Mendocino County Today: August 25, 2013
by AVA News Service, August 24, 2013
ROOSKIES AT HENDY WOODS, Take Two: We've learned that there is indeed a group called Camp Skala that does have almost all of the camping slots at the park reserved over the Labor Day weekend. But State Parks did not “give” them the slots. Skala managed to make these reservations through the automated reservation system at ReserveAmerica.com. There are some controls on the automated system that should have prevented a mass reservation, but the controls did not do the job. Anderson Valley, always a graciously welcoming place except when it isn't, looks forward to making the visitors feel at home.
KGO NEWS is reporting that Caltrans may face fines or even be forced to stop work on the Willits Bypass because the project is out of compliance with environmental regulations. The $300 million freeway bypass bisects sensitive wetlands area that Caltrans is required to do $50 million in environmental improvements to compensate. The US Army Corps of Engineers says Caltrans failed to get a qualified contractor and meet required deadlines for the environmental work. The Corps calls the violations “very serious.”
CALTRANS HAD THIS RESPONSE for KGO: “We are committed to the 2,000 acres of mitigation and other efforts to protect and enhance the environment in the Little Lake Valley. We are working closely with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and are taking all requested steps to ensure compliance with our permit.”
THE FOLLOWING LETTER is by Jane Hicks, the Army Corps signatory to the February letter saying Army Corps would pull the permit if CTC didn’t vote enough mitigation funding, then in May she said her office was satisfied with the level of funding.
WILLITS FINALLY GETTING FREEWAY BYPASS BUT ISN'T SURE IT STILL WANTS IT
50+ years on, Willits, California, is getting its bypass. But with wetlands to be drained for the project, opposition has arisen.
By Lee Romney
The project was proudly unveiled in this Mendocino County lumber town in the mid-1950s, when the car was king and the future looked bright.
Instead of channeling Highway 101 traffic right down Main Street, a four-lane bypass dubbed the Willits Freeway would route vacationing motorists and commercial trucks around the community's periphery.
Then came delays, and more delays. Ukiah got its bypass in the 1960s, Cloverdale two decades later.
Now, at last, it's Willits' turn. Tens of thousands of corrugated plastic wick drains have been plunged deep into the Little Lake Valley to compact its wetlands. The roadway's foundation piles are being driven.
But this is not the same Willits — or the same era.
Back-to-the-landers with visions of sustainability and an aversion to greenhouse gases have flocked here as the Willits born-and-bred have moved on. Only one small lumber mill remains, and the town's population has dwindled.
Opponents have decried the environmental destruction, contending that a two-lane bypass would have been far less damaging and should have been considered. They have conducted studies that indicate the project's traffic-carrying capabilities far exceed expected volumes, and last year filed a federal suit citing violations of the Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act — laws not even conceived of in the 1950s.
Desperate to slow the project that broke ground in February, conservationists have teamed with more radical activists from the Little Lake Valley Defenders and Redwood Nation Earth First!, who have chained themselves to the massive wick drain stitchers — the soaring steel equipment driving the drains into wet soil — and staged sit-ins up in the trees.
The project to drain the wetlands and construct the bypass is dividing this town, which tends to rank its populace of about 5,000 by the depth of their roots here: old-timers, newer old-timers, newcomers.
“It hurts to look at this,” Ellen Drell, who sits on the board of the Willits Environmental Center, said as she surveyed a graded expanse of dirt that until recently was pasture dotted with ancient oaks. “It hurts because my town, where I've lived my entire adult life, wasn't willing to be part of a better solution.
“What are we, in Willits, doing in 2013?” she asked, close to tears. “We're building a four-lane freeway that's not needed, and for no reason we're sucking a wetland dry. The irrationality of it is just crushing.”
Yet plenty of residents are fed up with the protests, saying the project at last will relieve Main Street's traffic jams while modernizing infrastructure for countless Californians who don't wish to stop in town at all.
