Off The Record
by AVA News Service, December 14, 2011
ACCORDING to a report in last week's Independent Coast Observer, Sheriff Tom Allman told coastal constituents that he was promoting long-time resident deputy Greg Stefani from Sgt. to Lieutenant. Stefani will head Coastal operations out of Fort Bragg, replacing Lt. Dennis Bushnell. Bushnell and his wife were seriously injured in a motorcycle accident last year. For the time being the south coast will be without a resident deputy, although Stefani will continue to live on the south coast while working out of the Fort Bragg office. Allman said he doesn't expect any layoffs this year or next year, and that he is hiring one new deputy (Luis Espinoza, of Anderson Valley) and three new corrections officers, the first hires since 2009. “I believe our budget has bottomed out, and we are starting to climb up now,” Allman informed the rapt audience of Fog Eaters.
ONE PERCENTER John Nady, a zillionaire based in the East Bay, has begun building his vacation home on Rattlesnake Island, the ancient political and religious center of the Elem Tribe, in Lake County. Despite widespread opposition, Nady plows forward, his money getting him permits to plunk his decadent self smack dab in the middle of Elem's ancient history. (See Will Parrish's fine work on the barbarous Nady on the front page of this week's edition.)
GENTLEMEN, START YOUR GRUMBLING. Lots of complaints about the Sheriff’s fancy new computer system. Not only are cops having trouble using the new system, but it still doesn’t provide the info that everyone was hoping it would provide: remote access to probation orders, warrants, restraining orders, and records kept by local city police departments. The Ukiah Police Department opted out of the system last year and isn't connected to the new system. Nor are court computers and nobody knows when they will be. The system appears to have been designed for a large urban police department with lots of bells and whistles which most rural deputies don’t need. Patrol deputies just need to be able to easily look up the histories of the bumbling mopes they mostly deal with and write reports. This thing is a lot more complicated than need be, which is what happens when technology is turned exclusively over to the nerds. Simple to them, needlessly complicated to the rest of us.
ALSO IN THE 1st Congressional race to replace Congressman Thompson, we find Andy Caffrey of Garberville, John Lewallen of Philo and Dr. Bill Courtney of Mendocino. We're supporting Norm Solomon, as is Supervisor Hamburg who endorsed Solomon on Monday.
OUR HOPLAND CORRESPONDENT points out that if WalMart gets its addition, and it's a done deal written into the original agreement with the City of Ukiah, traffic at Talmage and 101 will become even worse. “It was backed up clear out onto the freeway last Saturday,” our guy reports “and naturally Ukiah has the stop and go lights set so about three cars at a time can make the turn-in.” Our guy says he also suspects “that WalMart will open up a tattoo parlor so they can drive the last independently owned business out of Ukiah.”
STOPPING BY MULLIGAN'S BOOKS the other day, as I was chatting with proprietor Dave Smith, a young man asked if Dave had any Ayn Rand in stock. Dave, ever the gent, said he was sorry but no Ayn, later explaining that the truly evil lit (my term) he gets — Rand, Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich's cretinous novels, etc., he immediately offloads.
SUSPICIONS CONFIRMED. For years we've referred to police ops against marijuana cultivation as Marijuana Price Support Units, the cops annually taking off just enough pot to keep prices at levels attractive enough to lure even more people into illegal ag. The more marijuana the police uproot, the better the price surviving farmers will get for their crops. Last week, according to a report by Michael Montgomery at California Watch, the public broadcasting reporting project, the pot warriors are now bragging that, yes, they really do function as a price support unit. “Marijuana remains readily available in California, and we have not noticed a substantial change in prices,” said Casey McEnry of the Drug Enforcement Administration's San Francisco office. “But data collected by local law enforcement and a federally funded drug task force indicate street prices have nearly doubled in some parts of the state,” added Montgomery. “Supply is down, so prices are up,” said Tommy LaNier, director of the White House-funded, anti-pot National Marijuana Initiative. LaNier credited the shift in prices to new law enforcement tactics, including the use of more informants, undercover agents, wiretaps, and an aggressive effort to intercept marijuana being shipped in vehicles and through commercial carriers like FedEx and UPS. (Here in Mendo, FedEx and UPS regularly intercept outgoing pot packages. The two mammoth shipping firms aren't as easy to fool as a lot of pot shippers seem to assume.) LaNier also said recent actions by California's four US attorneys have shaken the pot industry. The US attorneys have threatened landlords with confiscation of their property if they rent to pot shops or, if you prefer, medical marijuana dispensaries. “The market is significantly disrupted,” LaNier said. Montgomery continued with more from Obama's guy. “LaNier said creating market disruptions has been a top priority for law enforcement because it could make marijuana less affordable for minors. But law enforcement agencies are not the only groups welcoming the changes. Black market growers say rising prices mean a return to higher profits.” “This is a relief, since my margins were getting very thin,” said one Bay Area grower, who asked Montgomery that his name be withheld because he is operating outside of state medical marijuana laws. Because of the profit margins, he said he had given up trying to sell his product in California. Instead, he’s been delivering it to the East Coast concealed in private vehicles. This grower said he might return to the California market if prices continue to rise. ‘I’d rather not take the extra risk of shipping out of state,’ he said.”
