Mendocino County Today: July 5, 2013

by AVA News Service, July 4, 2013

WHAT ABOUT SOME PATRIOTISM FOR AMERICA?

A Message to Big Corporations

by RALPH NADER

The 4th of July is synonymous with patriotism. Tomorrow, all over the country, Americans will congregate to spend time with family and friends, barbecue, watch fireworks, and celebrate our nation’s independence. Many will recite the pledge of allegiance or sing the national anthem. Wouldn’t it be appropriate for the large corporations that were founded in the United States to show a similar acknowledgement of patriotism?

After all, these corporations rose to their enormous size on the backs of American workers. Their success can be attributed to taxpayer-subsidized research and development handouts. Not to mention those corporations that rushed to Washington D.C. for huge bailouts from the taxpayers when mismanagement or corruption got them into serious trouble.

How do these companies show their gratitude to their home country? Many of them send jobs overseas to dictatorial regimes and oligarchic societies who abuse their impoverished workers — all in the name of greater profits. Meanwhile, back home, corporate lobbyists continue to press for more privileges and immunities so as to be less accountable under U.S. law for corporate crimes and other misbehaviors.

In a survey conducted by the Center for Study of Responsive Law, twenty of the largest unions and twenty of the largest U.S. Chartered corporations were asked the following simple question on three separate occasions:

Do you think it desirable to have your CEO and/or your president at your annual shareholders meetings stand up on the stage and, in the name of your company (not your diverse board of directors), pledge allegiance to our flag that is completed by the ringing phrase “with liberty and justice for all?”

In this survey, nine of the twenty unions replied that they do “pledge allegiance to the flag …with liberty and justice for all” or, as a substitute, sing the national anthem.

Only two of the twenty corporations — Chevron and Walmart — responded with an explanation of their company’s view of patriotism, but declined to respond directly to the question. Some of the companies that chose not to respond are: Apple, GE, GM, Verizon, J.P. Morgan Chase and Co., AT&T, Ford, ExxonMobil, Bank of America and others.

See nader.org for the full list of companies and unions that were sent the letter, including which ones that responded and which did not.

Back in 1996, a similar survey was sent to 100 of the largest chartered corporations. Thirty-four of them responded, and all but one explained why they declined to say the Pledge of Allegiance at their annual shareholders meeting. (Federated Department Stores was the only company that embraced the idea.) Many of the corporations misconstrued the request by explaining that it might offend foreign nationals who might be on their boards of Directors. (The request was crystal clear; it was to have the CEO stand up and pledge allegiance on behalf of their U.S. chartered corporation… ) After all, it’s these very CEOs who want their American companies to be treated as “persons” under our constitution in order to retain and expand their powerful privileges and immunities.

In an age of increased jingoism about freedom and American ideals, the comparative yardsticks of patriotism should be applied frequently and meticulously to the large U.S. corporations that rove the world seeking advantages from other countries, to the detriment of the United States. It is our country that chartered them into existence and helped insure their success and survival. And these corporations now wield immense power in our elections, in our economy, over our military and foreign policies, and even in how we spend time with our friends and families.

The 4th of July is an ideal time to call out these runaway corporate giants who exploit the patriotic sensibilities of Americans for profit and, in wars, for profiteering, but decline to be held to any patriotic expectations or standards of their own.

(Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.)

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PATRIOTIC FOOTNOTES: Remember when that French big shot raped the hotel maid? The French polls showed that the French, overwhelmingly, thought the hotel maid was lying while Americans, overwhelmingly, believed the hotel maid. Myself, I could never live any place else.

AND TRUE to their ongoing betrayal of the French Revolution, the French have denied Edward Snowden political sanctuary.

“WHEN IN THE COURSE of human events, it becomes necessary for our people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…impel them to separation.”

AND SO ON thunders our Declaration Of Independence, here and there interchangeably describing Americans and Native Americans as savages because we didn't wear red coats and march straight into the bullets.

IF YOU READ the document substituting “oligarchs” for King George, you have an accurate picture of the current political situation in America where, to varying degrees, most of us are economic serfs without representation at the federal level of government while only some of us are represented at the state level.

MY LAST LINK to the federal government was severed about five years ago when the Post Office stopped delivering my newspaper in a timely manner. But long before that I'd developed a robust contempt for my elected reps except, I should say, for four members of the current Mendocino County Board of Supervisors. (Hamburg represents himself, and the more committed stoners and the outpatients clustered at the Mendo ListServe.) The four supervisors do make an honest effort to represent the true interests of the people of Mendocino County. It's safe to say that most elected boards of supervisors and city councils are as committed to the people of their regions and towns.

