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Off the Record (Oct. 24, 2018)

SUPERVISOR CROSKEY’S tax-paid junket to Washington was pulled for discussion from the Supervisor’s consent agenda last week by Supervisor Gjerde, and it’s encouraging to see the Fort Bragg solon awake again after his long supervisorial slumber. The reactions of Gjerde’s four colleagues were predictable. Supervisor Carre Brown launched into a full monarchical snit as she, and the others, referred to tax money as “ours,” referring to a $1500 slush fund each Supe annually gets as walking around money, and how dare anyone question lame duck Croskey’s tax-paid trip. 

“WE’RE VERY CAREFUL about how we spend our out of state travel,” said Brown, a veteran conference goer, going on to make a porous non-case for meeting with other far-off officials to discuss homelessness, forest management, wild fires, and other hot topics, confusing endless talk with action. (Mendo can’t handle about a hundred homeless people, for one issue apparently beyond their coping capacities, but they talk endlessly about homelessness. In fact, they paid an outside consultant to draft a practical plan for dealing with the county’s homeless population; The commissioned Marbut Report has been ignored by the Supervisors, attacked by the local branch of Helping Professionals who live off human misery.) Brown, visibly unhappy at the challenge to Croskey’s pointless jaunt, was on a roll. “Every state is being asked to send leaders. Mendocino County needs to be in the room.” (Hell, if Kanye West got an Oval Office one-on-one with Trump, why not Croskey?) Brown concluded by congratulating Croskey for traveling to Washington in Brown’s place, suggesting that she would have been happy to go but had other obligations.

GJERDE CALMLY, and without a hint of irony, said Croskey’s jaunt to kick around the big think subjects with the Trumpians was “commendable,” but the reason for her going would be to report back but, with two Supervisors, Hamburg and Croskey, out of office in January, there would be no follow-up by Croskey and, therefore, Gjerde was voting No.

SUPERVISOR McCOWEN, assuming the royal ‘we,’ and ignoring that the Supe’s slush fund and all travel is funded by taxpayers, stated that “Every supervisor has their own travel funds for their own opportunities. An individual supervisor using management training funds is legitimate. It’s not up to the board to say how each supervisor uses those funds.”

SUPERVISOR CROSKEY defended her journey: “My first question to the CEO was to ask if anyone else was willing to go? I thought that somebody should go. Mendocino should have a stronger voice at federal level. I will do as much as I can for Mendocino County….” Croskey repeated the same list of hot topics recited by Brown, which she felt required the presence of a Mendocino County supervisor to impress upon the Trumpians their significance.

SUPERVISOR BROWN, still angry, returned for another pass. “It’s been policy over six years that travel is on the agenda because it’s out of state travel. It’s about issues, not the individual. Mendocino County has to be at table. I do a lot of traveling. Mendocino has to be at the table. Neighboring counties do it constantly [sic]. When was last time Mendocino County went on a public affairs trip for Mendocino County issues?”

NOT SURPRISING that Supervisor Hamburg, a one-term Congressman who’s been at the public trough his entire adult life was of course all for Croskey’s pointless trip. “Mendocino County needs to be represented. It’s very important that Mendocino County be there,” and off he went into the same litany of big issues cited by Brown and Croskey before congratulating Croskey for going. “It’s not a junket, it’s a working trip.”

PERHAPS roused at the unethical implications of “junket,” Croskey veered off into martyred mom mode. “It’s not easy to travel with three kids and animals at home,” a statement begging the bright neon question, “Why go then?” The supervisor emphasized that she wasn’t stopping off at her new home in Ohio. “No other stops. I’m going right to DC and back.”

McCOWEN, supervisor from the Ukiah area, moved to approve the junket. Gjerde voted No, the others, of course, voted Yes.

PS. The invitation from the Trump White House doesn’t offer any specifics.

“The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs invites you to the White House Conference with California Local Leaders for remarks and discussion with key administration officials and policymakers on pertinent issues impacting the State of California. Tuesday, October 23, 2018. 10:30 AM ET– White House Tour. 1:00 – 4:00 PM ET–White House Conference.”

Collins English Dictionary: “Junket, noun, an excursion, as by a public official, paid for out of public funds.”

THERE WAS NO PUBLIC COMMENT on any of the usual hot topics at Tuesday’s Board meeting. Several supervisors expressed mild surprise at the lack of public comment, particularly on the appearance of Mental Health consultant Lee Kemper who told the Board that they need to deal more with early intervention and outreach before they make a final decision on where and how big a Psychiatric Health Facility should be, adding that he thought the County should solicit bids from local hospitals for mental health facilities and services before doing any remodeling of the Old Howard Hospital.

