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Off The Record (June 28, 2017)


The Vagrancy Act 1824 was an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom that made it an offence to sleep rough or beg. Anyone in England and Wales found to be homeless or to be trying to cadge subsistence money could be arrested. Contemporary critics, including William Wilberforce, condemned the Act for being a catch-all offence because it did not consider the circumstances as to why an individual might find himself in such a predicament.

SHORT SHOTS: The only person who can possibly relate to this is former Supervisor Norman deVall, and maybe Dan Gjerde, although he was just a kid at the time, but last week, as I pulled up to the Vet's Building in Boonville for the marijuana sting, er, County meeting to explain the grower track and trace process, I stopped and stared, an old man squinting in the afternoon sun through his rheumy, cataract-clouded eyes at Nancy Barth!

GOD'S TEETH! Could it be? I'm certain Nancy is no longer with us, but there she was, and looking pretty good, too, with a becoming perm atop her ample, Venusian form. I couldn't very well shout out a merry, "Nancy! Nancy! Hello! Remember me!" I might be shouting out a greeting to an apparition, a ghost of land use meetings past. But it was her, I swear. "Nancy! Remember me from the days you and Frank Creasy bedeviled "Norman," as you always called him. Norman this, Norman that. Norman it's raining, do you have your galoshes on?"

I STARED HARD at the woman I was certain was Nancy Barth. Seldom a week went by that there wasn't a letter from Nancy to one or another of the local papers chastising, "Norman," the besieged 5th District solon. And every time I was on Ed Kowas's talk show on KMFB back in the days when there was lively audio discussion in the county, Nancy would call in to upbraid me about one thing or another. One time she even tracked me down at KUKI out of Ukiah, hard as it is to believe Ukiah also had a call-in show. Tom Watters did the Ukiah talk, and a smart, articulate young whippersnapper he was, too.

ANYWAY, still discombobulated at having seen the risen Nancy Barth, and shooting hallucinatory looks over my shoulder at the old girl, I trucked on into the room stuffed with sedate stoners. And darned if Nancy risen wasn't chairperson! And darned if Nancy risen isn't the living image of County CEO Carmel Angelo!

THE FORT BRAGG City Council meeting coming up on the 26th, is mostly about city manager Linda Ruffing's contract renewal. I say be done with it! Give her title to the Old Coast Hotel with the bonus of Hospitality House if she continues to lead the Good Ship Fort Bragg wherever it's going, a matter of some debate in the old mill town.

THERE ARE PROBABLY a few people in the "village" of Mendocino who will miss the seemingly endless meetings aimed at whatever it was aimed at for a quarter century, but the California Coastal Commission has finally approved the town plan.

WE'LL be covering the Coan case in depth, but mother and son have pleaded not guilty to the murder of Jamie Dawn Shipman, 57, of Mendocino the morning of May 23rd. The Coans, it seems, had been asked to leave the Shipman property and a dispute between them and the Shipmans ensued. After the shooting, and it's not yet known who pulled the trigger, Ms. Coan departed the Coast in a vehicle belonging to the deceased's husband. She turned herself in in San Joaquin County the next day. Ms. Coan's son, Alexander Coan, was arrested in Comptche four days after the murder of Mrs. Shipman. The Coans' preliminary hearing is set for August 14th. Mother and son are being held in the Mendocino County Jail.


UKIAH BASKETBALL COACH, Bill Heath, taught and coached basketball for many years at Ukiah High School. Now retired, Heath is in his 38th year at the head of the summer basketball camp he began nearly four decades ago.

ACCORDING to the Northern California Construction Training (NCCT) Company’s website they are “a building trade’s pre-apprenticeship training program that helps prepare men and women for entry into various construction trades apprenticeship training programs, with a “carefully selected staff of credentialed teachers.”

IN 2015, Sheriff Tom Allman arranged to have them train a small number of inmates to become apprentice carpenters. On Tuesday, Allman declared the program a success because of the inmates who were trained and released “100%” will not be back in jail.

BUT TWO YEARS LATER at today's (Tuesday's) meeting, the Board declared the program “badly run and substandard.” The Board was reluctant to pay NCCT some $64k in fees because, according to Supervisor Carre Brown, “It could be the trainers they sent us were not up to the standard they should have been.”

