By Howard Belkamp
Ramblin’ around this dirty old town
Scroungin’ for nickels and dimes
Times getting rough I ain’t got enough
To buy me a bottle of wine
Bottle of wine, fruit of the vine
When you gonna let me get sober
Leave me alone, let me go home
Let me go back and start over
Little hotel, older than Hell
Cold and as dark as a mine
Blanket so thin, I lie there and grin
Buy me little bottle of wine
Aches in my head, bugs in my bed
Pants so old that they shine
Out on the street, tell the people I meet
Won’cha buy me a bottle of wine
— Tom Paxton
* * *
Have you noticed, we don’t have the term “wino” anymore?
It was around 1978 when I had my first and only Northern California “wine-tasting” experience. We were driving north to Willits, to visit Jim Gibbons, the poet, athlete, sportswriter and all-around not-very-nice person who was busy becoming famous for being able to run long distances without dropping dead, and for writing stories offensive enough to get him fired from certain positions in the local education establishment.
We got as far as northern Sonoma or southern Mendocino, I can’t remember which, when, having recently switched from amphetamine addiction to alcoholism, I realized it was time for a drink. No bars or liquor stores were in sight, but just around the next curve a winery appeared. The sign said, “Tasting Room.” My wife rolled her eyeballs when I said, “Let’s drop in for a taste,” but she didn’t hesitate to join me. In the parking lot, I combed my hair and straightened my clothes in hopes of creating the illusion that I was a sophisticated, classy sort of person, the kind who discriminates carefully in matters such as wine selection.
The winery itself was an impressive building — very large and very clean, and occupying some very expensive real estate — obviously designed for the sophisticated, classy sort of person. No doubt about it, our car, a beat-up ‘65 Valiant, was the crummiest one there and looked cheap indeed next to the shiny new Winnebagos and luxury sedans.
The Tasting Room looked more like a bar than I’d expected, but a classy bar, lined with well-dressed people from the shiny cars. Nervously, thinking someone would spot me for a freeloading drunk, I eased up to the bar and in a discriminating manner read the labels on the bottles available for “tasting.” The bored-looking bartender walked over, looked at me and said nothing.
I now noticed that of all the available wines, none had a date, a vintage, or a recognizable wine-snob name. Picking one at random, I said, “I’d like to try this one, please,” as if really caring about anything but a free drink. The bartender produced a very small glass and poured my selection. I took a sip. It was junk, barely better than Thunderbird, Annie G-Strings or Night Train Express. Now there’s a powerful potion. My friend Buck drank a bottle of Night Train once and proceeded to get a can of gasoline and set his mattress on fire. At least he got it out of the house first.
Finishing the small glass of swill quickly, I scanned the other bottles and realized they were all equally low-grade material, but if I “tasted” all of them I might get a decent buzz on. The bartender did his duty as I moved down the line. Eventually I began to see the other “tasters” more clearly. Their new clothes and shiny vehicles were one thing, but their faces were a whole other story. They were a bunch of sots — wheezy, watery-eyed inebriates — here for the exact same reason as I was, a free dose of their drug of choice, and despite their expensive possessions, closer in mind and spirit to skid-row bums than wine connoisseurs.
I laughed out loud, realizing that unlike upper-class wine tasting sessions, there was really not much pretense going on here at all. This was all about nothing but drinking for free.
After sampling every bottle, we hit the road again. My wife drove, having imbibed only moderately. Leaving our tourist friends inside to repeat their samplings again and again, we knew we’d never view a retired couple in an RV or a northern California Wine Tasting room in quite the same light again.
During my two years of involvement on internet dating sites, I was shocked at the number of women who named wine tasting as one of their favorite activities. One of my acquaintances in Portland drank a lot of wine and “loves” wine tastings. Her alcohol addiction was covered with a fine veneer of what she regarded as sophistication, as though drinking wine wasn’t really drinking; rather, it was an expression of refined taste. A divorced woman, she also played around with dating sites but remarked that the “caliber” of men available in these venues was not up to her standards. I was such a man, thank goodness, and suspect this woman would be almost deliriously at home anywhere on the 101 corridor from Santa Rosa to Ukiah, where there are enough wine tasting rooms to drink oneself into oblivion while navigating to the next sophisticated gourmet experience.
