- Reconstruction Proposals
- Fire Update
- Legal Aide
- Cleanup Risks
- Electrical Fires
- Saint Anselm
- Little Dog
- BOS Meeting
- Fall Color
- DA Punts
- Sewage Meeting
- Keegan Testimony
- Yesterday's Catch
- Our Leaders
- Trump Presidency
- Sacrificial Lambs
- Mendocino Theatre
- Climate Change
- Inmate Firefighters
- Losing People
- Nanook's Friend
- Vetoed Bill
TUESDAY, THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS DISCUSSED loosening the building and planning rules for fire victims. Options discussed included: allowing trailers on fire victims’ parcels while rebuilding and allowing trailers on neighboring parcels where space is tight. Water & Sewer requirements will still have to be met. Also discussed some way of allowing contractors to live in temporary dwellings while doing reconstruction. They also discussed fee postponement and payment plans and fee waivers for hardship situations. There was talk of tax breaks for pot growers who lost their crops. CEO Angelo has assigned Health & Human Services Director Tammy Moss Chandler to be the County’s point person on reconstruction. Congressman Jared Huffman made a brief appearance saying that the County needs a plan for debris removal that meets FEMA standards if the County expects to apply for FEMA clean-up funds. Staff was asked to come back with written proposals under some kind of “urgency ordinance” that would codify some of the Board’s reconstruction assistance proposals.
REDWOOD VALLEY FIRE (MENDOCINO LAKE COMPLEX) INCIDENT INFORMATION
Last Updated: October 18, 2017, 8:04 am
Acres Burned: 35,800 acres
Containment: 75% contained
Update: Fire perimeter is holding, crews are improving direct and indirect containment lines, mopping up, as Fire Suppression Repair is underway. Please be aware of emergency equipment and personnel working in the area. Use caution when driving in and around these areas.
Phone Numbers: (707) 467-6428 (Fire Information Line)
LEGAL AID HOTLINE FOR FIRE VICTIMS
A coalition of private and public legal organizations have created a hotline in an effort to provide legal aide to fire victims across the state. The hotline number is 415-575-3120. Callers can also leave a message. Spanish and Chinese language attorneys will be on the hotline too. The attorneys on the hotline will be able to guide victims through a variety of legal issues with a focus on the following:
- Landlord tenant legal issues
- Life, medical and property insurance issues
- Emergency aid applications (FEMA)
- Home repair contracts
- Mortgage foreclosure issues
- Replacement of wills and other important legal documents
Additional legal resources related to disasters can be found on the State Bar's website.
In addition to the State Bar-run hotline, there are two others for Napa and Sonoma counties. The Bay Area Legal Aid's Legal Advice Hotline, 1-800-551-5554, is the number for Napa County residents. Additionally, The Healthcare Consumer Center's line, 1-855-693-7285, has been set up to aid Sonoma and Napa county residents with medical insurance coverage issues, prescription coverage issues and for those who have relocated out of state.
The groups involved in the hotline's creation include: Bay Area Resilience Collaborative or BARC (Bar Association of San Francisco, SF-Marin Lawyer Referral and Information Service and the Justice & Diversity Center; Alameda County Bar Association and the Volunteer Legal Services Corporation; State Bar of California, Bay Area Legal Aid; and Pro Bono Net), the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (ABA YLD), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Legal Aid Association of California (LAAC).
