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Off the Record (April 18, 2018)

THE CROWDED 3rd District race, which might as well be in Nevada for all the attention it gets outside Willits, Laytonville and Covelo, the three antipodes of Mendocino County, occurs in the wild, wild region of our savage and vast county. (Gualala is the antipodes of the 5th District.) A Willits friend notes that as crowded as the 3rd District is — 8 candidates — nobody is running on the traditional redneck platform — hostility to the love drug and hippies, hostility to government generally except for law enforcement, hostility to damn near everything. Former Supervisor Johnny Pinches is the front runner in the 3rd and the number of candidates will work to his advantage. Everyone knows him, the rest of the field enjoy the support of friends and family, but it takes more than friends and family to get elected.

WE DON'T SEE any candidate likely to join Pinches, assuming Cowboy John is re-elected, who will lead an effort to re-negotiate Mendocino County's ruinous water arrangement with Sonoma County, whereby annual millions of dollars and gallons flow outtahere to Sonoma County, and we don't see anyone, including Pinches, who will dare cross anything the wine industry wants. It's heavily ironic that the libs never failed to mobilize against the timber industry but are silent about an industry that uses more chemicals, does more damage to the land and water than the timber industry ever did.

“OVER-EX.” We first heard the term back in February when the Board of Supervisors was informed that dozens of Redwood Valley parcels where houses had been burned down were “over-excavated” to where in some cases the housepads where houses had once been as well as the surrounding area looked like what inland construction industry rep Lee Howard described as “a large swimming hole.” 

HOWARD told the Board then that restoring the ground to the point that the site could be rebuilt would cost tens of thousands of additional dollars, over and above the home re-construction cost. Howard said that he didn’t think there was enough oversight of the work and that “hundreds of cubic yards” had been dug out that did not need to be dug out in the burned areas of Redwood and Potter Valleys. “This is driven by tonnage loaded and gotten out and paid for, greed,” said Howard.

SUPERVISOR JOHN McCOWEN reported at that time that he knew of a case where five times the size of a house and shop had been excavated. “Perhaps there’s a reason,” said McCowen, “but it’s hard to believe that that big an area needed to be cleared to that depth. There’s a potential for fraud.” McCowen added that the “over-ex” represents a huge amount of unnecessary work for taxpayers to pay for and that there seemed to be a lack of controls to prevent it, noting that over-exed homeowners will face bigger excavations, more fill, more expense, etc., impeding their ability to rebuild. “It’s a very serious allegation,” McCowen concluded.

THE FEMA and CalOES (Emergency Services) reps replied in February that all such complaints would be reviewed for error or fraud, waste or abuse, saying that any excavation more than a foot deep is suspicious and should be looked at. They said they were talking to their contractor and they had a team looking at the problem, adding that contractors responsible for cases where over-ex is verified were subject to fines or non-payment for work. 

IN FEBRUARY, the FEMA rep said the problem was not just in Mendocino County. And the CalOES rep said they were “committed to dealing with the situation,” adding that in some cases there were disagreements about how much excavation was necessary. In other cases, “mistakes were made.” The CalOES rep said they were dealing with the problem on a case by case basis.

5TH DISTRICT SUPE'S candidate, Dave Roderick, brings a refreshingly vivid rhetoric to the otherwise blandly nicey-nice race. Here's Roderick in an ICO profile by W.W. Keller: "…the county has been run for 40 years by people from Albion and Mendocino, who have done absolutely nothing to build the local economy…" Earlier, Roderick refers to "The fantasy that marijuana is going to fix all our problems has collapsed."

CANDIDATE RODERICK has a point, via which he implies that Coastlib has elected its own to the Fifth District seat for a long time, merely passing the bong from one pro-pot person to the next, all the while touting marijuana as our economic life raft.

VERILY, VERILY. And now that the local pot industry is in free fall collapse as a small army of savvy corporate bulletheads sets up industrial grows in the flatlands to the south, it's time to grab the bull by the tail and look reality dead in the face. The future, assuming there is one in any predictable sense, says tourism is Mendo's tried and true ticket but, as the candidate also implies, there's a small army of young people who can't find employment because they have no skills, and even if they were blue collar equipped in the traditional sense, there's no work for them.