STATE COMMISSION REPORT SNUBS 101 INTERCHANGE
By Daniel Mintz
The California Department of Transportation’s Arcata-Eureka Highway 101 improvement project has been deemed at odds with state law due to its most expensive aspect.
A staff report for the July 10 state Coastal Commission meeting describes the 101 project’s $23 million interchange at the Indianola Cutoff as being inconsistent with the California Coastal Act. The Commission staff’s recommendation is to deny certification of Coastal Act consistency, which Caltrans needs to do the project.
The Commission hearing won’t be held on July 10, however, as Caltrans has heeded calls for holding it in Humboldt County. It’s been postponed until September, when the Commission meets in Eureka, said Caltrans Public Information Officer Scott Burger.
He added that “the agenda change will better accommodate local public participation” and the commission staff report is “under review.”
Burger said Caltrans has no further comment. The agency has launched what Burger described as a “news and information blog” about the project at eurekaarcatacorridor.wordpress.com.
The commission staff report focuses on the interchange and states that it fails to comply with the Coastal Act. The interchange will displace wetlands and according to the staff report, its purpose doesn’t justify it because the goal is to expand traffic capacity instead of better accommodating existing traffic levels.
The staff report acknowledges that the project’s intent is to improve safety but it states that a less environmentally-damaging alternative is available — installing a traffic signal at Indianola. Growth inducement, sea level rise, visual impact and bicycle and pedestrian safety are also highlighted as concerns.
The findings were announced in a June 28 press release from Humboldt Baykeeper and the North Coast Environmental Center. It points out that the Humboldt County Association of Governments (HCAOG) approved using regional state funding for the 101 project but the cities of Arcata, Fortuna and Rio Dell dissented.
In 2011, the HCAOG majority approved half of the funding Caltrans needs to build the interchange. The plan is to build half of it and then apply for the funding needed to finish it. At the time, the Coastal Commission’s staff had indicated that the interchange wouldn’t jibe with the Coastal Act.
In the press release, Jen Kalt, Humboldt Baykeeper’s policy director, said filling in wetlands is only allowable for “very specific purposes — and an interchange isn’t one of them.” She adds that “this is something Caltrans has been informed of before and yet they continue to pursue the interchange.”
In an interview, Kalt was asked her thoughts about why the agency is persisting. Noting that Caltrans has “proceeded with lots of very controversial projects in recent years,” Kalt said the agency seems unconcerned about public comment on project costs, coastal access and bicycle/pedestrian access.
“They’re a road-building agency, obviously — we’ve seen a little bit of change but it’s very slow to change,” she added.
A Coastal Commission denial will force a reappraisal of the project and Kalt said that outcome is no surprise. “I think that privately, many of the public officials who voted to support funding this project have believed from the beginning that the Coastal Commission would deny the interchange,” she continued.
“The unfortunate reality is that all over California, local officials pass the buck to the Coastal Commission to protect the coast,” said Kalt.
Northcoast Environmental Center Executive Director Dan Ehresman is also quoted in the press release and he said that the interchange would be accompanied by median closures, leading to increased traffic speeds. That would make the Humboldt Bay stretch of 101 — which is designated by Caltrans as part of the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route — less safe for bicyclists, he continued.
Also in the release, Jessica Hall, Humboldt Baykeeper’s executive director, describes Caltrans’ other project alternatives as “undeveloped” and says the agency needs to “explore more realistic solutions.”
ACCORDING TO THE FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE website: “Dr. William J. Courtney is an evangelist for the medicinal use of non-psychoactive, RAW cannabis. Cannabis aka hemp is not psychoactive unless it is dried, cooked or burned, prior to ingestion. While still raw, however it does not affect the cognition or motor skills of its user and therefore, it can be taken in doses 60 times greater than burned cannabis. It is at these doses that cannabis becomes among the most anti- inflammatory compounds ever discovered, that has been proven to cure skin- and ovarian cancer, with medicinal applications for dozens of illnesses. Courtney believes that hemp/cannabis needs to be re-cast as a green, leafy vegetable that should be consumed every day as a nutritional supplement, preferably juiced, by those afflicted by painful inflammatory conditions like arthritis, IBS, etc. Dr. Donald Abrams, MD, Chief Hematology and Oncology at San Francisco General Hospital asserts that if cannabis were just discovered in the Amazon, people would be clamoring to make uses out of it. Instead, it suffers from the stigma of a “street drug” and worse — from the stiff legal sanctions against its possession or use in many states and countries. Courtney says that the FDA, which owns a patent on cannabis, recognizing its medicinal value should change its current status as a Schedule I narcotic with no accepted medical uses, as these two positions are in stark contradiction with one another.
