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by AVA News Service, July 20, 2013
RANDOM OPINIONS. I like railroads as much as the next guy, and I see no reason other than the usual pettifogging gangs of career officeholders and time-serving public bureaucrats that a high-speed train can’t run between San Rafael and Willits. It won’t though. Ever.
THE TRACKS and rights-of-way are already there, and two slow-speed trains, up through World War Two, ran every day between Tiburon (linked by ferry with San Francisco) and Eureka. Hard to believe that 60 years ago you could board a train in Fort Bragg, make a southbound connection at Willits, and enjoy a drink at the Top of the Mark by sundown the same day.
SINCE THEN, of course, America has lost its way. We no longer have the kind of leadership that gets big things done, apart from wars, that is, or apart from their primary latter-day function, which is to shovel as much money to the oligarchy as they can, starving public amenities and social programs as they go. (On my recent trip to Scotland, I asked the foreman of the farm where we stayed, “Any toffs around here? I’ve never seen a toff except in Brit movies. I’d like to see one.” His reply, “Why would anyone want to see one of those bastards?” And that just kinda summed up the difference in class consciousness between US and the old country.)
THE NORTHCOAST’S Democrat Party apparatus is one of many hogs in the railroad restoration stream, not that Republicans wouldn’t do the same. The Democrats use rail funding as a jobs program for their most faithful old boys, people like Dan Hauser and Mitch Stogner, inserted into key rail positions despite zero railroad experience.
IT WOULD TAKE an estimated $600 million to get a train running again through the Eel River Canyon to Eureka. That money is unlikely to be forthcoming short of revolution or as a public works project under an FDR-like president; “dreams” of a Eureka-Marin railroad are pure fantasy — cynicism if it’s Democrats doing the dreaming. The Hauser-Stogner-Democrat Axis insists it’s doable. Their jobs depend on saying that.
EVEN WITH THEM in the way, there’s no reason a train couldn’t again run regularly between Marin and Willits, a prospect as unlikely as a train running farther north through the collapsed stretch of track in the Eel River Canyon. Marin to Willits, however, should be easy. No sign it ever will happen.
HAUSER CLONES at the Humboldt Bay Harbor Authority, or whatever it’s called, have spent $250,000 public dollars on another rail fantasy — an east-west line linking Humboldt County to I-5. This chimercal line would run between Samoa and Redding. That rail line, the study says, would cost a billion dollars in money that our bi-partisan masters spend their days diverting upwards to the One Percent. So, like the north-south line from Marin to Willits, it also won’t happen. Anyway, it’s highly unlikely, even if a rail line presently linked Humboldt Bay and Redding, that anyone would ship stuff on it because shippers can get in and out of the ports of Oakland and San Pedro just fine, and there’s no lumber out of HumCo anymore.
WHAT seems odd to me about the ongoing rail fantasies, at least those linking any part of Humboldt County with the SF Bay Area, is that nobody except the Democrats putting them out there believe them, and they don’t really believe them, I’d assume, other than as a funding source for a few of them and their friends.
AND WHO’S CHUGGING up the tracks with the latest on rail matters but Daniel Mintz…
STILLMAN OUSTED FROM NCRA
by Daniel Mintz
Division over the viability of railroad development is sure to spike now that trails-friendly Arcata Councilmember Alex Stillman has been pulled off the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) Board of Directors.
The committee that appoints a city representative to the NCRA board met July 16 to re-evaluate Stillman’s appointment, which had been made a month earlier to the chagrin of railroad advocates.
A majority of the mayors who make up the committee voted to rescind the appointment and after spirited debate and some confusion over process, the same majority voted to appoint Fortuna Mayor Doug Strehl to the NCRA board in Stillman’s place.
When Stillman was appointed, Ferndale Mayor Stuart Titus was absent and the committee was deadlocked between Stillman and Strehl. Eureka Mayor Frank Jager broke the tie by switching his vote from Strehl to Stillman.
But the appointment was soon challenged on procedural grounds by Eureka Attorney and rail advocate Bill Bertain, triggering a reassessment and the follow-up meeting.
