Mendocino County Today: March 6, 2013

by Bruce Anderson, March 6, 2013

IN A BRIEF conversation with Supervisor Pinches on Monday, the Supervisor said the recent study confirming that predators are largely responsible for a reduction in the state’s deer herds, is consistent with his views. “For years, Fish and Game said coyotes did not kill fawns. I guess they’ve changed their minds on that one.” The Supervisor was annoyed at our criticism of the Willits Bypass project. We reminded him that way back we’d seconded his support for a bypass to run along the railroad right of way through the Little Lake Valley because, as Pinches pointed out long before the project was approved, “During the big floods of ’55 and ’64 the line through Willits didn’t move.” Meaning, the railroad surveyors at the dawn of the 20th century placed the track on the likeliest geological path through the Little Lake Valley. “The bypass route now,” Pinches said, “is a regional project all the north counties want, but it’s been designed not so much by engineers as it has various agencies. You know under CEQUA (California Environmental Quality Act) there’s a no-build option, but everyone came back and said, ‘We need a bypass.’ The environmental process is over. Caltrans should escort the protesters off the site because it’s now a construction site. There’s $35 million in local funds committed here and the bypass will divert about 40 percent of the present traffic that now goes through Willits, including all the fuel trucks. We’re lucky we’ve never had an accident downtown involving them.”

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THE SF CHRON of 26 February featured a front page story on Boontling called “Famous Last Words — Boontling speakers sad to see celebrated local dialect fade away.” And, above the fold, a color photo of our very own Rod DeWitt with an explanatory caption reading, “Rod DeWitt says his goodbyes to his friends at the Redwood Drive-In in Boonville. At 54, DeWitt is the youngest of a group of pals who gather regularly to shoot the breeze in the town’s old Boontling dialect.” Much of the story by Kevin Fagan quotes Wes Smoot harpin’ (speaking) Boont and goes on to say Smoot, beginning his eighth decade, is one of only 11 persons fluent in the lingo. Three Bay Area radio stations immediately called your beloved community newspaper for Smoot’s home phone number and, from what I can gather, the affable Boonville retiree, a show biz natural, was soon harpin’ Boont to the brightlighters (city folks).

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COMMENT OF THE DAY 1: “I’ve never understood why school people don’t simply state the obvious, which is that in confused, deteriorating times like these, schoolin’ the young ‘uns is very difficult, that the popular culture overwhelms them just as their hormones are moaning loudest, that there’s evil music, cretinous television, sub-dumb movies, bad food, Republicans, and a variety of seductive gizmos, all of it flowing into the distracted little heads of young people, and all of it militating against mastery of the 3-R’s. Instead, our high school staff says, ‘We’re among the best schools in the country (!) and anybody who says we aren’t is either nuts or malicious. And since we’re excellent our boss must be excellent, too, and how dare you fire him, which is like firing us? Let us be in our excellence’.”

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SOON TO BE LISTED as an endangered species in Mendocino County, the Mendocino County Republican Central Committee will meet Saturday, March 16, 2013, 10:00 AM – 12:00 Noon at Moura Senior Housing, 400 South Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437.

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ACCORDING TO A REPORT issued by the California League of Cities, the California State Association of Counties, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Mendocino and Lake counties are among seven counties rated as home to “poor” pavement conditions on a scale from zero to 49. Mendocino scored a 37 — second worst in the state behind Amador County. Lake County roads came in at 40. It would cost Mendocino County, including its incorporated towns, some $617 million to bring our roads up to speed (sic), the report said.

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COMMENT OF THE DAY 2 (by Paul LaMonica, CNN Money): So why are stocks still surging? Central banks, most notably the Federal Reserve, are continuing to do everything they can to keep the market afloat. Short-term interest rates have not budged since December 2008. They remain near zero. The Fed has also been buying bonds and mortgage-backed securities through several crisis-era programs to keep long-term rates low. The yield on the 10-year Treasury right now is 1.9%. Back in October 2007, the 10-year was yielding 4.66%. This has created an environment that’s perfect for stocks. The Fed is encouraging investors to take more risks. But it is still acting like the financial crisis hasn’t ended. Companies also remain cautious. Many blue chips have been hoarding cash. Ahem, Apple(AAPL). Businesses have also done all they can to cut expenses (which often means layoffs) to keep their bottom lines growing. Corporate profits were up more than 33% from October 2007 through last July (the most recent figures available via FRED). Of course, I’m not trying to demonize corporate success. But there is a bigger disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street now than there was nearly five-and-a-half years ago. Yes. the Dow may be at an all-time high. And the broader S&P 500 may soon hit a new peak of its own. But the American consumer is still hurting. Don’t forget that as you read all the headlines about this record-setting bull market.

