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Mendocino County Today: Sunday, May 21, 2017

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ON FRIDAY, May 19, 2017 at about 2pm, Russel Bohlman, 62, of Ukiah, was driving his 2014 Ford 4-door sedan northbound on Highway 101 north of Center Street at approximately 30-35 MPH. James Brooks, 56, of Redwood Valley was riding his 1983 Honday motorcycle southbound north of Center Street at approximately 30-35 MPH. Bohlman allowed his vehicle to drift across the double yellow line and into the opposing traffic lane in the direct path of Brooks' motorcycle. Brooks was unable to avoid colliding with Bohlman's vehicle. The collision caused Brooks to be ejected from his motorcycle. Bohlman’s vehicle continued up the embankment and overturned. Northbound and southbound traffic was stopped for a brief period of time causing a traffic back-up north and south of Hopland. Brooks was transported to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for treatment of his injuries. The CHP did not comment on whether drugs or alcohol were involved, presumably not.

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Cumulative rainfall for October 1, 2016 through April 30, 2017. The previous year’s cumulative values for the same period are included for comparison. Rainfall values are in inches.

2016-17* | 2015-16* | Location

 64.44,     34.13,    Boonville RAWS
 62.12,     46.56,    Covelo Eel River Rngr Stn
 57.14,     45.10,    Covelo 9ENE RAWS
 62.09,     50.79,    Ft Bragg 5N
 69.69,     58.14,    Ft Bragg 13SE RAWS
 47.24,     32.57,    Lake Mendocino
 91.15,     64.88,    Laytonville 1N RAWS
107.72,     73.84,    Leggett
 64.95,     51.72,    Potter Valley Power House
 59.12,     35.88,    Russian River Nr Cloverdale
 51.57,     35.71,    Ukiah Muni Airport
 67.66,     51.60,    Ukiah 4WSW
 78.92,     58.72,    Willits Ranger Station
 84.84,     53.96,    Yorkville

* October through April

(Precipitation data courtesy of California Department of Water Resources, cooperative observers, and other cooperating agencies.)

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From the County’s proposed “Cannabis Facilities Business License And Zoning Regulations” memo:

“Allow new dispensary or retail facility in parcels zoned C1 and C2 with a Major Use Permit. 
The proposed revisions are more restrictive than current zoning requirements in the cases of dispensaries and retail facilities, requiring a discretionary permit where a zoning clearance would typically be required for non-cannabis related activities.”

No details as yet on what the permit would cost or what the permit application would have to contain. The subject will be discussed at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.

Full proposed memo: Cannabis License Memo

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MAJORITY OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICE EMPLOYEES (51%) say their agency does not have a favorable public image. 33% had no opinion and only 16% said their agency has a favorable public image, according to a recent HHSA internal survey. Most say they’re underpaid and overworked, of course. 10% of the helping professionals said they’re on public assistance of some kind, and almost 60% say they work another job in addition to their county job. 56% said “bad management decisions” have “negatively changed” their workplace.

Full survey results: Employee Satisfaction Survey Result_2016

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But don't worry about it — there is a giant slush fund.

(This is what passes for “discussion” at the Board of Supervisors meetings when one department is more than $1.5 million dollars overbudget._)

(Supervisors Quarterly Budget Review, Monday, May 15, 2017)

Deputy CEO Jill Martin: “Budget Unit 4015, Mental Health is on page 21 of the report. This is the same as it was second quarter of the year. They are projected to be $1,541,000 over budget. And the details are in report.”

Board Chair John McCowen: “Could you go into a little more detail on that?”

Deputy CEO Alan Flora: “Sure. If I could just jump in. I wanted to point out that that there was one minor — well, one thing that changed and that was the first line on the audit adjustments table. We came back at midyear. We were expecting a $2.3 million payment. The state had told us it would be here in March. It has not arrived yet. They are now telling us it will be here in May. We are still anticipating that it will be here before year end (June 30). So, um, the overbudget amount (clears throat) is the result of audit adjustments which you can see, the million-dollar one there that has hit in this fiscal year and then changes in the service delivery — I'm not sure if anyone from the agency is here that could address that in more detail, but there is an accrued fund balance of $3 million in debt fund which would be obviously enough to cover the $1.5 million over budget.”

McCowen: “Alright. Thank you.”

NO ONE ASKED, and no one explained why the mostly privatized Mental Health department is so grossly overbudget — and continues to be from last quarter. Instead, Flora’s irrelevant and unresponsive statement that there’s a $3 million slush fund quickly terminated the discussion. None of the other Supervisors expressed any interest either, even though this happens almost every year and no one really knows why. They just keep covering it over with slush money.

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May 15, 2017 Quarterly Budget Review.

After Supervisor Dan Gjerde noted that if the county decides to give employees a raise, they probably would not be able to hire as many people. Therefore, employees need to be more efficient.

But how will they know if staffers are efficient?

CEO Angelo responded with a another delaying tactic, making it sound like she was in favor of “metrics.” But we’ve heard that before. Informative metrics about departmental staffing and budget status, ongoing projects, problems, plans and cost drivers tailored to each department have yet to even be mentioned, much less developed.

Angelo: “What I would like to see is that we actually have a workshop in the summer when there's usually more time, the agendas are not that full in July or August and that workshop would be dedicated to looking at — you are really talking about performance measures — when you're talking about performance measures, Assistant CEO Flora is working on metrics, we are really looking at outcome measures for departments. What you're talking about is more about performance measures. So what I would like to do is have a workshop with Human Resources (?) and really look at some of the areas that we are working on — that Human Resources (?) is working on — and also get direction from the board because it is a much bigger issue than what you have discussed in the last three minutes. So I'd like to go ahead and schedule that for the summer.”

Board Chair John McCowen: “I believe we do have concurrence on that.”

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LITTLE DOG SAYS, “One of my neighbor pits was in court the other day. He was arrested for criminal threats. But he’s not that bad a dog. He says all that happened was he got out and barked at some effete passerby’s toy poodle. He can certainly be irritating, but his owner shouldn’t have let him get out. He’s only guilty of disturbing the peace — his owner should be charged with dog endangerment.”

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I always associate abnormal warmth with earthquake weather. Went to the Mendo coast yesterday. The Navarro estuary is remarkably beautiful this time of year, the water a jewel-like green, the mouth still open (barely) to the ocean. Time to go canoeing. Here's a picture of Point Cabrillo from the Heeser headlands. You can't see it in this photo, but there was a single swim fin floating out there on the bay. An ominous implication.

(Click to enlarge)

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The AVA finally got a copy of the Caltrans Speed Survey Report for Philo last week. It purports to explain why Caltrans wants to raise the speed limit in downtown Philo from 30mph to 35mph. Caltrans says that 30mph is “not enforceable” because their survey shows that nobody — nobody! — going through Philo, local or transient, observes the posted speed limit and therefore the 30mph is a “speed trap.”

However, in reviewing the survey, obtained in response to a Community Services District Board request some two months ago, there are a number of problems with the survey and with the incorrect conclusion Caltrans has drawn from it.

Here’s our initial review:

Regarding Caltrans Memorandum dated February 2, 2017,

File number MEN-128-PM 22.60/23.21, Community of Philo. Speed Zone #39 by Darron Hill, Assistant traffic safety engineer, Caltrans


Under “Initiation” on page 1, the text refers to something that happened in 2006 that triggered a 10-year term that has now expired. What was that 2006 event? and why did trigger a 10-year term? What did that term involve? Is this information available?

The text also says that this survey revises an existing engineering and traffic study. Where is that study?

State Route Highway 128 in Philo is described by Caltrans as a "conventional two-lane highway."

No ordinary review of that section of Highway 128 would call that Philo section "conventional two-lane highway." While large sections of Highway 128 are “conventional two-lane highway” (albeit rural and curvy), downtown Philo is not. There is no indication in the survey that an honest effort was made to assess the local traffic hazards in Philo. The study does not describe any of the unique conditions confronting the driver on the way into Philo from either direction. Without accounting for these conditions, the survey is incomplete.

The survey was conducted in a very narrow range of highway extending only to the near-outskirts of Philo. A proper survey should be done covering an expanded section at least half a mile further in each direction.

