Off The Record

by AVA News Service, November 10, 2011

THE POINT ARENA City Council meets tonight (Wednesday) to kick around the Sea Shell Inn, the motel on Point Arena's main drag, which is also Highway One. I was in PA last Saturday for the Boonville-Point Arena football game, and of course strode the seething village end to end for some post-game exercise. Eyeballing the Sea Shell I'd never peg it as the “public nuisance” lots of fog-eaters seem to think it is. It looks fine if a little frayed at the perimeters and its denizens, perhaps confined to their rooms by the rain, were nowhere in sight. Usually the dopers are right out there taking their carburetors apart and putting them back together for days at a time, rain or shine. Just sayin' here, but it also seems mildly hypocritical of Mendocino County's smallest incorporated town, a town funded and fueled by drug money, to jump on the Sea Shell for sheltering the town's least successful customers.

PEBBLES TRIPPET, arguably America's lead marijuana proponent, stopped by Monday. Pebs was on her way home from a trip (sic) to San Diego, a long drive to and from she'd apparently made alone. She dropped off set two of the Cannabis Cards, nicely illustrated by Fred Sternkopf. One of the cards depicts Honest Abe toking his corncob pipe. “Two of my favorite things are sitting on my front porch smoking a pipe of sweet hemp and playing my Hohner harmonica.” Abe Lincoln said that? Of course a gay group claims Abe was gay, too, but then there are gays who claim everyone is either out-of-the-closet gay or in-the-closet gay so, if there are Lincoln scholars out there can we please get verification. Another card claims Shakespeare as a stoner, another Frida Kahlo, then there are people synonymous with dope like Snoop Dog, John and Oko, Mile Davis, Brownie Mary (Duh!), and Janis Joplin. A tenner mailed to Cannabis Cards, box 743, Mendocino, Ca 95460 will get you that perfect stocking stuffer.

PEBS ALSO DROPPED off a copy of a statewide petition called “Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act of 2012.” If qualified for the ballot — a million signatures are required — and passed into law “It shall not be a crime or public offense for an adult, 19 years of age or older, to use, possess, share, cultivate, transport, process, distribute, sell or otherwise engage in cannabis related activities.”

THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS CAME UNDER ATTACK this week from enviros and the arrayed forces of local darkness as reliably represented by the Farm Bureau, the Employer's Council and the Builder's Exchange. Both sides are all het up over the routine implementation of a grant to update a state-mandated section of the General Plan. The County, in partnership with the Cities of Fort Bragg and Ukiah, applied for the money — $461,340 — more than a year ago. The grant was awarded in March but staff, which has been reduced by budget cuts, natural attrition and a porno scandal in Planning and Building, is just now getting around to finalizing the necessary contracts. The prob with it, at least as the prob is mis-seen by the Farm Bureau et al, lies in some of the language, specifically “sustainability” and “stormwater” and “green house gases,” terms the rightwing associates with The Enemy.

THE BELATED CONCERNS of the Farm Bureau and associated Fox News intellectuals, were not assuaged when they learned that the grant's author and administrator was Linda Helland, head of the County's Community Health Services who also serves on Ukiah's Planning Commission where she can be counted on to raise concerns about the community health aspects of development projects. The Farm Bureau et al fears that the Community Health Assessment will translate to costly requirements to promote community health. Can't have that, can we? But experience has shown some people that including commonsense amenities at the planning stage does not add to cost but does indeed attract customers and businesses who, some people understand, prefer handy, attractive, safe structures.

THE SUPERVISORS needed all the information about what the grant meant, which also meant that it was continued to this week's agenda. After all the huffing and puffing, we expect that the Supes will vote to approve. The alternative would be to give the money back and pay for the code updates out of scarce County general funds.

WITH ALL THE HOOPLA OVER THE SUSTAINABLE PLANNING GRANT, the long awaited Water Agency Workshop, also on this week's agenda, threatens to become something of a sleeper issue. Until recently the Water Agency enjoyed semi-autonomous status, with little accountability for the general fund money that it relied on. Under orders to reduce the pressure on the general fund, Water Agency General Manager Roland Sanford cooked up a wildly optimistic budget that relied on grants that were never granted. When his fictional budget was exposed, Sanford and most of his staff were let go.

ADMINISTRATION OF THE WATER AGENCY was shifted to Planning and Building, along with its remaining .5 employee, hydrologist Dennis Slota. The problem is that over the last few years the Water Agency has taken on responsibility for numerous tasks, some partially grant funded, others not, but all of which have in common time requirements greater than can be met by a half-time position. Or a full-time position for that matter. The workshop was continued from last June when the Board held one of its famously inconclusive talk fests that ended with less clarity than when it began. Every Supervisor has pet projects that are funded by the Water Agency; any efforts to split the baby will be painful.

