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Off the Record (Dec. 12, 2018)

LAST WEEK SHERIFF ALLMAN updated the Board on the status of his office’s compliance with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) rules and California law. Allman first read the County/Sheriff’s Office policy that they do not enforce federal immigration laws and they do not arrest people solely for immigration violations (although we’ve seen a couple of bookings where “illegal entry” is the only charge). Allman then ran some federally required statistics that must be reported to the local “governing body” (i.e., the Supervisors). In 2017 there were 4700 bookings. Of those, there were 31 requests from ICE to detain arrestees. Of those 31, 15 were arrested by ICE. Four were still in custody on Dec. 31. Seven were released to other agencies. And two requests were withdrawn. Allman gave a copy of the report to the Clerk of the Board. Allman noted that the stats overall show that ICE showed an interest in very few people arrested with immigration violations, less than 1% of the 4700. The Board had no questions. 

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT wondered recently: "Five years later: How has Graton casino changed us?" I'll take a stab at this one. I'd say it's helped degrade what's left of Sonoma County with one more disproportionately large pair of ugly structures without even the architectural imagination to design them as the cash registers they are. 

Of course this added blight on SoCo's landscape adds enormously to the already congested traffic on nearby 101, but the enormity of the casino and hotel parking lots neatly accommodates late night drug deals, discount sexual assignations, and the low rent crime typical of even the grandest gambling palaces, and certainly characteristic of Mendocino County's joyless casinos. Some of us may recall that SoCo's residual environmentalists pointed out that this appalling project would be built on a wetlands, which it was, and that nearby Rohnert Park, itself a study in ghastliness, and perennially short of water, meant the casino's great gulping wells would further deplete the town's exhausted aquifer. And all of it erected behind a facade of a vague Native American legacy fronted by a white American who self-alleges NA heritage. As George Carlin never tired of pointing out, take the bullshit out of America and the whole show would collapse like a failed souffle. 

THAT ETERNAL brow-furrower, 'What to do with Ukiah's Palace Hotel?' is again occupying the distracted attentions of Ukiah’s government, whose startlingly overpaid apparatus is seemingly unable to bring off the simplest, most obvious civic task other than the maintenance of their own lavish headquarters on Ukiah's westside. 

AS UKIAH GOVERNMENTS have come and gone, the Palace has remained abandoned and crumbling for almost forty years. Periodically, there's a flurry of promises that the latest owners are poised to get it up and running again. (The Palace originally collapsed in a blizzard of arsons and collapsed cocaine financing in the early 1980's, one of the arsons undoubtedly the work of Vince Sisco, also a principal figure in the Fort Bragg arson fires of 1987.) The once gracious old hotel, and still, even abandoned, primary among Ukiah's scant architectural gems, is presently in receivership. But the receiver doesn't have the money to rehab it or to tear it down, and here we are. And will be.

BUT WAIT! The brain trust at Boonville's beloved weekly has an idea. Take the money accumulating from the passage of Measure B, Sheriff Allman's planned mental health facility now being smothered in endless meetings because the County's helping pros see it as a threat to their sinecures, and invest it in the Palace as a combined psych ward and homeless housing project. Helping professionals could live on site in the view suites and the Sheriff could maintain a mini-sub-station on the ground floor next door to a revived restaurant and bar. The only investment capital we seem to have in Mendocino County is the Sheriff's Measure B fund. Invest it in the Palace we say!

HERE HE COMES: Former Vice President Joe Biden hinted at how seriously he was considering a presidential run, calling himself “the most qualified” person for the job during a stop on his book tour. If Biden’s the candidate, Trump gets another four years.

SHERIFF ALLMAN'S WEDNESDAY PRESS CONFERENCE last Thursday didn't reveal anything new regarding the disappearance of Khadijah Britton, last seen being dragged out of a Covelo home at the point of a gun wielded by Negie Fallis, a man with a lengthy criminal history. The witness who at first said she'd seen Fallis force Miss Britton into his vehicle has refused to further implicate him, and we understand that persons within Covelo's Native American community who may have direct evidence of Fallis harming Miss Britton are not cooperating with law enforcement. Sheriff Allman said that Fallis is the sole suspect in the young woman's disappearance but there is not yet direct evidence to implicate him. Fallis, however, was sentenced to four years (two years of actual prison in all probability) in state prison on lesser charges (felon with firearm) unrelated to Khadijah Britton's disappearance. 

