Off The Record

by AVA News Service, July 16, 2013

A CALLER noticed a full pallet of ammonium phosphate at Friedman Brothers, Ukiah, with a note attached that said, “Special Order, Mateel Community Center.” Why would the Mateel want golf course (and/or bomb making) chemicals? We called the Mateel to find out if they'd ordered it, and if they had, why. Sports stadiums use this stuff to green up their grass, but it's bad mojo, as Ashley, the pleasant young woman who answered the phone at the Mateel agreed. “It's like gnarly stuff,” Ashley said, before assuring me that she'd call the Mateel's plant manager, Johnny, and get back to me. She didn't. Yet. And probably won't. But we've learned that the Mateel is using this “gnarly” brew to make the grass green in the concert bowl smack on the battered Eel River, just in time for their revived Reggae on the River. Years ago we complained that the Mateel, cynosure of everything good and organically pure in a poisoned America, had made its front door out of rare and mostly extinct hardwoods. But using this stuff anywhere near the Eel borders on criminal irresponsibility.

MENDOCINO COAST TELEVISION has been forced to cease operations. It was an important, sometimes pivotal, public media for many years, bringing public meetings into the livingrooms of Coast residents in the Fort Bragg-Mendocino area plus a wide range of cultural offerings.   The station's directors have announced that Coast Television lost a lawsuit filed by the Footlighters little theater group on whose premises Coast TV was located. Without a home and in hock to lawyers, there was no option other than to go dark.

ANOTHER READER WRITES: “Just wanted to connect some dots in case you did not connect them yourself. In Kym Kemp's piece on July 10 at the end of the article is mentioned the serial killers Michael and Suzanne Carson. Well, that's the guy that writes you from Ione in the California State Prison there. I was at CSP Sacramento with him in 1998. Yes, he is a Zionist piece of work but is very intelligent and well read. I walked the yard with him and he could lecture on world history for 3 hours or more, he was a great chess player and could lend you any book you desired. He also knew all the high profile people like the Menendez brothers, which meant you never went without a jar of coffee and snacks. Carson spoke as if he truly loved his wife and daughter and spoke of them frequently. He was a somewhat nerdy and awkward  man of small stature, which made me wonder how in hell he'd ever have killed anyone. From the stories it sounded like Suzanne did the killings. He said they were convinced that they were killing the devil and his followers. I think he is a good person despite his past deeds. I am fascinated by his daughter talking about him and writing.”

ABOUT TIME. A series of regulations went into effect earlier this month that will place new restrictions on San Francisco’s professional dog walkers. The new rules require dog walkers to obtain a city-issued permit, puts a limit on the number of dogs that can be walked at a time (a maximum of eight) and requires dog walkers to have any vehicles used to transport dogs to be inspected, approved and carry $1 million in liability insurance. Violators will be charged a $50 fine for the first infraction.

JUST LAST SATURDAY afternoon, I was walking on California between 7th and 8th when a leashed, medium-size dog, maybe a forty pounder, leaped out from behind his inattentive owner at a passing Hispanic woman. She just kept going, probably thinking to herself, “One more bummer here in Gringolandia,” as the trendo-groove-o dog owner said, “Gee, he's never done that before.” I'd like to see a law banning big dogs from The City. Period. It's not fair to the dog to keep him cooped up in an apartment. Your little yappers, while annoying, are at least apartment-sized. And you shouldn't be allowed to own a dog at all if you have to hire someone to walk it. (A trendo-groove-o is a young guy with a little pork pie hat, stovepipe jeans, a t-shirt with a corporate logo, a tattoo of a cartoon character. They're coming in the windows!)

OF COURSE my upstairs neighbor, who happens to be blood, maintains a dog about the size of a Shetland pony. He hires a neighbor lady to walk the beast, a giant poodle of some kind, and an animal with zero redeeming features — dumb, loud, unattractive, which, it occurs to me, is also a description with wide human applicability. A city doesn't work unless there's basic civility, at least minimal regard for one's neighbors. Frisco's teeming with entitlement creatures, kind of like Westside Ukiah transplanted to SF. Tiny case in point: Our neighborhood blog is typically preoccupied with restaurant tips — gastromania also being prevalent in The City — but the other day we got a plea from a lady for someone to drive her and her rabbit to the veterinarian. I'd volunteer to hunt her rabbit or eat it, but chauffeur a rabbit? Anywhere?

