Off The Record
by AVA News Service, November 3, 2011
ASSEMBLYMAN WES Chesbro’s appearance before the Board of Supervisors last week sent us scurrying for anti-Chesbro ammo beyond our ad hoc blasts at the blandly corrupt Arcata cipher at the mere mention of his name. Project Vote Smart reports that Chesbro “has demonstrated 0% courage” on the Projects “political courage test” because he “refused to tell citizens where he stands on any of the issues addressed in the 2010 Political Courage Test despite repeated requests from Vote Smart, national media, and prominent political leaders.” Most California Democrats, Congressman Mike WineTop Thompson, received Vote Smart’s 0% score. Congressperson Lynn Woolsey, however, received a 92% political courage score, and what a difference a county line makes. We get a principled, brave rep from Cloverdale south, but north of Cloverdale we get Chesbro and WineTop.
WE CAN UNDERSTAND, if not approve, the math error in the County’s ballot information concerning Measure A, the 1/8-cent sales tax increase to fund the County Library system. (The Major stands ready to assist Mendocino County with its basic math and, on the rare occasions the math requires advanced calculation, he is also prepared to pack up his ancient but still functional slide rule and head over the hill.) A math error amounting to the difference in a pittance of a tax is one thing, but there’s no excuse for sending out the wrong ballots to South Coast residents that entirely excluded their local school board election. We can't even imagine Marsha Young making that error. In fact, we can't remember Marsha making any mistakes, ever, but she was richer in resources and…
PRESENT-DAY County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor Susan Ranochak explained the missing election this way: “You have been inadvertently mailed the incorrect ballot, due to an error made by my office. The Arena/Point Arena Union School District election was left off your original ballot. Enclosed you will find a replacement ‘yellow’ ballot that has the Arena/Point Arena Union School District race and Measure A that you are eligible to vote on. Please vote the ‘yellow’ ballot and return it to my office to be counted. Please accept my apology for any inconvenience this may cause you.” Since there are four candidates running for three seats on the Point Arena School Board, and here's hoping Arena voters are sensible enough to vote in Susan Rush, it’s possible that the losing candidate might have grounds to force a re-election.
THE GRAND JURY has got to lean on our, ah, disengaged Superior Court to break out the subpoenas: Grand Jury Recommendation #5 this year thinks it would be a good idea if the Public Defender and Alternate Public Defender's Office inform the public exactly how much a publicly-paid defense costs the taxpayers: “The Public Defender [should] develop a procedure to regularly request, at the end of a case, County reimbursement for legal services provided on that case.” Grand Jury Recommendation #6: “The Alternate Defender develop a procedure to regularly request, at the end of a case, County reimbursement for legal services provided on that case.”
PUBLIC DEFENDER Linda Thompson’s non-response to Grand Jury’s recommendations 5 and 6? “Both the Alternate Defender’s Office and the Public Defender have participated in several meetings with the Judges as well as the Collections Department to ensure that a protocol is put into place to ensure the consideration of assessing attorney’s fees at the conclusion of both misdemeanor and felony cases. It involves, at present, an education of each visiting Judge in Department B to send potential clients to collections to first determine eligibility and get the $50 registration fee as well as the clerk’s reminding the Judge at the end to consider imposition of an amount of attorney fees. The Courts have greatly assisted in addressing our concerns about the orders for these fees both at the inception of our representation and at the conclusion of the proceedings.”
WHICH is an answer to a question that wasn't asked, and a misleading answer to the unasked question at that. The question asked was, How mucho does a public defense cost in each case and when are you going to fix it?
COUNTY DEPARTMENT HEADS are so used to being non-responsive to the Grand Jury that it's past time to get out the subpoenas and hold them in contempt if they don't answer directly. Throw one of them — we nominate Ms. Thompson — in an iso-cell out at the County Jail for a couple of hours and see how fast they get on task.
