JIM SHIELDS of Laytonville’s Mendocino County Observer, notes: “On the pot front, two state resource agencies (Cal Fire and Fish & Wildlife) bared their fangs at BOS at last week's Supes-Pot Ord meeting. Both were complaining that the county's lack of enforcement is causing an ‘escalation’ in their enforcement activities because growers are creating all sorts of mayhem out in the sticks. Fish & Wildlife put the county on notice their CEQA study may not have been ‘sufficient.’ What a circus.”
CHIEF PROBATION OFFICER (CPO) Pamela Markham remains on paid administrative leave many months after being sidelined by Judge David Riemenschneider who appointed her in May of 2016.
THE CPO is a County employee but is hired and fired by the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court, a method of selection which seems to be designed to perpetuate a 21st-century version of the good old boy and girl culture which has been Mendo’s m.o. since its founding.
IRONICALLY, as the County's first female CPO, Markham was hired with expectations that she would reform and rebuild a department that suffered from poor leadership for decades. To give her a head start, all Probation Department employees were required to attend multiple trainings on proper workplace behavior which, given subsequent events, turned out to be vividly ironic.
INFORMATION on the Probation fiasco will not be forthcoming from the judges or the County administration. It will only be discussed here where it kicked off when we received an anonymous letter from a Probation employee which we ran under "Scandal of the Week" on April 12, 2017. That letter has since generated a whopping 62 online responses and comments to date, many of them by people writing under their own names. (The fear levels in Mendo rival those of Stalin’s Russia although social ostracism rather than execution is the typical result of an acceptable person suddenly going rogue by not only reading the AVA but writing to it under their own names.)
THE COMMENTS generally support the allegations of favoritism and workplace shenanigans. But the boss boffing a subordinate or vice versa is considered A-Okay by the county and the judges unless it results in some kind of favoritism in the workplace. In fact, the trainings reportedly emphasized that supervisors, even married supervisors, could boff line staff as long as it did not result in favoritism. And good luck enforcing that one.
ONE WONDERS, however, if workplace boffing is acceptable which, one would think, could become a major distraction, especially if it occurs at the water cooler. Of course if sudden lust storms were consummated at breaks, off county time, well, our judges, the wisest of the wise, can be depended on to define “appropriateness.”
IF A MANAGER grants a promotion to a sexual chum, everyone naturally assumes favoritism. If promotion is not forthcoming, sex buddy may threaten to expose the affair. When Ms. Markham was placed on leave Judge Riemenschneider sent a notice to all Probation Department employees saying that he knew they had questions but, "We will not be able to provide answers at this time." The notice concluded with the contradictory invitation to contact His Honor or Human Resources Director Heidi Dunham "if you have questions or concerns."
OF COURSE all inquiries to Mendocino County officialdom in such situations are "personnel matters" or "under investigation." Mendocino County routinely puts highly placed employees on administrative leave with opaque announcements beyond that they’ve happened. Administrative leave with full salary and benefits at taxpayer expense — a typical fate for a fallen, upper level pal — drags out for months until everyone seems to forget about it. Then the person who’d been put on administrative leave quietly resigns or retires, usually after being paid off or bought out with a confidential settlement.
MARKHAM WAS APPOINTED after former CPO Buck Ganter retired in the wake of another lengthy investigation into charges of sexual discrimination, harassment, and favoritism. Ganter did not create the culture, things were no different under former CPO Jim Brown before Ganter. But growing frustration and more women coming into an expanding and male-dominated department combined to bring things to a head under Ganter's watch. True to Mendocino County form, Ganter quietly retired with no public mention of the lengthy and expensive investigation conducted on his management, and no report of the outcome.
SHORTLY AFTER MARKHAM was placed on administrative leave it became widely known in official circles that she and one of her subordinates, both married to other people at the time, had been having an affair on the taxpayer's dime. According to the online commentary Markham and her love interest spent hours in each other's offices during work-hours. Employees seeking direction on workplace issues were unable to contact their leaders. Off-site conferences and trainings, all on the public’s dime, were also great opportunities for the lovebirds to spend quality time together.
AN INVESTIGATION was begun at the same time Markham was put on administrative leave. It was quickly determined that the allegations of in-house “inappropriateness” were credible. But Markham lawyered up, which always makes the judicial types squirm. They all love it, actually, because they can spend a lot of money driving around running up the public tab while they parse old fashioned adultery, albeit adultery during work hours. That may explain why Ms. Markham is still drawing her full salary and benefits at taxpayer expense, long after the investigation should have been concluded.
JUDGES typically don’t lose a lot of sleep determining the fate of the schlubs who appear before them, but they don't like to see their own actions scrutinized. The judges involved in this one immediately ran to their own lawyers, who directed that the investigation must go on and on. Meanwhile the Probation Department is stuck in limbo and staff morale remains in the basement. For the sake of the employees who just want to do their jobs, it is past time for the black robed ditherers to bring this farce to a close.
THE TAXPAYERS are in the dark on Boff-a-Rama but, of course, they’re funding it. If the judges were paying the freight out of their own pockets it would have been over a couple days after it came to light.
FOR STARTERS, the CPO is getting her full salary and benefits while out on seemingly endless leave. An interim CPO is also being paid full salary and benefits to do the job the CPO is not doing. The County has been forced by the judges to conduct an endless — and endlessly expensive — investigation (which appears to have run up the County’s outside counsel costs much higher than budgeted). The judges also have a team of lawyers from the administrative office of the courts overseeing the endless investigation. Anytime you have more than one lawyer involved you know the billable hours will spin ever upwards.
