Off The Record

by AVA News Service, September 15, 2011

THE LOCAL DAILIES have heralded the September 20th hearings in Sacramento on the State Water Board’s proposed Frost Protection regs. The regulations are supposed to reduce, or at least coordinate sudden draws by vineyard owners on public streams for frost protection. These draws have caused large-scale fish kills. The proposal, as applied locally, says that from March 15 to May 15 “any diversion of water (except for diversion upstream of Coyote Dam or Warm Springs Dam) from the Russian River stream system, including the pumping of hydraulically connected groundwater, for purposes of frost protection shall be diverted in accordance with a board-approved water demand management program… At a minimum the WDMP shall include: an inventory of the frost diversion systems, a stream stage monitoring program, an assessment of the potential risk of stranding mortality, the identification and timelines for implementation of any corrective actions necessary to prevent stranding mortality, and annual reporting of program data, activities and results.”

MENDOCINO is the only county on record opposing the carefully defined regulations, saying that there’s no proof that frost protection kills fish, that there’s already plenty of regulation, and that the wine people can protect the fish on their own with voluntary measures such as building more and more ponds.

NEIGHBORING COUNTIES with even larger wine regions have not complained about the proposed frost protection regs although a couple of wineries have.

THE WATER BOARD says that the wine people’s voluntary measures are fine as far as they go, but that “they do not address the full scope and magnitude of the problem,” particularly in tributaries. They also say that the wine people can include their pond building and other measures in any proposed water management plan they come up with as long as it deals with the peak demand problem.

WONDER WHY there’s so little Mental Health money to deal with the Aaron Basslers of Mendocino County, which isn't to say that the Bassler types are particularly amenable to existing mental health strategies. A drug binger, which is what Bassler seems to be, is otherwise sane. And Bassler, even if he is crazy, is certainly high-functioning crazy; he's eluded capture for going on three weeks and, for years, has successfully grown marijuana in the Fort Bragg woods, an enterprise dependent on successfully carrying out the complicated logistics necessary to sustaining oneself over long periods of rough forest living. When he shot Coleman and Melo, Bassler may have been in a methamphetamine-induced paranoid state. At any time in Mendocino County there are probably several hundred tweekers careening around the county, any one of whom could go over into ultra-vi. Off the drug, they aren't nuts. Prediction: If Bassler is taken alive, DA Eyster will prosecute him as a fully sane person.

ANYWAY, BASSLER or no Bassler, “The HHSA Mental Health Branch currently contracts with several facilities to provide both voluntary and involuntary acute psychiatric hospitalization for Mendocino County residents. North Valley Behavioral Health (NVBH) operates a 16-bed unit exclusively for rural Northern counties. This contract will provide payment to NVBH at the all-inclusive rate (including charges for medical histories and physicals) of $798 per day at the Yuba City facility on a fee for service basis.” Staff recommendation: “Approve and authorize the Board Chair to sign agreement with North Valley Behavioral Health in the amount of $500,000 to provide specialty inpatient mental health services in fiscal-year 2011/2012; and authorize the Health and Human Service Agency Director to sign any future amendments to the agreement that do not affect the annual maximum amount.”

TRANSLATION: Mendocino County pays a lot of money to distant lock-up mental health facilities to care for a few of our more intractably volatile mental health patients. But the cost is so draining that crisis care and other higher priority local services take a back seat.

ANOTHER MENTAL HEALTH PROPOSAL: “Telecare Corporation is a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) located in Oakland, providing medical, nursing and rehabilitative services to individuals with neurological deficits resulting from trauma, disease processes or metabolic or toxic degenerative disorders. Daily rates range from $220.65 to $550.84 depending on the client’s source of coverage. [If they have any—ms.] Telecare provides a safe, comprehensive medical, nursing and post rehabilitative treatment using state-of-the-art interventions based on up-to-date clinical knowledge and current research findings. We send clients to this facility when their needs are beyond those that can be met by facilities in our community. This contract will run from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012.” Staff recommendation: “Approve and authorize the Board Chair to sign agreement with Telecare Corporation in the amount of $90,000 to provide residential treatment for adults in Fiscal Year 2011/2012; and authorize the Health and Human Services Agency Director to sign any future amendments to the agreement that do not affect the annual maximum amount.”

