Off the Record (Jan. 24, 2018)

LEE HOWARD, the outspoken Ukiah Valley contractor who has been keeping an eye on the Redwood Complex fire clean-up project, wants to know why he was arrested for simply photographing the debris cleanup being done by the Army Corps of Engineers’ contractors. A meeting with the Corps was soon arranged, and everyone, including Howard, emerged with the amiable agreement that Howard, an experienced contractor of many years himself, was welcome to observe the Corps’ work.

BACK WHEN words had meaning, 'curator' was a person trained to care for collections of stuff, often valuable stuff like the collection of stuff at the Mendocino County Museum in Willits. The stuff at the County Museum is not likely to get tweakers breaking in for its re-sale value, but it's important to the collective memory of the County, especially this County where history tends to start all over again every morning.

KAREN MATTSON is a young Laytonville woman who has worked in the County as a library assistant. She has just been appointed curator of the County Museum.

THE WAY the County works these days is that our formidable CEO, Carmel Angelo, appoints as many people as she can to County positions. That way, much of the unelected County apparatus is beholden to her. The entire apparatus, whether beholden or not, fears the old girl, especially the Supervisors who don't supervise her but are supervised by her. (Alan Flora, an Angelo assistant, came to work on a Friday and was ordered out of the building about 15 minutes after he got there, and has since dropped from sight. A young guy recently married but now jobless, he's emblematic of the Angelo management style.)

MS. MATTSON is probably a perfectly capable person, although her youth and prior experience would be unlikely to land her a curator's position anywhere but in Mendocino County.

RUSS AND SYLVIA BARTLEY have done an excellent job as the Museum's informal curators. The collections are well-ordered and coherently organized. If it weren't for them the Museum would be pure chaos. The Bartleys live in Fort Bragg where they've also been instrumental in the organization of Fort Bragg Museum. Why remove them?

BUT THE BARTLEYS, in a typically heavy-handed Angelo move, have been locked out of the County Museum in a bizarre raid on the facility ordered by Angelo, a raid that terrorized the other employees who happened to be there.

THE BARTLEYS worked for relative peanuts. They were a boon to the Museum. It's not an exaggeration to say that they saved it, that without them there would be nothing to see there. And their academic training and hands-on archival experience makes them two highly qualified curators for the price of one. If the Supervisors were at all committed to a functioning Mendocino County Museum, they'd get the Bartleys back on board.

SPEAKING of disappeared local officials, what happened to Paul Joens-Poulton, Assistant Superintendent at the County Office of Education, known around our office as "the hyphenated guy”? He's apparently been sent packing, and we're looking for someone to tell us why.

Seivertson

OTHER LOCAL MYSTERIES include the odd case of Rachel Seivertson, a young Hopland woman arrested Sunday for taking an aluminum baseball bat to fire vehicles at the Hopland Fire Department and proceeding to knock them out of commission. On her way off the premises, she broke a couple of office windows for emphasis. Rachel may also have vandalized the CalFire station at Hopland. The otherwise temperate former firefighter's flip-out is believed to have been inspired by thwarted love. Her rampages, incidentally, were caught by surveillance videos, leaving no doubt about who did it. When a posse of fire personnel and cops appeared at her home on Feliz Creek Road, Rachel, a Joan of Arc look alike, scurried up a steep hill, quickly winding her pursuers. Finally cornered in the attic of her home, the fiery vandal was booked into the County Jail where she is being held without bail.

AN AGGRESSIVELY rude caller, anon of course, demanded, "You guys should look into this one; Chris Skyhawk is Rachel Binah's love child."

Binah, Skyhawk

RACHEL BINAH is the well-known Mendocino innkeeper, now retired, and a big shot Democratic Party super-delegate. Chris Skyhawk is a candidate for 5th District Supervisor. We put the mom question to the candidate, who promptly replied, "That is the best chuckle I’ve had yet today. I will hold a séance and ask my dead mother what she thinks."