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WHO? WHAT? WHEN? WHERE? HOW? WHY?

Editor,

Whatever happened to Who, What, When, Where, How, and most importantly, Why? As a resident with no children in school, reading your screed on trustees’ failure to renew high school principal Tomlin’s contract leaves me in the dark. Especially coupled with the parallel, referenced but unreported, story of Tomlin’s aborted suspension? termination? of Ben Anderson as baseball coach. Perhaps your famous mast-head homily “Editors should have no friends” should be changed to “Editors should have no families.”

Why did trustees Lemons, Sanchez-Mendoza and Anderson decide that things needed to change at the high school? What are the serious issues which would require such an abrupt, public, and disruptive action? Are parents in revolt? Which, how many, over what? What is the issue which caused two anti-Tomlin letters from Sanchezes (and one from our usual “pusillanimous and anonymous in Boonville”). What is the “controversial discipline matter of the previous year” which the principal “defended”? Or is the teaching staff in revolt? Your editorial denunciations of a supposed entrenched teachers’ cabal argues to the contrary (and is somewhat contradicted by your long-term prior extolling of the cabalists, Borst and the Coxes in particular, now apparently out of editorial favor). Is this a fight over academic standards or over how the athletic program is run? What will the school look for in program changes on either front? Will you have some answers from the new trustee majority? — Gene Herr, Navarro

ED REPLY: One more time for the kids in the back row: Who? Tomlin. What? Fired. When? 25th of March. Where? High school cafeteria. How? 3-2 vote of the school board. Why? Not getting it done. I thought I’d touched all the Journalism 101 bases, but people do tend to read and hear what they need to read and hear. One more time, slow and bouncy: I reported on the meeting, Mrs. Herr, during which the trus­tees, on the advice of their attorney, were not permitted to speak. I made it clear, I thought, that the next day Tomlin fired the baseball coach, Superintendent Collins immediately un-fired the baseball coach and Tomlin went away and has been away ever since. Because all that happened last Tuesday, our deadline day, and because the communications to the board on the matter are also sequestered, you know what I know. The meeting, incidentally, was called by Collins and trustee Bradford because Collins, who always sits in on closed sessions, had run directly from a prior closed session to inform Tomlin three trustees did not want to renew Tomlin’s contract. If you think it’s appropriate, to invoke the preferred local ethical adjective, that an employee of the district not only sits in on closed conversations of his employers but rats them out, say so. You might also walk down your Holmes Ranch Road to ask your neighbor Collins why he thinks three trustees want a new high school principal and report back to the rest of us. I’m not going to re-hash last year’s discipline cases. If you were paying attention at the time you’d know that it involved an off-campus fight whose disciplinary upshot was botched by Tomlin. “Long-term prior extolling”? You really aren’t paying attention. Is this a fight over academic standards? I hope so. The State Department of Education, whose study was cited in last week’s article, says our students don’t meet UC admission standards. That finding ought to alarm parents and the taxpayers who fund the local education effort, and that finding alone is more than enough evidence that the high school needs new direction. But the teachers who spoke last week, emitting a palpable cult vibe unfelt in the Anderson Valley to say they do an excellent job at an excellent high school, that they and their principal are therefore excellent. Most years I see the scholarship applications my nephew receives. I would say very few graduates of the local schools are getting a high school education. I think a school board that doesn’t move to improve school performance should be removed. I also think the school board, at least three of them, have taken a major step in the right direction of at last installing an intelligent, energetic person in the principal’s chair. PS. The correct Joseph Pulitzer quote is “Newspapers should have no friends.”

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