SOME SEIU MEMBERS walked off the job last Friday afternoon, but most stayed on the job. Planning and Building was forced to close in Ukiah and Fort Bragg, but most County offices remained open. Since planning is such an obscure process at County HQ, it could be a year before anyone notices their absence unless they needed a building permit.

SEIU CONTINUES TO CLAIM the Board agreed to a 10% reduction in the work hours back in June, a claim supported by heated rhetoric but a dearth of documentation. The County maintains that SEIU unilaterally voted on an “agreement” that was not reviewed or agreed to by the County, and has offered up an email to that effect from CEO Carmel Angelo issued back in June when SEIU was voting. We have said it before, but if there was an agreement, it needed to be put in writing with all the details spelled out. SEIU has also not explained why the Board would not accept a 10% savings when that is what they have gotten from the other bargaining units. Except the public attorneys who stalled themselves into a 12.5% cut. The County says next year’s budget has a $1.5 million hole because of not getting an agreement with SEIU.

ON MONDAY, SEIU held a big rally in front of the County Courthouse, a high visibility protest site with stately old magnolia trees offering shade. Some of the rally signs accused the Board of being liars for allegedly backing away from the agreement that was or was not agreed to, depending on who you believe. Hard to fault the employees for blowing off a little steam, especially when the Board is led by Kendall Smith, who alone refuses to take a 10% pay cut (the same one she seeks to force on all the employees) and who has padded her account with fraudulent travel claims. Still, considering the Board will ultimately vote on how big a cut SEIU is forced to take, calling them names may not be the best strategy.

AS TENSIONS RISE, the County is likely to issue an ultimatum soon, as labor negotiations are on the Board’s closed session agenda this week. Lots of employees are expected to barrage the Board with comments during public expression prior to that. Something’s got to give pretty soon because the Board will begin budget hearings this week. But there’s not much sign of what a resolution with the SEIU would look like so far. From what was said by union reps at Tuesday morning’s public expression, some people think the two sides aren’t as far apart as the rhetoric may indicate.

COUNTY CEO Carmel Angelo, in a cover letter for the upcoming County budget, sees it all this way: “Unemployment remains stubbornly high while the economic base of the community has shifted away from living-wage above-board industrial jobs towards a service-based economy with an undeniable ‘shadow’ agribusiness. During these times of unprecedented economic change many members of our community have come upon hard times and have looked toward our organization for help. They are the community members who call upon the Sheriff’s Office to do a welfare check on an elderly neighbor they haven’t seen in days. They are the single mother who approaches the County looking for help to buy food. The County provides a diverse array of services. These times of economic stress have made the services that the County provides to the community more important, not less. The community depends upon the County in many ways, and the economic stress experienced at all levels has translated itself into fiscal stress for the County organization that has become very apparent over the course of this last fiscal year, FY 2010-2011.”

“SHADOW” AGRIBUSINESS? Why not just say marijuana? And cops doing ordinary welfare checks are not exactly part of a “diverse array of services” which are putting “fiscal stress” on the County. Nor are food stamps a big draw on County resources. The local fiscal stress has been caused by an imploding national economy and an upside-down tax structure.

SPOTTED at Whole Foods, Washington, DC by Yusra Adi Wise, “a man in his 60s wearing a Boonville t-shirt.”

BAY AREA MEDIA tends to go geographically fuzzy north of Santa Rosa, hence the Chron's sports page's placement of College of the Sequoias in Mendocino, as in “City College of San Francisco swamped College of the Sequoias 48-0 in Mendocino.”