Marcella Clem, the executive director of the Humboldt County Association of Governments (HCAOG), which provides staff support to the committee, downplayed the alleged procedural glitch but David Tranberg, HCAOG’s attorney, said that “it’s pretty obvious that a mistake was made” involving a paperwork submittal deadline.
With the appointment voided, a vote on re-doing it was pursued, with Stillman and Strehl once again vying for the pick.
Deliberations on it were marked by two twists – Titus created another deadlock situation by nominating himself as a third candidate and Eureka Councilmember Mike Newman, a strong rail development supporter, represented Eureka instead of Jager, a longtime Boy Scout troopmaster who’s a trails enthusiast.
In making a motion to appoint Strehl, Newman explained that it’s what most Eureka councilmembers want. “Our council was in discussion and we were behind the appointment of Doug Strehl,” he said, adding that Jager wasn’t at the meeting because he “had other things to do.”
Earlier, Stillman said that she supports a “rails with trails” approach but Newman said that’s not quite the stance supported by a majority of his city’s councilmembers. “We’re more in support of rails first, versus trails,” he continued.
Stillman had also described the southern end of the NCRA’s line as a redevelopment priority, while Strehl asserted that railroad development is a local economic necessity.
During a public comment session, rail supporters lobbied for Strehl and rail skeptics rallied for Stillman. The committee was equally divided with northern city reps, including Arcata Mayor Shane Brinton, supporting Stillman – with the exception of Eureka via Newman.
Trinidad Mayor Julie Fulkerson recounted Stillman’s long track record of achievement and questioned the re-appointment process. “We’re going to look like a bunch of flakes if we change our nomination at this point,” she said.
Noting Newman’s presence in place of Jager, Fulkerson suggested that there have been private discussions about getting Stillman off the NCRA board. “I don’t know what happened in Eureka – Frank was here last time, and saw that this was an opportunity to build bridges,” she said. “Something happened – and I don’t think it’s going to be discussed – but I find it offensive.”
Votes on appointing Stillman and Strehl were each deadlocked because Titus – the swing voter – voted against both of them due to being a candidate himself.
It seemed that there was no way for the committee to move an appointment but Fulkerson offered a plan. “We can get around it the way we did it the last meeting, because we had one gracious person who changed his vote,” she said. She told Newman, “You could honor the spirit of your mayor and change your vote.”
“How about you changing your vote?” asked Rio Dell Mayor Jack Thompson.
Fulkerson said her decision-making has been “consistent” and “I’m not interested in sending a message to the rail board that we’re indecisive.”
Faced with a lingering deadlock, the committee emerged from it by voting on whether to appoint Titus. The only one who voted in favor of that was Titus.
Having been eliminated as a candidate, he broke the tie by voting for Strehl.
Another matter was settled at the meeting – HCAOG is stepping out of the railroad debate crossfire. “We’re getting out of this business as of 5 p.m. today,” Tranberg said, explaining that from now on the clerk of the county’s Board of Supervisors will provide staff support to the committee.
After the meeting was adjourned, Newman was asked about the suggestion of closed-door decision-making and why he was there instead of Jager. In a rush to get to the Eureka council meeting, Newman disregarded the question as a reporter walked beside him.
Fulkerson was nearby and said, “C’mon, Mike — you can talk and walk at the same time, don’t be like George Bush, speak up.”
But Newman was mum.
ELIZABETH SWENSON, director of Mendocino Coast TV which was recently shut down in the wake of an unfortunate local Superior Court decision, wrote Saturday:
“Yes, MCTV is defunct, though the dissolution will take some time and it is possible in theory that the Footlighters [who won the lawsuit] and their lawyer would drop the $44,000 judgment and agree to not press for that money. But right now MCTV has no money to pay Footlighters or to pay staff. At this point, any money we raised would go to the Footlighters. If they and their lawyer dropped the judgment, MCTV, with a lot of financial help (probably less than $50,000 to start up again), could move and set up someplace and MCTV could survive. While in theory this is possible, there is no indication that this is going to happen. If for some reason this happened, it would be a miracle I think. I believe the petition [mentioned in yesterday’s Mendocino County Today] is worth signing and it serves to see if there is support for community access and also to let local governments know Community Access (public, government, education Access) is important to this community and essentially ask them to step up and help financially to get a new non-profit to run community access. Neither I or the MCTV board are behind the petition. While I knew about it before it went up I had nothing to do with starting it.” — Elizabeth Swenson, Director, Mendocino Coast Television
ASTONISHING SIGHT on 19th Avenue this morning (Saturday) a little after 11, a late model Honda with a Mike Thompson bumpersticker on its rear fender. I guess there are people enthusiastic about the guy but this is the first person I’ve seen to go public about it.