THE CANDIDATE shifts into rhetorical high gear with another shot at Coastlib: "There's a dark undercurrent that is poisoning this race. There is a group of aging political jihadists still fighting for control of a Mendocino that no longer exists, a failed caliphate. This claque is allowed to spew a hate-based ideology of class and geographic division..."

WELL, COASTLIB does tend heavily to intolerance for anyone outside the NPR consensus, and like all communities of like-minded people they do tend to think of themselves as the world, certainly a grisly prospect if the world were to suddenly become the fabled Albion Nation.

RODERICK'S overall point that the Fifth District Supe's seat has been held for a long time by people who don't act as if there's much of a world beyond the conservative liberalism of the Mendocino Coast seems beyond dispute.

HE'S RIGHT, though, that consensus-lib is, or soon will be, working against him, and they don't fight fair, as Wendy Roberts found when she ran against Hamburg. Coastlib, which includes Anderson Valley, even declared Hamburg an honorary woman so the local branch of the National Women's Political Caucus (a two-person organization consisting of Val Muchowski and Joe Wildman) could endorse him over the actual woman, Ms. Roberts of Mendocino, a liberal the Democrat Party libs for some reason didn't approve of. Right now they — the Wildman Democrats — are split between Skyhawk and Williams, having dismissed Rodier and Juhl out of hand. Our sense of the race is that Roderick, Skyhawk and Williams are running strong, with the more conservative parts of the 5th's electorate massing behind Roderick.

AS A LIB LAB myself, I understand how infuriatingly, insufferably smug my fellow flabbos can be, especially the insensate clusters who think the Democrats are the way forward, and that's who Roderick will be up against at the Mendo level. Their hate is pure, Dave — pure I tell you! Hunker down, dude, and remember, always wear your body armor backwards.

PROJECT CENSORED says it reveals concealed stories of the important type. I guess, but I've never seen anything on their list that was straight-up censored except…entropy, in that the big problems seem, and probably are, intractable. Seriously, I doubt any real steps toward reducing global warming will be taken until several million people keel over in the streets. And, fast forwarding through the accumulated, unaddressed catastrophes most of us are already aware of to the ongoing disaster of public education. Pure entropy. Impossible to reform, as anybody can read for themselves every time a school bureaucrat rolls out in print.

ACCORDING to US News and World Report, California ranks 44th out of 50 states. "California has the largest network of public schools in the country — and also one of the worst performing. Only 29.2 percent of fourth graders in the state are proficient in math, and only 27.8 percent are proficient in reading — each the third lowest share of any state." Time to change? But there it is, the immovable blob, the entropy.

WORD DRIFTING over the Coast Range from the direction of Lake County says Allan 'The Kid' Flora has returned to work for the County of Lake. Some of us will recall that Flora was disappeared from the County CEO's "management team" for reasons unknown. He came to work one Friday and was immediately marched out the door by "security." No reason was ever given for Flora's summary dismissal.

MAYBE FLORA took a called third strike, and manager Angelo gave him his unconditional release. But ballplayers aren’t marched off the field by “security,” as CEO Angelo dispatches people who displease her.

NOT EXACTLY A CHOMO. The Sheriff’s presser declared:

On 04/06/2018 at 8:30 PM, a Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy was contacted by a resident of Potter Valley, who reported that their 14 year old daughter had allegedly been having sexual relations with 18 year old Potter Valley resident Swan Thomas Johnson. The Deputy Sheriff initiated an investigation into the matter and he was assisted by Mendocino County Sheriff's Detectives. During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the 14 year old victim, had been having sexual intercourse with the suspect, an 18 year old male. The sexual relations began prior to the victims 14th birthday, beginning when she was 13. Multiple sexual incidents and acts were disclosed and investigated. At the conclusion of the investigation, the suspect was located driving on Main Street in Potter Valley by a Sheriff's Deputy where he was stopped and taken into custody without incident. The suspect was booked into the Mendocino County Jail on charges of Lewd acts with a child under 14 years old, penetration with a foreign object with child under 14 years old, communicating with a child under 14 with intent to commit sexual act, and sending obscene material to a child where he is held in lieu of bail which is set according to the bail schedule at $75,000. 