LOTS OF HIGH-LEVEL STAFF TIME is consumed in County offices like Human Resources, Chief Executive Office, County Counsel and so forth as the sexual hot potato is tossed from ditherer to ditherer. Much of this expense is buried in the normal budgets of the state Office of the Courts, the local courts, and the county offices. But just the hard costs of paying the Chief Probation Officer to sit home adds up to a pretty penny by itself. The taxpayers will never know the true total cost, including any confidential settlement that is probably being negotiated now.
BECAUSE THE CPO is appointed by the presiding judge but is employed by the County, he or she is in the unique position of having no direct oversight. The County has no control over hiring or firing the CPO. And there is no requirement that the CPO report to the CEO or the Board of Supervisors.
THEORETICALLY, the CPO is answerable to the presiding judge. But once the CPO appointment is made, the judges usually keep their distance, especially when problems arise. The result has been two lengthy and expensive investigations while the CPO is out on paid administrative leave for extended periods of time. One was resolved quietly with an early retirement. This one appears headed to a messy court battle or an expensive out-of-court settlement. Only in America, and only if you’re connected, can you screw up on the job and still walk out the door with a big fat check.
IT TOOK AN HOUR AND HALF last Tuesday morning, but no substantial changes were made by the Supes to the mental health ballot measure that will appear on the November ballot. Third District Supervisor Georgeanne Croskey thought it was important to emphasize the mental health training facility aspect of the measure while Sheriff Allman suggested that the general public could be trained to assist with the mentally ill until the pros took over responsibility for them. (We interpreted the Sheriff's remarks to mean that it might be possible to train ordinary citizens to, ah, cool out, on-site, persons suffering psychotic breaks. In far flung Mendo, if an outback mental case suddenly nuts up in, say, deep Spy Rock, it would be a while until emergency services could arrive.)
THE NEW AND IMPROVED ballot measure the Board finally approved is a long-overdue upgrade of county mental health services. The question now is how much the measure's advocates promote it and whether voters in an off-year election will support it to the tune of a two-thirds majority. In 2016 Sheriff Allman went out on his personal time to gather signatures and talk up the initiative, and it was largely his remarkable individual effort that nearly passed the measure its first time around. It will be interesting to see if the same level of enthusiasm and effort can be mounted this year by the other officials who now, some belatedly, support the idea.
WHEN WE FIRST SAW these charts we thought we were being pranked. But then we watched today's (Tuesday's) meeting of the Supervisors where an obviously sincere, un-ironic Diane Curry of the county's Ag Department explained, at some length, these clearly insane visuals illustrating a startlingly unworkable procedure supposedly aimed at legalizing pot patches. In the Supe's chambers, nobody laughed, but here in Boonville, watching the proceedings from our office bunker, today's discussion among the county's political leadership and bureaucrats led inescapably to one conclusion: These people are objectively crazy, and these objectively crazy people have come up with this crazy process which only a crazy person could think was viable. We laughed long and loud.
PRE-CHARTS, pre-pot licensing processes, pre-group insanity, the assumption was that Mendo would legalize the miracle drug simply to fatten the county's depleted coffers. And indeed, 600 or so saps ponied up a collective million dollars to begin the licensing process the above charts describe. How many growers have made it to the end of the maze? One. 599 are stuck at one point in the process or the other. I doubt the application fee is refundable.
CAN YOU SAY BAIT AND SWITCH? What has happened here, is all these people have paid an average of three grand simply to apply for a permit while the county has steadily changed the rules, moving the goalposts back and up, adding more requirements including, and get this, handicap access to growing sheds. So while these 600 applicants negotiate an insanely impossible process they are all arrest-eligible.
ANDREW SCULLY CHECKS IN: When Mr. Scully asked for Coast Rec’s response to the Grand Jury report critical of their management, trustee Bob Bushansky described the report as, “A steaming stinking pile of horse manure.”
DEPT OF UNINTENTIONAL HUMOR: In a thousand-word tribute to Warren Galletti prepared by the County Office of Education, the presser began, “While maintaining his duties at the Mendocino County Office of Education, County Superintendent of Schools Warren Galletti will also serve as part-time interim superintendent of Point Arena Joint Union High School District through December, according to a memorandum of understanding signed by MCOE and the Point Arena school board last week….”
NO MENTION of two facts: Both positions could be vacant for years before anybody noticed, and Galletti, already one of the highest paid persons in the county, will get a nice supplementary check from PA for doing a second job that apparently can be done by a part-time presence. Or no one at all. Which reminds me to repeat the usual mantra: MCOE does not perform a single task that could not be done cheaper and probably better by the individual school districts of Mendocino County. The office should have been closed at the end of the horse and buggy era when a central hiring hall in Ukiah was necessary to employ the intrepid young women who then rode off into Mendocino County’s far flung outback to teach in one-room school houses.
