Off The Record
by AVA News Service, January 18, 2012
THE AVA SUFFERED a major fubar last week when at least faulty 300 papers were distributed. If you got one with duplicate pages, please call or e-mail us and we'll send you a replacement copy.
NOTE TO UKIAH: Please stop the new Courthouse. Not only will it kill off the little remaining life of central Ukiah, it is certain to be a major eyesore, a massive police state bunker squatting two long blocks from the present and perfectly serviceable existing Courthouse. Joe Riley, mayor of Charleston, is unique among American mayors, but he's right about civic aesthetics: “Never allow buildings to be built without adding beauty to the city,” he has famously said, not only said but has worked to ensure that Charleston remains one of the most attractive cities in the country. Did you hear what Joe just said, Ukiah? Judy? Judy Pruden? Did you get Joe's message? We're counting on you, babe, to at least soften the terror inspired by the Courthouse's design, which we haven't seen yet but put all your money on form following function, i.e., an edifice that doesn't even achieve neo-Mussolini. Of course Ukiah seems to have adopted a reverse Riley: “Never allow buildings that will make people happy to look at them.”
COUNT ME AMONG the millions delighted to see the end of redevelopment agencies. The idea, to rehab slum neighborhoods, was good, the practice mostly corrupt. As in Ukiah where the latest RDA money was going to spiff up the Costco site and a new admin building for Ukiah Unified. Costco can spiff up its own site and the last thing Ukiah needs is a new building for learning handicapped school administrators.
WE ALL KNOW that 10-to-12-year-old children can be highly irritating, but adults, especially adults employed by school districts, are expected to maintain their composure in the face of even the most extreme provocations. A disturbing video being circulated by internet shows a frustrated Fort Bragg teacher at the Shelter Cove Community Day School going obscenely off on a kid who seems to be about 12. This incident occurred on January 3rd about 10:00am. The school is located at 310 Lincoln Street in Fort Bragg. Calls to the Fort Bragg School District for the usual “We're looking into it” have not been returned.
IF THERE'S ANYTHING locally elected boards enjoy more than “national searches for excellence,” it's getting paid to do the searching themselves. Ukiah's peripatetic Superintendent of Schools Lois Nash, who probably spent as much time in the air flying to her home in Los Angeles as she did overseeing Ukiah's marginal schools, has announced she will retire, that announcement arriving with the election of a new school board majority that made it clear they were going to fire Ms. Nash as their first act. Of course the Ukiah School Board can't possibly on their little own lonesomes hire a smart, energetic person to run their schools, they've got to contract that task out. So, who will do Ukiah's latest national search for educational excellence? Retired educators still clustered at edu-funding's inexhaustible spigot, that's who.
THE UKIAH SCHOOL BOARD, according to the Ukiah paper, “plans to seek technical assistance from a professional executive search firm for advice, recruitment and support with the hiring process. Three different firms will present their qualifications and proposals to the board of trustees....” The three firms Ukiah will turn to are the Leadership Associates (Mr. and Mrs. Leadership); Dave Long and Associates (Mr. and Mrs. Dave Long); and The Cosca Group (Mr. and Mrs. Cosca). Ukiah's latest search for excellence begins Thursday at 4:45 p.m. in the district office boardroom at 925 N. State Street, appropriately situated in an abandoned mortuary, inappropriately sited away from — all rise — “the kids,” aka funding units. The kids are conveniently sequestered to the west out on Low Gap Road in airtight concrete oblongs that look like the Alamogordo testing facilities. The Search For Excellence is open to the public, not one of whom is likely to appear to witness the ensuing laid back feeding frenzy as the “consultants” brandish their bogus bona fides.
IT WAS THE DEPARTING Ms. Nash, a black woman renowned locally for hugging total strangers — a habit that absolutely thrilled inland liberals — who inadvertently revealed the quality of Mendocino County's educational leadership when a union official described her and her school board's pay offer to teachers as “niggardly.” Our redoubtable County Superintendent of Schools, Paul Tichinin, roared out of his Talmage bunker to denounce the monstrously flagrant ethnic slur, and soon got off an indignant public letter castigating the ancient adjective and the Klan brains who'd deployed it! Tichinin's bold stand against racism was signed by him and every single school administrator in Mendocino County! And you still wonder why your little savage can't read?
UKIAH HAS A SMART, energetic guy functioning as principal at Ukiah High School. Why not make him superintendent and save a few bucks on a phony search for excellence?
