Mendocino County Today: November 21, 2013
by AVA News Service, November 20, 2013
THE COSTCO FINAL EIR (Environmental Impact Report) will be heard by the City of Ukiah Planning Commission on November 21, at 6:00 p.m. in the City Council chambers. In honor of the occasion, a new group calling itself “Ukiah Citizens for Responsible Planning” has surfaced, complete with a website at www.ukiahcrp.org The website proclaims “Help Us Keep Ukiah Beautiful, Clean And Safe, Through Responsible Planning!” What the unnamed sponsors don't seem to realize is that the battle to keep Ukiah beautiful, clean and safe was fought and lost deep in the last century, starting with the founding of Masonite in the early 50s, and continuing right on through to the present time with the proliferation of ugly strip malls and trailer parks lining State Street from one end to the other.
THE UKIAH CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBLE PLANNING website poses the following questions: “Is Airport Park a responsible place for more big-box development? Will 10,000 or more car trips per day have a negative impact on residents in our community? Should residents of the city pay for the road improvements that will be needed to accommodate national big box stores coming to Ukiah? These are the questions that must be answered before the City of Ukiah approves the Costco application, or any other big box store along Airport Park Boulevard.”
UKIAH CRP also sent out a flyer headlined “Ukiah Taxpayers Shouldn't Pay for More Traffic — If Costco Wants to do Business in Ukiah, Then They Should Pay Their Own Way.” The flyer continues: “The City of Ukiah needs to be responsible when it comes to planning issues and taxpayer dollars. Our elected officials have shown they are willing to mortgage away our city's future just to make Costco happy. The $4.6 million loan that city officials proposed to pay for the Costco road improvements will cost taxpayers much more over the life of the loan when you factor in the interest. The EIR prepared for this project told us that Airport Park is not the place for Costco or any other Big Box store. Our elected officials know this, yet they are still considering moving forward and committing the city to millions in taxpayer funded road improvements to sweeten the deal for Costco. Join us at the November 21st Planning Commission meeting and send a message to our elected officials that as taxpayers, we shouldn't pay for the privilege to sit in traffic so Costco can make a few bucks.”
THE COSTCO BIG BOX also includes plans for 16 gas pumps (with a planned expansion to 20) and is projected to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual sales tax revenue for the City of Ukiah. Which is why the Planning Commission, and the pseudo-lib City Council, will engage in ritual hand wringing over the need to support local business just before they vote approval for the Costco megastore. The City of Ukiah is running annual deficits of a million dollars a year because the City lacks leadership and the City Council lacks the will to bring expenditures in line with revenue. Which could easily be accomplished by off-loading a few of the expensive administrators that were formerly paid for by milking the redevelopment agency cash cow. Costco will go a long way towards closing the City of Ukiah's budget gap. Which is why there is zero chance that Costco won't be approved and zero chance that the city won't soak the taxpayers for the $4 million plus that it will cost to build the road improvements that Costco wants.
UKIAH CRP (who are now saying the barren commercial wasteland of Airport Park Boulevard is not suitable for any big box development) are probably the same people who said that Masonite was not suitable for retail development and that we first needed to build out Airport Park Boulevard. Mendocino County is heavily populated by people who came here from somewhere else and now want to prevent anyone else from moving in or making any changes. We don't disagree with anything they say about the supine City Council or the avaricious Costco, but unless all these people are ready to move back to New York City or Cleveland, they should probably tone it down a little. (And if New York is so superior to California, why did they come here in the first place?) Anyway, if you want to see the City of Ukiah Planning Commission vote slam dunk approval for the Costco giveaway, be sure and show up November 21st.