APPARENTLY the training included a home remodel job in Ukiah that wasn’t done anywhere near “industry standards.”

NCCT’s CONTRACT with the County, managed by the Probation Department, theoretically ended on December 31, 2016. But NCCT continued “training” right up until a few days ago, and NCCT now wants $64k more for that period.

DEPUTY COUNTY COUNSEL Brina Latkin (or is it Blanton? she switched back and forth between names during the discussion) said that the $64k was somehow “less than the contractor wanted.”

SEVERAL SUPERVISORS wanted to know how NCCT continued with the work when their contract was up in December 2016. Ms. Latkin/Blanton had no idea. Finally, a probation officer named Kathy White, blurted out the reason: Controversial Chief Probation Officer Pamela Markham (who has been put on extended paid administrative leave while allegations of work hour sexual dalliances with other Probation employees are investigated) told NCCT in mid-December that she “intended” to extend the contract. But it never got extended, even though NCCT kept right on “training.”

BOARD CHAIR John McCowen concluded that the Board wanted staff to determine “the legitimacy of the charges” before any more checks were cut to NCCT. “Do we have legitimate grounds to deny payment?” asked McCowen, waving an as-yet unpublicized report documenting the substandard remodel work, adding, “I doubt they would want this coming out in court.”

IN OTHER SUCCESS NEWS, County Ag Commissioner Diane Curry, looking exhausted, as any normal person would be dealing with demanding pot heads all day, told the Board that as of Tuesday the County had received 441 pot cultivation permit applications. The program is in such a state of confusion and delay that Ms. Curry’s announcement that exactly 1 (one) permit had been issued drew a round of applause from the assembled officials and pot growers in the audience. (When we get to two, the standing O will be heard clear over in Boonville.)

SUPERVISOR Carre Brown said, “I congratulate all of you!”

ALSO COMING in for more muted huzzahs was the bewildering Track & Trace program roadshow/workshops the County did. “I did not attended the Track and Trace workshops,” said Ms. Curry, “but I think those went well.”

WHICH WAS EXACTLY not what the people who did attend said.

NEWLY SEATED Third District Supervisor Georgeanne Croskey was almost beside herself: “Congratulations on one permit issued. It’s very exciting. And the staff doing great job with complaints.”

ABOUT HERE, secure from government delusion in our Boonville bunker, we were exclaiming things like, "These people are a lot crazier than we thought!"

MS. CURRY added that two permit applications had been denied by Fish and Wildlife wardens because of “pretty egregious environmental concerns” which will be “costly to remediate.” (They ain't seen nothin' yet.)

COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT manager (and former Ukiah Police captain) Trent Taylor said the County had received 130 pot permit complaints so far, mostly from grow-site neighbors, that the Complaint Department is working on. Supervisor McCowen insisted that the County is trying to be “flexible” in resolving the complaints, presumably because the program is far from final at this point.

TAYLOR said the County is fully staffed with seven enforcement officers now with the seventh one, a new hire from Arizona, expected to be on the job on the Coast in July.

McCOWEN said that he understood that people are going out purchasing property without knowing if the zoning permits pot growing, doing things like “grading and tree removal that are prohibited or not permitted … Creating trouble for themselves based on not knowing what’s required or allowed.” “Think before you buy or alter landscape,” warned McCowen, “otherwise you’ll end up with problems like these individuals” (the ones with Fish and Wildlife violations), “adding, “there’s a potential for criminal charges and fines and high remediation cost.”

COMMISSIONER CURRY said she’d met with some realtors and emphasized that people “should understand what’s involved in getting into this program.”

SUPERVISOR DAN GJERDE said he’d run into people who bought property in the northern part of the County thinking incorrectly that Humboldt County’s looser rules applied; Garberville-based realtors had made the sales.

COMMISSIONER CURRY got another laugh out of us when she referred to the County’s application form of four pages of fine print as “small.”

McCOWEN asked Taylor about enforcement procedures and follow-up.

TAYLOR: “We’re there. We’re doing notices and citations. We have a procedure for denial of permits based on violations. We have not issued notices of violation or abatement. In fact, the vast majority will self-abate themselves [aka “harvest”] with a little pressure from us.”