“It's about inter-regional transportation. It's about the functioning of a major state highway,” said Jeanne King, a retired schoolteacher and 30-year resident. “I don't consider myself a bypass proponent, I consider myself a bypass acceptor. Many people accept that the bypass is here after years and years of talk. This bypass, not some other bypass, not some better bypass.”
Caltrans district spokesman Phil Frisbie said the agency followed regulations in winning approval for the project, agreeing to a massive mitigation plan to enhance nearly 2,000 acres of the watershed in exchange for compacting 60 acres.
The agency will install fencing to keep livestock out of streambeds — which will improve water quality — and replace three culverts on three streams meant to open up new spawning grounds.
“We compromised,” he said.
With a folksy archway proclaiming itself the “Gateway to the Redwoods,” Willits presents the biggest speed bump for Highway 101 traffic between Eureka and Santa Rosa. During rush hour and on holidays, particularly when music festivals are scheduled to the north, traffic can back up for miles.
“I've seen fistfights. I've seen accidents,” said Denny McEntire, a former councilman who in 1945 arrived in Willits as a 6-month-old and grew up hanging around his father's soda fountain.
Since the bypass project was revived in earnest, most here agree, the message has been four lanes or nothing.
The Mendocino Council of Governments — which doles out state and federal transportation funds to the Caltrans district, the county and its four incorporated cities — pushed for unanimous support from local elected officials. Without it, the group's executive director warned, the California Transportation Commission probably would hand its dollars over to more powerful places, like Los Angeles.
“They felt if there wasn't total commitment, there wasn't much chance of getting the money,” said McEntire, who served on the council's board.
As a result, more than $33 million — the vast majority of the state transportation funds that have flowed to the county over the last two decades — was squirreled away for the bypass, which has an expected $210-million price tag.
When it became clear the project was a go — at four lanes — in 2010, opponents were deflated. Still, it wasn't until construction was imminent that their movement gained steam.
A federal judge in San Francisco is expected to rule any day on the legal challenge, whose plaintiffs include the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club. One key claim: Caltrans intentionally excluded a two-lane option in its environmental review.
The Clean Water Act mandates that the least environmentally damaging of the options presented must be selected. “If a two-lane bypass had been in the mix,” said the Willits Environmental Center's Richard Estabrook, the Army Corps of Engineers “would have had to choose it. It would have had the least impact.”
Caltrans' own traffic data, Estabrook said, show a trend over the last two decades that is flat or declining.
But according to Frisbie, the Federal Highway Administration requires that such bypass projects meet Caltrans' local “purpose and need” document, which had targeted a level of service over a 20-year period that a two-lane bypass could not satisfy.
“Unfortunately, you jump from a two-lane to a four-lane,” he said.
Many business owners in Willits fear they will lose crucial tourist dollars once the bypass is opened. At the very least, they had hoped for more off-ramps. “Another Business for a Better Bypass,” window posters read.
But Councilman Bruce Burton, a longtime bypass backer and second-generation native who owns that last mill in town, counters that getting rid of the traffic will bring benefits to downtown. Furthermore, without Caltrans as a Main Street landlord — it now has primary say in approving sidewalk business signage and issuing permits for festival street closures — the town at last will have total control.
“We can get rid of the stoplights, maybe, or put a little statue of the mayor there in a little roundabout,” he said. “We can brand our town. We don't have to be a Caltrans highway anymore.”
Yet protesters are committed. They have trespassed, ensconced themselves in trees and chained themselves to equipment in an attempt to delay the clearing of vegetation and the installation of 55,000 wick drains. Law enforcement costs have run above $1 million.
For many in town, the tactics have been off-putting, causing the environmental center “to lose a lot of goodwill,” King said.
But thanks to the attention generated by such direct action, two county supervisors and two council members have said it still may not be too late to push for a “better bypass.”
So far, only the southbound lanes have been funded. They will be striped for two-way traffic while Caltrans seeks more financing. Councilwoman Madge Strong said she recently polled colleagues on a proposal to scale down the northern interchange in the hopes of keeping the project to two lanes — forever.