COVELO has only one deputy on patrol these days since their second deputy has been pulled off to help man the cordon militaire drawn around the area where dual murder suspect Aaron Bassler is assumed to be hiding. A particularly sordid episode of domestic violence involving an infant grew worse when a mob gathered outside the home where the incident had occurred. When Round Valley's only deputy arrived to deal with the call, some of the mob action was directed at him. With reinforcements at least an hour away out of Willits (if available at all), it looked like bad was going to go to full-on worse. Fortunately, a CHP helicopter on its way from Sacramento to participate in the Bassler search flew over Covelo and heard the frantic radio transmission from the embattled deputy. Landing in a nearby field, the CHP pilots provided backup and cover while the deputy sorted out the domestic chaos, which ended without further trouble. A man was taken to jail but nobody was hurt. The baby was turned over to CPS.

AS PREDICTED HERE months ago, Kendall Smith, a two-term member of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors from the Fort Bragg area. has formally announced she won't run for a third term. It is expected that long-time Fort Bragg City councilman Dan Gjerde will succeed Smith, not that he or anybody else has announced. Smith was not only wholly ineffective as a supervisor, she had to be threatened with indictment by DA David Eyster to return travel money she'd deliberately chiseled from the County. Fort Bragg's been without a fully functioning supervisor since Liz Henry.

ALICIA BORCICH wrote last week: “I was wondering if you have a section listing upcoming events. If so, could you include the following? 'Join writer/researcher Kate Birch at a lecture discussing vaccines and how homeopathy can be used to stimulate your child's immune system at a lecture called “Vaccines and Alternatives” on October 1st from 2-4.30 pm at the Mendocino Rec Center, 998 School Street in Mendocino. Contact Alicia Abuliak for more information at alicia.abuliak@gmail.com  or 937-6276 or visit http://vaccinefree.wordpress.com  Thank you! Maybe someone would like to cover this as a story as well. Let me know, Alicia Borcich”

I WROTE BACK: “Dear Ms. Borcich: This isn't a lecture encouraging parents to avoid vaccination, is it? I'm sorry but we consider the anti-vaccination movement beyond irresponsible. Please clarify. Thank you, Bruce Anderson, ed.”

TO WHICH MS. BORCICH responded: “Dear Bruce, This lecture is not encouraging parents to avoid vaccination, but rather will examine a responsible alternative for parents who choose not to vaccinate. The research in this particular line of study indicates that using homeopathic nosodes to immunize your child results in antibody development like allopathic vaccinations. Using blood titer draws on children that have used this alternate immunization method, studies have found that these children are also protected. The primary difference is that these nosodes are non-toxic. On a public health level, in a community where 40% of parents choose not to vaccinate, another method that could protect our our community from epidemics of whooping cough, measles, etc. seems like a worthy topic for further investigation. Thank you for your consideration, Alicia.”

IF THE FORTY PERCENT figure is even half true, it means that not only are the children of the fools who don't vaccinate their own children at extreme risk, the children of everyone else are also at risk. The schools are not supposed to admit children without proof of vaccination, but who knows how diligent the schools are at screening the kids who appear for registration?

THE STATE PUBLIC WORKS BOARD has approved selection of the preferred site in downtown Ukiah for the proposed new courthouse for the Superior Court of Mendocino County. The site, multiple parcels currently owned by the City of Ukiah and private parties, is approximately 4.5 acres bounded by Perkins, Main, Mason, and Smith Streets. (I.e., the current County Library and surroundings.) An alternate site (the abandoned Ukiah Railroad Depot) for the proposed project, approximately 4.5 acres located south of East Perkins Street and west of Leslie Street, was approved by the SPWB in August 2011. The state has the authority to negotiate for two sites and is pursuing both concurrently with the expectation that one will be acquired. Site selection approval allows the state Administrative Office of the Courts, which is managing the project, to undertake “further due diligence,” environmental assessment under the California Environmental Quality Act, and negotiations that will ultimately result in finalization of the site. Site selection and environmental review, as well as site acquisition (which also requires SPWB approval), must be complete before architectural design of the new courthouse can begin, currently scheduled for early 2013. The architecture firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill has been selected to design the new courthouse.

