Off The Record

by AVA News Service, May 18, 2011

CORRECTION: Dorothea Dorman's letter last week informing us of her designation of the Richard Johnson Memorial Flower should have read: “dranunculus vulgaris the stink flower,” not “stick flower” as we had it. Dorothea also informs us that the plant is often erroneously called a stink lily when, she says, “it is actually a stink arum.”

MORE SIGNS OF THE APOCALYPSE: On a recent outing to the Bay Area, the Mendocino Choir, composed of middle and high school kids, some of the cosseted little dears, post-performance, snorted crushed-up oxycontin pills as their peers trashed a hotel room. One Mendo mommy was startled when her little oxy-head fell face first at her feet upon his return from his exciting field trip. Parents have to kick in $500 each for damages to the room. A call to Gail Dickinson, Mendo's school administrator, was not returned by press time, not that we expect to hear from her.

THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT forwarded a report to the DA alleging that Tom Gang, Mendocino College football coach, was involved with some kind of altercation with a female security guard at the college. DA Eyster reviewed the report and decided it was a civil dispute, not a criminal one.

SHIRLEY FRERIKS is the go-to lady to bring broadband, aka high speed internet, to sleepy, mostly dial-up Mendocino County. She reminds us that the Supervisors, at their meeting of Tuesday the 24th of May, 1:30pm, will discuss broadband “interconnectivity” with a view to getting the Supes to sign on and help get it done.

TRY REACHING Fish and Game in any kind of a hurry. Just try. Not possible. You'll wind up on an answering machine in Yountville. And F&G was incommunicado before the economy collapsed, so we're talking bad management here. The agency's remote contact with local realities was confirmed again last week when 5 two-year-old steelhead, said to be females, were spotted in Gibson Creek, which miraculously not only still flows through Ukiah, a valiant remnant of fish still spawn in it. A friend describes the Gibson Creek episode: “The two year fish are the ones that are going to make it to the ocean and return to spawn, as opposed to the tiny fry that were stranded on the West Fork. The Gibson Creek fish demonstrate that farmers pumping water for frost protection is not the only way to strand a fish. The highly degraded riparian environment ravaged by man for 150 or so years, can result in fish kills without any assistance from ag pumping. After enough of a stink was raised. K.C. Meadows, editor of the Ukiah Daily Journal made a couple dozen phone calls seeking explanations as to why no agency would rescue the fish, but were poised to mobilize to arrest any citizen who tried to rescue them. Fish & Game very reluctantly came out (four personnel) and managed to net four of the five fish. I guess it would have required a fifth human to get all five fish.”

BRUCE BRUGMANN, founding publisher of the SF Bay Guardian, lamented the recent death of a very good reporter named Pete Petrakis who, as Brugmann says, “developed the stories in the mid-1970s that became known to Guardian readers as the PG&E/Raker Act scandal,” a scandal drawn to Petrakis's attention by the late Joe Neilands when “Pete learned of the scandal in the mid-1960s as a student of J. B. Neilands, a biochemistry professor and citizen activist at U.C. Berkeley.” Joe and his wife Juanita owned, and Juanita still owns, a modest home on Nash Mill Road here in Boonville, which they built themselves. Joe was right at the top of Reagan's hit list when Reagan was governor, but survived that effort to get him as he continued to be a relentless thorn in the side of corrupt power, literally in the case of PG. This paper admired Neilands to the max. If there were a thousand more like him America would be a better place.

BRUGMANN CONTINUES: “Neilands had in the late 1950s started the campaign that ended up stopping PG&E from building a nuclear power plant at Bodega Bay. In the process of researching the Bodega Bay story, Neilands came upon an even bigger scandal: the PG&E/Raker Act scandal. After winning at Bodega Bay, Neilands did the research into the scandal and then and then brought it to me shortly after the Guardian began publication in 1966. This was a huge story and I remember saying, 'Joe, why are you bringing a big story like this to me?' He replied, 'Nobody else will print it because of PG&E. You're my only hope. If you don't print the story, nobody will.'“

THAT WAS JOE, and he and Brugmann have been on the case ever since, a case against the mammoth utility that Joe always hoped to live long enough to see become a true public utility owned by the public and at last operated in the public's interest.

SUPERVISOR KENDALL SMITH, a Democrat of the cash and carry type dominant on the Northcoast and in America generally, put herself up for appointment to the Coastal Commission, a nice little sinecure representing free travel to Southern California spas for meetings but a mere hundred bucks a month in a hard cash stipend. Governor Jerry Brown gets to appoint four commissioners, one of whom in this, the age of entitlement, occupies the “north coast seat,” and no one on the Northcoast feels more entitled than Ms. Smith.

BUT SMITH and another insider party hack from Humboldt County were denied the appointment. Del Norte County Supervisor Martha McClure got it, and she seems to be a rare Democrat indeed, having been a key player in steering the Marine Life Protection Act to a successful conclusion and an all-round independent thinker into the bargain.

A STORY in the April 27 Crescent City Triplicate by Megan Hansen describes how a former Del Norte County deputy sheriff name of Garcia was found guilty of three felony counts of receiving stolen property, not that Garcia, also an entitlement personality type, was dissuaded from demanding that the Del Norte Board of Supervisors pay him his full disability retirement as he sojourns at the Del Norte County Jail.

THIS GARCIA CHARACTER is the worst kind of badged low-life. He was charged with 14 felony counts including burglary, embezzlement and “theft from an elder,” in other words preying on the defenseless. Garcia was still waiting to be sentenced last month when the question arose of whether or not Del Norte County should pay him his disability retirement while he goes off to jail for a year. (The guy should have been shunted down the road to nearby Pelican Bay State Prison but got off with county time on charges that usually get a perp of this base type the much more serious state prison ticket.)

