Off The Record
by AVA News Service, July 21, 2011
NOT A PEEP out of Operation Full Court Press, this dope season's much advertised all-out raid on trespass pot grows in the Mendocino National Forest. A call to Michelle Gregory, Full Court Press's Sacramento-based press person, went unreturned. Sticking to the basketball metaphor here, we wanted to know if any growers had managed to get their cannabis up court. As any hoops fan can tell you, even the best press can be defeated by a single nimble ball handler.
LABOR NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN SEIU and the County appear to be on the rocks. The union, the largest County employee bargaining unit, held a membership meeting at the Saturday Afternoon Club in Ukiah back on June 7 where the union leadership announced: "We have a deal." The "deal" was for a 10% reduction in hours instead of a 10% cut in pay. Instead of working the same 40 hours a week for 10% less pay, SEIU members would work a four day, 36 hour week. Every other bargaining unit was forced to take a straight 10% pay cut with no reduced hours. Except the Public Attorney's and Probation, who dragged out negotiations and got themselves a 12.5% pay cut.
THE COUNTY HAD DECLARED an impasse with SEIU back in May, saying further negotiations with the union were pointless, thereby setting the stage for the County to impose up to a 15% unilateral cut in pay, the County's supposed "last, best and final offer." SEIU mounted a public relations counter attack, filing an unfair labor relations action and demanding the County get back to the bargaining table. The union finally put a counter offer on the table - a reduction in hours in lieu of a pay cut.
KENDALL SMITH, the only Supervisor who has not taken a voluntary 10% cut in pay, can't be eager to face a room full of purple clad SEIU members angrily demanding to know why she is forcing a cut on them when she won't take one herself. Smith belonged to SEIU when she was a County worker. SEIU, as the largest County union, together with their families and friends, constitutes an important voting block and a source of campaign cash and volunteers. Board chair Smith, running for re-election, may have to gavel down SEIU members during what is sure to be an emotional and contentious hearing.
SEIU VOTED 96% IN FAVOR of a "Contract Settlement Proposal" that they said the County had agreed to, but County CEO Carmel Angelo sent an email to all County employees saying the so-called Contract Settlement Proposal contained some things the County had not agreed to. The County asked the union to delay the vote until the details could be ironed out. But the union leadership insisted on going forward with a vote on the agreement that had not been agreed to.
ITEMS STILL IN DISPUTE are believed to include compensation for holiday and overtime pay. The union is insisting that holiday pay must be at 8 hours, instead of a 10% reduction. But the only way the agreement would equal the claimed 10% savings for the County is if holiday pay is also cut 10%. And if a full time employee is 36 hours, shouldn't overtime be paid for all hours worked past 36? The union thinks so.
MOST SEIU EMPLOYEES work in social services, where all the managers came up through the ranks and are much more in tune with line staff than they are with County administration. It's easy to imagine the managers looking the other way while staff runs up overtime so they are right back at 40 hours a week.
WE'LL TAKE a timeout here from union negotiations to introduce Mr. Williamson, a weenie wagger from Lake County who occasionally visits Mendocino County to ride Mendocino County's buses. The problem with Mr. W is that he tends not to wear underwear, which is cool in, say, Frisco, but still against the law in Mendo. What may appear to his fellow riders as someone's strayed and slightly batty grandmother is actually a dedicated perv who gets his jollies exposing himself to anyone who doesn't go blind at first glance. This is the second time Mr. Williamson has been popped in Mendocino County for letting it all hang out. And, as you can see from the Sheriff's Department photo, he gets indignant as all heck every time he's suppressed.
THE UNION LEADERSHIP religiously shows up at every Supe's meeting during Public Expression and implores the Board to vote in favor of "our agreement." The union is counting on the Board to fold rather than face off with angry SEIU members packing the Board chambers. The union leadership and the Board both know there is no agreement to be voted on, but the rank and file only knows what the union leadership tells them.
SOCIAL SERVICES rank and file already distrusts CEO Carmel Angelo for imposing layoffs back when she was their boss. When it comes down to it, the rank and file will believe the County is reneging on the deal they thought they had. Meanwhile, the other bargaining units are keenly aware that SEIU is already in line to get a deal that was not available to them. No one should be surprised when the other County bargaining units demand the same reduced work week as SEIU and the less severe 10% pay cut. But still, cutting the work week for 24/7 positions like juvenile hall and the jail will cost lots of money, not save it.
COUNTY ADMINISTRATION, belatedly aware that the 10% cut in hours is unlikely to equal a 10% savings, may be looking for an excuse to ditch the reduced work week and go back to a straight 10% or more cut in pay. The union, by insisting on terms that undermine the 10% savings, appears to be playing into the administration's hands. If the agreement that was not agreed to falls apart, the County will be back in position to unilaterally impose a pay cut. Meanwhile, every month that goes by without an agreement costs the County another $125,000. in savings and increases the odds that the Board will impose more than a 10% cut in pay.