THE FORT BRAGG Planning Commission this week will address Hospitality House’s flagrant disregard for the conditions of its use permit: The following nuisance conditions have been identified: c. Over the past year, 187 calls for service the Police Department to the Hospitality House to address a variety of issues, including: disturbance, assault, battery, fighting, verbal threats, suspicious people/ vehicle, trespass, drunk in public, etc. d. Urination, feces, vomit, dog poop on public and private property; e. Aggressive panhandling, loitering, shouting, arguing, cursing in the public right of way; f. Littering; g. Public drinking & drug use in the public right of way and on private property; h. Trespassing, shoplifting, vandalism and fighting on private property; i. Sleeping on sidewalks, in vehicles, and on private property; and j. Obstruction of sidewalks and alleys with personal property. As Judy Valadao succinctly puts it: “Should they allow the organization to continue as is, or should they amend the permit with strict guidelines?”
MENDOCINO COUNTY’S mostly privatized mental health system is a textbook un-system. There is zero accountability, zero oversight, of a roughly-40-or-so-person department that manages to spend many annual millions doing what? Ms. Molgaard, assistant boss of the perennially dysfunctional county mental health apparatus, became deeply offended at last week’s Supe’s meeting at the very idea of an audit of her agency’s functioning. A real audit should have been commissioned years ago. Basically, you have a bunch of county-employed people doing… not much of anything. The tough mental health cases are shipped outtahere at upwards of $800 a day.
SHERIFF ALLMAN’S in-county psych unit would be unnecessary if the millions spent on the present Molgaard apparatus were even minimally effective.
MOLGAARD'S weepy defense of her department as "really, really, really hardworking" is three reallys and a hardworking too many. That whole show needs a serious audit, not the usual in-house hurry-up job with government donuts and a big group hug at the end of it.
WE RECALL the time Molgaard claimed, "I was threatened by a big man with a gun," a reference to an encounter with Sheriff Allman in the hallway of the Supe's chambers. The Sheriff, even if he were armed with a ground-to-air missile, is not a menacing figure. BTW, question to the house: Have you ever heard a person who truly works hard say he or she talk about how hard they’re working?
SHERIFF ALLMAN'S MENTAL HEALTH INITIATIVE, if you've come in late, was approved for the November ballot on a 5-0 vote by the Supes 5-0 at Tuesday's BOS meeting. But not before it was almost stalled by Anne Molgaard, HHSA COO (Chief Operating Officer — whatever that means — but it sounds important) who is one of the people working on the measure with Allman. Board of Supes Chair John McCowen, who is also working on the ballot measure, gave some of the background leading up to the new version. Supervisor Hamburg, who openly opposed Allman's original proposal, which got 66.22% of the vote but fell just short of the two-thirds vote that was needed for passage, then talked about how much more inclusive the process had been this year. Meaning he was included.
SHERIFF ALLMAN then made the argument, compelling as always, for the necessity of developing mental health facilities so that people suffering from mental illness are not kept locked in jail where they inevitably deteriorate further. County Counsel then passed out a revised ordinance with new language requiring an audit and a Citizen's Oversight Committee. McCowen said information had been received late Monday that the language about the audit and the oversight committee needed to be included, hence the last minute change. Allman is known to be in touch with high profile political consultants who no doubt suggested the changes.
ANNE MOLGAARD came to the mic and started giving McCowen the third degree about the audit. McCowen offered that it was an independent financial audit to assure the public that the money would be spent for the intended purpose. Molgaard wasn't satisfied. She wanted to know who would do the audit? Was it different from the audit the County does now? Who would pay for it? Molgaard clearly was not satisfied with McCowen's bland assurances and McCowen was clearly frustrated with Molgaard's insistence on continuing a line of questioning that was going nowhere fast. Molgaard suggested action ought to be deferred to give everyone a chance to understand the meaning of the new language.
MCCOWEN SAID he circulated the changes overnight to everyone working on the initiative so he could get feedback before the meeting, asking at one point, "Don't you check your email when you come to work in the morning?" At this point, Ms. Molgaard became visibly emotional, clearly feeling she was under attack. She is the former Executive Director of First Five, and seems to have a history of overreacting to mild provocation. Some years ago she had that spirited verbal exchange with Sheriff Allman in the hallway outside the Board of Supes chambers. The encounter caused her such angst that she sent an email to her board of directors saying she was threatened by a big man with a gun, meaning Sheriff Allman. This is typical Mendo Lib where a raised eyebrow is taken as a threat of imminent violence.
SHERIFF ALLMAN, who has lots of experience calming down visibly deranged individuals, came forward to assure everyone that Auditor Lloyd Weir, who would be on the Citizen Oversight Committee, would be tracking all the revenue received from the initiative and all the revenue expended to assure that all the funds would be properly spent and accounted for. Which echoed McCowen's original response. Hamburg said he agreed with what the Sheriff said. McCowen said he agreed with Allman and Hamburg.
AUDITOR/CONTROLLER Weir, apparently following the meeting from his office across the hall, came forward to say the audit for the mental health initiative would be part of the independent audit that is done every year, that all the funds would be put into a separate account, that all the revenue and expenditures would be separately tracked and accounted for. It only took an extra hour to confirm that an independent audit is an independent audit. With the tempest in a Mendo tea pot under control, members of the public, including Dr. Ace Barash, of Willits, came forward to remind everyone that vastly improved mental health services and treatment are desperately needed in Mendocino County and that Sheriff Allman's initiative is the way to make it happen.
THE BEHAVIORAL HEALTH ADVISORY BOARD (BHAB), meeting in Gualala on Wednesday, voted unanimously to endorse the Sheriff's mental health initiative. Last year a couple of members of the BHAB (previously known as the Mental Health Board), including the Chair, publicly opposed Allman's initiative. With Hamburg and a unanimous BHAB already on board, it looks like Sheriff Allman's mental health initiative has a solid chance of getting the necessary two-thirds vote this time around.