THE SAN JOSE Mercury News reported Saturday that Giants officials are fed up with the seagulls. The gulls are showing up in increasing numbers, especially in the last innings of night games. Hundreds sometimes land on the field during play. They also bomb fans and make clean-up after the thousands of departed human slobs even more difficult. It’s uncanny how they know when a game is winding down, circling the ballpark in such numbers its kind of eerie, like a scene out of the famous Hitchcock movie filmed at Bodega Bay. But there are more and more of them, and they’re showing up earlier and earlier. Maybe the Giants should give away pellet guns along with the bobbleheads.
HELEN THOMAS, the great White House reporter, has died. For years, as the big boys of corporate journalism crawled up to the throne to lob softball queries at presidents and their spokesmen, Thomas spoke right up, putting the rest of the pack to shame. Unfortunately for her, when she said in an unguarded moment that she wished the Israelis would get out of Palestine altogether, Thomas was driven into retirement. Even the most tentative support of Palestinians finishes you off in America, such is the lock the Israel Lobby has on public opinion. Most reasonable people, who are also routinely denounced as anti-Semites by the Israel Lobby, simply for opposing Israel’s unconscionable and ongoing persecution of the Palestinians — Alice Walker just got a deluge of abuse for sticking up for the Palestinians — would settle for a return to the pre-’67 War borders. Maybe the old girl was a closet anti-Semite; that was a crazy thing for her to have said, but all the bully boys from every which way pounced on her, and Helen was done.
THE LAST FEARLESS REPORTER
There Will Never Be Another Helen Thomas
by Ralph Nader
There will never be another Helen Thomas. She shattered forever one anti-woman journalistic barrier after another in the Washington press corps and rose to the top of her profession’s organizations.
Helen Thomas asked the toughest questions of Presidents and White House press secretaries and over her sixty-two year career took on sexism, racism and ageism. She endured prejudice against her ethnicity — Arab-American — and her breaking the taboo regarding the rights of dispossessed Palestinians.
She also made many friends in journalism and spoke to audiences all over the country about the responsibility of journalists to hold politicians responsible with tough, probing, questions that are asked repeatedly until they are either answered or the politician is unmasked as an unaccountable coward. That is the example she set as a journalist and the recurrent theme in her three books.
Her free spirit, her courageous belief that injustice must be exposed by journalists, her congenial personality and her relentless focus (she asked former President George W. Bush and his press secretary Ari Fleischer dozens of times “Why are we in Iraq?”) will be long remembered.
Her tenacious, forthright approach to journalism stands as a stark contrast to the patsy journalism of too many of her former self-censoring White House press colleagues.
The remarkable combination of skills and perseverance will distinguish Helen Thomas as one of the giants of American journalistic history. (Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.)
DAN HAMBURG is presently chairman of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors. He’s also herd bull to a large number of the County’s liberals, defining liberals here as Obama voters generally in lock-step with Democrat Party propaganda as expressed, say, by Rachel Maddow or NPR.
WHEN HAMBURG last week shut down John Sakowicz’s remarks during the three minutes the public is supposed to be allowed to talk about any old thing, Hamburg undermined a long-standing local tradition. You’d have to go back to John Cimolino, the supervisor from Georgia-Pacific and Fort Bragg (in that order, too) to find a supervisor who even gave a hoot what the great unwashed said during the three minutes allotted to them at the beginning of each meeting. “Do we have to listen to these nuts?” an anguished Cimolino would exclaim as the late One True Green, Richard Johnson, approached the podium. Well, yes, Johnny, we do. It’s called democracy. But even the conservative boards of yesteryear let the people have their say.