Public Information Officer, Office of Strategic Communications and Stakeholder Engagement, The State Bar of California
CLEANUP FROM CALIFORNIA FIRES POSES ENVIRONMENTAL AND HEALTH RISKS
POWER LINES AND ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT ARE A LEADING CAUSE OF CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES
FIRE FIRE BURNING BRIGHT
by Zack Anderson
Wednesday, October 11 — According to Saint Anselm of Canterbury, while faith naturally precedes reason, reason can expand upon faith. Normally I don't rise monk-like in the chaste four a.m. dark to contemplate neo-Platonic Christian scripture, but these are irrational times: fires burn out of control in Redwood Valley and Santa Rosa, on-ramps are closed, the white masks commonly worn in Tokyo, Beijing and open heart surgery are impossible to find. I'm in San Anselmo, and must be at the Healdsburg printing press at 8:30 sharp to pick up the newly minted AVA. For months now my weekly trip has been burdened with nothing more flagrant than heavy traffic between Petaluma and Windsor. At first I reckoned the 54-mile jaunt to be, at 7:00 a.m., a mere 45-minute cruise that would bless upon my imperfectly grateful soul what Archbishop Anselm might have termed, "the delights of contemplation." But on my maiden voyage big-rigged reality crushed the slender stem of my naiveté. Due to more people and cars than the 101 corridor can handle, early morning traffic from Petaluma to Windsor is sluggish, thuggish and otherwise immoral; add diabolical flames carving a path straight to Armageddon and it's the Long March Redux. My trusty internet guru-cum-traffic calculator claims that 101 is choked with refugees, smoke and idle engines. My natural paranoia sends me scurrying out the door at 6:30, allowing two hours to arrive at the staging area. Besides the occasional police car with lights flashing zooming past, the ride to Petaluma takes 27 minutes. It's getting hazier, the hills shrouded in a smoker's cough. In Santa Rosa the smoke is so thick in places it's hard to see the buildings on the other side. CHP vehicles with red lights bouncing block several onramps. I feel a gambler's rush: we're on 101 north now, all in, until the big wheel stops spinning. Burnt-out shells appear like ghosts in the dim. Fire trucks and equipment move in dust-caked daze in both directions. By the time I pull into Big John's Market off of Dry Creek Road, I realize it's taken only 55 minutes from deep San Anselmo to the drop zone. A record time that is almost unbelievable given the disaster sweeping through much of Santa Rosa, Calistoga, Fountain Grove and beyond. On Healdsburg street corners people clutch blankets and king-size pillows. An acrid film coats the tongue and likewise stings the eyes of the heart. As I wait to buy water, a couple tells the cashier that they've just lost everything except their truck and the clothes on their back. Smiling bravely, they choke back tears, and then say they've booked a room at the Mendocino Hotel. Mendocino, jewel of Nature's Crown, is now a place of escape. I would like to offer some comforting words to the victims, but can only look out at the descending storm of fire and smoke: we're all refugees now.
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “What a bunch of saps around here. This morning they were oohing and aahing at Skrag putting on his charm act. He did a few mid-air twists and turns just because people were looking at him, but as soon as the people left Skrag winks at me and says, ‘That'll get me extra treats from the suckers for sure’."
THE SUPERVISORS approved the pay and benefit increases for their “management barganing unit” on Tuesday without discussion or dissent.
WATCHING THE SUPERVISORS TUESDAY as one of six people dialed in, not a single thing of consequence or immediate relevance occurred. Raises for top brass sailed by on the consent agenda with nary a peep from our guardians of the public purse. Everything said and commented on regarding the fire disaster was common knowledge, including the four minutes of cliches from Congressman Huffman. If, say, one of the Supervisors suddenly stood to shout, "Am I the only person in the room to understand that this entire proceeding could be reasonably packed into an hour? That much of what we do and say in this room is objectively insane?" He or she would be gang-tackled, gagged, sedated, and hauled off to wherever Alan The Kid Flora has been exiled to.
NATCH we got the usual marijuana befuddlement, with no apparent awareness from any of the Supervisors that Mendocino County's cannabis licensing program is seemingly designed to discourage people from even attempting to go legal, that it's so complicated that looked at by a person more or less attuned to reality, it also is crazy, double crazy considering that the state rules will soon kick in, negating all or most of Mendo's labyrinthian rules. The leadership is not given to irony, but if they were one could reasonably suspect a huge practical joke on the pot brigades.
THE COUNTY'S pot licensing goal was aimed at getting a cut of the marijuana business. So why not just set up a tier system? Little growers a grand; medium growers five grand; big growers 20 to 50 grand. All the growers who took one look at Mendo's regs, laughed and went back into the hills as illegal as they came to town, probably would have bought themselves some police protection if the licensing procedures were sensible.
ONE ENCOURAGING remark came from Supervisor Hamburg who said he'd like to see PG&E bury power lines. Won't happen, but given that all preliminary reports are pointing at PG&E as responsible for California's largest-ever disaster, maybe it's a tiny step towards pressuring the Wood-McGuire-Huffman Axis into at least a few squeaks in the direction of the un-beholden power giant.