The “dominant” cause for the collisions which apparently occurred in the recent three-year period surveyed was "improper turn." However there is no explanation of what those collisions involved and whether speed, visibility or local conditions were a factor. Were the collisions caused by visual obstructions or road conditions associated with the unique characteristics leading up to the collision site?

The text under roadside conditions states that the roadside environment “did not reveal any extraordinary conditions that are not readily apparent to the driver."

We dispute this statement. There are many extraordinary conditions which make the high speeds observed in the survey much more dangerous than appears to be the case: school buses load and unload children at certain hours of the day which is not only hazardous, but when the bus puts out its stop signs, traffic must come to an abrupt stop in the middle of the downtown area. There is also frequent pedestrian cross traffic that cannot be seen until the driver is all the way into the small downtown area.

The summary of the collisions which have occurred in the area over the last three years is too small a sample size to draw any significant conclusions from either way. The fact that a relatively small number of collisions are reported to have occurred does not take into account the many near misses which locals frequently report.

New development pending — conversion of the mill site to possible residential, additional tasting rooms, “The Brambles,” Blackbird Farm, etc. — in the area will significantly increase both vehicle and pedestrian traffic and hazards.

Page 5:

Under “Enforcement” the text reads that the "The California Highway Patrol provides speed enforcement for this segment of highway."

They provide no such thing. There is no indication of any speed enforcement in Philo. Testimony from local law enforcement says the same thing. In fact, according to the survey, all (100%) of drivers exceed the speed limit in Philo yet the CHP does not see fit to conduct enforcement. The Community Services District Board has made several requests to the Ukiah CHP office for increased speed enforcement in Anderson Valley, yet no one, including the local sheriff's deputy, has noticed any enforcement in that area. In addition, the text says that the results of the survey were “reviewed by e-mail and telephone on October 10, 2016 with Captain Bruce Carpenter of the Ukiah area CHP office. He concurred with the recommendation set forth by Caltrans to adjust the existing speed zone."

On what basis did get Captain Carpenter make that statement? Was Captain Carpenter asked how much enforcement as been conducted in Philo over the last three years? How many tickets have they issued?

There is no indication in traffic engineer Hill’s report about the days and hours that the survey was conducted. When the local sheriff deputy commented on the presentation back in January in Ukiah, Mr. Hill said that it was done during weekdays. The deputy responded that a better survey time would have been on weekends when there’s more traffic congestion and more likelihood of slower traffic, thus reducing the observed speeds.

The survey needs to include a longer list of "factors not readily apparent to drivers" which could be obtained most effectively by a properly noticed hearing in or near Philo (at the Grange, for example) as required by the Traffic code seciton cited by Caltrans.

Caltrans District 1 Maintenance and Operations Director Mark Suchanek’s letter of March 27, 2017 to Beverly Dutra of Philo states that "most communities want the speed set arbitrarily low where they live." No one in Anderson Valley wants the speed set “arbitrarily low,” in fact the speed should remain low because the circumstances require a lower speed for safe driving in downtown Philo.

Suchanek also writes that "the majority of tickets received are by local drivers." We see no basis for this statement in Philo. What tickets have been issued in Philo? We are not aware of any enforcement. If any tickets have been issued, how many of them were issued to local drivers?

Page 5:

The text states that "this survey will become effective on the date of the approval on the attached order." There is no “attached order.” What date? We propose that this speed limit change be delayed until the following first occur.

One. Install the Caltrans-recommended 45 mph speed zone change signs on the outskirts of Philo first, preferably farther out than presently proposed. There is no question that this will help reduce speeds in downtown Philo. In fact, the letter from Mark Suchanek to Marvin Dutra dated March 16, 2017, states that "this step down from the 55 mph area outside of the Philo community should help ensure that motorists are not surprised by the 35 mph zone and will be more apt to be down to a safer speed prior to the Main Street area you described."

Two. Conduct a new survey to see what effect the 45 mph zones on the outskirts has in lowering the speed of drivers through downtown Philo.

Three. Conduct a properly noticed hearing in Anderson Valley and take full input from locals concerning the actual traffic patterns, conditions and experience in Philo as required by the Vehicle Code which requires the hearing to be “as near as possible to that portion of state highway.”

Four. Obtain written input from the California Highway Patrol asking specifically how much enforcement has been done in Philo and how many tickets have been issued and for what (including DUIs) and for what speeds.

Five: Issue a new survey and report based on the results of the new survey, the new hearing and CHP input.

The letter from Mr. Mark Suchanek to Beverly Dutra of March 27, 2017 states that Caltrans notified “all media outlets including the Anderson Valley Advertiser." Not true. Caltrans Public Information officer Phil Frisbie is on record saying that they had unrelated complaints about the AVA and therefore did not send any notice to the AVA. That should have no bearing on whether proper notice was given in the to the Anderson Valley community. That letter also states that the Anderson Valley Community Services District “discussed” the proposal at their meeting in January." That was not a discussion of the proposal or survey (which the CSD has only recently obtained) but a discussion of what could be done about the proposal given the inadequate and last-minute unofficial notice. It only came up because the AVA saw the upcoming agenda item at the Board of Supervisors in Ukiah in the County Transportation Director’s report. No formal notice was given to Anderson Valley. The locals who showed up for that hearing at the last minute all complained that about the inadequate notice and the difficulties in preparing to comment.

Even so, after hearing the Caltrans presentation and the public comments, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to send a letter to Caltrans opposing the proposed speed limit increase and calling for increased speed enforcement in Philo.

(— ms)

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Bill Bradd will be reading from his new book "Continent of Ghosts" on Thursday May 26th from 4 to 6 pm at the Caspar Community Center. There is no charge for this event.

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CATCH OF THE DAY, May 20, 2017

Davila, Degurse, Desai

MARCO DAVILA, Point Arena. Disobeying court order.

JERRY DEGURSE, Willits. Probation revocation.


Faber, Garcia, Kennard

SCOTT FABER, Ukiah. County parole violation.

JUAN GARCIA, Oakland/Ukiah. Unspecified violation.

BLAYNE KENNARD, Ukiah. DUI-drugs&alcohol.

King, Liebig, Martinez

MICHAEL KING, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear.

ASAAD LIEBIG, Ukiah. Drunk in public.

ANDREW MARTINEZ, Ukiah. Burglary, receiving stolen property, conspiracy.

McGregor, Mendoza-Gracida, Parrish

ROY MCGREGOR, Fort Bragg. Disturbing the peace.

MAXIMINO MENDOZA-GRACIDA, Hopland. Domestic battery, child endangerment.

DONOVAN PARRISH, Ukiah. Probation revocation.

Pratt, Reynaga, Winterburn

MINDY PRATT, Ukiah. Burglary, receiving stolen property, conspiracy.

PEDRO REYNAGA, Ukiah. Drunk in public, probation revocation.

JOEL WINTERBURN, Summerland, British Columbia, Canada/Redwood Valley. DUI.

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Dolce vita! The Obamas arrive in Tuscany on private plane escorted by SIX fighter jets and a THIRTEEN car motorcade for five days in a $15k-a-night private villa

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More than four decades ago I went to lunch with a diplomatic historian who, like me, was going through Korea-related documents at the National Archives in Washington. He happened to remark that he sometimes wondered whether the Korean Demilitarised Zone might be ground zero for the end of the world. This April, Kim In-ryong, a North Korean diplomat at the UN, warned of ‘a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment’. A few days later, President Trump told Reuters that ‘we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.’ American atmospheric scientists have shown that even a relatively contained nuclear war would throw up enough soot and debris to threaten the global population: ‘A regional war between India and Pakistan, for instance, has the potential to dramatically damage Europe, the US and other regions through global ozone loss and climate change.’ How is it possible that we have come to this? How does a puffed-up, vainglorious narcissist, whose every other word may well be a lie (that applies to both of them, Trump and Kim Jong-un), come not only to hold the peace of the world in his hands but perhaps the future of the planet? We have arrived at this point because of an inveterate unwillingness on the part of Americans to look history in the face and a laser-like focus on that same history by the leaders of North Korea. …

Since the very beginning, American policy has cycled through a menu of options to try and control the DPRK: sanctions, in place since 1950, with no evidence of positive results; non-recognition, in place since 1948, again with no positive results; regime change, attempted late in 1950 when US forces invaded the North, only to end up in a war with China; and direct talks, the only method that has ever worked, which produced an eight-year freeze – between 1994 and 2002 – on all the North’s plutonium facilities, and nearly succeeded in retiring their missiles. On 1 May, Donald Trump told Bloomberg News: ‘If it would be appropriate for me to meet with [Kim Jong-un], I would absolutely; I would be honoured to do it.’ There’s no telling whether this was serious, or just another Trump attempt to grab headlines. But whatever else he might be, he is unquestionably a maverick, the first president since 1945 not beholden to the Beltway. Maybe he can sit down with Mr Kim and save the planet.

