their income. The retailer also noted that Colorado now has two big industrial grows providing much of their recently legalized pot, which is “tragic.” She said that Mendo’s decision to give small “cottage growers” a price break on track and trace helps, but that it’s just another cost on top of other costs, and for growers making between $35 and $40k it is “just untenable.”

THE RETAILER said that most local pot farmers fall into the 35-40k class. And they will not join the program because it’s fiscally untenable. “Why not stay illegal?” she asked.

POT LEGALIZATION DILEMMAS have been building for the last two years piece by piece, brick by brick. And it’s only going to get worse. Ms. Futcher has interviewed lots of pot experts on her KZYX show “The Cannabis Hour” over the last year or so and they have all made it quite clear that not only are their expert services expensive, but the advice they give their pot growing clients is also expensive.

THE COLORADO MARIJUANA MODEL is certainly one possibility for Mendo mellow producers to consider, but we think something akin to the wine model is more likely here: Small growers will not be able to handle all the paperwork and compliance costs individually, so they will contract with an intermediary in the wine industry who will handle all that for them — but the contracts will include pot prices set by the intermediate distributor; the small grower — especially those who have borrowed money to get legal — will be squeezed to the point of selling out to the intermediate distributor who will soon acquire most of the small parcels, each with 10k square feet of pot.

MAYBE MS. FUTCHER will do a show on how capitalism destroyed the pot economy in Mendo, and how the people who think that going legal is a great idea might look back on the outlaw times as the good old days. (— Mark Scaramella)

IT’S GOOD that Mendo’s Planning & Building Department is posting monthly statistics. The trouble is they don’t accompany their stats with applicable budget or staffing info, nor do they provide any highlights or context. Also, conspicuously missing from their stats is anything with the word “cannabis” in it, even though that marijuana is taking up most of their time these days.

THE DA’S OFFICE under DA Eyster, is by far Mendocino County’s most transparent bureaucracy. Since 2011, the DA has posted detailed statistics, reports etc. on its web site and on Facebook. No other department provides the level of information to the public that the DA's Office does. Period.

THE COVER SLIDE for the Mendocino County Health & Human Services Agency’s presentation to the Board of Supervisors last week was entitled “Doing Better for Our Tiny Humans.” With Jena Conner, MSW, Deputy Director, Family and Children’s Services, Susan Brooks, MSW, Director, Northern CA Training Academy, UC Davis and Anne Molgaard, JD, Chief Operations Officer, HHSA.”

THE TITLE is not only an admission of failure, but the rest of the response was an info-free collection of empty promises, clichés and pure gibberish. The cover slide alone pretty much tells you all you need to know about the mawk mentality of this department of alleged “adults” and “professionals.”

GROWERS NEED TO GROW UP, an editorial from the Ukiah Daily Jounal by editor KC Meadows:

We agree with the Mendocino County Superior Court judge who turned down an effort by local marijuana growers to nullify the tax on marijuana approved by 64 percent of county voters in November’s election. Their legal argument over the technical reading of the measure is unimportant because at issue, really, is that they simply don’t want to start paying taxes on the tons of money they’ve making on illegal drug sales. They will appeal the decision of course and try to avoid paying those taxes for as long as possible. Having to pay taxes and obey regulations is apparently a real problem for lots of local growers, many of whom attended a recent conference on the new world of legal marijuana growing. At the conference they complained about having to jump through too many hoops and how expensive it would be to be in the marijuana business. Boo hoo. Ask any business person how expensive it is to start a business or stay in business. This crowd in the marijuana industry who have been raking it in for decades tax free and ignoring all efforts to get them to be good neighbors and responsible operators are now seeing the writing on the wall: Not everyone will make it. Some may have to find other ways to make a living. So be it. Those who will succeed will be those — like the group setting up a processing facility in Redwood Valley — who have innovative ideas to streamline the industry, and want to do it above board, paying their share, and running professional operations.


(1) Apparently, Boston is now one of the leaders in urban farming. I always thought urban farming was gardening in empty lots, say like in Detroit, but this isn’t so. It appears that a couple of local entrepreneurs came up with the idea of using shipping-sized containers to hydroponically grow food. The insides have layers of vegetables. The two businessmen were concerned that Boston depends too much on non-local food sources shipped into the city. The containers fit almost anywhere there's extra space, like between to adjacent buildings. Is this the start of a self-sufficiency movement?