THE BOARD also expressed surprise at the lack of public comment on the pot permit program status report which, as we reported last week, is not moving very fast, even though more irrelevant tweaks are on the table. At the end of the pot permit program rundown, dumbfounded board chair Dan Hamburg, a long-time pot farmer, openly wondered, “Where are our regulars?”

BUT THERE SHOULD BE NO SURPRISE. The Board steadfastly stonewalls every question from the public, not even asking staff to come back later with replies to questions the public has which relate to questions the Supervisors themselves have already asked about. So “the public” — or that portion which is willing to sit through hours of irrelevant proclamations, tedious process debates, needless staff presentations designed to minimize discussion of real issues, only to get a pro forma brush off “Thank you.” The thank you for showing up and speaking you hopeless dupe is followed by the Supes retreating to closed session.

THE SUPERVISORS continue to act as if there’s plenty of money sitting around for abstract purposes. They give themselves raises without regard to budget considerations, the CEO thinks there’s $500k-$600k per year sitting around to spend on her own Mendo-run Emergency Services Agency (more on that coming up), Sheriff’s overtime is grossly underbudgeted and nobody knows how much that’ll end up costing, and Mendo was recently denied federal reimbursements for the 2018 fire emergency response (being appealed, but…?)

AND NOW THEY’VE BEGUN an endless arrangement with four other suckers, er “Participating Agencies” to, in the words of Supervisor John McCowen, “move forward” on submitting a bid to purchase the Potter Valley Project from PG&E. “This is not by any means the total cost as we move forward to pursue this,” admitted McCowen, “but it will accomplish a significant task and we will have all the information related to operation of the project to evaluate potential acquisition strategies. … It’s a small amount [$20k out of a total of $100k] given the importance that the project continues to supply water to Mendocino County.”

SUPERVISOR CARRE BROWN, eternally vigilant on water issues given the special big breaks her hometown Potter Valley ranchers get on water rates, justified the outside lawyer expense by saying that there’s a “quick turnaround” (an initial submittal of some kind has a three-month deadline, but nobody knows what the hurry is) although neither Brown nor the agenda item proposing the expenditure said exactly what has to be completed in three months — the law firm’s work? A formal bid? An expression of interest? A special pleading to be allowed to bid? Not mentioned.

TUESDAY’S AUTHORIZATION is for Mendo’s one-fifth share of the $100k to be paid to a Sacramento law firm called “Downey Brand” which specializes in soaking their customers for water related legal fees, er, “natural resource litigation.” Also contributing $20k each will (supposedly) be the Redwood Valley water district, the Russian River Flood Control District and the City of Ukiah, along with the Inland Water and Power Commission (an umbrella organization made up of the other four).

MIND YOU, this is just to obtain what McCowen said was “all the information related to operation of the project to evaluate potential acquisition strategies.” And if you think that’s anywhere near what it will end up costing just to prepare a bid to PG&E, I’ve got a water project I’d like to sell you.

THERE’S CLEARLY NO GUARANTEE that Mendo will be successful in bidding for this project — the twenty grand is just a small portion of the down payment just to find out what PG&E is selling, what condition it may be in, what’s it's worth, etc. This is just this opening of a lengthy process.

WHO WILL PAY for the inevitable next phase? Will the other (less-well-funded) agencies be able to keep coming up with the additional legal fees that are sure to follow? Will Mendo have to pay a bigger share of the next round of costs? Who will decide if the work is adequate and whether to proceed, Water & Power Commission? Mendo? PG&E?

THERE’S ALSO NO DISCUSSION of what would happen if Mendo didn’t end up with ownership of the project. Could Mendo ever really lose their rights to the diverted water that Potter Valley grape growers so desperately need at much cheaper rates than unsuspecting householders? Not likely. Although Humboldt County is interested in the project, would they really be able to scale back Mendo’s draw on the project water? Or would there be the usual back-room negotiations on how much gets diverted to Potter Valley and beyond?

THE IMPRESSION WE GET is that there’s a lot of paranoia about even the slightest disturbance in the current – very favorable – arrangements for Potter Valley’s cheap water. So much so that Supervisor Carre Brown has convinced her go-along-get-along colleagues that it’s worth Mendo taxpayers spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on expensive lawyers to pursue an open ended ill-defined project purchase that could easily be one giant waste of money by the time it’s over — if it’s ever over.