ACCORDING to a Sheriff's Department press release, Dana Brandon Hambelton, 30, of Arcata, at approximately 4:00 PM was southbound on 101 when a deputy “observed” his non-operational tail lamp.” The deputy subsequently “detected the odor of cannabis emanating from inside the car. A search of the vehicle revealed four mason jars containing a “honey oil” type of concentrated cannabis.  There was also a plastic bag nearby which contained 92 grams of another type of concentrated cannabis known as “bubble hash.”

THE AVA'S drug expert tells us that honey oil “makes you fall down and hit your head; its THC content is about 39%.” Drug expert added, “But we could certainly use more professionalism in the drug trafficking community. What kind of idiot transports with a tail light out?”

A STONED IDIOT, undoubtedly. Bubble hash, incidentally, “is super refined honey oil that forms bubbles when you smoke it.” I'll bet  you could double your fun if you smoked it in a bubble bath, and triple your jollies with a wad of Double Bubble Gum. Stoners just have so darn much fun!

DAVE HULL and Ric Piffero are making an offer to Ukiah that Ukiah hasn't refused. (But with the present apparat running the city you never know.) Hull and Piffero are offering the city 37 untouched acres, valued at a mil-plus, in Ukiah's west hills. Back a ways, H&P got Westside Ukiah all excited when they tried to build on the property. During that hassle H&P further aroused the Pwoggies by flying an American flag on their property and blasting out Bruce Springsteen's wowser anthem, Born in the USA, through early morning loud speakers. H&P were unhappy, as I recall, at the opposition to their development plans and retaliated by flying Old Glory, the iconic symbol of free enterprise and booming the musical nativity tune at people they apparently regarded as unAmerican. The property includes Gibson Creek, “sloping hillsides and old-growth redwoods.” You can hike to it by walking due west on Standley Street. It's quite a gift.

SONOMA COUNTY Supervisor Efren Carrillo, 32, was arrested early Saturday morning creeping around his neighborhood in nothing but his flip-flops and Fruit of the Looms. It seems the supervisor was looking for love, but wound up charged with burglary and prowling when he tried to climb through a neighbor woman's window.

CARILLO has long been viewed as perfect flab glab lib lab material by the flab glab lib lab Northcoast Democrats, especially big shots like Mike Thompson and Doug Bosco. As it happens, the supervisor was at a Demo wine guzzle with Thompson earlier in the day and may have still been drunk from that event when the cops corralled him creeping around his neighborhood. The Democrats endorsed Carillo for supervisor over Rue Furch, a woman with much more real progressive history.

FOR TODAY'S Democrats of the Bosco-Thompson type, Carillo is perfect — a glib, principle-free Hispanic in an area with an ever-larger Hispanic population, a kind of Mexican Obama. If he could have reined in his psycho tendencies he might have gone all the way to the Corporate House back in DC.

WILL CARILLO'S midnight ramble hurt his political future? Who cares except Carillo, Bosco and Thompson? It will probably help him with most Democrats, for whom the bar can't be too low. (The Republicans don't even have the bar or the poles to rest it on.) Look at Clinton. His approval ratings rose faster than his penis during his Monica Lewinsky interlude.

ON HIS PLUS SIDE, earlier this year, in another late night encounter, Carillo gallantly knocked out a gavacho pestering a young lady he was with. But an early morning attempt to break into a single woman's apartment, well, that might even be too much for Bosco and his Party stenos at the Press Democrat.

OUR CONGRESSMAN, Jared Huffman, was in Belvedere Saturday afternoon. Fresh off challenging his constituents to a photo contest in the political context of accumulating catastrophes, Mr. Irrelevant joined Nancy Pelosi at a billionaire's home to raise money for Democrats. Democrats, as most of us know by now, are pretty much interchangeable with Republicans on the issues.

THIS THING cost a thousand bucks to get in the door, so if you were driving down from Laytonville we hope you set a little aside for gas money to get back home. But if you'd chucked $32 thou at Nancy and Spike you'll certainly be invited back. That was the price of a photo of you and Nancy. The Democrats, of course, are frantically collecting money to elect Hillary, a female version of Obama-Bush.

