A CLOSE OBSERVER of municipal lawsuits against the state’s Department of Finance summarizes them this way: “We started this project and if you don’t let us finish, the City will suffer harm/hardship.” Most of the lawsuits sound similar themes. They always find ways to spend the money on themselves and on pet projects with no public involvement. The various City RDA’s, and certainly the City of Ukiah, fall right in line; they believe the RDA money is their money, no matter what state law now says. In point of fact, the RDAs have intercepted beau coup dollars that would otherwise have gone to the County of Mendocino, school districts (Ukiah Unified, MCOE, Mendocino College), and special districts (fire departments, water and sewer, cemeteries, recreation, etc.). Some of the RDA money got spent appropriately by Ukiah, but millions were siphoned off by the City of Ukiah to pay administrative salaries and fund pet projects like the preposterous School Street dining platform and bike corral, an enhancement for a private business favored by Westside yuppies who have three elected reps — Mari Rodin, Benj Thomas and Mary Ann Landes — on the City Council.
BUT THE STATE is saying the gravy train has chugged into the final station, that it’s time to wind down the RDAs, liquidate assets and distribute the proceeds and cash on account to the taxing agencies from whom it was taken and is due.
THE THREE INLAND school reps on the Ukiah Redevelopment “Successor Agency” (the people who are supposed to wind things down, but who are mostly the same people who were on the agencies that wound them up) are siding with Ukiah officials at every turn, although following the law would result in money going back to the schools and other deserving public agencies. But the educrats see that as a problem. There are a series of “pass through” agreements with the schools that provide that funds be set aside in “capital improvement” accounts for the benefit of those entities, which allows them to spend it on things like the new totally indefensible edu-admin office on South Orchard Ave that is now being built by Ukiah Unified, a school district that seems to exist, as does the notorious boondoggle known as the Mendocino County Office of Education, to serve its over-large administrative cadre.
IF THE PASS THROUGH agreements were ended, the money would have to be spent on things like books and teachers, apparently a terrifying prospect to County School Superintendent Paul Tichinin and the rest of the County’s edu-leeches. So the local school districts are siding with Ukiah in trying to get the state to allow Ukiah to spend millions that would otherwise be distributed to the schools in return for a green light to divert millions more from direct educational outlays, instead of having both go directly to the schools.
LEE HOWARD, appointed by the Board of Supervisors as the public’s representative to the City of Ukiah’s RDA oversight committee is the only one who reliably will speak up to ask the obvious question: “Excuse me, does anyone here happen to care what the state law says about that?” If the Ukiah City Council doesn’t begin to pay close attention, they could wind up like Arcata.
WE WERE NOT SURPRISED to see former Assemblyman Dan Hauser’s snout in the Redevelopment trough. According to Arcata Eye Editor Kevin Hoover’s story about Arcata’s apparent Redevelopment misbehavior and the state’s attempt to get their money back from Arcata, Hauser wound up in an executive position for an organization which received millions of questionable redevelopment dollars and which contributed greatly to Arcata’s latest dispute with the State Department of Finance which has demanded its redevelopment millions back.
Speaking on behalf of ROP [“Resident Owned Parks,” a non-profit organization that soaked up millions of redevelopment dollars for 16 homes and 3 apartments in Arcata known as “Sandpiper”), Dan Hauser called the Department of Finance decision “outrageous.” “Some lower-level bureaucrat in the Department of Finance has taken it upon themselves to overturn not only a realistic determination of the law, but the City and the Oversight Board,” Hauser said. He said ROP can’t give back money it has already spent. “Obviously, there’s no way that ROP or any of the other moderate and low-income housing folks could send money back to the City,” he said. “That would bankrupt the organization. I guess we just hand over Sandpiper to the state, unfinished?” Hauser said he’d already been in touch with the offices of Chesbro and Evans. “This is one of those things that we’re going to have to involve our legislators to correct the Department of Finance,” he said, noting that “nothing will happen until after the first of the year.” Hauser decried “a flat-out misinterpretation of the law” and said that “a low-level bureaucrat wielding all this power is something we may have to take up with the governor.” Lamenting “the absurdity of the whole thing,” Hauser added, “All we’re trying to do is provide housing for folks. To be slapped down this way is outrageous.”
