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Off the Record (Jan. 16, 2019)

A fire Saturday afternoon destroyed Fort Bragg’s Chapel by the Sea Mortuary, widely considered the most beautiful funeral home in Mendocino County since its establishment in 1893.

(photos by Judy Valadao)

TUNED in the Supervisors this afternoon just as the Supes voted 3-2 to replace former Supervisor Jim Eddie on the Golden Gate Bridge District board with Jim Mastin of Ukiah. Mastin functions, I believe, still functions as a member of the Mendo Transit Authority, a heavily subsidized bus system few Mendo people depend on to get from A to B. 

FRESHLY ELECTED supervisors Williams and Haschak joined Supervisor Gjerde to appoint Mastin, a move I suspect was orchestrated by diehard machine Democrat Gjerde to get a nice little public money sinecure for his diehard Democrat pal, Mastin. 

MASTIN FOR EDDIE (the latter, gasp! a Republican and, double-gasp!!, a Potter Valley rancher) is, in practical terms, a lateral move since the Bridge District pretty much runs itself under the usual overpaid administrative apparatus. Directors are paid $5,000 a year to have lunch in San Francisco once a month. Bridge and Ferry fares over the past twenty years have been raised to where they are now onerous for daily commuters. I would have voted to keep Eddie as Bridge rep simply to deny the total domination of local politics by the conservative Democrats of the Northcoast. 

I WAS PLEASED to see Supervisor Haschak pull a couple of big ticket spending items from the consent calendar for discussion, a discussion that went nowhere (as always), but Haschak's first-day skepticism is, we hope, an indication that he might be more difficult to beat into the rote submission we have anticipated from him. Staff promised to put big money items on the regular agenda in the future —which they have been asked to do before and not done it. Millions of unchallenged dollars typically sail by on the consent calendar. The old “Elected people should spend public money as carefully as their own” flew out Mendo’s window years ago. 

ALL FOUR of the worst Supervisors in modern Mendo history — Shoemaker, Colfax, Hamburg, and Smith all attended last week’s swearing in. This new board of Supervisors seems postively wholesome put alongside the above mentioned. 

SPEAKING OF WHOLESOME, I got a kick out of Ted Williams jacket and bow tie. He looked like one of those fresh-faced back-up singers in an old Elvis movie. 

SARTORIALLY, our new 5th District Supervisor, stole the show. His on-point questions of the County's pot bureaucrats were also of the type demanding answers, and overall it's already clear we have the first fully functioning Supervisor in the 5th District we've had in many years, having suffered the one-two punch of Colfax and Hamburg.

INCIDENTALLY, Williams concluded his opening remarks with a brisk, "Let's get to work!" upon which the Supes took a "short break" that lasted an hour.

OPEN SESSION RESUMED with recognition of some Eagle Scouts, a lengthy discussion of board chair selection sequence, and procedures for Supes to disappear, er, do a Hamburg, er, notify their colleagues and the CEO if they are going to be away for any length of time. Hamburg simply disappeared until finally, through his live-in shrink, claimed mental collapse, but managing to rouse himself from his sobbing, fetal huddle to attend last week’s swearing ceremonies

CONSIDERING it's their first meeting, I thought Willams and Haschak did well, their questions pertinent and themselves attentive and engaged. 


"Unlike the unorganized marijuana business, the in-County wine people jealously guard what they assume are their political perquisites," quoth The George, the well-known “Comptche rancher and logger. Answering the editor’s provocation, George asks, Really? Did the wine industry literally take over the community political forums in the last Supervisor race? The marijuana business has been politically organized since it's inception. And you know that. What did the last four 5th District supervisors, and now this one, all have in common? Black market pot. Was that some accident? Take black market pot money, and the people it supported, out of the political equation in Mendocino County what would have been different here in the last 40 years? Quite a bit. All thanks to President Nixon, and his “War On Drugs.”

ED REPLY: I meant in the land use sense, George. I doubt if I complained about a pot garden in my neighborhood the entire dope brigade would turn out in court to support the garden, besides which, when's the last time you heard of a "liberal" supervisor even whispering a criticism of the wine industry, although the wine industry has negatively affected Mendocino County every which way? 75 years ago we had a real economy here consisting of timber and lumber, fishing, sheep, cattle, and a little tourism. Now we have dope, booze, tourism, big box stores, government. We've gone steadily backwards. 