SAVE THE REDWOODS LEAGUE has announced the purchase of 957 acres of “unprotected redwood forestland,” this particular parcel of the unprotected being known as Shady Dell. It's located at the southern end of the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. The property is part of the Usal Redwood Forest, which is owned by the Redwood Forest Foundation, Inc., the same non-profit that has just been granted $25 million for a conservation easement that insures that the land will never be sold off in pieces. The heavily cutover land, however is mostly so steep and remote that it's in little danger of development. The Shady Dell property, which consists mostly of beaches, ocean bluffs, riparian zones, uniquely contorted redwoods, generally unsuited to logging, would probably have saved itself anyway. Save the Redwoods League will hold title to the property for a decent interval and then transfer it to the State to be added to a state park system being systematically dismantled.

THE PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS BOARD (PERB) swiftly rejected the request for injunctive relief sought by SEIU to prevent the imposition of a 12.5% pay cut by the County. The rejection came last Friday in a crisp, one sentence letter saying sufficient grounds for the injunction had not been demonstrated. Barring any last minute agreement, which seems increasingly unlikely, the pay cut will go forward. And so will the dueling unfair labor practice charges the County and SEIU have filed against each other.

SEIU FILED THE CLAIM for an injunction the previous Friday at 3:00 p.m. in an apparent attempt to sandbag the County, which was required to respond by 5:00 p.m. Monday. The County, undoubted outgunned by SEIU's cadre of labor savvy lawyers, has hired Meyers Nave, the go-to law firm for corporations intent on union busting. The only people to profit from this needless dispute will be attorneys.

CEO CARMEL ANGELO has been quoted as saying the 12.5% reduction could go on for a long time and that it might be two years before the PERB charges are settled. Meanwhile, the County employees represented by SEIU are said to be increasingly restless at being caught between two groups that clearly don't like each other and seem more than willing to use County workers as pawns in a drawn out legal game. There are reports that some employees are canceling their union dues while others are casting around for an alternative to SEIU. The sense we get is that the majority of employees would just like to reach an agreement and move on to the Poor House with the rest of the 99 Percent.

A READER WRITES: “I’m a County employee. I have a young male co-worker with a disabled kid he’s raising more or less on his own. He barely makes his rent as it is with his low County salary. With the Supes imposition of a 12.5% pay cut this guy has no idea how he’ll make his rent. At the same time the In Home Services pay he gets for taking care of his son is being cut by the state. There are lots of County employees in similar circumstances. Nobody believes the County’s budget numbers — even if they’re more or less correct — because their credibility is so low these days. After all, if the County really needed $1.5 million in salary savings to make their budget add up a year ago, how come they still need $1.5 million now after the SEIU members have gone along without a pay cut for almost a year? If the County was in such dire need for pay concessions why didn’t they simply impose mandatory time off last year? After the Board voted to impose the 12.5% cut on their lowest paid workers, the union reps circulated an email which ended ‘this is not over,’ implying that some kind of appeal of the decision would be made to state authorities or with the courts. Nobody expects those to be successful. By cutting the already low pay of people like my co-worker instead of cutting his hours — which is still an option, by the way — he doesn’t even have the extra time to look for a second job or spend the extra time with his son. Occupy Low Gap, anyone?”

HERE AT THE MIGHTY AVA, we think County employees are, to be blunt about it, caught between warring entities neither of which give one hoot about them. The 600 County workers “represented” by SEIU, a wholly owned subsidiary of the corporate-funded Democratic Party, pay some $350,000 a year to SEIU in union dues. What do they get for all that money? A Sacramento-based office of so-called organizers which has managed to parlay an offer from the County of a ten percent pay reduction and maybe even a four-day work week at no pay reduction into a 12.5% pay whack and now an expensive stalemate. On the other side of this entirely needless dispute is a Mendocino County Board of Supervisors that long ago should have radically cut their own lush pay and even lusher array of fringe benefits in solidarity with their fellow employees much more than 10%. None of the five supervisors are likely to be seen pushing a Safeway cart up and down State Street with all their belongings in it. (We think the pay of elected officials at all levels of government should be pegged to the national average income of all citizens. That way they might be more sympathetic and responsive to the struggles to make ends meet of everyday Americans.) The Supervisors' intransigence, coupled to SEIU's incompetence, now mean that Mendocino County will pay out a small fortune to union-busting lawyers to defend the 12.5% pay cut they've slammed onto County employees, money that could have gone into the County's depleted general fund. And SEIU will now advertise themselves as the great defenders of the working classes by siccing their lawyers on the union-busting jackals employed by Mendocino County. The whole show is beyond disgusting and completely unnecessary.