A DAYLIGHT HOME INVASION in Hopland early Friday evening was said to have been committed by three black men who’d fled a home invasion at Hopland and took off south on 101 about 6pm. The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department alerted police agencies to be on the lookout for three black men heading south on 101 in a black Dodge Challenger. Cloverdale Police soon saw the car rocket past them on 101 and gave chase at a top speed estimated at 125mph. The fugitives abandoned the Challenger near Alderbrook due west of central Healdsburg. A house-to-house search that included a helicopter, three canine teams and some one hundred officers found only a duffel bag, which may or may not have contained marijuana.
UPDATE: Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputies located one suspect around 11pm Friday night and took him into custody. That suspect, later identified as Gregory Ladel Jenkins Jr., was positively identified by a victim as being one of the robbery suspects. At approximately 5:30am Saturday morning two more individuals thought to be suspects were detained by Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputies and were transported to Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputies. One of the suspects, identified as Michael Edwin Steele, was positively identified by one of the robbery victims. The third subject was later determined to have responded from Stockton, California at the request of Michael Edwin Steele, advising he had been robbed when he was trying to purchase marijuana in Santa Rosa. The third subject was unaware Michael Edwin Steele was being sought by law enforcement in regards to the Hopland robbery. After corroborating the third subject’s statement, he was released without charges. Sonoma County Law Enforcement agencies were advised to be on the lookout for the third suspect who fled from the Dodge Challenger and is outstanding at this time. Gregory Laden Jenkins Jr. and Michael Edwin Steele were booked into the Mendocino County Jail and were to be held on $250,000 bail. The investigation into the Hopland robbery is ongoing and anyone with information is urged to contact the Sheriff’s Office Tip-Line by calling 707-234-2100.
FOUNDER OF THE BOHO GROVE PROTESTS, MARY MOORE, INFORMS US THAT THERE WILL BE NO ORGANIZED DEMONSTRATIONS THIS YEAR:
For those who may have received information to the contrary, there will be no organized protest this year at the exclusive, all male, Bohemian Grove this July. There were some advanced proposals being considered about a “Squeaky Wheels” protest on July 20 which would have focused on the recent government sequester cuts which are disproportionately affecting the disabled, elderly and poor populations of this country. Because of internet confusion many people have not understood that this event was only a proposal and is not being planned.
Upcoming Movie Based On Bohemian Grove: In 2012 a movie production company based in Texas attended and filmed portions of the Cremation Of Care event filmed in Monte Rio for the 2012 protest. Bumbershoot Productions recently finished it’s second movie script after extensive research into why there have been protests for over three decades at this yearly July gathering along the Russian River in Monte Rio. They are now in casting and looking forward to a release in a year or so. The characters are fictional but based on the dynamics of the Bohemian Grove. Sponsored by the Bohemian Grove Action Network, protests at this annual two week encampment of the elite males from the Corporate, Financial, Military and Governmental circles began in 1980 when a network of anti nuclear groups researched WHO was profiting from the issue of nuclear power and weapons. While many issues have been raised since then the focus has always been on the Lakeside Talks given twice daily during their encampment. These talks are often on subjects that affect public policy without any public scrutiny. To see some highlights from over the years please visit the link below which will take you from 2003 all the way back to 1980.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up. We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred. I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1936
THERE’S NO WAY to spin this as a good thing — but it’s important what manner of bad messages are imparted. First off, a no-brainer: The data reveals that the number of San Francisco city residents not visiting the ER in a drunken haze has dropped from 9,957 out of 10,000 to 9,939. So, yes, alcohol-fueled visits have jumped by 42% (scary). But the overall rate has only risen from 0.4% to 0.6% (less so). The other conclusion is that San Francisco likely isn’t housing a greater number of alcoholics than in yesteryear, but, rather, the city’s alcoholics are drinking themselves into stupors more aggressively. 26,000 people spent time in a San Francisco “sobering center” by the end of 2011 or, the stat broken down, only 7,500 individuals. Roughly 80% of the people sent to the sobering center are repeat clients; 80% of them had a history of homelessness.