KEVIN SPEARS, a Willits-based County Sheriff's Deputy, has resigned because "he did something stupid," according to Department insiders. The "something stupid" involved the "inappropriate touching" — in public — of his 14 year old daughter. Witness complaints were soon filed with the Sheriff's Department, but investigators were unable to develop enough confirming evidence that Spears had committed a prosecutable offense, so the Department gave him two choices: resign or suffer further investigation. He resigned.
"SUPES ON," a monthly public access television show featuring Supervisors Smith and Hamburg, is described by a Ukiah viewer as "long on pretension and short on relevance." The program seems to be a vehicle for Smith's re-election campaign, although her Coast constituents aren't likely to pick up the Ukiah-based signal.
HAMBURG AND SMITH call their show "Bridge the Ridge." It's filmed in the dreary studios of Ukiah Valley Community Television in a metal building set back from Brush Street in an asphalt pond surrounded by cyclone fencing. A couple of pit bulls might make it even more public-friendly. The theme of the monthly production is that Mendocino County is one county, an apparent statement of the obvious that conceals the true state of affairs which, boiled down, amounts to a far flung population of wildly disparate people spread over a county larger than the state of Rhode Island. "Bringing us together" is a recurrent lib theme, their "vision" apparently being all 90,000 of us togged out in handspun hemp softball uniforms singing "We Are Famileeeeee."
THE PREMISE OF THE SHOW FAILS from the start since Smith, and to a lesser degree Hamburg, routinely vote in ways that add fuel to the supposed coastal/inland divide. The County has been shedding workers and cutting back services programs for two years now. County employees are down from 1,600 to less than 1,200 today. But to hear Smith tell it, the cuts have only fallen on the Coast where the reduction in staff has left the County paying for lots of half empty leased space in Fort Bragg. But when the County tried to save money by consolidating employees into half empty County-owned buildings, Smith was all for consolidation in Ukiah and Willits but fought a long drawn out behind the scenes battle to prevent the consolidation in Fort Bragg where a disastrous lease paid Dominic Affinito (of all people!) $26,000 a month for his barn like structure on South Franklin Street.
BY THE WAY, the history of inland public access television is uniquely sordid even by the dependably louche standards of Mendocino County. It had its murky beginnings in the ethical swamp of the County Office of Education at Talmage where public access tv was assigned to a blustery County "educator" named Hal Titen. Titen soon installed the expensive equipment in the back room of a bar he owned on North State Street, Ukiah, where he used the state-of-the-art gear to produce pornographic films starring local girls, some of them not of legal age, while the public got NASA weather satellite photos as Titen's version of "public access" television. Titen was eventually shuffled off to the state pen and public access tv began in earnest with Jimmy Rickel talking to himself once a week and the NASA photos colorized. (Anybody out there know what happened to Titen? Surely he couldn't be Special Assistant for Gender Equity Issues to County Schools Superintendent Paul Tichinin, but the collective memory around here being what it is.....)
LEAD STORY in Tuesday's Ukiah Daily Journal — "Bear Lincoln arrested for hitting brother with flashlight." So? If you can't hit your brother with a flashlight who the heck can you whack with your Maglight? And surely you know who Bear Lincoln is, but if you don't we're not going into it here. Let's say he's one of Mendocino County's better known residents and leave it at that. Lincoln quickly bailed out on this one, and if he weren't who he is zero attention would have been paid.
RANDOM HEADLINES from Monday’s Santa Rosa Press Democrat establishing beyond all doubt that the paper is edited by morons: “Public sector hit by job cuts” (Stop the presses!) “Sonoma winemaker's bid for romance heats up” (Vapid exhibitionists take their phony romance to television); “Parents worry over teen drinking” (From the paper that promotes drinking in every issue); “More than 2,000 athletes take to Sonoma County water, roads in Vineman Triathlon,” (A non-event of zero interest to anyone but the participants); “Chef behind Santa Rosa's homeless meal program 'a genius',” (A genius for doing nothing more than unsung school cafeteria heroines pull off every day); “Home often main source of alcohol for teenagers” (Who would have guessed?) “Marin County man arrested on suspicion of threatening Sen. Boxer” (alleged threats not quoted or even described); “Buyers look for vacation homes in Sonoma County” (While hundreds of SoCo persons of ordinary means are foreclosed on); and “Pinot and Popcorn.” (What was that about teen drinking?)
THE GOOD NEWS: the late Jess Jackson's attempt to get Black Mountain renamed Alexander Mountain has been unanimously rejected by the California Advisory Committee on Geographic Names. “There seemed to be a commercial implication in that the application has been made to create an Alexander Mountain wine appellation,” committee chairwoman Barbara Wanish said. You got it, Babs. That's what Jackson was after.