IN DEFENSE of the Potter Valley kid reviled in local media as a chomo, as if he were some kind of slobbering playground lurk with his bail set at a hundred thou, which is lower than any number of truly dangerous mopes arrested lately in Ukiah, Willits and Fort Bragg, and certainly less dangerous than the fifty or so (at least) registered sex offenders in each of our County's lead cities, why make this kid Perv of the Week?


YOU DON'T have to go back very far in America's dubious sexual history to find large numbers of lasting marriages between young women and older men. Why my very own grandfather legally married my grandmother when she was 15 and he was 33, and she chose him. And 14 and 15 year olds way back in the day certainly weren’t the porn-drenched 14 and 15 year olds of today. Assuming there's intelligent, proportionate life in the Ukiah Courthouse, I think this relationship should be thoroughly evaluated and, if it's found not to be exploitive, if it's genuinely affectionate, the authorities ought to back off. (Look at this kid! He looks like he's 14 himself! The girl probably looks like she's 35.)

DINA POLKINGHORNE of Project Sanctuary points out:

Clarification: The age of consent in California is 18.


(1) Re: Illegal Sex in Potter Valley. Depending on the character and maturity of the involved parties, I would think either: Bummer! The modern moral police state stomps on young love! Girls are always more mature than boys in adolescence, and a younger girl/older guy pairing is natural. A hundred years ago, people would have thought this age difference normal in a relationship, and shaken their heads in amazement at our prohibitions. Or… Scuzzbag dude can’t find anyone his own age, and preys on young, innocent girl who will be flattered by the “older man” attention; if it were my daughter I’d say, Throw him to the wolves.

[2] I would agree. But honestly. It’s not a big deal in my book. I would have more sympathy for the guy who will be a registered sex offender for the rest of his life, which is a terrible, terrible label to wear.

[3] There is a huge gulf of knowledge, development, experience, maturity, etc. between a 13 year old and an 18 year old, no matter whether the older party is a scuzzbag or not, and regardless of the genders. Think back to where you were psychologically and what you thought you knew about sex at 13 and again at 18. 13 is middle school, might not have even had a full, comprehensive sex ed class yet. 18 is old enough to drive, vote, purchase a firearm, smoke, and serve in the armed forces. We have these laws for a reason – if the child gets pregnant, she’s less likely to finish high school or get a GED with a baby, while the adult is in a position to skip town, change his name, and never face any responsibility for leaving a child behind to raise a child.

JEEZ, GEORGE, let’s not do a total re-write of local history here. George Hollister writes: “Come on. So Judy Bari did not sell papers, and all the other anti-timber activists who have crossed the threshold of the AVA? Lively and interesting, means indulging any nut case who can write. I am not opposed. And if it keeps the presses running, I support. OK, so you are likely saying that the AVA doesn’t support political activists who run for office. There was Liz Henry, though. She was not supported because she would focus on good county governance. Same for Charles Peterson. Now in the 5th race we have two anti-timber activists running. We will see.”