WHILE I'M PASSING out the bouquets, surely I can't be the only person who has noted, and noted for forty years now, the absence of the County's educational establishment from Mendocino County's sale table marketplace of ideas. We never hear from any of these people on any issue except, occasionally, school funding, i.e., their own pay and work conditions. Never a word on the issues of the day from the people entrusted by the rest of us to instill at least residual regard for learning in the Kardashian Generation. And nary a peep all the way up through the hard-hitting faculty at Mendocino College, a large-scale sports program with an educational component.
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS should be spared the general condemnation. Teachers of the little people are more like technicians than they are tutors. They're expected to get gadget-brained, sugar-fueled, television-reared children to grasp the basics of language, and maybe even gain them mastery over two-column addition. They mostly accomplish that thankless task in a country that regards learned people as freaks and probably sexually aberrant. But because of elementary school teachers, most Americans arrive at age 12 with at least primitive communication skills and enough math savvy to count their Slurpee change. But formal learning skids to a halt as the hormones begin to moan and our cretinous popular culture takes over the fragged teen brain. The child has suddenly become a monster! Most Americans never fully recover from adolescence, hence grown men dressed as small boys, old ladies wrapped and painted like 20-year-olds, SF MOMA, the Tea Party, and other manifestations of permanently arrested development. But don't expect this edu-establishment to ever do anything different than the utter failure that presently pays them to keep on failing, grades 7 through 12.
BEAUTY IN LAYTONVILLE? 12 acres of it planted in lavender by the enterprising ladies of Harvest Moon Farms, Martha Betz and K.C. Chamberlain. Harvest Farms has been invited to the prestigious California Gift Show in Los Angeles this month.
FERNDALE, a perennial NorCal small school football power, is sorting out accusations that one or more of their fans, on at least two occasions, shout N-Word abuse at Bay Area coaches. How a school district is supposed to go about disciplining its sports fans remains to be seen. The Humboldt County authorities may have to hire Tichinin to get to the bottom of this one.
JUDGE HENDERSON is about to revisit a four-year state prison sentence he meted out to Cody Fisher, 30, on December 19th. Henderson is bringing Fisher back into his courtroom on February 10th to give him less, if any, state prison time. The defendant, you will recall, is the guy who drove off an outback dirt road on the McNab Ranch with his boyhood chum as passenger. The coroner thought that Matt Pare was indeed killed on impact, but Fisher had summoned a pot of coffee from a girl friend so he could sober up for four hours before he called for help. DA David Eyster wrote to the Ukiah Daily Journal's comment line, “It needs to be mentioned that Fisher is a repeat offender -- he had already suffered a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol prior to Pare's death. When he was found guilty the first time, Fisher was advised in court that 'it is extremely dangerous to human life to drive while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and if you kill someone while you are DUI, prosecutors may charge you with murder.' Despite being armed with this insight, Fisher nevertheless continued to drink and drive, a bad decision for which someone other than Fisher paid the ultimate penalty. Further reducing Fisher's already lenient sentence sends an entirely wrong message.”
VERN PIVER, Fort Bragg's unofficial mayor, is at UCSF recovering from surgery. He is doing well, and doctors are optimistic that he'll make a full recovery. The popular Piver, 78, is widely considered among the best athletes ever to come out of Mendocino County.
