Off The Record
by AVA News Service, October 8, 2013
"THE FACT that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies… Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that 'the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit." Senator Barack Obama March 16, 2006 Congressional Record
THE GRATON RESORT AND CASINO will open in Rohnert Park on November 5th. It's huge and glittery, complete with multiple restaurants, one of which will be presided over by a famous chef. It will also represent a huge blow to all the lesser casinos to the north, from River Rock at Alexander Valley north to the dreary gambling parlors on each of the reservations of Mendocino County. River Rock draws a large number of Bay Area gamblers, mostly Asian, who will now opt for Glitzville in Rohnert Park. River Rock used to get them. Mendocino County's casinos, including a big one planned for Pinoleville just north of Ukiah, and within hollering distance of the long established casino at Coyote Valley, might need to be re-thought.
SUPERVISOR JOHN PINCHES, as reported in these pages, has made it clear that he intends to challenge the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) to force them to pay Mendocino County for the water that is exported from Lake Mendocino and then sold as far south as Marin County. Sonoma County has lived off Mendocino County water since the middle 1950s because they put up the money to build Coyote Dam & the lake behind it.
PINCHES POINTS to language in Decision 1610, which governs releases from Lake Mendocino; he contends 1610 requires payment to Mendocino County if surplus water is sold by Sonoma County. But there is no mention of the item on Tuesday's Board of Supes agenda. Instead, there is a Closed Session item for "Initiation of Litigation - One Case," which says nothing about water or the SCWA. But everyone thinks they know what the item refers to. Pinches, always an up front kind of guy, wanted to have the discussion in open session. But the only way to pry any water (or money from the sale of water) away from the SCWA, is via a lawsuit. And lawyers always like to keep those kinds of discussions under wraps. It is unknown at this time if Pinches acquiesced in the decision to hold the water discussion behind closed doors or if he would still prefer to have it out in the open where public pressure could be brought on his colleagues.
IF THE PINCHES water suit is successful, which assumes there will be water litigation, it could result in millions for broke Mendocino County. And that's why Pinches is agitating for it. It's his last big effort on behalf of the County he's served all these years.
STANDARD & POOR’S (S&P), one of the three premier credit ratings agencies in the United States, has announced a major upgrade of Mendocino County’s credit rating from BBB to AA-, for those of you who blot out your memory of S&P announcing that a slew of "financial instruments" were Triple A-Plus a week before they all collapsed in 2008.
S&P CITED several positive Mendo developments: Marked improvement in County operations and fund balance; reduced debt levels in Teeter Plan; increased budgetary flexibility; no plans to issue additional debt; very strong budgetary performance. Mendocino County’s “adequate” economy is an additional plus, despite the 9.7% unemployment level. S&P went on to say that they expect no changes to the rating over the next two years as they anticipate “the County will maintain its strong budgetary flexibility with balanced operations.”
A READER WRITES: "Regarding your item that the County can safely grant raises: As someone who follows local government, I was surprised to see you endorsing a 3-5% wage increase for the county employees. In the next breath you say that county revenues are still down. If the county payroll is $100 million then every 1% pay increase costs about $1 million. At that rate, a 3-5% pay increase without knowing where the money is coming from would soon put the county back in a deficit even before the next financial crisis hits. And the next financial crisis is only a matter of when, not if.” We agree the county remains on thin ice financially, but with the recent increase in county reserves, and the improved credit rating that has just been reported, it’s time for the county to start having a conversation about what can be done for the employees. If not an immediate pay increase, at least some portion of the increased reserves could be set aside for a year-end bonus. Besides, nowhere near $100 million would come out of the County’s precarious general fund. That’s why it’s so frustrating that the union’s “leadership” hasn’t done the basic math on what a raise would cost and where it would come from."
CLAY ROMERO, 53, of Willits, a machinist by trade, has announced he will run for the 3rd District Supe's seat being vacated by Johnny Pinches. Romero is a registered Republican and, based on some Facebook postings regarding the Willits Bypass protests, seemingly not an inclusive, big tent kind of guy. Romero also has some 'splainin' to do about his October 10th, 2008 arrest “on suspicion of inflicting cruel or inhuman punishment upon a child resulting in visible injury.” He's also a regular on a Facebook page where rightwing chest thumpers rant about “boycotting” the Willits Library because librarian Donna Kerr allows Save Little Lake Valley to meet in the public meeting room where they allegedly conspire to commit criminal acts. The public rooms of a public library are public. Duh. And if these boys have evidence of criminal conspiracies they should present it to DA David Eyster, certainly no fan of the ongoing protests. Then there's the Smithsonian-quality hippie bashing and lots of snide remarks about Indian artifacts. Pinches, always a gentleman, never, ever dealt in this stuff. I doubt Romero will get his endorsement.
AND MIKE makes four. Mike Tobin is the fourth announced candidate for 3rd District supervisor: Holly Madrigal was first out of the gate; then Tom Woodhouse and Clay Romero; now Tobin, 54, a Mendocino County native and a retired cop who worked for both the Ukiah Police Department and the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department. And Arno Gassen says he's running. Of the four, Tobin seems closest in worldview to the popular Johnny Pinches, the man Tobin would be replacing if he's elected.