To the AVA readership at large, and fans of the Stoney Lonesome and Flynn Washburne in particular:

I am going back to rehab — rather a longer term and more serious place than the cuddle party passing for treatment here, to accommodate the robust and persuasive monkey astride my aft parts trying to kill me. 

I have established a GoFundMe page trying to raise $1000 to handle some debt and bills while I am gone, and while I hate to beg, I’m asking for your help, in whatever amount you feel comfortable with, and I thank you in advance for your assistance.

A VIDEO CIRCULATING among local voyeurs shows a homeless woman defecating at the door of a brightly illuminated Ukiah business. Since she's not identified no one can say for sure if she's homeless, but in general form and demeanor she looks homeless and not young. Whatever her housing status and access to modern bathroom facilities, most of us agree that defecating anywhere in public goes into the big book of aberrant behavior. This particular portrait of aberrant behavior has been circulated as one more visual argument for somehow, someway, getting the homeless and their depressing behavior off the streets. It's bad for them, bad for public morale.

MENDOCINO COUNTY is spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million a year to rein in the gamut of socially unacceptable and self-destructive behavior whether it occurs in public places or not. Most of that $20 mil pays for helping professionals, many of whom appeared at a public meeting to denounce the Marbut Report commissioned by the Supervisors, a solid indication that the County's helping pros, who are also getting in the way of the Sheriff's Measure B mental health proposals, are a primary obstacle to homeless solutions.

ASSUMING the Supervisors have been resuscitated with the two new additions to their board, we can only hope that at long last homelessness in Mendocino County can be addressed in realistic ways, beginning with the full activation of Marbut's suggestions which, boiled down, said, "Full care for people with roots here, a coupla free sandwiches for lifestyle transients and nothing more. The freebies are encouraging a lotta bums to hang around Fort Bragg and Ukiah." I suggest that the County fund room vouchers for the local homeless at Ukiah's down market motels, and people without local roots encouraged to keep on moving outtahere.

BUT, BUT, BUT… I thought you were a liberal! What's liberal about allowing full time drunks and drug heads to live on the streets? And you say, "Well, why should we pay for rooms for drunks and dope heads?" And I say, "Because it's better to have them drunk and loaded inside a motel room than wandering around defecating in the streets and on the banks of local creeks and the Russian River." And cheaper than shoving $20 million a year at a half-privatized so-called mental health apparatus in the way of homeless solutions. One more time: Persons unwilling or unable to care for themselves can't live on the streets. I think that's a consensus opinion. The Supes, and Ukiah's somnolent city council, have got to act in practical ways to get the homeless inside.

BTW, many of the homeless who present the most distressing visuals are already on government assistance via SSI. And they qualify for food stamps. They can pay towards their own care and maintenance. It's not as if the County has to pick up the entire fiscal load. But when you factor in all the money in police time — the County's law enforcement and the staff at the County Jail are presently doing much of the heavy social services lifting — and ancillary expense that goes into dealing with a very small group of people that Marbut estimated at about 300 Countywide, it shouldn't remain impossible to get them settled indoors. 

THAT ADDRESS to the nation last week saw a languid Trump say he was waiting for the Democrats "to come to the table." Trump said criminals and drugs were pouring over the border, that a wall would stop them if the candy asses would just get out of the way. Then Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, representing just as many gated communities as Republicans represent, and looking like they'd been cryonically frozen, took turns robotically denouncing Trump. You'd think all concerned could at least fake urgency given that much of the national government is on an open-ended fiasco and criminals and drugs continue to pour over the border, which they don’t, but pick your side of the argument for all that the facts count for anything.

AT THIS POINT, with the polls claiming 71% of US believing "the game is rigged," and about a third of the country supporting Trump no matter what he says or does, and a majority of Democrats estranged from the party's leadership, the drugs probably can't pour over the border fast enough to staunch the national despair. And while the uncredentialed criminals pouring over the border pick up enough English to effectively rape and rapine efficiently in their new habitat, our native born criminals have to pick up the criminal slack all by themselves. Count this American as an American who believes that our criminals are up to the job!