NORCAL football fans are still rejoicing that San Francisco Forty Niners will meet the New York Giants next Sunday at Candlestick for the NFC championship. The winner of that game goes on to the Super Bowl. Is the Bay Area blessed by the sports gods? Absobleepinglutely! The Giants come out of nowhere in 2010 to win the World Series, and now the 49ers come out of an even greater oblivion with a good shot at the Super Bowl. If the Giants had lost to Green Bay last weekend, the Niners would have had to play in frozen Green Bay. But the Giants won and the Niners get to stay home. This sports fan, and I know you're just dying to hear, thinks last Sunday's game, all-in-all, was even more exciting than the Joe Montana to Dwight Clark for The Catch game. Incidentally, all the talk in the Bay Area media about drunken fans and the large number of arrests arising from 49er games, probably comes from people too young to remember that Niner fans, all the way back to Kezar Stadium, were widely considered the most violent and most obnoxious in the United States which, of course, is saying something considering that Americans generally are the most volcanically uneven, psychologically speaking, people in the world. The Niners of 1948 had to install wire netting over the player's entrances to protect both the home team and the visitors from cascades of bottles. Visiting teams said the insults of '48 were also more vile than those mustered by fans in other areas of the country. Candlestick, as any baseball or football fan can tell you, has perennially teetered on the edge of anarchy. When the Giants moved to the new waterfront ballpark, foul mouths and sloppy drunks were quick to get the heave-ho. At Candlestick, when baseball was played there, only the most extreme cases were ever suppressed. Niner football got off to a violent fan start this season but management has since, from all accounts, done a good job keeping the worst people in check, mostly by summarily frog marching them right out the door. Of course the fighting slob element is now priced out of Niner games. At the beginning of this season, the front runners now maxing out their credit
UKIAH'S DOWNTOWN Post Office has closed. All-out community efforts to keep the pre-War structure open as a post office, failed. The building itself is ho-hum, but locals are worried that the WPA mural in the lobby, painted by the great muralist Ben Cunningham, may disappear, as the old Black Bart painting disappeared from the Palace Hotel along with every other fixture with re-sale value disappeared as a series of owners stripped the place. But the Ukiah Post Office? One would have thought that Congressman Thompson, with all his years in Washington, might have been able to keep a constituent post office open, but there's no evidence the recumbent incumbent even tried.
SATURDAY, February 4th at 2 p.m., Greg Giusti of UC Cooperative Extension will present “Redwoods and the Mendocino Landscape.” at Mendocino County Museum. This free public program is offered in conjunction with the exhibit “A Passion for Plants & Place: Carl Purdy of Mendocino County” on view through March 18. The Museum, at 400 E. Commercial St. in Willits, is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10:00 a.m. — 4:30 p.m. For information, contact (707) 459-2736 or visit www.MendocinoMuseum.org.
A PAIR OF BROWN COUNTY TEXAS cops flew to Ukiah last Tuesday to escort Chris Diaz, medical marijuana martyr, back to Texas where Diaz faces 5-99 years in state prison for possession of a quarter ounce pot product and additional charges of bail jumping. It cost Texas about $4,000 to fly the two cops out here and back to Texas with Diaz who now owes Texas, Texas claims. about $165,000.
WAL-MART UKIAH is inviting supporters of its plan to expand to a 24-hour megastore to a free meal. The giant import emporium has published this invitation in the Ukiah Daily Journal: “WE NEED YOU! Please join us Wednesday, January 18, at 6pm to voice your support for the Walmart expansion plan. This hearing is our first opportunity to show the Ukiah City Council that the community wants this expansion! To demonstrate our great community support, we need all of our supporters in attendance. We’ll be hosting a dinner for supporters beginning at 5pm on the night of the hearing. To RSVP or get more details, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 707/703-4978. www.UkiahCAN.org.”
MAN BEATER of the week: Noemi Torres, 23, of Ukiah. Noemi appears unperturbed by the charges, probably because she should be.
A READER WRITES to the Fort Bragg Advocate of January 1910: “It is a pity that the scoundrels who persist in cutting plate-glass windows in Fort Bragg cannot be caught and made an example of. They should be shot on the spot if caught. What's the use of taking such cases in courts when some shyster of a lawyer will defend such degraded wretches who take pleasure in destroying and mutilating other people's property?”
MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY was the usual all-out media mawk allegedly celebrating the man vilified and insulted every day he was alive. When King was murdered by the implausible James Earl Ray, there were celebrations in “liberal” San Francisco and everywhere else in the country where the War On Vietnam was still getting high approval ratings. The gist of newspaper editorials in 1968 was, “He asked for it.” Fast forward to 2012 and King's memory is still being insulted in kumbaya hug-ins that ignore his radical economic message. “Call it democracy or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth in this country for all God's children.” King has been blanded down, way down, but not much has changed since he was gunned down in 1968 at age 39. As he pointed out 45 years ago, “11am on church Sundays is the most segregated hour of the week.” It still is. And the economic disparities are the greatest they've been since 1929.
THE BEST KING biography by far is Marshall Frady's. It's in the Penguin series of mini-bio's.
MLK'S WORDS you didn't read on Monday, a sampler: “I should make it clear that while I have tried to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor. Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours. There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.
