Off The Record
by AVA News Service, January 25, 2012
COUNTY COUNSEL Nadel announced late Monday that the County employees bumblingly represented by SEIU have voted in favor of the proposed Tentative Agreement as have the Supervisors: A 10% permanent general wage reduction effective the first full pay period after formal approval by the Board; A labor management committee which will meet the second Thursday of every month; The term of the agreement will be until June 30, 2013; There will be an increase in annual Personal Leave hours from 24 to 30; All previously signed Tentative Agreements (TA's) will be adopted; All PERB charges will be withdrawn with prejudice; The Union agrees to the County's new tier of retirement for new hires whenever this is adopted. The deal will be formally approved on February 14th.
TOM KURISKY, 63, of Westport has been identified as the man killed last week in the 9:30am accident near Murphy's Pond on Highway 20 about ten miles east of Fort Bragg. Kurisky had drifted into the oncoming lane where he collided with a delivery van. The driver of the van, Bryon Ough of Ukiah, suffered minor injuries.
TRIED TO GET Donald Armstrong, superintendent of the Fort Bragg schools to talk to me about the video being circulated that shows a teacher or an aide, it's not clear which, going all the way off on a Shelter Cove School kid. The Shelter Cove School is run under the auspices of Fort Bragg Unified. Mr. Armstrong won't return phone calls not even to say he's looking into it. Which he doesn't seem to be doing since there are now at least two complaints about the same staffer at the same school.
SOURCES INSIDE SEIU say that the membership has ratified an agreement with the County for a 10% wage cut. The agreement is for 18 months and gives the County the right to adopt a lower tier of retirement benefits for new employees. Employee morale, already in tatters, was further shredded by the outside SEIU organizers who managed to convert the usual workplace discontent into rage, all the while getting the workers a 12.5 cut rather than the 10% they could have had from the outset. The negotiations were complicated by an absence of leadership at the Supes level where they, too, went for outside negotiators well-known as union busters. County employees, after months of fumbling by their alleged representatives, will soon be back at a 10% wage cut.
TEN PERCENT was always the real number. This week's Board agenda included labor agreements with the Deputy Sheriffs Association, Law Enforcement Management (MCLEMA), and the Management Employee bargaining units, keeping the current 10% cuts in place. The deputies and law enforcement administration have been at 10% cuts since July 1 of 2010 and have agreed to extend the cut to June 30, 2013 while the management unit extended their cut for another year until next January. The County is reportedly trying to keep all the current cuts in place, but if the deal with SEIU for 10% goes through, the Public Attorneys Association, who had previously swallowed a 10.5% cut, can be expected to hold out for 10% in their next negotiation.
SUPERVISORS Carre Brown and John McCowen, according to this week's Board agenda, are also bringing forward a long-overdue measure to permanently reduce the supervisors' salary by 10%. Brown and McCowen, along with Supervisor Pinches, have been taking voluntary 10% cuts since January of 2009. Kendall Smith and former supervisor David Colfax, caught by the Grand Jury filing false travel claims for amounts of money that would get ordinary citizens County Jail time, adamantly refused to take any cuts and even had the nerve to argue that they should get raises at the same time they were forcing cuts on everyone else. Dan Hamburg signed up for the 10% cut when he replaced Colfax a year ago. Smith continues to hold out. She was compelled to refund the County travel money by newly-elected DA Eyster. Colfax had left office before the taxpayers could get their money back from him. In previous board discussions of the Supervisors' pay, Pinches has defended their basic salary but taking the 10% voluntary cut. And Hamburg has mistakenly (and mostly indefensibly) allied himself with Smith on many such issues, so the outcome of the Brown-McCowen permanent cut proposal is far from clear.