“Caltrans is building for the future with the idea that there are always going to be more people and more cars,” said Strong, who with seven years in Willits is a relative newcomer. “Those assumptions are just not correct anymore. We just can't continue a growth mentality… It's a new world.”
(Courtesy, the Los Angeles Times)
AS A RELIABLE GUIDE to who not to vote for, Wes Chesbro is infallible. The seldom seen career officeholder has announced that he will support a Healdsburg dentist and city councilman named Jim Wood to succeed Chesbro himself as state assemblyman.
THE INSIDER DEMOCRAT CABAL that selects our candidates on the Northcoast had been grooming Efren “Night Wanderer” Carrillo to succeed Chesbro. The Santa Rosa-based supervisor was the perfect Democrat in that he had no discernible principles beyond keeping himself in public office and he was a white-talking, wine-thinking Mexican-American. Perfect! He could only be trumped as a candidate by a gay woman of color! But then he got himself busted stumbling around in the dark in his Fruit of the Looms looking for love, an episode viewed as a little too unseemly even for Democrats.
AND TODAY'S DUH AWARD goes to Rose City policeman Chad Heiser and the Press Democrat for this thoroughly routine event (From Saturday’s PD story about pot and cash being shipped through an Santa Rosa UPS facility):
“But it was unusual when a Florida-bound package first inspected by UPS personnel turned out to contain hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of illegal drugs, Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Chad Heiser said.”
GREAT SAVE last Thursday morning by Anderson Valley's firefighters backed up by CalFire. Anderson Valley Fire Chief Colin Wilson reports:
“The ‘Deer’ incident near the ridge at the top of Deer Meadows drive was about a two acre fire on the Lewis property about 2.5 miles up from Highway 128. One of our lookouts, Jenny Palmer, called it into our Boonville station about the same time someone else called it in to 911. When the first AV Fire units got on scene the fire was about an acre and a half, burning in grass and mixed hardwoods and immediately adjacent to a cabin under construction and an outbuilding. AV Fire units provided protection for the structures and the CalFire helicopter (Copter 101) arrived in time to extinguish a 100-foot tall fir tree that was ‘torching’ within 100 feet of the house. Additional CalFire and AV Fire units arrived and contained the fire with a perimeter hose lay. Other AV Fire units were released with the exception of two water tenders. Four CalFire engines remained at the scene to complete ‘mop-up’ operations. The cause of the fire had not been confirmed when I left but there was a trash pile of construction debris near the house that looked like it might well have been the origin of the fire. There was no damage to the structures — the fire mostly just burned the dried grass.”
CITY HALL TRIES A COSTCO END RUN
To The Editor:
The City of Ukiah is attempting an end-run to approve a $6.2 million Traffic Modification Plan needed by the proposed new Costco at taxpayer expense. They want to by-pass the environmental impact evaluation by declaring that the “minor” adverse effects of the proposed project can be mitigated to levels that make them insignificant with a snap of their finger.
Smith Engineering & Management, an independent traffic engineering firm, has concluded in their review that the proposed traffic mitigation plan is deficient in a number of respects and would be a threat to the safety of the throngs of rabid consumers expected at this new store.
a: The plan is potentially hazardous and uses inconsistent data and methodologies.
b. It understates the peak period traffic and relies upon the very low traffic volumes of February 2010 data as its basis. Cal Trans northern California data for Hwy 101 shows February traffic to be 7% lower than the average month, and 18% lower than the busiest month of the years
c. Cal Trans has previously noted that the data being used “Grossly under represented typical average peak hour demand throughout the year.”
The City has no money for this poorly designed plan and the State Department of Finance has forbidden their using the $2.3 million revenue they hope to receive from the sale of 15 acres of land to Costco. This was old RDA funds that are now blocked by the Legislature in Sacramento. Thus they must find some other source for the full $6.2 million cost of this Costco driveway. Sales tax revenues and property tax receipts are falling as we sink further into recession. That will make two loans for the same project. Really smart thinking, City Council!