MATTHEW COHEN, manager of Northstone Organics, the poster child operation for Mendocino County’s 9.31 medical marijuana cultivation ordinance, was profiled in last week’s Sacramento Bee. Cohen's officially Mendo-sanctioned combined pot garden and home were raided by federal Drug Enforcement Agency cops during what Cohen described as a “smash and grab” visit. Cohen told the Bee that he was waiting to see if he will face federal charges, and that he doesn't expect Northstone Organics to return to business. “If their point was to make a threat, they accomplished it,” Cohen said, standing amid his leveled marijuana garden. “They scared the pants off of growers who wanted to participate in the [County] program. And I'm not growing next year, no way.”
WHICH PROBABLY MEANS that, no matter what your position on medical marijuana, Sheriff Tom Allman’s battered budget will take another hit of several hundred thousand dollars next year as current and potential 9.31 participants join Cohen in fear of federal raids.
THE CITY OF FORT BRAGG has called a special election for April 12th to elect a successor to slain Councilmember Jere Melo. The filing period will run from December 19 to January 13. The Fort Bragg Council has also scheduled a special meeting on November 7th to choose a date for a special election for a half-cent sales tax increase to support the C.V. Starr Aquatic Center. The ongoing expense of operating the Starr Center has drained Rec reserves and threatens the overall solvency of the Mendocino Coast Recreation and Parks District. Without additional funds it seems likely that the Starr Center will be forced to close.
CAL TRANS IS HOSTING an “invitational only event” to mark the opening of Fort Bragg's Simpson Lane roundabout. The free lunch celebration, from which the public is excluded, will be funded by taxpayer dollars and will of course consist of lots of chuckling and self-congratulatory speeches by Cal Trans bureaucrats and local officials. Party crashers are invited to show up Nov. 7th at 11:00 am at the intersection of Highway One and Simpson Lane and follow the signs.
THE SLO MO TRAINWRECK between SEIU and the County finally came to a head this week. As the AVA goes to press the County is set to impose a 12.5% pay cut on County employees. Just two weeks ago the County and SEIU reportedly agreed to a mediator's recommended settlement, but the deal fell apart when SEIU told its members the agreed upon 10% pay cut was really only a 6.5 or 7.5% cut. The mediator insisted the parties had to agree on what the deal really meant.
SEIU PUT OUT AN UPDATE claiming they made several offers that included a 10% wage reduction, but the County rejected them all. SEIU claims the County has never bargained seriously, has driven the process to impasse, and has simply gone through the motions of mediation just to position themselves to take what they want. SEIU also says they have put the County on notice that they will file an injunction with the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) to prevent the County from going forward with an imposed pay cut.
IN LABOR ORGANIZING, it always helps to polarize the issue, but if the County merely wanted to impose its will they were in position to do it back in May after first declaring impasse. It seems increasingly clear that SEIU, who has stalled the process for over a year, is not interested in agreeing to the same 10% pay cut that other County bargaining units took. Without an agreement, SEIU is looking at an imposed 12.5% cut.
SEIU HAS ISSUED an action alert urging its members to “Stand up and make the BOS face you!” Since the BOS meets in open session, the Supervisors really don't have much choice but to face whoever shows up. SEIU said they would be joined by members from Sonoma, Napa and Santa Rosa, as well as the Teamsters, in the form of the public attorneys, who also stalled the County for a year and took a 12.5% pay cut when the dummies could have settled for a 10% reduction in pay. SEIU has urged its members to converge on the County Administration Center and “Occupy the Board Room."
HERE AT YOUR BELOVED community newspaper, we think the Supervisors could have been quicker to take the high road in negotiations, but we also think it is clear that the SEIU reps, perhaps out of the inexperience of the people working Ukiah, or maybe because of the bureaucratic confusion you get with Big Labor when an outback hassle like this one in Ukiah has to go to headquarters and back for decision-making. The long and the short of it is that SEIU could have settled months ago for 10% pay reductions while the Supes, rather than accuse SEIU of bad faith and other indignant huffing and puffing, could have been a lot more conciliatory. Heck's bells, this isn't GM and the UAW.
SEIU is going all out to vilify the Supervisors, spending about two thousand bucks of their member's hard earned union dues on a full page ad in Tuesday's Ukiah Daily Journal headlined SHAME!
And begins “…On the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors & CEO Carmel Angelo for Creating Economic Instability in Mendocino.” And so on. This is all sooooooo unnecessary.