TOM WOODHOUSE of Willits is one of the four North County candidates for 3rd District supervisor. Woodhouse's press release identifies him as real estate broker and 40-year Mendocino County resident who has served on the site councils of the Willits schools "and leads local service projects including creek cleanups, graffiti removal, and community service days." Of retiring supervisor Pinches, Woodhouse says, "We are losing an experienced representative in John Pinches and I have the business acumen and financial knowledge to carry on his legacy of fiscal responsibility," adding, " With a healthy reserve and well-managed budget, the county could more effectively upgrade and maintain county roads as well as better support the hard-working law enforcement, first responders, and residents that travel them. A married family man, Woodhouse says he "will advocate for expanded vocational training, mentoring programs, and job creation." He is available at 707-367-6334.
THE THREE MALE candidates are probably unaware that Ms. Madrigal gets an automatic vote from the large population of Mendo women who reflexively vote gender no matter who the male candidate is. Female candidates are good for at least ten percent of the vote in any Mendocino County election simply because they're women. Put, say, Abe Lincoln, against one of the Manson Girls in a race for any Mendocino County office, and the Manson girl would pull a reflexive ten percent. Chuck himself would probably get about 5% of the Mendo vote because he identifies as an environmentalist and, of course, he's a population control activist.
ARNO GASSEN, long-time County custodian, has declared his candidacy for Third District Supervisor on his facebook page. “I am very tired of what is going on now,” said Gassen. “I planned to retire in March but my fellow brothers and sisters taught me that they need somebody to believe in their cause. So I am tossing in my hat and running for Board of Supervisor in place of John Pinches. I hope that my Union Brothers and Sisters will support me in this. … It’s pretty sad when I take home $8.50 an hour, nowhere near $16 an hour. With that I have to pay house payments, and pay taxes on my home. I could work at Walmart and make more money. It’s the Employers Council that is trying to drive our wages down. They [the County] have the money to reinstate our 10% and are still lying about the budget. When I was on the negotiating team five years ago I asked Dennis Huey when was the last time you wrote a legit budget? He told me it’s been 25 years since he wrote a true budget. We need to stand together and educate the public on this problem. The public believes that the county is broke. We need to show them otherwise.”
FORMER COUNTY UNION REP and former Supervisorial candidate Joe Louis Wildman, responded, “Folks, This will probably not be popular, but the county is not rolling in dough. That being said, the resources they have are being squandered. In tough times, you need to treat your workers well. You need to be respectful and stop adding insults to injury. They [the County] insist on being dishonest, secretive, and rude in every dealing. They need to open the books. Folks would see they aren't rolling in dough. They don't do it because heaps of poor choices and incompetence would be revealed. Not enough to fund a decent raise, but enough to expose their unsuitability for their jobs.”
GASSEN REPLIED, “I think you have been listening to the CEO too much, Joe. Open your ears and eyes. They have close to a $20 million dollar reserve."
HELEN MICHAEL, a County employee, also commented: “The Fitch Report verifies that reserve amount and it jibes with the numbers the County itself provided to us. And that is how their credit rating has improved. It’s not numbers we just pull out of thin air."
CALTRANS is poised to shut down Willits Bypass work for the winter, according to a report by Linda Williams in last Wednesday's Willits News. Caltrans has until October 15 to button up work in or near Little Lake Valley’s many creeks with rip-rap and netting in the hope of preventing erosion over the winter. Caltrans has also put tree trunks and root balls from the many trees they previously cut down during construction in an attempt to provide winter run fish habitat. Anyone who’s seen these stabilization techniques attempted on any of Mendo’s creeks and rivers in the past knows that they only work — if they work at all — if the winter rains are light.
WONDERING if our Congressman is taking his paycheck while government is shut down? Of the NorCal delegation, only George Miller said he would accept pay. Boxer claimed she'll donate “much of her salary to charity.” (She's a millionaire many times over.) Multi-millionaire Senator Diane Feinstein said she was putting her paychecks in an escrow account. (Right, Diane. You never know when you'll need walking around money.) Jared Huffman, like the rest of them apart from Eric Swalwell (D-Alameda), “Did not respond” to inquiries as to whether or not he'd take his pay. Swalwell said forthrightly he would not take his check until government re-opened. Swalwell, by the way, is also the only NorCal Congressperson who holds genuinely open public meetings. He stands up there and takes it. (We like the kid, and we like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the only Senator to stand up to Wall Street, and the only Senator who still regularly calls for legislation regulating the wolves of high finance. For all you single-issue gender voters out there, Senator Warren ought to be the first female President, not You Know Who.)
THE FIRST ISSUE of “The Humboldt Edge,” a newspaper produced with the assistance of Humboldt’s homeless, appeared Saturday, October 5th. Issues will be handed out at farmer’s markets, available in agencies such as Family Resource Centers, and placed in local shops and cafes. "The paper’s mission is to honor and invite the wisdom, knowledge and creative expression of people living on the street, experiencing homelessness and/or living on the edge economically." Editor and publisher is Lorena Boswell, a Humboldt County resident and second year Masters of Divinity student of Starr King School of the Ministry.