The trouble is that most of us are far too busy getting by in these troubled times to give a hoot about City Hall and their failings. Only two of us spoke at last night's public hearing. You can still send in comments in writing by August 27th. Without public outcry the Council will think they're home free.
James Houle, Redwood Valley
WILLITS, Mendocino County's Rodney Dangerfield. This lede from a story on Humboldt State's centennial: “You know what Arcata would be without Humboldt State? Willits.”
OFFICER, THERE'S A MAN IN MY UNDERWEAR DRAWER!
by Bruce McEwen
Attorney General Eric Holder was just in San Francisco to address the American Bar Association. He told the lawyers that he wanted federal prosecutors to lighten up on non-violent drug offenders. On Wednesday, the Mendocino County DA’s Office lightened up on pot pharma Peter Richardson to where the case against Richardson became so light it disappeared.
The level of interest in the Richardson matter was great enough to attract a crowd, including Sheriff Tom Allman, and after a meeting between the contending lawyers in Judge Ann Moorman’s chambers, Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster and defense attorney Keith Faulder announced to the crowd that the case was going to be resolved and would not proceed.
Attorney General Holder also told the ABA that he wanted an end to mandatory sentencing in non-violent drug cases, and if the county DA couldn’t hit Peter Richardson with a tough sentence why go to trial, especially against a man who may be dying of prostate cancer?
Out went Richardson and in came a pre-trial hearing led by that master of false starts, Public Defender Linda Thompson. Ms. Thompson doubted that her client, Marc Radcliffe, had been read his Miranda rights. She's a stickler for Miranda. Ten years ago she mirandaized a Fort Bragg kid, Tai Abreu, straight into prison for the rest of his life. In that one, even the prosecutor was begging Thompson to take the plea deal the DA was offering. Nope, Thompson took a vague Miranda argument to the jury, and argument she confused even further, and after a one day trial off the boy went for the rest of his days. Abreu's co-defendants will be back in Fort Bragg in another few years, although the man the three of them murdered will probably still be dead, and Thompson will still be asking the cops if they read the perp his Miranda rights.
Mr. Radcliffe wasn’t facing murder charges. He's accused of breaking into an apartment at the Autumn Leaves retirement community last February where he'd rummaged through an older woman's underwear drawer while the woman was working on a puzzle and her husband was on the computer. A man appeared at the woman's elbow clad in her undergarments and began whispering unappealing endearments in her terrified ear. The husband, no spring chicken, sprang at the intruder but was shrugged off. Underwear Man, snagging the woman's purse as he departed, ran off down the street in red panties and a pink camisole.
Radcliffe, the alleged Underwear Man, is a hefty guy in his early 50s. He's festooned with all kinds of tough-guy tattoos, although running around Ukiah in an old lady's underwear kinda weakens a tough guy's public image. Radcliffe has been arrested several times in recent years on methamphetamine charges and parole violations, but this is his first beef involve grandma's knickers.
This is the kind of thing where a testifying witness might have a hard time keeping a straight face. But the witness was Anthony Delapo of the Ukiah PD. His grandmother had been robbed at knifepoint in the Pear Tree Shopping Center parking lot last Christmastide by another tattooed dude. Tattooed thugs hassling little old Ukiah ladies is no joke to Officer Delapo.
Deputy DA Damon Gardner called Officer Delapo to establish the verity of Radcliffe having been properly “Mirandaized,” to use the tortured verb Ms. Thompson seems so fond of. Delapo is a rookie serving his first year on the police force; he carries a field guide to the care and handling of Ukiah's night birds. He told the court that he read Mr. Marc Radcliffe his Miranda rights right out of the book, “word-for-word.”
DDA Gardner: “So you read it to him verbatim?”
Officer Delapo: “Yes, I did.”
Gardner: “When did you do this?”
Delapo: “The evening of February 2nd; it was past eight o’clock. May I refer to my report?”
