Off The Record

by AVA News Service, January 5, 2012

SEIU AND THE COUNTY OF MENDOCINO, as reported here last week, reached a tentative agreement for a 10% wage cut. The ten percent deal replaces the 12.5% cut imposed by the County back in November. The day after the agreement, SEIU sent an email to its members announcing the deal and calling for a vote the first week in January. Those plans have now been shelved.

SOURCES WITHIN SEIU say Christal Padilla, the outside labor organizer, is officially outtahere to San Diego. Padilla succeeded in converting the county labor negotiations into an “us against them” struggle then signed off on an agreement with CEO Carmel Angelo. But not everyone on the SEIU leadership team is ready to go along.

THE DETAILS BEHIND MS. PADILLA'S DEPARTURE are not known, but a new organizer showed up last week and announced that there is no need to be in a hurry to vote — that it is more important to “educate” the membership. And expect the lesson to be SEIU's unfair labor practice charge against the County. SEIU's bumbling strategists hope that the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) will rule in favor of SEIU, roll back the 12.5% cut and order it paid back with interest. Meanwhile, the County's unfair labor practice charge against SEIU will also go forward.

THE PERB BOARD, according to knowledgeable sources, is likely to scold both SEIU and the County, finding each did their share to botch negotiations, but the County, faced with a structural deficit of steadily increasing health care and retirement costs, and declining revenue from taxes, fees, and state pass throughs, was justified in cutting wages as a budget balancing strategy.

THE ONLY CERTAIN RESULT of seeing the PERB charges through to the end will be to enrich the SEIU and County's outside labor lawyers. And keep the 12.5% pay cut in place, possibly for a year or more while the PERB process plays out. And keeps employee morale in the tank as the festering dispute continues to simmer with no resolution in sight. A vote the first week in January would have allowed the agreement to be on the Board of Supervisors agenda for final approval January 10. The reduced pay cut would have kicked in for the pay period beginning January 16, but any rollbacks are now on hold at least until February. SEIU takes better than half a million a year in union dues off County employees who continue to be poorly represented.

THAT CASPAR PROPERTY up Road 409 put up for auction by the County has been declared free of pollution after years of runoff from the old Caspar Dump. The County being responsible for the Caspar Dump had to buy the place from the unfortunate guy who owned it. That was 20 years ago. Somehow, County garbage czar Mike Sweeney, perhaps in his hazmat capacity, has now declared the property unpolluted, and the County has 28 acres of it up for sale. Buyer definitely beware.

PHIL DONOHUE appears Tuesday the 9th of January with Norman Solomon, candidate for Congress, at the Saturday Afternoon Club, Ukiah, 5pm. Solomon will, we hope, be elected to represent us in the freshly gerrymandered 2nd Congressional District. Which is our old 1st district without Vallejo and parts of Napa but now including Marin County. Thompson is moving east where, we hope, he will face serious opposition. Of course the Northcoast's career officeholders, along with the area's supine Democratic Party central committees are supporting the most conservative, Mike Thompson-like Democrat they can find, which happens to be a glib Marin County lawyer presently functioning as a state assemblyman. This character has already garnered a literal ton of cash from all the wrong people and, natch, he's supported by Thompson and uber hack, Wes Chesbro. I'd mention the name of the Marin County candidate but every time I do the light seems to fade, the birds go silent, children unaccountably begin to weep, and a shooting pain rips through my buttocks. Anyway, Solomon and Donohue will be in Ukiah late Tuesday afternoon for a reception followed by a film called Body of War followed by a conversation with Solomon and Donohue at 7pm.

MAN BEATER of the Week: Racheal Leigh Boomer Brazil of Ukiah. The other night, Boomer lowered the boom on her sig other, and darned if she doesn't look like she's going straight home to do it again.

MENDO'S BAY AREA transplants don't pay much attention to the perennially torrid politics of KPFA — we've got KZYX to rag on — but having asked around among trustworthy old timers, some of them going back darn near to KPFA's post WWII beginnings, the latest hassle and its attendant vilification of Pacifica's Tracy Rosenberg, is part of an ongoing fight by Democratic Party-devoted liberals to convert KPFA to a toothless Democratic audio outpost. The same people tried to  "save" KPFA a few years ago, purging a few radicals in that campaign but not fully succeeding in a complete NPR makeover. TakeTwo: The current campaign to "save" KPFA and recall the smart, articulate and committed Ms. Rosenberg has serious money behind it, and serious money plus liberals translates at Nancy Pelosi politics. The Pelosi Brigade has established an expensive website and they just got out a costly mailing. They coulda given that money to KPFA, but.... But don't be fooled. The Pelosis are not trying to save KPFA. Down with Pelosi-ism! Vote NO on the recall. As for KZYX, nothing wrong there that intelligent management couldn't solve, but there hasn't been intelligent management at Public Radio Mendocino County since Nicole Sawaya.

MILLVIEW COUNTY WATER DISTRICT lost another round in their effort to claim 1100 acre annual feet of water based on a water right that the State Water Resources Control Board says only amounts to 15 acre feet. Millview bought the supposed water right from Tom Hill and Steve Gomes, developers of a subdivision on the West Fork of the Russian River just off of Lake Mendocino Drive. The subdivision, all 125 lots, was granted water connections to Millview despite Millview being under a state ordered moratorium for new connections. Hill and Gomes then sold the underlying water right to Millview, who boldly moved the point of diversion from the West Fork, which relies on natural flow and goes dry every summer, to the East Fork which flows year round courtesy of releases from Lake Mendocino.

