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Cowboy Cal Indicts Fort Bragg

Fort Bragg has a lot to talk about, but across our town, discussion was muted, dark. In coffee houses and on street benches, locals were shaking their heads and discounting the evidence of their perceptions.

Last Monday night’s City Council Meeting had wafted through the motions without ever quite touching reality. The Council endorsed Measure C, the parcel tax for our badly managed hospital, expressing unqualified support for the institution. As Malcolm Macdonald has observed, councilman Will Lee, a hospital employee, declined to recuse himself, muttering incantations of explanation out of hitherto unknown regulations.

Then the Council approved the plodding, wasteful Visit Fort Bragg expenditure without thinking about that. Mayor Lindy had suddenly disappeared and without him, even in the gloom, it was easy to observe that practical efficiency had made a giant leap forward.

Mike Cimolino told the people of the City that he was not going to run again. He did it quietly, almost as an aside. The Council didn’t bat an eye. I guess they knew it was coming. Cimolino made the announcement without receiving in return any of the strokes and congratulations that are absolutely mandatory in local government and always effusive. The silence over Cimolino’s announcement was unreal. Mike deserves appreciation and acknowledgment for his years of service, for sure.

But the big takeaway from the meeting was the general perplexity and citywide confusion over Jacob Patterson's one-man assault on democracy.

At first glance, there seemed to be about half the number of folks in the audience that Fort Bragg has become accustomed to at its government meetings. As things got rolling it became clear that virtually everyone who had shown up either worked for or had once worked for the hospital. This was the big night for loyalists to pitch the parcel tax and collect their rubber stamp from the Council, Patterson be damned. The proposed parcel assessment, if passed, would raise roughly a million for our beloved but faded little hospital. Hospital employees and associated boosters were present in mass, marching one by one to the podium to simulate spontaneous support. Sheriff Allman had driven over, as he told us by way of explanation, because hospitals in the abstract are a matter of public safety.

As soon as the Council gave the hospital boosters a thumbs up and moved on to other business almost everyone left. It was scary.

City council meetings as we have come to know them in recent years are usually a packed hall of divergent interests with standing room only. What was left Monday night after the exodus was an empty room and a tiny knot of villains slouching in their folding chairs, keeping a conspicuously low profile in supportive proximity to the now infamous lawyer Patterson. None of them but Cal Winslow said anything. Cal Winslow lectured Fort Bragg in muddled logic on the racism they don't know they have.  Winslow seemed less like a fighter for racial equality than conspirator plotting for personal political advantage.

Monday night Fort Bragg Town Hall was filled not with debate, or advocacy but with a miasma of community disgust for an attack on civic democracy that everyone knows is very wrong and that no one can fight, thanks to state legislation intended to beat back real racism in urban areas but applied locally by Jacob Patterson, an unemployed young lawyer, and posturing libs like Winslow, to end general elections in the little City of Fort Bragg for neighborhood districts via the California Voting Rights Act.

History tells us that the loss of liberty and the destruction of freedom comes silently, always without much fanfare. In sinister creeping increments the precious rights of freedom slip away. It is the rule in human politics that the maneuvers of power mongers seeking greater power are made as quietly as possible. When people push back it is contentious and noisy.

Mr. Patterson was prim and silent in the midst of his groupies, making no statements or arguments, declining eye contact but looking snappy in the suit that he has now acquired. One hardly recognized him without his flip-flops.

He has taken over a sizeable percentage of our city administration’s energy and time. The ad hoc Committee or the City Manager are meeting with him every time I walk into city hall. For everyone in and out of government, contempt for his amoral and narcissistic civic extortion is growing daily. The more people think about the loss of general elections and a City Council composed not of the best that we can find, but with otherwise unelectable hitchhikers riding the pretense of racism, conversation dies. The tiny clique of manipulators that are suing Fort Bragg could never in a million years be elected in a general election. Normally, the drooling tiny tyrants of political correctness would be a minor feature at a City Council meeting. Now they are front and center.

There was speculation that the flagship Committee for Participatory Voting was a figment of Jacob Patterson's imagination since not one of them has had the courage to come forward. But maybe they exist after all. Rumors were flying over the weekend on Social Media that Scott Menzies was enlisted in the occult committee. Numerous emails to Mr. Menzies failed to elicit a simple NO I am not.

Monday last, Citywide astonishment and disgust apparently kept almost everyone at home. I wonder about next week.