TRAVIS R. STRICKLAND, 37, of Ukiah was caught leaving a Cloverdale bank robbery. He is also a prime suspect in last summer’s robbery of the Chase Bank on South State Street in Ukiah. Mendocino DA David Eyster, however, says he has yet to be apprised of a plan to prosecute Travis Strickland in Mendocino County, but expects to be notified by Monday. Your trusty correspondent knows Travis pretty well, because he used to tend the bar at Ukiah’s downtown Saucy Restaurant – now called Cultivo. So I knew Travis pretty well, I say, but not enough to avoid being shocked to find he was moonlighting as a bank robber. (Bruce McEwen)

IN OTHER Ukiah news, Maureen “Mo” Mulheren is Ukiah’s new mayor. She gave me the news herself when I delivered her paper to her on Thursday. “Guess what happened last night?” I couldn’t begin to guess, and felt somewhat in peril of being told I’d drank to excess and misbehaved in some way, so I waited, and she said, “They made me Mayor.” 

“Who made you Mayor?” 

“The People!” 

“Congrats, Your Honor! Very glad for you.” 

Well, I wonder what Phil Baldwin and his council of Old Fuddy Duddies will make of that, after their letter-writing campaign to the AVA against “Mo”? I’ll just go to Schat’s and see if they glare at me with their communal Evil-Eye, like they did before when I came out in support of Mo for city council, which she so handily won. 

(Bruce McEwen)

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: The Fear of 13, a British documentary about a charismatic American, Nick Yarris, who was convicted of murder he didn’t commit at age 19 and spent the next 21 years on Pennsylvania’s Death Row. Yarris tells his own fascinating story of life as a condemned man, with an especially touching account of how he educated himself during his years on death row, having been a full-time car thief and dope head until, at age 20, he was arrested for two crimes he didn't commit. Acquitted on one, but falsely convicted of capital murder, Yarris was finally released in 2004 when DNA evidence proved he was innocent of the rape and murder of a Philadelphia woman. Yarris's story can't help but make the viewer wonder how many people have been executed and/or spent years in prison for crimes they didn't commit before DNA kicked in as the slam dunk evidentiary tool it has since become.


THE RAPE TRIAL FOR ZACHARY BARAJAS, represented by Kevin Davenport, ended in a hung jury Friday. This was the second time the jury could not agree. Waiting for the murder trial upstairs to get started I sat in on some of the Barajas trial, such as the testimony of the victim; and the testimony of the accused. I, of course, didn’t have to decide, but it was known to Mr. Barajas early the next morning that the girl — a junior-classman he hadn’t seen since he graduated Ukiah High School — and who he allegedly raped their first night out together, although they’d never been close in school — well, first thing next morning his own family came to him demanding to know, "What's all this about you raping that girl?" When the cops came to his work at Home Depot, Barajas lied to Detective Michele Maldonado, and later told the jury he had lied then because he was afraid of being accused of statutory rape, since the vic was only 17 (and pregnant) at the time. The SARS (Sexual Assault) nurse at the hospital collected Mr. Barajas’ DNA, and Officer Andrew Phillips of the Ukiah PD had a matching sample from Mr. Barajas. Barajas then changed his story, saying it was all consensual. Chief Prosecutor Dale Trigg immediately re-filed the charges, and a third jury trial for Barajas was set. (Bruce McEwen)

SURPRISING DEVELOPMENT on some of America's Catholic college campuses. 80 male students at Notre Dame have demanded a porn filter on campus WiFi. There isn’t much evidence that the radical increase in the pure numbers of predatory pervs criminality is linked to on-line pornography, but there are lots of anecdotal evidence where the pervs themselves make the link. The anti-porn movement, once the focus of women’s groups, is spreading among college students, at least at Catholic universities. It seems from here obvious that hours spent gazing at the ritual humiliation of half the world’s population would inevitably lead to crimes against women, but every time we wish porn was again banned here come the accusations of censorship and prudery. Lots of unhealthy imagery is rightfully banned with no complaints from anybody, and pornography is definitely unhealthy so why not at least try to make it difficult to see? Better a prude than a voyeur, I say.