ONE MAN’S NUT CASE’… Judi Bari, like her sister Gina Kolata of the NYT, was a very good writer who brilliantly clarified the Timber Wars, but at the time there were lots of good writers in the ava on a range of subjects. Still are. Overall, Bari’s presence in the ava probably harmed sales because she was intensely disliked by lots of people, not just timber people. We supported Liz Henry, subsequently sabbed by Coast Lib, over Heather Drum, a wholly owned subsidiary of G-P. I thought Liz was an excellent supervisor who fairly represented everyone in the 4th District. She was succeeded by two ciphers until Gjerde was finally elected. She was not anti-timber, George. Her husband was a forester, not that he seemed to influence her much either way on the timber issue. I’d have to look it up but I’m pretty sure we were never more than lukewarm on Charles Peterson. Looking back, Bari and others merely drew attention to the obvious, which was a corporate cash-in for short-term profit-taking over the long-term interests of an entire industry, which had worked well for the Northcoast when the timber grandees existed in the form of private families, many of them local, who were wise enough to cut just enough to keep them prospering forever. LP and GP subsequently cut and run as their execs and shareholders cashed in big time but left the local industry much diminished. Local loggers were caught in the middle between the tree huggers and the outside timber corps. In defense of the ava of that time, circa 1990, I think our coverage was quite good. The PD, some of us will recall, routinely prevented their correspondent, Mike Geniella, from covering timber fairly and finally removed him from timber stories altogether. I heard at the time that cry baby Harry Merlo himself would call the PD's cringing editors to complain about Geniella's reporting if Geniella so much as presented the enviro perspective. Back to Liz Henry: I think she was very brave given that her husband was a state forester under pressure from Big Timber and her daughter was caught up with the psycho-wing of Earth First! where she was treated so abusively, as young women often were by these awful people, she tried to kill herself. Liz was also caught between ugly forces. My personal regret from that time is that I also got played by Bari, post-bombing. I was blind until Steve Talbot discovered the truth about it, and still kick myself that I didn't see it myself. But it was all quite a time, though, wasn't it, George? Complete with the FBI, it now seems clear, covering up a bizarre series of events including federal protection for the bomber.

THE FEDS will be in town next week to have a close-up look at operations at semi-public radio KZYX. Insider hiring, pals of insiders getting prime time programs, startling financial improprieties, and so on. I hope the investigators don't think the complaints come from a non-representative group of malcontents but in living fact reflect widespread disenchantment with the faltering station. The positively heroic former board member, Larry Minson, seems to have at last convinced the feds to take a look. Seems from here even the most cursory glance reveals the enterprise as, in the words of former program director manager Raoul Van Hall, "toxic." We shall see what we shall see.

A MENDO CHILD CUSTODY CASE involving a grandmother named Morales and her grandson got into federal court where grandma and son were awarded damages of some $90,000, with Gran's attorney probably getting more than $300,000 simply to defend the Morales’. The County of Mendo is on the hook for not only the Morales' $90 thou but the County, as it so often does, contracted outside attorneys to lose the case against its bungling social workers, a loss that just in attorney's fees will cost the County roughly half a million dollars. Again and as always, taxpayers are left wondering why the County's own attorneys can't at least defend County cases themselves.

HEARTENING to see that Mike Thompson, the wine industry's wine rep on the Northcoast for many years, and now the industry's gofer in a Demo-gerrymandered district next door, has some serious opposition from the Demo left, aka the Bernie left. A young dude named Nils Palsson, 32, is running hard to unseat the entrenched Thompson, a guy well to the political right of Billery. Here on the Northcoast, where a large majority of Democrats preferred Bernie to Hillary, our Thompson clone of a Congressman, Huffman, has zero opposition.

MEMORY LANE: This question was posed to the five candidates running for Fifth District supervisor: "I would like to know, have any of the candidates grown marijuana/cannabis for profit at any time in the past 10 years?"

DECADES AGO, at a candidate's night in Elk, DA hopefuls Al Kubanis, Susan Massini and Vivian Rackauckas weren't asked that question, but Rackauckas, having the last word at the close of their three presentations as time was up, declared, "I'm the only candidate for this office who can truthfully say I have never smoked marijuana!" Kubanis laughed, Massini looked like she was going to explode, and the audience enjoyed heck out of the spectacle.

ROBERT CARLSON, Mendo’s recently hired trash czar replacing Mendocino County’s most interesting man, Mike Sweeney, told the Supervisors Tuesday that the Chinese market for most recyclables has collapsed, and trash haulers are now having to pay by the ton to simply dump almost all of their carefully bundled (former) recyclables in landfills. Only aluminum still has recycling value. The rest of our detritus — paper, plastic, wood, etc. is either piling up at trash hauler facilities or is being hauled to distant landfills. 