MOLGAARD HAS CONSISTENTLY called for cuts to the Sheriff's budget to free up more money for social services, i.e., less money for the Blue Meanies, more money for people like her. That stance led to a heated exchange last year in the hallway outside the Supes chambers with Molgaard claiming that Sheriff Allman, "a big man with a gun" had threatened her. (In Mendoland's Princess-and-the-Pea sectors, a raised eyebrow can be the equivalent of an all-out machete attack.) No one but Molgaard thinks she was threatened, but she sent an email to her Board of Directors and others to "document" the episode. Molgaard is currently in Scotland (!) attending a conference for First Five, and you can be sure she didn't pay her own way. First Five must have a travel budget that would make Kendall Smith envious.
SELECTED COMMENTS from the Tuesday, July 18, 2017 Board of Supes meeting which was attempting to address streamlining the County’s burdensome and expensive pot permit process...
ASHLEY OLDHAM, cultivator, Redwood Valley, Frost Valley Farms:
Thank you all for the time and energy you have put into this. It is much appreciated. I personally have put a lot of work into this. My file is wonderful, complete, and immaculate. I have jumped through all of the hoops. However, I still do not have a hardcopy of my permit. It has not been signed off by Building and Planning. I believe it must be because they are understaffed for their workload. I hope there is something we can do to help them out and to streamline this process in some way. I am very concerned that a lot of people are not going to be applying for permits because the county is so backed up. I have filed all my permits for my greenhouse and I was told that the wait for my initial inspection was so far out that I would miss my growing season entirely. So I took it upon myself to hire a third-party engineer to do a special inspection which is yet another fee that I have had to pay. I just hope there is a way to streamline this. Another issue I see is the implementation of unreasonably strict guidelines and requirements. I have spent a lot of time reading through Americans With Disabilities Act law and what I've found is that ADA requirements kick in if a company has more than five full-time employees or is open to the public. Most of our farms do not fall into that category. So I am wondering why you are implementing such harsh guidelines. It also states in the ADA law that if bringing a structure up to ADA compliance puts an undue hardship on the owner so that if such alterations were made a disabled individual would still not be able to perform the necessary tasks, then a business does not have to comply with ADA requirements as long as they are not open to the public. I say that with the utmost respect to the handicapped community. A person with a physical handicap would still be unable to perform the farm tasks that I would require from an employee no matter how accessible I make my greenhouse. They would have an extremely difficult time crawling around under plants, dealing with irrigation matters, putting plants into beds, and keeping things at a very specific level. It's not discriminatory, it's just unrealistic. I have called around to local businesses and they have told me about other physical requirements that they have. A lot of places require people to lift 50 or 75 pounds such as Friedman Brothers or Home Depot. They have physical requirements for their employees that we would have as well. I ran the numbers to make my property ADA compliant. It looks like it will cost me between $40,000 and $50,000 to bring my property to full ADA compliance. This is unreasonable and it is a lot of money. There is absolutely no way that I am going to be able to afford that. And I am sure most of the people in this room are probably in the same position. We are small farmers. I really hope that you guys don't let this happen. I think you can work this out. At the very least I think we should be able to use portapotties with service contracts as opposed to a fully permitted bathroom. Thank you.
TED LIESE, COVELO:
I am a small family farmer out of Covelo. Covelo is an economically depressed area as I'm sure you know. Everybody in Mendocino County knows. My family is lucky enough to be AG-40. We are on our way to compliance. But I am really concerned about what's going to happen to my friends and neighbors who have been there for 20 or 30 years when you take this small, supplemental income away from these families. We have a crime problem and we can't even get a deputy up there. We do not have a resident deputy. Period. You take this supplemental income away from people and don't offer them some kind of cottage license so they can still farm and function and do what they've been doing for the last 20 years — it will devastate that community. And it will hit many other communities in Mendocino County as well. It will drive crime up. You already have the corporations and the cartels that are already operating in Covelo. They're in Covelo! You see a huge cartel presence everywhere. Those are the people who need to be addressed. Those are the people we need to be running out of the county, not the mom and pops that have been here supporting the economy of this great county, keeping our businesses in business, and keeping money in the county. These corporations that are funded with out-of-state money — that money is not going to stay here. They are going to pay their permit fees and all these other things. But at the end of the day that money is going somewhere else. It's not going to stay here. It's not going to help our county. And it's not going to help the people who have grown this Mendocino brand. Let's face it, Mendocino weed is a brand. We are all proud of it. The people who go to these meetings trying to be compliant are the people who are not poisoning creeks, not diverting out of the streams. Everybody who comes to these meetings actually gives a shit, pardon my language. But you are driving them out. You are going to find out that you will have a lot of good, hard-working people who care about the environment and care about the county who will see their property values taken down because of the zoning issues and so forth. This needs to be rethought. The people who have been here doing this and who keep their money here need help. That's all I have to say. It's up to you guys and I hope you do the right thing.
SEATTLE further cemented its reputation as one of the most progressive cities in the US last week when its City Council passed a law to tax the rich, sponsored by socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant along with Councilmember Lisa Herbold. The law places a 2.25% tax on individual incomes over $250,000 and $500,000 for married couples. It’s expected to raise as much as $175 million to fund affordable housing, education, transit, human services, and other critical needs. At ease Mendo Fat Cats, it will never happen here in Progressive Central, rural branch. Mendo Pwogs would rather talk than fight.