UGLY INCIDENT in Redway Tuesday afternoon, as told to Kym Kemp of the always-excellent on-line HumCo newspaper, Lost Coast Outpost. In the words of Sgt. Ken Swithenbank of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department, “Some of the local youths chased a crowd of transients from in front of the liquor store with makeshift clubs… Apparently more than one transient was struck, however no serious injuries were reported. None of the apparent victims wanted to give their names or officially report the incident to law enforcement.”
MS. KEMP takes it from there: “According to Elaine Olivas, who works in the deli of the Redway Liquor Store, the first she knew of the incident, ‘At least 6 or 7 initially of the traveler guys came running in to the store to call police.’ She said that they claimed that a man was being beaten with a bat. She allowed them to use her phone to call for help. ‘As tired as I am of the homeless and I do want them run out of the town,… this was excessive. The night before there were beer bottles thrown out of vehicle and a [homeless] man got injured.’ She said that after the ‘traveler guys’ came in to the store, the fight ‘started drawing a crowd — people started coming out of the bushes.’ After the police showed up, she said, then things seemed to calm down. But according to Sgt. Swithenbank, ‘There was another altercation about a half hour later where one of the locals was cut on the hand. Word was it was from a knife but it was never 100% verified. Tensions are high,’ Swithenbank says. KMUD planned to air interviews with witnesses on their Thursday night newscast. According to their Facebook site, ‘A group of people were attacked in broad daylight in Redway yesterday, we’ll hear from people who were there and say the random attackers were targeting homeless and telling them to leave town or else!’”
READING THE FERVID COMMENT LINES of HumCo's newspapers, and as Kym Kemp confirms, there is growing public support for vigilante action against “transients” who, in Humboldt County, seem to settle in for long stays, many of them attracted by the golden mirage of quick and easy money to be made in the marijuana industry. “Transients” of course is an elastic term that can include the mentally ill, the mentally challenged, the generally incompetent, scruffy individuals simply moving through, the homeless but trying, neo-bums, drunks, drug addicts, and even the fashionably grungy in the leathers and nose-ringed sense. But the cops have to grab vigilantes quickly, and Gallegos, the HumCo DA has to max them out. Ten years ago, a Garberville gang of whoevers beat a homeless guy to death. I'm guessing here, but I'll bet Tuesday's mini-mob of baseball bat fascists are former high school football players and miscellaneous “tough guys” who are strictly mob-action tough, the kind of people America used to see in lynch mobs. Now that there are more “transients” roaming the land than at any time since The Great Depression, and considering that Humboldt County has a large number of them in Garberville-Redway, Arcata and Eureka, on top of a large population of persons addicted to hard drugs, well, factor in angry public opinion and overwhelmed police departments, a bad harvest moon is rising over the Emerald Triangle this dope season.
LAURA MERRILL LEVY wrote last week: “Hi, I grew up in Mendocino and went to high school with Brian Tyrrell. Brian was killed and found in or near Montgomery Woods in the late 1980s. I see your paper covered a lot of cold cases but I can't find any information on Brian's case. I don't believe it was ever solved. The case doesn't appear on the Mendocino County Sheriff’s website and isn't ever referenced. Do you have any information about the case? Thanks, Laura.”
DETECTIVE ANDY WHITEACRE of the MCSO told us he would investigate, and he promptly did, finding that the unfortunate Mr. Tyrrell died of hypothermia, not foul play.
POLLY KLASS, the Petaluma girl kidnapped from her home in Petaluma and raped and murdered by Richard Allen Davis, would be in her 30s now. Her horrifying fate was in the national news last week on the anniversary of her death, a death that still shocks and dismays everyone in the country. The kidnapping and violation of a child is horrendous enough, but when a child is taken from her home in the middle of the night, the horror is multiplied. What was largely left out of the stories of the child's murder when we all learned how it had happened and who was responsible, was how the police of two counties bungled things to make the girl's death inevitable. Davis, a Native American with relatives living on the Coyote rez north of Ukiah, had stayed at Coyote off and on since his release from state prison. During one of those visits to the Ukiah area shortly before he kidnapped and murdered Polly Klaas, Davis was arrested by the CHP for drunk driving and held briefly at the Mendocino County Jail from where he was soon released as if he were just one more drunk. At the time, the Mendo jail was breaking in a new computer system; jail personnel were still learning how to use it. They didn't know that Davis was on parole. If they had known Davis's parole status he would have been returned to San Quentin. As it was, he drifted back to Petaluma, apparently stalked the child and her mother, and soon took the girl from her home where she slept. A few hours later, Sonoma County deputies encountered Davis in the hills of a rural Santa Rosa neighborhood where he had zero business being. He'd gotten his car stuck, he said. The deputies called his vehicle plates in, but the technology of time failed to reveal that Davis himself was a convicted criminal. Davis was allowed to go on his way. Polly Klaas, it is believed, was still alive, hidden in the brush near Davis's vehicle. A month later her remains were found just south of Cloverdale.