PELOSI was booed last month at a Demo get together in San Jose when she said, “Edward Snowden did violate the law in terms of releasing those documents. We have to have a balance between security and privacy.” She also said that “People on the far right are saying 'Oh, this is the fourth term of President Bush….' Absolutely, positively not so.”

THE FAR RIGHT said that? If any of them did then they're more acute than we would have thought, Bush being their apotheosis guy.

NORM SOLOMON and several hundred disaffected Democrats demonstrated against Pelosi outside the event. “It’s unacceptable for the government to target the telephone records of journalists, or to vacuum up the phone-call records of hundreds of millions of Americans, or to capture and store everyone’s emails, or to jettison centuries-long principles of due process and habeas corpus.”

OUR SUMMER INTERN, Mayte Guerrero, has completed a review of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s booking log for the first half of 2013. We suspected that a relative handful of chronic public drunks occupy a lot of police time. Suspicions confirmed. Ms. G found that over the period of six months (181 days) there were 417 arrests for 647(f), public intoxication, or about 2.3 arrests per day, or 16 per week. To get yourself arrested for public intoxication you have to be more than just drunk. You have to be seriously bothering someone. Or lots of someones. Our investigator has not attempted the more daunting task of trying to determine the amount of serious crime in which alcohol is the precipitating factor, but booze and/or tweek is responsible for lots of trouble.

THE MOST OFTEN captured under the current catch and release program? Nick Halvorsen, 11; Michael Donahe, 11; Charles Hensley, 9; Stacey Moddrelle, 9; Steven Rich, 8; Sam Sanchez, 7; Christopher Alexander, 5; John Bolton, 5.

Everybody else was 4 or fewer 647(f) arrests in six months. So only eight drunks accounted for almost 16% of those 417 arrests. Another way of calculating it is that every sixth public intoxication arrest is one of these eight guys.

HERE’S AN IDEA: Let’s have Meredyth Reinhard of the Public Health Department circulate the booking photos of these doomed fellows to all the liquor outlets in the County with an instruction not to sell them booze.

ACCORDING to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization almost one-third of Mexican adults — 32.8% — are obese while 31.8 of Americans can fairly be described as fatsos. But Egyptians are fatter than Mexicans and Americans, Kuwaitis are fatter yet, and an astounding 71.1% of the citizens of the Micronesian island, Nauru, are obese.

AS MANY of the most destructive men in the world assemble at Bohemian Grove, and the Press Democrat gazes, awestruck, from the prone position the paper instinctively assumes in the presence of power, Cody Fincher accurately describes how the titans of free enterprise pass their hours beside the Russian River: “What activities take place at the grove? The grove is the site of a two week retreat every July (as well as other smaller get-togethers throughout the year). At these retreats, the members commune with nature in a truly original way. They drink heavily from morning through the night, bask in their freedom to urinate on the redwoods, and perform pagan rituals (including the ‘Cremation of Care,’ in which the members wearing red-hooded robes, cremate a coffin effigy of ‘Dull Care’ at the base of a 40-foot owl altar). Some (20%) engage in homosexual activity (but few of them support gay rights or AIDS  research). They watch (and participate in) plays and comedy shows in which women are portrayed by male actors. Although women are not allowed in the Grove, members often leave at night to enjoy the company of the many prostitutes who canoe across the Russian River to service their majesties.”

WE'RE RE-ASSESSING recent Hamburg-related events, specifically our assumption that the supervisor set in motion the transfer of his troubled son, Matthew, from the County Jail to a Yuba City psychiatric facility. It now seems clear that the County Counsel's office and the County's Mental Health Department made the move without Supervisor Hamburg's knowledge. County Counsel and Mental Health, acting on their own authority, apparently brought off the end-around the usual processes by which a person, any person, is  found mentally incompetent to defend himself and is declared so by the court. County Counsel and Mental Health simply ignored the court part of the process. And because everyone involved was a Hamburg partisan we made the false assumption Hamburg had been the shot caller. We don’t think he was. But we hope the whole fiasco can be delineated, which we'll try to do. At a minimum, it seems clear that this episode ought to earn County Counsel a big reprimand.

