Off The Record

by AVA News Service, November 23, 2011

UKIAH DAILY JOURNAL Editor KC Meadows wrote in her “Commerce File” column last Wednesday: “Some folks in Hopland are already very alarmed at the prospect of a home for recovering alcoholic women taking over the Hopland in (the historic old hotel that used to be the Thatcher Inn) in the center of town. Apparently the Pinoleville Pomo tribe in Ukiah which owns the Hopland in is looking to lease it to Living Waters, an organization run by the Julienne Waters Family Foundation, which provides housing to women who are trying to get sober from drink and drugs. Their children will also be with them some of the time. They have a small house now in Ukiah and are looking to expand. They are also looking for a place to start a men's home. Now I have no problem with women — or men — wanting to get sober, but to put these women at the center of a town which is growing as a wine tourist destination makes no sense. (Full disclosure: my husband manages a Hopland tasting room.) These women will be walking past one tasting room after another just to get home every day. There is a brewery planned for across the street. This is about the worst fit for a project I've ever heard of. Think of the two major Passport Wine weekends in Hopland and the Second Saturday events every month. How are these women going to feel as they watch people enjoying wine and picnicking from their small rooms on the upper floors of the Hopland Inn? (Not to mention the pot store right down the block.) Then there is the effect on Hopland business. Hopland's tasting room community has worked very hard to keep and improve its share of the wine country tourist dollars. They host events in order to bring people to town to find out more about Inland Mendocino County wine. One of the critical parts of the equation is the 23 rooms at the Hopland in for staying in town during these events. But even without the rooms, having a sober living center in the middle of town is very likely to be a real turnoff to people coming to town to enjoy a wine experience. Ironically, the Living Waters folks are hosting a fundraiser at the Hopland Inn this weekend (serving wine and beer which seems a bit hypocritical to me) and have asked local tasting rooms to put up their event posters but not always explaining that the event was designed to help them move into the Hopland Inn. I know there will be those out there going “Ha-ha wine industry, take that,” but Living Waters should abandon this plan right now and look for a place that is quieter and more appropriate for the kind of residency program they are looking to build.”

THAT LADY didn't jump, she was pushed. Lois Nash, superintendent of the Ukiah schools, has announced her retirement just ahead of a newly elected trio to the school board that intended to fire her.

EVERYONE IN UKIAH has to pay at least twenty bucks a month for garbage service even if they generate no garbage, the reasoning goes, to make garbage collection both doable by the garbage company and, more grandly, to “protect the health and safety of everyone in Ukiah,” that last statement being the way city councilman Phil Baldwin explained it to me.

AWESOME. Time to retire this tiresome superlative. Way over-used, as our language drifts farther and farther from meaning, a fact of American life that results in, to name one obvious example, the collection of nuts and clowns running for, of all things, president of the United States. Much less fraught examples: The other day I was walking my bicycle up 17th Street in San Francisco when a youngish woman with a car full of dogs pulled over, rolled her window down, beckoned my sweat-soaked, trudging self to her vehicle and said, “Awesome bike!” I resisted the impulse to shout, “Will you please…!” I'd thought maybe she needed directions, or her dogs were threatening to eat her, but no, she'd accosted me simply to congratulate me on my bicycle. So I said thank you, and trudged on, wondering why anybody would even notice, let alone go out of her way to comment on a hundred dollar bike. Later the same day I left a phone message with guy whose answering machine wished me to have an “awesome day.” Most of us will settle for any kind of day, and every day that we survive is, strictly speaking, awesome, but this constant drip drip drip of false feeling is, like our drifting vocabularies, adding considerably to the prevailing insanity.

SPEAKING OF FRAUD, a two-page press release tells us that “Jackson Family Wines” has “provided charitable funding (sic) to build a sustainable, zero-carbon teaching and research facility, the Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery Building...” Which will do exactly zero good because there's no real reduction of emissions possible in carbon swaps, which simply remove carbon from one area to a polluter in another area so he can emit more carbon. Jackson himself was an environmental scofflaw of the first order who scraped thousands of acres of California ridges and hillsides of their native oak to install environmentally destructive vineyards in vulnerable terrain.