PS. AND MS. BROWN’S “QUICK TURNAROUND” problem? PG&E announced their decision to sell the project back in May. Mendo has known about their intention to bid on the project since back then, probably earlier. Why couldn’t they have begun the process with their own eight County Counsel lawyers back then and avoided this huge outside expense? (Mark Scaramella)

THE YASMIN BAN, the Anchor Bay Rastafarian, writes: “Friends: KZYX/Z has silenced my voice from their (our) airwaves at this crucial time, right before an election of momentous importance and significance! I, as a founding member, original programmer, 29 year financial supporter, and almost 50 year resident of Mendocino County, consider this CENSORSHIP of great magnitude. Is this really what a Public, Community Radio Station does when the Program Director, Alice Woelfle does not like you? (me). This is a personal feud between Alice and myself, which could have been peacefully and privately mediated and resolved. Instead, she decided to cut me off at the knees, right before the election and the last day to register to VOTE, because she knows that Voting, Voting Rights and Civil Rights are my passion and my life. She has silenced my voice from the airwaves right before this election. This is truly cruel and unusual punishment. My telephone is totally banned (blocked) from being able to call any phone numbers at kzyx/z and has been for 2 weeks, so that I cannot call The Discussion and inform folks about my information about The Ballot, The Vote, Voting Rights, Voter Suppression, and Voter Registration and this critical upcoming Election!” And so on.

ED NOTE: Yaz’s phone has since been unblocked by the station. Yasmin was given the heave ho by KZYX many years ago (’97, I think) for being so relentlessly rude and generally obnoxious that even the relentlessly rude and generally obnoxious people then dominant at our local audio club could not work with her. The current management is a step forward in the Miss Manners Department, but they enforce the station's legacy blacklist, which includes Yasmin and a number of other much more inexplicably non-personed locals. I've dealt with Yaz for years here at Boonville’s beloved community newspaper. She’s always been combustible bundle of perpetual grievances who goes on and on about her victimization. She and a large number of “progressives” like her — unhappy single women mostly — need strict behavior parameters enforced by frequent time-outs, aka bans. If I were Ms. Woelfle , KZYX’s program manager, I'd say, "Yasmin, you've got three minutes once a week on open lines. That's it. Take it or leave it.” 

RECOMMENDED READING: "FANTASYLAND: How America Went Haywire, a 500-Year History" by Kurt Andersen. Strike “recommended” and substitute “required reading.” Which this book should be, especially here on the Northcoast, rural national headquarters for magical thinking. The author says he was especially inspired by the ascension of Trump, “a pure Fantasyland being, its apotheosis.”


AMERICA was founded by fanatical religious sects like the Puritans and the Quakers and has always been plagued by hysterias, political and religious, with rampant Nut Pie-ism picking up its all-time, and still unchecked, head of steam in the late 1960s. "We let a million flowers bloom — it wasn’t just groovy peace and love. 'I can believe what I want; science is no better than magic; reason is not superior to faith; it’s all a construction' — different flavors and versions of that existed in the academy, in Haight-Ashbury, in my college dorm room. At the same time, this was the moment when American Protestantism really threw out nuance and reason." Yes, Mr. Andersen, you've got it totally correct. '67 was the year of the great pivot to unreality.

ANDERSEN'S history of the irrational is exhaustive. He takes us from the early religions and their witch burnings up through contemporary charlatans like Alex Jones who, the one time I watched him, I thought was some kind of rightwing comedian. But Jones was among the first persons Trump called his thank you's to after his election, and who’s laughing now?

I WAS PARTICULARLY PLEASED to read the author's well-deserved whacks at Oprah, whom he indicts for giving quacks like Dr. Oz, Shirley McClain, and the recovered memory liars, to mention only a few of charlatans she gives repeat air time to sell their noxious books. But Oprah isn't the only medium to give magical thinking national exposure. All the tv talk shows do it.

A CURSORY READING of any Mendocino County events calendar invites the credulous to a range of crackpot gatherings and presentations organized by dubious persons with even more dubious credentials. We can all name our favorite delusional preoccupations, ranging from the sinister — vaccination causes autism (very big in Mendo) to the harmless, such as astrology, that fail-safe celestial guide to everyday life "believed" in by millions of Americans.