PERSONNEL: We understand that Kathy Wylie and Bryan Barrett are candidates to succeed Warren Galletti as Superintendent of County Schools. Ms. Wylie has done a very good job as Foreperson of the County Grand Jury and was a candidate for Superintendent when the scrappy little second sacker from Point Arena, Warren Galletti, won election in 2014, and almost immediately picked up a DUI, equivalent to an honorary degree on the South Coast and not to be confused with a RBI.

BARRETT'S abilities are described in the memorable story by Bruce McEwen. Presumably, the ace Ukiah School District administrator has brushed up on his basic English vocabulary since memorably joining Mendocino County's other edu-intellectual, Paul Tichinin, to declare “niggardly,” as deployed by a Ukiah teacher's rep, a term of foul racist abuse.

THE SUDDENLY MISSING Assistant Superintendent of County Schools, Joens-Poulton, according to the County Office, has "retired." We understand he was in fact shoved out the door for reasons that no one will reveal.

ONE OF THE REPUBLICAN frothers running for governor is John Cox. During a debate last week when the two Democrats came out for Single Payer, Cox shouted, "Why stop at health care? Why don't we have single-payer food? Why don't we have single-payer housing? I'll tell you because the free market is the solution, not socialism."

WHENEVER I hear something like that, and some ignoramus somewhere says it every day while on Fox they say it all day long in all contexts, I wonder if the speaker knows anything at all about socialism in its many incarnations, from the Leninist variety as installed by Stalin in Russia to the tepid version as represented by the liberal Democrat, Bernie Sanders, not to mention the commonsense social insurance socialism practiced by Trump's favorite people, the Norwegians.

SANDERS said during the campaign he wanted our oligarchs taxed at 36 percent. There were shocked gasps from the rightwing that such a suggestion was positively Bolshevikian. However, the capitalist Depression-era president Franklin Roosevelt put the income tax at about 96 percent on the big incomes. Of course the super-rich, from whose class Roosevelt rose or, according to them, descended as a "class traitor," screamed that their money was being confiscated. Which it was, and put to useful social purpose, too, and, hopefully, will be again when Americans finally realize how badly the rich are ripping off the rest of us. Roosevelt's socialist programs saved capitalism from itself, re-distributing just enough wealth in the form of Social Security and a federal jobs program to stave off serious insurrection. World War Two employment also helped pull the US out of the Great Depression. Single Payer, despite what the yobbos like Cox claim, would save millions and put an end to the current medical fraud dominated by the pharmaceutical companies, the medical insurance combines and the corporatized medical centers now feasting on America's cheeseburger-fattened flesh.

DAVE CHAPPELLE'S NETFLICKS special is highly recommended, although he does throw in some gratuitously vulgar bits that are dramatically unfunny. Overall though, and as always, Chappelle is hilarious. Here he is, speaking seriously on Trump and the class war: "I've never had a problem with white people ever in my life, but, full disclosure, poor whites are my least favorites. We've got a lot of trouble out of them. And I've never seen so many of them up close when I stood with them in line ... and I listened to them say naive, poor white people things about how Trump will help them once elected. I'm standing there, thinking in my mind, 'You dumb motherfuckers. You are poor. Trump's fighting for me!'"

THE MYSTERY OF WALMART GOLDFISH. For the second Wednesday in a row I stopped in at WalMart hoping to buy some cheap-o goldfish. And for the second week in a row the sign on the fish tank said "No fish for sale before 8pm." I asked a stooped lady clerk who looked too old to be working full time, "Excuse me, but can I buy some goldfish, the $1.98 jobs?" She tottered over to the tanks. "I'm sorry, sir, not until 8pm." She suddenly whirled to a man in a wheelchair. "Do you have a question?" He said, "No, I'm talking to myself because I'm the only one who understands me." The elderly clerk, turning back to the thwarted goldfish buyer, said she was pretty sure if I came back at 8 I could buy goldfish. I suspect the clerks just stick that sign up there because it's a bummer for them to fish the things out of the tank. One afternoon a fat kid broke into a sweat trying to scoop up the ten fish I wanted. The net was way too small and there were only 11 fish in a large tank. Netting them required serious hand-eye coordination, which he did not have. "Can I try?" I asked. "Sorry, sir, there are liability issues. We can't allow it." I told him I'd try again another day. He was much relieved.