ROBERT OCHS, former Chief Probation Officer for Sonoma County, has been hired as Mendo's “interim” chief probation officer.” Ochs spent 11 years as CPO in Sonoma County, retiring in April of 2016. Since he’s being hired as “interim,” Ochs is probably a temporary hire until a (another) “permanent” chief is found to head up the troubled department. The CPO is selected by the Superior Court, paid by the County of Mendocino. When he retired from Sonoma County, Ochs was making a total of $241,000 a year including benefits. He’ll make around $90k just in pension from Sonoma County on top of his generous Mendo pay. (Note to parents: raise your children to be county administrators. Big pay for undemanding labor.) The probation reports we’ve seen from Sonoma County are much more professionally done than those we’ve seen in Mendo. So at a minimum, Ochs may raise Mendo’s standards.
ANDERSON VALLEY IN THE FALL
DA PUNTS ON SHODDY PRACTICES AT PARK AND REC
District Attorney’s Response To The Mendocino County Grand Jury Re: Mendocino Coast Recreation And Parks District And Their Field Of Dreams Report, Dated June 27, 2017
BOONVILLE SCOPES OUT A SEWER SYSTEM
by Anne Fashauer
Last Thursday evening I attended the Community Services District meeting regarding the potential waste water collection/treatment/disposal system that has been in the works for the past two years.
The meeting was sparsely attended despite notices going out to all property owners potentially affected by the system. Val Hanelt opened the meeting with a brief overview of the history of both the water and sewer projects for Boonville then she introduced the two speakers, David Coleman and Justin Witt from the engineering firm Brelje & Race, who have been working on the project since the State granted the CSD money to begin studies.
Witt began by explaining that this meeting was actually part of the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) requirement for a “scoping session.” He stated that there will be another one coming up that will address both the water and the sewer projects combined; recently the State agreed to let the project be combined for CEQA purposes.
Coleman then took over and described the proposed waste water system. There are four components: Collection, Conveyance, Treatment and Disposal. Collection involves collecting all waste water from the entire service area – mainly “downtown” Boonville, but it does go from Hutsell Road to the bridge at the north end of town. There are three collection alternatives: gravity, grinder pump and STEP. Gravity is obvious – gravity causes the effluent to flow into the system. A grinder pump involves a “grinder” to break down solids before pumping them to the treatment center. STEP stands for septic tank effluent pumping. In this latter case, each property would have a septic tank that would contain the solids while the liquids would flow on to the treatment center. These septic tanks would then need to be pumped every three to five years. The gravity system requires deeper trenching to obtain the gravity flow; the STEP system requires minimal trenching and also less treatment.
There are two treatment alternatives – secondary (biological treatment and disinfectant) and tertiary treatment (further disinfecting if the water is going to be used for something like irrigation).
There are also two disposal alternatives – Surface disposal, such as irrigation, which is good in the dry months, but not feasible in the winter; thus it would require storage. Sub-surface disposal, such as a large leach field, could be used year-‘round. At this time there are two location alternatives for the disposals – the airport and the field across from the high school.
Witt took over the meeting at this point to explain the CEQA process. He explained that it is an environmental review that requires public disclosure. The grant that has paid for the studies so far will also pay for this process. We are currently in a 30 days “Notice of Preparation” period which ends on October 23 of this month. After that a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is prepared; once that is complete then a “Notice of Availability” is sent out and the public has 45 days to review this and there will be a public comment session. Once that is completed the final EIR will be drafted.
If the EIR finds any issues there is still a chance that the project could be approved. The State has the ability to issue a Statement of Overriding Considerations – basically, the public need may be more important than any particular issue. There is also a 30 day period where the EIR can be challenged in court – called the Notice of Determination. Potential issues include threats to biological resources (fish, plants, etc.); threats to cultural resources (archeological or historical sites); problems with the soils; hazardous materials; growth and costs.
What are the next steps? The combining of the water and sewer projects (streamlining the EIR process); issuing a revised Notice of Preparation; working on the drafting of the EIR and, importantly for the water project, finding the water source(s).