BUT LEAVE IT to the libs to shut it down when someone is about to say something “inappropriate,” i.e., something the libs don’t approve of.
SAKO was going to denounce a ritual attaboy proclamation for a couple of retiring bureaucrats, and more power to him. Sako’s just about the only person in the County to follow the money, and follow it in ways we can all understand. Public officials who’ve helped undermine County finances through incompetence or simply to go along to get along with, in this instance, the captive Ukiah City Council and its disastrous city manager, shouldn’t get a merry send-off. They deserve to be put in perspective. Which Sako was about to do when, backed up by Supervisor McCowen, Hamburg cut Sako off and told him to sit down.
* * *
CENSORSHIP FOR ‘WE, THE PEOPLE’ — I have just reviewed the verbatim exchange that led to the unprecedented incident of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors censoring me, a member of the public, during the time set aside for non-agenda public comment. This incident occurred at the very beginning of the Board meeting on Tuesday, July 16.
Since Tuesday’s meeting, the County CEO has apologized to me in private. Two Supervisors have also expressed that had they been Board Chair they would let me speak and would not silenced me by ruling me “out of order” as Chair Dan Hamburg did with County Counsel Tom Parker’s agreement. These Supervisors would have let me continue, as was my absolute right.
As of today, I have not received a formal apology from the Board for what was for me a public humiliation. Nor has the Board’s policy on non-agenda public comment been corrected, clarified, and made public, so that this violation of free speech does not happen again.
I was silenced presumably for not speaking on an issue related to County business. County Counsel Parker pontificated and obliquely referred to California Government Code: 54954.3, which states as follows: “(a) Every agenda for regular meetings shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the legislative body on any item of interest to the public, before or during the legislative body’s consideration of the item, that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body, provided that no action shall be taken on any item not appearing on the agenda unless the action is otherwise authorized by subdivision.”
But there’s a problem with Parker’s opinion — two problems, actually.
One, Hamburg held me to a double standard.
Two, I was indeed about to speak on issues related to County business.
Let’s first take the problem of a double standard.
Readers must know that in the past non-agenda public comment has seen members of the public speaking on all manner of issues unrelated to Mendocino County Board of Supervisors’ business. This has included comments on issues as disparate and unrelated to Board business as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, genetically modified food, global warming, the decriminalization of marijuana, gun control, the economy, healthcare, immigration, etc.
Clearly, the Board held me to a different standard.
That said, my comments were not unrelated to County business as Hamburg suggested. And he knew this.
Presently, the City of Ukiah has filed two lawsuits against the County of Mendocino. Both lawsuits are concerned with money. Ukiah City Finance Director, Gordon Elton, about whom I wanted to speak on Tuesday, is directly linked to both lawsuits.
The City of Ukiah, along with the Cities of Willits and Fort Bragg, are suing the County of Mendocino and Auditor-Controller Meredith Ford for hundreds of thousands of dollars they claim she overcharged them in fees for administering the cities’ property taxes.
Ford’s office is responsible for distributing each city’s share of the property taxes collected in the county, for which it charges an annual Property Tax Administration Fee.
The amounts purportedly overcharged by the County Auditor in administration fees on county-city transactions known as the “Triple Flip” and the “VLF Swap” add up to $339,630 for Ukiah, Willits, and Fort Bragg from fiscal year 2006-07 to 2011-12.
However, Gordon Elton should have known in his capacity as Ukiah City Finance Director that the State of California set up this arrangement, not the County of Mendocino.
Although the California Supreme Court ruled on Nov. 19, 2012, that counties could not charge cities for the additional cost of administering the allocation of property taxes resulting from the Legislature’s enactment of the Triple Flip and VLF Swap, the Court’s ruling only applied to the problem in the 2012-13 fiscal year, and it was not intended to correct past fees. It was not retroactive.
Consequently, Gordon Elton could have — and should have — saved both the City of Ukiah and the County of Mendocino the time and money of a specious lawsuit . He should have advised the Ukiah City Council before it acted.
Gordon Elton, as City Finance Director, also failed miserably on a second issue involving the City of Ukiah and the County of Mendocino: the sales tax revenue sharing agreement.
