Off The Record

by AVA News Service, December 27, 2011

THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS (AOC) — front group for the state’s pampered judges — has reversed the order for its two preferred sites for the new Ukiah courthouse, putting the railroad depot parcel off West Perkins ahead of the obviously unworkable “library site” on Main Street. Please again note that the new Courthouse is proceeding of its own Sacramento-generated momentum with barely a howdy-do to Mendocino County other than the usual perpetually “excited” Ukiah City Council liberals who’ve anointed it. The new Courthouse will leave the old and perfectly serviceable Courthouse another huge, empty hulk in central Ukiah where empty hulks now represent the Ukiah aesthetic. The AOC said “there are too many complications with the library site — if you want to get funded you need to choose the depot site, but the choice is yours.” Which the choice is not. The decision to build a new courthouse was made by the judges and their Sacto gofers. Wherever the thing is located, it will be large, ugly and unwanted.

THE MORIBUND NORTH COAST RAILROAD AUTHORITY (NCRA) owns the proposed new courthouse’s depot site, but the City of Ukiah still has an option to negotiate a deal for the future courthouse. Ukiah will also fund the cleanup costs which will be reimbursed by NCRA once the sale goes through. The NCRA, which ceased to operate as a train nearly two decades ago, now functions primarily as a combination jobs program and funding conduit for Democratic Party insiders through which the Democrats launder public monies for silent dispersal among NCRA’s numerous Demo-connected creditors. Assuming it gets built, and as the nation crumbles depend on judges getting every last luxury for themselves, the new courthouse will occupy about five acres of depot property on East Perkins complete, of course, with private elevators for their majesties direct from their underground parking slots. As we’ve often said, and will still be saying when the monstrosity is squatting on its five acres on Perkins, the new structure is destined to be the ugliest public building in Mendocino County history, easily surpassing in pure visual squalor the now-abandoned Willits Courthouse. The restored depot, one of the few public buildings of any charm remaining in the Ukiah “viewshed,” is not part of the deal. It will continue to sit where it is, a reminder that Mendocino County once cared about what their public spaces looked like.

THE COUNTY’S THREE CITY POLICE CHIEFS and Sheriff Allman, in response to the loss of state funding, have agreed to use asset forfeiture money to keep the Major Crimes Task Force funded for the next six months. The Task Force was originally formed to go after meth labs, but crank production seems to have largely moved south of the border, or so we are told. In recent years, the Task Force has focused on marijuana enterprises, a make-work pursuit that really functions as an unintended price support program for growers, keeping prices just high enough to make production attractive to more and more people. Robert (Bob) Nishiyama, the long time commander of the Task Force is retiring. Nish, as he was known to perps and judges alike, was notoriously unsympathetic to medical marijuana claims. To weed’s advocates, the drug has no negatives. To non-users medical marijuana is a joke and an ongoing insult, simply a cover for stoners to obtain their preferred drug more or less legally. The Task Force attracts the more gung ho law enforcement types, the guys who like to kick in doors with guns drawn yelling “On the floor, scumdogs! Get on the floor!” With state funding cut and Nish stepping down, critics suggest it is time to disband the Task Force and return its officers to regular patrol duties. Disbanding the Task Force might also limit the potential for future legal claims and associated liability. The Task Force functioned as an independent elite force that took its direction from Nish, not the Sheriff or police chiefs. And a recent lawsuit, where the Task Force kicked in the wrong door, showed that the Task Force did not follow proper procedure before the raid and tried to cover up the facts after the raid. Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement intends to discontinue the 1$ million in funding that supports the annual County of Mendocino Marijuana Eradication Taskforce (COMMET).

WHY IS THIS HED funny? “Visit Ukiah to hire marketing consultant.” For an estimated $120,000 Visit Ukiah hopes to get a new website, “signs” and a marketing consultant. Absolutely free the AVA advises Ukiah that no one is ever again likely to make Ukiah a destination. It’s too ugly, too comprehensively depressing and utter lacking in the stuff that might cause a tourist type to swerve off 101 for a look around. No sir, Ukiah’s only hope is to market it as a place from where visitors can get to the Mendocino Coast, from Boonville north to Fort Bragg, an area of rare beauty replete with nice places to sleep over and plenty of Frisco-standard edibles, not to mention the free booze you can tank up on at the roadside booze boutiques lining Anderson Valley’s Highway 128. Ukiah offers the Grace Hudson Museum and the subtle comedies offered free by the Ukiah City Council. Period. That’s it. The place desperately needs a complete makeover with accompanying population transplant.