WHILE WE'RE TALKING SEX, I was surprised to see a segment on KGO Television the other night that featured a 7-year-old boy talking about his life as a transgender, talking about his transformation in celebratory adult language as he has obviously learned from his dingbat mother who beamed back at the camera as her son talked about going “binary.” A double ding proprietor of a camp for child changelings praised the "safe place for transgender children" she is allegedly providing. This was all presented without challenge, and was all more evidence that this country has totally lost its way. Really, how many 7-year-olds do you know who even think about their sex, let alone want to change it? Mom should be locked up, the kid, before he’s turned into a total nut case, placed with normal people. 

JOHN SAKOWICZ, responding to Supervisor-elect John Haschak’s recent thank you letter to his supporters, wrote, “Best wishes to John Haschak. The CEO system is broken. I hope he will consider leading the way to bringing back the CAO system. The county’s top executive should work at the direction of the Board of Supervisors, not the other way around.”

THE NECESSARY prep for such a change have not been mentioned by any current supervisors or supervisor candidates, much less the idea itself. The comment also assumes benefits of the CAO structure that are far from clear, although there are some, in theory anyway. As far as we could tell, Carmel Angelo was made CEO so that she could more effectively lay people off and take other draconian budget balancing steps back in 2009 when the County’s budget was deeply in the red after the Great Recession. Since then the Supervisors have seemed pleased with the arrangement, even giving Ms. Angelo a big guaranteed series of raises over the next four years and declaring her to be a bargain in the process. She’s a capable person, but she does a job that lots of capable people could do. The manager of, say, Ukiah’s Lucky’s market could easily manage the County of Mendo.) The Supes seem to like the CEO arrangement because it spares their overpaid selves the hassle of hiring and reviewing the non-elected department heads. If the Board was unhappy with the current arrangement they could start by putting more of their own proposals on their agenda, instead of letting the CEO lard it up with shallow, canned “presentations,” awards, proclamations, and the occasional hot potato she prefers the Board take the heat for.

THEORETICALLY, with a CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) some department heads might have a little more independence since they would be hired by and work for the Board instead of the CEO. But in practice, back in the days pre-Angelo days of the CAO, those department heads knew how to play the “Game of Three” to keep themselves in their positions with their auto-raises very much like the CEO system now. If, for just one dramatic example, an incompetent like Ray Hall could remain as Planning Department Head for years and years without complaint while permits and plans went ignored for months if not years, then the CAO “model” would not usher in any noticeable improvements.

AS WE HAVE SAID many times before, the only organizational change the Board could make is to require meaningful monthly departmental reporting so that the Board, the CEO or CAO, and the public can review performance and build a record that could be used for making any necessary changes or tracking any progress on major issues. But that’s even less likely than a change to the CAO model. (Mark Scaramella)

A SLOGAN we can definitely relate to: "DOWN WITH AGFAM — Apple-Google-Facebook-Amazon-Microsoft!"

“TAKE A MINUTE to think about and actually honor the man’s life and what he did,” Bohn said. “He was a World War II veteran. He was a great father figure. He was a great husband figure. And he was a pretty good man. I don’t care if you liked his politics or not, he was a good man. So I think if you’re going to get the day off, take a moment and at least relish in the thought that we had a pretty good man in there, that was a good man to lead by leadership and follow by example. That’s the only thing I would ask. That’s a motion.” — Rex Bohn, Humboldt County supervisor. 

ED NOTE: In Bush's case, his politics defined him, and his politics were lowdown and brutish. Millions of men are "great husband" figures, veterans, "great father" figures. Well thousands maybe.