ON THE FOURTH OF JULY at about 8:19pm, Deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office received a radio call for service regarding a physical assault in the 100 block of Main Street in Point Arena. Deputies arrived at approximately 9pm and contacted the victim, Timothy Hall. Hall told Deputies that the suspect, Janet Guess (aka “Janet Planet”), had entered his home and demanded that he give her his prescription medications. After Hall refused to provide Guess with his prescription medications, Guess took possession of Hall’s cane and struck Hall in the head causing a minor visible injury. Hall was able to take the cane away from Guess after a brief struggle. Guess continued to demand Hall’s medications then attacked Hall by striking him several times with closed fists. Guess then left the location and Hall called 911. Deputies contacted Guess who was subsequently arrested for attempted robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse and ultimately transported to the Mendocino County Jail where she was booked to be held in lieu of $150,000 bail. (Sheriff’s Press Release)
BOOZE IN MENDO: Menace Or Cash Cow?
by Mark Scaramella
Cash cow, of course. And a sacred one, too.
The Board of Supervisors was not kindly disposed to Meredyth Reinhard’s presentation on Tuesday, June 18. An austere-looking woman whose spiel made her doubly reminiscent of Carrie Nation, Miss Reinhard, of the County’s Public Health Department, spent about half an hour reading a powerpoint presentation aimed at informing Mendo’s booze-friendly leadership that there’s lots of drinking going on, much of it “excessive.” We also know that we have lots of places to buy liquor not including the many roadside wine boutiques, and we know that many underage people drink heavily.
According to Ms. Reinhard confirming statistics:
In 2010 there were 793 arrests for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Mendocino County.
In 2010 there were 46 arrests for underage drinking in Mendocino County.
Mendocino County has been consistently among the state’s leaders over the past five years in collisions resulting in injuries or fatalities that are alcohol-related.
And, Mendocino County has had alarmingly higher rates of aggravated assaults linked to alcohol consumption given its population of less than a hundred thousand people.
“The evidence shows,” she said, “that a high density of alcohol outlets corresponds with a proportional increase in alcohol related violence, underage drinking, and driving after drinking. The number of alcohol outlets in Mendocino County per capita is over twice the average in the State of California.”
Ms. Reinhard suggested conditional use permits to regulate the number, location and “operational practices” of new alcohol outlets and to provide “responsible beverage service training” to bartenders, clerks and tasting rooms.
But associating the County’s drinking problem with the number of booze outlets in the County is a non-starter in a wine-dependent economy like Mendocino County’s and, sure enough, Ms. Reinhard’s neo-temperance pitch prompted some ill-tempered griping from not just the Board of Supervisors, but Sheriff Allman too.
Allman wasted no time launching a perp-like interrogation.
“How much money were you provided for this survey?”
Reinhard: “The seed money that we received back in 2010 was $5,000. The money that has kept this project going for sustainability comes from the federal level down to the states. It’s substance abuse prevention funding.”
Allman: “I’m sorry I didn’t get my question answered.”
Reinhard, who seems to possess a rather daring sense of humor, responded as if talking to a child, emphasizing each word.
“Substance … abuse … prevention … funding.”
Allman: “So, that’s…?”
Board Chair Dan Hamburg: “Mr. Sheriff, would you mind directing your comments to the Chair?”
Allman: “I’m sorry. I certainly have respect for Public Health. I certainly have respect for their employees. I certainly appreciate a good working relationship on many projects. However, this is not one. This isn’t a project where law enforcement was contacted for our statistics or the number of enforcement actions we take. The number of arrests we make. We did have a meeting after the report was prepared. With all due respect to Public Health, and I apologize if I am offending anybody, but I am disappointed by this presentation…”
Allman went on to point out the statistical anomalies implicit in comparing vast Mendo with other rural counties, especially given Mendo’s vast geography.