MANBEATER of the week, Ms. Heidi Fontaine-Tucker: “Yeah, I hit the punk, and I'll hit him again. You gotta problem with that, officer?”
POINT ARENA POLITICS has taken another strange turn with Terry Hughey being appointed to the PA City Council seat he resigned from last April. Hughey had been appointed to the Council in August 2010, and was immediately elected Mayor, ousting Lauren Sinnott from the post. Hughey and his wife, former Councilmember Eloiza Oropeza, both resigned once the recall against Oropeza and the other three councilmembers was filed. Although Oropeza resigned, the recall against her went forward. Brian Riehl, aka Hoolis C. Nation (Hallucination, we are told) ran against the resigned Oropeza who was recalled by a margin of a mere two votes. An issue raised in the recall was the frequent appointment of councilmembers without election. So natch one of the first acts of the new Council is to fill a vacancy without an election. Hughey was the only person filing for the job. With only 250 registered voters in town, many of them at each other's throats, maybe the Council jobs should simply be rotated.
THE NEW POINT ARENA COUNCIL is off to a slow start with several scheduled meetings canceled for lack of a quorum. Habitual absence was also an issue raised during the recall election since recallers and new Councilmembers Lloyd Cross and Brian Riehl racked up unimpressive attendance records during previous service on the Council.
A PUBLIC HEARING to consider possible abatement of Point Arena's Sea Shell Inn was canceled Oct. 24 for lack of a quorum. Ditto the regular meeting of Oct. 25.
JAMES HOULE WRITES: “Occupy Ukiah Moves Out. After the very successful march in Ukiah earlier this month by a group of 300 activists targeting the three big National Banks, OccupyUkiah.org, is on the move: Transfer Your Accounts: Beginning November 1st through November 5th there will be daily demonstrations at the Ukiah offices of Bank of America, Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan Chase leading up to National Bank Transfer Day on Saturday, November 5th. The big banks will feel the movement's strength as literally millions of the 99% majority around the country move their accounts to local banks and credit unions to protest the outrageous new service charges on accounts. We will sit outside the bank's offices and encourage people not to do business with the BofA. Assembly is at 10 am at the Court House where we will make signs and organize for the march south 1 block to BofA. This demonstration is being coordinated with the Ukiah Police to assure it is non-violent ad respectful of private property. Contacts: Jim Houle 485-8229, firstname.lastname@example.org or Kathy Rippey, Krippey@yahoo.com.”
THE COUNTY OF MENDO continues to pay Dominic Affinito $25,000 a month rent for Affinito's barn-like structure on South Franklin, Fort Bragg. We assumed the County had moved out already, on into the County-owned Avila Center down the street. Hasn't happened. City of Fort Bragg wants building permits to do an Avila re-do.
LAST THURSDAY AFTERNOON, at Justin Herman Plaza at the foot of Market Street, there's a colorful array of tents and equivalently varied Wall Street Occupiers. They are barely distinguishable from the nearby open air stalls hawking tourist stuff which has camped for years at the foot of Market Street. The Wall Street Occupiers at Justin Herman last week seemed to me to enhance the usually vacant and always unadorned concrete of the plaza, but then all of Market Street at its east end is an uninviting dankness of sun-blocking skyscrapers and forbidding cement. You don’t get back into the sun until you get to the Ferry Building, or all the way up to the Castro Safeway three miles to the west. Justin Herman's plaza implies sunshine and merriment but, like the man it commemorates, its shadowed expanse crushes whatever glimmer of hope might escape Mammon's nearby skyscraper forest. The plaza is aptly named after Herman, one of the most destructive persons in city history, although there’s plenty of competition for that honor. The same monkeybiz mayor that brought us Candlestick Park, George Christopher, in 1959, the year Willie Mays could not buy a house on the foggy side of Twin Peaks because of real estate covenants forbidding black ownership, appointed Herman to head up the Redevelopment Commission, dubbed at the time by black people as the “Negro Removal Commission.” Thousands of black residents were soon redeveloped out of the homes they’d occupied since their Japanese predecessors were impounded and packed off to their very own World War Two low-intensity concentration camps, one besieged minority succeeding the other. With Herman leading the bulldozers, hundreds of