Mendocino County Today: July 23, 2013

by AVA News Service, July 22, 2013

GLASS BEACH: LONG TIME PASSING

By Jessica Ehlers

Over the weekend the kiddo, who is now the ripe ol’ age of seven and I had some extra time after playing and before dinner. I asked him if he’s like to go to the Pudding Creek Trestle or to Glass Beach. “Glass Beach!” So that’s where we went. It being July in Fort Bragg, parking was tricky but we found a spot, wrapped our sweatshirts around our waists “justincase” and hit the trail.

As we walked passed the trash cans and the locked gate, I noticed the heaping piles of blackberry briars had been mowed down to a foot high. Typically in the summer and since as far back as I can remember, the briars were a source of pie making berries and also a place to the coastal homeless to get some shelter from the wind. I talked about this with the kiddo. He asked how I knew about the people living in there. I told him I had happened across blankets and bedding while berry picking over the years, forts that were not really forts.

It was quiet for the next little while on the walk. Then we got to the fork in the road. That’s when we saw this:

07The kiddo has been reading for a while now so the lower sign brought a pretty sad emotional reaction that I will not describe further because I don’t need to. We followed the north trail to an edge in the path where the soft sandstone is in a quick erosion process. I had him stay on the north side of me so he did not surf down the face on an overhang.

We stood overlooking the high tide crashing over the rocks into the shallow algae pond, the remaining pieces of dirty glass covered in sandstone silt and the dedicated tourists playing in the water next to the heaps of stinky rotting seaweed and the flies that love it so much.

For the kiddo, it’s a lesson in change I think. For me, it has been a strange process of harvesting yesteryear’s trash from the sea since I was a kid. Don’t ask me to tell you how many ceramic-covered spark plugs I gathered as a kid because I could not tell you. I get that the only reason there is sea glass there at all is because a while back, people would back their pickups off the cement wall and toss all their trash right into the sea.

Granted, this was mostly the era before plastics but look at all the glass, auto parts, spark plugs and who knows what else. The ceramic and the glass we see but remember the metal re-bar coming out of the ceramic slabs and what looked like actual car parts encased in rock? Never mind the orange puddles that you hoped were just rust.

I am of two minds about it. I liked collecting treasures from glass beach as a kid but from what I understand, the City decided after inquiring that “restocking” the beach with glass was not a good idea.

So for your viewing pleasure, here is a blog post dedicated to Glass Beach and all it’s glory by Travis Burke with beautiful photographs.

Cheers!

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A FIVE CAR collision Sunday morning on the perennially hazardous stretch of Highway 20 near the Potter Valley Road turnoff, took the life of Robert Garrison of Newcastle. Garrison, 55, was driving five Boy Scouts, three of whom, including his son, were badly injured in the Sunday morning collisions. Garrison and the Scouts had been headed to the Boy Scout camp near Willits when a pick-up truck and trailer, driven by Sheriff's Department captain Randy Johnson, was rear-ended, thus setting in motion a series of collisions involving five vehicles. Johnson had stopped to wait for a break in the traffic so he could turn off Highway 20 to the Johnson family property when he was rear-ended. In the ensuing series of crashes involving the Garrison fatality, five vehicles wound up careening into each other. The accident occurred at 11:10am, closing busy Highway 20 for three hours.

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PUBLIC EXPRESSION (sic), BOARD OF SUPERVISORS CHAMBERS, UKIAH, JULY 16, 2013.

John Sakowicz: I am speaking as a private citizen only. This Wednesday the Ukiah City Finance Director Gordon Elton is retiring. The city is doing a proclamation. With the help of the Anderson Valley Advertiser who did an article earlier this week, I would like to cite some of Mr. Elton's dubious achievements: Hijacked redevelopment funds of upwards of $1 million annually, for up to 10 years to pay for —

(Mumbling from Board Chair Dan Hamburg.)

Sakowicz: This is a non-agenda item. …to pay for this…

Hamburg: I realize that. I just don't know where you are going with this, John.

Sakowicz: To pay for — well, he bankrupted the city.