LAST AUGUST Mendocino County's supervisors belatedly decided to move its Fort Bragg Health and Human Services offices out of the South Franklin Street building owned by Dominic Affinito. Our broke County was and is paying Affinito $28,000 per month for the space. To avoid paying Affinito or any other landlord extortionate rent, Health and Human Services is going to be moved across the street to the County-owned Avila Center. (The late August “Augie” Avila had represented the 4th District as supervisor prior to John Cimolino.) From the unseemly bleating from some of the about-to-be displaced workers when they learned of the move, you'd have thought they were being moved out onto the sidewalk. Supervisor Smith naturally felt the pain of the lead snivelers, and the discussion of the inevitable move was prolonged longer than necessary. County officials estimated that it might cost $100k to modify the Avila Center to accommodate the relocated employees, but this week the CEO recommended that the remodel be carried out for $250k!
SNIVELING always seems particularly misplaced in the setting of Fort Bragg where the loggers, millworkers and fishermen of yesteryear would lose a finger on a Wednesday morning and be back on the job Wednesday afternoon. Peering back through the mists of time, the whining seems to have commenced c. 1967 with the rise of alternative spirituality, the easy spirituality of the do-it-yerselfer variety, the narcissistic type that makes no demands on the narcissist to do anything other than talk about his feelings and visualize world peace! Of course Mendocino County is teeming with world peace visualizers and easy-over mystics of all kinds, and I couldn't help but note at the Ukiah Co-op, where our mystics do their grocery shopping, that this fine publication was the only reading material on the premises that might be described as “reality-based.” Everything else was these slick glossies called something like Shambalalalala and Dreamturd, all of them featuring advertisements for organic colonics and “retreats” with East Indian crooks. I hadn't visited the Co-op in many a moon, not since way back in the day when an officious little character called Yerp Harmony was the go-to guy, and I can tell you the place has come a long way since ol' Yerp presided. Pneumatic doors! Bright lights illuminating aisles of attractively presented foods! Alert-looking, nicely dressed customers! The clerks on-task and friendly! Of course there were the usual cadaverous old hippies circling the vegetable bins, pausing to suspiciously finger the organic tomatoes, sniffing the turnips. But the total ambience, the vibe if you will, was not crazy! A lot of people still refer to the Co-op as “the hippie store,” but it's about as hippie as Whole Foods. Major! Get me an application! I'm joining!
RECOMMENDED VIEWING: SHAME, the movie. It's a very strong, and I mean very strong, drama about male sexuality gone even more berserkers than male sexuality normally is. As most of you know, America no longer makes intelligent movies for its dwindling population of more or less adult filmgoers, so this one seems to be an Anglo-Irish production performed in an American setting. Michael Fassbinder, whom you may remember from his role as Bobby Sands in Hunger, plays a perpetually aroused young fellow who spends days as a New York City cubicle worker, but day and night pursues either live women or impulsive self-gratification. One way or the other, he's always getting off. The young man seems to make a lot of money performing nebulous tasks on his computer when he isn't mesmerized by the pornography he also calls down out of cyberspace during work hours. Mr. Ultra-Wank lives with his crazed sister in a groove-o apartment overlooking a river, apparently the Hudson because you can see tugboats on it. Sis, played by Carey Mulligan, is an aspiring nightclub singer who, at one point in the movie, sings the most affecting version of New York, New York you will hear, including the great one by Frank Sinatra. Even if the movie was terrible, and this one is very good, Ms. Mulligan's rendition of the old standard is worth the price of admission. Anyway, every encounter of this driven satyr is utterly joyless and, taken together, would make a celibate out of a more reasonable man. As I held the door for the woman exiting the theater behind me, she said, “Well, that was something, wasn't it?” I immediately distanced myself from the walking erection we'd just experienced, commenting, “It's pretty far from this man's experience, but I sure liked the sister,” I said. She, a well-kept woman of middle years, looked dreamily off towards the popcorn counter, “I sure could use a man like Fassbinder.”
MAYBE RECOMMENDED READING if you're interested in certain kinds of literary mysteries, is Mike O'Dair's “Four Essays on the Shakespeare Authorship Question.” Mr. O is a former reporter with the Willits News. The essays move right along but to me are the kind of questions long ago resolved — Shakespeare did Shakespeare. There is some question about one of the sonnets, but the plays? The Bard is The Bard. Interesting, though, Mike, and nicely presented.
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT reported last week that investigators in the Sonoma County District Attorney's office are unhappy at DA Jill Ravitch's recent edict that they can no longer drive their county cars home at night. When Ravitch worked in Mendocino County as an Assistant DA, she commuted back and forth to her West Sonoma County home in a Mendocino County car fueled by Mendocino County gasoline, car and fuel funded by Mendocino County taxpayers.