THE LOOMING EYESORE will house nine courtrooms in approximately 113,700 square feet. It will replace two unsafe, overcrowded, and physically deficient court facilities: the old Mendocino Courthouse, which dates to the 1950s, and the Willits branch, which closed at the end of 2009.

THE NEW COURTHOUSE project was ranked as a “critical need” in the judicial branch’s capital-outlay plan, making it among the judicial branch’s highest-priority infrastructure projects. It is one of 41 projects funded by Senate Bill 1407, which finances “critically needed” courthouse construction, renovation, and repair through a portion of judicial branch fees, penalties, and assessments, without impact on the state’s General Fund. The state Budget Act for fiscal year 2011–2012 contains significant cuts to the judicial branch budget in general and to the account that funds SB 1407 projects in particular. These cuts may cause delays in SB 1407 projects. It will be several months before the impact of these cuts on specific projects is known, but in the meantime, site selection activities on the Ukiah project will continue.

A READER WRITES: “After listening to Norman de Vall’s access show this morning in which he ‘interviewed’ Aaron Bassler’s father, I have to say that I am not so sympathetically disposed to father Bassler’s situation as I was. Granted, Bassler senior is not a particularly articulate man, but on the radio he had a passive, self-serving, woe-is-me tone that, coupled with a dancing jig of generalities about mental illness and the myriad calls and attempts he made to get help from mental services for his son — all without specificity, had me wondering just who this man really was. One thing’s for certain; syntactically challenged that he seems to sound, he sure knows how to prep the media. Most parents whose son had just knocked off two innocent human beings would have remained behind closed doors until the matter was resolved by law enforcement or a trial was about to ensue. Norman, as usual, did not ask direct questions. He made personal statements in the guise of questions which in this case was all about the lack of funds for mental health services. True, of course, but teachers and cops are also being laid off for lack of funds. The money is gone and hope, magic or tears will not bring it back. Norman did not allow call-ins from regular listeners, but a shrink pal of his, Dr. Richard Miller, was allowed to ask a question or two which I thought were interesting. According to Bassler senior’s uneven responses, Aaron Bassler was a normal and somewhat shy kid who showed no signs of mental illness until (according to Bassler senior) the time of his first arrest. The second interesting fact is that Bassler senior admitted that he was not very much in his son’s life, particularly after Aaron became a teenager. Press accounts of Bassler senior’s statements make him appear that he was very much in his son’s life, repeatedly claiming that his son is mentally ill and it’s the government’s fault that all of this has happened. Did Bassler senior ever think of taking his son in for private treatment if he was so concerned? Then there’s mom. The ex-wife drove Aaron to Westport. He had a rifle. She let him off in the woods. Did she too believe that her son was mentally ill? Is that what one does with the mentally ill: drop them off in the wilderness with a rifle? Similarly, after the murder in Westport, and after admittedly knowing that the ex-wife had dropped junior off in the Westport woods, Bassler senior admits that he did not inform the police that his mentally ill son was loose in the woods with a rifle where a man had been brutally murdered. Why? His ex didn’t report it either. According to press accounts, Bassler senior said that he was peeved at the country for doing nothing for his son. Okay, then the son returns to Fort Bragg and knocks off victim number two? Gee, had Aaron Bassler not been identified by a witness to murder number two, would Bassler senior or his ex have kept his or her mouth shut again? Before this guy is killed, captured or gone to trial it’s already the local perception that it was not his fault. But, Bruce, what if? What if Aaron Bassler is captured? What if they lock him up and he has no more access to marijuana, speed, oxycodone, or his pretty little opium poppies? What if he’s a bad actor and he can’t play crazy, and the jailhouse shrinks see through him? What if he’s not nuts? What if he was just stoned and screwed up on drugs and has been so since he was a teenager? What if he sobers up? That’s the question that the politicians and nature lovers of Mendocino County do not want to have to sober up and answer to.”

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