Like the City’s lawsuit against the County Auditor on property tax levies, the lack of a sales tax revenue sharing agreement between the City and the County falls right into the lap of the city finance director.
The City and the County have been in “discussions” for years. Why so long? Because the City heavily depends on sales taxes to fund its general government services. And the City has been running a $1 million budget deficit for two years as it refused to cut payroll despite losing $1 million in RDA funds.
In closing, it is a statement of fact that Hamburg held me to a double standard on non-agenda public comment. But Hamburg also censored what I was about to say about the ways in which I believe Gordon Elton has not only failed his employer, the City of Ukiah, but has also failed the County of Mendocino.
Gordon Elton did not deserve a glowing official proclamation from the City of Ukiah on the occasion of his retirement. It was absurd.
But as absurd as the proclamation was, it was no surprise. In fact, it was politics as usual. Elected officials cover up for staff as payback for those many occasions when staff covers up for elected officials.
As I said. Politics as usual. Whether you’re talking about Washington DC, Sacramento, the County of Mendocino, or the City of Ukiah. Government is an insider’s game, my friends.
The losers? You guessed it. You. Me. We, the People.
We’re the outsiders. And now, we’re censored during public expression during the non-agenda part of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisor meetings. It was our one opportunity to be heard.
To Ukiah Mayor Doug Crane’s credit, he did not censor me during public comment after the proclamation reading at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. I cited Gordon Elton’s failings — as best I could in three minutes — including the City’s two pending cases against the County and Elton’s role by association in those cases.
I should not have been silenced at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
Respectfully submitted, John Sakowicz, Ukiah
SKIP TAUBE, board president of the Caspar Children’s Garden, a successful, long-standing, and much-need daycare center for pre-schoolers, is rightly disturbed that the very existence of the center is imperiled by a uniquely highhanded, and unexpected move by the Botanical Gardens and the Mendo Coast Rec and Park District not to rent space to the pre-school. Mr. Taube explains: “The Caspar Children’s Garden (CCG) preschool board of directors has been working since early spring on an agreement to move their program to the farmhouse located at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (MCBG). This past week the board was unexpectedly informed that the Botanical Garden was no longer interested in renting to them. CCG has already spent over $8,000 (almost half their savings) applying for a County use permit (in conjunction with the MCBG and their landlord, the Mendocino Coast Recreation & Park District) and were willing to make improvements at their own expense. With this disappointing news, the program is now in need of a new home. The preschool has 25+ years of experience running a successful business serving hundreds of families; a team of experienced teachers; a large group of parents waiting to enroll their children this fall; and a storage unit packed to capacity with all the materials and furniture that belong in an early childhood program. If you know of a possible location or can contribute in any way to this urgent request for assistance, please contact the CCG director, Sandra Mix, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-367-9763.”
DEAR SIR, My name is Geoff Cooper. Since 1998 I have been attempting to get our Government to investigate what takes place in the Masonite facility which stands on the River Shannon below Drumsna Village in Ireland. The factory killed all the fish in the river in 1998. It also pours out into the atmosphere grey muck on a daily basis. The incidence of cancer in the area has risen by over 38% in the last ten years. Our fisheries board, the EPA and anyone in authority deny we have a problem here. Some years ago I took water samples and had them analyzed at the best laboratory in Ireland. The results were quite frightening. The water carried several thousand times the permitted amount of Formaldehyde plus a de-foaming agent. Even when I presented the facts to the EPA they still denied there was a problem. The factory here is self-monitoring. I was told by informants in the factory that the man from the EPA visited once every month, sat in the manager’s office and then was taken to Carrick for lunch. When he arrived back at the Masonite facility he just got in his car and left. Longford Town which is downstream of the place extracts water for the town’s consumption. Many folk have had serious stomach problems. A pet shop in the town had to stop keeping fish as when the owner topped up his tanks with tap water all the fish died. Four weeks ago there was another massive fish kill on the river. The fisheries board blamed anglers for keeping fish in nets too long. There aren’t any anglers as the river is not worth fishing. For the record I am a freelance journalist. I write on a regular basis for two Irish magazines. I also present films for TV and am currently working on a series of six for a British TV company. My website is fishingforall.com.