BACKGROUND: A Sacramento man suspected of holding three men captive in a Fort Bragg apartment and torturing them for three days is due in Mendocino County Superior Court Tuesday for his trial. Shawn M. Lane, 24, faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse resulting in great bodily injury, false imprisonment, animal cruelty, making threats and failing to appear in court on a misdemeanor charge. Jury selection begins Monday. The prosecution and defense attorneys are expected to make opening statements Tuesday morning, and the jury should begin hearing witness statements the same day. The trial is expected to last four or five days, according to prosecutor Tim Stoen of the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office. Andrew Higgins of the Mendocino County Public Defender's Office represents Lane. They spoke with a 24-year-old Redwood Valley man who said he'd been beaten and held against his will for three days in an apartment, where he reported being hit with a wooden stick, a cane and a metal thermos, according to the FBPD. The man had bruises and small cuts, but refused medical treatment. Officers learned that the suspect, identified as Shawn Lane, 24, was still in the apartment with two other people and served a search warrant. They spoke with Lane and two men, both of whom were allegedly being held there against their will. Both men, one of whom was 65 years old, reported that Lane had physically and mentally abused them. Officers found that Lane had an outstanding arrest warrant from Sacramento in an elder abuse case, according to the FBPD. Officers also learned during follow-up interviews that Lane had allegedly killed a cat in the apartment in front of all three men. The cat's remains were found buried a block from the apartment, according to the FBPD. A Mendocino County District Attorney's Office investigator assisted in the case. Lane is held at the Mendocino County Jail under $125,000 bail. Update: Lane was found guilty Wednesday morning.
BACK ON AUGUST 27TH, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to appoint an ad hoc committee consisting of Supervisors McCowen and Hamburg to meet with members of the public and staff to research and resolve outstanding issues related to possible development of a Clean Energy Program in Mendocino County. The ad hoc is directed to return with an update to the full Board within 60 days of the appointment. The committee met with County staff and various public representatives for the first time on September 19, 2013. The next scheduled meeting of the ad hoc is October 10, 2013, at 10:00 a.m. The meeting will take place in the Farm Advisor’s Conference Room, located at 890 N. Bush Street, Ukiah.
INLAND MENDO PLAYS MUSICAL PONDS — aka “water, everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it” (except Johnny Pinches — if his proposal to change the relationship between Mendo and Sonoma counties regarding water works there would actually be some water to talk about.) You are cordially invited to attend the upcoming Water Forum “Water in the Ukiah Valley — A Community Conversation.” Sponsored by the Mendocino Local Agency Formation Commission, the forum will be held on October 23rd at the Alex Rorabaugh Center. Refer to the attached flyer for details. We look forward to your involvement and participation. — Cordially, The Commission and Staff of Mendocino LAFCo
THE 11-ACRE SITE on West Perkins, Ukiah, that the North Coast Railroad Authority hopes to sell to the state for a new Mendocino County courthouse, is being cleansed of its contaminated soil. The long abandoned Ukiah Railroad Depot, a graceful old structure dating back to the early part of the 20th century when civic beauty still mattered to Americans, has been surrounded for years by desolate, trash-strewn open space opposite the Adventist's equivalently desolate industrial medical complex. It now will become neo-desolate, 11 acres of raw earth. Mike Haskins of L.D. Giacomini Enterprises (and a graduate of Anderson Valley High School) is supervising the clean-up. Haskins told the Ukiah Daily Journal's Justine Frederickson that the work is being paid for out of redevelopment funds routed through the City of Ukiah. Three adjacent parcels fronting Leslie Street but privately owned will also be cleared off for what's on course to becoming a new glass and steel courthouse (we assume) designed for the exclusive use of Mendocino County's over-large and over-indulged judicial contingent, nine of them for a population of about 90,000 people, the largest ratio of judges to population in the state, maybe in the country. The existing Courthouse is perfectly serviceable; it houses a number of related County services. The new courthouse will house only the nine pashas, and we can be sure it will be a major eyesore in a town already synonymous with eyesores.
ASSOCIATED PRESS has reported that the brother of a Los Angeles Dodgers fan who was killed in a San Francisco brawl that police say was sparked by the long-running Dodgers-Giants rivalry is pushing back against claims that the stabbing was in self-defense. Robert Preece Jr. told KGO Television Thursday that it was he who swung an aluminum beach chair to protect his brother. Preece's brother, Jonathan Denver, was fatally stabbed on Sept. 25 after attending the Dodgers-Giants game with Preece, their father and two others to celebrate their father's 49th birthday. Denver, an apprentice plumber, lived in Fort Bragg. Police have said Denver's group, many wearing Dodgers garb, got into a shouting match over the Dodgers with the suspect, 21-year-old Michael Montgomery, and a group of people he was with — at least one of whom was wearing a Giants cap — a few blocks from the stadium. Montgomery's father, Marty, has said his son was jumped during the fight and stabbed Denver in self-defense after Denver and others yelled “Giants suck.” The father told the Lodi News-Sentinel that his son said Denver hit him over the head with a chair during the fight. Preece disputed the contention that Montgomery acted in self-defense, according to KGO-TV. “I want the kid that took my brother from me so soon to be behind bars,” Preece told the station. Montgomery was arrested, but later released. He has not been charged. Prosecutors said police needed to interview independent witnesses to the fight. “Somebody took my brother too soon, a little too soon, and it wasn't worth it,” Preece said. The stabbing was the latest incident over the years stemming from one of the most passionate rivalries in sports. Two years ago, Giants fan Bryan Stow suffered permanent brain damage when he was attacked in Los Angeles.