* * *

PUBLIC COMMENT preceding Monday night’s City Council meeting:

[1] Cal Winslow:

My name is Cal Winslow. I live in Fort Bragg. I would like to refer back to the last meeting. I arrived late from out of town and was not able to comment. As we all know, California is highly segregated. We vie with Texas to be the most segregated state in the country when it comes to Latinos. This has been most apparent in the south and in those cities, but it is increasingly true in the north and in the suburbs and now in our towns. California is segregated by housing, education, employment and governance. In our town, Fort Bragg, there are virtually no Latinos in government, on the City Council, school board, hospital board, etc. So this is why we now have laws to correct this. I have to assume that this is why Jacob Patterson has raised these here. We don't have to live lives segregated from one another. But it is not sufficient to simply say this. There are, we have to admit, people who like it as it is and people who are racist. There are many others who are not and who don't. It is not just a matter of individual preference however. We discovered in the 1960s what we called then de facto segregation, that is, de facto segregation and racism in fact, if not in law. And that it had to be challenged as much as anything else. Because whether we like it or not that is the way our society has become structurally, economically, socially and institutionally. I believe that Jacob Patterson's letter offers us an opportunity, a real opportunity, to change things here in Fort Bragg. I think that in making some changes we can make the town more democratic, more open, and I think the smaller districts will get us to the grassroots, get us to people who are not involved, campaigning will be less expensive, the results will be more representative, no one group will be allowed to dominate the whole town. And I think we will be happier and healthier for it. Studies in UCLA and elsewhere however tell us that one big problem is that we have come as a people to accept segregation as normal. Or as somehow natural. Just the way things are. But I don't think that is the case. It's simply not true. It's simply not natural and hardly normal and we should not accept it as such. We can change it and now in this case simply by abiding by a California state law. And finally just a footnote, I am not in any way attempting to speak, or pretending to speak for the Latino population in Fort Bragg or anywhere else. Anglos here are very sensitive to this. Rather, I speak simply for myself, a citizen who abhors racism which we have seen plenty of lately and it has no place in equality and democracy.

[2] Rex Gressett

My name is Rex Gressett. I had not intended to speak but I would like to address those remarks. Pulling the race card and accusing the population of the city of Fort Bragg of racism is beneath contempt. I've never seen a city in which racism was less apparent than in Fort Bragg. Marriage, our churches, our job situations have all combined to make us a unified city. I have never experienced racism, never seen anybody be racist against any member of the Hispanic community. But there are people who are willing to play the race card in order to make a profit on a bad law which threatens the entire state of California. 88 cities have been blasted by the California Voters Rights Act. Some of them fought it, everybody lost. It's a gold mine for lawyers and it is a despicable resort to racism in order to undermine the fair processes of a fair and free democracy — that is what we are looking down the barrel of. I have no doubt that the California Voters Rights Act will inflict this redistricting on us. In each of the five districts that we are going to have there won't be any of them that have a Hispanic majority. They will use the California Voters Rights Act to enrich Jacob Patterson and take the precious right of free democracy away from the people of Fort Bragg. The craven interests who are willing to throw racism in our face need to know that the people of Fort Bragg are not racists, that we are intermarried with the Hispanic community, that we respect the Hispanic community, they are the most prosperous element of our community and resorting to this kind of below the belt race card — words fail me. I have not prepared these remarks. I did not intend to speak. I will be writing about it. But I think the people of Fort Bragg need to hold their heads up high and make it clear to the racial dividers, the race baiters, that we are not a racist city, that we are a people united together and that we respect the Hispanic community. No Hispanic member of the community has ever run for the City Council, all of us would welcome it. But to take our fair and free and democratic processes and trash them, destroy them, to have neighborhood representatives who don't represent the population as a whole at all — that takes something very precious away from our community. The vast majority of the people in this city know that we are losing something of great value, something precious to our democracy. And the people who do it are beneath contempt.

Winslow, Gressett

One Comment

  1. Joe Hansem May 30, 2018

    He’s not accusing Ft. Bragg of being racist, but saying that the lack of district elections may have a “disparate impact” that is inequitable, affecting certain groups more than others. I don’t see that Mr. Patterson has made any such inflammatory accusations at all, being entirely civil and professional in addressing this issue. Sadly, it has been certain of his opponents that have resorted to tabloid style demagoguery and troll like ad hominem attacks.

    Racism or not, local district elections facilitate grassroots democracy better and should be the default mode as it is with our local BOS.

    Yes, some jurisdictions may be too small for that to be practicable, not sure that is the case with Ft. Bragg, but winner take all at-large elections for multi-seat legislative bodies tend to perpetuate one party rule and the unchecked dominance of elites across the board which is why big business interests tend to favor them as they did in SF in the years after Milk and Moscone were assassinated, when in the era of Feinstein the Supes-all 11 of whom were elected at large-were much more heavily dominated by Nob Hill and West Portal commercial interests to the detriment of local neighborhoods, minorities and the working class.

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