Off The Record

by AVA News Service, December 21, 2011

HOUSEHOLD INCOME HAS DECLINED 14.2% countywide from 2007 to 2010 based on personal income tax filings. Willits led the decline with 19.5%, with Fort Bragg at 9.7% and Ukiah at 5.3%. Average household income in the county fell to $38,459. In 2010, 13,000 residents were on foodstamps, an increase of 79.4% since 2007. The number of receiving unemployment was down to 1,864 in September, down from a high of 3,448 at its peak in March, 2010. Since 2007 3,900 jobs have disappeared from the local economy and at least 887 residents have exhausted all unemployment benefits. When the destitute quit looking for a job that does not exist in a collapsed economy, they are dropped from the unemployment rolls.

PERSONAL INCOME DECLINED $227 million from 2007 to 2010, not counting business income or the black market economy, the latter difficult to quantify but believed to exceed timber and grapes combined. Recent reports that the federal crackdown on above ground medical marijuana is driving the black market price back up will soften the economic blow to the outback, but the overall economy is likely to remain sluggish for the foreseeable future.

THE MENDOCINO County Sheriff's Department was recently featured in the Police Officer Research Association of California's magazine, a trade publication aimed at California peace officers. Most of the PORAC articles are written by lawyers who represent cops. According to the PORAC reporter on the Mendo matter, an attorney named Harry Stern, the case began in January of 2010, and resulted in Mendocino County Sheriff’s Sergeant Derek Scott being demoted to Deputy II for failing to supervise two senior deputies in a “minor use of force incident.” According to Stein's story, the events resulting in Scott's demotion began when deputies Orell Massey and Derek Paoli, on January 13, 2010, conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle driven by a volatile woman named Michelle Jackson. Ms. Jackson, it developed, was driving on a suspended license and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol and "a controlled substance." (Guess which one.) Ms. Jackson refused the breathalyzer and field sobriety tests, so the deputies arrested her and took her to the Sheriff's Office. At the Sheriff's Office, Deputy Massey conducted a narco test which indicated that Ms. Jackson had taken some kind of stimulant. Massey also couldn't help but smell alcohol on Ms. Jackson's nearly inflammable breath. Ms. Jackson, in full refuse-nik mode, would not submit to a urine test that would reveal the stimulant, leaving the deputies no choice but to transport Ms. Jackson to Adventist Hospital where a sample of her turbulent blood might be efficiently drawn. At the hospital, Ms. Jackson of course refused the blood test and became quite combative, soon displaying the full psycho monty — desperate shrieks and wild thrashings — during which she broke one of Massey's fingers. The lady was so unruly she was declared “a threat to the officers,” meaning she was not only beyond their control she also represented a threat to hospital staff. Were the cops supposed to spend the rest of the night wrestling with this crank-driven houri? No, it was time to apply technological restraint techniques. Deputy Paoli asked Sergeant Scott by phone for permission to perform a “drive stun.” In other words, zap Ms. Jackson into compliance via a taser gun. Sergeant Scott happened to be very busy responding to a robbery when he got Paoli's call. Even though Massey had been injured, Scott didn't agree with the use of the taser, but Paoli was insistent. Scott capitulated. He authorized Paoli to taze Ms. Jackson. Prior to zapping Mr. Jackson, the deputies scrupulously adhered to taser protocols. They warned the chemically psychotic Jackson that she was about to be semi-electrocuted if she didn't calm down. Ms. Jackson responded by loudly inviting the deputies to have intercourse with themselves. Deputy Paoli proceeded to illuminate the patient, so to speak. But the taser, as often happens with the extreme nut cases, had no effect. Ms. Jackson continued to scream and kick and writhe so madly that a blood sample was impossible. A representative Ukiah body type came to the rescue. It appeared in the form of a 6-3 300-pound male nurse. Baby Huey and the two deputies managed to hold Ms. Jackson in place long enough to allow a nurse to draw blood. Ms. Jackson was then booked into the Mendocino County Jail under the original charges, plus resisting arrest and assault on a peace officer. Not so much as a post-taze snivel from Ms. Jackson, and no complaint from her whatsoever against the officers. But after reading Scott's report of the incident, and ordering an investigation, Captain Smallcomb disciplined all three of the deputies involved, demoting Scott and issuing reprimands and paid days off for the on-scene deputies. Sheriff Allman agreed, deciding that Sergeant Scott had failed to properly supervise the two deputies during “a situation which involved questionable use of force.” Scott was demoted from Sergeant to Deputy II and suspended without pay for two weeks. Scott hired Mr. Stern, a police officer union attorney (and former Berkeley cop) and filed an appeal of his demotion. In August of 2010, a hearing was conducted before the Mendocino County Civil Service Commission. The two on-scene deputies confirmed what had happened in the hospital, as did a nurse who described Ms. Jackson as “out of control.” Allman testified that he demoted Scott because Scott did not attempt to better understand the situation before authorizing the use of the taser, that Scott should have gone to the hospital and observed for himself before approving the use of the taser, that Scott had failed to properly describe the audio recording in the crime report, and that the audio recording was not submitted in a timely manner after the incident. According to Stern, “in a contradictory manner, however, Allman stated that he hoped Scott would reapply for any sergeant positions which might become available in the future.” Stern argued in Scott's defense that Scott had been responding to a burglary at the time Paoli called him and that having three or four deputies at the hospital for this incident would have been overkill. Stern also argued that Scott had enough information to make a decision, adding that Scott had a clean record, a good character and good personnel evaluations, and that demotion was an excessive punishment. And so on. The Civil Service Commission ruled that Scott had not “willfully” failed to exercise adequate judgment, but rather made a good-faith effort to exercise reasonable judgment under the circumstances and rescinded Scott's demotion. Although the Commission believed that Scott should have reviewed the incident report more thoroughly after the incident, they declared that Scott's demotion to Deputy was “excessive discipline” and reinstated Scott to the rank of sergeant.