INTERESTING new facts about the odd death of Patrick Guzman, 70, have been revealed by Tony Reed of the Fort Bragg Advocate. Reed ought to get a finder's fee from the Sheriff's office for not only locating the stuff that led to the discovery of Guzman's remains, but Reed has now added some telling new details about Guzman's death. (The Sheriff's Department work on the case borders on grossly negligent.) Guzman was found a week after he died, his death occurring on Labor Day. Reed, poking around on the bluffs nearly a week later where Guzman's car was found running with no sign of Guzman, spotted items, including a gun, belonging to the dead man on the rocks below. Guzman's body was not visible from the bluffs. It had wedged in boulders between the bluffs and the ocean. Investigators had not looked for his remains from below the bluffs until Reed alerted them of his finds. Guzman had suffered a large caliber bullet wound to his side from the odd gun he was known to possess, which fires a mix of high velocity bullets and shotgun rounds. Reporter Reed has now learned that Guzman's daughter, Tracy Guzman, believes her father was murdered because she found that her father's home in Fort Bragg had been robbed of three guns, a computer and printer, and welding equipment on or about the day of his death. Ms. Guzman also said it was she who drove her father's Cadillac back to Fort Bragg a week after her father's remains were found on the bluffs north of Westport. The vehicle, it seems, had sat there unsecured since Guzman's death. Sheriff's Capt. Greg Van Patten said Tuesday that the investigation into the cause of death remains open, and that he is waiting for the results of blood-alcohol and toxicology tests to come back from the state's Department of Justice lab. Van Patten has said no evidence of another person was found in or near the dead man's car.
CHARLES ‘CHARLIE’ DELFINO, 46, Cloverdale High School's athletic director, has been arrested on two counts of misdemeanor child molestation on allegations of inappropriate conduct with two 15-year-old girls. Delfino has pleaded not guilty and is out of custody on bail. He remains on unpaid leave from his job at Cloverdale High School.
SUPERVISOR HAMBURG WRITES: “Since you called SB 740 dead (5/22, ‘Mendo Broadband Denied’) and it has now been signed by the governor, are you going to eat a little crow? Onward to the CPUC!”
I HAD JUST REMOVED a thoroughly roasted crow off the hibachi when, my chopsticks poised over his unappetizing carcass, The Major reminded me that we never called Broadband dead; we're all for it and commend Supervisor Hamburg's efforts on behalf of rural counties to get it for us. But what we said was in our scintillating edition of May 22nd, at the tail end of the Supe's report, was this:
“MENDO BROADBAND DENIED. Supervisor Hamburg last Tuesday told his Board colleagues about a Friday, May 17 meeting in Fort Bragg to discuss internet broadband service in the county. ‘The focus will be broadband planning in the city of Fort Bragg. And of course Fort Bragg is on that fiber-optic so-called Route 1 Corridor project which I've mentioned several times before. That's the one that goes from Branscomb to Westport and down to Bodega Bay and back over to Petaluma, which is actually part of that Golden Bear Broadband application which is currently before the PUC. We are getting a lot of pushback from the big telecoms — Verizon, Frontier, AT&T, Comcast. Essentially, there is a lot of maneuvering going on in Sacramento around broadband. Included in that is this bill by Senator Padilla, AB-740, which this board has supported, but now the big telecoms are coming down against AB-740. … Basically the big telecoms don't want money to be allocated to organizations like ours who are trying to bring broadband to the rural communities; they don't want the competition. They are very happy to not serve these areas until they're damn well ready to serve them. They are calling our Golden Bear project — they say we are getting into areas where private operators or themselves as private corporations should be able to operate. The only hole in that argument is that they are not serving these areas. Unless you are on a major core highway like Highway 5 or Highway 101 you do not have service in Northern California and that situation exists in Mendocino County. And it exists in all these 16 or 17 counties that are part of the Golden Bear Broadband network. So it's kind of a battle royal that's going on in Sacramento right now over AB-740 and also over our application to the CPUC. We are lobbying hard. … The telecom lobbyists in Sacramento are trying to squelch our efforts. But we have some good political support on our side and we are fighting the battle.’ But later in the week, news out of Sacramento reported that funding for Padilla’s broadband infrastructure bill (via the California Public Utilities Commission) had been cut by $100 million, and the bill was amended to substantially restrict the definition of ‘underserved’ to include language that would limit funding to areas where no big telecom company had applied for a permit which isn’t very many areas in California.”
THE TUBBS case went to the jury in Ukiah on Friday and he was found guilty on Monday. Wilson ‘Josh’ Lee Tubbs, 39, is the Fort Bragg man charged with assault on a child under the age of 8, causing death. He faces 25-to-life if convicted, which it appears he will be. On December 2nd of last year, Tubbs appeared in the emergency room at Coast Hospital with his badly injured infant foster daughter. He said the 5-month-old baby had fallen, and had somehow sustained the 49 bruises on her face and head in the fall. Tubbs subsequently told investigators that he'd shaken and “smacked” the infant when she wouldn't stop crying. He has since claimed he did not say what he had indeed been recorded saying.