IF MENDOCINO COUNTY got cut off from the rest of Trumplandia tomorrow, our survival chances would be pretty good, what with our numerous small farms, our plethora of citizens with practical skills, our olive orchards and, best of all, more quality booze per capita than any place in the world including Scotland.
WE’VE got the Schnaubelt Distillery moving into the historic building formerly known as the Noyo Ice House. Plus: Anderson Valley Brewing, Boonville; Germaine-Robin, Ukiah; Frey organic vineyards and wine, Ukiah; and Handley Cellars organic vineyard and wines, Philo (Now managed by founder Milla Handley’s talented daughters, Lulu McClellan and her sister Megan Handley Warren)
SEEMS TO ME, people are overlooking OJ's true crime — the Kardashians. It was OJ who unleashed them on an unsuspecting world, via Robert Kardashian, a friend of OJ's and then one of his lawyers. The K's have since reproduced, and they're clearly going to be with us to the end which, if you consider them as one more unmistakable sign that the End Times are upon us, can't be far off.
SITTING HERE IN THE AVA'S Boonville Bunker watching the film of Tuesday's meeting of the Board of Supervisors, we were startled out of our mumbling despair at the proceedings by the presentation of Planning & Building Administrative Services Manager Adrienne Thompson, a rare (certainly rare by Mendo standards) combination of brains and stunning good looks. Articulate and right to the point, too. How did Ms. Thompson slip past Mendo personnel? Let's hope she isn't slumming, merely in town to study civic dysfunction before moving on to a position where her considerable abilities are rewarded by appointment to the Boss Chair.
REMEMBER MEASURE A, the Library Special Transactions And Use Tax of 2011? According to the text of the measure:
Monies deposited into the fund, together with any interest that accrues thereon, shall be used exclusively for preserving the existing libraries; reversing the deterioration in services at the existing libraries, upgrading of facilities, services, and collections; and extending branch library services to the unserved and under-served areas of the County. The specific projects for which the revenues from the transactions and use tax may be expended are as follows:
1. Maintaining local public libraries;
2. Restoring Open Hours at existing branches throughout the County to the level of 2006-07;
3. Expanding library programs for children and young adults;
4. Expanding outreach programs for individuals who cannot easily come to a library;
5. Acquiring and replacing library equipment and library materials.
C. The revenues collected from this tax shall be used only to supplement existing expenditures for public libraries and shall not be used to supplant existing funding for the support of public libraries.”
IT’S OBVIOUS that the Mendocino Library has “expanded library programs for children and adults,” in their own mind at least, because we get several press releases about those programs every week. Although exactly how yoga, art, “adulting,” and many of the other “programs” are considered “library programs” escapes us. But what about the rest of the money? As far as we can tell, which is admittedly limited, we have not seen any evidence of much else. The text of the measure didn’t even mention the word books, much less computer access. We certainly don’t get press releases announcing new book inventory, new educational programs, new reading groups for adults, etc. It’s time for the Library Advisory Board or the Grand Jury to look into whether those new sales tax dollars are being spent in a manner that the Measure intended.
IN FACT, just today we got another Library press release which bears no relation to “library programs:”
“With games & activities like Minute-to-Win-It, a Photo Scavenger Hunt, 3-D printing your own designs with the library’s new 3-D Printer, & a Sharpie Tie-Dye craft, fun & adventure are guaranteed. Pizza, snacks, refreshments & materials will be provided.”
WHO’S IN CHARGE OVER THERE? Who’s deciding to present these unimaginative recreational things which have nothing to do with the library or books or learning? If we’d wanted a recreational program sales tax we would have voted for it. As it is, for example, the Bookmobile that many rural residents depend on for library access is doing exactly the same thing with the same old (as in “old”) books that it did before the sale tax. We have a cold feeling that the new money has been siphoned off to pay salaries of the usual silly Ukiah lib-lab suspects.
CLANCY SIGAL has died. His best known book, "Going Away," was a must-read among politically active young people, circa mid-1960s. I read it a couple of times at least. It fascinated me as a kind of insider's guide to the old American left, then disappearing into the history books. I knew him slightly. He called me up once to say he'd just read his first AVA and how much he'd liked it. I was so astounded I almost dropped the phone. For me, it was the ultimate accolade. If the President called, I'd hang up, and now, on the edge of a full dotage, politically despairing division, if the entire American Left was massed in my driveway I'd head for the ballpark rather than listen to them or read their dreary prose. Sigal was alive right to the end. We wrote back and forth a few times, I often published his writing, and even on the off chance someone wanted to borrow my copy of "Going Away," I wouldn't let it out the door.
BEFORE "GOING AWAY" there was another road book, Kerouac's "On the Road." Where "Going Away" is the thinking person's road book, "On the Road," you could say, is the libertine's version. I read it in high school and recall being mildly beguiled by it as an alternative to the road before me, which held no promise that I could see beyond unending drudgery enlivened only by drunken tedium. These guys, these beatniks, seemed to have the right idea — bum around the country with never so much as a hint of desire for a white picket fence and 9-5 peonage. In 1957 the road hadn't yet been franchised out. It still beckoned, a great American variousness was still out there. Maybe it still is if you can get far enough off the interstates and the dreck and bad feeling engulfing the land since.