BUT AT ALL the higher levels of government, elected people carry water for the owners of the country — collections of concentrated capital variously called corporations, the one percent, the ruling class, and so on. Democrats and Republicans are wholly owned subsidiaries of the upper echelons of the owning classes.

ALL THIS IS OBVIOUS to citizens of most countries because they understand how capitalism works and they know their place in the class system capitalism creates. Americans, most of whom are now descending the class ladder, are slowly awakening to the realities of our social-political system and, when fully awake, well, it won't be pretty, but we're at the point where we've got to have another revolution or our children and grandchildren won't even be allowed into the starting blocks to pursue the happiness we're guaranteed by what's left of our shredded Constitution.

MYSELF, I'm going to listen to the Giants game, enjoy an afternoon of gluttony and general over-indulgence with relatives, climb up on the roof for the fireworks tonight, and call it a day. We may be seriously on the skids as a country, but it's still possible to have a good time.

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ACCORDING TO THE US National Weather Service in Eureka’s Facebook page, Over 500 cloud to ground lightning strikes occurred yesterday and last night in the three county area of Trinity, Humboldt, and Mendocino counties. Multiple small fires have been reported in the Shasta-Trinity and Mendocino National Forests. If you see a smoke plume, especially a small one that may not be known about yet, be safe and call 911 to report it. If firefighters can get to a fire quickly they can keep it from getting out of control.

lightning1MENDOCINO COUNTY was zapped overnight by numerous lightning strikes over a period of hours, igniting small wildland fires at Goat Rock south of the Ukiah Boonville Road, one on a ridgetop near Yorkville, one between Hopland and Ukiah off Burke Hill, and one not far from Lake Pillsbury. So far none of the local fires have presented much of a problem, but lookouts are on the alert in case one flares up. A mist-like rain fell overnight but was so light as to be immeasurable in Boonville. Philo residents said they got a bit more.

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LAST TUESDAY, JULY 2 we asked:

WHY THE SECRECY? Carmel Angelo, Mendocino County's chief executive officer, will be answering written questions at Fort Bragg Town Hall on Friday, July 12, 2013 beginning at 10:30am from, it seems, invited persons only. Brandon Merritt is screening the questions for Her Majesty. He can be reached at 463-7236, merrittb@co.mendocino.ca.us

THE NEXT DAY, July 3, the day after we outed the CEO office’s for trying to hold a budget meeting “by invitation only,” the County CEO’s office released the following press release:

County Kicks Off District Budget Presentations. The Public Is Invited To Attend The July 12, 2013 Forum At Fort Bragg Town Hall.

Mendocino County Chief Executive Officer, Carmel J. Angelo, is scheduled to present a County Budget Update/State of the County informational presentation in the 4th Supervisorial District on Friday, July 12, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon at the Fort Bragg Town Hall.

At the start of this year’s county budget process, the Executive Office announced that informational budget presentations would be scheduled in each of the County’s five supervisorial districts. With the beginning of the new Fiscal Year on July 1, the Executive Office is scheduling the budget presentations to be held before the September 9, 2013 County budget hearings.

The presentation will include highlights of the County’s 2013/2014 Recommended Budget, a State of the County update, and items of interest in the 4th District. The intent of these presentations is to inform the audience of the workings of County government and to provide a high level of transparency and accountability to all Mendocino County residents. It is hoped that those interested in performing their civic duty will continue to stay engaged in the workings of local government.

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LONG-TIME INTERNET STALKER, Michael Hardesty, has been sending his nasty opinions to our website under the name Martin Zemitis, a successful Berkeley entrepreneur. For years, Hardesty wrote to us under various pseudonyms. At first, he's more or less rational, insofar as your generic Randian nutball can be said to be rational. But soon, unable to contain himself, Hardesty's racist and homophobic rants betray him and we cut him off. The Zemitis cover means that Hardesty, banned from newspaper websites throughout the Bay Area, in his desperation to vilify whole populations of people, has moved into identity theft. We apologize to Mr. Zemitis for any embarrassment he's suffered from this lunatic appropriating his name.

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JOHN SAKOWICZ WRITES:

“Nice response to Ukiah City Council Member, Mari Rodin, in today’s “Mendocino County Today” blog. Thank you.

The indisputable fact is that the City of Ukiah has what’s called a “structural deficit”. The structural deficit happened two years ago as a result of the city’s Redevelopment Authority (RDA) being dissolved per state law (AB 126) and a California Supreme Court decision that upheld the law.