THE RETIRED POLICEMAN said of the 130 complaints so far about two dozen involve people with pending permit applications. “The rest are not applicants.” One of the permit applications that has drawn a complaint is in Anderson Valley, said Taylor, but no details are were discussed because the County is trying to keep such things confidential, while still keeping the Board and the complainant apprised of the status of the complaint.

WHEN SUPERVISOR HAMBURG, an ancient mariner among the County’s stoners, and a long-time pot farm proprietor, attempted to join the enthusiasm with “I’m amazed that you can keep track! Maybe as many as 5,000 grows in Mendocino County. This is amazing! Keeping track. All these different steps. Fish and Wildlife, water quality, Planning and Building Services…”

NO SOONER had Hamburg begun to string out the superlatives at a "program" that can't possibly work, when County Counsel Katherine Elliott sternly curbed his enthusiasm: “You have recused yourself on these issues. We are taking no action today. But I suggest you not go any further on this.”

THE GIDDY HAMBURG then suggested his fellow Supes join the praise bandwagon and resumed stroking his "comfort animal," a tiny, rat-like dog no bigger than a child's bong that attends all public meetings with the supervisor.

A FEW pot lawyers complained that there was a problem with “prior cultivation” if the grower was a corporation instead of an individual prior to January 1, 2016. Or vice versa. Or something like that. Or something about the State not accepting LLC applications for pot prior to January 1, 2016. We don’t really know. It’s a legal issue. Have no fear, this will all be worked out. And lawyers will clean up.

SHERIFF TOM ALLMAN notified the Board of Supervisors Tuesday of a renewed attempt to put a mental health facility initiative on November ballot, noting that last year’s measure fell just a few votes short of the two-thirds vote requirement. (About 165 votes was the diff.) Supervisor McCowen was supportive, declaring that “it’s a fast track timeline,” and that he expects the second measure will address “concerns” that were expressed about the cost of operation, an apparent reference to the mostly spurious “concerns” from Supervisor Dan Hamburg first time around.

ALSO ON TUESDAY, during the discussion before the unanimous vote to give SEIU and Law Enforcement Management 3% raises over the next two years, plus various bonuses, Supervisor John McCowen told the Board that he was very pleased with the “quick negotiation” involved.

WHICH BRINGS US to the $250k the County plans to spend on a big outside LA-based law firm primarily on labor negotiations.

WHEN we asked CEO Carmel Angelo about this yesterday we got back an answer from Human Resources Director Heidi Dunham (not County Counsel Katherine Elliott) with an attached spreadsheet summarizing the work that the outside law firm “LCW” had done last fiscal year (July 2016 to June 2017).

THE COUNTY expects to end up paying LCW $225k for that period, and then another $250k for July 2017 to June 2018 in twelve categories of “service”: Labor negotiations, grievances, “misc” discipline, SEIU Local 2012 Writ Lawsuit, “Human Resources-Other UI Claims, ADA, Misc employee matters,” Board matters, HR Policy Review and Update, “Lawsuit,” “Department Investigation,” and “Department Investigation (2 investigations).”

MOST of the $225k was about $90k for those “Labor Negotiations” which had supposedly been “quick.” (What would the fee for the LA legal gang have been if negotiations had been “protracted”?) The other big cash expenditures for LA legal expertise had been for “investigations” at about $72k.

ACCORDING to LCW’s website the “partner” Mendo paid $350 an hour for was LCW’s (SF Based) Donna Williamson, which one local Union negotiator said maintained a “poker face” during the negotiations. (She was probably trying not to laugh at the Ukiah saps paying her all this money for basically doing nothing.) LCW’s website says: “With first-hand experience in working for and representing independent schools, public schools, and community college districts, Donna possesses a unique and well-rounded perspective on education issues and the needs of schools and community college districts. As former Director of Labor Relations/Labor Counsel at Sweetwater Union High School District, Donna directed the labor programs of the largest secondary school district in California, serving as chief negotiator representing the Board of Trustees with six employee associations. She has also served as the Assistant Head of School at Midland School, an independent boarding school, in Los Olivos, California, and as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Santa Ynez Valley Family School in Los Olivos. Donna also co-authors the firm's monthly newsletter, Private Education Matters.”