FRED GARDNER WRITES: From last week's Oakland Trib's NFL Round-up. “EAGLES: Michael Vick didn't practice for the second straight day because of broken ribs and it remains uncertain whether the Pro Bowl quarterback will play against the New York Giants on Sunday night. PACKERS: A Texas district judge sentenced defensive lineman Johnny Jolly, 28, to six years in prison for violating his probation. Jolly is addicted to codeine.” First they break their bodies, then they won't allow adequate pain meds.

BEAR KAMOROFF of reminds us: “The 19th Annual Willits Toy Run is Sunday, November 27, Thanksgiving Weekend. The Toy Run is a benefit for the Willits Children’s Christmas Program. Last year our Toy Run helped over 350 kids who needed a little extra Christmas cheer. The run starts at Evergreen Shopping Center at noon, Highway 101, south end of town. The Toy Run Party is at the Willits Grange Hall, 291 School Street, rain or shine, noon to 3pm. The party is open to everyone; the public is invited. We’ll have a full dinner, rock and roll with Ray and the Reveleers, a big raffle, and a no-host bar. Admission is one unwrapped toy for the Christmas Program or canned food to donate to the Food Bank. The information is also on our web site: WillitsToyRun.com. Or call 459-6372.”

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: “Into the Abyss,” Werner Herzog's look at a Texas death penalty case. Michael James Perry, executed about a month after the film was finished, shot and killed a woman baking cookies, then murdered her son and another kid so he and his accomplice could steal a red Camaro. Executing this uncomprehending manchild, as you will see in the film, makes about as much sense as executing a puppy, but of course Perry got the midnight needle as if he were fully or even half competent. The most affecting interview in this most affecting film is with a prison guard who finally, as he says, “just couldn't do these things anymore.” Since there are no rational reasons for capital punishment, maybe the subjective reasons for opposing it as conveyed by this powerful film will have some influence.

THE END Of Economic Growth & What It Means For Mendocino County, a presentation and discussion with Richard Heinberg, author of the book “The End Of Growth,” will take place Thursday December 1, 2011 at 7pm at the Mendocino Recreation Center, Pine and School Streets, Mendocino. Sponsored by Mendocino Coast Transition Towns. For more information, contact Charles Cresson Wood at 707 937 5572.

A READER points out that Supervisor McCowen did not actually “recommend” defunding the water agencies plans for raising Scout Lake or conducting the Coyote Dam raising feasibility study as we reported last week. The Water Agency had recommended eliminating the projects from the Water Agency’s project list and McCowen had suggested that they be retained but not funded because the County is broke.

FOR THE FAMILY STONER, the perfect stocking stuffer from Pebbles Trippet and Fred Sternkopf — Cannabis Cards, 21 portraits of the cannabis greats, $10 to: Cannabis Cards, PO Box 743, Mendocino, Ca 95460. As Pebs put it, “These 21 portraits of the cannabis greats represent our first edition of Encycloweedia,” and a one-of-a-kinder gift for a fall down fact.

CORRECTION: The one-eighth cent Library sales tax that voters overwhelmingly approved earlier this month applies countywide, not just in the unincorporated areas.

MAJOR CRIMES Task Force chief Bob Nishiyama is retiring at the end of the year. “Nish” as he’s known locally, told the Ukiah Daily Journal’s Tiffany Revelle last week that he's worked with virtually no breaks since he was 12 years old, so he's not sure what's next for him. “This is kind of an unknown for me,” Nishiyama said. It's also an unknown for the Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force, Ms. Revelle noted, with the state threatening to drop funding for all but a handful of similar task forces statewide. Nishiyama said while it's not certain, it appears the local Task Force will disband in January, meaning, it seems, that the individual police forces of the County would have to take on a lot of drug enforcement themselves.