STATE LAW allows the Supervisors to raise their pay any time they want to, but prohibits cuts (or raises) during their current term of office. So if the 10% cut is approved it will not take effect until new supervisorial terms beginning in January of 2013. Kendall Smith, who has decided to step down from her Royal post at the end of this year, will not be affected by the cut anyway. But that doesn't mean she will support it. Nor does it even mean a majority of the Board will support it. Last year when it came out publicly that a voluntary cut did not affect retirement, Board members were challenged to impose a permanent cut on themselves, just like they were doing for everyone else. Only Brown and McCowen agreed to the permanent cut at that time. The majority, led by Smith of course, argued that doing so would make it harder to attract qualified people to the job of supervisor. The employees made the same argument in an effort to avoid cuts to their italics, but the Supes weren't listening when the subject was employees.
THE SUPERVISORS missed an opportunity to show real leadership by not taking a cut up front, and it cost them in terms of reduced morale, botched and painfully delayed labor negotiations and loss of public confidence. Repeatedly throughout the last year, employees came forward and demanded of Smith, sitting as Board chair, “When are you taking the cut?!” A couple of times Smith launched into her typically incoherent attempts to justify her nickel-nosing acquisitiveness, comparing her pay, irrelevantly, to other elected officials. The County's ill-fated attempt to pass a half cent sales tax increase in 2010 to help backfill state cuts was also doomed from the start because of the hugely negative public perception of the Supervisors generated by Smith and Colfax and their refusal to take fair pay cuts.
THE SUPERVISORS are also scheduled to take up amendments to the County's 9.31 marijuana cultivation permit program that allowed for the cultivation of up to 99 marijuana plants under stringent conditions with periodic sheriff's inspections. Applicants for the program had to pay around $6000 on average to the Sheriff's office for an application fee and for upwards of 99 zip-ties (at $50 each) for each marijuana plant no matter how large. The zip-ties had individual serial numbers and were supposed to indicate that the plants to which they were attached were legitimate medical marijuana plants intended for the sick or dying. Growers looked at the program as a form of “crop insurance” while the Feds looked at it as a scam, i.e., selling permits to grow an illegal substance. But then, the feds look at everything having to do with marijuana as a scam.
COUNTY COUNSEL Jeanine Nadel has recommended that the Supervisors ditch most of the permit program and go back to the prior arrangement allowing only 25 plants per parcel as the ordinance read when it was first adopted in 2008. Ms. Nadel is also recommending that some of the conditions that apply to the 99 plant gardens be retained for any amount of marijuana being cultivated such as no illegal water diversions or pollution of the environment. The marijuana lobby, a large and noisy one, always views anything the County does in the area of marijuana with deep suspicion. They're already reaching for medicinal doobies to calm themselves as they claim that the County is trying to trample their rights in the name of complying with the federal threat. Ironically, the loudest complainers (our friend Pebbles Trippet, for example) have never felt bound by any limits or conditions by the County and probably never will.
COUNTY COUNSEL is not talking about the details of the federal threat, but independent sources say that the orders to take down the program came from federal narcotics officers in Washington DC and that the California US Attorney's office is simply the messenger. Tommy La Nier (beware of grown men with little boy names) head of the Obama White House-funded National Marijuana Initiative, has said that “Mendocino was on the to-do list in early January.” Bay Area-based narcotics enforcers have speculated that refusal by the County to dismantle the program would have triggered a raid on the Sheriff's Office and possible federal indictments of local officials. County Counsel has confirmed that the US Attorney's representatives delivered the threat personally in a closed meeting on January 3, and that the board gave direction to Ms. Nadel to come up with a stripped down program in a January 10 closed session.
ACCORDING to the Sheriff's Department, Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Vicodin and Norco “are the most abused polypharmacy (the mixing of many drugs in one prescription) drugs we have in the county right now. Each is running about $10 a milligram.” We've heard from various sources for several years that certain physicians are writing scrips for people they know are dope heads.
