Off the Record

by AVA News Service, April 7, 2011

HANK SIMS WRITES: 'The Eureka Times-Standard kicks off with a piece on Humboldt County’s newest booming business opportunity: Raw logs shipped directly to Asia. Humboldt Bay Harbor District officials are expecting the business to grow quickly, writes North Coast Journal reporter Donna Tam. They’re forecasting a new ship every three weeks in the coming months, ramping up to every other week next year. … What’s the economic impact? Bay District staff report that each ship equals about $143,000 paid to businesses and laborers working the bay. (Included in that figure, it would seem, are pilotage fees paid to the district itself.) How many logs make up a shipload? We’re not told, and so it’ll take a bit more investigation to determine how that $143,000 compares to the salaries of millworkers who, in other times, would be processing those raw logs into lumber. Tam paraphrases Green Diamond’s Jackie Deuschle-Miller on this, to somewhat confusing effect. “Deuschle-Miller says this may be an opportunity to keep all the mills working until the domestic market can recover,” she writes. How’s that, now? Please elucidate. (Courtesy, LostCoastOutpost.com)

A RELATED story appeared in the North Coast Journal last week by acting Editor Ryan Burns about 60 layoffs at Schmidbauer’s Eureka mill, the last working mill in Humboldt County. “Many [local] landowners are now ready to sell their logs,” reports Burns, “but not to Schmidbauer. He simply can’t pay them the price that’s being offered by international exporters, who in recent years have been buying up more and more lumber and logs from across the Pacific Northwest and beyond, then shipping it overseas — primarily to China … As local timber companies and entrepreneurs try to tap into this emerging market, they’re bypassing mill operators like Schmidbauer. This is happening despite a rebound in the prices Schmidbauer is offering for logs. A couple years ago, he said, he could only offer $300 to $325 per thou-sand board-feet. “Now we’re payin’ $425,” Schmidbauer said. But that’s no match for exporters, who are offering more like $525, he said. So while Schmidbauer could potentially make a profit selling these exporters cut lumber for the same price they’re now paying for raw logs, there’s simply no incentive for timberland owners to cut him in on the deal.”

KEVIN HOOVER, Editor of the Arcata Eye, writes: “I'm not aware of a more lackadaisical and basically parasitic group than the free-lance ‘publicists’ of our land. Their ‘press releases’ are often incoherent, they have no knowledge of AP style, they send what amounts to preliminary notes to local editors and expect us to spend our time cleaning it all up to make them look good while they charge their client for generating this half-baked sludge.”

MARSHALL P. SAYEGH, former operator of the now gone Southcoast internet service known as “Esplanade” pleaded no contest to a violation of his wife’s restraining order in Ten Mile Court last week. He was placed on 24-month probation and assessed fees/fines totaling $195. For more background on this case read Mrs. Sayegh’s (Teri Saya) description of what happened to Esplanade in this week’s Letter's section.

THE COVELO HOTEL was torched last week. By the time firefighters from near and far could get enough water on the unoccupied building, it was in ashes. A couple of drunks have been arrested for torching it. (Arson fires are a persistent feature of life in Round Valley.) Ten years ago there was serious talk of outside money fixing up the old hotel and re-opening it, but that never happened. The Covelo Hotel had been the site of some exciting 19th century history where it was the scene of at least two pivotal revenge shootings, one of which put an end to the infamous Wylacki John Wathen, a white man fluent in all the regional Indian dialects who'd become a hit man for George White, the 19th century “King of Round Valley.” White, a wealthy cattle rancher, became nationally infamous for murdering, or plotting to murder, several wives. He was locally infamous for killing off competing homesteaders and anyone else who crossed him. Wylacki John functioned as White's gunsel. A fancy dresser and just as impeccably well-mannered in an area not known for either the sartorial or social graces, Wylacki John's total kill-count could never be precisely known, but many of White's enemies went into the mountains surrounding Covelo and were never seen again. Until the early twentieth century, Round Valley was more closely tied to Trinity County, Weaverville being Covelo's twin city and the site of the courts where Round Valley matters were sorted out. The trail from Covelo to Weaverville was a long, hard slog — three nights out — and the bold men who took on White were lucky if they made it to Weaverville to testify against him. White's descendants are the Rorabaughs, one of whom writes Tea Party-inspired letters to the Ukiah Daily Journal. Wylacki John had insulted the daughter of another man named White, and that man shot Wathen dead in the now dead Covelo Hotel.