GOVERNOR BROWN has signed a bill that prohibits local law enforcement agencies from detaining people for deportation if they are arrested for a minor crime and otherwise eligible to be released from custody. AB4 (Ammiano) was one of eight immigration-related measures Brown signed on Saturday. The governor also approved a bill allowing lawyers to be admitted to the California bar even if they are living in the US illegally.
INTERESTING PIECE on the Palace Hotel in Sunday's Ukiah Journal by reporter Justine Frederickson. As most Mendo people know, the Palace has been closed for years, a relic of pre-war Mendocino County when every little town of any size had one classy place to eat, drink and go upstairs with the nice lady you met at the bar who was usually your wife. The present owner of the Palace is a Marin woman named Eladia Laines who may or may not have the money — no one seems to know — to bring the Palace back to life. In fact, title to the property, owned by a series of cocaine-fueled criminals circa the middle 70s, says she's making rehab headway and title to the place is just about entirely in her name. The Ukiah City Council is skeptical, but the present options are two: Encourage Ms. Laines to continue or re-take the property and bulldoze it. Given the magnitude of the project whatever option is exercised, we think Ms. Laines is the likelier choice. The stately old structure is 122 years old, a relic of American civic life before the US went collectively blind and our beautiful land was covered with architectural excresences from sea to shining sea. The Marin realtor has indeed made some headway in the way of interior clean-up, and her overall plan of condos, restaurants and shops, if realized, would be a boon to central Ukiah and a major aesthetic step forward for Mendocino County. Hands off Eladia!
FROM THE SITUATION ROOM: “In order to appease Wall Street, the most corrupt institution in human history, and to prevent Wall Street-financed takeovers of their corporations, executives destroyed the American consumer market by offshoring American incomes in order to enhance profits by substituting cheap foreign labor for US labor. In my opinion, the US economy is not salvageable in its present form. The economy is running out of water resources. The supply that remains is being decimated by fracking. The soil is depleted by glysophate, a requirement of GMO agriculture. The external costs of production are rising (the costs that the corporations impose on the environment and third parties) and possibly exceed the value of the increase in corporate output. Economists are incapable of independent thought, and elected representatives are dependent on the private interests that finance their campaigns. It is difficult to imagine a more discouraging situation. At this time, collapse seems the most likely forecast. Perhaps out of the ruins, a new, intelligent beginning might occur. If there are any leaders.” — Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan
ONLINE STATEMENT OF THE DAY: “If we had implemented a single-payer plan, which would cut OUT the profits of the insurance companies, everyone would have still lower rates — but the Republicans didn't want that, so we get higher rates. The principal goal of ACA (Obamacare), which it addresses well, is to get insurance coverage for those who were uninsured, and to make health care available to everyone and to prohibit insurers from banning those with ‘pre-existing conditions.’ Insurers were motivated most to cover those who least needed insurance, and to ban those who most needed it. Now that is prohibited. We are making steps in the right direction. To lower rates still more, we need to go to single-payer. Talk to your Republican congressman, because these are the folks in the way of eventually going to single-payer health care.”
THE CITY OF UKIAH will hold a special all-mail election to fill the Council seat left vacant when Mari Rodin resigned to take a job with the Monterey County LAFCO (Local Area Formation COmmission). The Council voted 3-1 to go with an election instead of an appointment. Mary Anne Landis, who argued that an appointment by the four remaining councilmembers was “just as democratic” as an election, held out for an appointment. The election could have been held with the regularly scheduled election coming up November 4, which would have resulted in a cost savings of $10-15,000, if Rodin had resigned once she knew she had landed the job. But Rodin delayed her resignation to make sure she did not have to pay her own health insurance for one month. She also failed to attend the Council meetings during that last month because she was too busy moving to Monterey. Rodin's final civic contribution is a several month delay in filling her vacant seat and an expensive hit to the taxpayers.
UKIAH HAS REACHED AGREEMENT with its employees for a 5% pay cut. The city had been negotiating for a year in an effort to win a 10% pay cut which the City Council said was necessary to fix the ongoing structural deficit Ukiah has experienced since the economic collapse hit in 2008. City Manager Jane Chambers said the 5% pay cut will mean a $470,000 annual savings to the General Fund. Chambers said the savings for the current fiscal year, already underway, will be $330,000 reducing the deficit to about $650,000 for this fiscal year. Chambers bragged, “That's the smallest since I walked in the door in May of 2008.” With only half the salary savings they planned for, Ukiah is projected to have major deficits for the next several years.
CHAMBERS CLAIMS Ukiah has the lowest number of employees since 1995, which may be true since she has eliminated the fire department and ambulance service and several veteran police officers have recently bailed out for greener pastures. But the drop in employees seems to have been accompanied by an increase in highly paid administrative staff. Until a couple of years ago, Ukiah was milking the redevelopment fund for $1 million to pay administrative salaries on the pretense that the City Manager, Assistant City Manager, and so on were really devoting 50-100% of there time to running the Redevelopment Agency. Redevelopment was intended to build infrastructure and clean up “blighted” conditions in poor and underdeveloped neighborhoods, but the only blight Ukiah cured was lining the pockets of their highly paid administrators. When the state pulled the plug on redevelopment, you might think Ukiah would scale back the admin salaries — maybe even lay somebody off. But instead, the City Manager axed the ambulance and the fire department and recommended laying off police and shutting down the museum.