McCowen: Excuse me, Mr. Chair. It's not something that's within our purview and public comment is for items not on the agenda but within our purview. I believe County Counsel could confirm that.

County Counsel Tom Parker: Yes sir.

McCowen: It's not necessarily an open forum.

Sakowicz: This is for information purposes.

McCowen: It’s not an open forum.

Sakowicz: Okay. All right. Well, I will be publishing this and I will be reading it at the Ukiah city Council meeting on Wednesday.

Hamburg: Thank you. Thank you, John. Okay, others who would like to address the board?

Supervisor John Pinches: Mr. Chairman.

Hamburg: Yes.

Pinches: This is the first time — I have sat here for over 10 years, going on 11 years. This is the first time that I have ever seen public expression restricted in any way at this forum.

Hamburg: Well, um. (Clears throat). Ok.

Pinches: I don't understand. I mean, three minutes of public expression should be three minutes of public expression. Period.

Hamburg: Well, thank you for that. Umm, Supervisor McCowen did ask for County Counsel's opinion and he did concur.

Pinches: I disagree with that opinion.

Hamburg: Well, yeah. I hear you. I understand what you're saying. And uh, Mr. County Counsel would you like to offer further consideration?

Parker: Yes. The, the public expression is for items that are not agendized as has been stated and is well-known. The — but my legal analysis is that the county has no jurisdiction over the city. Mr. Elton is not a county employee. The county could – the county would have no, no jurisdiction to agendize honoring Mr. Elton's services to the public in general or the, to the city of Ukiah in particular. So it — that was the basis for my conclusion, there really is —

Hamburg: Yes, well. You know. I — I’ll let Supervisor Pinches speak but I do also have some concerns because now, you know, every time somebody speaks we are going to have to analyze whether it's something we have purview over and that's going to be a tough standard to meet, you know, fairly often.

Pinches: First of all, City of Ukiah taxpayers are also County of Mendocino taxpayers. They are the same group of people. If we are going to start selecting who can say anything and who can say what, I guess my first question would be, who's going to be in charge of that?

Hamburg: Well, ostensibly, it would be the Chair with the advice of County Counsel. And you will be Chair quite soon.

McCowen: I am willing to leave it to the prerogative of the Chair, but, as a matter of law and Brown Act compliance, public expression is for matters under our purview but not on the agenda and the concern is not so much that the speaker rose to honor the city employee but his intent from his opening comments was actually the opposite. I do not think that is appropriate because that city employee really would have no equivalent forum in which to respond.

Hamburg: Yeah.

McCowen: So just kind of as a matter of decorum I did not think it was appropriate. But again, at the discretion of the chair.

Hamburg: Well, I agree. It's a slippery slope. And it may be something we should talk about a little bit more after this meeting. But, I have to say, Supervisor McCowen, that I share your, your chagrin at somebody getting up to criticize someone who's not a county employee. And again as you said, in a forum where that person has no — you know, I was thinking how someone once got up, and it's not really that infrequent, somebody will get up and blast a supervisor or criticize some ill treatment they received in a county department from a particular individual working for the county and that never elicits a complaint from a Board member even if you happen to be the Board member who is getting wailed on, that comes with the territory. But to get up and wail on an employee who doesn't even work for the county, I just don't — I have a little bit of a problem with that. So I am going to rule that that comment was out of order and I will discuss it further with County Counsel and the CEO sometime in the future."

* * *

SO, HAMBURG cut Sako off because Sako, Hamburg assumed, was about to say something slanderous about Gordon Elton, Ukiah's former finance director, and Mari Rodin, a Ukiah City Councilperson. The truth is the first defense against an accusation alleging slander, and the truth is that these two, Elton and Rodin, have not made prudent spending decisions for Ukiah, although they're not alone in their profligacy. Hamburg later added that he'd also silenced Sako because Elton and Rodin don't have anything to do with County business, that they and Ukiah are an island apart. But Sako also pointed out that the City of Ukiah and the County of Mendocino are fiscally linked in many ways, and if Ukiah goes belly up, the County would be left holding the bag. For saying this the guy gets the gag?

