Mendocino County Today: July 15, 2013

by AVA News Service, July 14, 2013

WILL PARRISH, ace eco-reporter for the AVA, was in court Friday where he learned that DA Eyster has filed “either 16 or 19 misdemeanor charges against me, including a separate ‘Unlawful Entry’ charge for every day I was on the boom. Each charge carries a maximum six month jail sentence. I opted not to waive my right to a speedy trial, so it's all going to happen very quickly.”

PARRISH, in a rear guard effort to prevent the huge folly of the Willits Bypass, had strapped himself to Caltrans road building equipment.

PARRISH'S pre-trial hearing is set for July 22nd and a jury trial is on for August 5th. Omar Figueroa is representing Parrish, meaning Parrish's trial won't be a pushover for the DA's office.

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YEARS AGO, DA Susan Massini charged me with every variation of disturbing the peace she could come up with, including making “a loud noise on a school campus” or something like that. Eyster prosecuted me, Vinceny “Queeg” Lechowick presided. Kind of. Eyster won. Kind of. The DA wanted more time for what amounted to a scuffle, but my attorney, the late great Karl Leipnik, working pro bono, got me off, kind of, with 35 days.

I CONSIDER that particular incarceration a victory in that it resulted in a major overhaul of the County Jail, beginning with the early release of a dozen or so inmates due to illegal overcrowding, which wasn't the only illegal thing going on in there with the full knowledge of the Mendocino County Superior Court. All it took to get some remediation going was some outside publicity and an ad hoc writ to the court, signed by every inmate in the place, demanding that everyone play by the rules.

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THE MENDOCINO COMMUNITY NETWORK was last in the news when the Mendocino Unified School District tried to sell it off a few years ago, but no buyers appeared.

MCN been a money-loser since its inception by a cunning little fellow named Rennie Innis who got it going in the mid-90s using a 1992 NASA grant to the school district. As we've described in detail in previous articles, MCN was and is operating a private, commercial business under the auspices of a public school district, taking advantage of numerous direct and indirect school subsidies while marketing the private business as “good for the kids.”

A FEW YEARS after setting up MCN and paying himself and his assistant, Mitch Sprague, in the hundred thou range, Innis moved on to Hawaii. MCN was then taken over by Sprague.

MCN gets facilities, utilities, some staff, and financing, folded into the school’s overhead. We knew of at least three people who were unable to start or expand internet businesses in the 1990s on the Coast because they couldn't compete with MCN's subsidies.

IN ADDITION to its subsidized overhead, MCN has never paid any of the taxes that a commercial business has to pay — no property tax, no income tax, no business tax. So it came as no surprise that no commercial computer outfit would want to pick it up because if they did, they’d have a whole new stack of expenses on their books, and they’d have to pay taxes.

LAST WEEK Mitch Sprague, seeing MCN’s revenues heading faster and faster into the proverbial bit-bucket, announced to the Mendocino School Board that he was packing it in. Part of that announcement included a statement from Mendocino Unified Superintendent Jason Moore (who clearly has no idea of the true history of MCN) that MCN “has run a deficit for a while” — i.e., its entire existence if honest accounting had been applied.

SPRAGUE sees the email on the screen with the frowny faces and has thrown in his towel. We’re now taking bets on how much longer MCN will last. The over-under is two years.

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THE UKIAH CITY COUNCIL held a special meeting last Wednesday to decide if they should hold another special meeting Friday to discuss the replacement procedure for Councilwoman Rodin, who has said she would be stepping down on August 16. Councilmember “Red” Phil Baldwin was absent Wednesday, so the council decided to hold another special meeting Friday to decide the issue. Baldwin was absent again. There seemed to be lots of confusion about the timing of an election, which must be called not less than 114 days before a regularly scheduled election, but not until the seat is actually declared vacant or until the person resigns or blah, blah, blah ad infinitum. Mayor Crane said that Rodin could resign that day to clear the way for an election in November. Rodin, who appeared by conference call, presumably from Monterey, said she might not resign after all, that she might change her mind. The council decided again to wait until Baldwin can be present for the decision.

THE COST OF A SPECIAL ELECTION was raised as a concern. If the election was combined with the November election, the cost was estimated to be $15,000-$20,000. If the council waits until March, the cost is estimated to be an additional $10,000. If Rodin wanted to facilitate an election, she could easily have timed her resignation (which she now seems to be hedging) so the election could be held in November. Now, after missing the deadline for November, it is predictable that the council will choose to fill the vacancy by appointment, on the grounds that the city can't afford to spend the money on a special election, or be without representation from August to March. Since this is the same group that spent $30,000 on the dining platform, $45,000 for some jive landscaping, and millions on garbage giveaways and bloated city admin, any handwringing over the modest cost of an election will be the purest form of hypocrisy. The reality is, the city council thinks they are better qualified than the public to decide who should sit with them. And they sure don't want to sit with anyone who will utter a discouraging word about the slo mo dismantling of city services and finances that is currently underway.