FOR YEARS FORT BRAGG seemed to operate on a thrillingly retro basis that saw, for example, a couple of businessmen get away with the major arson fires of 1987 (that may also have included the murder of a crucial witness), and a general free pass for its best-connected citizens from the usual constraints of modern life. Lately, though, and with a reputable council in place — the council in place at the time of the fires was literally on the take from Dominic Affinito — the untouchables of yesteryear are getting touched just like everyone else. Twenty years ago no Fort Bragg body named Baxman would have been charged for a diesel spill at Noyo Harbor, let alone hauled into court and fined for doing it. But back on June 12, Charlie Baxman's boat was observed leaking an estimated 40 gallons of fuel as Baxman departed the harbor for the open seas. Baxman didn't deny the spill. In fact he had a plausible excuse for it. He said hadn't wanted to pollute the harbor so he'd put out to sea to let the fuel drain off in the briny deep where it would break up a lot faster. The whole show was an accident, Baxman told Fish and Game. Which it appears to have been. Baxman has paid a fine to the Coast Guard and will pay Fish and Game another small fine and be put on a year's probation. Coasties assumed Baxman would skate, and also assumed the Fort Bragg Advocate, which reported the infamous fires in a paragraph, then several more reluctant paragraphs spread over months, would ignore the Baxman spill. But darned if the Advocate didn't roll out with more than a thousand words on what would ordinarily have been a non-event if it had been anybody but Baxman. As the world turns.

SIGN OF THE TIMES: A Hopland man said he'd made an early run to Ukiah where, in the WalMart parking lot, he watched a “transient type kid with a backpack” rummage through a garbage pan, extract a crushed bag of Frito-Lay Potato Chips, then hold the bag up to his mouth, draining whatever crumbs were in it. “I drove over to him and laid a twenty on him, and he burst into tears and god blessed me so many times I darn near asked him for my twenty back. But you know what? Something's gotta give in this country. We can't go on like this.”

OCCUPY SAN FRANCISCO was looking pretty scruffy Thursday morning, less scruffy Friday, and even less scruffy Saturday, but the Chronicle exaggerates just how scruffy anyway. While I was there Thursday morning the Porta Potties were being attended to and the Reverend Cecil Williams, now getting about with a cane, and his rail thin wife, the poet Janice Mirikitani, the thinnist woman I've seen outside a hospital, seemed to be inspecting the food tent, which has always looked spotless to me, sometimes with fancy spreads that look like they've been catered. A few of the usual walking wounded were shuffling around, and one suddenly blurted, "And another thing! I'm not gay!" The two bocce lanes had been cleared of tents, not that anyone had ever used them in my experience, Justin Herman Plaza bearing no resemblance to the busy humanity and flower beds of a real plaza. The Occupiers enliven the otherwise dead and foreboding swathe of unrelieved concrete. A man of 70 or so walked by with a sign that said, "My Own Left Wing Theory." I asked him for a copy. "I'm out," he said. Nearby was a placard that began, "Wisdom is the ability to aspire through one's own creations...." A man identified only as Brian was scheduled at 11:30am to deliver a lecture called "Restorative Justice." I wanted to hear what Brian meant by restorative justice. It was exactly 11:30. No Brian. Brian never did appear and justice will be restored on that glorious day that capitalism is reconfigured to serve us instead of us serving it. Of course there are a lot of marginal people in the Occupy camp at the foot of Market Street, but millions more people are just as marginalized, which is why this thing has resonated with so many, and will continue to resonate. Every time I've been to Occupy SF there have been just as many conventional people as street people. On Friday, a quartet of uniformed airline workers, while deliberately positioning themselves a few feet from the main body of the camp, distributed leaflets outlining their work site beefs, and an articulate man named Richard Kreiger was on camera with the omni-present media vultures. Kreiger seems to do a lot of Occupy's talking, which is a good thing because he stays on message, which is that American capitalism has become cruel and oppressive, if it wasn't already which, of course, depends on both your perspective and bank account. Contrary to what a lot of media and pundits are putting out, there are a lot of smart, creative people involved with Occupy, and they aren't fooling around and they're not going away.

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