SOMEWHAT SURPRISINGLY, candidate Jared Huffman was denied the endorsement of the state Democratic Party regional delegates who met last Saturday in Santa Rosa. With 50% approval being necessary to endorse, Huffman got only 48% to a strong 37% for upstart Norman Solomon, 12% for Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams and 1% for San Rafael businesswoman and political neophyte Stacy Lawson. The lack of an endorsement from local party insiders is a clear victory for Solomon, given that Huffman has the endorsement of Congressman Cork Top, Assemblyman Wes “I'm Looking Into It and I'm Very Concerned” Chesbro, and a long list of current and former corporate bag men and women. (The noble exception being Sonoma County Lynne Woolsey, the only progressive Democrat from this area to hold office at the higher levels since Clem Miller back in the early 1960s. We don't know who she's supporting.) For the last 20 years or so a handful of Democratic Party insiders have met behind closed doors to anoint the next hack or hackette to occupy the local power slots at four times the pay of the average working citizen of the district. You know we live in turbulent times when even the relentless party nuzzlebums of the Democratic Central Committees can't agree on a candidate.
MAN BEATER of the week: Ms. Mistie Silveira of Ukiah. Mistie is charged with smacking “a person with whom defendant had a dating, engagement, marriage or domestic relationship with.” Whatever, Mistie, he had it coming. Next time give him a little something more to cry to the cops about.
THE UKIAH City Council denied the appeal of the city's planning commission certification of the Wal-Mart environmental impact report on a 4-1 vote last Wednesday with only Phil Baldwin voting against the corporate behemoth. Ukiah councilmembers raised concerns about the Wal-Mart expansion project, but made the distinction that their vote was only about whether or not the EIR provided enough information with which to make a decision. Councilmember Benj Thomas was confused about the relationship between the EIR and the project, or even if there was a project. The city attorney assured him there was. Thomas, speaking in the usual fuzz-brained therapy talk characteristic of Mendolib, described the EIR process as “a search for truth” with the council sitting in “judgment.” The whole mess will now go back to the city planning commission which will consider Wal-Mart's site development permit and a “statement of overriding considerations” that is needed because the project has significant environmental impacts — mainly traffic — that cannot be mitigated. No matter which way the planning commission votes, the project will then come back to the City Council on appeal.
RUSSIAN RIVER grape growers are supposed to have their water management plans approved by February 1, according to the state Water Resource Control Board’s new frost protection rules enacted late last year. Mendo’s Russian River grape growers are preparing to sue the state over what they see as onerous rules, while Sonoma County Russian River growers Growers are working on compliance. Although some of the Sonoma County growers still think they can meet the deadline, Mendo growers are more frustrated than they were before the hated regs kicked in because the Water Board has provided nothing in the way of guidelines for what “compliance” would look like. The Mendo growers insist that their previous efforts to build lots of ponds and install a real-time stream flow gage ought to be enough. They also were hoping that the Russian River Flood Control District or the Upper Russian Conservation Association would pick up the ball and file an application for all of them. But nothing has happened. The Flood Control District and the “Conservation” Association say they don’t have any money to prepare a plan. And individual growers are hesitant to spend money on consultants without at least some guidelines. Technically, after February 1 no one will have approval to pump any water for anything from the Russian River if they don’t have any approved plans in place. Some other Mendo grape growers have been waiting for years to get their ordinary water appropriate permits approved, so the Water Board is unlikely to approve anything by February 1. But since there’s no enforcement of these things anyway, it’s unlikely that the “deadline” will matter to anyone. Meanwhile, you can bet that if Russian River grape growers really need frost protection water they’re not going to pay much to attention to the Water Board or the fish.
MENDOCINO COUNTY has a 9.5 month inventory of properties in foreclosure as of December 2011, according to a report by the excellent Linda Williams in last Week’s Willits News. This means that 271 Mendocino County properties are in the foreclosure pipeline with either a notice of default or a notice of trustee sale. Countywide there were 345 county foreclosure sales in 2011 and 335 in 2010.