IN OTHER WORDS, a school privatizing union buster. Way to go, Mendo!

ONE OF THE INVESTIGATIONS LCW got paid mightily to perform probably involved former Chief Probation Officer Pamela Markham who is alleged to been boffing a fellow Probation employee during office hours, causing her to be put on paid administrative leave. If all the County’s in-house boffers were revealed they’d be laid from here to Covelo, but that’s grist for another mill.

THE MATTER of in-house, work-time boffs is complicated by the fact that the Chief Probation Officer technically works for the Superior Court, not County administration, and our judges have let the matter fester for months— not only fester but rewarded with paid leave for the “alleged” offender, and that's how the judges would defend their gifts of public funds. "Alleged."

ANOTHER “investigation” apparently beyond the capacity of local authority may have involved a former deputy county counsel attorney who has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the County. (Sexual harassment?)

BUT NONE of this explains why 1. The county didn’t even bring this costly contract up last year, 2. The County counsel’s office isn’t doing at least some of this in-house, 3. Why it costs so much if the biggest contract was resolved “quickly,” 4. Why Human Resources is creating most of the costly referrals to the LA law firm without consulting with County Counsel, and 5. The LA law expenditure assumes all this stuff is ongoing or likely to happen again?

THE BOARD has never asked for competitive bids for the work, never asked why so much work is being referred to LA, and what can be done to reduce it, and why County Counsel can’t do more of this work in-house. Nor has anyone asked why they even need an “attorney” to do the negotiations? (It used to be done by a retired Humboldt County professional negotiator and before that by an Oakland woman-consultant, neither of whom where lawyers.)

SEVERAL TIMES in the last few weeks Supervisor McCowen has raised concerns about small amounts of money which he says could be “a gift of public funds.” But he seems to find these annual $250k gifts to be just business as usual.

UKIAH POLICE CAPTAIN Justin Wyatt told the Supervisors Tuesday that about 40 percent of the people the police deal with are transients, aka "the homeless."

HOWARD DASHIELL, Mendo’s long-serving Transportation Director, the man responsible for the Sisyphean task of keeping the County's roads in reasonably passable condition under difficult conditions, said his department suffers twenty unfilled positions, much of it due to the low pay his people get compared to the wages Caltrans and city street crews make. He also noted that his department has 40 fewer people than it had 20 years ago. Considering his manpower, Dashiell and his crews do a remarkable job.

AND THE RECENTLY APPOINTED Chief Building Inspector at the Mendocino Building Department, Michael Lockett, has departed for a better-paying position after less than a year on the job. Michael Oliphant out of the P&B's Fort Bragg office is serving as acting Chief Inspector.

CORRECT US if we didn't hear this correctly, but is there presently one (count 'em) code enforcement officer for the entire County (not counting the seven now on board for pot code enforcement)?

THE 19-YEAR-OLD kid who died near Westport last Thursday when he slipped and fell climbing to the beach down a cliff face, has been identified as Matthew Ian McCoy of Clarksburg, West Virginia.

I MENTIONED to the redoubtable Ronnie James, Mendocino County's go-to wildlife authority that a friend of mine was trying to remove bats from the outside eaves of a cabin. Ms. James replied, "There is no reason to try to disturb these bats at any time, you do not need to get them out of the bird house, just leave them alone. They will not harm you, and it's good to have bats make homes around your house. You are lucky they are there to eat all the mosquitoes and they are very good for the environment. If you find dead bats, just wear rubber gloves or a plastic bag on your hand and pick them up and toss them into the forest or brush. Do not handle them with your bare hands."

FIVE THUMBS UP from the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday after reviewing the recent UC Davis Capacity of Care Report on the County Animal Shelter in Ukiah. The Davis crew made a series of minor improvement recommendations, some of which are already being implemented. But overall the UC Davis report said things were pretty good at the Shelter and Manager Rich Molinari is doing a good job.

SUPERVISOR (and veterinarian) Georgeanne Croskey complimented Molinari on the good job he’s been doing. Board Chair McCowen noted that it was "a very good sign that no one from the public had anything thing to say," since in the past shelter critics had turned out in some numbers to complain about various shelter-related problems.