SEIU HAS FINALLY REACHED A TENTATIVE AGREEMENT with the County for a 10% wage cut and a new retirement tier for new hires, the same deal SEIU could have had months ago. The deal came at the end of a day-long settlement conference refereed by the Public Employment Relations Board, based in Sacramento. The agreement will be voted on by the employees the first week of January and if approved it will go to the Board of Supervisors for final approval on January 10. Once everyone signs off, the 12.5% wage cut imposed by the Board in November will be rolled back to 10%.

SEIU SUCCEEDED IN STALLING NEGOTIATIONS for over a year, long after the seven other county bargaining units agreed to a 10% or greater cut. The agreement with SEIU for a 10% cut is expected to save the county $1.5 million annually. The agreement will also result in the dismissal of claims for unfair labor practices that the County and SEIU filed against each other, ending the squabbling over which of the two parties was more to blame for failure to reach agreement.

NEGOTIATIONS TOOK A NASTY TURN BACK IN MAY when the County first declared “impasse,” the point at which further negotiation is pointless. SEIU sidelined Jackie Carvallo, the local business rep, and brought in Christal Padilla, who took her playbook straight out of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, which is as relevant today as when it was written in 1972. Alinsky developed his tactics based on a lifetime of community organizing. Alinsky’s purpose was “to create mass organizations to seize power and give it to the people.”

ALINSKY UNDERSTOOD ANGER AS A MOTIVATING FORCE to overcome complacency, declaring that “an organizer must stir up dissatisfaction and discontent … the job then is getting the people to move, to act, to participate; in short, to develop and harness the necessary power to effectively conflict with the prevailing patterns and change them.” In analyzing the County/SEIU labor negotiations debacle, it seems clear that Ms. Padilla understood the power dynamics of labor organizing and that the County administration and the SEIU rank and file did not. Where Jackie Carvallo argued the case for SEIU on respectful, logical and equitable terms, Padilla immediately shifted to the offensive and went for the jugular. And the jugular she chose belonged to CEO Carmel Angelo.

SAUL ALINSKY’S RULES FOR POWER TACTICS emphasize that it is necessary to “pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it.” Carmel Angelo was chosen as the target with SEIU portraying her as a union busting privatizer from San Diego who was calling the shots and leading the hapless Board of Supervisors around by the nose. It was Angelo who wanted to break the union. It was Angelo who wanted to make working conditions so miserable that people would quit. It was Angelo who would not take a pay cut herself, who lavishly remodeled her offices, broke her promises, etc., etc. It mattered not whether the charges were true or not. By focusing on Angelo as the source of all evil, SEIU succeeded in personalizing and polarizing the issue. Employee job satisfaction and morale plummeted and County employees who had been indifferent to the union became incensed at the evils that Carmel Angelo and the complacent Board of Supervisors were thrusting upon them.

IN THE FACE of a concerted pr campaign, mass rallies and a barrage of phone calls and emails targeting individual Supes, and as an alternative to a straight pay cut, the Board agreed to look at the concept of a 36 hour work week on the premise that it would equal a 10% cut. But before the details of the 10% savings could be worked out, and over the objections of the County, SEIU immediately put their version, that did not equal a 10% savings, to a vote of the membership. When the County didn’t go along with the “agreement” they had not agreed to, SEIU accused Carmel Angelo of lying and the Board of reneging on their agreement. SEIU never let its members vote on the County proposal for a 36-hour workweek that equaled a 10% savings and after three months SEIU let the proposal drop without responding to it.

SEIU CLAIMED THE COUNTY PROPOSAL WAS A SLAP IN THE FACE because it designated a 36 hour employee as “part-time,” something the County thought was necessary to maintain equity with other employee bargaining groups that would still be working a 40 hour week for reduced pay. The real issue for SEIU was that a 36 hour part-time employee would be required to work an extra five weeks to earn a year of retirement credit, to equalize hours worked with the 40 hour employees. A 10% reduction in hours worked also would have knocked a couple of dozen current part time workers, most at 32 hours per week, below the threshold for health insurance and retirement benefits, but they could have been dealt with separately if the other details had been worked out. Instead, SEIU made it sound like every county employee was threatened with losing their retirement and health benefits.

THROUGHOUT, SEIU FOLLOWED ALINSKY’S tactics to the letter, including ridicule. According to Alinsky, “it is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also, it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.” Alinsky also advised organizers to “maintain a constant pressure on the opposition. It is this constant pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign.” And Supervisor Kendall Smith certainly played her part, taking the bait from SEIU and engaging in a rambling defense of her indefensible decision of insisting that the lowest paid County employees take a pay cut while she takes none.