ON THE LABOR FRONT, Mendocino County went to mediation with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021 last Thursday. SEIU is local in name only since all the decisions are made by the SEIU shotcallers in Oakland. The local members can't even hire their so-called local business agent, who is picked by the Oakland honchos, with the predicable result that the SEIU “'strategy,” such as it is, is tone deaf to local political and community realities. That’s why SEIU called for a major rally on the second day of budget hearings when anyone who pays attention knows the budget is always adopted on the first day. The second day is scheduled as a backup, just in case it is needed, but no one from SEIU seemed to know that. And just last month, SEIU called for a rally against the proposed increase in health insurance premiums, urging everyone to show up at the Supes chambers in Ukiah on a day when the Supes were scheduled to meet in Mendocino to consider the Mendocino Town Plan. That’s what happens when you let a bunch of outsiders call the shots.
HEADING INTO LAST THURSDAY’S MEDIATION, SEIU chose to make the proposed increase to the healthcare premiums the centerpiece of their current labor struggle with the Board of Supes. Mediation was scheduled for two days, but at the end of the first day the mediator realized that agreement was not possible and canceled the second day. The Supes had previously scheduled a special meeting for Monday of this week, with the only item on the agenda being “Closed Session — Labor Negotiations.” The meeting was planned so that in case agreement was reached in mediation, the Supes could vote to approve it, and SEIU could then take it to their members for a vote. But the special meeting was canceled when mediation failed to produce an agreement. Sources within SEIU and the County say agreement was almost in reach when SEIU chose to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. (More later.)
WHEN THE HEALTHCARE INSURANCE INCREASE was first proposed, SEIU claimed it would cost its members “hundreds of dollars a month” — meaning that SEIU confused the effect of a modest increase in health insurance costs with a similar percentage cut in wages. A 5% cut in wages for an SEIU member making $50,000 a year would mean a loss of a couple of hundred dollars a month. But the county says the comparatively minor increase in health plan costs (75% of which are paid for by the county) will only cost the employees a couple of dollars per pay period x 26 pay periods, proving once again that the SEIU financial IQ is in the single digits. But SEIU, based on the false premise that the health plan increase was a major hit to their members bottom line, chose to make it a major issue.
TUESDAY OF LAST WEEK the Supes were scheduled to vote on the health insurance increase. The staff presentation stated that the average annual increase in costs over the last 10 years was 9%, with double digit increases in most years. On average, rates have held steady the last three years, but double digit increases are forecast for the next three years. (So much for any thought that Obamacare will reduce health insurance costs.) Half a dozen SEIU members, including several of the alleged leaders, showed up to speak to the issue. Their comments consisted mostly of reading statements from other SEIU members describing the hardship that the minor increase in health insurance costs would inflict on them.
THE SUPES VOTED UNANIMOUSLY to approve a 3% increase in health insurance rates to take effect January 1, 2014. In approving the 3% increase, a couple of the Supes expressed the hope that the big swings in rate increases from previous years could be avoided. But health insurance costs will continue to escalate as long as the insurance companies remain in the driver's seat, which they certainly are under the present system. After the vote, the SEIU contingent, including the paid rep dispatched from Oakland, all filed out of the room, even though the First Quarter Budget Report was also on the agenda. But SEIU has never shown much interest in the nuts and bolts of the budget, choosing instead to focus their guns on the minor increase in health insurance costs.
THE HEALTHCARE PREMIUM INCREASE was a timed item for the morning, but SEIU called a rally to take place at noon — after the Supes had already voted for the increase. Timing a rally for the lunch hour makes sense, but if SEIU really wanted to show a united front, they would have taken an hour of “LWOP” (leave without pay, not Life Without Parole) and packed the Board chambers. But the SEIU leadership is so unsure of their ability to rally the members that a catered taco truck has become a fixture at their rallies. Even with the lure of free tacos, a scant couple of dozen SEIU members (including the leaders) bothered to show up for the rally, which is not exactly a show of strength going into mediation.
SEIU SWIFTLY ISSUED A FLYER after the rally headlined “Keeping the Pressure On!” proclaiming “Our ongoing fight to hold CEO Angelo and the Board of Supervisors accountable continued Tuesday, as they voted to increase our healthcare premiums by 3%. We spoke against the increase at the Board meeting and were joined by community leaders, in support of our fight for a fair contract. We are fighting back against these unreasonable and unfounded healthcare increases since this issue should have been brought up at the bargaining table. We also begin mediation Thursday with the hope the BOS will show leadership and do the right thing. No matter the result, the fight for our wages, families and community will not end with this contract. We hope that County administrators do the right thing this week during mediation. It's not too late!”