Then it was the Board’s turn to jump on Ms. Reinhard.
Supervisor John Pinches, apparently speaking from direct experience, “Your report here shows Trinity County has the highest density of alcohol outlets. You can drive in Trinity County for over two hours and not find a place to buy a sixpack of beer. So that’s very skewed.”
The normally unflappable Supervisor Carre Brown seemed upset too.
“I personally would like to caution County staff about the release of such a survey prior to a presentation before this body. To me it shows a lack of respect for us and a lack of courtesy. My first indication of the results came in newspaper articles back in April [when the Public Health department first issued their press release on the outlet density study]. I had not read them yet. I didn’t even know they were there until my telephone started ringing. People were very upset and not very happy about how that came out, how it was presented.”
Supervisor Brown’s calls undoubtedly came from the County’s wine lobby. It leaps into full alert at the slightest hint of regulating the roadside wine bars called tasting rooms which, of course, are magically considered “agriculture,” Ms. Brown’s primary constituency.
Ms. Brown went on at length about how far you have to drive in Potter Valley find a commercial drink, concluding, “I think that the influence you have is best done by education — educate not regulate.”
Ukiah Emergency Room doctor and former County Public Health officer, Dr. Marvin Trotter, felt compelled to offer a few disjointed, wholly irrelevant, but entertainingly grisly anecdotes about treating alcoholics.
“You can smell them before you go into the room,” said Trotter. “People vomiting blood and defecating blood have a very distinct odor. Fortunately I don’t have a very good sense of smell. [O thank the goddesses for that, doctor.] When you have cirrhosis, you develop large varicose veins at the bottom of your esophagus next to your stomach that is under pressure. When they break open it’s a lot of trouble. Our surgeons have a difficult time clipping them with small metal staples trying to stop the bleeding. I find it very hard to get a stomach pump tube down someone’s throat when they are vomiting blood.”
Trotter, by now waist deep in gore, rattled on into a vague tale about a drop-fall Hopland drunk.
“It was raining very hard New Year’s Eve. The ambulance could not get to the house directly because some of the roads were flooded in Hopland where she lived. When she finally arrived at the emergency room she no longer had a pulse and had flat lined. I stopped the code at that time. The gunshot wound to her left chest was small as were her two children. He said it was an accident while celebrating New Year’s Eve. We call them pumpkins. The men look especially strange as if they were 10 months pregnant, orange with small breasts. At times you have to clean the skin very well between your right rib margin and your hip bone because any bacteria in the abdomen with all the fluids causes a fatal peritonitis. You numb the skin and then poke a hole through with a large needle about the size of a pencil and then hook that up to a vacuum bottle. I stop at ten bottles because I don’t want to cause shock.”
Doctor Trotter held up a quart-sized plastic bottle that that was supposed to demonstrate how much fluid he was referring to — not how much booze had to be consumed.
The supervisors seemed nonplussed at these macabre revelations, not that the doctor seemed to notice the effect his remarks were having.
“Every shift I work in the emergency department has to do with alcohol. Alcohol, alcohol, alcohol. I rarely see problems with marijuana, cocaine or heroin. Methamphetamines, yes. Opiates, yes. They are all dwarfed by alcohol. I just came from a meeting of 17 physicians and nurse practitioners who ask you not to approve any more outlets. And talking to the charge nurse, he said today, More outlets? That’s ridiculous. Why don’t you make it cheaper also?”
Ms. Reinhard’s boss, Linda Helland, Prevention Supervisor, replying to Pinches and the Sheriff, said, “Nobody has said the word prohibition. What we are focusing on is excessive drinking, not moderate drinking. I want that to remain clear. I want to thank the Sheriff for all that he’s done. His office has done a lot of great work on enforcing alcohol laws and we have worked together in several instances and the Sheriff has gotten grants to conduct compliance and I really laud those efforts.