At this point, the forum was opened for questions. Several were about “scalability” of the project and growth. The main thing to remember about this project is that the State funding that is being used to develop this project does not allow for “speculative growth.” It only allows for design for the current need, plus 10%. Any additional growth would be up to the community to develop. Growth is regulated by the County General Plan and the Zoning Code and the General Plan can only be updated twice a year (according to State law). The type of collection system (STEP or grinder) has little effect on scale; the treatment facility is what is most impacted by growth. Of note, not one of the questions about growth was against growth – the concern was that we need more housing, not less. That is a change from attitudes in years past.
Another question was whether or not property owners would be able to opt out of the system if it was approved. The answer is that it is unclear; the County wants to know that sewage is accounted for and they could make opting out difficult; the water system may be easier to opt out of.
When a vote finally takes place, who can vote and what are they voting on? Answer: Only property owners will have a vote (there were some folks at the meeting who live in Philo and didn’t realize that they actually have no say in this matter). The vote will be on the rate only; the design of the water and sewer system will be decided upon by the CSD and the Boonville Planners (a group the CSD has appointed to work on this, made up of local property and business owners).
The meeting ran about an hour and a half; some late comers asked some of the same questions as had already been asked and there was some miscellaneous discussion. Overall, the meeting was succinct and the purpose clear and goals well explained. We are still a ways from this being a reality, but it is something to have gotten this far.
A READER WRITES: I just finished reading through Dr. Peter Keegan’s testimony in your on-line posts of the Grand Jury transcripts. And I have a few observations:
- Keegan's kind of a flake.
- He took a very passive aggressive tone several times.
- It sounds like it won't be long before he'll be bed-ridden and unable to participate in any trial. Depending on how slow the legal stuff goes, he may indeed be "a goner" (his own self-description) before the trial is over.
- Although he testified after most of the other witnesses had testified (and apparently convinced a majority of the jurors to vote to indict him on second degree murder) there wasn’t much refutation of what he said because “prosecutor” Tim Stoen wasn't nearly confrontational enough. He let Keegan drone on at length with his own version of events. Keegan attributes a lot of negative ststements and actions to his now dead wife who has no opportunity to refute them and Stoen didn’t attempt to contradict him with the earlier testimony of people who knew her. If it goes to trial and Stoen takes this approach, they won’t get a conviction.
- The part about Keegan illegally prescribing hard precription drugs to various third-parties so they'd end up going to his wife Susan is downright bizarre. Is it true, or was Keegan trying so hard to paint his now-dead wife as a drug addict that he’d confess to felony drug-peddling? Did the other people go along with that scam? Keegan names them, and they seem to be participating. Why aren’t they being charged with drug crimes? Is Keegan such a wimp that he can't make his own wife face her drug probs by at least refusing to DIRECTLY enable it? He testified that she demanded the drugs and so he prescribed them rather than deal with her demands.
- Most of the Grand Juror questions were pretty lame. I think they were soft on him because he's terminal and seemed weak and debilitated while testifying.
Here are some key excerpts of Dr. Keegan’s testimony that I found interesting:
Keegan: Will Baty, and Oni LaGioia knew about Susan's serious drug and alcohol problem because they were people who obtained drugs and gave them to — to Susan. So Susan got drugs by having me write prescriptions to her friends.
* * *
Keegan: [Susan would say], Well, my driver's license says Susan Ettinger Keegan, so I have identification that I can use. Write it to me in my prescription (sic) name." I did that many times.
* * *
Keegan: Because my wife had a drug and alcohol problem that she specifically refused to — to deal with. Her comment was, "I like the way hydrocodone makes me feel and I'm going to continue to use it."
* * *
Keegan: But I'm dying of cancer. I have metastatic bladder cancer. I have two doctors, including one of the highest trained UCS oncologic specialists, who says you're dead in — in six months. I've — I've looked at my scan. Because I'm a doctor, they'll put the scan up. I'll tell you my reaction when I look at my scan, "Wow, he's a goner." "He" is me. I look at the scan and see all the places that the cancer is. I'm — I'm a goner. I'm not going to be here in six months. So the notion of being indicted or not indicted is really of — of little — little consequence to me. I don't think there's going to be a trial. I'll wager that I'm going to be dead before the — the trial.