JOHN SAKOWICZ was in the national and the global news Saturday for the rather caddish exposure of an influential girlfriend as a "racist" for insulting a couple of snowflake colleagues in private e-mails to Sako. The girlfriend, a Colorado judge acquired when Sako seems to have been married to a Mendo woman, has been forced to resign her highly lucrative judicial sinecure. Sako claims he was "stalked" by Her Honor and divorced by his wife when she learned of his romantic wanderings.

THEIR OPENING DAY performances as new Mendo supervisors have rightly encouraged supporters of Ted Williams and John Haschak, not that eyewitnesses much exceeded the usual ten to twenty youtube viewers or that the crowd that witnessed their swearing in stuck around to see how they would actually do. But both of them pitched right in with pertinent contributions, startling those of us accustomed to seeing the five previous sleepwalkers simply sign off on whatever the CEO put in front of them, no questions asked. We also usually get heaps of mawk of the "You're doing a great job" applied to this or that overpaid bureaucrat, and wholly self-serving garbled "updates" from this or that bureaucrat who ought to be forced to truly account for his or her performances. A commenter predicted that the two new supes will soon be "bitch-slapped" into line by CEO Angelo. I predict the two will rouse Gjerde and McCowen from their maternal fear of Angelo to at last make up a fully functioning board of supervisors for the first time since… maybe ever.


“Dear Reader, As a perk for being a subscriber we want to help you start off your weekend with a smile. Here's a selection of recent good news to brighten your day. Enjoy! Thanks for reading.”

FROM THE AVA: "Dear Reader. As a perk for being a reader, we advise that you prepare for full social collapse. Please stockpile rice, potable water, guns and ammo. Have a day for yourself. It may be your last.”


Last week the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors heard a report from the county’s transportation department about the condition of the county’s roads. To the surprise of no one, most of the county’s roads are in ‘poor’ condition, meaning they are just one tick away from the ‘failed’ category. We have hundreds of miles of roads that need something like $600 million in repairs. Well, we know that it will take decades to put that kind of money together and as we fix roads inch by inch at millions of dollars per mile, we will almost always be behind. Nothing new there. We can remember when people were shocked to find out only a dozen years ago or so that we had a $50 million road repair shortfall. The number just keeps going up and every year it gets more and more expensive to fix the roads. We went to the county’s roads website and found not much of interest about the conditions of our roads. There is a comprehensive list of county roads there but all it tells us is where the road starts and ends and how long it is. How about if the county adds to that chart, the condition of each road and the time frame for repairs to it. That would actually be useful information. While we were on that site however, we did find something we did not know. There’s a county road beautification program that mirrors the CalTrans highway litter collection program. You know, the signs you see along the highway that “ACME Uniform Cleaning” is cleaning this section of road. Well the county has the same thing. You can sign up for free to clean up your county road, or plant trees along it, or plant flowers along it, or take down graffiti along it and the county will put up a sign for you or your club, organization or business telling the world – or at least the people who drive that road – that you are the one(s) keeping it clean or pretty. It’s a nice idea. And, even if your road has potholes you could lose a bicycle in, at least it can be free of trash and the wildflowers in the spring might distract you from the bone-rattling trip to town. (K.C. Meadows, Editor, Ukiah Daily Journal. Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)

INTERESTING but unconfirmed rumor out of Willits, so like dude why publish it? Because we like it, and because we're inclined to believe it, although our Willits stringers told us they doubted it because Burton doesn't need the money, a position undermined by our opinion that the rich, especially the kulak rich we have here in Mendo, never have so much that they don't lust for more. The rumor: "There's a rumor that the old Remco buildings in Willits are being converted into a rather elaborate marijuana grow facility. Normally this would likely not be news but, a former Willits mayor is the owner, and there was a time when he swore the devil weed would never be permitted in "HIS" town...just a tip. Check it out."