THE STATE WATER BOARD, in response to a complaint, held a series of hearings and ordered Millview to cease and desist. Millview petitioned for a re-hearing and was soundly rejected by the administrative law judge considering the petition. Millview was represented by Chris Neary, who also represents Brooktrails and the North Coast Railroad Authority, among others. Hill and Gomes were represented by the inevitable Jared Carter, famous for his grand, rhetorical arguments rooted in ithe primitive non-principle that owners of property must not be interfered with by anyone, least of all government.. Carter bats lower than a utility infielder, but somehow is still considered the go to guy for the local 1%. Bet on Carter to talk his clients into filing an expensive and futile appeal.

UKIAH'S WASTE HAULER, having just reaped a windfall at the public's expense when the “liberal” Ukiah City Council handed them a 20-year deal tailored to the company's specs, took out an ad touting the benefits of the deal but neglecting to mention the rate increases that took effect January 1. According to the ad, the company has begun preparation for a “leading edge food waste composting program.” But the City libs left it up to the company to decide what, if anything, they want to do and when. Meanwhile, Martin Mileck of Cold Creek Compost has offered to take all the City food waste and green waste right now, with a 50% reduction in the cost for the green waste.

THE UKIAH HAULER ALSO BRAGS that they bought the Thomas pear shed property “without cost to the ratepayers to provide the infrastructure for further enhancements to our programs.” Translation: “we have big plans and we intend to make you pay for it.” Skeptics say the only justification for the 20 year deal is to shift the risk for the deal from the company to the ratepayer.

SAN FRANCISCO just boosted its minimum wage to $10.24, up from $9.92 an hour. Both rates of pay are about a third the hourly wage you need to live in The City and do the things that cities offer — an occasional meal out, a movie, a big time ball game, maybe even a museum once in a while. How are thousands of people in The City really getting by? They're moving in together with little hope of moving up and out. The city's progressives — progressives defined here as very cool liberals, are claiming the raise as another great victory for themselves and working people, and in that order, of course.  The delusion here is that incremental wage increases, and all the rest of the nicey-nice characteristic of the cash and carry liberalism dominant in NorCal, is that NorCal somehow exists outside the economic beast, that a pay raise of a few cents in a wealthy city like San Francisco means much in a context of an ever rising national cost of living as Democrats and Republicans work to transfer even more wealth to their padrones in the One Percent. Wherever Occupy goes from here, it has already focused national attention where it belongs — our present economic arrangements. And Occupy has announced to millions of struggling people that they aren't alone in at least trying to fight back. Myself, considered actuarially, I've got maybe five years to either help man the barricades or donate my ancient bod to become part of the pile of wrecked cars and sand bags that are the barricades. In the mean time, it's training hikes, push-ups, stealth and cunning, the infuriatingly smug pusses and prose of the Press Democrat's editorial page serving perfectly as daily rage inducement.

AT 4TH AND CLEMENT a month or so ago, so many trendies  had gathered to get into an art exhibit that they spilled out into the early evening street. The next day I stopped by to look at the art. There wasn't any. A note soon appeared on the door that said the art had moved to Mission Street, somewhere around 16th. The city is teeming with artists and art schools but there's never been less art, confirmed for me by my annual visit to SFMOMA where, last week, its sterile spaces featured an electronic billboard in the wasted space of the building's endless atrium and sculptor Richard Serra's drawings of the big hunks of steel he installs in the big empty spaces of big empty buildings housing big empty people. In the context of industrial soul-less-ness Serra's installations make sense. The most irritating display, however, and there are always at least three or four vying for the top phony award, was a video of two high school kids talking about the photographic genius of their mother, an obvious lunatic, seen at work in the film snapping hazy pictures of those rubber-like doggie bones. Right here I propose that photography be downgraded to Art, Class 5. Art, Class 6 would be macrame and beading, Art, Class 7 videography — all of it. The MOMA has some arresting photos in its vast collection of random stuff, about half that random stuff being of no artistic value whatsoever, but almost all the MOMA's interesting pictures were taken in either the last half of the 19th century or the first half of the twentieth. Besides, anyone with better than the sensitivities of a stone can take an interesting picture. Somehow, few people among the pros manage to pull it off anymore, and their equipments costs thousands. No, I don't like Ansel Adams. I can get a nice shot of a redwood all by my ownself, and store it permanently in my head where I can call it forth any old time to enjoy. And my mental picture is better! Better, I tell you! Anyway, the guy who does the booking photos at the Mendocino County Jail turns out much more interesting pictures every day. If you called him an artist he'd probably arrest you, but he's got a nice eye, and Mendocino County yields to no one in the pure photogenic diversity of our criminal population. A senior MOMA ticket costs $12. There were two paintings I'd never seen before that were worth the price of admission: Edward Hopper's The Equestrians and a painting called Potrero Hill by an old beatnik whose name I failed to write down. The old boy can paint, whoever he is. It occurred to me that what's generally missing at the MOMA is any kind of consciousness, social or political. The artists have no ideas. They all float in a hazy nimbus of neo-decadent Like Dudes and Butt Cheek Tattoos untethered to the reality the rest of us know and are fascinated by. And their art is boring and mostly awful and, I'll bet, a lot of them are fascists in their bones, like a lot of their grandparents were in World War Two. As the antidote to dead art by the walking dead at 3rd and Mission, I hopped on the 2 Clement out to the Legion of Honor where there was a Pissarro exhibit called Pissarro's People. At last! Whole rooms full of the real deal! Pissarro was an anarchist who managed to get himself on all the right government hit lists. As a person of the left, he was also a person of feeling and sympathy which, as a genius, he can also make us feel through his paintings. Even his sketches for paintings have power. Pissarro will be out there at Land's End for another month or so. He's worth the trip.

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