* * *
Keegan: So in terms of would I feel comfortable or not comfortable, for six years my attorneys have said to me, "Don't you say one thing no matter what anybody" — "anybody says." I'm here to say these things because this is finally the only opportunity I have to say my story.
* * *
Keegan: I hate, absolutely hate, that in the community court I've been found guilty. That's kind of the news that people say, that's what's printed in the Anderson Valley Advertiser, which totally distorts and makes — and makes things untrue.
* * *
Stoen: Now, you mentioned that you wrote prescriptions for vicoprofen for Will Baty.
Stoen: And who — and who gave half the pills to Susan for free after you wrote the prescription; is that true?
Stoen: And why do you think that would be exculpatory on the charge of murder?
Keegan: Well, I — I think it goes to Susan's state of mind. That — and as a drug-addicted person, that could contribute to a fall or injury. So I'm just going to say it bluntly, Susan used hydrocodone throughout the day. She started every day smoking marijuana and reloaded as the day went by. In the evening time when she came home, she would start on Jameson's whiskey. She would usually drink about four ounces. I say that because the bottle — you know, she went through a — you know, a bottle a week. So this was a woman who could — could be, you know, impaired in terms of balance and coordination. And as a cause of death, I would — I would offer it as an alter — offer it as an alternate explanation to me murdering her, which I did not do, that she would have injured herself while she was in a drunk and drugged state.
* * *
Keegan: There was no way I was going to be trying to do resuscitation. The first thought I had was Susan is dead. The second thought I had was, oh, I'm in trouble. So those two thoughts –
Stoen: Why did you feel you were in trouble?
Keegan: Because I was divorcing a woman who died and is — and is — I'll just state it, I'm not going to ask it as a question — it is standard police investigative theory to the suspect spouse in a mysterious murder first. So I knew I was going to be a suspect in a mysterious murder.
* * *
Keegan: Reading an email To Oni: "Greetings. Wanted to be sure you didn't miss the scandalous AVA article you contributed to. Bruce" — Bruce Anderson, AVA — "got it wrong (not unusual). The toxicology report is back and showed high levels of opiates, alcohol, cannabis, antidepressants, tranquilizers, and other very weird stuff. Susan kept secret journals that I found after her death. Very disturbing. She had a hard time verbalizing the truth, duped all her friends, and obviously thought that writing about her weird psyche was satisfactory, when really she needed professional help. Initially I thought her death was accidental overdose. Now it's apparent it was suicide."
Stoen: You were claiming at the time you wrote this that Susan committed suicide; is that right?
Keegan: Yeah. Yeah, I had discovered her diaries and the thought occurred to me that she had personally overdosed. … I have no idea how she died. That's merely the speculations of a disgruntled individual.
* * *
Stoen: Did you become enraged when Norm Rosen told you that you would have to pay more than $2,000 a month in temporary spousal support to Susan?
Keegan: No. And you should talk to Norm Rosen about that because that rumor was spread that Peter jumped up and down, yelled, "it's all mine, it's all mine, it's all mine." It's pretty clear in California that if you're married for ten years, the assets are being split. I knew that. That's a rumor that's been circulated. Norm Rosen was in the room. He can answer that question for you.
Stoen: Weren't you angry when you knew that you would have to pay that amount of money to Susan?
Stoen: What do you feel was the catalyst for her to become a drug addict by your standard?
Keegan: She hated working. It was very hard for her to get through a workday. When the kids went off to college in 1999, she agreed that rather than mortgaging the house, she would take a full-time job with the American Cancer Society. She hated stuff that was kind of health related. It was very hard for her to work a full-time day. Hydrocodone helped her get through the day. The problem with opiates is you need more and more. So I think it was the stresses of having to kind of stay five days a week in an office, that was a factor, as well as undoubtedly some issues in relationship or stuff that I have no awareness, as well as perhaps her strong family history or — so I think the job — me personally, I like to kind of blame the job, that it was — it was just easier to do if you're high.