ENVISIONING DISASTER. We agree with all the people who consider the Willits Bypass a huge boondoggle that won't even partially reduce through traffic in Willits. We also see the two-lane viaduct as an elevated version of “mile marker 22” on Highway 20, the busy two-lane obstacle course linking Willits and Fort Bragg. Every time there’s an accident of 20 many of us think of mm 22, where there’s been plenty of them on even the clearest of daylit days. Imagine one of those tule fog mornings in the Willits Valley, and imagine visibility on the viaduct with big rigs hurtling both directions with no lane divider between them. Highway 20 is thirty miles of Mojave runway in comparison.

COUPLA other Bypass shots while we're at it: Screaming obscenities at the cops is really, really stupid in the most infantile sense of “stupid.” And really, really counter-productive, not to mention a violation of the so-called vow to remain non-violent. It was bad enough for the opposition to the Bypass when that one psycho threw his bucket of  waste at the CHP guys removing him from the tree, but if you're trying to influence public opinion as to the folly of this demonstrably crazy Caltrans project by acting like mental patients yourself, you’re defeating your own hazy purpose.

AND WHAT'S with the rumor being circulated by some protesters that Caltrans is stockpiling dirt on East Side Road to give to the Sherwood Rancheria for their housing project in exchange for the Indians shutting up about tribal artifacts along the bypass route. Where's the evidence for that? Caltrans says the soil will help restore the blitzed areas around the Bypass when (and if) the project is completed. We believe Caltrans on this one.

RECOMMENDED READING: “Spy Rock Memories” by Larry Livermore. The Mendocino County literary oeuvre is pretty thin, although there are lots of good writers in our beloved mother county. This book helps make up the deficit, and is the best thing I've read on the general subject of Back To The Land in that fraught decade — 1970-80 — when the city had become so violent that thousands of people fled north where they bought logged over land in remote areas up and down the Northcoast and settled in, not knowing what pure hard work it is to carve out a homestead where there's no developed water, let alone a power grid. Livermore was not your generic back-to-the-lander. A gifted writer, he describes in vivid detail his struggles to establish himself in the infamous outlaw stronghold of deep Spy Rock, the wild outback northeast of Laytonville where he established himself on both the land and with his neighbors. While still a newcomer in a place where suspicion came with the primary occupation — marijuana production — Livermore began producing the pioneering zine, The Lookout, which instantly made him persona non grata with both his mountain neighbors — as pot growers they didn't like the attention — and the residents of Laytonville, who didn't like Livermore's descriptions of their town as an unpromising collection of ramshackle buildings strewn haphazardly along 101 with a lot of ramshackle personalities to go with the architecture. Then he became famous, and then he became rich and famous. I knew Livermore was famous when a Boonville kid asked me if I knew Livermore. “Yup, known him for a long time. We're good friends. He writes for my paper when the spirit moves him.” The kid looked at me with renewed respect, but I had to tell him twice before he believed me. By that time Livermore had formed or managed a bunch of famous bands, including Green Day, which made him and them gadzillions. His pioneering zine, The Lookout, was nationally distributed. I have to admit that I still haven't heard much of the music apart from an a-rhythmic ditty Livermore gave me many years ago called “Fuck You and Die,” to which, try as I might, I've never quite been able to dance to. But apart from his fascinating accounts of establishing his home above the snow line on Spy Rock, including some harrowing trips home by snowshoe, I found Livermore's stories about how his zine grew and the genesis of his life as a music entrepreneur absolutely fascinating. “Spy Rock Memories” will be of great interest to the thousands of people of the Northcoast who've carved out lives for themselves in the vast backcountry of Northern California, and of equivalent interest to the general reader who simply likes good stories well told. (http://larrylivermore.com/?p=2861)

FRIDAY, TORI CAMPBELL, a long-time newsreader at KTVU, went live at noon to announce the names of the Asiana pilots at the controls of Flight 214 as “Sum Ting Wong; Wi Tu Lo; Ho Lee Fuk; and Bang Ding Ow.”

MS. CAMPBELL, even as she plowed phonetically on through the joke roster, remained oblivious that she and the station had been pranked. They thought they had a scoop and, as it turned out, they did after a fashion.