REGARDING THE HOMELESS COUNT, a reader writes: “Yesterday the homeless enablers explained how they take their services directly to homeless encampments. If these camps are illegal, and I think they are on a county, state and city level, aren’t these social workers legally and morally bound to report such camps to the cops or Sheriff’s Department? They pose a huge fire danger, among other problems. Should they not report open fires, and other violations? All very serious threats to Public Safety. Please let me know if I am off base on this?”

THE FOLLOWING NOTE wafted in out of cyber-space via Fort Bragg: "Some folks are not happy that Chief Lizarraga did not help ICE do a Fort Bragg Sweep when asked earlier this year. The Specific Item is first on the agenda after consent calendar. So it should be a little after 6pm Monday June 26th. 7.A Receive Report from Chief Lizarraga Regarding Decision to Decline Request by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigation Unit (HSI) for Police Department Assistance in "Gang Surge"

AS I UNDERSTAND the raid in Fort Bragg, it was aimed at criminals, not so-called illegals generally. There are people who should be deported, aren't there? And the gang punks arrested recently in Fort Bragg should be tossed outtahere, shouldn't they? Not that they'll have much trouble making their way back. A Boonville dope dealer was given the bounce six times, and six times was back within a month or two. I agree with the Chief's refusal to cooperate with ICE, an agency that ought to be compelled to do its own dirty work, and ICE has never been dirtier than it is at the present time.

ONE WOULD THINK, even here in Amnesia County, that possession of child pornography would be considered a serious crime. But Curtis Andrew Muller, 32, of Ukiah, arrested last week for possessing and exchanging it with British degenerates, easily posted bail set at a mere $15,000.

UKIAH is considering two medical marijuana dispensaries inside the city limits. Why two? Can Ukiah be home to so much suffering humanity that one dispensary isn't sufficient?

PRIVATE PROPERTY OWNERS in the vicinity of Masonite Road are relieved that Mendocino Redwood Company is logging tan oak rather than hacking and squirting them to death with lethal chemicals. But before you rush out to buy MRC a trophy for environmental correctness, please be aware that they're probably logging the trees because the area is visible from Ukiah. Acres of upright dead trees would not present the visual this self-alleged green company prefers to show the public.

A FORTHCOMING production by the Ukiah Players is called "Trailer Park Musical," impoverished white people being the last ethnic group in the country that can safely be made fun of.

WE SEND a load of papers every week to the Incarcerated Community. In all the years we've been doing it, never a word from a single one when he's back in the Free World. Not complaining. It's amusing, actually, but an indication that the average jail bird is just resting up for another mad run before, around age 50, he begins to get tired of being in and out of jail — mostly in — and retires from Outlaw World.

GRAND JURY RIPS PLANNING & BUILDING: “The Mendocino County 2016-17 Grand Jury finds that the Code Enforcement Division of the Mendocino County Planning and Building Services Department does not initiate investigations, but as a policy matter primarily responds to complaints. There is a continuing backlog of unresolved complaints that are over one year old. The reasons for these shortcomings are inertia, lack of adequate staffing, and lack of direction from the Board of Supervisors and Department management. Interviews revealed that it is “not a priority” to provide online access of data maintained in both departments. On November 3, 2015, the Board of Supervisors gave direction to apply County ordinances to County maintained buildings. To date, it is obvious that the condition of the buildings have not significantly improved. When interviewees were questioned by the Grand Jury, the condition of County maintained buildings was acknowledged as poor. With the potential enactment of new and revised cannabis ordinances, it is clear that the Department will have to hire additional staff. It is also clear that new procedures need to be developed and implemented. Katharine (Kathy) Wylie, M.S. Ed., Foreman, 2016-17 Mendocino County Grand Jury

MORE from the GJ: “A San Francisco Chronicle columnist recently declared: ‘It’s a cruel irony that many of the coastal California cities and counties that have imposed tight restrictions on new housing and development also are home to levels of poverty that don’t get enough attention. Such communities should be aggressively challenged. Their NIMBYism, rationalized as “preserving community character,” is actually making people poorer.’ Both the City of Ukiah and the County of Mendocino have ordinances that restrict formula business development. Are formula business restrictions necessary or desirable, or are they simply a manifestation of nimbyism, which effectively discourages business and job growth? While the Mendocino County 2016-17 Grand Jury applauds community charm and mom-and-pop small business, we question if the restriction of formula businesses is appropriate in a County that suffers from an inability to fill professional employment positions, a lack of available housing, and too few jobs with benefits, not to mention a general dearth of retail shopping opportunity that is desirable to a youthful demographic. It is not as if these businesses are breaking down doors to open chains here. A County Supervisor stated to the Grand Jury that the County has been making a concerted effort to change the perception that this County is anti-business. However, that such restrictions have been enacted gives the appearance of a not-so-business friendly culture that the County can ill afford.”