* * *
Keegan: And so they gave me a toxicology report, and page 2 has all of these, you know, cardiac drugs. And it's like I said, this is — this is — this is not real. And at that point I knew for sure I was not just being interviewed for information purposes, but that I was a suspect because they had just tried to do a trick on me. So I got up and left and, you know, hired an — an attorney who advised me that don't talk to anyone, don't talk to — don't answer anything in the press, keep your mouth shut, and they're going to come search your house, so if you have anything in your house you don't want the police to find, I'm telling you they're going to be searching your house, you better — kind of come and get it.
(Almost every week someone calling him/herself “webmaster” at the County sends this same link to a calendar page that is clearly NOT the CEO report. We’re now tired of wasting time trying to find it on the County’s jumbled new website. So we’re posting the County’s erroneous link here. If you’re interested in the actual CEO report you’ll have to find it yourself.)
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CATCH OF THE DAY, October 17, 2017
JAMES CRISS, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
COREY DAVEY, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, probation revocation.
MAURICIO DELGADO, Fort Bragg. Domestic battery, probation revocation.
JACK ELDER, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.
BILLY ELKIN JR., Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.
FERNANDO FABIAN, Ukiah. DUI, pot sales, controlled substance, paraphernalia, suspended license, probation revocation.
JOSHUA GUEVARA, Ukiah. Possession of drill with intent to vandalize, vandalism, probation revocation.
STEVEN LAWSON, Ukiah. False impersonation of another, probation revocation.
WILLIAM MCPHERSON, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
STEPHANIE MILBERGER, Clearlake/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
SAMUEL SANCHEZ, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
ANTHONY TOLBERT, Willits. DUI, parole violation.
RODNEY TUCKER, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear.
MOTECUHZOMA VAUGHN, Ukiah. Controlled substance, community supervision violation.
To the Editor of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
I am deeply offended by The Press Democrat’s identification of my/our “leaders” as being “CEOs, attorneys, doctors, judges, philanthropists, wine industry executives and government officials.” (“Many county leaders lose all,” Thursday, PD.). This list is practically the embodiment of the 1 percent who have been making out like bandits — or as bandits — while the rest of us struggle. Eliminate the inheritance tax and in a couple of generations these people will be our lords. You may follow these leaders, but I’m going in the opposite direction.
"HOW IS IT THEN, liberals fail to grasp the fact the Trump presidency is not an aberration; rather, his ascension to power should be regarded as being among the high probability variables of late stage capitalism and empire building? The psychopathic, tangerine-tinged clown Trump is the embodiment of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, a development that is concomitant to over-expanded empires. Thus he will continue to flounce deeper into the quagmire of crash-engendering, economic legerdemain and perpetual war. Empires are death cults, and death cults, on a subliminal bases, long for their own demise. Paradoxically, the collective mindset of imperium, even as it thrusts across the expanse of the world, renders itself insular, cut off from culturally enhancing novelty, as all the while, the homeland descends into a psychical swamp of churning madness."
— Phil Rockstroh
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
In our decayed society, every once an a while those who deal in financial fraud are forced to toss a Bernie Madoff out the door of the getaway car to give the angry crowd an object to take out their frustrations on. The same thing goes for the pedophiles and other assorted sexual predators that live in high places. Harvey got tossed out the door to distract the mindless minions and take the heat off of the Clintons, John Podesta and the army of deviates on which the light has been so recently shined onto. It works every time because the minions have been bred to need instant gratification at that same time they possess limited attention spans. Oh look, it’s a squirrel!
Don't miss your chance to see the Mendocino Theatre Company's outstanding production of Edward Albee's masterpiece, WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, which closes this Sunday, October 22nd. The production features a talented ensemble cast (including two LA professionals) that has garnered a lot of praise from theatre-goers! WOOLF? will be performed this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8pm, with a final performance on Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are available at 707-937-4477 or http://mendocinotheatre.org/single-tickets/. Mendocino High School and Fort Bragg High School students and those displaced by inland fires get in for FREE (subject to availability).
SEE IT, SAY IT: CLIMATE CHANGE
(Washington Post Editorial)
“NOTHING MORE than ash and bones.” That grim description of how some victims were found underscores the horror of the wildfires that swept through and devastated Northern California. At least 38 people were killed, including a 14-year-old boy found dead in the driveway of the home he was trying to flee, a 28-year-woman confined to a wheelchair and a couple who recently had celebrated their 75th anniversary. In addition to the lives lost, approximately 5,700 homes and businesses were destroyed, including entire neighborhoods turned into smoldering ruins.