IF YOU SEE the dark irony in this headline from the Ukiah Daily Journal, congratulate yourself for being in touch with reality: "Huffman leads charge on climate — Strongly supports Gov. Brown's efforts against White House."
AND FROM THE PRESS DEMOCRAT, "Body of missing person found in parked car in Mendocino County." Fire and Rescue woulda had a helluva time if that vehicle had been moving.
A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO on her Cannabis Hour program on KZYX, Jane Futcher hosted a fast talking young couple representing a mammoth marijuana operation in Redwood Valley called Flow Kana. Basically their pitch was, "Give us all your dope, Mendo, and we'll do the rest — label it, market it, distribute it, keep the cops off." The young couple, complete with the fashionable uptalk flourish at the end of each sentence, were obviously experienced sales people. If they were locals we'd get Stuttering John, as in, "Like, you know, if you like, uh, well, give us like, all your dope, we've got this old dude who drives dope east for us in like a Winnebago with all his Good Sam decals and like golf clubs and a Mitt Romney bumpersticker. This old dude like cruises right past the cops because the cops are like looking for black guys and like white dudes with dreads...."
GIVEN the downward plummet of pot prices, after the Flow Kana slicksters took their cut, and you can be sure it would be a big cut, the saps who hooked up with them would be left with much less per pound than they'd get selling on their own, which hundreds of Mendo growers already do to their established customer base. (Speaking of saps, count me as one; never in my wildest imaginings would I have thought more than 600 local growers would sign up for the county's preposterously complicated and expensive pot licensing program. Of those 600-plus only two have made it through the labyrinthian process, but the County of Mendo has banked a cool mil or two in application fees.)
AND EVERY TIME pot licensing is before the Supervisors, we see the future of marijuana in Mendocino County, and it appears in the form of at least one earnest, scrub-faced young un-hippie who introduces himself something like this: "I'm from Silicon Valley, and I'm a little confused about your processes here in Mendocino County." These guys, and we note that they all seem to look like Ted Bundy's twin brother, are the fully capitalized mega-grow people who are in the process of destroying traditional mom and pop pharms in the county.
YO! SILICON! You've just stepped behind the Green Curtain where the efficient reality you apparently are accustomed to in the now grotesque Santa Clara Valley ends at the Mendocino County line, and doesn't resume until Ashland. You can buy a pound of good dope in Boonville for $500. Lots of people haven't put in a crop this year because prices no longer make it worth the effort. But the corporate boys will make money. Count on it.
MEANWHILE, just as the bud ripens on the weed, we hear rumors of a raid on a large-scale grow in the area of the Hanes Ranch, roughly halfway between Boonville and Manchester on Mountain View Road. These police raids are good for the local economy, always have been, because they took off just enough dope every year to keep prices up. But now that everybody and his Mexican cousin is growing the cops can't possibly keep up.
UNSOLICITED PLUG. Anderson Valley Construction can help you wannabe legal growers get into building compliance. Highly (sic) recommended. They built the deck on our office, and a thing of beauty it is, too. Robbie Lane can be reached at (707) 489-2915.
SHERIFF ALLMAN ON LAKE MENDOCINO: Lake Mendocino is a crown jewel for our county. Recreation, economical benefits, water storage and beauty are all parts of the enjoyment. Yes, it is true that the lake has not been given the attention it needs but things are improving. The litter problem has been greatly improved thanks to the PACOUT group, organized by Pacific Outfitters and many local residents who have spent hundreds of hours picking up litter/garbage. The Ukiah Rotary club has really helped also. THANK YOU! The transient/homeless situation has been improved by increased law enforcement patrols by the Corps of Engineers, MCSO and the CHP. The damaged buildings are being repaired and bathrooms are getting reopened. I ask everyone to realize these improvements and turn their anger into recreation. Boating, skiing, hiking, swimming are all activities which are enjoyed at the lake. The South Boat Ramp will soon be reopened and the brown bagging lunch crowd will soon be able to enjoy the view, ducks and geese. Retired Sheriff Jim Tuso will once again take a large work crew from the jail to work on improvements this weekend. I realize that not everyone can help improve the situation, but I ask that instead of publicly criticizing it, take a look at it yourself. Maybe go camping again at the lake and see how beautiful it really is. Rent a kayak and see if this new sport is something you like. Buy a fishing license and go enjoy a day of no worries. Pack a picnic and take your family or friends. We are lucky to live in an incredibly beautiful county. Ocean, snow, redwoods, a nice lake and only 87,000 citizens live in our 3500+ square miles. We are lucky. Let's try and be positive about the improvements at the lake. On a philosophical point, the glass is either half full, half empty or the glass is too big. In this case, the lake is full, the weather is perfect and the time is right. Go enjoy your Summer (with a life vest of course). I will give a lot of credit of these improvements to a group of concerned citizens who vented on social media. This venting caused action and the results are being seen every day. So, there is a time to gripe and a time to enjoy. Let's slow down on the griping, realizing that it worked, and enjoy the rest of the Summer at Lake Mendocino. Thanks for reading this rant. I send a huge shout out to everyone who made things so much better. Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman
A READER WRITES: I have closely observed my cats and dogs my entire life...I do not think an active sex life is a happy thing for them, just a drive that rules them. I am happier by far not being lead around by my hormones, and most older guys might feel the same if they had the balls to admit it. Intact tom cats also spray an awful musk in your house. The first cat I had, in NYC, sprayed a pal's fur coat while mating with it while we smoked hash. The cat had already eaten part of the hash brick...the smell never came out of the coat even after multiple dry cleanings, that I paid for....lesson learned. Tom cats, with balls, also kill kittens whenever they can, not a nice death. If they manage to attain old age, they are at the mercy of predators. Intact dogs roam more, get lost, hit by cars, get attacked by other males, pee in the house, and produce usually unwanted pups. Please oh please do not encourage this neglect. The guys strutting around town with rotts or pits sporting huge balls usually have small dicks and are wanna be tough guys....