(Bruce Cummings, excerpt from “A Murderous History of Korea.” London Review of Books)

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by Manuel Vicent

(Translated by Louis S. Bedrock)

My exile wasn’t my idea; it was Hitler’s, said the genius of irony named Billy Wilder. He was born in Sucha, Poland in 1906. His family was of Austrian origin.

Practically everything has already been written about this individual: He was a benchmark for humor, self-confidence, biting wit, and charm blended with sulphuric acid—the only formula that intelligence has for licking its wounds. With nothing more than the phrases uttered by this movie maker with the face of a Pekinese Terrier standing at a cocktail party with a martini in his hand, seated in a canvas chair on a set in Hollywood, or lying in hammocks alongside the pools of Beverly Hills, one could write the history of Hollywood for half a century—the happiest history; the cruelest history.

He once said,

—Just as everyone in the world hates the United States, everyone in the United States hates Hollywood. It’s a foregone conclusion that all of us are superficial people who earn ten million dollars a week and don’t pay any taxes; that we screw all the girls; that we have teachers who come to our homes and give classes to our children on how to climb trees; that each one of us has sixteen children; that we all drive Maseratis. Well, it’s all true. Even if you die of envy!

His birth name was Samuel and he was Jewish through and through. He began working as a journalist in Vienna and later was a cabaret reporter in Berlin who passed through dressing rooms without taking off his Tyrollean hat or leaving behind his light walking stick—two accessories of his personality that he never abandoned.

His affection for film impelled him to prowl around the film studios of UFA and, as a secret pleasure, he began buying the drawings and water colors of the German Expressionists at bargain prices—the cursed paintings of the time by Otto Dix, Schiele, Beckmann, Grosz, and Kirchner.

The same instinct that he had for art, he also used to detect the approaching danger.

He fled the Nazis in 1934 with that part of his collection that he was able to transport: He went first to Paris and then continued to the United States in the company of Peter Lorre with whom he shared a room in his early times in Hollywood. His mother decided to stay in Vienna. She died in Auschwitz.

His work as a filmmaker is well known. In Hollywood he wrote 60 screen plays and shot 26 movies. He won five Oscars and had some twenty nominations. There’s not a movie title for which this Billy Wilder is responsible that has not captivated us: Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, The Front Page, Irma la Douce, The Seven Year Itch.

Contrary to those who confused solemnity with profundity, Wilder never forgot that cinema had been born in a booth of a carnival.

—If a movie can make an individual forget for two seconds that he parked his car badly, or hasn’t paid his gas bill, or had an argument with his boss, then Cinema has achieved its goal.

He never employed special effects nor filmed car races, but he knew that the audience was bored whenever a man entered a house through a door; in a comedy, it is preferable that he enter through the window. The impression he gave is that one comes to this world to have fun.

When he offered Barbara Stanwyck the lead role in Double Indemnity , she refused the part at first,

—It’s too difficult. I’m afraid.

—Afraid? Are you an actress or a mouse? —asked Wilder.

—I’m an actress.

—Then do the role!

Of all the mythology that surrounds this genius, I’m especially fascinated with the love-hate relationship he maintained with Marilyn Monroe and his shrewdness as an art collector—two passions that became almost identical.

—Marilyn was this flesh that you thought you could touch just by extending your hand; however, in contrast to what everyone believed, she did not want to be a sex symbol—and that’s what killed her. She was a mixture of sorrow, love, loneliness, and confusion; but she had an even more serious problem: she fell in love too quickly —said Wilder—. Marilyn did not need acting lessons; what she needed was to attend Omega College in Switzerland where they offer advanced classes in punctuality.

In the movie, The Seven Year Itch, more than twenty-thousand onlookers contemplated the famous scene that was shot on Lexington Avenue when the air vent of the subway lifts her skirt up to her neck, and upon seeing her face light up with sensual pleasure, they shouted lascivious remarks. This made her husband Joe DiMaggio extremely jealous and was the cause of their separation. But Joe DiMaggio was a gentleman and didn’t blame Wilder.

Arthur Miller’s behavior was the opposite. He accused Wilder of causing the miscarriage that Marilyn suffered after filming Some Like It Hot. Some reporters asked Wilder if he was going to make more movies with Marilyn.

—I’ve discussed it with my doctor, my psychiatrist, and my accountant and they’ve told me that I’m too old and too rich to submit myself to such an ordeal.

That ironic comment irritated Miller:

—Mr Wilder —he wrote angrily—, twelve days after filming, Marilyn suffered a miscarriage. Now that you have a success in your hands—to a great extent due to her, and you also have your income guaranteed, your attack is despicable.

Wilder responded,

—Mr. Miller, the truth is that the company handled Marilyn with kid gloves. The only person who showed lack of consideration to her companions was her, from the first day, before she showed the slightest evidence of being pregnant.

When Billy Wilder still enjoyed great vitality and his extraordinary talent was at its peak, he stopped making movies because the insurance didn’t cover his risks on account of his age; but Wilder survived this embarrassment for another two decades and dedicated all the time to enjoying himself by buying art: works of Picasso, Matisse, Balthus, and Rothko. He never tried to acquire Andy Warhol’s famous lithograph of the face of Marilyn as a North American icon—at any price. Having had her on the set as a flesh and blood actress had been enough.

—An art collection is like a river —Wilder would say—, you have to let it flow so that it rejuvenates itself. If you don’t, if it forms a pool or a pond, it stagnates, and it generates algae.

He bought and he sold. He gave proof of his extraordinary sagacity when he moved through the art galleries—as much or more so than when he moved through the studios of Paramount.

But one day his sharp instinct perceived that the balloon was about to burst. A few months before recession sunk the art world, when painting was at the crest of wild speculation in 1989, he took his entire collection to the auction at Christie’s. He made $32 million, which was more money than he had earned in his entire career as a filmmaker.

When the recession had passed, he rebought a number of those paintings at half price, but only because they gave him pleasure.

Beyond Auschwitz, one comes to this world to have fun and push the olive to the bottom of the martini with one’s fingertip while you sum up the world in one cheerful phrase: Fuck you.

Billy Wilder died from pneumonia at the age of 95 in his house in Beverly Hills and is buried in the same cemetery, a few feet away, as the ashes of Marilyn Monroe.

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Dear Editor:

This letter follows my prior letter regarding life expectancy in the U. S.

The Infant mortality rate is death within the first first of life. This classification is modified by neonatal deaths as well as certain fetal deaths. Infant mortality is important in determining the health of a nation including such factors as maternal health, quality and access to medical care, socioeconomic conditions, and public health practices. The mortality rate is declining but at a slower rate than other comparable countries. However, it is still higher than other industrialized countries.

Further, African-Americans have significantly higher rates of infant mortality rates. Also, Native Americans and Alaska natives have higher rates. The Central Intelligence Agency in their World Fact Book published a 2016 estimate of infant mortality for 225 countries. Highest at 112.80 was Afghanistan followed by Mali at 100.00. The highest counties on the list were all third world countries. The United States at a estimate of 5.80 (which is lower that the 6.00 estimated by other groups) was 169th on the list which means there were 55 countries lower than the U.S. For instance Cuba at 4.50. Some of the other countries were Japan 2.00, Norway 2.50, Sweden 2.60, France 3.20, Denmark 4.00 and Germany 3.40.

I would offer a few comments. Quite clearly, our mortality rate is indicative of the continuing failure of our disfuctional health system to provide quality medical care to our citizens. As an example we spend 15% of GDP on medical care while Germany which has had universal health care since the 1880s spends 8% on health care. I would further say on my trips to Europe I seldom see people who are obese unlike our country. The countries with a universal health plan are far more healthy than people in our country. It will only get worse if congress adopts the GOP's health plan which will throw millions of people under the bus.

