Off The Record

by AVA News Service, June 8, 2011

ANOTHER PURGE at Point Arena Not So Unified, this one of the Manchester School's perfectly capable new principal, Claudia Callwood. Ms. Callwood, from what we can gather, ran afoul of the usual core of marginally competent teachers (they dominate PA school politics) and a spineless school board that failed to stand up to the teachers who quickly had come to resent Ms. Callwood's leadership. What had they specifically resented about that leadership? Nothing they could articulate, of course, just the usual sniveling about how the principal wasn't “listening to their concerns” and other vaporous whines the born malingerers revert to when they're asked to do the work they're getting paid to do.

Dennis Ivey of the County Office has been thrown into the temporary administrative breech opened when Ms. Callwood was told to go home and stay there. Ivey's quoted in the ICO as saying, “We're hoping to attract a person who will more likely be committed to staying here.” Ms. Callwood was committed to “staying here” but Point Arena, for years now, has not been committed to putting the educational interests of its children ahead of the selfish sloths dominating their entrenched teaching staff.

(To verify that last statement please review the experience of Matt Murray, the intelligent, highly capable, energetic superintendent of the PA schools purged by this same cadre of mediocrities, among them a particularly demagogic trustee who plays the district's various ethnicities against each other and regularly undermines the unfortunate shlebs who sign on as school administrators.) Many of Point Arena's more ambitious parents long ago opted out of PA's schools for the Mendocino schools, for home schooling, for the local charter school. The PA upside? A successful sports year. The fogeater's basketball team was very good, its baseball team, for the first time ever, went all the way to the small school's championship before losing to that perennial Eureka sports powerhouse, St. Bernard's.

IN OTHER school news, try as they might, Mendocino's school authorities can't hush up that bizarrely frightening chorale outing that saw one room full of kids, some of them sixth graders, snorting crushed-up oxycontin tablets while another group of the little dears tore up the adjoining room. This kind of thing can hardly be blamed on teachers or school bureaucrats, but it can and should be blamed on parents who keep dangerous drugs around the house and raise children who feel free to do psycho-stuff, such as the Mendo high school kid who spent a recent lunch hour in the nearby town graveyard drinking and blasting away at passing wildlife. Kids these days. Sheesh. All we did when I was a kid was steal cars and drive around looking for fights.

NORMAN DEVALL interviews Sheriff Tom Allman on KZYX this Friday morning (June 10) 9-10am. Norm promises, “The ACCESS Program will not be interrupted with music, dead time or endless weather reports. Here you'll join one hour of tight, informative conversation with our Sheriff.” That's right, Norman. Tight and bright. Keep the conversation moving along, cut the chronophage callers off the instant they say, “And another thing…” And never, never, ask, “Is that all?”

THE CEO'S OFFICE has released the budget recommendations for the 2011-12 fiscal year. Not surprisingly the information was released Monday, instead of last Thursday with the other agenda materials. The less opportunity the Supervisors have to review the material, the more likely they can be stampeded into blindly accepting the CEO's recommendations. Surprisingly the CEO is recommending adding nearly $1 million dollars to the Sheriff's field operations budget, which constitutes a tacit admission that the Sheriff's Office budget has been chronically underfunded, and perhaps also signaling an end to the ongoing budget fight between the CEO and Sheriff. It is not clear at this writing what impact this will have on the layoff's recently approved by a 3-2 vote of the Board, with only McCowen and Brown dissenting.

CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS with SEIU, the County's largest workforce, appear to be coming to a head. SEIU has posted flyers saying negotiations have continued, despite the previous declaration of “impasse,” the point at which further negotiations are not expected to result in an agreement. The budget recommendations also assume that agreement with SEIU will be reached.

SEIU CALLED a meeting for 5:30 Tuesday of this week to vote on a potential agreement. The alarms bells went off for SEIU with the declaration of impasse and the realization that the County would then be in a position to unilaterally impose up to a 15% salary cut, the County's presumed “last, best and final offer.” SEIU responded by bringing in an experienced negotiator, realizing they had been at a disadvantage being represented by someone with little or no bargaining experience, and that they were about to be slam dunked.

ASSUMING NEGOTIATIONS ARE CONCLUDED with SEIU, and assuming they agree to a wage cut in the range of 10%, at that point Kendall Smith, the imperial supervisor, will stand alone as the only County employee who has not taken at least a 10% cut in compensation. Smith is also expected to fight any cuts to the Supervisors exorbitant travel reimbursements.