CRIMINAL magical thinkers are almost synonymous with Mendocino County, ranging from Jim Jones and Charles Manson to a more or less harmless member of our board of supervisors and former congressman, Dan Hamburg, who maintains a replica of Adi Da on his dashboard and thinks 911 was an inside job.

I KNEW an otherwise thoroughly grounded local woman who made her living reading fortunes via Tarot cards, but gave it up "because I just couldn't go on giving people bad news." Lots of people get sputtering mad when I say I think Oswald acted alone in murdering Kennedy.

A LOCAL EXAMPLE of magical thinking occurred in the 1980s when the non-existent phenomena of Satanist child abuse swept many areas of the country and was particularly venomous in Fort Bragg, with a mini-hysteria in Potter Valley. In Fort Bragg, a pair of sisters from the Bay Area named Orr bought a property at the foot of Airport Drive north of town and set up a day care center, running immediately afoul of Coastlib when, as Catholics, they came out publicly against abortion. From there, the sisters were rumored to sub-let toddlers to Satanists for day time ceremonies up the Coast, a fact verified by 3-year-olds to investigators from the Mendocino County Department of Social Services, and very soon the Sheriff's Department packed off a detective to police seminars on how to sleuth out Beelzebub's predatory exploitation of pre-schoolers.

THE ORR SISTERS were hounded out of town, and one of them lost custody of her daughter when a deranged social worker, Pam Hudson, an eager advocate of Satanist conspiracies, accused the mother of renting her daughter to devil worshippers.

MY FAVORITE RIFF among the hysterics promoting these evil rumors was the one that had the daycare kids being ferried to the Satanists by a Georgia-Pacific helicopter! Of course the kids got back to the Orrs' daycare in plenty of time to be picked up by their unsuspecting parents.

BUT THE PERSECUTION of these women was tax-supported and sustained by official Mendocino County, which is additional evidence, if any is needed, that a whole lot of our fellow citizens were out of the classroom when critical thinking skills were taught. Which reminds me; I forgot to buy a PowerBall ticket. I'll be right back.

“WHEN I LOOK at the 1960s I’m not saying that civil rights, or feminism, or any of these unquestionably good, virtuous pieces of progress were bad. But there was a blurring of the real and the fictional, and adults trying to be young forever … I don’t want to so much blame the Baby Boomers, but they were, by virtue of their size and their timing, the crucial generational agents of this change. And then we got the internet, and now we’ve all gone to hell." — Kurt Andersen

(click to enlarge)

WITH A LOCK on his own re-election because the Northcoast is gerrymandered to keep conservative liberals in office forever, Rep. Jared Huffman is pulling for his Florida housemate and fellow Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is running to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz. The Press Democrat, a conservative liberal newspaper owned by former Demo rep Doug Bosco, ran a front pager on this non-story. The purely local angle? Seven miles south of Boonville, on the east side of Highway 128, there's a Beto campaign sign.

ANNOUNCEMENT from the Ukiah Daily Journal: "Mendocino College invites the community to join the festivities as the college faculty, staff and students host the sixth annual Día de los Muertos celebration this year." I'm going way out on a limb here and suppose that the college's celebration bears faint, if that much, resemblance to the traditional ceremonies where Mexicans visit the graves of their departed, leaving their favorite food and drink. As soon as authentic traditions cross the border into Gringolandia they become one more Mexican hat dance. Day of the Dead makes a lot more sense than Halloween, which hasn't made any sense since way back times when it was a kind of harvest celebration.

LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIALS ought to be required to respond to reasonable inquiries. Carmel Angelo, County CEO, is not elected and we're on her case constantly. But she replies to our questions, and for that we give her major kudos. McCowen will respond, Gjerde is often petulantly out of contact when we're critical of him, Carre Brown never answers, and ditto for the Willits temp, Croskey. Hamburg is.... well, to be gentle it, only in the 5th District of Mendocino County could a guy this bogus get over. Pinches is always available to talk or argue, and candidate Haschak has also established himself as a guy who isn't afraid to mix it up. If an elected person can't or won't defend him or herself he/she ought to get into another line of work. Not an admirer of Willie Brown or establishment Democrats period, but I always admired Brown for wading straight into the media scrum and giving as good as he got, partly because he's smarter than most of the chuckle buddies of Bay Area media, but mostly because he has the combative personality necessary to defend his positions. Mendo? We elect too many people who want to be loved. And argument is “negative.” Politically, Mendocino County is about as sophisticated as a day care center.