Jim Updegraff


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Who is Dominic Affinito?

Fort Bragg Is Burned In More Ways Than One

by Mark Heimann & Bruce Anderson

Affinito family roots run deep here in Pittsburg, not the east coast steel town, but Pittsburg, California, a sprawling Contra Costa County community where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers combine to become Suisun Bay, then San Pablo Bay, then San Francisco Bay.

Pittsburg is no longer the sleepy, but prosperous, Italian-American farming and fishing town it was before World War Two. Today, it takes a concentrated search to even find downtown Pittsburg amid the gated hillside communities that look down on booming commercial development, sprawling strip malls and cookie-cutter housing tracts. Remnants of what was once a coherent and even charming downtown remain, but these remnants of a less frantic time are now bracketed by slums or, if you prefer, suburban decay.

Pittsburg these days is a surreal skein of prosperous excess and a beat down poverty, all of it jumbled up beneath the industrial smoke stacks and looming towers of oil and chemical plants to the east that separate Pittsburg from Antioch. To the west is the Concord Naval Weapons Station, containing enough high explosives and chemical weapons to wipe out all life in the East Bay if the unthinkable should ever happen. It also contains Port Chicago, half way between the Naval Weapons Station and Pittsburg where the unthinkable did happen in July of 1944 when the the entire ammunition store blew up, killing more than 300 men, most of them the African-Americans who loaded the explosives on ships bound for the Pacific Front.

Dominic Affinito's grandparents had settled in Pittsburg's burgeoning Italian community at the end of the 19th century, a community that included the famous family of baseball players, the DiMaggios. The first Affinitos had come to Pittsburg from Naples by way of New York. The first American Affinitos made their way as grocers. Dominic's parents, Alphonse and Marie, also were grocers who raised Dominic, his two brothers and his sister in an apartment above their Pittsburg store.

Alphonse Affinito was a tireless worker who was able to expand his ma and pa enterprise into a small shopping center and, from there, into warehouses and other real estate, making a name for himself as an astute businessman and one of Pittsburg's most prominent citizens.

One of the Affinito boys, Alfred Affinito, took his father's legacy of commerce and public service one step further. A good student, Alfred parlayed his law degree into a position as Mayor of Pittsburg and then became Pittsburg's City Attorney.

Pittsburg politics have always been dominated by the Italian-American community, and the Affinitos have long been at the center of that domination. Like all locally prosperous families anywhere, some people are fond of the Affinitos, some people aren't.

Few white Pittsburgians would talk about the Affinito family. The town's Black residents weren't as reticent. Whenever an African-American old timer mentioned the name Affinito, he applied the ethnic slur "Mafia" to describe them, casually resorting to an enduring blood libel all persons whose names end in vowels have suffered ever since Hollywood began cranking out gangster movies back in the 1920s.

Wild talk of the Mafia aside, the Affinitos have in their recent history more violence, more litigation, more convenient arson fires than other similarly blessed but less controversial families.

Pittsburg old timers still marvel at the Ice House fire.

The old Union Ice Company building sat next to the Santa Fe railroad tracks on Rail Road Avenue, close by downtown Pittsburg. It was owned by Dominic's father, Alphonse. A dilapidated wood frame structure, the Ice House sat empty for years although Alfred Affinito, the attorney in the family, had apparently stored a mix of city records and old files from his successful law practice in this huge relic of a building. If there were records in the Ice House they seem to have been of the type whose preservation was not a high priority with Alfred Affinito. Transients often slept in the place, and when the Ice House went up in flames one night, the conveniently anonymous transients got the blame for torching it.

What is known for certain about the Ice House is that it covered 10,500 square feet and the Affinitos received $901,368.58 in 1986 for it when it was gone, which isn't a bad insurance pay out for a structure of no value sitting on a piece of ground appraised at less than $25,000 in a barren, mostly deserted neighborhood.

Where the Ice House once stood is now a trash-strewn empty lot bordered by ragged wood-framed houses on one side, and pieces of downtown Pittsburg on the other. Between the Ice House site and the up-scale condos by the river is a maze of empty streets and wide avenues — containing nothing at all the streets are crumbling, leading only to more decay.

In 1970, the blasted area between the long gone Ice House and the water, in 1970, became the City of Pittsburg's urban renewal project. The stately but dilapidated Victorian homes, which once lined the then-proud little town's streets, were torn down, but the City never got around to the renewal part of the project, and the area remains a bleak emptiness.

Old timers remember the promises made by Mayor Alfred Affinito. He and Pittsburg's allied movers and shakers promised a revived downtown complete with low income housing for working people, a new Pittsburg fueled by those famously low interest federal redevelopment loans. But, as happened all around the San Francisco Bay, most famously in San Francisco itself, that cheap federal money unerringly found its way into condos, yacht harbor developments and other buildings that attracted the well-heeled, not people who needed an affordable roof over their heads.

Informed that the Ice House fire had brought the Affinito family nearly a million dollars, Pittsburg old-timers didn't seem surprised that the Affinitos would make out so well in a decaying neighborhood, though one man bluntly stated that "the Ice House building was probably worth closer to $90,000 than $900,000."

With the Affinitos, business has always been a family affair. In Pittsburg, the family's holdings are managed by Alfred's daughter, Mary, under the name Affinito Enterprises. But tracking the family's real estate and business holdings isn't easy. The Affinito fortune is concealed in a multitude of holding companies and corporations in which individual family members seem to have interests of varying value, but those that are discernible all lead back to the family patriarch, Alphonse Affinito, and would probably remain altogether hidden if the Affinitos weren't as litigious as they are.

The Affinitos are primary owners of these Sacramento-area enterprises: Black Company; White Company; Walcat Inc; Walcat II; Walcat III; WAAF Inc; Quality Supermarket; Northridge Bottle Shop; Hugh Brothers and Gold Dust Development Company.

And Sacramento is where the proceeds from the fortune-enhancing Ice House fire in Pittsburg were invested in another warehouse ten times the size of the Ice House, with enough money left over to buy a bingo parlor and a dreary little shopping center, all with their own histories of suspicious fires.

The family's Sacramento holdings are extensive, and, as in Pittsburg, are headquartered in a small Italian grocery store, the Quality Market, at Folsom and 50th Street. It's owned by brothers Dominic and Mario Affinito. Most of the family's Sacramento holdings are modest rental properties — small apartment buildings and single family homes, warehouses, fading strip malls. The family also own valuable but empty commercial lots and at least two homes occupied by family members in Sacramento's wealthiest neighborhoods.

Dominic Affinito's Sacramento home was built in 1971, well before Dominic and his son, who shared the name Mario with Dominic's brother Mario, began investing in Fort Bragg. That Sacramento home is located in the upscale Del Dayo Estates (called Del Dago by River City wits), and consists of four bedrooms, three and a half baths, a swimming pool, and a four car garage. Many of the family's properties are in the Italian neighborhood around 51st Street. On the city's property tax rolls, the names of one or all of the three brothers, Dominic, Alfred and Mario, or Dominic's sons, Mario and Robert, are listed as owners of these parcels.

The Quality Market was founded years ago by Alphonse Affinito, and was passed on to his sons Dominic and Mario in 1971. A convenient fire a couple of years ago resulted in the Affinitos remodeling the store, turning it into a strip mall that they lease to a variety of businesses, including an Italian deli.

Whatever else might be said about the Affinitos, they work hard. Various members of the family put in long hours at their various enterprises, performing every task from sweeping up to manning the cash register.

In July of 1966, Mario Affinito, Dominic's brother, was listed as the manager of Quality Market, although the store was actually run by a man named R. H. Vice and owned by Alphonse Affinito. The old man, right up until his death a few years ago, kept the reins of his family's multitudinous businesses firmly in his hands, perhaps because the volatility of his sons Mario and Dominic left him no choice. His third son, pillar-of-the-community Alfred, spent a lot of his lawyer time bailing his brothers out of trouble. It was always handy to have a lawyer in the family.

