Off The Record

by AVA News Service, October 5, 2011

THE JACKALS of the local media, especially at the big-toothed Press Democrat, are always happy to see pot raids on the locally prominent, especially the locally prominent they politically oppose. But one would think the children of the politically prominent would be of no interest to the bold boys of the Rose City daily, but not Angela Pinches, daughter of Supervisor John Pinches, who was pot-popped in Redwood Valley recently. If she weren't the daughter of the pot-friendly supervisor her citation, which is routine, would have gone unremarked. According to above-the-fold stories in both the Ukiah Daily Journal and the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, more than 100 pot plants belonging to Ms. Pinches were seized, leaving her with the 25 plant maximum allowed by Mendocino County rules.  She was not arrested, merely cited. According to Major Crimes Task Force Honcho Bob ‘Nish’ Nishyama, there were 44 mature plants growing outside on the property and about 88 plants — ranging from seedlings to two-foot plants — growing indoors. Apparently, a sheriff's deputy patrolling in the Redwood Valley area stopped a pickup at about 3:45pm Sept. 12, when he saw children riding in the truck bed. The driver said she didn't have her license, but the deputy followed her to Ms. Pinches' home so she could go inside and get it. The deputy noticed the pot plants in the yard while waiting for the driver, who was not Ms. Pinches, to return, and asked the children about them. The children allegedly said the plants belonged to their mother, but that they weren't allowed to talk about them. Ms. Pinches soon appeared and the deputy asked her about the plants. The deputy confirmed that Ms. Pinches had a medical recommendation to use marijuana. Ms. Pinches was cited and released because the cops didn’t want to leave her children untended or confiscated by Child Protective Services, a courtesy not always extended to pot growers. Supervisor Pinches told the Ukiah Daily Journal that he believed the raid had something to do with his political views on legalizing marijuana. The DEA's Nishyama predictably denied that Mr. Pinches' views on marijuana had anything to do with the raid on his daughter. Ms. Pinches told cops that she “planned” to join a cooperative which would allow her to grow up to 99 plants, but hadn’t gotten around to it. The case is “still under investigation,” and the District Attorney’s office has not yet made a charging decision.

A READER WRITES: “I found it interesting that Pinches' daughter got popped for marijuana and her excuse was she was going to sell to a co-op. Didn't her dad just vote in support of a dispensary in Boonville that was highly contested? Seems like a clear conflict of interest since his daughter was potentially going to profit from this vote. I'm sure you are all over this, dirty politics make for dirty politicians.”

ACTUALLY, Ms. Pinches’ father voted not to impose a moratorium on dispensaries until Supervisor McCowen finishes drafting an ordinance and the board votes on it. But co-ops are already sort of legal because they’re covered under the County’s existing cultivation ordinance (9.31) and its 99-plant allowance (under specific conditions). In addition, co-ops are different from dispensaries which are as-yet unregulated. There are about a dozen dispensaries in Mendocino where our ailing population can find green solace.

IN THE AFTERMATH of the State Water Board’s recent decision to require “water management plans” to control overpumping from the Russian River during “frost protection events,” people like Russian River Flood District Director Lee Howard, wine promoter Al White, Ag extension wine gofer Glen McGourty, Supervisor John McCowen, Farm Bureau Director Janet Pauli, former Farm Bureau president Supervisor Carre Brown, et al, become positively apoplectic at the prospect of being “regulated.”

THE FROST PROTECTION mitigation plans being required of the Russian River wine mafia will actually save these shortsighted blusterers a lot of money because once the water management system is in place the now costly permit applications will sail through with much less trouble, fewer lawyers, consultants, water engineers, and so on. The new rules will save the inland wine gang money and time. We know well-intentioned growers not affiliated with the inland wine hysterics who have paid well over $100k to the State Water Board in vain attempts to get their water permits approved but still find themselves bogged down in endless technical processes which then have to be expensively “mitigated.” Under the Water Board’s newly required “management system” not only will the wine mob be able to design their own systems but they’ll also save money by umbrella-style compliance when they submit or modify their applications.

BUT TRY telling that to Lee Howard, McGourty and the rest of these outback aristocrats. They’re just too damn dumb to realize that what the Water Board is requiring is for their own good. That’s why the far more savvy wine people of Lake, Napa and Sonoma Counties have made much less of a fuss about the Water Board’s new Frost Protection rules, which are very modest and hardly onerous.

THE NEW RULES do not require real-time monitoring of frost-time draws on the finite waters of the Russian River. Real-time monitoring is the only rule which would have protected the fish, and the inland windbags, of course,  have stoutly resisted it and would have kept on stoutly resisting it in the belief that they're entitled to whatever they want of public resources. The only specific new requirement involves “record keeping.” The rest is entirely up to the wine people and how they choose to develop (i.e., spend their own money on) the required “management plan” which, of course, will be a minimal program, minimally enforced, if enforced at all.

THE WINE PEOPLE along the Ukiah-Hopland stretch of the Russian River have already built hundreds of diversion ponds, which really amount to one big dam on the river south of Coyote Dam behind which rests Lake Mendocino. These ponds are supposed to draw from high flows (there’s no monitoring of that either), but even if they did, skimming high flows negatively affects river conditions for fish as well because  natural flushing action is reduced.