ON-LINE REACTION to massive Trinity County pot raid: "I used to hunt in the area of this eradication, but stopped after repeated confrontations with large grows. Couldn’t believe the damage these things cause – creeks pumped dry, chemical containers everywhere, poaching, etc. – not to mention the risk of getting killed. Keep it up LEOs and Forest Service (and if you see one of these type grows, report it directly to the Forest Service field office, they do respond)."
TWO YEARS AGO, in a sudden fit of acquisition, I bought a piece of bare ground in central Boonville. No sooner had I signed the deed when I got a bill for about three thousand in property taxes. It was for the full year although I'd been the owner of record for only a part of the year.
I'M NOT AN ASA PERSON, a guy who gets up in public meetings and says, "As a taxpayer......" I don't bother, because ASA taxpayer I know I'm screwed, fully aware I'm helping to fund a whole lot of stuff which, given a choice, I would not fund. For openers, I would not pay upper echelon public employees, including judges — especially judges — the kind of money and perks they've finagled themselves into. I'd halve all of 'em tomorrow, if I could.
MENDOCINO COUNTY'S annual budget, as Supervisor Gjerde pointed out to me after I’d radically under-estimated it at a quarter billion a year, is more in the neighborhood of $317 million. The county website shows us two lists. The short one enumerates the major departments, most of which sound plausible enough. Yeah, yeah we gotta have cops, we need road maintenance, we need this, we need that. A county museum? Not really, especially ours which is seldom visited and is run by a connected person plunked down in the director's chair at nice money because....Well, because. On the long list of services there's enough lard to keep every deep fryer in the county bubbling for years.
ANYWAY, here's the deceptive short list of county offices, It's followed by a long list, where most of us would find a whole lotta "services" we could emphatically do without:
ALL DEPARTMENTS: Agriculture; Air Quality Management District; Animal Care Services; Assessor-Clerk-Recorder; Auditor-Controller; Board of Supervisors; Child Support Services; District Attorney; Environmental Health; Executive Office; Farm Advisor; Health and Human Services (HHSA); Human Resources; Library; Museum; Planning and Building Services; Probation; Public Defender; Public Health Division; Retirement; Sheriff-Coroner; Transportation; Treasurer-Tax Collector; ;
SERVICES BY CATEGORY: Abandoned Animals; Abandoned Vehicles; Absentee Ballots; Adopt-A-Road; Adult Bail; Adult Probation Services; Adult Protective Services (APS); Affidavit/Lost Warrants; Agenda, Board of Supervisors; Agenda, Planning Commission; Aggregate Mining Operation Permits; Agricultural Information; Agricultural Preserve Application; Air Quality; Air Quality Complaints; Alcohol & Other Drug Programs; Animal Adoption; Animal Shelter; Animal/pet Adoptions; Archeological Commission; Asbestos Info & Regulation; Asphalt Production Permit; Assessment Appeals Board; Auto Body Shop Permits; Bids/Requests for Proposal/RFPs; Birth Certificate Copies; Birth Registration; Board of Supervisors; Boards and Commissions; Boiler Permits; Bookmobile; Boundary Line Adjustments; Building Inspection; Building Permits; Burial Permits; Burn Day Information; Burn Permits; Business License; Business License; CalWORKs; Candidate for Public Office; Cannabis Cultivation; Cannabis Cultivation FAQ; Cannabis Permits And Licenses; Cement Storage/Concrete Production Permits; Certificates of Compliance; Child Abuse Reporting; Child Protective Services; Child Support; Claims Against the County; Coastal Development Permits; Code Enforcement; Communicable Disease (CD) Reporting; Concealed Weapon permit; Construction and Building Permits; County Budget; County Code; County Roads; Criminal Defense; Death Certificate; Death Certificates|Copies; Debts to County-Courts; Deeds of Property; Demolition/Renovation Authorization; Diesel Engine Permits; Dimensions of Property; Dry Cleaning Facility Permits; eBooks & Entertainment; Elder Abuse Reporting; Elections; Emergency Medical Services; Employee Benefits; Employee Retirement; Employment and Family Assistance; Employment Application; Employment Training; Employment Verification; Encroachment Permits; Explosives Permit; Fictitious Business Names; Filming Permits; Financial Data; Fingerprinting; Food Facility Inspections; Food Stamps; Gasoline Station Permits; General Plan; Generator Permits; Grading Permits; Grand Jury Reports; Gravel Extraction; Hazardous Materials Program; Historical Information; HIV/AIDS Program; House Numbering; Immunization Clinic; In Home Supportive Services; Insect Identification; Jobs; Juvenile Hall; Juvenile Probation; Labor Relations; Library; Library Services; Livestock Management; Lot Line Adjustments; Maps; Marriage Ceremonies; Marriage Certificate; Marriage Certificates-Copies; Marriage License-Issued; Master Fee Schedule; Medi-Cal/CMSP Eligibility; Mental Illness Treatment; Merger/Un-Merger of Parcels; Microfilm/Fiche Readers; Organic Program; Parcel Maps; Parks Information; Payroll; Permit Processing; Pesticide Use; Pet License; Planning Commission; Plant Identification & Diseases; Plant Quarantines; Polling Place; Pond Permits/Exemptions; Population & Housing Estimate; Precinct Information; Prisoner Information; Property Exemptions; Property Tax; Property Tax Collection; Public Defense (Indigent); Public Guardian/Conservator; Public Records Request; Purchasing for County; Rabies Control; Real Estate Properties Auction; Recorded Documents; Recruitment; Recycling; Refuse Disposal; Renovation/Demolition Authorization; Report a Crime Anonymously; Requests for Proposal/Bids; Restaurant Health Inspections; Restaurant Inspections; Retirement ' Employees; Retirement Funds & Info.; Rezoning of Land; Road Maintenance; Sand Blasting Permits; Sanitation; Septic Tank Permits; Special Districts Information; Stormwater Regulations; Subdivision of Land; Surveyor, County; Swimming Pool Complaints- Public Pools; Theft of County Funds; Transient Occupancy Tax; Transportation Permit; Use of County Facilities; Use Permits for Land Development; Vehicles, Abandoned; Vendor Registration; Veteran Benefits; Victim Witness; Voter Registration; Water Testing; Weights & Measures; Welfare Checks (Held); Well Permits; WIC Program; Worker's Compensation; Zoning.
ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK
(1) I visited India once. At the Imperial Hotel in New Delhi, there was a man to open the door, and then another man to open the next door. There is plenty of opportunity for jobs, it’s just a case of lowering expectations a little, sharing the top 0.1% s wealth back out, and keeping property and food prices down.
(2) Trump went broke and the banks had to bail him out. Trump spends on the edge and if he can overspend and get someone to bail him out he will.
He had enough skill to take the million dollars his father left him and build an empire with it just as you or I could have done had we the same nut to start with.
Trump’s presence has irritated me for forty years ever since I saw an article about him in a New York real estate magazine in a doctor’s office. He was in his twenties and hard at work self-promoting himself which truth be told is all he has ever done. He was an abrasive self-promoting asshole stuck on himself even then. No surprise there since that is his essential nature. A self-promoting asshole.
He makes money in a booming economy because that is what money does. When things get tough he loses it.
Does anyone ever consider that wiring a house and switching out an automatic transmission might actually show more ability than wearing a suit and talking shit. So bent on worshiping authority are we that we neglect the obvious.
Trump does well when yeast people multiply but he does not do well when times are tough.
(3) There are some people I can’t even TALK to because we lack a common culture to serve as a bridge for dialogue.
I’m usually pretty good at finding the common social currency that allows me to have a relationship with another person instead of an “arrangement.”
But every once in a while I still hafta drop the hammer on some fool who refuses to do the same.
I had to face down some stupid woman's German Shepard the other day and explain to her that in this country, we train our fucking dogs NOT to threaten people in public spaces.
I said “this is the 2nd time your punk ass young Shepard bounded off the front porch and ran up on me like he was gonna attack me; THERE WILL NOT BE A 3RD TIME!
I felt bad for the dog because he’s young and nobody is training him. If he pulls that shit on the street, somebody is gonna dump on his ass.
(4) Have you been to Canada? There is no there there. There is something off. It is cloyingly antiseptic. Life breeds in the dirty crevices, but in Canada it’s all scrubbed benign. No charisma, no charm. No culinary legacy outside of Montreal, a place that, notably, wants nothing to do with Canada. Christ, at least the US has junk like cholupas and cronuts. They have Timbits. Yes, Timbits. It sounds either weak or vaguely gay, which is very much like Canada. Then there is the sycophantic anglophilia. Coins and highways and buildings worshiping the current crown wearer. They were the loyal son, but the bastard living south still gets more clout and more love. That cuts, like a knife.
(5) I remember Grandparents who lived in small Minnesota towns who were obsessed with making sure everybody had enough to eat and were doing all right. New people in town were welcomed with invitations to dinner and homemade pies. In those days if someone needed help all they had to do was knock on a door. These days pies don’t get made at home.
Do better people not concern themselves with others and spend all their time looking at brilliant colored pixels behind gorilla glass in a state of perpetual distraction and self-obsession. I think not.
As an individual we get better. I know I have and you probably have too. But a new crop of clueless is born every year and they don’t have the citizenship examples we had in fifth grade. They have the example of Columbine to emulate instead. So yes I have been snarky; the pre-tranny lesbian lies were actually better than the perverted truths we have now.
Back in the day, flesh and blood relatives would take care of children when parents went to work. Now the substitute parent is made in China and has a very flat screen. That is not a better culture. The culture we have is about to pop like a balloon.
(6) I sort of agree that the overall human condition does not change as much as we would like to think it does sometimes but to say that what we are living through now is no more chaotic than previous times is wrong.
Previous times experience bad things like pestilence starvation war and disease but hope for better times was real and legitimate because the earth had room to grow and resources were not depleted.
Now we are overpopulated and relative to other times completely dis-empowered. Technology has destroyed the possibility of revolution and change because it has solidly entrenched the existing order.
“Turn on, tune in, drop out” was once a possibility but now dropping out only means you are a bum. There is no place to drop into once you drop out and only the matrix remains.