On July 5, 1966, Quality Market was picketed by 35 United Farm Workers in support of a boycott of S&W and Treesweet products. Their peaceful protest — Cesar Chavez, the UFW's founder and inspiration, was synonymous with peaceful protest — consisted of carrying signs up and down the sidewalk next to Folsom Street in front of the store. According to a lawsuit brought by George Mower, one of the picketers, Mario Affinito was leaving the store's parking lot in his car and stopped at the picket line before exiting onto Folsom Street. Mower, who was on the sidewalk, motioned for Mario to proceed, but as traffic on Folsom was heavy, Mario waved Mower to walk on past in front of Mario's vehicle as if he were merely waiting for the next break in the traffic to pull out into the street. But as soon as Mower stepped in front of Mario's car, Mario hit the accelerator, knocking Mower to the ground. Before Mower could get up, Mario was out of the car, hitting the downed man with his fists. Dominic and R.H. Vice, who were watching from in front of the store, joined Mario in his attack on Mower, Dominic kicking the downed man and Vice hitting him with a broom handle.

The Affinito brothers claim Mower challenged Dominic to fight, but Dominic declined because Mower was "larger and stronger." Mario said Mower deliberately stepped in front of his car and blocked his way, then came around and dragged Mario out onto the pavement and started beating him. Mario defended himself and "people pulled Mower off."

The Affinito version of these events is highly unlikely given the UFW's history of non-violent protest.

George Mower couldn't be located, but we did talk to a woman who was one of the picketers. Even after 33 years, the woman, now quite elderly, is still afraid of the Affinitos, and asked that we not use her name. (People in both Pittsburg and Sacramento refuse to talk on the record about this hard working family of honest grocers and businessmen.) She vouched for Mower's version of events, and said she believed the case was settled out of court for "a small amount" in favor of Mower. The record does not reflect the amount, if any, of the settlement, only that the case against the Affinitos was eventually dismissed, with prejudice, in May, 1968.

In November, 1971, the Affinito brothers, Dominic and Mario, together with an older Affinito, believed to be their father Alphonse, again reacted violently to people they disapproved of, in this instance, hippies. The field of combat was again Quality Market, where a couple of long haired college students, Brad Booth and Stephen Crowle, had gone to buy dog food. Crowle wanted to pay for his purchase with a check, but the old man at the counter said Crowle's driver's license and draft card were not sufficient identification. An argument ensued, with some derogatory remarks about hippies from the Affinito side of the cash register, and equally unkind words from the hippies for the store keeper. The exchange of insults completed, as Booth and Crowle were leaving the store, they were attacked from behind by the old man, reinforced by his sons, Dominic and Mario, with at least one of them wielding the grocer's weapon of choice — a broom handle.

Booth, now a Sacramento area attorney, was not available for comment, but Steve Crowle, now an architect, said what struck him about the Affinitos' attack was the pure irrationality of the Affinitos' hatred for "hippies." Crowle said there was a uniformed Sacramento police officer chatting with Dominic when the attack began, but the cop threatened to arrest him and Booth after they'd been thoroughly hammered by the three Affinitos.

The two men sued for a total of $135,000 each, and in 1974 the case was settled out of court with the Affinitos paying Booth and Crowle $1,500 each. Crowle says it was his encounter with the Affinitos that prompted his friend Booth to go to law school.

As previously noted, business for the Affinitos is a family affair, especially when they are being sued. And they get sued a lot.

The attorney of record for most of the dozen or so Sacramento-area lawsuits listing Dominic Affinito as a defendant is his brother, Alfred Affinito. Of these suits only one lists Dominic as a plaintiff, and in none of them could the Affinitos be said to have won. Their pattern is to settle out of court — the actual outcome is not recorded — wearing down their adversaries until an exhausted settlement to the advantage of the Affinitos is finally reached.

The one suit that Dominic brought — a tangled dispute over money loaned to a corporation, Walcat Inc, which in turn loaned the money to other incarnations of the same corporation, Walcat II and III, was "won" by the Affinitos through default. But then the judgment was mysteriously set aside by stipulation of both parties.

The suit seemed to be about who controlled the three Walcats, which in turn ran a Sacramento bingo parlor and conference center-cum-card room. Perhaps all the different parties invested in the gambling hall gave up when the County of Sacramento took away their license to operate the bingo parlor.

Two other law suits are instructive as a guide to the Affinitos' business practices. One was brought by a pair of business partners of Mario and Dominic Affinito named Mike and Anthony Rios, who accused the Affinitos of fraud and conspiracy. At issue was Gold Dust Development, builders of a subdivision in Placerville. The Affinitos held a 10% share in Gold Dust, and the Rios' 40%. The Rios' claimed the Affinitos held a secret meeting where they dissolved the partnership and sold Rios' share to themselves at below market value and then refused to account for the development company's funds.

Alfred Affinito was the attorney for his brothers on this one too, and the case was "settled" when it was dismissed with prejudice by stipulation of both parties when the Rios' missed a filing deadline.

The second illustrative suit was brought by the City of Sacramento against Mario, Dominic and Juliette Affinito, Dominic's wife. (The couple has since divorced) The City wanted a right of way to install a storm drain across the backside of two commercial lots the Affinitos own. The City offered $5,960 for the easement. The Affinitos refused and counter sued, attempting to take the $5,900 as a deposit on a larger amount they said the right of way was worth. The City's attorney blocked this move and it was a stalemate, with Dominic dodging the process servers in an attempt to further impede the City from its responsibility to protect everyone's property from storm damage. In the end the City of Sacramento gave up and paid the Affinitos $22,136.98 for the privilege of burying a drainage pipe under the property rather than fight it out for another year and risk even more costly flood damage.

Dominic Affinito refuses to talk about his years in Pittsburg or Sacramento, responding to questions with a faux-humorous pugnacity that conceals a bitter anger driven by self-pity.

"It's none of your business," he said in response to inquiries, which, narrowly considered, depends on where one draws the line between public and private business as Affinito has done business in Fort Bragg.

Dominic Affinito has benefited mightily from public-private business deals orchestrated for him by former City Manager Gary Milliman and a pliant Fort Bragg City Council. Affinito's business has become Fort Bragg's business in many ways. Affinito claims to be retired, but says, "Where other men play golf when they retire, I work." He has become locally infamous for sweeping condemnations of wide swathes of the Fort Bragg population, publicly dismissing an entire City Council audience as "parasites, professional protesters and mental cases" on one memorable occasion.

Affinito refuses to say why he chose Fort Bragg to "retire" to, and said he would only talk "in person, not over the phone, so you can see what a nice guy I am."

But without visiting the nice guy in person, let's guess why the Affinitos came to Fort Bragg in 1981, kicking off investment in some 50 Coast properties with a $2 million cash purchase of the Tradewinds restaurant and motel complex on Fort Bragg's Main Street.

Looked at from the perspective of a business family with a well-documented tendency to ruthlessness, Fort Bragg was a big fat mark sitting in a mostly rural, loosely administered county from its nominal seat of government in Ukiah. County authority was vested in a conservative, business-friendly district attorney, Susan Massini, who'd never brought a case against a white collar criminal. The Sheriff was a lame duck whose department lacked both manpower and expertise to take on complicated, time-consuming cases. The Fort Bragg Police Department was small and closely tied to the town's political establishment. But yummiest of all to the calculating eye, the Fort Bragg City Council and its City Manager were clearly the kind of covetous people who'd do handstands for anyone with lots of cash to invest in the town. And Fort Bragg was a pretty little place just about to catch on with the ever-increasing tourist mobs who loved the Mendocino Coast and came back, year after year to enjoy its beauties.

Fort Bragg was a place where a guy with money could make lots more money. There would be no one in the way, least of all the Fort Bragg City Council and its pliant city manager.

Fueling much of the enterprise on the Mendocino Coast of the 1970s and 80s was white powder, specifically cocaine. Otherwise respectable people in positions of public trust found themselves dependent on chemicals for that super-plus free enterprise get up and go. Where there's lots of dope and plenty of dopes to consume it, there are plenty of ways to compromise authority, including bankers, cops, city councils, and city managers.

And that's a lot of what happened in Fort Bragg, culminating in the famous fires of 1987 the night the history of the town went up in flames to ensure one man's success in the restaurant business.

Dominic's son, Mario, was initially the man in charge of the Affinito family's Fort Bragg holdings. Not quite 30 when he arrived in town, Mario was movie star handsome, smart, charming and, like all the Affinitos, hard working. Mario's father, Dominic, stayed in Sacramento and left Fort Bragg to Mario, in many ways a much more capable, far more charming person than his old man.