JUST IN from Carre Brown: “I forgot to say that the effort to contact me was at 1:38 pm on Friday. I don't hide from reporters nor constituents. I am sorry I was out of coverage and then back logged with email and phone calls. FYI - I was in Weaverville for a regional meeting until my return home at 9pm on Friday evening. I had an event to attend all day on Saturday and a personal family commitment on Sunday. Weaverville did not have good cell service for my cellphone to receive messages, therefore, I had a huge backlog to go through in the order each came. Marilyn [Davin], I left a message on your cellphone earlier today.”

LOTS OF US are sorry to see Mary Lynn Hunt retire from the Planning and Building Department. An absolute rock of reliable information re building projects for something like 39 years in an office where, well, contradiction often seems the policy, Ms. Hunt was always friendly, always helpful, always responsive.


[1] The everyday world we live in is straight forward and relentless and it doesn’t tolerate the frolicking of people that disrespect its dictates. You need to eat, you need to sleep, you need to drink. If you don’t drink you die in a few days, if you don’t eat you die in a few weeks. In this everyday world, in fact, in this universe, every object hurtles through time and space at the combined speed of the speed of light whether we like it or not, and given that we move through space at maybe a few hundred miles per second, we are moving through time at pretty much the speed of light. And that would be about 186,000 miles per second. Which is one hell of a clip. The point is that literally, time flies, or alternatively, we fly through time, and if time can be defined as the distance between events, that distance is covered pretty damn quick. There isn’t “time” for nonsense, and so the bullshit-mongers, to the extent that they believe their own bullshit, will not be accommodated, they will go splat against the windshield of onrushing events.

And if YOU ascribe to bullshit, you won’t be accommodated either, you are speeding through the direction of reality we call “time” and the events interspersed through it will splat you too. And so Hollywood, the bastions of – cough – higher learning, the promoters of a “liberal” world order where oligarchs allowed to run rampant, these are people and things that don’t respect the macro-reality of time and space and its rules. These people, the New York Times included, may insist that THEY make the reality but this is a laughable conceit.

(2) I’m sure more than a few have noticed the ironic dichotomy in this individualistic behavior. Whether biker, hipster, or tattooed barista the same group identity and conformance takes over.

I get a laugh out of Hell’s Angels types – that’s right, I’m talking to you biker dude. They are all about being an individual from the larger society so long as one wears the appropriate leathers and vest, rides the appropriate Harley, and parties in the sanctioned behaviors. Ya, real lone wolf individual there.

You could be the meanest, toughest drug dealin’ outlaw but don’t dare show up in a polo shirt riding a Honda – or driving an Aztec.

Same phenomena, same outcomes. Rinse and repeat.


 [1] I sometimes hear people say that safety is an issue in Fort Bragg. What are they talking about? I'm sincerely wondering. I've lived here for 20 years and have walked or jogged literally every single block, including every single alley, at all hours of the day and night. I've never witnessed a crime. I've never been the victim of a crime. I've never felt threatened, and I'm often alone on the streets in the dark. (Of course there's the usual sexual harassment, a given if you count that, but it is not a “crime.”)

[2] I feel much less safe walking around in Fort Bragg at night than I do in a big city. That's partially because I am a city person by nature, and something about more people makes a place feel more safe. I very rarely am out at night, but when I am I feel like I run into more vacant-eyed drug casualties than I do in a big city where you get a mix of all kinds of people doing any number of things at night.

[3] True. When I'm out at night I prefer the more populated spaces, even in Fort Bragg. I figure even if the sidewalks are empty the houses are not, so if I did need help ... But in a big city you have plenty of people out and about and there's security in that too. Also sometimes I worry about mountain lions. Ha!

[4] I moved to the coast from San Francisco and still spend time in Oakland/Berkeley. From a subjective standpoint, Fort Bragg feels much safer generally than either of those places. I suspect that many people in larger cities do not report crimes that are reported in Fort Bragg, and this skews the statistics. I know people who have not reported muggings, car break ins and burglaries in the cities, unless they need to do so for insurance purposes, because they feel it would be pointless.

One Comment

  1. George Dorner October 25, 2018

    I remain baffled by the fact that ex-Congressman Dan Hamburg didn’t bring home any national political connections to Mendocino County. After all, one of the benefits of electing representatives is the personal connections they might make for us citizens among the power elite. Yet Hamburg seems to have met no one of consequence with serving in Congress.

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