HAMBURG is more and more imperious. He's always been invincibly righteous in the smug manner of so many “liberals,” but he's never before claimed to be clairvoyant. That's new.

HAMBURG, speaking to his choir round-the-clock clustered like fruit bats on rotten bananas at the Mendo ListServe, came back with,

"I agreed with Supervisor McCowen and County Counsel that Mr. Sakowicz was out of order with respect to his 'public expression' last Tuesday. (County Counsel Parker, new to the job, is already a confirmed, tax-paid Hamburg errand boy.) I don't believe that public expression should be used to berate/accuse a non-county employee when that person is not even present to defend themselves [sic].

Nor does the BOS have any authority over a non-county employee.

Although the Board's Rules of Procedure have a fairly limited definition of what is appropriate under public expression (generally, such expression is supposed to relate to topics within the purview of the Board), this rule has always been interpreted broadly and I see no reason that that would change in the future.

I did draw the line at what I considered to be slander against a non-county employee.

— Dan Hamburg, Mendocino Listserve, July 22, 2013 explaining why he shut down John Sackowicz at last week's meeting of the Supervisors.

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A HIGHER LAW

TO: David Eyster, District Attorney, Mendocino County

Ukiah, California

Re: People v. William Edward Parrish,

Case No. MCUK-INNT-13-16663-000

District Attorney Eyster,

I urge you to consider a spirit-of-the-law approach in the case of Will Parrish. He is obviously not a common vandal. We all know why he was doing what he was doing, trying to prevent an ill-fated, unnecessary, unwanted, irreversible ecological disaster from happening. His act was noble, not base; generous, not selfish. And far from alone, his actions represented the thoughts and feelings of a large number of people who are close to, and well informed on, the issue.

Sometimes people are compelled to act in accord with a higher law, outside the statutory ones of their time and place. This is such a case. As District Attorney, you could, of course, use the letter of the law to maximize sentencing against Mr. Parrish, but that would be a terrible miscarriage of justice. Instead, I ask you to judiciously consider the larger context of these events and act accordingly. The law can be used as a weapon or it can serve a higher purpose. The actions of Will Parrish call for the latter response and I hope you will rise to the occasion. — Sincerely, Mike Kalantarian, Navarro

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STATEMENT OF THE DAY: “It’s fitting that Detroit is the first great American city to officially bite the dust, because it produced the means of America’s suicidal destruction: the automobile. Of course you could argue that the motorcar was an inevitable product of the industrial era — and I would not bother to enlist a mob of post-doc philosophy professors to debate that — but the choices we made about what to do with the automobile is another matter. What we chose was to let our great cities go to hell and move outside them in a car-dependent utopia tricked out as a simulacrum of “country living.” The entire experiment of suburbia can, of course, be construed as historically inevitable, too, but is also destined to be abandoned — and sooner than most Americans realize. Finally, what we’ll be left with is a tremendous continental-sized vista of waste and desolation, the end product of this technological thrill ride called Modernity. It’s hard to find redemption in this story, unless it’s a world made by hand, with all its implications for a return to human-ness.” (James Kunstler)

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DRAFT OF TAX SHARING AGREEMENT

Dear friends and neighbors:

The City of Ukiah Ad/Hoc members met several times with Mendocino County Superiors McCowen and Brown, and these meetings resulted in a new formula proposal for a tax sharing agreement between the City and the County.  See link: http://cityofukiah.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?meta_id=28036&view=&showpdf=1  The proposal will be discussed at a City Council Special Meeting on July 29 at 5:30 PM.   I am not a fan of Ad/Hoc meetings, because they are not Brown Act meetings. Ad/Hoc meetings give the public the general impression that government business is being transacted in secret.  That said, I have several problems with the proposed agreement. As has been the history of tax sharing up until now, the City sees itself as being "in the driver's seat." The proposed agreement also highlights several the failures of the Ukiah Valley Area Plan (UVAP).  I'll write more about this proposed agreement later today.   Also, you may be interested to know that I have it from reliable sources the County's AS 400 system -- its financial system -- was down last week for most of the week. This means that much of the work done at the Offices of the County Clerk-Tax Collector/Assessor, the Office of the Treasurer, and the Office of the Auditor, ground to a halt.  I wonder: What did the workers in these offices do all week?. What did they do all week?  And where was the County IT?   — John Sakowicz