A local reporter remembers the two Affinitos when they arrived in Fort Bragg. "Mario ran everything. He took care of the Tradewinds, presented plans to the Building Department, made appearances before the City Council. I liked him. Everyone liked him. Even when he was unhappy about something he didn't like in the paper, Mario was cool about it. He didn't flip out. He was a nice guy."

Mario Affinito married a nice local girl, too, by the name of Regalia, but Mario's late nights and the loose women who come with late nights, conspired to ruin the marriage. The young couple's brief union produced a daughter but soon ended, as did Mario, tragically, because he'd contracted a fast moving cancer. Mario went home to Sacramento where he died in March of 1996. Dominic Affinito, and his other son, Robert, returned to Fort Bragg to run the family's Coast mini-empire they'd begun with the cash purchase of Tradewinds in 1981.

Dominic Affinito was quickly the beneficiary of a series of public-private schemes he'd worked out with then-Fort Bragg City Manager Gary Milliman or, as Milliman was known around town, Gary Middle Man. Milliman had come to Fort Bragg from a job as City Manager of Cotati in Sonoma County. He's a portly, low-key type of bureaucrat whose college training was in journalism, not city government. Milliman's resume includes an award he received as a high school student of the Boy Scout's Silver Beaver badge.

The silver beaver and the Sacramento Valley fox certainly seemed to hit it off. Dominic Affinito never had a better friend in government than Gary Milliman, and Milliman's inert City Council never questioned their City Manager about the wisdom of Fort Bragg's increasing obligations to the new guy in town.

Nor was Fort Bragg's attorney, Tom Lonergan, exactly a lion at the door of the town's purse. Lonergan waved the ensuing public-private deals right on by without so much as a timid, "What if Mr. Affinito doesn't sell his homes and lots at Glass Beach and the City of Fort Bragg is left holding the bag for the water, sewer and roads we built for him on top of the ocean view property we gave him?"

Leaving nothing to chance, Affinito loaned Councilman Andre Schade money to prop up Schade's failing real estate speculations. Affinito bought Schade's vote for amounts of money a Sacramento City Councilman would sneer at. Schade, now hiding out in Oregon to elude creditors, was soon revealed as a beneficiary of Dominic Affinito's special little charity for rural officeholders, and his life as a politician was over.

Affinito, however, just kept on getting spectacularly lucrative deals from the City of Fort Bragg, routed to him by old faithful, City Manager Milliman. And the Fort Bragg City Council and the Fort Bragg City Attorney just kept on approving whatever Milliman brought before them on behalf of Citizen Affinito.

Fort Bragg issued bonds in the late 1980s to build a badly-needed new police station. The construction of the new facility was delayed for so long that costs outstripped the amount of bond money finally available to build it. By the time the green light for construction of the new station flickered on, Fort Bragg needed to raise more money to do the job. Affinito, as always Johnny on the spot, quickly bought, at a bargain price, part of the land set aside to build the police station on. With former fourth district supervisor Liz Henry leading the charge, Affinito proceeded to erect the nearby County of Mendocino's Social Services building at the south end of Franklin Street.

Before construction began on the jerry-built structure — the origin of many subsequent claims of building-induced illness from the county employees working in it — Fort Bragg had promised locals that a row of magnificent old cypress trees would be spared. One morning Affinito went out with a crew at day break and cut the trees down, much to the disgust of the many residents who'd fought to save them.

(Several years later, Affinito ordered a worker to cut down several stately old eucalyptus trees separating an old Native American inholding from Affinito's Coastal Act-defying, one-story-too-tall, North Cliff Hotel. When the Indians complained that the trees were on their land, Affinito ignored them, explaining to the workman, "My lawyer down below will handle it; go ahead and take the trees down.")

His South Franklin Street desertification project complete, Affinito put up a quickie structure on the site which he now leases to Mendocino County for top dollar in a deal that weds Mendocino County to him for the next 25 years. Supervisor John Pinches argued in vain for county ownership of the structure and the land it sits on because, in the long run, taxpayers would amortize their investment and come out way ahead. But the supervisors outvoted Pinches 4-1, and Affinito had himself another sweetheart deal, this one sponsored by Mendocino County.

Even before Gary Milliman and Liz Henry gifted their Sacramento buddy with the Social Services building, Milliman, Patti Campbell and the rest of the Fort Bragg City Council, presented Affinito with a much larger gift. They gave him Glass Beach at about $12,000 per lot with the City of Fort Bragg putting up the money for water, sewer hook-ups and streets. Affinito promised that the houses he built at Glass Beach (which in theory would increase Fort Bragg's tax base and pay the City back for its investment) would sell for $130,000 to $150,000 and he'd throw in some low-cost apartments to house a few struggling blue collar families. But the houses were priced from $180,000 to $280,000 while the lots he'd bought for $12,000 went for a minimum of $57,000. And the low cost units Affinito promised? "Don't rent a U-Haul any time soon," is the way one disgusted City Hall watcher summed up yet another Affinito promise vanished into the Pacific fog.

In an episode almost humorous in light of subsequent events at his now legendary North Cliff maneuverings, Affinito floated a proposal to build a 39-unit low income apartment complex at Glass Beach, but withdrew his plans when his project was declared too large for the site. Too tall, too, just like the North Cliff.

The site of the phantom low-cost apartments also turned out to be uniquely landlocked; the City of Fort Bragg hadn't punched roads into the parcel which, in any case, was soon abandoned as the locale for housing for respectable people on fixed incomes. Affinito, of course, came out ahead on the farcical series of events because he'd sold the site to HUD at a profit well before the phantom HUD units were priced right out of the neighborhood. The few units of low-cost new housing in the area were constructed out of Community Development funds near Denny's Restaurant at Glass Beach.

Fort Bragg contractor Joe Moura built a few Glass Beach houses for Affinito before he and Affinito came to a bitter parting of the ways. Moura was replaced by Mark Mitchell, brother of then-Fort Bragg Financial Officer, Roy Mitchell. Mark Mitchell has been Affinito's builder-of-choice ever since.

Mitchell's most recent edifice for Affinito is the hotly contested and still unoccupied North Cliff Motel at the north end of the Noyo Bridge where once sat the night spot and restaurant that was destroyed by fire with You Know Who winding up as owner of the ocean view parcel, now the site of Affinito's North Cliff hostelrey.

The Glass Beach development was to be completed by 1997. That was the agreement the City of Fort Bragg signed with Affinito. Glass Beach is unfinished, Affinito's in ongoing battles with at least two persons who bought houses from him, threatening one to report her in-home business to the authorities for displaying the election signs of political candidates he didn't approve of, and battling the other over inferior workmanship on the house she purchased.

Fort Bragg's suspiciously generous investment in Glass Beach hasn't worked out, to put it mildly, and, in most other jurisdictions would be deep in foreclosure on behalf of taxpayers. Not in Fort Bragg, however, even though the town teeters on the edge of bankruptcy because of the investment in Glass Beach and in private motel infrastructure, also on the north end of town.

But here's how Affinito, speaking to the ever credulous and religiously uninformed KZYX News, sees Glass Beach: Dominic Affinito is a victim and a much misunderstood man who wants to do right, but Fort Bragg, especially its newly elected majority on the City Council, has gotten in his way: "There's space for more which we anticipated building, but because of the attitude the City is taking we don't feel that the climate is... um, how should I say it, there's not an open mind there, and the people running this city in the new regime are anti-Dominic, so whatever I tend to want to do the answer is no before I even say it. So we decided not to do anything there... One Glass Beach parcel was for an apartment building we'd hoped to build this year — nine two-bedroom units in the $400 to $500 a month range. But because of the attitude the City has taken — they're just so anti whatever I do — we decided that we can't fly unless the skies are friendly. So we decided not to do that at this point in time because we're spending all our money defending ourselves on the motel (the North Cliff) project."

Affinito also has to answer to felony charges of assault on an elected official, Dan Gjerde. The next hearing on that case has now been put off until April.

NEXT: Vince Sisco and the Art of Arson

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“City-related Travel”? You boys enjoying free travel, too?