THE ONE TACTIC recommended by Alinsky that SEIU missed is the need for a constructive alternative. SEIU did a great job of avoiding any pay cut for its members for over a year, but once it was obvious the County was prepared to impose a 12.5% cut, SEIU should have had a viable alternative in mind. By not agreeing to the seemingly inevitable 10% pay cut, and giving the County the right to adopt a new retirement tier for new hires, the SEIU leadership all but guaranteed the County would impose 12.5%. Ms. Padilla seems to have stepped outside her role of organizer and become emotionally enmeshed in her own rhetoric, to the point she was unwilling to reach agreement with Carmel Angelo, who had been cast by the union as the personification of evil. Padilla let the tactic of personalizing and polarizing the issue interfere with the goal of reaching the best possible agreement.

SO THE EMPLOYEES GOT STUCK with an unnecessary lump of 12.5% Christmastime coal when 10% was on the table. It remains to be seen if employee morale, which has been driven into the basement by the protracted struggle, can recover to any appreciable extent. And if the agreement with SEIU for 10% is approved, how will the County react to a request from the Public Attorneys who were also handed a 12.5% cut after stalling negotiations for a year? Following ratification of the agreement, Supervisor Kendall Smith will remain the only county employee not to have taken at least a 10% pay cut. And Ms. Padilla, who picked up a DUI in Ukiah back in September, will probably be happy to put Mendocino County in her rear view mirror.

WHAT KIND OF UNION LOCAL can’t hire its own business agent? In Mendocino County, public workers represented by SEIU, an arm of the terminally corrupt Democratic Party has, for years, provided representation that ranged from incompetent, to marginally competent, to non-existent, as roughly a half-million in union dues flowed outtahere to SEIU headquarters.

THE FEDERAL crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries has prompted some of those discombobulated businesses to return to the strategies of 1967 when stoners simply picked up the phone and lickety split here comes the pusher man with his little satchel of uppers, downers, zingers, dingers and soporifics. “It just makes sense,” an Oakland lawyer named William Panze told the Chronicle. “When you have a storefront, you’re on the map. You don’t have those issues with a delivery service. No one’s going to know about it.” The local hook? Panze represents Northstone Organics, a pot delivery service based in Ukiah.

ACCORDING to a press release by CEO Carmel Angelo last Thursday, the County and its largest union, the Services Employees International Union (SEIU), have negotiated an agreement to bring the County imposed 12.5% pay cut back to a 10% cut. The deal was negotiated in Sacramento between County and union reps under the supervision of the Public Employment Relations Board. The chief new provision in the agreement will bring new County employees in at a reduced pension level and boosting the age of retirement to 65. Both parties to the dispute also agree to withdraw pending unfair labor practices lawsuits. If the 10% reduction is officially signed off on by the SEIU membership and the Board of Supervisors (and most observers think it will be), the increased paychecks will begin being issued by mid-January.

THEN AS NOW, Mendocino County’s devotion to the welfare of children has been remarkable. “In the frontier portions of Humboldt and Mendocino counties a band of desperate men have carried on a system of kidnapping for two years past. Indian children were seized and carried into the lower counties and sold into virtual slavery. These crimes against humanity so excited the Indians that they began to retaliate by killing the cattle of the whites. At once an order was issued to chastise the guilty. A company of United States troops, attended by a considerable volunteer force, has been pursuing the poor creatures from one retreat to another. The kidnappers follow at the heels of the soldiers to seize the children, when their parents are murdered, and sell them to the best advantage.” (Federal Indian agent W. P. Dole, 1861) Poverty stats indicate that about a third of the children in the county, 2011, depend on a combination of school meals and food stamps.

TWO MORE SENIOR County employees have announced their departures: James McCleary, a senior County planning and building inspector, is retiring, and a senior Coastal Planner, name yet to be revealed, is quitting. The departures come on top of Planning Department head Nash Gonzalez’s resignation to take over the Planning Department in Santa Clara County.

MENDOCINO COUNTY was in the sports news last week when a fellow named Bollock, a long-time resident of Gualala, was arrested at Candlestick for brawling. Bollock, a big guy, apparently slugged Manuel Austin, a little guy as the 49ers kicked off to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Gualala is aghast. The Bollock family is universally well-regarded on the South Coast. Bollock’s (sic) fight aside, the nationally televised football game was memorable for other reasons: The Niners won, a flying wedge of Steeler fans tried to bum rush their way past the ticket takers only to be repulsed by the cops, and the lights went out. Twice. Once before the game, again during the first quarter. A PG&E spokesman said the power failure was inexplicable but “only one customer was affected.” That one customer, of course, happened to be hosting 70,000 people.

One Response to Off The Record

  1. izzy Reply

    January 4, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Common sense and at least a little foresight suggest that the railroad depot parcel could best be used as just that – a railroad depot. A useable line between Willits and the North Bay, with convenient stops along the way, would be welcome by many and might indicate a bit of functional intelligence in our planning process. And I believe those might be actual tracks that now lie rusting in the weather. I guess we can always dream. Justice will be served, with salad forks.

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