COMMUNITY LEADERS? The small contingent of SEIU members present for the rally might have been joined by a couple of family members looking for free tacos, but SEIU has failed miserably in its efforts to rally public support to their side. Low and moderate wage private sector workers without benefits are unlikely to get excited about a 3% premium increase for a gold plated health insurance plan that is 75% funded by the employer, that includes vision, dental and prescription drug coverage.
DURING MEDIATION it can be assumed that both sides engaged in the usual posturing and bickering. But somehow, the mediator managed to get the two sides to discuss the possibilities of what an agreement might look like. Piecing together accounts from different sources, it appears the County offered to drop the already approved increase in health insurance premiums and pay a one time lump sum of up to a $1,000 to each SEIU member. The proposed deal, as we understand it, would have allowed SEIU to claim total victory on the healthcare premium increase and deliver a one time cash payment to all their members just in time for Christmas. From the county side, it would have given something to the employees, but without permanently increasing the wage base, which the Supes are reluctant to do until county revenues begin to pick up.
ACCORDING TO SOURCES WITHIN SEIU, when the mediator presented the county offer, it set off heated debate among the union negotiating team, with at least a couple of the bargaining team members wanting to accept the deal. But the hardliners (who probably realized the healthcare premium increase is not such a big deal) prevailed and the offer was rejected. Rumor has it that the SEIU bargaining team also refused to put the proposed deal to a vote of their membership. So instead of claiming victory for stopping the healthcare premium increase, and getting a Christmas bonus for their members (or even letting the membership decide), SEIU has opted to continue the ongoing slo-mo train wreck otherwise known as labor negotiations.
WE MAY NEVER KNOW: OSWALD DID IT AND HE ACTED ALONE?
by David Macaray
With the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination just around the corner, we can expect the media to be inundated with solemn remembrances, first-person recollections, and extravagant revisionism. Alas, every heavy-duty plot and whacked-out account of the Kennedy administration will demand and very likely be given its moment in the sun.
The next time you’re at a social gathering and, masochistically, wish to have the guests pelt you with cheese balls, announce to everyone that you not only believe it was the hapless, 24-year old Lee Harvey Oswald who killed Kennedy, but that he acted alone. Then sit back and prepare to be attacked.
It’s rare indeed to find anyone who thinks Oswald acted alone. In fact, although no one can, with certainty, tell you precisely who did it, they’re positive of two things: (1) It wasn’t Oswald, and (2) it was either the USSR, Cuban Fidelistas, Cuban anti-Fidelistas, official CIA agents, rogue CIA agents, ex-CIA agents, official FBI, rogue FBI, the Mafia, the Trilateral Commission, Lyndon Johnson, or the oil companies.
That’s a partial list.
Of course, I have no idea what I’m talking about. Like everyone else, I’m reduced to sifting through the wreckage, trying to make sense of it. All I know is what I’ve read. Another thing I know is that it’s futile to argue forensics with the “true believers.” The PBS show that aired last week (Nov. 12), featuring high-tech forensic evidence supporting the “single-bullet” theory, changed no one’s mind. Not only did it not change their minds, they smirked at it. They ridiculed it; they howled with laughter.
Personally, I think Oswald probably did it, and that he probably acted alone. My reason for thinking this is two-fold: (1) A Dallas newspaper had unwisely published in advance a map of the presidential motorcade’s route, and (2) the assassination went down the way most assassinations go down, so there was really no need to get all exotic about it.
I can understand why people reject the theory that Oswald could have pulled this off by himself. It’s hard to embrace the notion that this fool — this nobody, this loser — could single-handedly snuff out the life of the vibrant and charismatic leader of the Free World, and change the course of human history forever. But this is how most assassinations occur. It’s the Lee Harvey Oswalds of the world who do this sort of thing.