LAST WEEK I'd noted the defeated army of the homeless clustered between WalMart and Taco Bell. It's not Taco Bell, it's Jack In The Box, although nutritionally there's no diff and both will kill you.

RANDY BURKE OF GUALALA WRITES: “Skyhawk for District 5 all the way.”

THE MAJOR REPLIES: Based on his website’s vague generalities, Skyhawk looks like Hamburg Lite to me. I’m open to being convinced otherwise, though. But he hasn’t attended a Supes meeting that I know of, has taken no position on a myriad of recent controversies, has no list of specific objectives and seems to be appealing only to that specific demographic (old hippies) known as the Albion Nation, not the broader range of 5th District concerns. It’s a decent electoral strategy in the Fifth, to stick to lib-lab platitudes, but not for a serious campaign. Hawk shows no knowledge of the Supes role in the County either, drifting into “platform” statements like “We must be creative and courageous in finding resources to fund affordable projects.” And, “A healthy ocean is essential for our tourism.” And, “I will work closely with local government and the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office to ensure that the 5th District gets the law enforcement coverage that it needs.” And, “I support a Public Bank that will enable us to keep our money out of corporate hands.” And, “…we must maintain a competitive position in the emerging legalized marketplace.” And, “I will advocate that County staff work closely with cannabis cultivators in this time of regulatory transition to encourage business development, economic certainty, and environmental protection.” Pick up your game, kid!

THE FORT BRAGG City Council discussed "Mill Site Land Use Plan and Sustainability Policies" at their meeting of Monday, January 22nd. You'd think Fort Bragg owned the 400-plus oceanside acres. Easy for me to say from Boonville, but it would be most gratifying if Fort Bragg simply annexed it, eminent-domained that sucker. Why should the Koch Brothers, of all people, decide the future of a whole town?

THE SUPERVISORS, aka their CEO Ms. Angelo, have recently hired a pair of consultants, one (Michael Baker International, mbakerintl.com) to advise them on the in-County pot licensing and zoning process which, from its confused outset, has grown steadily much more confusing, so confusing most small-time growers are simply ignoring it. Illegality is now viewed as the good old days of the pot business and, in any case, Mendo law enforcement has kept right on busting pot farms whether or not they've tried to get legal.

THE OTHER CONSULTANT — both of them are picking up about fifty grand each — is a homelessness “specialist” named Marbut. He will advise the Supes as to who the shambling wrecks shuffling up and down the main streets of Fort Bragg and Ukiah really are. Are they locals, or have they come here to Progressive Land to feast on the freebies and the good vibes both towns offer?

INLAND SUPERVISOR McCowen spends much of his time away from the rigorous demands of his official tasks cleaning up after the homeless in the Ukiah Valley, particularly the homeless camps on the streams leading to the Russian River and the drink and drug camps along the banks of the Russian itself. He's on a first-name basis with many of the homeless and could give his colleagues a clear idea of who they are and where they're from. Maybe McCowen could take the Supervisors and the CEO's office staff out for a meet and greet so they wouldn't have to wait for their consultant to check in.

WHERE the homeless are from seems irrelevant. What to do with them is not irrelevant. Fort Bragg has placed them and their services in the center of town at the same time Fort Bragg tries to revive and attract tourists to the downtown area. Ukiah's helping professionals offer meals and some grudging overnight shelter so long as the beneficiaries are sober enough to qualify.

THE CONSULTANT on the homeless will — betcha — recommend homes for the local homeless, a boot in the ass for transients, not that he'll phrase it that harshly.

THE RUB, of course, is the lack of housing even for people who work every day, let alone the small army of people who devote their every waking moment to getting loaded and only pick up a meal occasionally at Plowshares, Ukiah, or Hospitality House in Fort Bragg.