YEAH, RIGHT. And all the long-dormant NCRA was doing (which Hauser ran at a nice profit to himself while never shipping anything) was “trying to provide transportation for stuff.”
CHRISTINA AANESTAD WRITES: “Time to pack my bags and get ready for an exciting January 2013. Tomorrow is my last day of training to be KMUD's News Co-Coordinator in Humboldt County. Friday is my first day on the job. It's been years since I've done a daily half hour newscast and I'm a little nervous and very excited to boot! I'll be working with KMUD's Terri Klemetson on coordinating news for the month of January, every other week, and look forward to being back in the saddle again! I've recently accepted a temporary position with KMUD as their evening news co-coordinator in Humboldt County. I'm looking for a place to stay while I'm there, that is also affordable, even a house sit, preferably in Redway or thereabouts. If you know of anyone or have referrals, please let me know or pass on my info. I also have great references for house sitting. Thanks, Christina Aanestad, Publisher, Mendocino Country Independent, (707) 355-0183, www.mendocinocountry.com”
THE EMERALD GROWER'S ASSOCIATION (EGA) and CalNORML have “quickly lent the support of their legal advisors and community action teams” to Mendocino County's demand that the feds clarify their subpoenas for Mendocino County's pot records. Those subpoenas were issued on October 23rd and named Auditor-Controller Meredith Ford, Sheriff Tom Allman, Sheriff's Office Financial Manager Norman Thurston, and Under-Sheriff's Randy Johnson; Johnson was in charge of the County's medical marijuana garden inspection program — and is named by the feds as the "custodian of records." The EGA's Executive Director, Kristin Neveda's press release said, “This action [the federal subpoenas] is yet another example of the egregious misuse of federal funds by US Attorney Melinda Haag. Federal pressure has cost the county hundreds of thousands in lost revenue from the sheriff’s zip tie program. In addition, the Board of Supervisors found it necessary to expend funds to hire outside counsel with the kind of expertise needed to handle these issues. The continued waste of taxpayers’ money to attempt to prosecute those who are trying to abide by the law is an outrage.” The feds are demanding “any and all records” related to the County’s medical marijuana cultivation ordinance from Jan. 1, 2010 to the present, including all communications regarding County Code Section 9.31 with third-party garden inspectors and the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors. The County’s recently hired outside attorney has responded to the feds by saying that the US Attorney’s Office hasn’t made it clear why it wants the information.
BOONVILLE’S CAFÉ AQUARELLE restaurant got a well-deserved nice write-up in yesterday’s Sacramento Bee.
“In Boonville, private chef Christina Jones brings together a fusion of flavors to Cafe Aquarelle (14025 Hwy. 128, Boonville, 707-895-2767). Recent menus include Berkshire pork chops with apple-caramelized onion chutney and buttermilk mashed potatoes ($18) to truffle fries with house made aioli ($8) and skillet prawns with garlic butter and white wine ($13).” Which, of course, just skims the surface of the fine dining available at reasonable prices. (Also mentioned were the newly opened “Saucy” restaurant in Ukiah and the Hopland Ale House.)
PUBLIC EVENT: Zoning & Building Code Changes Supporting Sustainable Development Mendocino Coast Transition Towns will hold a discussion about zoning and building code changes supporting sustainable development in Mendocino County, on Saturday, 19 January 2013 at 2PM at the Community Center of Mendocino. They will discuss code changes needed to make our community more ecologically sustainable, resilient, and local. Examples include chickens, solar systems, and cob building materials. For more information, call Charles Cresson Wood at 707 937 5572.