SHERIFF ALLMAN has been hedging his bets on what the end of Mendo’s zip-tie/cultivation ordinance might mean to his budget. The County (i.e., the Sheriff’s Department) received something like $500-$600k last year and the pending end of the program in the wake of serious Federal threats might translate to a $500k hit to his budget. Allman told the Ukiah Daily Journal last week that he doesn't yet know what the budget impact of suspending the permit program would be. “Through June 30, we're OK,” Allman said. But there are obvious questions about the next fiscal year’s budget which will begin to be formulated next month. Allman added that no layoffs are planned for the near future.
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.”
SAN DIEGO attorney Thomas Warwick is representing Cody Fisher’s re-sentencing hearing before Henderson. Warwick is a member of the powerful state Judicial Council committee that oversees new courthouse construction statewide. The Judicial Council intends to build a new Courthouse in Ukiah to replace the perfectly serviceable existing Courthouse. This question seems obvious: Is Judge Henderson accommodation of Warwick and Fisher part of a clandestine deal to ensure the new Courthouse? Mendocino County judges desperately want a new Courthouse. None of them are likely eager to alienate the big shot lawyer who has a large role in site selection for new courthouses, and it’s been years since any defendant got him or herself a re-sentencing hearing. Are we talking pure coincidence here?
ALISA COLBERG, 18, a gang-affiliated Fort Bragg woman who describes herself as Fort Bragg’s “dominant female” — move over Kendall Smith — was seriously injured last January in a hatchet attack by 22-year-old MariCruz Alvarez-Carrillo during a gang fight near the CV Starr Aquatic Center. Ms. Alvarez-Carrillo, 22, the mother of a child about a year old, lives at 215 Minnesota Avenue, Fort Bragg. She was found guilty of three counts of assault with a deadly weapon last week but not guilty of gang affiliation. (Huh?) Alvarez-Carrillo will be sentenced on February 24th. Also last week, Fort Bragg police had great difficulty arresting a 17-year-old gang-banger at 215 Minnesota. That address is the site of much gang-related violence. One of the arresting officers suffered a fractured wrist in the struggle to take the delinquent into custody.
THE GOVERNOR’S BUDGET speech last Wednesday morning bodes ill for state schools. The gov is basically holding the schools hostage pending the outcome of his ballot initiative to raise taxes. If the measure fails, schools could see funding cuts of 10 percent or more. First to go in Mendocino County will be school buses. Mendocino has already eliminated student transport.
ORWELLIAN statement of the week award goes to the Ukiah Valley Medical Center as it summarily terminated the employment of five persons: “To protect the employee from any potential liability related to security of proprietary information, standard procedure is that the last day of work is the day the employee is informed of the elimination.” Got that? The five were fired to protect themselves from themselves. The for-profit, Adventist-owned hospital still hasn’t explained how a 34-year-old man pronounced dead last month suddenly returned to life as he was being driven down 101 to Stanford where his organs were going to be “harvested.” The poor fellow remains hospitalized with major trauma to his head.
DAVID COBB doesn't seem particularly plausible to me. Back in '04 it was Cobb, presently making the Mendo rounds to speak against corporate personhood, who popped up out of Eureka to run as a Green against Ralph Nader on the Kerry-friendly but distinctly unprogressive, “safe state strategy.” That strategy was of course devised by corporate Democrats to keep dissidents out of states where Kerry was running neck and neck with Bush, and what kind of progressive or lefty would drop out of an election on that non-basis? Cobb is correct about corporate personhood, but who, outside the corporations and the Fox News morons, is for it?
GEORGE BORIS DOUBIAGO has died at age 74. He was best known locally as the former husband of poet Sharon Doubiago and the father Dan Doubiago and Shawn Colleen Doubiago. Dan Doubiago graduated from Mendocino High School from where he went on to play big time college and then professional football.