“I’m sure Sheriff Allman will recall that we presented the initial findings from this report to the chiefs meeting in June of 2011 and did invite collaboration and participation at that time. So I hope that we can continue to work together. The sheriff’s office and obviously other law enforcement does fabulous jobs at stopping and solving crime. But this is about going ahead of the game and stopping it before it starts. Regarding the statistics, they are not just based on Mendocino County. They are based on 20 similar counties, so it’s not just looking at the arrest rates in Mendocino County, but it doing a correlation with alcoholic density and arrest rates and commissions for those areas across these 20 counties…”
Ms. Helland continued with her version of the stats, by which time it was long past obvious what little that could be done was being done to get our amok citizens to show some restraint. Anyway, berserk drinking and drugging is, at this point in our darkening history, an existential question having more to do with, “Why are so many people so unhappy that they drink and drug themselves into medical stupors?”
Supervisor Dan Gjerde had an idea based on his experience in Fort Bragg, at one time home to more bars per capital than any town in America and, in 1969, featured in an alarmed Life magazine story called, “A Town in Trouble” about the frightening preponderance of hard drug users at Fort Bragg High School.
“This is not about wineries, it’s not about restaurants. This is about basically liquor stores. The concentration of those, not just in the rural areas but the concentration of them in the cities and the urbanized areas as well. This is an issue that involves both the county and cities in Mendocino County. I hope that this presentation goes to the cities besides going to the Board of Supervisors. A number of alcohol products that are marketed these days are geared towards children. They are not really marketed towards adults. So, why, knowing that, would we permit the sale of those types of alcohol to the children of Mendocino County? Clearly their intent is to get kids hooked on alcohol so they can make them into alcoholics as they grow into adulthood. It’s pretty obvious that’s what they’re doing. We could simply just prohibit the sale of those types of products in Mendocino County. That seems like a simple issue that we could tackle. … I know for a fact that Harvest Market on the coast limited the sale of certain types of alcohol products because they knew it was causing a problem with transients and others who were causing problems in their town and their neighborhoods. I think we need to bring in some of the retailers into the discussion as well to see if they have some suggestions. Why should one retailer do the right thing knowing that their competitor across the street is selling a product that they just stopped selling and causing the problems in their neighborhoods?”
Supervisor John McCowen agreed there was a problem, but that the way to deal with it is not by restricting outlets but — wait for it… — more meetings! “What’s undeniable is that we do have many people in our community who have an alcohol problem. We have a real problem with probably overexposure to youth of alcohol which by the statistics Mendocino County has significantly more alcohol use by young people, significantly more binge drinking that puts youth at risk for sexual assault, accidental death, a whole list of negative consequences. Mendocino County does seem to have a significantly elevated record of arrests for aggravated assault. I’m sure that a lot of that is alcohol related. So I do appreciate highlighting the issue. I second Supervisor Gjerde’s thoughts on having a collaborative process. I certainly heard the Sheriff say that he was interested in that as well. This is a community problem that does deserve serious attention.”
Supervisor Pinches said the Public Health Department should spend more time in grammar schools and less time worrying about booze outlets.
“Why isn’t our Health Department putting more programs in our schools? I think we are really shy. That’s something I have been advocating for years, more drug and alcohol programs in our grammar schools, not our high schools. I think we are real shy of that. I have requested that for years and there seems to be a reluctance. Why is there such a reluctance to let’s go after the problem? We know the only way it’s going to be solved is through education. Education is what ultimately solves all of our problems, or at least works on them. So why is our Health Department so reluctant to put more of their budget into going after the group of people — when you get to be my age if you’d like to drink booze and whatnot it’s a little bit too late. I don’t think you’re going to change my habits. But maybe we can affect to a better degree our kids in the grammar schools because frankly they are not really learning from their parents because of the statistics of a lot of people drinking. So we have to start young. Let’s go upstream. I would encourage public health — this is budget time. Why don’t we divert some of those dollars into studies and whatnot into something that’s going to have an effect? That would be some drug and alcohol programs in our grammar schools.”
Linda Helland: “Number one, we would love more resources to go into the schools. That would be fantastic. We would really love that.”
Pinches: “I’m not talking about more resources, I’m talking about converting some of your existing millions of dollars you have into drug programs and so forth.”