MAYBE some reverse psychology would help those who hope to salvage what’s left of the endangered fish runs. For example, to reduce the proliferation of ponds in the Russian River watershed, the County ought to propose a rule requiring ponds to be built. Then, to stop high intensity frost protection spraying, the County might propose a rule requiring frost protection whenever the ambient temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

ANOTHER example of the inland wine gang's anti-regulation hysteria is the County’s recently downsized “stormwater regulations,” which caused the very same people to again go apoplectic because they saw the original county staff proposal, which would “regulate” stormwater run-off to prevent expensive landslides and erosion during storm events as a stealth grading ordinance. (We should have had a grading ordinance in Mendocino County years ago, but because we don't hundreds of acres of grapevines are being planted on precipitous hillsides with, of course, winter run-off running off down into already terribly silted streams.) Thanks to these hysterics, the wine gang's allies on the Board of Supervisors (Supervisors Brown, Pinches and McCowen) voted to limit the new rules to the cities of Ukiah and Fort Bragg. Never mind that the new rules were meant to protect the wine mafia's own land from washing away in a heavy rainstorm.

THE COUNTY has said for years that something had to give as health insurance costs skyrocketed and pension investment returns declined. The entire cost of the County-style healthcare plan (as provided for current employees with an expensive cost-share of its own) will now have to be shouldered by the retirees. The cost? An almost unbelievable $922 per month per employee! Before this latest rip-off, these retirees were already paying $531 per employee per month.

AMONG THE financial mumbo-jumbo in the recently completed County audit was this weird statement: “The deficit fund equity in the Mental Health Services Fund was caused by several years of significant excess expenditures over revenues. The Board of Supervisors permitted the accumulated deficit to be separated from the General Fund so as to limit the fiscal impact to the Mental Health Fund solely. Under new directorship, the department continues to work closely with County administration and the Auditor-Controller under a committed plan to defease the deficit over a period of five years. Although the deficit is reported at more than $8 million, receivables recorded as deferred revenue comprise in excess of that amount.”

HUH? How many things are wrong with this assessment? Surely previous boards didn’t knowingly “permit” huge multi-million dollar mental health deficits that had to be made up out of other County funds. Prior administrative staffs — such as former Social Services Director Alison Glassey — must have convinced themselves and the Board of Supervisors that the bloated Mental Health Department of years past was just fine and that state reimbursements would cover wasteful spending on high-priced therapists, consultants and outside treatment facilities. And the as-usual Board of Supervisors bought this BS unquestioningly.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY David Eyster issued a consumer alert last week regarding an ongoing panhandling scam outside local supermarkets and other retail stores in Ukiah. Eyster says it's conducted by a Southern California religious group known for “missionaries” wearing angelically white uniforms and holding donation cans. “These white-suited solicitors claim to be affiliated with the Missionary Church of the Disciples of Jesus Christ, a Covina-based organization. With no local outreach programs or facilities, the Missionary Church was set up in Covina by Apostle R. Gonzalez W. who claims on the organization's website that Jesus Christ and disciples Peter and John visited his home, which led him to preach. Currently, the law does not require a church to explain how much money it collects from storefront solicitations or how any of that money collected is spent. However, when a church is not transparent about how it spends its donations, the public can't determine what its money supports, says James Wellman, chairman of the University of Washington's comparative religion department and association professor of American Religion in the Jackson School of International Studies. “I would go so far to say it's a scam,” Wellman stated. In a conversation between the district attorney and one of the missionaries who reportedly lives in San Jose, the district attorney was told that none of the money collected is shared with local community-based organizations or goes to help the needy and less fortunate here in Mendocino County. The district attorney also asked that a church spokesman provide information on money collected in Mendocino County and services provided locally. To date, no response to that request has been received. Thus, it remains an ongoing recommendation of the district attorney and other law enforcement agencies that residents investigate before making a donation of hard-earned dollars. While the district attorney encourages donations to the established local organizations that provide for the needy in our community year in and year out, residents are asked to make sure the money donated to others is going to a legitimate cause and purpose with which they agree.

SHERIFF ALLMAN said Monday that there are 104 Mendo people in the state prison system who, as the new rules kick in, would have done their time in the County Jail rather than the state pen. Allman these 104 wouldn't be coming back but over the next few years he expects a comparable number of local miscreants to be eligible under the new sentencing rules to be housed at the County Jail. Parole violators, presently dispatched to San Quentin for the most trivial offenses, will be housed at the County Jail.

THE SHERIFF also said that he didn't anticipate many “frequent fliers” to be among the expanded County Jail population. He said he expected local embezzlers and other persons not usually involved with the justice system. The Sheriff chuckled at some of the new law's contradictions. “You will do your time for crank manufacture at the County Jail but if you get caught selling horse meat you go to state prison!”

I THOUGHT Sheriff Allman did a masterful job at Saturday's press conference in the aftermath of the Bassler Affair. I laughed out loud when Allman advised the guy from Reuters to “do your own research.” When you have the whole media pack — local, state, national, and international in this case — braying out inane and mostly unprepared questions, it's down right gratifying to see an outback lawman whip these animals back into their seats.

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