HERE'S WHERE MS. McCLURE comes in. The Del Norte Board “reluctantly” voted 4-1 to give Garcia his fat monthly disability retirement pay. Del Norte CEO Jay Sarina told the Board that “numerous attorneys” had looked at the issue and “concluded that the county should move forward and award the benefits.” Those same numerous attorneys, if they had to pay this guy out of their own pockets, would surely have come to the opposite conclusion. Ms. McClure was the no vote, the sole voice for sanity.

THE 4-1 MAJORITY to reward this crook said it was to “avoid liability because [Garcia] was unable to perform his duties due to a coronary medical condition.” CEO Sarina added, “Obviously this never would’ve been initiated if we knew about his illegal activities.” Del Norte’s personnel manager chipped in, “The county is legally required to pay for the disability benefits … not doing so could open up the county to a civil suit” simply because Garcia, as he plundered the elderly, had filed for retirement back in 2009 before he was popped. Del Norte Supervisor David Finigan said he thought Garcia should be stripped of all benefits, “but there’s so much more to Garcia’s medical records than can be divulged to the public due to HIPAA rules. If you knew that, there would be no question about what we’re discussing. … It sounds like a cop-out, but it’s not.” Continuing, “Reform is needed at the state level. I’d love to see the law changed.” Supervisor Sullivan agreed saying, “A dirty cop should not be paid.” But Finigan and Sullivan, bound head to foot by their obligation to spend other people's money, voted to award the “disability” retirement to Garcia anyway.

SUPERVISOR McCLURE was the lone dissenter. “I don’t see how a heart condition could be grounds for disability retirement benefits. I can’t support the recommendation. I don’t know what he ate for dinner that could’ve caused heart disease.” As far as the potential liability, McClure said, “I’m not going there anymore. Bring on the liability.”

THIS WEEK’S SUPERVISOR’S AGENDA contains an “informational” item regarding the wholly unjustified and grotesquely overdesigned done deal new County Courthouse. On hand to give the Board the info on the breathtakingly extravagant $120 million project will be Anne Ording, Project Manager and Rona Rothenberg, Senior Manager, of the Office of Court Construction and Management, a division of the Administrative Office of the Courts in San Francisco, and you oughta get a look at the Frisco-based state appellate courts some time. Louis the Sun King was not made more comfortable. Well, today's theme is entitlement, and judges are perennially right up there with European royalty in assuming they get the best in lofty-softy, and here comes a new County Courthouse we don't need.

HARDLY KNOWN for its civic aesthetic, Ukiah gets its choice of two sites for this gold plated, $120 million monstrosity featuring nine new underground parking slots just for the judges. Security, you see, and ease of access to their upstairs thrones. One of the sites (the logical one) under consideration is the area of the long abandoned railroad depot on Perkins between 101 and State Street, presently a hodgepodge of squalid structures housing nebulous enterprises and trash-strewn emptiness. The other site is “the complex bounded by Perkins, Main and Mason streets” in Ukiah.

ALSO KNOWN as the Ukiah Library, which is a block east of the current County Courthouse. This “option” would involve demolition of the present library, another architectural eyesore but whose destruction would mean that an entire new library would have to be built somewhere else in the blighted County seat. And the cost of the library's relocation is not part of the $120 million that new Courthouse is estimated to cost, and watch that figure double long before the their honors roll up to their underground parking set-asides.

ACCORDING to Ms. Ording, “The proposed project will replace two unsafe, overcrowded, and physically deficient court facilities: the old Mendocino Courthouse and the Willits branch, which was closed at the end of 2009.” The Willits Courthouse, which was only thirty years old but did have the distinction of being the ugliest public building on the Northcoast, has been closed for several years and its courtrooms and related services comfortably re-situated in Ukiah and Fort Bragg. So why does it have to be replaced? And the present County Courthouse is perfectly serviceable, charming even, in its creaking antiquity. If anything, it ought to be restored to its full 19th century glory, complete with Victorian turrets.

“THE PROJECT will be funded by Senate Bill 1407, which finances critically needed [sic] courthouse construction, renovation, and repair through a portion of judicial branch fees, fines, and penalties.”

AS OF 2011, speeding tickets in Mendocino County are up about 50%. Everyone who gets a speeding ticket, or files a small claims action, or needs a copy of legal documents will be pleased to know that they're funding an unneeded new courthouse in Ukiah.

PREDICTION: The Library site will be picked because it’s closer to the downtown businesses in Ukiah which currently “serve” the Courthouse staff. Incidentally, the new, much larger County Courthouse will not house any of the support offices presently found in the existing Courthouse; those services will stay in the “physically deficient” structure that has served us so well, and continues to serve us well, going on 150 years.

HANK SIMS WRITES: “California will close a full quarter of its state parks and recreation areas, including three facilities in Humboldt County and many more in neighboring counties. The move will save $33 million dollars over the next two years, and is prompted by a $15.4 billion (annual) structural budget deficit. In other words, this evisceration of the state park system will fix around one-tenth of one percent of the problem. Heckuva job.”

DANIELLE STEEL told the Chron the other day that she was leaving San Francisco because “San Francisco is a great city to raise children, but I was happy to leave it. There's no style, nobody dresses up — you can't be chic there. It's all shorts and hiking boots and Tevas — it's as if everyone is dressed to go on a camping trip. I don't think people really care how they look there.”

OR ANYWHERE ELSE, Danielle. Of course Danielle can afford to be chic, but her basic point is valid enough. Wife beater singlets at funerals? Old guys whose legs haven't seen the sun since their double-dip baptism walking around in shorts, their creaky wheels phosphorescent veal? Grandmothers in short-shorts? Greek seaman's caps? I could go on, but maybe it's time to consider a national dress code.

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