River Views

by Malcolm Macdonald, October 30, 2013

Sonya Nesch & Dan Hamburg

Sonya Nesch & Dan Hamburg

A sidebar to the October 16th Mendocino County Mental Health Board meeting occurred during a discussion about responding to a letter written by Sonya Nesch, a former member of the Mental Health Board and current member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Nesch’s letter, directed at the Board of Supervisors, asked some tough questions about the current state of affairs within this county’s mental health care system. At some point the Mental Health Board discussion of Oct. 16 expanded to press coverage and to other letters sent to newspapers on the topic of mental health care. The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors representative to the Mental Health Board, Dan Hamburg, could clearly be heard to say that anonymous letter writers were chickenbleep.

On the spot I immediately thought of the letter sent to the AVA and first published online as part of “Mendocino County Today,” September 29th. That lengthy letter described the work life of someone who had been a crisis worker for the Hospitality Center, a coastal subcontractor for the new for-profit mental health care provider, Ortner Management Group. If that unsigned letter was the one referred to by Supervisor Hamburg (there aren’t really any other likely suspects) then what we have here is Dan Hamburg calling a potential whistleblower “chickenbleep.” (That was his actual word, not chickenshit or chickenblank or some other variation on the former.)

In most areas Hamburg appears a quintessential liberal. At the same Mental Health Board meeting he seemed to be a backer of implementing Laura’s Law in Mendocino County. At last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting he favored the “Sensitive Coastal Resource Area” provision to Mendocino’s Town Plan. Hamburg frequently posts on the Mendocino Community Network (MCN) Discussion Lists, usually referencing national or international liberal/progressive causes.

However, posting Noam Chomsky articles on the MCN Discussion List does not give a Mendocino County lib the right or authority to off-handedly condemn local whistleblowers as “chickenbleep” because the whistleblower chooses to protect his/her anonymity. As Hamburg should well be aware, whistleblowers are not being championed on the national level. Hamburg’s dismissive rebuke only further emboldens those in positions of power locally to ignore calls for accountability and transparency. Dan Hamburg should not only know better, he should think longer and harder before he speaks in public.

The letter writer in question has not only written to the editor of newspapers, the letter writer is also forwarding similar material to the county grand jury.

Another example of mindlessness from our local so-called liberals came to me in the form of an October 10th email from Victoria Brandon, the Chair of the Sierra Club Redwood Chapter. Brandon wrote encouraging local Sierra Club members to send letters to the Coastal Commission supporting State Parks proposed removal of 2.7 miles of remnant sections of the old Union Lumber Company Haul Road north of Fort Bragg. Along with her basic appeal, Brandon included a five paragraph, word-for-word, sample letter and 13 additional talking points.

I replied to Ms. Brandon in part by saying, “Apparently, the local chapter of the Sierra Club is naively unaware that many entities, from newspapers, to elected boards and appointed commissions, now discard most letters that appear to be written from the same set of pre-established talking points; in other words, letters that essentially copy each other serve as negatives in the eyes of the members of many boards and commissions receiving such letters. The Sierra Club should display more confidence in the innate intelligence of its members. Members are fully capable of writing their own thoughts and ideas about the Ten Mile dunes without a ‘Big Brother’ or ‘Big Sister’ telling them what to do. Personally, I find the idea that all Sierra Club members should color-inside-the-same-talking-points-lines concept insulting.”

The next day Sierra Club Redwood Chapter Chair Brandon responded, “The reason for asking Club members to send what amounts to form letters is to counter a similar campaign that has been instigated by the appellants: governmental entities do not place much weight on such communications (though they don't ‘discard’ them either), but if the correspondence received is one-sided it can establish what might be an incorrect sense of the preponderance of public opinion. Many members welcome appeals of this sort since they provide an opportunity to take action without having to research issues or compose their own letters.”

Later that day I sent one more email to Ms. Brandon: “Your last sentence states that many Sierra Club members would prefer to write letters to public entities, such as the Coastal Commission, without researching the subject they are writing about. Thinking like that clearly negates any claim to an ethical high road for the Sierra Club on this topic.”

I have had no further correspondence from Ms. Brandon or the Sierra Club on this issue.

This follow-the-leader attitude in the world of Mendo Lib is appalling. Equally appalling is the flippant public dismissal of whistleblowers by leaders of the Mendo-Lib ilk.

2 Responses to River Views

  1. Anonymous Still Reply

    October 30, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    If the Great and Gentile Supervisor of Mendocino County, Mr. Dan Hamburg did refer to the anonymous letter mentioned in Mr. Macdonald’s article here then I am that chickenbleep. I find it ironic that the day after the Board of Supervisors voted to privatize the mental health services and Mr. Hamburg voted against it that I emailed him first congratulating him for doing what I felt and thought he had done out of an ethical conscious and then asked him for his reason for voting against it that he never returned an email. But, when I anonymously address the condition and seeming ineptitude of the hand off to OMG and Redwood Children’s Services, Mr. Hamburg publicly criticizes my letter perhaps for his internal reasons, perhaps for secondary gain (I went to school to learn that). There are two great concerns that I find appalling as a result of the privatization. First, and ethically foremost, is the concern for the client’s who were served by the County of Mental Health and that they, especially in Fort Bragg, are left without access to services. When they come into the Fort Bragg office, and they still do, they are told to call an 800 number and that’s it. What use to happen when someone came into the office in duress or crisis, the designated therapist dropped whatever they were doing or who they were with and immediately addressed that person in crisis. Second, the loss of over 100 county employees who worked at Mental Health and lost their long term investment in career and retirement. Now a handful of people who make up OMG in Yuba County are paid to provide, at least in Fort Bragg, an 800 number. That’s worth $15 million?

    Enough.

    If Mr. Hamburg is upset about my anonymous letter, I am upset about our elected Supervisors’ positions about privatizing Mental Health services. I challenge the Supervisor to clearly explain his position about it, I’ve been waiting since May, maybe June even, for his response. Perhaps more anonymity will brave him to the challenge.

  2. chewsome Reply

    October 30, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    Hamburg’s aggressive behavior may belie a brain tumor a la Jim Jones swallowing Kool-Aid. Sonja for Supervisor. Hamburg to the scrap heap unless he finds a new wife or confident that keeps him straight.

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