DA DAVID EYSTER writes on his always informative Facebook page: “The Assembly bill to grant charging discretion to local prosecutors on marijuana cultivation matters failed on the Assembly floor [last week] (24-36). A motion for reconsideration was made so the bill is now ‘parked’ until that reconsideration can take place in the first half of 2012.” Which Eyster thinks is a very dumb vote. Which it is because he's adopted a sensible policy that allows low-level growers to plead out to misdemeanors and pay fines rather than moving them through the system at great expense to taxpayers.

CALIFORNIA NORML’S Dale Gieringer clarifies: “The California Assembly rejected Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's bill AB 1017 to reduce marijuana cultivation from a mandatory felony to a wobbler (felony or misdemeanor depending on how the DA sees it). The vote was 24-36. The bill had been sponsored by the DA of Mendocino County, but was opposed by the state DA's association. The state legislature has once again demonstrated its incompetence when it comes to dealing with prison crowding. With California under court order to reduce its prison population, it is irresponsible to maintain present penalties for non-violent drug offenses. It makes no sense to keep marijuana growing a felony, when assault, battery, and petty theft are all misdemeanors. Legislators have once again caved in to the state's law enforcement establishment, which has a vested professional interest in maximizing drug crime. Numerous liberal Democrats failed to vote, while some actually opposed AB 1017, among them Sandre Swanson of Oakland, Jerry Hill of San Mateo, and Mike Feuer of Los Angeles. Chris Norby of Orange County was the only Republican aye vote, adding a strong denunciation of the current state of California law.”

THE FOLLOWING totally false statement appears in the “Notes to Table 32 — Gross production Value of Various Commodities,” County of Mendocino,” which is included in this week’s Board of Supervisors packet: “Northwestern Pacific Railroad and North Coast Rail Authority provide main line rail freight service to the area. Amtrak has passenger service daily.”

WRONG! The Northwestern Pacific Railroad and North Coast Rail Authority provide nothing in Mendocino County. Nor does Amtrak.

TABLE 25 confirms that without government jobs Mendocino County's employment stats would be even bleaker than they are. 7,280 people, or 19.07% of our fine, fat population are publicly employed. Retail trade, the next big job slot, employs 4,400 souls, while education and health services keep 3,720 persons fed and housed. Missing entirely is logging and fishing which, apparently, officially employ no one anymore.

TABLE 27 tells us that annual per capita income in the County, as of 2009, was $35,119. California's per capita income as of '09, was $42,395 while across our fair land in '09 Americans earned an average of $39,635. We've always thought that if the pay of elected officials, beginning with the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors on up to the president, was pegged to the annual income of the average Mendocino County family, government might be more responsive to the needs of the people it allegedly represents.

3 Responses to Off The Record

  1. subscriber2@theava.com Reply

    June 9, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Amtrak certainly provides no rail service to Mendocino County, but does have a bus down 101 to link to the rails at Martinez and beyond.
    Reviews of this service are mixed.

  2. Mark Scaramella Reply

    June 9, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Here’s the full context of the item on page 241 of the June 7 Supervisors agenda packet:

    Transportation
    Two major railroads, a modern system of highways and six public use airports have contributed to the industrial, commercial and residential growth of Mendocino County. Northwestern Pacific Railroad and North Coast Rail Authority provide main line rail freight service to the area. Amtrak has passenger service daily. During summer months, the Sierra Railroad operates the “Skunk Train” which is a 40-mile passenger excursion route between the City of Willits and Fort Bragg. In addition, the California Western Railroad provides mail service along the line. The primary transportation corridors through the County are U.S. Route 101, which travels through the middle of the County, and State Route 1, which travels along the Pacific Coast. In addition, State Route 128 connects the City of Cloverdale to the Pacific Coast and continues through the State’s Central Valley region. State Highways 20 and 175 connect the Highway 101 corridor with Lake County and other points east of the County.
    * * *
    If you want to consider taking the bus down 101 to Martinez as “passenger train service” you’re free to do so, just like the County’s boilerplate exaggeration does. But there’s little doubt that the NWP/NCRA’s “freight service” to the area doesn’t even rise to the level of a joke.

    This little item is part of a lengthy presentation (which obviously few people will read) entitled, “FINANCIAL, ECONOMIC AND DEMOGRAPHIC INFORMATION
    REGARDING THE COUNTY OF MENDOCINO.” Some of the tables and charts are interesting (per capita income — lower than most counties –, who pays the most property taxes, etc.). But if they’re going to casually claim that Mendo has any kind of “rail service,” passenger or freight, (which prospective new businesses are supposed to be attracted by), then the credibility of the whole package is undermined.

  3. subscriber2@theava.com Reply

    June 10, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Mark: Thanks for the clarification.
    I am curious if the mystery writer of this OTR (you or Bruce) knew of the Amtrak bus service when he wrote, essentially, “Amtrak provides nothing” to the county.

    Jim Armstrong
    Potter Valley

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