WHEN OUR REPORTER, the intrepid Shiela Dawn, called KZYX station manager John Coate last week to ask him a question, mentioning that she had had a problem getting an innocuous piece of information, Mr. Suave replied, “You have lots of problems, Shiela,” and hung up on her. Shiela is persistent, not rude, and where does Coate get off insulting a person conscientiously going about her work? Probably the same totalitarian stop as another character called David Hopmann, president of the pseudo-public radio station's craven board of directors, a board traditionally hand-picked by management for the stooge quotient of their cringing personalities. At the meeting of station directors last week in Boonville, Ms. Dawn, the only person in the audience, thus the only person available to ask their eminences anything, had the temerity to ask a question. Hopmann, a lawyer (of course), pompously interjected, “Point of process. Public comment is restricted to comment, not questions.” Which may be true at KZYX but everywhere else comment and questions is the norm. I have a question in which the comment is implied, “Who are these oafs?"
WE HAD A nice laugh at a press release from KZYX heralding “the return” of Bill Moyers to the local airwaves (was he gone?) that quotes, of all people, the perpetually dysfunctional public radio station's hatchet lady, Mary Aigner: “We're thrilled to add Moyers & Company to the KZYX news and information line up. Bill Moyers has long been at the forefront of intelligent dialogue about the critical issues that we face in a democracy....” “We?” “Democracy?” There's a self-cancelling linkage for you. KZYX, from its mercenary inception, has been carefully rigged to exclude democratic practices. The station has a long history of fixed board elections, incompetent management, wackos at the mikes, sudden purges, sex at the consoles, secret meetings, crazy staffers, on-site child molestation, unremitting censorship of local controversies — the full nutball monte. And getting crazier by the day under the present management as membership dwindles and financial support dries up.
SUPERVISOR MCCOWEN has been elected Board chairman, Supervisor Hamburg, vice chair at the Board's first meeting of the year last week. The vote was a unanimous 5-0. A Lilliputian squabble occurred last year over whether McCowen or Hamburg should be Vice Chair. This year, a larger dispute arose when the Board considered McCowen's recommendations for special assignments. Kendall Smith, who will not run for re-election, strenuously objected to being bounced off the Mendocino Council of Governments, the local transportation funding agency, in favor of Carre Brown. Following a lengthy circular discussion of the kind the Board is known for, the changes were approved 3-2, Hamburg siding with Smith.
McCOWEN HAS GIVEN NOTICE that he intends to run more efficient meetings, but if the above discussion is any indication it looks like the same old aimless drift will prevail. But he has instituted a couple of modest reforms. The minutes and routine Board appointments have been added to the Consent Calendar. And Proclamations are approved automatically unless someone objects, which ends the confusion over whether they are being pulled from the Consent Calendar or not, or being presented and voted on, or voted on and presented, etcetera. After a year of the inept, and relentlessly self-centered Smith at the helm, McCowen is clearly a step forward.
BURIED DEEP IN THE CEO'S REPORT last week was an update on the consolidation of the County workforce. Staff is finally moving out of the Affinito building and into the County owned Avila Center. The County has been paying Affinito more than $25,000. monthly for his barn-like structure on South Franklin Street. The preposterous deal with Affinito was engineered by Supervisor Smith's equivalently inept predecessor, Patti Campbell. For reasons known only to her, Supervisor Smith fought the move out of the Affinito building, delaying it for about six months. Supervisors Pinches and McCowen have been pushing for over a year to consolidate into County-owned buildings to get out from under expensive lease payments to private parties. Overall, the moves are expected to save $1 million dollars annually.
ACCORDING TO THE CEO'S REPORT, Supervisor Smith will have to give up her personal office in the Avila Center to avoid forcing two Fort Bragg-based employees into a round-trip to Willits every day. Unlike Smith, the employees would not be paid for driving back and forth to work. The report notes that “General Services and Executive Office staff are working with the Fourth District Supervisor to explore options including a home office, a virtual office utilizing the Fourth District's county-owned laptop, or leased space.” Smith is already paid a communications allowance for a home office, has a fully equipped office on Low Gap, enjoys a County-issued laptop, and is the only Supervisor to have a district office. (Which she seldom visits, incidentally.) Given her lame duck status, Smith should work out of her home office for the coming year, not milk the taxpayers for another leased office, but.....