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED VIEWING: "A River's Last Chance," a documentary film by Shane Anderson on the battered Eel River in all its battered complexity. I thought it was fascinating, a real learning experience for me. As we all know or should know, the Eel has been hammered by a series of heedless, man-made disasters beginning with the advent of pale faces in 1850 who, among other crimes against nature, almost fished out the Eel’s salmon before the twentieth century via large-scale canneries. The film, whose talking heads many of us will recognize, makes it clear that the new, much tougher logging rules, and the commitment by the new owners of timber tracts to guard the Eel from egregious damage, plus the truly commendable efforts by restoration groups, and a generally more enlightened awareness of the central importance of healthy rivers, have all combined to briefly bring back the Eel’s salmon. But then the Green Rush onslaught set all this progress back as slob growers in their hundreds commenced draining the summer time Eel's watershed to water their pot plants. The legalization of the stupid-making drug and its ensuing corporate-advantaged licensing processes mean the summer time Eel will continue to be drained by the unlicensed marauders who have been given fresh, cash-in incentives by marijuana corporatization. How? By selling dope cheaper than the corporate pot newcomers can sell it. The insatiable American Stoner market just might well spell doom for the Eel River watershed. The only fault I can find with the film is that it’s probably too optimistic, especially in its rosy assumption that the downstream wine lobby, profiting mightily from the diverted Eel, will ever agree to a reduction in the diversion to benefit the fishery. 

THE SEARCH for a missing Canadian hiker on the Lost Coast has been suspended following four days of intensive searching by crews from eight different agencies.

THE MISSING YOUNG CANADIAN has eluded an all-out search, meaning he probably got swept out to sea. His belongings were found on a beach, but an exhaustive inland search failed to find him. I've done that hike both ways (1) a straight slog down the shoreline from Petrolia to Shelter Cove, a trek the four of us did without checking the tide tables and, late in the afternoon, forcing us to skitter around boulders as the tide rushed in to regain solid sand. A wave of any size would have carried us off to Honolulu. That one took us two days, and was more grueling than pleasure, although its beauty was unsurpassed in perfect fall weather. A person doing that hike alone is tempting the fates. (2) And I’ve done inland Lost Coast Trail that runs up and down along the ridgetop above the ocean. A person doing the inland trail hike alone is also tempting the fates because it could be quite a while before anybody found you if you injured yourself on a trail that is not only precipitous it's often barely a track. (A couple of spots we had to pull ourselves up by grasping brush. I don’t know what kind of shape the trail’s in now, but it’s tough in good weather, double tough in the rainy season.) Danger from outback lurks (psychos) is as remote as the Lost Coast itself because lurking in that wild area would require a strenuous effort beyond your run of the mill psychopath. At the Usal end of the inland Lost Coast Trail, however, there's often at least one nest of undesirables to be avoided. I'd like to do the beach route again some day but spend three nights out instead of one; one night out is too grueling and leaves little time to enjoy the unmatched scenery. 

THE RISING NATIONAL TIDE of pure viciousness touched down in Mendocino County last week when a Willits "man" shot his much younger ex-girlfriend and their 8 year old son. Over in Davis, a tin foil hat type walked up on a young female police officer, only 22 years old and new on the job, and shot her to death and then killed himself. He said he was "tired" of the police interfering with his brain waves, which he had probably fried years ago in methamphetamine. We don't yet know the backstories of the two killers, but the Davis shooter for sure belonged in a lock up mental health facility, which largely don't exist unless you can pay for it. The Willits killer, however, undoubtedly basted for months in self-pity, was merely one more monster of the type now common — "you don't want me, I'll kill you and everyone else in the house." 

SHERIFF ALLMAN looked around and saw what all of us see — unconfined, untreated crazy people wandering around behaving in unsettling and, often, criminal ways. Allman double-sees what we all see because law enforcement carries the burden of responding to complaints about the walking wounded, many of whom wind up in the County Jail for lack of an alternative. The Sheriff, consequently, took action, managing through his unique blend of charisma and salesmanship, to convince more than two thirds of us that we needed an in-County psychiatric unit — nothing fancy, nothing large. And just try getting any American community anywhere in these fragmented times to agree on anything! And we voted for the money via the Measure B bump in the sales tax to get that sorely needed psychiatric facility up and running. And ever since the desired unit has not taken so much as a first step toward existence. Self-interest of the unclothed type is silently resisting the Sheriff and the public will by the usual blathering, and uniquely Mendo oversight committee along with the silent, pass-aggresso opposition of the existing mental health apparatus which, natch, claim they want the unit but simultaneously resist helping it into reality. And here we are in the odd situation of spending somewhere well north of $20 million a year (!) in a county of only 90,000 people on mental health while the pure number of visibly deranged people increases seemingly on a daily basis. Let's hope the new blood on the Board of Supervisors can at least begin to move the Measure B psycho-center towards realization.