THE WILLITS SCHOOL BOARD Wednesday night approved a policy to protect the rights of “transgender and gender non-conforming students.” The policy is believed to be the first in Mendocino County.
VERN PIVER of Fort Bragg was released from UCSF on Wednesday. Piver had been hospitalized to treat brain tumors. He said Friday he has to go back to the hospital “a couple more times for follow-up treatments,” but for now he gets to stay mostly at home.
AS EXPECTED, Mendocino County has designated Chief Planner Roger Mobley as “Acting Director of Planning and Building Services,” in the wake of the departure of former P&B honcho Nash Gonzalez. Gonzalez left for a much higher paying job in Santa Clara County earlier this month.
THE YEAR of the Dragon commenced Monday. Tradition-trapped Chinese parents will try hard to produce little dragons.
FROM LINDA WILLIAMS of the Willits News: “Nearly 53% of all Mendocino County mothers reported using tobacco, marijuana or alcohol before knowing they were pregnant compared to the state average of 24%. The percentage Mendocino County mothers using these substances dropped to 27% after learning of their pregnancy compared with 10 percent for California.” Either our moms are dumber or they’re crazier than most California mothers.
LEONARD CIRINO is suffering from cancer. The well-known poet lived for years in Albion before moving to Springfield, Oregon a few years ago to care for his elderly mother. Leonard’s medical condition can be monitored here. I've always liked Leonard and I've admired some of his poetry. He and I even enjoy what you might call an ironic political relationship. Back a couple of decades, Leonard was appointed to the County's Mental Health Advisory Board. The inland fascisti got their hands on Leonard's own mental health history and the late Marilyn Butcher, then functioning as a Supervisor, soon declared that she thought it was a little much that a man who'd decapitated his daughter would be considered for, of all things, an appointment to a mental health board, not bothering to point out that Leonard, a recipient of mental health services, would occupy the “client” seat. A couple of years later, I applied for an appointment to the same board. The County's mental health bureaucrats were looking for people to fill numerous vacancies and I'd hoped to get an inside look at services I suspected ranged from non-existent to incompetent. The Board itself existed as the usual funding pretext public agencies require to keep state and federal monies rolling their way. (Mendocino County has about 50 of these phony advisory boards, few of them at any one time with a full complement of stooges.) I was invited to be interviewed by a panel of “clients,” meaning the tamer crazy people Mental Health trotted out Potemkin-style as living testimony to their sterling work with the mentally ill. I went over mondo-boffo with the nuts. They unanimously approved me for the Mental Health Board, but their opinion was ignored by the “sane” people on the board who voted me down. I didn't get the appointment, Leonard did. He and I both thought it was funny.
FACTOID from CNN’s South Carolina exit polls in Saturday’s Republican primary: 65% of the 2,381 (Republican) voters polled described themselves as “born again or evangelical Christian.”
AS EXPECTED, Mendocino County has been designated Chief Planner Roger Mobley as “Acting Director of Planning and Building Services,” in the wake of the departure of former P&B Honcho Nash Gonzalez who left for a much higher paying job in Santa Clara County earlier this month. In the announcement Mr. Mobley is referred to as “Roger” throughout the official announcement, making it clear that the gray-haired “Roger” is now a full-fledged member of the palsy-walsy “Department Heads” club.
THE NINERS LOST BY 3 in overtime Sunday at Candlestick. Unable to convert a third down for the whole game, questionable play-calling, plus two crucial bad plays by the same guy, were responsible for the loss. The Giants played better, all-in-all, winning 20-17 on a sudden death field goal.
INEXPLICABLE TRAFFIC jams in the southern areas of the city caused fans to sit for hours in unmoving lines of vehicles. Some passengers jumped out of cars on the main off-ramp to the ‘Stick and walked to the stadium. A Muni “playoff express” bus reportedly left Van Ness and California at 11:30am but took more than three hours to reach the park. On the off-ramp, about a half a dozen people on that bus flipped open an emergency window and hopped out.