Some 220,000 acres, including prized vineyards, have been scorched, and the danger is not over, as some fires are still burning and officials fear the return of winds could spread more catastrophe. Fire season is part of life in California, something that residents know and prepare for after the hot, dry summer months. But the events that began last Sunday have been unprecedented, and so the question that must be confronted is what caused the deadliest week of wildfires in the state’s history.
Gov. Jerry Brown (D) pointed the finger at climate change. “With a warming climate, dry weather and reducing moisture, these kinds of catastrophes have happened and will continue to happen and we have to be ready to mitigate, and it’s going to cost a lot of money,” he said last week.
No single fire can be specifically linked to climate change, and certainly other factors, such as increased development or logging and grazing activities, are involved. But scientists say there is a clear connection between global warming and the increase in recent years in the severity and frequency of wildfires in the West. “Climate change is kind of turning up the dial on everything,” expert LeRoy Westerling told CBS News. “Dry periods become more extreme. Wet periods become more extreme.”
While California prepares for what promises to be an arduous rebuilding, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and other places hit by this year’s unprecedented back-to-back-to-back hurricanes are still mopping up and, in Puerto Rico’s case, just beginning to rebuild. So it would seem to be a natural time to talk about the possible role climate change played in these disasters and about measures the nation should be taking to slow global warming. Instead, we have an administration that refuses even to consider the possibility of a connection, much less talk about solutions. Worse, it is taking steps in the wrong direction: pulling out of the Paris climate accord, reversing rules on power plant emissions, staffing key agencies with climate-change deniers. Sadly, that will increase the likelihood and frequency of tragedies such as the fires in California’s wine country.
NUANNARPOQ is an Inuit word that means "to take extraordinary pleasure in being alive." There is no equivalent in English. (Lawrence Millman)
INCARCERATED WOMEN AND MEN ARE FIGHTING ON THE FRONT LINES OF CALIFORNIA'S WILDFIRES FOR $1 AN HOUR
by Princess Weekes
The wildfires in Northern California are the deadliest in state history with over 40 people killed and hundreds more missing. In California, a huge percentage of the firefighting force comes from inmates male and female who have taken on this responsibility for a little more freedom and the promise of $1-$2 a day.
NBC News reported that roughly 3,800 inmates (13% of California’s firefighting force) are enrolled in the fire program, 250 of them are women. The savings for the state to use prison firefighters is $124 million a year. In these programs, women do the same work as men, and are broken into teams of fourteen with chainsaws and other equipment to help cut cement lines that will hopefully stop the fires from spreading.
In interviews with NBC and the New York Times, many of these women talk about how the experience is, in many ways, positive for them since it offers them something other than the typical prison experience. To be in the program you have to be a non-violent offender with no history of sexual offenses and pass a physical exam. In return, they make $2 per day in their fire camp and $1 per hour for time on the fire line, which is better than the usual 8 cents and 95¢ an hour that California inmates make. The camps also allow women to have family visits and it is a much cleaner environment.
Sandra Welsh, one of the inmate firefighters told NBC news, “My mom’s a firefighter. I might be an inmate firefighter, but I’m a firefighter … We are the ones that do the line. We are the ones that carry the hose out. We’re the line of defense.” At Welsh’s camp, Malibu, they have been called out to 177 fires just this year.
Some, like Gayle McLaughlin, the former mayor of Richmond, California, and a candidate for lieutenant governor in the state, see the darker side of this program. It may be offering women these opportunities, but it is still slave labor. “They must be paid fairly for each day of work — and $1 an hour is not fair pay,” she published on her campaign website. “No matter how you may want to dress it up, if you have people working for nothing or almost nothing, you’ve got slave labor, and it is not acceptable.”
David Fathi, the director of the ACLU National Prison Project, posed this question to Jaime Lowe of the New York Times: “think one important question to ask is, if these people are safe to be out and about carrying axes and chainsaws, maybe they didn¹t need to be in prison in the first place.”