THIS JUST IN RUMORS that Supervisor Kendall Smith had refused to give up her office space in Fort Bragg, thus forcing two employees to commute to Willits, were put to rest last week when Board Chair John McCowen conspicuously thanked Supervisor Smith for relinquishing her office in the Avila Center. The Avila Center is crowded-to-overflowing because Coast welfare services have moved from Dominic Affinito’s $28,000 a month building across the street into the older and smaller Avila Center. McCowen may have made the formal “thank you” at last week’s board meeting to convince the notoriously self-centered Smith that she better giver up her seldom-used space rather than suffer more grumbling from her fellow supervisors and many County workers based in Fort Bragg, many of whom already feel trapped between an unsympathetic leadership and bumbling SEIU representation. The County loses experienced but estranged workers every month now to other counties or early retirement.
SEIU IS VOTING THIS WEEK on whether to reach agreement for a 10% pay cut or stay with the 12.5% cut imposed by the County back in November. SEIU was set to vote the first week in January, but the SEIU honchos put the brakes on so they could “educate” the membership on what the vote meant, as if the membership could not figure out for themselves that it was better to have an agreement and an extra 2.5% in pay, or no agreement with the 12.5% cut.
THE SEIU LEADERSHIP seems to prefer no agreement and the 12.5% cut. It could be as simple as not wanting to be seen as giving in to CEO Carmel Angelo, the former director of the Health and Human Services Agency, where most of the SEIU employees are concentrated. As HHSA Director, Angelo made long overdue changes to increase accountability and productivity, consolidated managerial positions and brought forward layoffs to balance the budget.
IF SEIU VOTES IN FAVOR OF THE AGREEMENT it will go to the Board of Supervisors for routine approval on January 24th and will take effect the first pay period in February. Without agreement, SEIU members will be stuck with the 12.5% cut for at least a year, longer if no subsequent agreement can be reached. SEIU could have had an agreement for 10% at any time in the last year, but the leadership parlayed their dislike of the CEO into an unnecessary 12.5% cut for the last three months.
IN RESPONSE TO FEDERAL THREATS the County is expected to junk its innovative 9.31 permit program that allowed marijuana growers to get a permit from the Sheriff to grow up to 99 marijuana plants in return for an inspection from the Sheriff, compliance with a lengthy list of conditions and payment of several thousand dollars in permit fees. The federal threat was apparently delivered in person on January 3rd. The Board discussed the matter in Closed Session under “threat of litigation” at its meeting last week. The County issued a press release the day after their meeting saying that County Counsel would be bringing forward amendments to the program on January 24th to comply with the federal threat and a recent court case that said local jurisdictions could regulate marijuana but not permit it.
BAY AREA NARCOTICS ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS who were briefed on the federal threat say the County was told they had two weeks to shut down the program or “suffer the consequences.” Those “consequences” could have resulted in the arrests of local officials including Sheriff Allman. The U. S. Attorney's office is said to have been meticulously assembling a case against the County — a perennial federal target — in preparation for the takedown of the program. It's no secret that the federal narcs were chomping at the bit during last year's “Operation Full Court Press” when they were flying over Sheriff- approved 99 plant gardens on their way to eradicate devil weed in the Mendocino National Forest. It seems likely that the permit program and the fees that went with it will be a casualty of the federal pushback, but just what shape the overall changes will take remains to be seen.
BRANCHES RESTAURANT, the overbuilt Marin style eatery that was incongruously set down on Airport Park Boulevard (across from Wal Mart) has closed its doors, throwing 65 people out of work. The restaurant received mixed reviews from the beginning with some people praising the food and upscale ambiance, and others complaining of long waits and indifferent service. But in the end it was probably the debt service on the over the top construction costs that did it in. There is, however, a note on Branches' closed door advising patrons that they will eventually be able to redeem gift certificates “when our restaurant is remodeled.” Debra Watson, owner of Branches and the adjacent Hampton and Comfort Inns, says she is “re-grouping.”
INLAND GOURMANDS are delighted with the Asian Grand Buffet on South Orchard Avenue. The all you can eat buffet style restaurant features several dozen entrees plus numerous side dishes and seems to have captured the remnants of the old all you can eat Fjord's Smorgette crowd. But for Frisco-quality Chinese food, the Asian Village on South State Street remains as good a Chinese restaurant as there is in Northern California.
GAS WARS HAVE COME TO UKIAH with a new station on Talmage Road on the east side of the freeway that opened with the lowest prices in town. Everyone else has been forced to drop their prices to keep market share. Prices seem to have stabilized for the time being, but the new station is still the cheapest. And we have proof once again, if any were needed, that the predatory fuel giants will charge whatever the market will bear as long as they can get away with it.