Gardner: “If it will help refresh your memory, go ahead.”
Delapo (after a pause): “It was sometime between 11pm and 12:54am.”
Gardner: “Did the suspect appear to understand his rights under Miranda?”
Delapo: “He said yes, he did understand the admonishment.”
Gardner: “Did you ask him if he knew where he was at, what he’d been doing and whether he’d been in anyone’s apartment?”
Delapo: “He appeared to be under the influence.”
Gardner: “Did you ask if he’d been using any drugs?”
Delapo: “Yes; he said he’d used methamphetamine at about 4pm that day.”
Gardner: “Did you ask about the apartment?”
Delapo: “Yes, but he seemed confused, and said he couldn’t recall where he’d been that day. I showed him a jacket that was found at the apartment and he said it was his.”
Public Defender Thompson: “Where exactly did you — well, let me ask you this: Did this occur in a particular area of the Police Department? Were you at the office in Ukiah?”
Delapo: “Just in a holding cell.”
Thompson: “”You also said — but, wait… uh, do you have any sort of recording device?”
Delapo: “Yes, I do.”
Thompson: “Were you using it when you Mirandaized my client?”
Delapo: “I don’t think it was working that day, or maybe it wasn’t on.”
Police department tape recorders have a tendency to go on the fritz at the darndest times.
Thompson: “But your camera was working alright… So let me show you a photograph — may I approach the witness, your honor?”
Judge Ann Moorman: “Go ahead.”
Thompson: “I’m showing you a photograph marked People’s Exhibit Number Eight…”
Delapo: “Yes, that is Mr. Radcliffe.”
Thompson, a great one for irrelevant detail, said, “He seems to be seated on a bench of some sort.”
Thompson: “Is that where you questioned him?”
Thompson: “So you asked Mr. Radcliffe — well, first of all, you Mirandaized him first, didn’t you?”
Thompson: “So you asked him a number of questions about the apartment, correct?”
Thompson: “Did you ask him which day of the week it was?”
Delapo: “I don’t recall.”
Thompson: “Did you ask what month it was?”
Delapo: “I don’t recall.”
Thompson suddenly blurted out a loud gotcha-sounding guffaw, which she does often in open court, at no visible or audible gotcha. The gotcha out of the way, Thompson asked, “Would it help refresh your memory if you checked your report?”
Delapo scanned his report and said, “Yes, I did ask which day of the week it was. I was trying to make just simple conversation.”
Thompson: “And he was still confused?”
Delapo: “Yes. He kept picking at his skin; he was fidgety and often tensed his muscles.”
Thompson: “Did you ask where he lived?”
Delapo: “He gave an address on Del Rio Street and said he lived with a friend.”
Thompson: “So you just showed him a jacket and asked if he recognized it?”
Thompson: “And after questioning him you took him to the local hospital, correct?”
Thompson: “For a blood test?”
Thompson: “What were the results?”
Gardner: “Objection, relevance.”
Moorman: “Do you know the results?”
Thompson: “When you Mirandaized him, did you ask if he understood?”
Moorman: “So you read to him from the booklet?”
Moorman: “What does it say?”
Delapo: “I don’t have it with me, now.”
Gardner flipped out his wallet and produced a card with the Miranda rights printed on it and read it for the judge.
Moorman: “Then you asked if he understood. What’s the next thing you did?”
Delapo: “I started asking questions about where he’d been.”
Thompson: “At the conclusion of the, uh, part about asking if he, uh, understood — HUMPF! came another odd explosion from the diminutive public defender — did you ask, ‘Do you want to talk to me now’?”
Delapo: “He just started talking.”
Thompson: “I’m gonna have to object —- and he appeared confused, correct?”
Gardner called his next witness, Mariano Guzman, who was a patrol Sergeant at the time, and had been called in to help Officer Anthony Delapo. Mr. Guzman now works as an investigator for the DA.
Gardner: “Did you participate in the pursuit of the defendant?”
Gardner “Was the defendant apprehended?”