THE 5% PAY CUT for everyone else resulted in a 5% pay raise for City Manager Chambers. After it was revealed recently that the City Council had gifted the highly paid Chambers with questionable add-ons for “executive pay” (isn't that what she was hired to do?), “merit pay” (for running up deficits five years in a row?), and other giveaways that drove her total compensation to nearly a quarter of a million dollars, the Council was forced to impose a largely symbolic 10% pay cut. For instance, Chambers’ base pay stayed intact at $150,000 per year, the executive pay was converted to something called “flex dollars” and the Council agreed to restore the “merit pay” anytime they decide Chambers is doing a good job. But as soon as the Council reached agreement with the employees for a 5% cut, they immediately raised Chambers pay by 5%, saying it was only fair, as if she was in the same category of the rank file. Except none of the rank and file get executive pay, merit pay, car allowance, flex dollars, etc.
NOW THAT UKIAH is getting out of the fire business, the Ukiah Valley Fire Department (UVFD) is in negotiations to provide the service. The two departments are currently operating as a combined department under UVFD Chief John Bartlett. The City budgeted $2.46 million for “fire administration” in fiscal year 2013-14, including $350,000 to Cal-Fire for dispatch services. The UVFD is proposing to provide a full service fire department to Ukiah for $2.1 million, but according to a recent Ukiah Daily Journal article, Bartlett said Chambers is only offering $1.6 million, claiming Ukiah will still need $800,000 “for other expenses” — including building rent, vehicle insurance and the dispatch fees. Now that the merger is functionally complete, it looks like Chambers wants to keep milking the fire department budget to subsidize city administration. In hindsight, before the UVFD agreed to take over the fire service for the city, they should have first reached agreement on the financial details. The UVFD and the City have each appointed an ad hoc committee to try and reach an agreement.
MOST RESIDENTS OF UKIAH are probably unaware that since the merger with the UVFD took effect there are no fire fighters on duty in the Ukiah city limits because the fire station at City Hall is no longer staffed. Instead, all the fire fighters for the city and the greater Ukiah Valley are now stationed at the UVFD North (N. State St. and Hensley Creek Rd.) and South (S. State and Laws Ave.) fire stations. Despite there being no firefighters in the firehouse, Chambers wants to keep charging “rent” for the building. And, of course, “administrative overhead” for managing the elimination of the department.
A RECENT COLUMN by Chambers in the Ukiah Daily Journal began by saying, “Ukiah is known and loved for its beautiful trees…” only to be followed days later by the news that the City planned to cut down three stately old redwood trees that grow right in front of the Daily Journal offices. Chambers recently complained to the Council that the City was not getting its message out and that she would be investing in social media to correct the problem. Chambers previously entertained the Council with an unintelligible explanation of the infamous “process enneagram” which she was proposing to use as a strategic planning tool. The problem for the city is not so much getting the message out, the problem is the message itself. And the unintended message seems to be that the city is run by a bunch of loons who are hopelessly out of touch with everyday reality.
UKIAH CITY COUNCILMEMBER MARY ANNE LANDIS, as reported by Justine Frederiksen in the Ukiah Daily Journal, updated the City Council on the food waste composting pilot program operated by C&S Waste Solutions, Ukiah's garbage hauler. The pilot program, started in March, is only available to commercial customers like restaurants and grocery stores. Landis reported that only six out of 80 eligible businesses are participating. Landis said C&S wants to do a survey “to find out who would use a food waste program” and also plans to hold a workshop “to inform the public of the options for, and the costs of, a food waste program.” Meanwhile, residents of the unincorporated area outside of Ukiah have been putting their food waste in the green waste bin for the last several years at no additional cost. The green waste, with the food waste included, is then trucked to Cold Creek Compost in Potter Valley for composting.
COLD CREEK COMPOST has a standing offer to accept all of the Ukiah food waste. Since C&S is already obligated to take the curbside green waste collected in Ukiah to Cold Creek, it should be an easy thing to simply add the Ukiah food waste to the green waste bin. Except C&S views Cold Creek as a competitor and is willing to go to great lengths to keep the Ukiah food waste stream from going to Cold Creek, including spending a bunch of money on a 40 foot long “in vessel” composter that rotates. The expensive 40 foot long rotating tube would not be needed if C&S simply took the food waste to Cold Creek Compost. But because C&S wants to undercut Cold Creek, and because the supine City Council lets them get away with it, there will be no food waste composting for Ukiah. Or if there is, it will come at a premium cost. The supreme irony is that the City Council has gone on record with a resolution in support of “Zero Waste” but insists that its garbage ratepayers continue to pay inflated rates to truck food waste to be landfilled outtahere instead of composting it a few miles away in Potter Valley.
CONGRESSMAN SPIKE HUFFMAN refused to answer the first time the Chron asked him if he was cashing his fat paychecks while government is shut down. Apparently the word went out from Democrat Central that it was time to fess up, and Spike said this: “I said nobody should lose pay due to this Republican government shutdown — except the Tea Party extremists who are causing it, and I meant what I said. That includes members of Congress who are fighting to end this partisan charade, and the thousands of federal employees in my district who are being hurt by it. That's why I'm working on a bill to ensure that all federal employees receive the pay they deserve, and of course I'll keep working day and night to get our government reopened — hopefully long before congressional paychecks arrive four weeks from now.”