(2) I would say Trump is making America less safe. But to your point: Obama took a break for a couple of hours to play basketball and then went back to work. Obama did not fly to Florida for days, at a cost of millions of dollars. When Obama played basketball it did not cost the country millions of dollars; Obama playing basketball did not involve the Coast Guard. Obama and Michelle lived together as a married couple in love. Michelle was not off living somewhere else costing additional millions of dollars in security.

(3) The cable news channels began changing the dynamic. The Internet finished the job. Demagoguery, half-truths and lies are the order of the day…Unfiltered, un-alloyed bullshit is rampant on the internet, and is offered in prodigious volume, without restraint nor responsibility. Fifty years ago, the unwashed could not readily vent their spleen, nor display their ignorance…there were gate-keepers…letters to the editor were censored. The “Internets” have made opinions powerful…right or wrong. It panders to the lowest common denominator. Cat is out of the bag…die has been cast, Genie out of the bottle…. Yes, the ten pounds of shit in a nine pound bag is flaming at our doorstep…stomping on it will provide perhaps a bit of satisfaction, but will not change the vile train wreck that is the information media.

(4) “I just, y’know it was just time to part ways and, and, y’know, get out there, in a, I guess, a more diverse arena to express views and to speak for the public, and that’s what I’ve been to do now.” (Sarah Palin)

(5) Speaking of phones and attention, I’d like to share with you a charming vignette of American family life, which I observed on Easter Sunday. It was a warm morning, so I went out for a stroll. I passed a house where there was a dad visiting, with two little boys. They were out on the lawn, with small kites, which they probably received as Easter gifts, attempting to learn how to use them. They made a few passes to and fro, trailing the kites behind them, a few inches off the ground, as little boys are wont to do, before they lose interest. The bigger of the two, however, started changing his technique, running at different speeds, shortening the string, and so forth, until he caught a breeze, and the kite rose straight up in the air. As he looked at it in astonishment, I glanced over at the dad, wanting to see his reaction to this special moment. Dad had no reaction at all, unless you want to count his poking his thumb at a phone he was staring down at. He didn’t even notice what was happening with his child, until the boy called out to him. Did he put the phone away, after realizing what he just missed? Nah. He didn’t even lower it.

(6) Was just hiking a mountain in northern WA state with a girl. Reached a number of beautiful vistas. Each time, she’d pull out the phone to shoot “selfies”. But she did say once, “Excuse me, I’m being vain.” So I’d want this narcissist to raise my children? I’d put my kids through that? People can’t sit still and enjoy silence or beauty, immerse themselves. They pull themselves out of it, like you said. A second example on the most northern spot in New Zealand, a lighthouse where the Pacific and Tasman seas meet. Am sitting watching and listening to the wind. Up come 5 Germans in their 20’s. Selfie sticks in hand for each one of them. They spend 15 minutes goofing around, photo after photo of themselves, being loud, and then leaving. I couldn’t believe the morons. There was one girl who came with them, and she looked slightly embarrassed. What the hell do you do with all these selfies? Before the selfie thing I had noticed long ago that being on TV, somehow, even in the most passing way as in a crowd or a disaster, provided many people with supreme pride and joy. As if only when ones image was on the screen were you made real. I think the selfie thing is akin to this. If your image is out there in the ether, often against some widely recognizable background then you are made real, or a real someone. Perhaps because it provides the illusion of some small bit of fame. This extends to Facebook as well I think. Images and records of you, the virtual you, are more important to many than the real you.


Braxton Bragg was never in Mendocino. A little history:

"In the summer of 1857, 1st Lt. Horatio G. Gibson, then serving at the Presidio of San Francisco established a military post on the Reservation, approximately a mile and a half north of the Noyo River, and named it for his former commanding officer Capt. Braxton Bragg, who later became a General in the Army of the Confederacy. The official date of the establishment of the fort was June 11, 1857; and its purpose was to maintain order on the reservation.” (Wikipedia)

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