Rodin

Rodin

UKIAH COUNCILWOMAN MARI RODIN, who may or may not be departing, will be honored Thursday for her “many accomplishments” at a private reception at the home of City Manager Jane Chambers. Previous departing councilmembers have been recognized at simple public receptions held in the foyer of City Hall immediately before their last meeting. Councilwoman Rodin's “record of accomplishments,” which she apparently does not want celebrated by the un-washed public, includes the following:

1) HI-JACKED REDEVELOPMENT of upwards of $1 million dollars annually for ten years to pay administrative salaries with money that should have gone to fix “blighted conditions” like crumbling streets and boarded up storefronts. Now that the state has pulled the plug on redevelopment, Ukiah is left with a $1 million dollar annual structural deficit because the Rodin-led city council has refused to cut the bloated administrative overhead;

2) SCHEMED with the other feebs on the Ukiah city council to boost the pay for City Manager Jane Chambers from $150,000 annually by secretly agreeing to pay her $16,000 in “merit pay” and $8,000 in “executive pay,” which, along with a hefty car allowance, health insurance, retirement and other perks, tops out at a cool quarter of a million dollars in annual compensation. When the sordid arrangement came to light, the council made a show of cutting Chambers' indefensible merit and executive pay while leaving the door open to restore the cuts if Chambers can convince the employee bargaining groups to take a 10% cut in their salaries, thereby exhibiting leadership of the Kendall Smith variety;

3) ELIMINATED THE CITY AMBULANCE service and $650,000 in annual revenue that went with it, causing the lay off of six firefighter/EMTs, thereby reducing fire department staffing to its lowest level in 45 years;

4) STRUCK A DEAL with the Ukiah Valley Fire District, to make up for the resulting staffing shortages, that has resulted in stationing the remaining Ukiah firefighters outside the city limits, thereby reducing response time for any in-town emergency calls;

5) SQUANDERED almost $30,000 in public funds to eliminate three parking spaces and build a dining platform to benefit Mari's favorite restaurant, Patrona's, so that she and her council cronies, Little Benj Thomas and Polly Anne Landis, can dine al fresco within a fenced enclosure that keeps the public who paid for it carefully at bay;

6) SQUANDERED another $45,000 in pubic funds to “landscape” the new city electrical substation with about twenty trees and shrubs, which works out to about $2,500 per oleander;

7) SIGNED OFF on a sweetheart deal with the Ukiah garbage hauler, handing over millions in public dollars and forcing increases on the ratepayers;

8) JOINED Little Benj and Polly Anne in passing a meaningless resolution in support of “Zero Waste” although for the last two years they have successfully blocked the diversion of food waste from the Ukiah waste stream, preferring that it be trucked outtahere to be landfilled at high cost to the ratepayers, instead of hauled to Cold Creek Composting at no charge to be converted into a valuable soil amendment;

9) JOINED CITY MANAGER CHAMBERS in withholding information and dissing the Ukiah Valley Sanitation District, so that instead of providing information and working out their differences, the District now has two or three lawsuits going against the city;

10) IN SHORT, throughout her career, Mari Rodin has functioned as a reliable shill for the City Manager, always siding with the interests of city administration instead of representing the interests of the people she was elected to serve.

A READER WRITES: “Is Mari Rodin really taking a job as an analyst with Monterey County LAFCO? All I can say is, the applicant pool must have been pretty thin. Rodin, who is a genuinely good-hearted person, but not exactly rocket scientist material, never impressed me as the analytical type. As a self-described grant writer, Mari has made it into her late-40s without ever having a real job. You know, the kind where you are expected to show up at the same time every day and work a set number of hours. It will be interesting to see how well she adjusts to that.”

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ADMIT IT, YOU LAUGHED. I did, my wife did too, and she's Chinese. I refer to the KTVU debacle where the news reader, Tori Campbell, read off these names as the pilots of lethal Flight 214: “Sum Ting Wong; Wi Tu Lo; Ho Lee Fuk; and Bang Ding Ow.”

KTVUPrankBEFORE YOU DENOUNCE ME as a racist dog-pig please read Freud's essay on jokes. All kinds of “inappropriate” material can be converted to humor, and one man's funny is another man's insult.

ON THE OTHER HAND, was that a Chicago newspaper whose headline read, “Fright 214”? The joke was supposed to be the perceived Asian inability to pronounce “L.” Ho hum. That one's been done to death, and wildly unfunny in the context.

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THE TRAVON MARTIN verdict, seems to me, is a lot like the OJ case. With OJ, the jury made a perfectly logical decision to find OJ not guilty based on the incompetent prosecution they were presented in the courtroom. The Travon Martin jury made a perfectly logical decision to find Zimmerman not guilty based on the incompetent prosecution they heard in the courtroom.