OF COURSE this isn't what Spike said when he was first asked about getting paid during the shutdown. He said nothing. The belated statement isn't bad, though, at least by the mechanically phony prose standards of government. I especially enjoyed Spike's claim that he's “working day and night” to get the great, gray machine up and humming again.
O YEA, O YEA. We will fight them in the limos! We will fight them at the free lunch banquets! We will fight them over wine and cheese! We will fight to keep our cash contributions off the books!
“YOU KNOW WHAT? Last year when everything collapsed, all it meant was the nerds lost out once again and the jocks won. Same as always. What about all those nerd billionaires in the trades? Window dressing. The tech sector tanks, a few companies survive, awesome. But a lot more didn't, and the biggest winners were men blessed with that ol' Wall Street stupidity, which in the end is unbeatable. C'mon, everybody on Wall Street can't be stupid. Some of the quants are smart, but quants come, quants go, they're just nerds for hire with a different fashion sense. The jocks may not know a stochastic crossover if it bites them on the ass, but they have that drive to thrive, they're synced in to them deep market rhythms, and that'll always beat nerditude no matter how smart it gets.”
— Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge
COUNTY COUNSEL TOM PARKER issued his official “opinion” concerning the district attorney's use of asset forfeiture money on Monday, September 23, 2013, about three months after it was requested. Follow the bouncing ball: “This is somewhat complex. I apologize. I will try to get to the crux as much as possible. Regarding the first question, which is, is the district attorney's office correct in seeking reimbursement from asset forfeiture funds or several categories of items listed in the June 24, 2013 email? I will not go through all the line items but I will note as a general rule the categories cited are eligible as a generic matter for reimbursement from asset forfeiture funds with the caveats: line item 861010, extra help costs, and line item 861013, overtime, of which roughly $106,000 was requested for reimbursement, extra help and overtime and generally salaries and benefits for law enforcement personnel are limited in terms of asset forfeiture expenditure to first-year employees or extra help and overtime is only allowed for law enforcement personnel involved in specific law enforcement oriented operations that require them to do extra time. My office does not have specific information sufficient to tell as of now to what extent the approximately $106,000 in overtime and extra help is or is not consistent with the federal guidelines so I will be deferring to the expertise of the Auditor-Controller and all of the supporting documents that she has or may ask for to verify the correctness of paying on those two line items. The other question and one that I had, if the board will remember, I said I had some concerns about, not only overtime and extra help, but the question of replacement or supplementation. The federal guidelines say but they do not specifically define the terms, but they say in general you cannot supplement or replace non-asset forfeiture, normal budget, normal law enforcement agency revenues with asset forfeiture money. What is unclear to my office, and I am not able to reach a satisfactory conclusion such that I can give anyone at this point is whether or not the requested use of the asset forfeiture funds to make up the budget difference that occurred over time in the DA's office budget as it worked through the fiscal year 12-13 constitutes replacement or supplementation. To explain what I mean by that let me give you a scenario here. There was a certain amount of non-asset forfeiture money that was budgeted as revenue line items for the 12-13 year for the District Attorney's Office when this board in the fall of 2012 did its final budget approval of that office. That amount was in the amount of $854,000 plus which was expected and accepted by this board as expected non-asset forfeiture revenue. Roughly $302,000 of asset forfeiture was placed in the DA's budget as expected revenue to help make up the expenditures for all, the revenue fall, for all the expenditures that were in the budget. As June 2013 came, the amount of what I'm calling non-asset revenue came to only $465,803.53 instead of close to the $854,000 and change. So he had a deficit of $389,000 give or take when he made that request for the asset forfeiture money. It's unclear to me as a legal matter whether his requesting the $300,000-$400,000 in asset forfeiture money at that point in time constitutes replacement or supplementation. I am not privy to the prior history of the District Attorney's budgets whether it's Meredith Lintott or Norman Vroman or Mr. Eyster to what extent asset forfeiture money has been sought as at the same rate during the fiscal year if their revenues do not come up to what they anticipated at the start of their fiscal year. So because of this lack of clarity and the lack of definition in the federal guidelines as to what is replacement or supplementation, for instance in Prop 172, as this board knows, there is also a provision, you are not supposed to use Prop 172 money to supplement or replace money you would normally give within the MOE amount to a law enforcement agency, a public safety agency. But that is a use of asset — of 172 money as you are building the budget at the start of the fiscal year. This is a technically or factually different scenario, so I cannot state with certainty whether or not there is supplementation or replacement. In light of that I am recommending that subject to review of the overtime and extra help expenditures requested, that generally the DA's request for asset forfeiture money be honored. I've tried to explain to you so you understand what I was looking at in reaching that determination.”
THE BOARD patiently listened to this convoluted opinion to “honor” (not “approve”) the DA’s request, but didn’t take any action, choosing instead to put the long-delayed “opinion” on the January Board agenda for the first quarter budget revision. Presumably the District Attorney will happy that his budget request has at least been honored.