Political assassinations aren’t Hollywood movies, where shadowy international figures are paid millions of dollars and then get plastic surgery. Check the list: Charles Guiteau, Garfield’s assassin, Leon Czolgosz, McKinley’s assassin, Gavrilo Princip, the 19-year old who killed Archduke Ferdinand, Sirhan Sirhan, Guiseppe Zangara, Thomas Hagan, Yigal Amir [the kid who murdered Yitzak Rabin and Israel’s best hope for peace in recent times]. These were basically “average” or “below average” guys.
Also let’s not forget that Manson family member Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme was within two feet of Gerald Ford when her gun misfired. It was sheer luck Ford wasn’t shot. Then we have those unstable misfits and nut-cases: Mark Chapman, who killed John Lennon, Arthur Bremer, who shot George Wallace, and John Paul Franklin, who shot Larry Flynt. These guys just walked up to their victims and fired. They were Oswaldesque nobodies, and yet they changed history.
The sterling example of this, of course, was 25-year old John Hinckley, the man who shot Ronald Reagan. This happened in 1981, 18 years after the JFK assassination, when presidential security was infinitely better than it was in 1963. Yet Hinckley, a former mental patient, walks up to Reagan on a Washington DC street in broad daylight, with Secret Service agents surrounding him, and gets off six shots. He misses Reagan’s heart by inches.
A subsequent jury finds Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity. But if a certifiably insane man, fresh out of the mental ward, can devise a plan where he walks up to the president in broad daylight, and fires six shots at point blank range, why is a confused (but sane) wannabe like Oswald deemed incapable of planning an assassination?
But what do I know? Like everybody else, I’m just guessing.
(David Macaray is a Los Angeles playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor”). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
SCIENTIFIC TEAM FINDS NO HARMFUL RADIATION FROM FUKUSHIMA ON WEST COAST
An international team of scientists led by Ken Buesseler of the Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has found that there is no harmful contamination of seafood by radioactive discharge from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants "except close to Japan." Extensive testing of ocean waters beginning shortly after the March, 2011 earthquake and tsunami tore into the six nuclear plants at Fukushima led to a spring, 2013 issue of Oceanus which concluded that "the impacts of the Fukushima disaster to human health are largely localized to the waters near Japan, despite the spread of debris across the Pacific." "The situation is of concern near Japan coast where fisheries remain closed," Ken Buesseler wrote in an email to me this November 17. "There is a lot of radioactivity left in the tanks (they have removed much of the cesium, but strontium-90 is still very high), contaminated groundwater that flows to the ocean, and spent fuel pool. Something could get much worse, but so far all of the leaks, etc. in the news are much smaller than the big releases in 2011. Doses from eating fish are very low off US, and in fact 500 times greater from a natural radionuclide, polonium-210, but no one worries about 210Po." Continuing monitoring and analysis of contamination from the Fukushima crisis will be reported on the website <www.whoi.edu/CMER>. "I will be starting a crowd source page by end of year where you can sponsor samples for Fukushima radionuclide analyses," Buesseler wrote.
— John Lewallen, Philo
THE LA TIMES reported Wednesday that Discovery Church pastor Caleb Kaltenbach recently came across the Bibles with “Fiction” written on the price tag while shopping for a gift at a Costco store in Simi Valley. He took a photo and posted it on social media with the comment: “Costco has Bibles for sale under the genre of FICTION Hmmmm...” Costco has since apologized, saying in a statement a distributor mislabeled a small percentage of Bibles before they were sent to the store. The company said it is correcting the mistake for future distribution.