GIANTS FANS entering Candlestick were handed cards on how to contact police if they felt threatened; undercover cops dressed in Giants gear patrolled the crowd.
WHEN I ARRIVED at Occupy San Francisco at California and Montgomery at about 1pm Friday afternoon, a dozen or so protesters had been arrested, several of whom had locked down at the entrance to Wells Fargo Bank. About a thousand people had turned out, many of them with placards that said they weren’t afraid of the One Percent. I am. Afraid of the One Percent, I mean. If you're not afraid of the One Percent you must be unaware of their history. Just because they haven't opened fire on us lately doesn't mean they wouldn't hesitate to the instant they are really, truly threatened. Right now, we're comic relief, as Friday's fizzled Frisco demo emphasized. Big tactical error to call for a shut down without a guarantee you'll have the troops to pull it off. Anyway, Friday's shuffle around the financial district coincided with the two-year anniversary of the decision by the Supreme Court to remove all limits on political contributions, meaning the rich and their corporations gained even more control over the political system than they've always had. A small group of protesters also marched in the Mission District at a Bank of America hoping to disrupt foreclosure auctions. Newly elected Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, indicted on charges he assaulted his wife, showed up in support just as he's being deserted by the “progressives” who've always supported him. The alleged assault is being portrayed like a machete murder, but seems to have consisted merely of mutually disrespectful language and The Sheriff grabbing his wife by the arm, leaving a bruise. Maybe she flew at him like a banshee and he had to restrain her. Who knows? He isn't saying what happened, probably because when he does talk he sounds like he's translating from the Albanian and makes little or no sense. His wife is obviously a screwball, as is he for marrying her. If you marry after the kid is born and in Year One of wedded bliss, having vowed to love, cherish and take your turn doing the dishes, you're screaming obscenities at each other with the kid looking on, well, what could The Murk, as my brother Bicycle Man calls him, expect? Incidentally, Bike Man, since he and Mary Miles, left Mendocino County a decade ago, has devoted himself to stopping bike lanes in San Francisco. Hell, we all know bicycles are a huge problem in this country, but devoting your life to fighting them seems just a little unhinged, doesn't it? Miss Miles, a transplanted Potter Valley pot farmer and a truly gifted cartoonist whose work used to appear in the AVA, is now an attorney who does Bike Man's legal work. When I'm in The City I get around on a bike I call MaryRob. Bike, foot or bus are the only plausible means of efficient urban transportation in crowed Frisco, and private automobiles ought to be banned, at least east of VanNess. Bike Man and I both live in wholly subsidized apartments funded by our nephew, Robert Mailer Anderson. I mention it because I'm confronted with these relationships at least once a week, and let the record show I am very fond of Nicola and Robert Mailer Anderson. And I love San Francisco. But its current domination by an oppressively pious media that constantly promotes personalities about as vivid as the high rises these self-certified “progressives” have built for millionaires, makes it hard to find anything to read weekends. Here's what I mean about the SF progs, many of whom are barely liberals: The media all reported that Mirkarimi's successor as supervisor is “a bisexual Latina.” So bleeping what? The Murk himself is about as qualified to be Sheriff as I am, but the progs are always promoting each other in between celebrations of themselves as “highly evolved human beings,” as one modestly described himself and his friends. I search The City on a weekly basis for evidence of progressive political policy but so far have found only The Presidio's revival, and thank the goddesses the feds didn't turn The Presidio over to San Francisco. The antidote to Frisco's neo-presbyterianism remains Warren Hinckle's always lively Argonaut, now on-line as a quarterly. The only American editor of whom it can legitimately be said — “He never once produced a boring publication” — Hinckle ought to have a regular column in the Chron or one of the tedious weeklies (sex ads and food reviews wrapped around lib lab commentary) if the tepid cultural life of the place is to ever again become even half as interesting as it constantly advertises itself as.