WHAT SEEMS to have happened is that KTVU received a call from a man — probably a man, this being a white guy kind of gag — alerting the station that he had the names of the pilots. The station duly called the National Transportation Safety Board where an “intern” confirmed that the joke names were indeed the true names of the pilots, which means not only had KTVU been pranked so had the NTSB, with Ms. Campbell as the fall guy (sic).

AS THE JOKE went viral and a global laugh went up, we all wondered why nobody at KTVU caught it before the uncomprehending Ms. Campbell ran with it on the air.

MS. CAMPBELL soon issued an on-air statement that the names were wrong, but laying off KTVU's gaffe on the “intern” at NTSB, who has remained unidentified but “fired” as everyone runs for cover while shoving whatever scapegoats they can find into the breech. The names, Ms. Campbell sort of apologized, were “inaccurate and offensive” but had been “mistakenly confirmed” by the NTSB.

THE NTSB SAID “the intern had acted outside his authority” but had been “trying to be helpful.” I like to think he was a young person who instantly seized upon the amazing sab-op he'd been presented with when KTVU called for confirmation, perhaps thinking to himself, “If these idiots believe these are the names of the pilots, who am I to get in the way of American media?” (Whoever you are kid, we salute you.)

ADDING to the global hilarity, KTVU had just been promoting itself as “being first on air and on every platform in all aspects of our coverage (of the crash at SFO) was a great accomplishment, but being 100 percent accurate, effectively using our great sources and social media without putting a single piece of erroneous information on the air, is what we are most proud of as a newsroom.”

ADMIT IT, YOU LAUGHED. I did, my wife did too, and she's Chinese. “Sum Ting Wong; Wi Tu Lo; Ho Lee Fuk; and Bang Ding Ow.”

BEFORE 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.

A READER WRITES: “The thirteen year-old in me loved the sum ting wong prank. I watched a youtube of the newscaster reading the names, and when she paused at 'fuk,' and then mispronounced it, it seemed like some part of her was catching on to the game. The problem was most of her was still too busy being a very serious person (which prevents one from being actually real and alive). After she dutifully read through the prank names she said something remarkably stupid, to the effect of: 'we're on the case to find out what role each pilot had in this event.' Talk about not getting it! And now we hear that Asiana will sue, which makes perfect sense in a world where name-calling and 'insensitivity' has become the worst possible crime.”

LINDA WILLIAMS reports in the Willits News that “California River Watch has filed a claim with the City of Willits threatening to sue the city in federal court. The city has 60 days from June 21 to remedy the situation or be sued.”

IF WILLITS again succumbs to this shakedown it will be the third time Jack Silver has gotten over on The Gateway to the Redwood Empire.

WE’VE WRITTEN ENDLESSLY about this character and his bogus non-profit, California River Watch. Here’s how it works: Silver finds a technical violation of the federal Clean Water Act. (I’ve long suspected he’s got a tipster in the State Water Agency). Then he fires off a letter to the alleged offender threatening to sue for lots of money but, he says, “Show me you’re trying and send me some good faith money and I won’t take you to court.” Municipalities usually pay up because it’s cheaper to pay Silver to go away then go into court against him.

SILVER has pulled this neat bit of extortion up and down the Northcoast. You name the town, that town has paid him off — Fortuna, Ukiah, Ferndale, and innumerable mom and pop businesses. He burned Willits for $40,000 in “attorney’s fees” back in 2002, and has alleged since that Willits’ sewage treatment plant “discharges raw sewage into gutters, canals, and storm drains connected to adjacent surface waters.” He got that information from the State, and how accurate it is, well, he makes it sound like it’s very serious and Willits is somehow tolerating it. Which Willits is not doing. None of Silver’s victims are deliberately out of compliance with the Clean Water Act.

AS MS. WILLIAMS reports, “The claim filed against Willits is nearly identical to the claim River Watch filed against the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District in April with the creek names changed and the specifics associated with the sewer system adjusted. In January, River Watch filed a claim against Mendocino County about the county's storm water runoff into the Russian River. Some of the remedial measures requested were a dry-weather inspection of the piping, mapping of the storm water drain outfalls and requirements to mitigate construction site runoff. The county denied the claim and River Watch filed suit in federal court in March.”