THE HARSH TRUTH is, and you can confirm it for yourself by dropping by the homeless respite area between WalMart and Jack-In-The-Box, Ukiah, is that the bulk of the homeless belong in lock-up rehab facilities like we used to have in the state hospital system. Why? Because most of them are hopelessly screwed up who wander around aggravating their basic dysfunction with drugs and alcohol. PS. Here’s a link to the minutes of the last meeting of Mendo’s grotesquely unwieldy County homeless “governing board” in December. Note that the one “homeless person” slot is vacant. https://www.mendocinocounty.org/home/showdocument?id=15155

CALAVARAS COUNTY did what? Outlawed marijuana? Yup, the voters elected three people who ran on a platform to reverse that county's tolerance of proliferating grows. Could it happen here? No, but it would be a great thing for pot profitability if it were again totally illegal in Mendo, as it was in the $5,000-a-pound days when the cops took off just enough every summer to keep prices up, and dealers in major cities risked jail selling the stuff. Legal or illegal, small-time growers who wisely remain outside this County's cockamamie, un-affordable and endlessly edited rules, will be able to make money under-selling storefront dope.

RESIDENTS of the Fort Bragg-Mendocino area will be relieved to learn that the proposed trash transfer station for Highway 20 is permanently on hold. A call to the Mendocino Solid Waste Management Authority confirms that the agency is "still looking for land."

INCIDENTALLY, MSWMA's former director, Mike Sweeney, the primary advocate for the redundant transfer station, is believed to have relocated to New Zealand. Sweeney remains the sole suspect in the 1990 car bombing of his former wife, environmental activist Judi Bari. Details of that Only-In-Mendo series of truly bizarre events are available at https://www.theava.com/archives/1235

THREE SEATS are up on the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors. Two of those seats, so far, are shaping up as real contests. But only John Sakowicz has signed up for the 1st District seat being vacated by Carre Brown. We can be sure, however, that Potter Valley's water welfare platoon will field a candidate much like Carre — fierce allegiance to County water "policy" as it is, with first dibs going to agriculture, i.e., grapes.

IF YOU CAME in late, real late, much of inland Mendo's water originates in the battered Eel River before it's diverted through a hand-dug, mile-long tunnel at Potter Valley — the work of Chinese labor early in the 20th century — and flows through Potter Valley and on into Lake Mendocino. Almost all the water stored in Lake Mendo is owned by Sonoma County who, in turn, uses some and sell the rest downstream to customers as far south as Sausalito. Sonoma County uses no water for domestic purposes from Lake Sonoma. When Supervisor Pinches tried to create interest in re-writing Mendo’s non- deal with Sonoma County he couldn't get any support from his fellow Supervisors, although in any kind of fair water contract with Sonoma County, Mendocino County would be owed millions.

BUT the Chinese diversion tunnel, originally constructed to illuminate Ukiah, and your basic anachronism almost from the day its generators began whirring, conveniently flows through Potter Valley whose noble sons of the soil have enjoyed virtually free water since the dawn of the 20th century. So much as a hint that the present water arrangements might be altered mobilizes inland ag to beat back even the discussion of such a possibility. Potter Valley, and its ag allies in Redwood Valley, control the 1st District Supervisor seat. It will be interesting to see who they put up to replace water loyalist Carre Brown.

THE FIFTH DISTRICT RACE is getting crowded. Alan Rodier, 74, a resident of Russian River Estates, Ukiah, has lived in the County since 2007. Trained as a lawyer, he farms grapes and olives near Geyserville while his wife, Margaret Rose, works with the Department of Rehabilitation in Ukiah. If wisdom comes with age, Rodier, a native of Australia, has a solid thirty years on previously announced candidates Chris Skyhawk and Ted Williams.

AS DOES CANDIDATE Arthur Juhl, 75, of Gualala, who was trained as a mechanical engineer and lawyer. Juhl has run a recycling business and has owned a commercial real estate outfit. He also worked in his family’s fishing company in the late 50s and early 60s and was later president and CEO of Oklahoma Energy in Oklahoma City from 1999 to 2016. According to his bio he’s lived in Gualala since 2000.