SEIU, IN ITS QUIXOTIC CAMPAIGN to avoid the 10% or greater cut that all other county employees have agree to, tried to enlist the support of the local business community. Most SEIU members work for social services and 80% or more of their salaries are paid by the state and federal governments. SEIU claimed the 10% pay cut would take $7 million out of the local economy but only save the county $1.5 million. Knowing that local household income has already dropped $227 million (without counting lost county business income) probably explains why vocal support for SEIU has been largely muted. Most people in the private sector are probably saying “welcome to my world,” while other county bargaining units, all of whom took the cut a year or more ago, probably think its about time SEIU joined them in misery. Despite clear indications the county was willing to settle for a 10% cut, the SEIU leadership managed to maneuver their way into a 12.5% cut.

CERTAIN INDIVIDUALS wanted to call Bruce McEwen's fine but depressing story this week, "He Incested So I Shot Him." The resolute hand of the editor prevented it.

ACCORDING to a report by Linda Williams in last week’s Willits News, the Mendocino County Major Crimes Task Force will continue to operate for at least another six months with officers from local law enforcement agencies; state money for the larger Task Force has been lost to State budget cuts, as has funding for the commander slot recently held by Bob Nishyama who is retiring this month. In recent months, the Task Force has reduced its focus on methamphetamine. Most labs have apparently moved south of the border, leaving only a local sales force to service Mendocino County's perennially large customer base. The Task Force now focuses on major marijuana operations and violent crimes.

GOOD ON PINCHES AND HAMBURG for resisting Congressman Corktop's suggestion that drones and other high tech surveillance gear be applied to trespass grows in the Mendocino National Forest. You can probably get the same info from Google Earth, besides which, then what? Do you deploy the drones to zap the growers like they zap whole families of alleged Pakistani terrorists, right down to the baby terrorists in their cribs? You send in the Camo Buddies like last summer which resulted in what? one prosecution? Spy authorizations are a slippery slope. You want this stuff used against you for joining the Occupy Movement? Or voting for Red Phil Baldwin? And Pinches and Hamburg are correct in saying that the only real way to stop a drug that's smoked, poked, doked, and doobed by about half our fine, fat population is straight-up legalization and alcohol-like regulation. Of course legalization would impoverish several thousand Mendo people, but that's another issue.

WHICH REMINDS Pebs Trippet, "If anyone wants Cannabis Cards as a last minute stocking stuffer, we'll deliver up to Christmas day anywhere from the Mendocino Coast to Boonville. We'll be picking up litter in Philo on Christmas day so a delivery would be convenient." Info at cannabiscards@pacific.net

IN A COUNTY where history starts all over again every morning, anything that happened a year ago might as well have occurred in Rome, pre-Christ. But on the off chance you're interested, David Balassi, 21, of Fort Bragg, has pled no contest to assault with a deadly weapon and a hate crime. A charge of battery was dismissed. Balassi was sentenced to 90 days in the County Jail and three years probation. His crime? Balassi slugged a Mexican half his size because, as he explained, "I hate Mexicans."

