Off The Record

by AVA News Service, September 28, 2011

THE MOST INTERESTING THING about former SoCo winemaker LaMarion Spence’s idea to help wine tasters avoid DUI arrests (not mentioned in the Press Democrat’s story last week, of course) is the de facto admission that drunk driving is a major problem for the wine industry. When Mr. Spence ran his own tasting room in Sonoma County — he was the managing partner at the now defunct Roshambo Winery — Spence said, “I would watch people get drunk, get in a car and cross my fingers they'd get home safely,” adding that sometimes he had to take away car keys or take other measures to stop tasters from driving drunk. Spence proposes a sort of official Drunk Wine Drinker’s Club where members would get discounts on hotel rooms or custom taxi rides whenever they need one. Spence proposes that the wine industry help subsidize the cost as a service to their over-indulging customers. “It's a community service that marries private enterprise with social responsibility,” Spence said. Some Sonoma County wine people are dubious about Spence’s idea. “I don't think the statistics show drunk drivers come from wineries,” said Santa Rosa Councilman Steve Babb in a somewhat contradictory assessment. “I know it happens. But there's a lot of chauffeuring, limousines and bus services and designated drivers hired.” Spence acknowledges that there are some “logistics problems” associated with the wine-drunk’s car if the drunk gets taken away in a hired-ride. If the inebriate gets a cheap ride home, the drunk’s car could be “valet-parked” at a city lot, or taken to the drunk’s destination of choice.

NOW if all the other drunks — those who’s booze of choice is not wine — simply join Mr. Spence’s Drunk Club maybe the economies of scale will kick in and Spence's “business model” will look more profitable.

THE MENDO BOARD of Supervisors voted 3-2 last week to make minimal changes to existing Supervisorial District boundaries. They rejected the two options prepared by the “Citizens Committee” which worked for weeks on their maps and numbers, listening to whoever had an opinion on the subject in Willits, Fort Bragg, Point Arena, and Ukiah. Supervisors John Pinches and Carre Brown voted against the “minimum change” map drawn up by Supervisor Kendall Smith on grounds that they should have limited their choices to only the two maps the Citizens Committee submitted. Supervisor Dan Hamburg was, of course, thrilled with Smith’s proposed map since it kept Mendocino and Hopland in his far-flung (and reliably liberal) Fifth District. Supervisor John McCowen, the more-or-less swing vote on the map question, agreed with Smith and Hamburg, saying that the two maps the Citizens Committee came up with took too much population from the South of Willits to make up for the loss of Hopland and/or Mendocino in the Fifth. Major Scaramella sat on the Citizens Committee and agreed that Mendocino probably does resemble Fort Bragg much more than it did 20 years ago, but, The Major said at the time the two maps were submitted, putting almost half the Willits area into the Fifth District was a bad way to move Mendocino into the Fourth.

THE MOVE out of Dominic Affinito’s big Fort Bragg building as part of a County office consolidation has been delayed and is now expected to be complete by the end of the year, not the end of October as previously announced. Affinito has given the County a month to month lease extension unless he finds a new tenant, which is highly unlikely for a structure its size in an imploding economy. County CEO Carmel Angelo said last week, “What we’re dealing with in Fort Bragg is their Planning Commission. … Apparently there were problems with some plans and some bids,” primarily with permits for the new modular units to be installed outside the Avila Center where most of the Affinito building offices and staff are relocating to. “Everything takes time,” said Angelo in a silly first shot at a non-excuse. “It’s only another $50,000,” quipped Supervisor John McCowen sarcastically, referring to the $25,000 per month rent the County pays Affinito. Angelo winced as if wounded by McCowen’s remark, then launched into a fuller non-response: “You know, I mean it… I think that… Really… y