PS. I have a meeting next week with members of our Government. At last they are listening a little. Maybe it is a forlorn hope but any information will be well and truly appreciated. The factory in Ukiah was the sister factory to what we have here. Years ago I spoke to one of your rangers who told me they had killed all the fish in the Russian River and had to be monitored by his team twice daily. When I told him our government had allowed them (Masonite) to self-monitor his reply was, “Are your government [bleep]ing crazy?” My regards and thanks once again. — Geoff Cooper
DRAMATIC EARLY LOGGING PHOTOS
A series of photos recently released from the Humboldt State University Library capture early 20th century lumberjacks working among the redwoods in Humboldt County. The photos are part of the Ericson Collection, a series of pictures from northwest California from the 1880s through the 1920s by Swedish photographer A.W. Ericson.
Most of these pictures are from the 1915-era displaying the work of loggers in once densely forested northern California— about 20% of the state’s total forested area. Humboldt County now has nearly 1,500,000 acres in public and private forests, including the Redwood National and State Parks. The enormity of the tree trunks are highlighted by the workmen who are dwarfed by the trees’ sheer size.
ART IN THE GARDENS
On August 3rd, 2013, the finest California artists and craftsman, musicians, wine makers, and culinary artists bring their talents and original art to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens for the 22nd annual Art in the Gardens, including Featured Artist - Paula Gray.
Originally from Moss Landing, a small fishing village, in Monterey County, Paula Gray pursued her childhood passion for art by first attending Cabrillo College and later earning a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree from CAL Arts in Los Angeles. While still in school, she accepted a job at Disney in Burbank where she participated in the design and construction of attractions such as Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Haunted Mansion.
Her artistic talents are multidimensional, as she has applied her considerable expertise to such creative endeavors as: curator of the Museum of Northern Arizona; co-director of a city-wide mural project in Los Angeles; and creator of comic books and film strips; fashion photographer; book illustrator; and graphic artist.
In 1980, with a grant from the California Arts Council in hand, Paula Grey arrived in Anderson Valley to develop a program to provide art experiences for children in residential facilities. Recognizing a need for art programs in the Anderson Valley schools she wrote for, and received, another grant which she used to hire local artists to teach in the areas elementary and high schools. So began her enthusiasm for teaching.
Gray taught at Mendocino College for over 25 years and says “color and composition” was her favorite class to teach. She notes that artists use the same principles of color and composition that occur organically in nature. Paula believes that the artifacts of “primitive” cultures are the nearest representation to true art as they merge sophisticated craftsmanship with a deep and intuitive understanding of the natural world.
“Animals are important to me. They have always been a major part of my life,” she says. Paula enjoys the fawns outside her window and a pair of ravens who knock on her door to remind her to give them their breakfast along with domestic animals. The coming together of her love of art and the influence of animals on her life culminate in her wonderful paintings. Her signature images portray the whimsy of animals. This is clearly evident in this year’s Art in the Gardens featured art, a fanciful portrait of a happy dog. A pok-a-dot kerchief tied around its neck, turquoise eye shadow, and a red rhododendron truss in its mouth. It can’t help but make you smile!
The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens loved this cute pup so much…that they have adopted it (with Paula Gray’s blessings), named it, and made it the mascot for their newly renovated café which will be called “Rhody’s” Garden Café.
Plan to join the excitement at the 22nd annual Art in the Gardens on August 3rd, 2013, from 11 am to 5 pm. Experience the Gardens in full summer bloom, stroll garden paths, meet artists, meet “Rhody”. Shop specialty crafts and place a Silent Auction bid, walk the coastal bluffs and enjoy great food and music. You will also view live art demonstrations, sample delicious culinary treats, taste premium Mendocino & Lake County wines, and listen to live music. Art in the Gardens is one of our biggest fundraisers, with all proceeds assisting the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in supporting horticulture, conservation, and education. To join the festivities, visit our website for complete details. Tickets can be purchased at The Gardens Store, Harvest Market, Out of This World, or online at www.gardenbythesea.org.