CARLSON told the Board that the proposal for a new Central Coast Transfer Station on Highway 20 near Fort Bragg has been in limbo for upwards of two years now. But Carlson didn’t have much to say about it other than, “One of the current and most pressing items is the Central Coast Transfer Station. It's been worked on for some time. We are continuing to pursue that option as a new site on Highway 20 for essentially a replacement for the existing self haul transfer station at Casper.” 

EARLY CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION FILINGS (As of April 13, 2018 — Contested Races)

Fifth District Supervisor 

David Roderick, Business owner/farmer: $5000 loan from his company.

Arthur Juhl, Real Estate Broker: None so far.

Chris Skyhawk, Youth/Family Counselor: None so far.

Ted Williams, Fire Chief/Programmer: None so far.

Alan Rodier, Farmer/Attorney: $170, no names.

County Superintendent of Schools

Michelle Hutchins: $1000 from retired teacher Monique Leigh.

Bryan Barrett: $1240 from James Barrett, self-employed planning, development and real estate consultant.

Third District Supervisor

John Pinches, Rancher: None so far

Susy Barsotti, Businesswoman, Festival Production: $5,000 from Bob Barsotti LLC, $1000 from Dansun Productions.

John Haschak, Teacher: $150 from Kirk Lumpkin, $100 from Judith Bagley, $500 from Carolyn Doggett, $100 from James Rathe, $100 from Rachel Yusen, $400 from Hal Wagenet $100 from Gregory Bonaccorsi, $100 from Judith Ahern, $100 from Michael Haschak, $100 from Terry Poplawski, $100 from Helen Green, $100 from Rachel Binah (“self-employed artist”), $100 from G.A. Young (“Labor rep Teachers Union”), $150 from Gary Owen $100 from Dixie Johansen, $500 from Richard Padula (“Forester”). 

Pam Elizondo, Environmental Healing Consultant: None so far.

Tony Tucker, Emergency Childcare Worker: None so far.

Cyndee Logan, Housing Director: None so far.

Shawna Jeavons, Educator: None so far.

Michael Horger, Parent/Retired: None so far.


Katrina Bartolomie, Assistant Clerk-Recorder/Registrar. $2,000 from Phyllis Bartolomie, $1,000 from Darlene Simpson (Gregg Simpson Trucking), $2,000 from John T Stephenson and $2,336.64 (“signs purchased”). 

Jeanette S. Kroppmann, Real Property Appraiser II. $10,000 from Robert Doran (VP Construction Divis). ROIC/CZAR DRT, President), 

Dirk Larson, Real Property Appraiser III. $5,000 from himself.


“Did anyone pay attention to the article posted here the other day from the Sacramento Bee about the ‘seismic shift’ in pot supply moving from the Emerald Triangle to the Central Coast? Salinas issued more than a thousand permits this year.

How many has Mendo issued? A few dozen? They are killing the goose that lays golden eggs.

I have it from several long time cultivators that the ‘industry’ up here is on life support, barely surviving. The expensive, bureaucratic labyrinth that even granny growers with a few plants must pass through is suffocating.

I think supervisor candidate Ted Williams has the right approach to this problem. At the candidates forum in Philo last Monday night he said that until a clearer picture of the marketplace emerges the permit process should be pared down to a single page application with a twenty-five dollar flat fee. After some time, a better assessment of how much money the county can vacuum from the industry can be made.

Every agency wants a big bite of the lucrative pie. Only one problem: there’s just a small piece left.”