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DRONES

The Predator drone began its career as a spy. Its first mission was to fly over the Balkans during the late 1990s and feed live video back to the US. In 2001, it was kitted out with Hellfire missiles and promoted to assassin. The CIA reportedly had qualms about operating unmanned killing machines, but these were swept away by the attacks of 11 September. In October 2001, the Washington Post reported that George W. Bush had signed a 'presidential finding' that effectively lifted a 25-year ban on assassinations. Although Bill Clinton had previously claimed the authority to mount covert attacks on al-Qaida, Bush's finding greatly expanded the pool of potential targets and expressly permitted the drawing up of kill lists. 'Targeted killing', the new program, was like 'clipping toenails', one official told the Post, because al-Qaida could always generate new leaders. 'It won't solve the whole problem, but it's part of the solution.'

BY EARLY 2002, the Predator had picked off its first target in Yemen. The CIA's drone campaign in Pakistan got underway in 2004. The US military sent Predators to support ground forces in their campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan, then against Saddam Hussein's forces in Iraq, then against the Baathist 'dead-enders,' then against the rising insurgency. In 2001, the military had 167 drones; by 2009, it had 5500. Today the US drone fleet numbers more than seven thousand; in addition to Predators, there are longer-distance and harder-hitting Reapers, high-altitude radar-enabled Global Hawks, and hand-launched Ravens that look like model airplanes. Most missions are for surveillance, a substantial fraction for killings. They are carried out by US operators sitting in comfortable chairs in air-conditioned rooms thousands of miles away. Their screens show tiny, pixellated people disappearing into puffs of smoke.

Between three and five thousand people have died this way in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia; hundreds more have been killed by drones in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Obama oversaw the departure of the last US troops from Iraq last year, and the current plan for Afghanistan is to complete the handover from Nato to local forces by the end of 2014. But as these conventional wars have wound down, the use of drones to kill individuals outside declared war zones has accelerated. Under Bush, the US carried out 48 known drone strikes in Pakistan. Under Obama, there have been more than three hundred. Other than a handful of 'high value targets', little is known about who exactly is being killed, and how many of the dead might be considered innocent civilians. Estimates of civilian deaths range from 'single digits' in a year (Dianne Feinstein) to the low hundreds (New America Foundation) to nearly a thousand (Bureau of Investigative Journalism) to more than 90 percent of all the deaths in drone strikes (the ex-military officers David Kilcullen and Andrew McDonald Exum). In March 2012, the New York Times reported that all military-age males, armed or unarmed, are considered to be combatants unless there is posthumous evidence proving otherwise; the Obama administration recently disputed this.

Most of the killings take place in inaccessible tribal regions, so the organizations keeping the body counts often base their assessments — 'civilian', 'militant', 'insurgent', or 'combatant' — on media reports of whatever is said to have appeared on the video feed. A former drone operator published an account of his experience in Der Spiegel:

Bryant saw a flash on the screen: the explosion. Parts of the building collapsed. The child had disappeared. Bryant had a sick feeling in his stomach. 'Did we just kill a kid?' he asked the man sitting next to him. 'Yeah, I guess that was a kid,' the pilot replied. 'Was that a kid?' they wrote into a chat window on the monitor. Then someone they didn't know answered....'No. That was a dog.'

In other words, distinguishing between civilian and militant has become a post hoc body-sorting argument. As viewed through the drone's crosshairs, the ciphers on the ground are neither civilians nor militants: they could be called 'civilitants', some of whom have been rendered killable not by who they are or what they have done but by where they happen to be…

(Like a Mosquito, a review by Mattathias Schwartz of Jeremy Scahill's Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield)

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“IT WAS AN ACCUMULATION of velvet, lace, ribbons, diamonds and what else I couldn't describe. To undress one of these women is like an outing that calls for three weeks advance notice; it's like moving house." ( — Jean Cocteau, 1913)

2 Responses to Mendocino County Today: July 23, 2013

  1. John Sakowicz Reply

    July 23, 2013 at 9:38 am

    Slight correction on my note about the Proposed Tax Revenue Sharing Agreement between the City of Ukiah and the County of Mendocino.