ACCORDING to knowledgeable people, Ukiah's Palace Hotel is structurally sound, meaning it can be made habitable again. But the same knowledgeable people say making the Palace habitable again is a five million dollar job. Only someone who has five million to sit on while and IF a restored Palace makes a return on that investment would plunk down five million, and only then if he or she could afford to never recoup it. And given that inland moneybags like, for instance, Charlie Mannon of the Savings Bank, have the money they lack that old fashioned civic pride that powered Mannon's grandfather and the other grand Ukiah patriarchs of yesteryear. The last time the Savings Bank invested big locally was in the Thomas Family's pear and fruit businesses. And lost several million. A restored Palace is probably a comparable investment gamble. 

FOUR OF US were sitting around last week discussing this and that local matter when we lit upon effective forms of local government. Two of us, me one of the two, thought a well-paid mayor and well-compensated council people would be much more responsive to public pressure, and probably cheaper, than cities and counties run by un-elected administrators. Ukiah, for instance, is a mess with no real accountability anywhere in its civic organization. The town of 16,000 pays an invisible city manager an exorbitant total package of about $400,000 a year, and just gave him an extravagantly compensated assistant city manager. Driven down State Street lately? Pavement quality is about like Kabul's. And the rest of the town is a structural and unsightly mess, as if no one is in charge. And no one is because, as everywhere in Mendocino County we have highly paid, unaccountable managers beholden to no one beyond their captive councils. A mayor and council paid well enough to make their positions truly competitive could be more easily removed if they didn't run things properly. As it is try holding anybody in civic Ukiah accountable for the lamentable condition of the town. Manager Sage Sangiacomo would say, "Well, golly, I answer to the City Council." And you go to the City Council and they'll say, "Well, golly, it takes three votes to do anything and my colleagues are pretty much out of it, but I'll talk to Sage." (Note the hot tub familiarity among the elected and their unelected, theoretically supervised employee-manager.) Things don't work right for lots of reasons, but an absence of true accountability is the root of a lot of civic dysfunction.

OUR TWO NEW SUPERVISORS might, if they're serious, and if they have anything like a grasp of how local government might be wielded in a way of much more real use to Mendocino County residents, consider a public bank, or at least a public fund out of which public housing could be built. Otherwise, all we're going to get out of Official Mendo is endless virtue signaling along the lines of, "I sure do think we should house the houseless," as shmoo-like smiles from people who have no idea and less willingness how to do it light up the room. I think lots of Mendo people would go for a public bank, the desirability of which has often been locally discussed and, believe it or not, has been successfully done in the great world outside!

MENDO'S money is presently stashed in several banks and the stock market where, we're constantly told, it makes mucho interest. Uh, for whom? And, uh, what kind of evil is lots of our money invested in? Why not keep Mendo money, or a portion thereof, at home where it could be put to work for the benefit of Mendo people? Over the long haul, an investment in local housing would not make spectacular interest but it would be a lot sounder investment than the stock market or commercial banks, both of which are likely to go south any time now.

A SIGHT I couldn't quite believe, but there it was on Highway 101 at Petaluma, a billboard announcing ounces of marijuana for $59 which, I'm told, is a good price for California, routine in Oregon.


 (1) I don’t think that it’s WalMart and Happy Motoring that causes the problem as much as it is deeper stuff, like the breakup of families, the wholesale export of women into the workforce, gazillion of cheap illegal laborers, and the elite, who care more about themselves and their portfolio than they do anything else. Where I live, in a mobile home park, I see several young men (20-40) in my neighborhood who are allergic to work. Several of them have skills, and could easily be working. But, they have no families to support, so they drink, and drug, and screw most of the time. They panic the last week of the month knowing that rent will be due in a few days, and set out looking for some sort of minimal work to make the rent. I see the same types passing thru the law office where I work part-time. Shiftless, worthless people, men and women. The safety net keeps them from starving. Sooo, I don’t blame cars and WalMarts. I blame people.

 (2) It’s true. In this time of fake news, craziness abounds. If you don’t have reliable sources of information to depend on, you are whirled around in a maelstrom of innuendo, misinformation, and downright lies. None of which is helped by access to the internet. All you need is a keyboard, and the world of craziness is yours for the wanting. Whatever it was that passed for stability in the old days appears to have vanished along with any feeling of normalcy. I guess this is how the great unraveling begins.

One Comment

  1. james marmon December 12, 2018


    Ukiah, from now on will be referred to as “Motown”.

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