A READER WRITES: “I heard an interesting story about Dick's Place yesterday. I sometimes still stop for a drink, and it's still one of the non-wine bars left on the coast. Anyhow, some days ago (a week?) two Mexican gang bangers came in and demanded free beer 'for now on' because they were — wait for it — 'gang bangers.' Apparently some burly types escorted them outside and 'roughed them up.' Of course, being the brains that they were, the gang bangers returned a few days later and made the same demands. This time the Mendo coppers were called; a chase ensued, and the beerless b-b brains were hastened off to jail. You might have your ace crime reporter check this out with the Sheriff's department. It may be a sign of the times coastal story, and one wonders if the Fort Bragg gang scene is evolving to LA proportions.”

A FORT BRAGG cop told me that the gang prob in Fort Bragg is driven by two or three ganged-up ex-cons who constantly lean on the more marginal sectors of Fort Bragg's youth to get them into the gang “life,” a life consisting of long years in the state pen. The police and the DA are coordinating efforts to put the lead gang mopes back where they love to be — Pelican Bay.

ANOTHER READER WRITES: “You're on to some-thing with those ballpark seagulls. I don't think it's the 7th inning stretch, however. Seagulls are probably a lot more astute than your generic new age Mendo psychic. Ages ago when I still fished, and on a perfectly clear day with no seagull or other fishing boat in sight for miles, if I picked up a cleaning knife and began to throw salmon guts overboard, a lone seagull would soon appear winging a B-line for the boat. Minutes later dozens followed. I never could and still can't figure it out. I mean I could have been trolling along for hours without seeing one of those birds, but, bingo, pick up the knife, clean one fish and here they came.”

SPRINGTIME IN WILLITS: “On March 27, 2011, Deputies responded to a location in the Willits Valley regarding a possible assault with a deadly weapon. Upon arrival Deputies spoke with the victim, Jonathan Cobb, 30, who stated the following. Cobb advised he had been living at a residence owned by Robert McGraw, 60. McGraw also lives at the residence. Cobb stated on this date he was working in the yard with McGraw when McGraw became angry at him. McGraw was holding a chainsaw, which was running. McGraw knocked Cobb to the ground by hitting him in the chest with his hand. Cobb fell to the ground at which McGraw powered the chainsaw telling Cobb he was going to kill him. McGraw thrust the saw downward at Cobb, however Cobb stated he was able to roll out of the way and fled the location on foot to contact law enforcement. Deputies contacted McGraw at his residence. McGraw denied the allegations of assault. McGraw was placed under citizen's arrest by Cobb and taken into custody. McGraw was transported and booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he is held on $30,000.00 bail.” (Sheriff’s Press Release) Excuse me, but McGraw's 60 years old. He looks pretty fit, but how can he knock down a 30-year-old “by hitting him in the chest with his hand”?

HARD TO TELL from this photo, but McGraw would have to be pretty fit to knock down someone half his age. Besides which McGraw doesn't look like a chainsaw massacre psycho. We want to hear his side of this one.

PHOTO

ON THE GENERAL SUBJECT of appearances and implausibilities, Miss Krystal Mills, our man beater of the week, seems to have gone all the way off last week when Krystal was arrested for slapping her insignificant other, then attempting to whale on the cop when he arrived at Krystal's stormy Ukiah address. This one's still a wobbler, though. Although Krystal doesn't look like she'd take much guff from any more or less male person, including a cop because, unless she's some kind of martial arts expert, she isn't big enough at 5'8” and 135 to do much damage. And even if she were capable of a knockout punch, what kind of man calls the cops on the woman he loves? Most of our man beaters are resigned to being hauled off for slapping El Wimpo. Not Krystal. When Officer Lunceford of the Ukiah Police Department appeared, she still wanted to fight. And she was drunk. It looks like Krystal is probably going to have to sit with the hippies at anger management for a month or so before she's off the hook. Or finds a guy who'll take a hook without whining about it.

PBS CALLED to ask if we knew where they could find some hippie home movies or photos from the late sixties, early seventies. The last hippie came down out of the hills in what? 1980? A few Smithsonian-quality longhairs can be found in deep Albion, and probably an isolated pocket or two out on Sherwood Road around where the pavement ends. At the Eel River end of Spy Rock there might be a few. But as everyone in Mendo knows, by 1980 the hippies had cleaned up and had pretty much taken over local government as teachers, school administrators, lawyers and judges, and a frightening number as “helping professionals.” But as a hip-symp from way back, I promised the PBS lady I'd ask around, cautioning her that photographic confirmation of that interlude is rare because yesterday's debauched sit stolidly in the power slots. The last thing a re-entry hippie wants is its 1970 home solstice movies on national television.