Assistant Point Arena City Manager Paul Andersen sends along the agenda for last month’s meeting. (There’s a meeting on May 23, but…):

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The agenda for this Tuesday's meeting can be viewed at:

The full agenda summary packet is available here:


Paul Andersen

Admin Assistant/Deputy City Clerk

City of Point Arena

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The Genius of Marion, a PBS/POV Documentary

Ukiah Library presents a screening of the PBS/POB documentary, The Genius of Marian, on Sunday, June 4th at 2 pm.

The Genius of Marian is an intimate and courageous portrait of filmmaker Banker White’s 61-year-old mother, who is struggling with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. As importantly, it is a film in which paintings, home movies, photos and current footage come together to depict a family afflicted with Alzheimer’s in two generations—and fighting to cope with loss while holding on to its collective memory.

Pam White, whose mother died of Alzheimer’s, is the center of this story and the family, even as the disease drains her memories and alters her personality. Yet, somehow, through all the comic and tragic incidents that mark the illness’s inexorable progress, Pam, her husband and her kids, find something in themselves, as a family, that can’t be taken away. Even late in the film, in a lucid moment, Pam says, “This doesn’t really change anything.”

The Genius of Marian is directed by Banker White and Anna Fitch and is a co-production of WeOwnTV and Impact Partners in association with American Documentary / POV.

Basic Seed Saving, June 3rd, 1-3 pm

Become a more self-sufficient gardener by learning how to save seed. This class will focus on easy-to-save types of vegetable seeds, basic terms, selection, harvesting and storage. Participants will return to their gardens with the skills to save seeds for next year and be able to share them with their community.

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Albert Einstein said, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking, it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” Changing our thinking requires an understanding of how our brains work. Scientific research has led to the discovery that our thinking brain is strongly influenced by our primitive emotional brain, known as the limbic system, which evolved from our apelike ancestors. If we wish to change our thinking so as to create a different world we need to understand the influences of our limbic system on our thinking. This is the key to understanding why all progressive movements seeking to free themselves from domination have ultimately resulted in a new class of dominators. The last 6,000 years of history can attest to the long line of economic systems that have allowed a tiny, selfish minority to subjugate and exploit the vast majority of humanity. This has been a constant feature of the top down economic systems: Slavery, Feudalism and Corporate Capitalism.

Previous movements for political and economic equality have “failed to see that human hierarchical tendencies are simply too strong…. those entrusted with authority may try to aggrandize their power, even if they are working for the common good”. The respected anthropologist Christopher Boehm states, ”Humans lived 400,000 years as egalitarian hunter gatherers and they were “utter realists about human nature. Instinctively they comprehended the need for eternal political vigilance and the need for force in the hands of the rank-and-file as a means of controlling the self aggrandizing tendencies of their leading citizens”.

Mankind’s natural empathy drove the need to suppress the aggressive egoism of our “apelike despotic nature. The seat of empathy in the brain’s limbic system is established early in life. Infants’ pro-social behavior can be identified at less than two years of age. The vast majority of human brains have an active empathic center that allows them to be sensitive to the feelings, thoughts and experiences of others. Despotic tendencies are the result of brains that have defective empathy. A brain that fails to register other peoples’ pain tends to manipulate others for personal profit, money, or power. Such Individuals are typically selfish and prefer authoritarian social systems. Such a brain might explain how for example, at a Presidential Republican Party debate 9/12/11, after a question was raised about letting a critically ill 30 year old man without health insurance die, a chorus of voices in the crowd shouted out—“Yeah! Let him die!” Brain studies also demonstrate that most people have healthy empathy centers, and prefer to live in a more egalitarian society. Such a society is dependent on controlling despotic tendencies.

When hunter gatherers became farmers 10,000 years ago, populations expanded, and the ability of the rank-and-file to control the 1% who seeks to dominate the rest of us unfortunately weakened. The 1% manipulated themselves into positions of authority and dominance. These individuals had a keen understanding of certain tendencies in the human brain which they were able to manipulate to consolidate and maintain their hierarchical power. Over the last few decades scientists have discovered that the human brain has tendencies for status, disgust and moral corruption.

Having status, a more privileged social position, can activate areas of the primitive human brain. Brain imaging evidence supports the role of the limbic system and other brain areas in human social rank processing. Social rank is a brain based system. There is “a neural basis for the high motivational value of status”. The primitive human brain’s emotional center can be so drawn toward status that it will even forego economic advantage. Our position in social hierarchies strongly influences motivation. Studies have shown that both in brain activity and behavior, people place higher importance on social status than money. When concerned about social status the brain’s emotional center, in the limbic system is most active. Brain activity in the emotional center is also correlated with strong belief in racial superiority and economic inequalities. When social status is threatened the emotional center of fear is activated. Staying on top of the social ladder is as important to the brain as an addict staying high on drugs. The brain registers a satisfaction in the knowledge that there is another social group below. Studies of the brain have shown that one’s empathy is “biased toward inferior status compared with superior status individuals.”. The brain tolerates the lower level of exploitation as a relative benefit. Who wants to be on the bottom of the social ladder!! Social status perpetuates the dangerous falsehood that some people are less worthy than others. If the status of women were to improve with equal pay and benefits, most men’s families would benefit. Yet the allure of men’s social status outweighs the economic gains and restricts their support for women’s equality. Similarly, white worker’s racism has often prevented their unity with black workers even when their own economic situation would benefit. The alternative of recognizing our common interests-empathy is weakened by the primitive brain’s allure for social status. Not only does the growth of social status weaken our natural solidarity for our fellow human beings, it also destroys the physical and mental health of those down the social ladder.

Brain studies show that moral disgust or indignation activates brain areas that connect to emotional areas of the brain in the limbic system. When a social group is identified with an object of disgust, it “throws up strong emotional barriers to empathy”. Such historical examples as: Nazis depicting Jews as cockroaches or black people as apes and Muslims as terrorists. “Our moral disgust/indignation brain system is the source of prejudice, stereotyping and sometimes outward aggression”. Today’s hierarchical societies continually utilize mass propaganda systems to reinforce ideologies and political views attached to certain groups on the basis of their sex, race, religion, ethnicity or nationality.

Social hierarchy also has negative effects on those higher up the social ladder. Brains become ethically compromised by their positions of dominance. “Holding high ranking positions makes people less likely to engage in principled dissent”. Those in high authority such as, politicians, bankers and CEOs of corporations often fail to see unethical practices as being wrong in the first place. Their brains become morally compromised. Witness the media’s endless parade of corruption cases. There is a brain based truth to the well-known saying that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. A study in Scientific American stated that psychiatric attributes such as lack of empathy and selfishness were very common in business leaders. This speaks to what it takes to succeed in today’s American Corporate business world. Corporations by their very nature demonstrate a lack of empathy, as they tend to operate solely in the interest of their shareholder’s profits, not the greater needs of society. We have clearly lost the ability our ancestors had to control the despots and dominators in our midst

What can be done to contain and manage the small minority of people who are driven by selfish motives and who helped create economic systems that perpetuate our intrinsic brain tendencies which weaken our natural solidarity? “It is the central question social movements have failed to sufficiently study.”

What can be done to attain and maintain a profoundly egalitarian society?

It is imperative that we acknowledge human nature.

We must accept the need for eternal political vigilance and the need for force in the hands of the rank-and-file, to identify, expose, isolate, contain or punish those who wish to dominate, manipulate or exploit us.

We can prevent the stimulation of status based brain systems by abolishing social ladders and maintain strict egalitarianism in our organizations and decision making processes.

We can reprogram brain centers by cultivating cultural and personal values of empathy within an egalitarian economic, political and social system.

Dr. Nayvin Gordon


Dr. Nayvin Gordon has been a Family Physician in California for 40 years. He has written many articles on Politics and Health.

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Friday Night Samadhi Blitz Goes Unnoticed

Returned to my room following a leisurely walk at Ocean Beach, and changed into my comfortable Japanese-style samue jacket & pants. Placed the new zafu on the floor rug, and sat still before the now matted and framed thanka painting of Green Tara. Ignoring random thoughts from the mental factory, I did nothing at all and soon gently fell into a light samadhi, at peace and at one with everything. Sahaja samadhi avastha...the continuous superconscious state! Meanwhile just outside, the cacophony of partiers goes on and on...the raucous crowd at the corner bar plus the travel hostel crowd here for the "Summer of Love" festivities, plus the regular sound of motorcycles, and then the crack heads who are beginning to arrive from the Tenderloin to panhandle, has created a Friday night din that will go on until well past 2 A.M. I won't still be awake for that, because I have to get some rest tonight. I've got a big day tomorrow, beginning with a trip to a spa in Japantown, before venturing to Berkeley for the Himalayan Fair in Live Oak Park. I have my own agenda in the City by the Bay. Sahaja samadhi avastha...the continuous superconscious state!