AND THE GRAND JURY, reacting to Mendocino County’s famously slo-mo election counts vaguely seemed to conclude that re-opening neighborhood polling places, the only way to speed things up, would be too costly: “The Mendocino County voters can be relieved to know that every possible attempt is made to count their votes. Many manual procedures are in place because some voters fail to follow ballot instructions. The Registrar of Voters is determined to ensure accuracy and accountability for election results. Due to changes in voting procedure, 80% of voters are now obliged to vote by mail. As a result, the actual final tally is delayed for up to 30 days after an election. Both the public and elected officials find the delay unacceptable. Reporting intermediate vote counts could cost $5,000 each and any improvement in the speed of the final count will require new expenditures for equipment and additional temporary hires to count mail-in ballots before Election Day. For example, 21,700 mail-in ballots were available for counting prior to November 6, 2016 Election Day. While the Registrar had 10 days prior to Election Day to count them, approximately only 6,000 were counted by Election night. It is clear to the Grand Jury that election counting procedures need to change. This will either be forced on the County by public opinion or the implementation of State law.”

THIS UNUSUALLY HARSH, judgmental and totally non-objective headline somehow found its way past the editorial desk at the ordinarily scrupulous Independent Coast Observer. We are reeling here in Boonville at the shocking bias on exhibit here. (Children, please leave the room): “Stornetta Lands Scoping Meeting Lacks Focus.”

WILLITS, BYPASS, an on-line comment: "If you consider the emission savings created from bypassing the town, this could be ranked the most environmentally friendly project since the creation of the freeway and most likely carbon neutral in our lifetime. The amount of petroleum that will no longer be consumed by 100s of thousands of vehicles starting, stopping and idling through the town of Willits yearly will be astronomical. Trace these carbon savings all the way down the production line to the extraction of the petroleum. This bypass was not only beneficial for the region but the the Planet. We should use this project as an example of how efficiency can change the world we live in for a better future."

THERE ARE BYPASS DIEHARDS out there who are so defensive about the Willits fiasco that they are still trying to prove The Major wrong about his bypass predictions from four years ago now that the monstrosity is built, albeit with the predicted cost overruns and schedule delays. For example, a Ukiah reader writes: “By the way, I believe the Maj provided extensive pre-construction analysis that the bypass, if built, would sink and tilt of its own weight. I would think last winter would have been sufficient. Please ask the Maj to explain why the bypass appears to have maintained an even keel.”


Happy to.

Let’s begin with an old Air Force anecdote. (Bear with me, I’ll get back to the bypass.)


In the late 1930s the US Army Air Force was so thrilled with the dependable B-17 Flying Fortress bomber (that later decimated Germany) that some top officials thought they could make an even larger long-range bomber by simply doubling the dimensions of the B-17 to make what became known years later as the XB-19. It seemed like a good idea at the time, although engineers at Douglas Aircraft were skeptical. Eventually, two experimental XB-19s were built.


The giant planes flew ok, if lumbering and slow. There were operational problems such as how big the crew had to be and whether large crews could hold up for long-distance flights of a full day each way. Conventional wisdom has it that the project was scrapped in the late 40s when the XB-19 was declared “obsolete.” Which it was. But, according to Frank Evans, a retired long-serving Kelly Field (San Antonio) depot maintenance executive I knew in the 1970s, that wasn’t the real reason the project was abandoned.

According to Evans (who I knew when we were both in the USAF Logistics division of the Air Force Plant Rep Office at McDonnell-Douglas) you can’t just double the dimensions and expect everything to be the same. There are many other hard-to-predict structural and logistics considerations.