LOCAL PARANOIDS were suspicious of an item on this week Supervisors Agenda entitled, “Claim Against the County, Kurt Smallcomb.” Captain Smallcomb is Sheriff Allman’s second in command. Turns out the claim has to do with a pair of prescription glasses Smallcomb lost while on duty. Paranoids can stand down.

BURIED IN the Fort Bragg Advocate-Beacon's court report last week was the news that Charles Baxman had pled guilty to dumping petroleum in “state waters.” Ordinarily, when a local bigwig like the prominent Baxman is hauled into court — quite rare in Mendocino County — the local paper finds out the why of it and reports back to the community.

MENDOCINO COUNTY'S Republican Central Committee — yes, there are Republicans in Mendocino County — will meet November 16, 2011, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM at Anna’s Asian House Restaurant, 43 E. Mendocino Ave, Willits. For further information contact: Stan Anderson, 707-321-2592.

SAN FRANCISCO'S OCCUPY camp and related demos are handier to me in my present circumstances than the Mendocino County occupations in Fort Bragg and Ukiah and, nothing against the Mendo Occupiers, as fine and fat a group of troublemakers as can be found anywhere, but I know most of them and, well, know where they're coming from, I guess you could say. The City Occupiers are more diverse with a lot more young people to kick things around with. Last Thursday I again headed downtown for the Occupy site in front of the Federal Reserve Building at One Market which, I have to say, was looking pretty bedraggled and really ought to consider moving a block east to the much larger Occupy site at Justin Herman Plaza. There were only a few people around, a barefooted throwback to the Summer of Love was turning blue from the frigid early afternoon shaded dank of the sidewalk while she straightened up an eclectic book collection with a sign on it, “Books To Read.” In front of One Market stood the biggest, most menacing-looking cop I've ever seen, a perfect visual for what we're up against and another reminder that for 80 thou a year plus fringes the oligarchy can hire plenty of former high school linebackers to shoot down their fellow citizens if it comes to it. I said to the retro hippie at the book rack, “Will you watch my backpack while I run over there and kick that cop's ass?” Oh, please sir, don't do that, she said, seemingly alarmed. I'd just missed a march by the California Nurse's Association but caught up with three of them at Justin Herman where we briefly shared a discussion before they got frustrated with the rambling remarks of a drunk Filipino and left. “The rich they have to go,” the drunk kept saying. Which is certainly in the correct ideological direction, but if no one else can get a word in it frustrates the discussion. The nurses were clad in identical red shirts and, like the Occupy forces generally, were reassuring in their conventionality. The Bay Area media continues to focus on the nut fringe, especially the so-called anarchists who are now allowed to do nighttime vandalism in Oakland on the mistaken assumption that wrecking bank facades is radical political action. Most Occupiers are 9-5ers of all kinds, many of them having been directly screwed over via layoffs, loss of their homes, personal medical tragedies, and everything else that happens when all the money accumulates in a few grasping hands and organized bands of high-end thieves own the government. The huge majority of Occupiers aren't hostile to capitalism, they just want capitalism to provide the basics, as capitalism does in Western Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia and, kind of, China. Myself, I'm a hostile who does not approve of vandalism because it's politically self-defeating in the present context. Patronizing, too. We all know that the banks rob us. We don't need some kid in a mask with a brick in his hand to make that point for us. All the psychopaths stomping around in the 1960s in black leather jackets in the name of socialism, of all things, accomplished exactly what besides scaring suburbanites? At Justin Herman, I'd joined a discussion group before I realized the Filipino was drunk. There were three recent college grads, a black homeless guy, a trio of nurses composed of one man and two women, me, an articulate young woman leading the talk and the drunk. The theme was What Now? One of the young guys said he thought a lot of the possible action we might take was mooted by the daily fact of a dying earth, that the global attack on the natural world had to be stopped first. The drunk shouted, “That's right, and another thing the rich do this to all of us.” And on he went. He had a big voice, too, so we all had to wait until he came up for air to start talking over and around him. I made the comment that capitalism, as the basis of social organization, as a system that served itself first and us 99 Percenters second and increasingly not at all, makes the destruction of the natural world inevitable because the beast has to feed itself, and to do that it needs armies and related extravagances that soon starve the public sector, which is currently happening. Capitalism has to be stopped first. The Gaia kid was nodding affirmatively, and just as my vanity swelled and I was about to get really, really boring, the drunk pointed up at a skyscraper and yelled, “They live up there. We can't even see them,” and it started to rain. The discussion leader said she had to go tarp her tent. The nurses had already walked off when the drunk first made talk difficult, and the rest of us headed for our separate shelters in the gathering storm.

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