ZIMMERMAN set the whole thing in motion by stalking the boy, walking right up behind him then, after “words were exchanged,” and Martin, a big, strong kid, knocked Zimmerman down and pounded him a few times, Zimmerman shot him. If Zimmerman had stayed in his car like he was supposed to do as a neighborhood watch guy, not a police officer, Travon Martin would still be alive. I thought at a minimum Zimmerman was guilty of manslaughter, and murder would not have been inconsistent with the known facts.

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DEAR ANTOINETTE

Marie Antoinette's mother's advice

My dear daughter,

1770 / Vienna — Do not take any recommendations; listen to no one, if you would be at peace. Have no curiosity—this is a fault which I fear greatly for you; avoid all familiarity with your inferiors. Ask of Monsieur and Madame de Noailles, and even exact of them, under all circumstances, advice as to what, as a foreigner and being desirous of pleasing the nation, you should do, and that they should tell you frankly if there be anything in your bearing, discourse, or any point which you should correct. Reply amiably to everyone, and with grace and dignity; you can if you will. You must learn to refuse. After Strasbourg you must accept nothing without taking counsel of Monsieur and Madame de Noailles, and you should refer to them everyone who would speak to you of his personal affairs, saying frankly that being a stranger yourself, you cannot undertake to recommend anyone to the king. If you wish you may add, in order to make your reply more emphatic, “The empress, my mother, has expressly forbidden me to undertake any recommendations.” Do not be ashamed to ask advice of anyone, and do nothing on your own responsibility. In the king you will find a tender father who will also be your friend if you deserve it. Put entire confidence in him; you will run no risk. Love him, obey him, seek to divine his thoughts; you cannot do enough on this moment when I am losing you. Concerning the dauphin I shall say nothing; you know my delicacy on this point. A wife should be submissive in everything to her husband and should have no thought but to please him and do his will. The only true happiness in this world lies in a happy marriage; I know whereof I speak. Everything depends on the wife if she be yielding, sweet, and amusing. I counsel you, my dear daughter, to reread this letter on the twenty-first of every month. I beg you to be true to me on this point. My only fear for you is negligence in your prayers and studies—and lukewarmness succeeds negligence. Fight against it, for it is more dangerous than a more reprehensible, even wicked state; one can conquer that more easily. Love your family; be affectionate to them—to your aunts as well as to your brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. Suffer no evil speaking; you must either silence the persons or escape it by withdrawing from them. If you value your peace of mind, you must from the start avoid this pitfall, which I greatly fear for you knowing your curiosity.

Your mother.

Marie Antoinette & Her mother Maria Theresa

Marie Antoinette & Her mother Maria Theresa

2 Responses to Mendocino County Today: July 15, 2013

  1. John Sakowicz Reply

    July 15, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Excellent post today about deteriorating finances at City of Ukiah. Thank you.

    FYI, Mari Rodin isn’t the only one to be getting a proclamation at Wednesday’s Ukiah City Council meeting. Retiring City Finance Director, Gordon Elton, will be getting a proclamation, too. You can bet I will be sounding off during public expression. And I will be citing some of the points you make in today’s post, because they also apply to Elton.

    When he was hired 18 years ago by the City of Ukiah, Elton was the finance director at Sea Ranch…a job that hardly qualified him in public administration.

    For the last two years, Ukiah needed to cut its budget by $1.8 million. Elton has done nothing to downsize city government. Nothing. Too many buddies at the top of the management chart making big, fat salaries.

    See: . http://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/news/ci_20449120/city-ukiah-needs-cut-1-8-million-from

    So, the City of Ukiah cuts services instead.

  2. John Sakowicz Reply

    July 15, 2013 at 10:40 am

    THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

    Tuesday’s Letters to the Editor

    Ukiah’s Challenges

    EDITOR: Gordon Elton, the city of Ukiah’s finance director, is retiring in August. “This will be my last budget session,” Elton said. “I’ve enjoyed working here very much, even though there’s been more challenges than I needed.”

    Challenges? You bet. Allow me to name a few.

    Ukiah’s redevelopment cash cow has disappeared. The excessive number of executive positions, and their fat salaries at the top of the city’s management chart, will have to be padded from some other source.

    Ukiah’s no-bid garbage contract with C&S Waste Solutions will mean increases in collection rates and tipping fees from now until the end of time.

    Ukiah residents can also expect annual double-digit increases in water and sewer rates due to mismanagement and flawed financial planning.

    Ukiah’s old landfill — the one that should have been capped long, long ago — will have to be closed or face penalties imposed by the state. Remember, the old landfill sits on top of a web of earthquake faults and in a watershed area.

    All these add up to big bills for the city. Elton is getting out at a good time.

    I almost forgot to add that the city already faces a budget deficit of $1 million next year.

    JOHN SAKOWICZ

    Ukiah

    Published: Tuesday, May 28, 2013

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