IN THE THIRD DISTRICT, Cyndee Logan, of Willits, widow of the popular public administrator, Gordon Logan, joins Laytonville rancher Johnny Pinches, Willits Spanish teacher John Haschak, Willits blacksmith Brian Kunka, Round Valley School Board trustee Tony Tucker, and recreational candidate Pam Elizondo of Laytonville in the race to represent the North County and Covelo. The crowded field works to the advantage of Pinches, who has not only previously held the seat remains popular in the North County for his plain spoken views and positions.

MS. LOGAN, 59, is well-known in the Willits area for her years of civic involvement. She presently works as the housing director for the Cahto Tribe in Laytonville but has mostly worked as a realtor.

MENDO’S TOURISM COMMISSION hustled out a pious presser in response to the news that their director, Alan Humason, has been charged with embezzling upwards of fifty grand in his previous job as Yolo County’s tourism promoter.Humason was hired following a long and thorough search via a professional placement agency. During that process, the firm conducted due diligence including completing a thorough reference and background check on the candidate. At this point, there is no indication of impropriety with Humason’s work or professionalism at MCTC and he has performed well as executive director” and blah, blah, blah.  In fact, the guy’s perfect for Mendo where every day history starts all over again and you are whatever you say you are.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING, another great film by Ken Loach, this one called "Daniel Blake." Loach has been called the Charles Dickens of film, an honorific he's earned in film after film for his sympathetic portrayals of British working class people. Blake's movies aren't for The Sound of Music types. "Life is depressing enough. Do I have to pay to be depressed?" This one certainly makes for painful watching, but for anyone who has ever been jerked around by a government bureaucracy, and who hasn’t? you will definitely relate. It also includes the best denunciation of the ruling classes you will ever see at the movies.

I RECALLED several of my own Daniel Blake-like experiences with the Mendo Department of Social Services, as it was then called. I accompanied a guy whose functioning intelligence was marginal, to put it gently, to help him apply for MediCal benefits. He was warned to be exactly on time for his appointment or he'd have to make another appointment for himself, a feat entirely beyond him, let alone make his way from Boonville to the DSS bunker in Ukiah. We were there ten minutes ahead of our appointed time, which came and went without us being called to do whatever we were supposed to do. I approached the woman at the counter. "Excuse me, Miz. You told Mr. Jones to be here precisely at 2pm. He’s here and it's ten minutes past." She told me to “please” sit down, that Mr. Jones' name would be called. Another ten minutes went by. I again approached the appointment troll. This time she told me to either sit down and stop bothering her or she'd "re-schedule" us for another day. I wondered aloud at her authority to do that and, as she simultaneously murdered me with alternating death glares, she rattled off about twenty names,  including Mr. Jones. All of us were assembled in a neo-totalitarian room — not so much as a motel-quality seascape or a careful oil of gamboling chipmunks you'd find in a Mendocino gallery; it was a room with metal chairs and utterly without adornment — not even a greasy People magazine to thumb during an endless wait. From there we were all ushered into another totalitarian chamber. "We" were about 20 defeated-looking women, the one male supplicant, Mr. Jones, and me. With no explanation, the lights were turned out and the appointments desk martinet turned the switch on a slide show and left the room. The show was called something like, "Your Obligation to the Medi-Cal System." And the slides commenced. Upside down. I opened the door. "Excuse me, Miss, the slides are upside down." She cut me right off. "This is our process, sir. You either watch it or leave." She told me if I disturbed her again I'd be leaving anyway. I advised the ladies in the room that they didn't have to put up with this, but of course they had to put up with it and a thousand more humiliations like it because they needed the help and this was the system. We watched the upside down show and were then herded on to the next step in the process.