 [1] I live in a rural valley that used to have a small grocery store, two small banks and a credit union, liquor store, etc. The local hotel beer parlor should have been condemned 40 years ago, and now seems to survive renting rooms for out of town loggers. (The banks and credit union are now homes, so is one of the old churches.

About 5 miles away there is a very small campground grocery store where you can by basics, liquor, smokes, etc and the prices aren’t too bad. There is also a gas station, cafe, and pub at the highway junction.

The banks and credit union disappeared 35 years ago, store 10 years ago, and the local brick mall has been empty as long as I can remember. (That’s where the store used to be).

Because of this reduction people actually drive less. The nearest town/small city is 50 miles away. People shop every two weeks and take a list. There are no sudden jaunts to pick some item up, you either have stuff, borrow from a neighbour, or do without. We are more resilient and mindful. There is a local market for those who produce excess vegetables or sell crafts. People have freezers and buy stuff on sale. Impulse buying is mostly eliminated. I have lived here full time for only the last 15 years, but hunted and fished here for the last 45. My best friend grew up here and just 50 years ago it would take 4-6 hours to drive to town on logging roads. School clothes were ordered from Sears every summer to arrive by September. Supplies usually came in by boat and the local store would carry a tab. 

Nowadays, many of our purchases are made online. The mail lady and Post Mistress are personal friends and freely leave stuff on the porch when we are away. They advise me when my son, (who works away), has a package and will often drop it off at my house when they know he is working. On one hand it is a return to a simpler past, yet on the other hand it offers the best of now; high speed internet, reliable transportation options, speedy mail delivery, and reliable hydro electricity that isn’t a generator, etc. People team up and carpool for town runs ofetn.

No one needs a local K Mart or Sears. They think they do, but it really doesn’t matter. The folks that move here and miss impulse shopping and drive everywhere lifestyles usually move away within two years. Those that stay prefer it this way. When I visit my daughter who lives in a town I am amazed how much chasing they do. They always run out of stuff requiring a quick run to the store. Their lives are far more wasteful in both time and resource consumption. Goodbye Sears and K Mart. Their passing is nothing to lament.

* * *

[2] So-called “bargoon shopping” is built on an economic model which took years and a lot of money and legislation and international treaty-making to put into place, but which at its core is utterly un-workable, the proof of which you see day-in and day-out in places like K-Mart and the ones we see ourselves.

It’s not a figment of the imagination, the rise of Donald Trump had its roots in the destitution of the middle of the American land-mass, no matter the insistence of the idiocracy in their ivy-covered buildings that Trump was propelled by boogie-men in the heads of uneducated ignoramuses at the voting booth. We’ve seen it a thousand times in rags like Foreign Affairs and Atlantic and New Yorker and the NY Times, that there’s no reality to the gripes but if there IS some, then it’s all down to stubborn resistance to enlightenment and education, fear of change, xenophobia and all the other psychiatric maladies said to reside in the American hinterland.

The chief malady however is the one in the collective psyche of the Manhattan-Washington Axis, the adherence to the misbegotten idea that there’s such a thing as a free lunch, the bill for which can be inflicted on people somewhere else, who somehow won’t notice, or are just too dumb to figure it out. But, of course, this is plain dishonesty at play here, and dishonesty doesn’t comport with Reality, Reality being Mother Nature’s husband, who bats in the clean-up position.

Dishonesty isn’t better when the deception is one of self-deception, Mother Nature imposes itself no matter that the consensus among the ruling class is that the delusions are real. They’re not. Load the bases with baloney and nonsense and you’re not helping yourself, quite the opposite, Reality drives in the runs and woe betide if the fallacies make it round to home plate.

And what we’re seeing are the runs being batted in with the fall of Sears and the rise of this preposterous gig economy and internet-based business models like uber and airbnb, all grounded in economic desperation. Better if you don’t watch. It’s too discomfiting. Do something useful and if you can’t, put your head between your legs and kiss your ass good-bye, then at least you’ll have accomplished something. Flea markets may be a big feature of the emerging retail world. We have two in the county where you can buy almost anything. Most merchandise is used, but many stalls are stocked with new items. Stall rents are dirt cheap compared to commercial space, And no one pays royalties to a national franchise org.

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