RE THE HART MURDERS, a reader writes: "And it's totally normal and safe behavior to drive drunk, with your car full of your unbuckled children, near a cliff and then speed up and peel out over the cliff. Totally normal to remove your children from public schools and move from state to state as soon as someone reports you to the CPS. And it's totally logical and probable to conclude that all of the numerous abuse witnesses, Child Protective Services, and law enforcement from four different states are all lying and exaggerating all of these different reports because they are all homophobic sexist bigots out to get lesbians. Right?? Yeah right. Wrong. Murder/Suicide all the way. Jennifer Hart was head narcissistic racist psycho "mommy" and Sarah was her pathetic little sycophant. And together they took pleasure in torturing those poor children from the day they got them home. Starved and beat them. Isolated and enslaved them. Treated & trotted them around occasionally like circus freaks. They adopted them for the attention and of course the money which they spent all on themselves- obviously both living and eating VERY well."


Whitman says, “Great poetry requires great audiences.” The public is welcome to celebrate the lively word on Sunday April 22, Hill House of Mendocino, at the 15th consecutive revival of the Mendocino Spring Poetry Celebration. This event draws 30-40 of the best poets and work from the north counties and beyond. There will be two open readings. Sign up at noon for the reading at 1:00 PM; sign up at 5:00 for the reading at 6:00. Prepare up to four minutes per each session.  All poems will be considered for broadcast by Dan Roberts on KZYX&Z.  Choice comestibles and fellowship, open book displays. No charge, contributions welcome. For info: Gordon Black at or (707) 937-4107.  


  1. Kathy April 18, 2018

    In all fairness, what resources do you suggest poor little Mendocino County offer to our Southern Sonoma cousins, to re-purchase the water rights we so literally washed down the river decades ago? Surely it is not $$$…

    • Mark Scaramella April 18, 2018

      As I understand Pinches arguments, the best one is that the water in Lake Sonoma is largely Mendo’s because it fell on Mendo land and drained into SoCo. So a case could be made that if SoCo gave us our Lake Mendo water back, or some of it, we wouldn’t challenge their right to our water in Lake Sonoma. It’s still worth a shot. I also thought Pinches had some other arguments about the amount SoCo is paying for our water. For example, since SoCo is selling our water to Marin County and that deal was made after the Lake Mendo dam, we might have some right to some of the profits they make off the Marin sales. There were other legalistic arguments too. But Pinches’ fellow Supes simply didn’t want to open the issue up for fear it might jeopardize the extremely low rates Potter Valley grape growers pay for their welfare water. In other words, the rest of inland Mendo is being held hostage, water wise, to the Potter Valley welfare grape growers. Apparently, the other water users inland only care about that subsidy and the amount of water in Lake Mendo during extended droughts.

      • Betsy Cawn April 19, 2018

        Lake County is also held hostage to the Potter Valley operators, since their surface water flows — and downstream collection systems — depend on Eel River headwaters in the Mendocino National Forest.

  2. james marmon April 18, 2018


    “WORD DRIFTING over the Coast Range from the direction of Lake County says Allan ‘The Kid’ Flora has returned to work for the County of Lake”


    Allan ‘The Kid’ Flora’ has not returned to work for the County of Lake, he is now the new Director of Finance for the City of Clearlake. Lake County’s and Mendocino’s loss is our gain.

    Welcome Allan

    James Marmon MSW
    Clearlake Resident

  3. Kathy April 18, 2018

    Mark, There’s a lengthy background explanation to these water rights beginning on page 8 of this 2002/03 Mendocino County Grnad Jury report:
    I seem to recall that the points you have raised about John Pinches water rights reclamation have already been thoroughly explored, to no avail. Further complicating it all is PG&E’s proposal to pull out of the Eel River management.

    • Mark Scaramella April 19, 2018

      Yes, as a brief summary of the history of the situation, that report is handy. But, as an argument for what Pinches was trying to bring up, I don’t see it. In fact, it appears to me that it actually supports Pinches’s points by mentioning “county of origin” and the requirement to periodically rejustify “beneficial use” (a term that mostly just means helps make a profit for a few primary users, but still…) I still think that Mendo could leverage the Lake Sonoma water that comes from Mendo run-off into a case for trading it for more Lake Mendo water. And surely Mendo should get its fair share of the proceeds from the water SoCo SELLS to Marin, also not mentioned as an argument (only as a factoid in passing) in the Grand Jury Report.

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