JIM GIBBONS of Willits and Hawaii writes: “When Jeff said, 'That's probably what's wrong with you' because you don't listen to music, made me think of my favorite Costello music exchange. Back in '86 I was renting a condo in Kona on the Big Island, and Jeff was hanging out, trying to teach me some guitar licks, even doing a few of my songs. When I decided to return to California he asked if I wanted to buy his Fender Telecaster. Hell, yeah, so I gave him $200 and continued lessons back in Willits with a local musician. Then a few months later Costello had returned to the Mainland and stopped by on his way down to Sausalito to play a gig. He asked if he could 'borrow' his old guitar. I was reluctant, as I was really enjoying learning to play and writing lyrics, but I couldn't say no to Jeff. I mean, it would be like Frank Shorter wanting to borrow my Nikes. Sure, Frank, no problem. The next time I saw Jeff I asked him about my guitar. He said, 'Oh yeah, I traded it for a Stratocaster, the guitar I always wanted.' 'I'm so happy for you, but it was my guitar?' I replied. His comeback ended the discussion: 'You were no good anyway’.”
THE COUNTY OF MENDOCINO AND SEIU are scheduled to face off during a settlement conference with the Public Employees Relations Board on December 21. The Supervisors imposed a 12.5% pay cut on its largest (and lowest paid) bargaining group last month. The employees are about to get their second paycheck with reduced wages. County sources insist SEIU could have settled for a 10% cut any time over the last several months. And the union claims they are ready to give up 10%, just like all the other County bargaining units, except the Public Attorney's who also managed to stall their way into a 12.5% cut.
WITH EVERYONE IN AGREEMENT, or so they say, it should be easy to wrap things up at next week's session at 10%. The prob is that SEIU and the County leadership clearly do not like each other. The Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) employees, who had enjoyed an island culture on County time, especially those in Public Health, absolutely loathe CEO Carmel Angelo, who was their boss as former HHSA Director. Angelo insisted on greater accountability and reasonably professional standards, the first to do that in many years. For instance, Angelo squelched commuting from the Redwood Health Club to the office on County time. Meanwhile, the County believes that union bigshots at SEIU headquarters have decided to make Mendocino County an object lesson by creating so much turmoil and discontent that no one else in California will want to cut employees wages.
THE STICKING POINT FOR SEIU just might be the refusal of “liberal” Supervisor Kendall Smith to not take a pay cut or even curb her lush travel spending at public expense while she resolutely votes to impose pay cuts on everyone else. Smith stands alone as the only County employee not to take a pay cut. If SEIU can put aside its 1930s-style posturing — its naive and tactically inept reps are dispatched out of Sacramento — and grasp the obvious fact that Smith is the lamest of lame ducks, they might still be able to get to a 10% cut they could have gotten months ago.
SATURDAY, CITY POLICE were still guarding the now empty Occupy site at Justin Herman Plaza with Justin Herman restored to its full sterility. Up Market Street, in front of the Federal Reserve Building, Reverend Billy of the Church of Earthalujah was entertaining a small crowd of Occupiers and passersby. Later in the day, police cleared Occupy's few remaining tents and tables and people from that site, too, arresting some fifty 99 Percenters. In North Beach, there were herds of drunks in Santa Claus suits moving from bar to bar. I sat down on a park bench in Washington Square to enjoy my picnic lunch from the Acme Bread Company — $3.50 for the best salami sandwich in the city. Soon, the lawn before me had disappeared beneath about five hundred of the Santa Claus people who milled around for a while then mass-disrobed. The elderly Chinese seated nearby looked on impassively. Bizarre spectacles are common in San Francisco, but five hundred uncovered bodies is something of a departure. The idea was to set the world record for the most naked Santas in one place, and one more reminder that America is a very goofy country. Back downtown, I caught the 6 Parnassus going west, which was already crowded by the time we got to Powell and Market. An elderly woman was talking to a drunk Hawaiian. The old lady said she supported the Hawaii independence movement. What's that? asked the Hawaiian, taking another sip of the intoxicant he masked in a to-go coffee cup. He said he was going to visit his daughter in Daly City. The old lady told him he was on the wrong bus. I'm going the long way, the Hawaiian explained. Just then a nearby black man went off at no visible provocation. “Jesus Christ! Goddam! This is a goddam bus, lady. When the bus starts up people get pushed together. I don't want to touch your crazy ass in the first goddam place.” The black guy was two people over from me. He was no kid, and he didn't look like a nut. The young Asian woman seated next to him had, it seems, dramatically shrank from him when the bus lurched up Haight Street. She was now moving rapidly to the back of the bus. A young groovy, in full uniform — black clad, tattooed and wearing one of those little pork pie hats Frisco's male trend-o's favor — was seated opposite the black guy. Trend-o admonished him, “Dude! Chill! It's not right to yell at people.” O god, here we go, I thought. If you make a habit of chastising the inappropriate on Muni buses, you could get into fights every time you got on one. This kid's smug demeanor had me yearning to smack him one, too. But the black guy, fuming and shooting Trend-o a prolonged death glare, merely subsided into indignant mutters.
A RECENT Wine review in the SF Comicle described a high-end bottle of Boonville booze this way: “…Steely and cool on the nose, this is like raspberry ice with a balsamic edge. The chewy berry fruit shows a chalky mineral aspect that's the very essence of Anderson Valley's tension-filled style."