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS. No, I didn't know him. Way back when he was writing for The Nation I was moved by a column he wrote soliciting donations for an Iraqi leftist in deep trouble with the Saddam Hussein regime. I sent an unimpressive amount and, in return, received a kindly note from Hitchens, which I hadn't expected. That little pat on the head kindly disposed me to him all the way up to the Iraq war. He lost me there. Of all the words Hitchens wrote that I read, and I read a lot of them, the only two essays I have vivid memories of are the one he wrote on witnessing an execution and the one he wrote on his getting waterboarded which, as most of you know, the long distance warriors at Fox News, and draft dodgers like Cheney, were claiming was not torture. Like most people who only knew Hitchens through his work, I was shocked when he went all out as a propagandist for the war on Iraq, and surprised that he steadily defended it even when it was obvious that it was bad for us and catastrophic for the Iraqis. I remember a televised debate between Hitchens and a couple of star-struck liberals from mainstream publications. Even drunk, Hitchens blew them out of the room. But, it seemed to me, he did it by dazzling the two toadies and the American audience, as always mesmerized by any person, especially one with an English accent, who can talk. With great gusts of brilliant rhetoric, Hitchens had the saps yukking it up about what was essentially indefensible mass mayhem. For all his wit and great stores of knowledge, Hitchens couldn't possibly have diverted the attentive from the truth of what he was defending which, of course, was that the invasion was based on transparent lies from the Bush Gang and that everything that had happened subsequently was simply a rolling disaster. Do you destroy a whole country to get rid of the monster at the top? Hitchens said yes. A person with his powers of influence has a lot to answer for, and he went on answering implausibly on Iraq until his death, which he met with the aplomb apparently characteristic of him.

MAN BEATER of the week: I don't know about you, but I have to admire the women who remain unrepentant unto their booking photos. Hit him again, Ms. Bostick!

JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT it couldn't get worse, it's about to. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat has been sold to the Florida-based Daytona-Halifax Media Group. Instead of full color toddlers running through the sprinklers with big dogs on the PD's front page once a week, we'll now get the toddlers and the dogs five days a week. And the Florida crackers will lop off personnel, lots of personnel beginning, I hope, with the paper's editors who prove on a daily basis they don't know or care what they're doing. Or they know and care what they're doing and it will be revealed that all these years the paper has been a special ed project.

BEFORE THE NEW YORK TIMES bought the Rose City daily purely as a cash cow a quarter century ago, the PD was a very good regional paper. Art Volkerts was its last real editor, its last real news guy at the power desk. Volkerts retired and the Times dumbed the PD down, way down, opting for a lot of canned material the new editors seemed to hurl randomly at the paste-up boards. The new editors often contributed columns about their adventures with their household pets, to give you an idea of the intellectual reach of these people, not to mention their truly pathetic attempts to be loved. Gone was the local focus. Local focus requires local reporters and local editors committed to local. Local costs money. The Times didn't want to spend money, they wanted the money sent to New York, and the more the better for the big boys at the mother ship. Wire service stories about far away places and the toadying political opinions of establishment nuzzlebums like David Brooks and E.J. Dionne became dominant. The local reporters were gone, and the ones who remained were suppressed by the castrati in the editor offices. The savvy and totally tuned-in Mike Geniella reporting out of Ukiah took an early retirement, and there's been dead air from Mendo ever since. And instead of reports from the Redwood Empire we got filler stories on, for instance, the Balkans, as if anyone with a true interest in that part of the world would turn to a local paper for news about it, and we got half a daily page on what the show biz degenerates were up to. And a teen page, just about the ultimate in desperation-style pandering. And endless promos for wine, wineries and wine moguls, and I ask you: Is there a more tedious subject? Of course flufferoo doesn't cost much. All the jive reporter has to do is change a couple of words of a winery or industry press release and he's done for the day. As the PD's circulation plummeted because there was no longer much reason for people in its circulation area to read it, the paper's cretinous editors scratched their impenetrable skulls over the why of it, and the paper became steadily a lot less lucrative to the Times empire. The PD had probably begun to cost the Times money, and now the Times has off-loaded it to the true journalo-barbarians. Look for the once thriving, once locally essential Press Democrat to get thinner, dumber and even less relevant to Empire readers.

AN IMMEDIATE PD casualty will likely be the PD's "Ukiah Bureau," i.e., Glenda Anderson filing a police bulletin re-write maybe once a month out of a nice office in the Lamb Building, central Ukiah. Glenda, if she keeps her job, will be filing once a month out of the Westside house she shares with County garbage czar Mike Sweeney, Stanford Maoist and suspected car bomber and living example of not only public life here in Amnesia County, a good example of a guy getting away with a major crime because no newspaper with the resources to do it was allowed to pursue the Bari Bombing "mystery," primary among those papers the Santa Rosa Press Democrat where at least two reporters worked whose editors refused them permission to pursue the story.

ON THE SUBJECT of media, as it happens, Steve Talbot, whose fine film for public television called "Who Bombed Judi Bari?" remains the definitive case for Sweeney as car bomber, is in the news because his fine reporting for Frontline called "The Long March of Newt Gingrich" is being revived and is now available on-line.

FEMALE VICTIMS of sexual assault will appreciate Margaret Atwood's short story in the current New Yorker called Stone Mattress. I don't know of any literary solace for male victims of rape, but there's always murder.

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