Victorians were destroyed, and in their place we got a tactical freeway — Geary Boulevard — and four blocks of concrete bunkers called the Japanese Culture and Trade Center. (Once a year some young people who are probably Chinese beat on big drums and dance around a cherry tree, and that’s Japanese culture for another year. The rest of the alleged culture center consists of vaguely Asian-themed gee gaw shops and restaurants.) Thanks to Herman, and perhaps by design, the disruptive four lanes of Geary Boulevard serves as a strategic barrier between the potential marauders the rich have always suspected of lurking along lower Fillmore south of Geary and the mega-marauders of Pacific Heights. Fillmore, only now, is just beginning to come back to life nearly sixty years after Herman destroyed it. In a way, then, to name an expanse of concrete at the dreary foot of dreary Market Street after Herman and call it a plaza is just about perfect. Separating Herm's plaza from the abomination of the Caltrans-like rubble of the Vaillancourt Fountains, an alleged sculpture — for all its self-certified sophistication, Frisco is pretty much run by rubes — is a motley collection of transient stalls selling stuff like flattened plastic beer cans and peace sign belt buckles. People complaining about the Wall Street Occupiers being unsightly and smelly overlook the ongoing fact that the whole area is unsightly, as is the rest of Market Street all the way west to at least Valencia. There’s a big banner over the Occupy camp that says “Occupy San Francisco: A Living Example of a Better System.” I wouldn’t go that far. If I thought I had to spend the rest of my life with twinklers and call and respond politics, however righteous, I think I’d take an early out, but it is definitely gratifying to see so many people with a clear grasp of in whose interests our motherland is run. I kept my nose alert for the urine smell the rightwing claims is synonymous with San Francisco generally and Occupy sites specifically, but I was only able to detect the usual faint prevalence of raw sewage characteristic of those areas of the city built on fill, and everything east of Kearney Street was once part of San Francisco Bay, as is most of the city's southeast quadrant. The Marina, too. I remember The City trying to do something about the persistent sewage odor, but perfuming the omni-present smell went nowhere because irreconcilable factions refused to give up their commitments to the options — some people demanded a strawberry bouquet, others chocolate, some vanilla, and some probably held out for rum raisin. Thursday, the Occupy camp at Justin Herman was clean and orderly. Pumpkins decorated the paths between tents, feral children gamboled. Tourists were wandering around taking pictures of the slogans and the more photogenic protesters; a pair of ostentatious meditators were a big draw. The previous night across the bay at Oakland's Occupy camp, at zero provocation, the cops had shot a kid, a marine with two Iraq tours behind him, shot him at point blank range with a tear gas gun. I saw the boy get it on the Ten O’Clock News. First thing in the morning I verified what I was certain I’d seen on the News with the inevitable clips I knew would be on the internet. Sure enough, there it was: the Olsen kid, 24, was standing stock still no more than ten feet from the police barricade looking straight at their massed helmets. Standing next to him was a sailor in full uniform. Olsen was in his civvies. Then he’s suddenly hit in the head with something fired from very close, essentially point blank range, which turned out to be a tear gas canister, meaning that whatever psycho shot the thing at Olsen head-high was indifferent to Olsen's survival and ought to be tried for attempted murder. (Another Marine protester said the cops had used “a lot more force than we used on mobs in Iraq.”) The police, drawn from several Bay Area agencies, claimed they were being attacked with bottles and other projectiles, but in the films of the confrontation you can see what look like teenagers lobbing an occasional object at the cops, not protesters. The liberal governments of both cities are now paralyzed as to the Occupiers. They've essentially said, “Well, golly, we're liberals, kind of, but since we can't trust the cops not to behave like maniacs we better leave the protesters alone.” (It will be interesting to see how the much less liberal city of Santa Rosa will approach its tent city.) At Justin Herman last Thursday I counted 53 tents and maybe a half-dozen wildmen who looked young and crazy enough to engage in ultra-vi, but most of the people occupying an otherwise empty, foreboding place are ordinary citizens, and patriots of a very high order.