Evans said that while he was a young civilian bureaucrat in San Antonio in the late 40s, they flew in one of the two XB-19s to check out what kind of jacks they’d need to raise the aircraft for tire changing and heavy maintenance. Upon landing they taxi-ed the plane to the end of an old runway to park it overnight because it was so big that it couldn’t be easily parked anywhere else. The next morning when they went out to start working on the gigantic plane, it had sunk into the tarmac all the way to its fuselage.

It turned out that doubling the size of the tires while more than doubling the weight of the aircraft — the B-17 maxxed out at about 65,000 pounds but the double-dimensioned B-19 weighed more than 165,000 pounds — meant that the footprint of the special double-sized tires just wasn’t big enough to spread the enormous increase in weight, including much more fuel and larger bombs. The net concentration of increased weight on the tires and on the tarmac was too much and the plane sank. Once the surface of the runway started to crack, and the plane became unbalanced, it wasn’t long before the runway structure was weakened and gave way.

This incident caused the depot engineers to point out additional problems with the oversized behemoth the manufacturer had never thought of. Very few airports and air base runways were wide enough to handle the wingspan, and conventional support equipment specially designed for large planes wasn’t big enough to handle the XB-19 and most runways were inadequate, hangars too small. The monster plane was very hard to maneuver on the ground and took a very long time to fill it with fuel, making it vulnerable to lightning during bad weather and to enemy bombers because it couldn’t be easily hidden. Etc and etc.

In the 1950s, the next generation of giant long-range bomber was not the B-19, but the B-52. A look at the B-52 landing gear shows that the engineers realized that they needed a lot more tires to spread the weight (and lower the ESWL) and, basically, an entire new design, not just an inflated old one.


What’s that got to do with the Willits Bypass? My prediction — one of several I made in 2013 which still hold up by the way — was NOT that the bypass would sink in one wet winter, but that over time the heavy truck traffic would cause it to sink incrementally, depending on the amount and weight of traffic (which is still light, by the way).

I also wrote at that time that a private concrete engineer from Sacramento who was here in Anderson Valley to go over the plans for the new Philo-Greenwood Bridge over the Navarro had said that in general, pylons like the ones holding up the Bypass viaduct, are held up by “friction” if they are not mounted on some kind of underlying bedrock.

So one wet winter doesn’t mean anything, even if it gets the ground under the pylons a little damp. The pylons are several hundred feet in the ground under the bypass, most of which isn’t exposed to heavy rain. But the unstable geology of the sedimentary fill of Little Lake Valley, into which those pylons are inserted, is still there, and the extent to which “friction” will hold up the viaduct remains problematic. If I’m right (and I hope I’m not), the first signs of a problem (short of an earthquake) would be buckling and cracking in the elevated part of the bypass, especially if one pylon sinks faster than another. But given Caltrans’ record of covering up their problems, they’re not likely to fess up about the problem when it develops.


(1) What do our elected representatives think about all this? I recently got a sense of this when I took a tour of the Capitol and sat in for a few minutes on an live session of the House of Representatives. The chamber was mostly empty. One Representative after another were droning about some impending legislation, but few in the chamber were paying much attention. What caught me by surprise was the some Representatives — in this open session of Congress — appeared to be busy texting on their cell phones, and at least one Representative was conspicuous by having his head buried in a newspaper.

That is your government at work.

(2) Global Warming: There is now only the continuous thrum of ominous, terrifying new data, study after study and measurement after statistic rushing forth, proving it’s all happening faster than the models predicted, with ominous cracks appearing in once-permanent ice sheets, massive coral reefs bleaching and dying, oceans turning more acidic, et al; not only should the world get used to lots more lethal, Phoenix-style heat (and extreme weather of all kinds, from freezes to hurricanes to extreme droughts), by the time 2100 rolls around, without an immediate, extreme reduction in CO2 emissions, upwards of 75 percent of the human population could be facing temperatures so sweltering as to be unsustainable, unlivable, doomed. But, you know, big deal, right? Nothing to be done about it. Might as well shrug, sigh and buy a better air conditioner at Costco, because Trump has proven he’s an anti-intellectual, anti-scientific imbecile of the highest order, doesn’t care a whit for health, nature or convulsing ecosystems, thinks coal is neat and the Paris Climate Accord is bad for the pesticide industry.