ALSO HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and I think all Loach's films are available from Netflix, is "Land and Freedom," probably his most controversial film, at least on the doctrinaire left. It’s about the Spanish Civil War, and the only movie I know of where the whys and the what-furs of that conflict are made clear. There's one scene I still vividly recall, and which still seems to me to symbolize the difference between the Stalinist left and the humane left. A young fascist officer from Franco’s insurgent army is captured by the Loyalist forces, There ensues a long argument about whether or not to shoot the kid, who is shouting a highly annoying stream of fascist slogans, asking for it big time. The Stalinists want to execute him, the anarchists and, presumably, Trotskyists, insist he's just a dumb kid and should allowed to live as a prisoner. The Stalinists prevail and the boy is put up against the wall. I thought Loach was fair to the basic Stalinist argument at the time which was, We have to not only kill fascists because we're in a war for our lives here, but we also have to shoot our own dissidents because we need discipline, unity, not constant debates. (Old commies will disagree with my characterization here, but you might want to do your own investigations about these things given the resurgence of fascist thinking in this country. Orwell's Homage To Catalonia is the go-to book on the subject, a second assertion that causes old commies to flip out.)

AN INTERESTING STORY in Sunday’s Press Democrat described the recent bust of Old Kai, a Ukiah cannabis company. Old Kai “thought they had an open path to operating legally in California’s new marijuana marketplace. They thought wrong, and the pot industry is closely watching their case.”

I THOUGHT the PD’s writer, Julie Johnson, did an excellent job on this one. Ms. J points out in the story that the Mendo supervisors control the Sheriff’s budget, as if it were a possibility they might take him on for undermining the County’s cockamamie licensing process. It's highly unlikely that our Supervisors dare take on Sheriff Allman or DA Eyster. Allman is the most popular political figure in many years in far-flung Mendo, probably the most popular since the legendary Sheriff Stanley at the dawn of the 20th century. Allman's known from Gualala to Covelo in a county whose average resident has only the haziest notion of who his or her supervisor is. Eyster runs a distant second to the ubiquitous Allman who appears at community events, including birthday parties, from one end of the county to the other. Put it to a vote, both Allman and Eyster would have high approval ratings. Put the Supervisors to a vote — fresh off an entirely undeserved raise they just gave themselves and their top gofers — and, among the minority of people who pay attention to them, you would have negative approval ratings, as would county government generally. The Supes simply don't have the political juice to take on the ethics of recent pot busts, not to mention the confusion over local legality inspired by the Supes themselves, whose overly complicated application process changes every time they meet. Then there's the fact that pot busts generate a lot of money for local law enforcement who can always rightly claim that so long as it's illegal at the federal level it's gotta be illegal here, too. The cops have zero incentive in the present context not to bust the pot brigades. And the Kai people, especially their man Seymour, should have known Seymour wasn't street legal before he set out with his big load of Mendo weed. People not involved in the pot business don't have a lot of sympathy for all these crooks, er, farmers, anyway. Now that lots of them are frantically trying to get legal after years of tax-free income their constant whining simply irritates most of us. The County thought they could garner a lot of registration money from legalization but have made it so difficult to qualify only the big boys of the business even try and, like Seymour, are liable for arrest, legal in Mendo or not. Seymour bought a misdemeanor from Eyster last time he was popped. He's absolutely screwed this time because he was still on probation from that one.

ON LINE COMMENT OF THE WEEK

I made the remark that it ought to be a primary mission in education to teach proper spoken English — because without that ability, kids might not be able to learn anything else. This is just basic common sense. My parents were Italian and when my older sister got to Kindergarten, she could not speak English. The nuns told my parents to stop speaking Italian to their children. Three weeks later in school, my sister was speaking English. So I am not a believer in bi-lingual education for young children, although I do believe that learning a second language is very beneficial. When I started to visit Italy regularly as an adult, I learned to speak proper Italian since my parents spoke a dialect. I did not expect my relatives to speak English to me even though many of them knew the language. How can you survive, let alone prosper without a good understanding of the native language? A wise person I knew once said that you only need two things in life – good grammar and good teeth.

One Response to "Off the Record (Jan. 24, 2018)"

  1. Debra Keipp   January 24, 2018 at 10:25 am

    Kathy Whiley for sup!

    Reply

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