Gardner: “What did you do?”
Guzman: “I drew my weapon and ordered him to the ground.”
Gardner: “What did he do?”
Guzman: “He went down, face down, then reached in his pocket and withdrew a lighter and a small, used cigarette. He put the cigarette to his mouth, lit it and proceeded to smoke it.”
Gardner: “What was he wearing?”
Guzman: “A woman’s sweatshirt and torn jeans. He appeared to have torn his jeans from eluding police officers through bushes and fences.”
Gardner: “Did you cuff him?”
Gardner: “Put him in your patrol vehicle?”
Gardner: “Ask him questions?”
Gardner: “His name?”
Guzman: “Marc Radcliffe.”
Gardner: “Were you acquainted with him?”
Gardner: “Was he on parole?”
Guzman: “That he was.”
Gardner: “Do you know his Parole Officer?”
Guzman: “Jennifer Farley.”
Gardner: “Did he appear injured?”
Guzman: “Yes, and he told me he had pain in his abdomen.”
Thompson: “His jeans were ripped — well, let me ask you this: He was wearing a woman’s sweatshirt — what you perceived to be a woman’s sweatshirt?”
Thompson: “May I approach, your honor?”
Moorman: “Go ahead.”
Thompson: “Do you recognize these photos?”
Guzman: “Yes, I took ‘em.”
Thompson was togged out in a man’s navy blazer, white ducks and deck shoes. She looked like a yacht steward: “Had you received a description of how he was dressed?”
Thompson: “A white pleated skirt?”
Guzman, suppressing a smile: “Yes, that’s correct.”
Thompson: “And Mrs. Dotson had told you the perpetrator was wearing her pink undershirt and red panties when he fled her apartment?”
Be on the lookout for a large tattooed man in hot pink. Check that. The pink may only be a small part of a fetching ensemble that includes both pink and red garments sequestered beneath a white, pleated skirt.
Thompson: “But when you apprehended him, he was wearing only the ripped jeans and sweatshirt?”
Thompson: “No underwear, no socks?”
Thompson: “And Mr. and Mrs. Dotson said they did not observe any scars, marks or tattoos?”
Thompson: “Nothing further.”
And then another wild creature eruption from Thompson. “EERCH!”
These startling animal cries from the public defender may be a kind of courtroom Tourettes. The old girl might have a workman's comp claim going here if she doesn't get control of these disconcerting blasts.
“Sorry,” she said, “Ha-ha, I need to, uh, ask a couple more, uh, questions. Well, first of all, who did you speak to first — Mr. or Mrs. Dotson?”
Guzman: “Mr. Dotson, I believe.”
Thompson: “Did you take him out to your vehicle to identify the suspect?”
Thompson: “What was the lighting like?”
Guzman: “It was still dark, but we had our flashlights and vehicle lights on.”
Thompson: “Were there any other witnesses?”
Gardner: “Do you recall how much time elapsed between the time of the dispatch and time you apprehended the suspect?”
Guzman: “Two hours.”
Gardner: “In your opinion, is that enough time to change clothes?”
Guzman: “More than enough.”
Gardner: “How many times have you arrested Mr. Radcliffe?”
Thompson: “Objection! Relevance!”
Guzman: “At least a couple of times.”
Gardner: “Are you familiar with his criminal record?”
Guzman: “He has more than five convictions.”
Gardner: “Has he been to prison?”
Gardner: “And Sandra and Darrel Dotson made a positive ID in the field?”
Guzman: “I was told it was a positive ID by Mrs. Dotson, and a partial by Mr. Dotson.”
Gardner: “And the alleged victims, Carlotta Snodgrass and Andrea Hughes — were their descriptions consistent?”
Guzman: “Yes. In my mind it was the same person.”
Judge Moorman ruled that the hearing would resume on Monday with Ms. Snodgrass and Ms. Hughes. A jury trial was set for Monday, August 19th. They would then pick a jury on Tuesday and the trial was expected to be over by Thursday afternoon, at the latest.