(3) You wonder when things in the US will collapse under the weight of their own bullshit the way the Soviet system did. The ground-down Soviet citizen never believed party propaganda simply because it defied street-level reality. Worker’s paradise? Sure, have some vodka, the all-purpose anesthetic, a sure-fire pain reliever, the only thing they never ran short of. And so people drank until they fell off their chairs. But staying drunk couldn’t change the truth and inevitably the bullshit burst its banks. Even the nomenklatura with the greatest stake in the status quo stopped pretending. And down the crapper it all went. You see parallels with the laughable state of things in the US. The propaganda sez one thing, your lyin’ eyes tell you otherwise. Both sides of the political divide live by precepts that that no reasonable and rational person could abide by. So strenuous is the required suspension of disbelief that it’s an exhausting ordeal to answer simple questions like “why?” Why did Hillary run? Why didn’t they indict her? Why are they investigating Russian collusion? Why let Wall Street run amok? Why is the Ridiculocity du jour worth a billion dollars? Why? Nobody who isn’t out of their fucking mind can come up with reasonable and rational responses to these questions. It’s not your wild imagining, people who purport to have answers, that is, people who run the Manhattan-Washington Axis, without even slightly exaggerating really are out of their goddamn tree. In this, appearances do NOT deceive. I mean, look at who’s in the White House, look at his opponents, look at Comey, look at what these people are saying and doing. These people should be in the Hoo-Hoo Hotel taking the cure, not at the pinnacles of power, not in national media every fucking day, not in front of congressional committees whose own sanity is more than suspect. It’s like the inestimable Herb Stein said; if something can’t go on, it won’t. People have to live and work and eat, so this can’t go on. The question is how it ends.

(4) From Humboldt County: “…standing in line at the hardware store today when a man walked up behind me and shouted “What do you think about illegal immigration?” I could tell the man wasn’t stable so I tried to give him a vague but polite response. Then, visibly agitated, he yells “Did you know that millions of illegal immigrants live in this country and they kill thousands of people every year? They could kill your neighbor, your family and friends. Are you okay with that?” Trying to keep the crazy man from getting more agitated I give a simple “That’s not good.” He goes on to tell me about sanctuary cities and some nonsense that I don’t care to hear. Finally he says “Why don’t you wipe that fucking smirk off your face! I’m going to kick your ass!” As he pulled his jacket back like the old west gun fighters and shows me three large knives on his hip. At first I thought it was a gun. I yelled, ” He has a knife, Call 911!” Of course no one does. I back out of the aisle and circle around to put the counter in between me and him while I scan the shelf for a weapon and describe what’s going on to the 911 operator. Finally, after several of the customers began to shout at him “We are witnesses”, he leaves. Crazy man, driving a 1998 Chevy Z71, drives over to the concrete stepping stones loads up several and peels out of the parking lot. I believe that this nutcase came into the store with the intention of attacking someone. Law enforcement needs to get the store surveillance video and share pictures of this guy.”

(5) One foreign woman I know, told me that in her home country, you walk into a doctor’s office, you see the posted prices, and if you don’t like the price at one, you go to another. The industry in this country was starting to correct itself just slightly, as in New York City the walk-in doctor’s offices were beating the pants of the patient-unfriendly medical “groups”. Obamacare to the rescue, making it illegal not to have insurance, and no one forced to buy insurance is going to pay out of pocket, so that problem was fixed.

We can’t have the patient in the driver’s seat like that.

(6) It would be great if Cal Fire, and the USFS, would hire firefighters who've had non-violent felonies in their past. I find it strange that those same individuals are allowed to work on fires, and in some cases risk their lives, while they're incarcerated. But out of prison, after they've paid their debt, they don't stand a snowball's chance of getting hired. And most of those applying have already been trained by those same agencies that won't talk to them once they're out of prison. You can't throw people away because they've ran afoul of controlled-substance laws through their own addictions. The Billionaire-class has figured out how to make money of the misery of prison, so now they'd love nothing better than to pass "One-Strike-You're-Out" laws, that will keep those people pumping profits into the hands of the prison industry. There's so many fixes for our problems both large and small. But when you don't give a damn about people, then the only thing that gets done is the looting of the public funds. And doesn't that just happen with lightning speed?

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