BASED IN OCCIDENTAL in West Sonoma County, Silver is organized as a charity non-profit. His board of directors, when he incorporated in 1996, consisted of family members. His goal, he claims, “is to strengthen the ability of citizens to protect water quality in rivers, tributary watersheds, oceans, bays, wetlands, surface and groundwater in Northern California.” His goal, obviously, is to enrich himself by continuing to cash in on Water Quality Act loopholes accompanied by disproportionate fines that make it possible for Silver to exploit them.

A REVIEW BY THE WILLITS NEWS in 2011 “of its annual reports since 2003 showed River Watch received $1.61 million from legal settlements; $201,000 from grants and $97,000 in donations. During this same period it spent about $1.3 million in legal fees. The top year to date in settlements came in 2008 when River Watch received $831,000.”

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.

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, Vincent “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.

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.

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 Phil “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.  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.

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.”

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.

OTHER THAN the following by Jim Kunstler, everything I've read on the Martin case has been by-the-numbers predictable. Kunstler puts it plain and in real context:

AMERICAN ANXIETY by James Kunstler

“The whole world was watching this case to see if everybody can get equal justice, not just certain people,” Benjamin Crump, the lawyer for Mr. Martin’s family, said on Sunday. —The New York Times

I’m not so sure the whole world was watching. The rest of the world is quite preoccupied with countless other events careening toward criticality — civil war in the Middle East, bankruptcy all over Europe, riots in Brazil, the global bond market, a mystery epidemic in India, etc — and if they are watching, they must be mystified by what they see.

What the Zimmerman trial showed me was a nation stuck in tired narratives about its racial predicament, and confusion about what the predicament even is. It doesn’t help that we stopped even pretending that something called common culture matters or even exists. By common culture I mean shared values and behavioral norms. The “multiculturalism” offered in place of it — at least among so-called progressives — hasn’t worked out too well either. On one side of the street you have Slate.com podcasters foolishly wringing their hands over “the N-word” while over on the other side Kanye West is making millions shouting “nigga, nigga, nigga.” We pretend to want to have a national conversation about race, but the truth is that it makes us too uncomfortable, so we retreat into platitudes and sentimentality.

CNN covered the trial and its aftermath relentlessly — I saw a lot of it recovering from a Friday surgery — and the narrative there was a largely sentimental one about “a child” gunned down. Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon repeatedly omitted to mention that the six-foot-tall child was beating the smaller gunman’s head into the pavement in the minutes before he shot. Apparently the jury did notice this part of the story.

The most uncomfortable part of the botched conversation is about behavior in general and the behavior of young black men in particular. The visible social failure is too gross and its implications are too scary, namely that we have more and more an oppositional culture saturated in violence that will never accommodate itself to any kind of a common culture. At this point that culture of young black men is oppositional to virtually every other group in America, white, Asian, Hispanic, et cetera, and the only response to it from the jittery “others” is a set of excuses for black opposition and failure.

One excuse is that America’s drug laws have turned young black men into “political prisoners” in the world’s largest prison gulag. I’m sure that our drug laws are stupid and counter-productive, but I’m also sure that most of the young men caught in its web were doing something anti-social besides just holding, using, and selling.

There are ways of understanding historically how we got to the current situation but they may not offer much consolation. The Civil Rights victories of 1964 and 1965 — the public accommodations act and voting rights act — created tremendous anxiety among African Americans about how they would fit into a desegregated society, so the rise of black separatism at exactly that moment of legislative triumph was not an accident. It offered a segment of the black population the choice of opting out of the new disposition of things. Opting out had consequences, and over several generations since then, the cohort of poorer black Americans has grown only more oppositional, antagonistic, and economically dysfunctional — with the sanction of America’s non-black “diversity” cheerleaders, who remain adamant in their own opposition to the idea of common culture.

The economic challenges of the long emergency, with its desperate competition for the common resources of daily life — money, food, fuel — are liable to provoke new layers of desperate behavior, and new layers of opposition, antagonism, misunderstanding, tragedy, and failure. Do you argue that there are no “jobs” for young black men and nothing to absorb their energies? Increasingly there will be no “jobs” for anybody, except perhaps in local small scale farming. And these days that probably lacks the appeal of becoming a hip-hop star shouting “nigga, nigga, nigga.”

What we “learned” from the Trayvon Martin case, so far, is exactly nothing.

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