The deficit is of $900 000 is now baked into the budget, meaning that if the City Council doesn’t cut the excessive number of executive positions/salaries at the top of its personnel chart, the city can expect this deficit to be recurring year after year going forward into the future.

Why? Because in an accounting shell game masterminded by City Manager Jane Chambers, Assistant City Manager Sage Sangiacomo, and City Finance Director Gordon Elton, that $900,000 in RDA monies were used to pad the salaries of those very same executives.

Shocking. Absolutely shocking.

Some say it was self–enrichment at its worst.

It’s all public information. See the Grand Jury’s report:: http://www.co.mendocino.ca.us/grandjury/pdf/1112-RDA_Successor_Agencies.pdf

As a footnote: I think Mari Rodin announced her resignation from the Ukiah City Council effective in August. I think I heard that she has accepted an analyst position at Monterey County LAFCO.”

WE WENT BACK to the Grand Jury Report Mr. Sakowicz referred to. Here’s an excerpt from the “Summary” in the 2012 Grand Jury RDA report:

“The 2010-2011 report found that the City used RDA funds to pay significant portions of the salaries and benefits of 18 employees, many of them executive employees. The report also found that some of RDA project time lacked documentation by a code system intended to track staff hours on RDA projects.”

SO WE WENT BACK to the 2010-2011 report:

Finding 14. “Employee salaries are paid with RDA funds disproportionate to the time spent on RDA business. More than one RDA employees’ salary and benefits are paid 100% with RDA funds even though they do not perform 100% RDA business.”

And,

Finding 24. “The RDA is using funds to pay significant portions of 18 employees’ salaries and benefits: City Manager/Exec. Dir.: 50%. Senior Planner: 40%. Ass’t City Mgr.: 80%. Assoc. Planner: 25%. City Clerk: 50%. Ass’t Engineer: 31%. Ass’t Finance Dir.: 15%. Accounting Ass’t.: 15%. Director of Finance: 35%. Administrative Sec.: 20%. Project and Grant Admin.: 100%. Administrative Sec.: 40%. Finance Controller: 7%. Park Service Worker: 60%. Accountant: 15%. Director of Public Works: 8%. Senior Civil Engineer: 32%. Director, Planning & Community Dev.: 35%.”

The City of Ukiah Responded:

“The Ukiah Redevelopment Agency pays for a percentage portion of the salaries and benefits of employees that share duties between the URA and the City of Ukiah. The Agency does not pay a disproportionate share of City salaries. The percentage varies among personnel in accordance with the estimated time spent on duties associated with each of the respective agencies and is approved by both agencies with each fiscal year’s budget. The shared resource model increases efficiency through the elimination of redundant administrative staffing and services for both agencies. In Fiscal Year 2010/11 the URA and the City of Ukiah had only one full time staff member funded at 100% with redevelopment funds.”

TRANSLATION: Ukiah jiggered the timecards so that highly paid financial staffers and managers billed more of their time to RDA than to the Ukiah General Fund so that they could continue to be employed at their generous salaries while appearing to be saving money for the City’s budget. The specific percentages reported by the Grand Jury were not disputed and they show that the City Manager and her assistant spent 50% and 80% respectively on RDA business. Ridiculous on its face. Clearly the numbers were skewed to overbill the RDA account where the money was. Mr. Sakowicz calls it self-enrichment and that’s fair to say, although it’s also standard issue bureaucratic empire building for no other reason than: “because that’s where the money is.”

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15thrc_front4WTHE MENDOCINO COAST FURNITUREMAKERS (including my husband Les Cizek) celebrate their 15th Anniversary with a show at Odd Fellows Hall in Mendocino. The show opens July 3, but the Opening Reception will be Saturday, July 13, 5-8 pm. I'll be there with butterbean hummus (you have to taste it to understand) and — maybe — the dastardly brownies. Hope you can come.

— Norma Watkins

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2 Responses to Mendocino County Today: July 5, 2013

  1. John Sakowicz Reply

    July 5, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Again, thanks for the AVA’s excellent reporting on the now-dissolved RDA at the City of Ukiah and how the RDA subsidized an excessive number of management positions that have yet to be cut from the city’s payroll.

    As the city continues to struggle with a $1 million budget deficit, I can only wonder why the City Council hesitates to make these necessary cuts,

  2. Steve Reply

    July 5, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    Thanks and kudos for again ‘outing’ Hardesty, posting under yet another fake name. It was obvous from the vile idiocy and purile language who that really was. Mr. Zemitis ought to sue him.

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