    I had incorrectly assumed that Supervisors John McCowen and Carre Brown would have represented the County in the Ad/Hoc meetings with the City, since both of their respective districts fall in the Ukiah Valley, also known as the area described by the Ukiah Valley Area Plan (UVAP).

    In speaking with Supervisor McCown last night from home, I was informed that Supervisor Brown did not join Supervisor McCowen at those Ad/Hoc meetings. Former Supervisor Kendall Smith joined McCowen in representing the County’s interests.

    Why Smith?

    Well, that’s a good question.

    As an aside, kindly note all the language in the draft document that is “redlined”. Why all the redlining?

    That’s another good question.

    In word processing, redlining refers to marking text that has been edited. Typically, redlining is used when two or more people are working on a document together; each individual can redline the text he or she has added or edited. The redlined text will then appear in a special color (or as bold) so that others can see the changes that have been made.

    Well, my friends, this Proposed Tax Sharing Agreement between the City and the County has been heavily redlined…heavily edited.

    What’s my guess as to who has the heavy hand with the red pen?

    Ukiah City Manager, Jane Chambers. Also, City Attorney, David Rapport. Along with their sidekick, retiring City Finance Director, Gordon Elton.

    Why Ms. Chambers? Because she needs every penny she can get her hands on — even if it’s at the County’s expense. The City is dipping into reserves, as it runs up another $1 million deficit for the second year in a row. She has publicly stated in City Council meetings she refuses to cut costs. She rather seek new revenue, even if it’s at the County”s expense.

    Why Mr. Rapport? Because he is not a salaried employee of the City. Rather, he is under contract. You might say, litigation is in his best interests, because that”s how he gets paid. Conflict equals more billable hours. Litigation equals a lot more billable hours.

    Why Mr. Elton? I better not say. Dan Hamburg will shut me up!

    Again, here’s the link: http://cityofukiah.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?meta_id=28036&view=&showpdf=1

    If Hamburg doesn’t think this document, which seriously shortchanges the County, doesn’t have anything to do with Gordon Elton, he is wrong.

    Very wrong.

    For example, check out who get what from Costco;

    Quoting from the proposed agreement: “If the costs identified in Exhibit D equal $6 Million and the CITY uses $3 Million from Tax Allocation Bonds and $1 Million from another non-General Fund source of funds to pay $4 Million of that $6 Million cost, and the CITY uses $2 Million of General Funds revenues
    to pay the balance of those costs, the CITY must recover $8 Million ($6 Million plus $4 Million x 50%)) from sales tax revenue attributable to the Costco store before it must commence sharing such revenue with the COUNTY pursuant to Section 3, b.”

    In other words, the City pays off its bonds first. Only then would the City even consider sharing anything.

    And even then — even then! — in the first year the City would get 90 % of the sales tax revenue, and the County would get only 10 %. Sure, the percentage goes up in subsequent years for the County, but the County shouldn’t hold its breath. The City gets to pay off millions of dollars in old RDA bonds.

    I ask Hamburg: Is this slander? Or is it fact?

  2. Harvey Reading Reply

    July 23, 2013 at 10:18 am

    When are USans gonna grow up and accept that we brought the office building destruction of September 2011 upon ourselves? i guess we’d rather worship the military, pretend they’re fighting for our freedom, for democracy, pretend we’re all middle class and all in this together, revere the wealthy, and stick our heads in the sand (or in a much darker, smellier place within our own anatomies). Jesus Christ, just think of how many millions of innocents have we have murdered over the decades. We have no right whatsoever to feel outrage, or surprise, when we are occasionally, very occasionally, paid back in kind a little for our continuing atrocities against others. We have no right at all to our inflated opinion of ourselves, or to our despicable arrogance.

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