Craig Louis Stehr

San Francisco


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The recording of last night's (2017-05-19) KNYO Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show is ready to download for free and enjoy, via

The latest installment of El Sereno. Scott Peterson's Zeitgeist. Zeke's Cloak of Invisibility. Rich Alcott's Attention Deficit News (featuring filmmaker Thomas Roberdeau with a fresh angle on the JFK assassination). Just the right amount of Drumpfian shenanigans. Neurophysicist Donald Hoffman calls all of reality into question. The laser-accurate raillery of Doug Stanhope. Finland, Finland, Finland. Flynn Washburne. Kali Holoway. Luke Mazur. A joyous celebration, attended by virtual millions, of the death of Roger Ailes. Rare Firesign Theater. Sick poetry (in the kids' slang sense) (I think sick means good now). A man saddled with a messy and distressing medical problem: every time he fell asleep his brains would begin to leak out of his ear (sick, or bad). And that's just off the top of my head. It's a seven-hour show. The nice thing about getting the recording is, you can skip right past whatever bugs you. That's fine. I'm not married to any of this stuff. I'm already working on next week's show.

Anyway, also there you'll find a fresh carton of links to material I set aside for you while putting the show together that, for being mostly visual or requiring too much explanation, might not work well on radio, but are worthwhile and even fascinating. Such as:

The balance.

Color theory.

An infographic of the science behind a happy relationship.

Adolf Hitler's normal voice. (This actually does work on the radio. But the English lyrics in the video are useful.)

And it's going to be different this time.

–Marco McClean


  1. james marmon May 21, 2017

    RE: County of Mendocino

    SEIU leadership (not members) called me a “dick tater” (spelling correct) and asked me to step down as Chapter President. County administration accused me of “questioning authority”, breaking the “chain of command”, and then fabricated an incident (scaring Bryan Lowery and AJ Barrett shitless) in order to unlawfully terminate me and eventually silence me from any input in local government issues. How’s things working out for everybody?

    James Marmon MSW

  2. Brian Wood May 21, 2017

    The current 30mph speed limit through Philo acts as a set point, even if it is unenforcible. Raise the existing speed limit and you will raise the average speed of traffic.

  3. Betsy Cawn May 21, 2017

    Affinito and Mitchell made their move on Lake County about a decade ago; Affinito proposed a 65-acre, “multi-scale” housing subdivision in what remains of lake-freshened wetlands on the eastern end of the Nice-Lucerne Cutoff (between Hwys 20 and 29). Thankfully, the project collapsed — after a bad infrastructure job undercut the light industry investments on Stokes Lake, the permit was not renewed by the Board of Supervisors following a hotly contested application (fought by the industrial operations his work threatened to destroy).

    Mitchell made out better, reinventing himself as Origin Construction, and launching a few “high end” SFD subdivisions in the North Lakeport area — but missing the mark on failed “multi-use” major subdivisions proposed to the City of Lakeport as well as next door to the Northwest wastewater treatment plant. At one point, a Ft. Bragg lawyer (Jim somebody) offered a similarly grandiose scheme to the City of Clearlake, while Mitchell’s former contract manager — Dale Neiman — was that city’s manager, after a stint as the City of Lakeport’s liaison between two shady council members, a couple of equally shady former planning commissioners, and the city’s then attorney (later dismissed, but still costing the tax payers a small bundle in out-of-county legal fees).

    These shylocks all attempted to sell the County of Lake their cheap land conversion schemes, the largest of which (Cristallago) was promoted by Boeger Land Development, which quickly went bankrupt after the “fall of 2008” — and the Chamber of Commerce was their biggest fan, based on the developer claims that the project would result in “hundreds of new jobs” (all minimum wage, and none accommodated with the affordable housing workers would need to survive — the presumption being that they would all commute from Ukiah!)

    Sleaziest of all was the attempt to convert the City of Lakeport’s publicly owned waste water disposal fields (most of the city’s sewer system is not connected to the pipeline feeding the geothermal steam fields on Cobb Mountain) into a golf-course based, clubhouse centered, gated subdivision without the city’s tax payers agreement or funding of a substitute for the waste water disposal requirement. An investigation by the Lake County grand jury, in 2009, was sufficient to halt the progress of this bad deal, but Mitchell and his pals have made their mark on the County of Lake, like a bunch of bad dogs marking their territory.

    (Fascinating breakdown of Affinito family land use and political arm twisting history. Looking forward to tomorrow’s installation, thanks.)

  4. Eric Sunswheat May 21, 2017

    Raise Philo speed limit, and put in an on demand flashing light pedestrian cross walk. Problem solved. Next.

  5. George Hollister May 21, 2017


    Thanks to the AVA for posting the link to this cover story article from the latest issue of The Atlantic. (I was the one who forwarded it.) I have not read anything as captivating, and moving as this piece in a long time. I actually read it twice, which is unheard of for me. The author of the piece died in March, the day The Atlantic selected the piece as the feature article. I strongly recommend to everyone in AVA land to read this. Reading it made everything else I was reading seem small. My guess is some sort of prestigious literary award will be bestowed recognizing the content and quality that is in the article.

    • LouisBedrock May 21, 2017

      Slavery, like history, is a nightmare from which we’re all still trying to awake.

      —Slavery played a double leading role. First, unlike peasant agriculture, plantations could rapidly respond to movements in Liverpool cotton prices and Atlantic credit markets. With access to cheap land and labor, the plantation economy was uniquely able to supply the exponential growth in industrial cotton demand. Second, slavery provided the model for labor discipline, which became a cornerstone for industrialization. By the end of the eighteenth century, the main way to increase plantation productivity was to torture slaves into working harder and faster. Systematic whipping and beating became the cornerstone of this first modern “speed up,” a dynamic closely analyzed by Edward Baptist. Perhaps more important, the first labor accounting methods were also developed for the plantation. Standardizing the output per slave “hand,” calculating slave depreciation, and setting picking requirements based on previous years’ harvest are some examples, set out by historian Caitlin Rosenthal. As Beckert says, “The all encompassing control of workers—a core characteristic of capitalism—experienced its first great successes on the cotton plantation of the American south”

      From a review of Sven Beckert’s EMPIRE OF COTTON: A GLOBAL HISTORY(New York: Knopf, 2014),

      What happened to the Jews in Germany under the Nazis was indeed a Holocaust.

      What African slaves suffered in the Americas was no less.

      Thanks for the ATLANTIC link, AVA and G. Hollister

      • George Hollister May 21, 2017

        According to the author, slavery has been a part of Philippine culture since before Columbus. The story of a middle class Philippine family coming to America, and encountering the cultural conflicts regarding slavery is classic. It is a great story, in many ways.

        • LouisBedrock May 21, 2017


  6. Harvey Reading May 21, 2017


    I know AVA has mentioned this “speed trap” law in the past. It seems a ridiculous one and has nothing to do with real speed traps. Perhaps you could get your legislative reps in Sac to work toward having it repealed? Don’t pull a muscle from laughing…

  7. Eric Sunswheat May 21, 2017

    Speed trap law situation, is a dodge just to bluff tourists into paying a phony speeding ticket, and give the cop probable cause to sniff and perhaps scratch the vehicle occupants. Those locals who know it is a speed trap, such as along 101 near Retech stretch in Hopland area, simply tell the cop about prevailing average speed, and if necessary, ask the judge to throw out the ticket, if the recorded speed isn’t too high. The CHP cop on the beat, sifts through the vehicles, and sometimes snags the out of county or out of state folks, that are moving a payload of the green herb, firewood without tags perhaps, or driving on suspended license or delinquent registration. Mission accomplished. Law and order. Caltrans and CHP wanted to raise the speed limit there on hwy 101, especially where there was a passing lane, but the County of Mendocino Board of Supervisors voted no, after a controversy and big turnout of nearby residents, who voiced concerns about preserving rural atmosphere and safety.

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