If these are non-violent offenders it means they are jail most likely for drug-related charges, and considering California’s three-strike-rule, for some of these women, programs like these are the only way they can have any hope. Even if it is a muddy hope.
In Lowe's article back in August, she brought up the story of Shawna Lynn Jones, 22, who was in jail for repeated drug violations. She was one of the women in the fire program who died when a large stone fell 100-feet struck her in the head, killing her instantly. She had less than two months left to go on her three-year sentence. During her four months as a firefighter, Rowe made around $1,000. The salary of a civilian firefighter is $40,000.
If these women (and men) are going to be putting in this kind of deadly work, then $2 an hour is an unacceptable amount of money for them to be paid. They are saving lives and protecting their fellow citizens and their property by choice.
Additionally, this program doesn't even make attempts to hire these trained women when they are released. Considering that only 7% of firefighters are women and these are people who have the experience, it would seem like an easy investment.
MAYBE I'D NEVER SEE HIM AGAIN... maybe he'd gone for good... swallowed up, body and soul, in the kind of stories you hear about... Ah, it's an awful thing... and being young doesn't help any... when you notice for the first time... the way you lose people as you go along ... the buddies you'll never see again... never again... when you notice that they've disappeared like dreams... that it's all over... finished... that you too will get lost someday... a long way off but inevitably... in the awful torrent of things and people... of the days and shapes... that pass... that never stop...
THE FATHER OF DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING
Robert Flaherty filmed "Nanook of the North" in and around Port Harrison in 1920-21. While he was making the film, he was also making more offspring. My Eskimo Friends is the title of the book Flaherty wrote about the Belcher Islands as well as the making of Nanook. Nowhere in this book does he refer to any of his liaisons with Inuit women. If the book had been more accurate, it might have been called My Eskimo Girlfriends. In 1947, all of the Qiqiqtarmiut almost became exiles, for the Canadian government had a plan to relocate them to the High Arctic, the better to establish its sovereignty there. The plan was never put into action. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again... especially if the issue is sovereignty. In the early 1950s, Canada more or less forced a group of Port Harrison Inuit to inhabit the High Arctic islands that had been designated earlier for the Qiqiqtarmiut. One of the High Arctic exiles was a man named Josephie, born from Flaherty's union with Nanook's leading actress Maggie Nujarluktuk (film name: Nyla) three decades earlier. Josephie's designation, in spite of the fact that neither 'Josephie' or 'Flaherty' would have been hard to pronounce, was E9-701. Stuck on Ellesmere Island since 1953, Josephie had a mental breakdown in 1968 and died in 1984. He had petitioned the government repeatedly to please please let me go back home, but his requests were ignored. 'We were the government's guinea pigs,' Rynee Flaherty, Josephie's widow, told a reporter for the Toronto Star in 2009. Rynee's own designation was E9-551. Robert Flaherty, often referred to as 'The Father of Documentary Film,' was also the father of no one knows how many Inuit in the Hudson Bay area. He died in 1951 without ever meeting a single one of them. (Lawrence Millman)
WELL, WELL, WELL
Just before midnight last night, *California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 649!!* As you may know, the bill was the wireless industry's dream, as it would have blocked the ability of cities and counties to control the installation of microwave radiation antennas. If this legislation had passed, it would have then opened the door for the industry to take over in other regions. There are so many safe tech advocates who worked on this matter so diligently, from many different angles. While our movement did not yet have the resources sufficient to pull the trigger on a wide implementation of the Liability Action for California legislators, a targeted campaign was done in which legislators were provided a summary and how they will be held financially liable, should the bill pass. Moving forward, it will be key to make sure ALL legislators realize and understand across the board that they WILL be held to account as individuals — so that nothing like this bill can ever come close to passing again. Because, as we know, the industry is not yet ready to throw in the towel. And, if and when the need arises, several thousand have already indicated participation interest in a Liability Action to address SB649 and or 5G deployment at the root cause of the problem. (Re-subscribe on our main page to indicate your interests.)
Below is an email update from* Paul McGavin
who played an instrumental role in this battle victory.
So on behalf of people everywhere, we express *our sincere gratitude to Paul and the hundreds of activists and groups* who led the way — with a multitude of strategies and approaches being undertaken.