THE FARM BUREAU’S Potter Valley and Eel River tours are coming right up. The Potter Valley diversion tour is April 20. If you've never seen the thousand foot-long tunnel through which flows diverted Eel River water, you will have a hard time understanding just how precarious the entire downstream supply is for water agencies from Potter Valley to Marin County. The tunnel was hand dug by Chinese labor at the turn of the century, mostly to run turbines that would provide electricity for Ukiah. Since those modest beginnings, the tunnel, resembling in its dimensions an old gold mine, carries Eel River water to water-short Santa Rosa and numerous other downstream consumers. If it goes, and an earth-quake of '06 power will do it, Lake Mendocino, most of the Russian River, and suburbanites from Cloverdale to Sausalito will die of thirst. Anyway, if you want to get the full grasp of the situation, plus a look at the cockamamie “fish ladder” serving the diversion, contact the Farm Bureau at 462-6664

COUNTY CEO Carmel Angelo says the County is broke, so broke that wages, jobs and programs have to be cut. Whenever County employees or the public complain she simply says, with a look that could freeze a volcano: “There is no money.” Except, that is, for the totally unnecessary remodel of the offices that house the CEO, the Supervisors and County Counsel.

THE TAB FOR the indefensible remodel is currently at $24,000 with more bills on the way. In theory, the remodel is to “reunite” the Board of Supervisors with their staff. Following the consolidation of the CEO and Clerk of the Board (COB) last year, COB staff was moved into the CEO's office. The Board of Supervisors stayed in their old offices, but the door to their office was locked and the front office was dark. Anyone wanting to see the Supes had to figure out they first needed to go to the CEO's office and then be escorted down the hall to their majesties inner sanctums. Supervisor Pinches was known to be unhappy with a situation that impeded the public's access to their elected reps, especially during last year's election campaign. Supervisor Smith, who continued to oppose the CEO/COB consolidation even after the Board voted for it (3-2 with Smith and Colfax dissenting) kept lobbying Pinches to overturn the consolidation.

COUNTY INSIDERS say the CEO/COB consolidation was necessary to reform a system that had two power centers in the executive branch. Department Heads and Supervisors could always go around the CEO by working directly with the COB, Kristi Furman. Conversely, former Supervisors Delbar and Wattenburger, to keep the COB and their Board colleagues from knowing what they were up to, worked directly with the CEO and his staff to advance their agendas. To win Furman's support, and seal the deal for consolidation, Angelo had to agree to “promote” Furman to an empty Deputy CEO job, a job for which Furman is arguably not qualified. Cynics rightfully zeroed in on the Furman promotion, viewing it as an end-around after an earlier $23,000-plus raise for Furman was torpedoed by public outrage. That exorbitant raise had been on the consent calendar, supposedly limited to “non-controversial” items, until the public got wind of it.

TO MAKE ROOM for the Board of Supervisors it was necessary for County Counsel to switch places with the Supes. County Counsel had been located just behind and adjacent to the CEO's office. It only required knocking out one wall to combine the offices. While it might seem like $24,000 to knock out one wall is a little pricey, this is government work, after all.

YOU WOULD ALSO THINK an attorney from County Counsel could move out of an office and a Supervisor could move in. You would think. But you would be wrong. In keeping with their inflated self-importance, it became necessary to knock out adjoining walls to expand the size of the Supes offices. Especially for Supervisor Smith, who once she resigned herself to the move insisted on having County Counsel's old office expanded to twice its size.

ON ITS FACE, the consolidation seems to make sense. And at least the cost of the remodel is a one time expense. The CEO claims the consolidation is supposed to save $120,000 or more per year based on staff efficiencies since it is no longer necessary to have a receptionist and support staff at two offices. Maybe. But given the fuzzy accounting practiced by the County it is impossible to tell whether or not the consolidation will save any money.

RUMORS PERSIST that the CEO, in addition to approving the remodel, also spent $5,000 for a desk and $1,000 for a sofa for her office. County sources say there is nothing to these particular pieces of wishful thinking. Disgruntled staff members are putting in a lot of unpaid OT undermining support for the CEO, who has made plenty of enemies with her recommendations for layoffs and wage cuts.

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