Helland: “We are not treatment, we are prevention. So we have about $200,000 a year. With that, we do send about two and a half to three full-time people into the schools. We do have people in the schools. It’s woefully inadequate indeed. I wish we had more. But we also need to look at the full spectrum of evidence-based best practices. As I said at the beginning studies have shown that the most cost effective strategies are pairing education with the enforcement — we call them environmental strategies which do involve reducing access. That has been found to be most effective.”
Pinches: “I’d like to have my question answered.”
Stacy Cryer, Director of Health and Human Services (whose husband, Marlon, was famously arrested last year for drunk driving while wearing a sweatshirt that read “Get me drunk and enjoy the show”) came to Ms. Helland’s assistance.
Cryer: “One of the problems, one of the biggest problems with funding that comes into Public Health, is that it is very siloed [sic], and you have to use it for a specific thing. So if we get a grant to collect specific data then that’s what the money is for, to collect the data, nothing else. We have very little discretionary dollars that come in to the substance abuse program on the prevention side. We do use those dollars — at your request actually three or four years ago we started doing some private programs in the elementary primary level education program in schools and we have replicated that in a couple other schools and I think we are in a couple schools now, or three or four.”
Pinches: “How many elementary schools do you have in this county?”
Cryer: “I totally agree. You have to remember we used to get in the substance abuse program, we got about $700,000 worth of general fund five years ago. Today we get zero. The money going into substance abuse, although it’s the primary problem causing a lot of federal dollars and statewide dollars across the state, there is not much funding coming into the problem. It’s similar to mental health in that way. There’s not a lot of funding that comes into substance abuse. We don’t have very many discretionary dollars. Although we agree with you wholeheartedly on what could solve the problem, we don’t have the money to put into every school. We do what we can. That’s just a reality. I’m sorry for that. … You don’t really do substance-abuse education at the primary level but you can do things like a esteem building and things like that.”
Pinches: “Why don’t you do substance abuse?”
Cryer: “It’s not found to be very effective to be quite honest with you.”
Pinches: “Well, I disagree with that.”
Cryer: “You go to third grade and under, you have to get to the root of the problem that begins to build all of that.”
Pinches: “I don’t want to argue the point, but I disagree with that finding. … We have some real problems and it’s showing up here. But I think attacking the amount of outlets we have is the wrong direction.”
Supervisor Dan Hamburg said sarcastically, “I think we are doing a great job of educating our kids that alcohol is wonderful. Turn on your television set, drive down the highway, it’s all about drink, drink, drink. I totally agree with Supervisor Gjerde about these — it’s like the tobacco industry. It’s the same thing. Create addicts. And then you’ll take the money to the bank for decades to come. We are doing the same thing with alcohol that we use to do with tobacco. I enjoy wine and beer. I’m not a teetotaler by any means. I realize how important alcohol is to this County’s economy. I do doubt whether the issue of outlet density is nearly as important as the culture. It’s a drinking culture. That’s not just Mendocino County with all our wineries. We are that a little more than some counties. Drive up Highway 101. What does the sign say? The first thing it says is wine! Well — duh! That’s a big part of our economy and it’s supported and our kids, as soon as they can read, they know. Or as soon as they can turn on the TV, they know. Watch a football game or a baseball game. It’s not, Open your Bud. It’s grab some Buds. When you sit down to watch a ballgame. It’s not enough to have a beer. You have to grab some Buds. So the whole thing, trying to get a handle on this with the power of the corporate advertising machine is almost impossible in my view. I’m sorry to say that.”
No mention of pot addiction from Supervisor Stoner Dude, and pot is the substance that probably screws up more kids forever than alcohol, especially in Mendocino County.
Supervisor Hamburg wrapped up with some pure blah-blah.
“I would like to see more interdepartmental communication before these presentations come about because I don’t think any of the board members like sitting up here and hearing departments argue with each other about whether an issue is important or not. So I just want to mention that.”
The Mendocino County economy is pegged to dope, booze, public employment, and lib-labs getting paid to sit around talking about all three. If dope is legalized and twenty dollar bottles of wine become unaffordable, Mendo will be down to lib-labs getting paid to delude each other.