A WASHINGTON STATE WOMAN whose story was told by Barack Obama last month as evidence the Affordable Care Act is helping Americans, now says the insurance exchange made a mistake and she can’t afford a plan. Jessica Sanford was named by the president in a Rose Garden speech regarding Obamacare after she wrote a letter to the White House thanking them for helping her get health coverage. But last week the 48-year-old self-employed single mom got a letter saying she was given a lower insurance quote and higher tax credit by the state’s exchange than she actually qualified for due to a “system error.” The letter was actually one of several she’d received from Washington HealthPlanFinder, which is the state’s Affordable Care Act exchange group. The first told her of an error regarding her tax credit. It had been miscalculated and would be lower than she expected. She was disappointed in the uptick in cost for her insurance, but still carried on with her plans to purchase insurance through the exchange at $280 per month instead of the original quote of $198. But the second letter informed her she’d get no tax credit at all. That resulted in an even higher quote of $390 per month, which Sanford told CNN she just couldn’t afford. There was a cheaper, “bronze” plan she could buy for $324 per month, but with higher deductibles she couldn’t afford that either. Sanford apologized in the letter and said they were “disappointed to have discovered this issue.” Meanwhile, it was just last month when Obama stood in the Rose Garden and proudly spoke of how the new health insurance exchanges would lower insurance costs. “I recently received a letter from a woman named Jessica Sanford in Washington State,” President Obama told America in the October 21 speech. “Here's what she had to say: I am a single mom, no child support, self-employed and I haven't had insurance in 15 years because it's too expensive. I was crying the other day when I signed up, so much stress lifted.” Sanford said she wept when she believed she’d finally be able to afford insurance. And again when she learned she actually couldn’t because of the state’s error. “I was embarrassed,” Sanford told CNN. “I had a good cry.” The self-employed court reporter blames the state of Washington and its exchange for the issue and says she regrets that Obama mentioned her name. She voted for Obama twice and supports the Affordable Care Act but admits, “They screwed up.” “Wow. You guys really screwed me over,” Sanford wrote on the state exchange’s Facebook page. “Now I have been priced out and will not be able to afford the plans you offer. But, I get to pay $95 and up for not having health insurance. I am so incredibly disappointed and saddened. You majorly screwed up.” Sanford, who was once so ecstatic to finally be insured, is now back to square one. “This is it. I'm not getting insurance,” Sanford told CNN. “That's where it stands right now unless they fix it.” Sanford told NWCN that she's disappointed in her situation and feels for those sharing in the frustration with her. “I wanted health insurance, wanted this to work. I want it to work for everybody.”
THE EASTERN STAR, Oceanview Chapter 111 met for their stated final meeting of 2013 on the evening of November 19th. Our brother members provided refreshments for our meeting, enjoyed by all! Our new fund raising committee, fully permitted by our Constitution and Rules, has been formed and approved. The committee had a temporary name of Wise Owls, but has settled upon the name ‘Sand$$$’, approved as its permanent name. Several current projects are in the mix as fundraisers. The first will be held at the Fort Bragg Masonic Center, 428 N Main, from 10am through 3pm, Friday 11/29, Wrapping Your Holiday Packages and Serving Pie and Beverages while you wait. Our second fundraiser will be held at the Fort Bragg Masonic Center on Friday 12/6 during the parade to be held in Fort Bragg serving Hot Chocolate and Sweets. Our installation of new officers will be held on Sunday, November 24 at 2pm and is an open installation with all visitors invited to attend. It will be held at the Mendocino Masonic Center, 10500 Lansing Street. Refreshments to be served after the ceremonies. Our new Worthy Patron for 2014 is David Paoli who also is to be installed as the Worshipful Master of the Mendocino Masonic Lodge for 2014. We are honored in our Eastern Star district for 2014 in that the Grand Esther of the Grand Chapter of California is a member of a chapter in this district and will be attending our installation. We had the pleasure during October/November of attending the Sr. Center dinner and Cotton Auditorium Symphony in Fort Bragg, and, the Mendo Mayhem Roller Derby in Ukiah. Please attend and enjoy the above mentioned events and see members and old friends! — Mary Danchuk, WM Order of Eastern Star Ocean View Chapter 111 Mendocino, CA. Meeting monthly 3rd Tuesday, 6:30pm Dark October and December 10500 Lansing Street, Mendocino rillatoo@Yahoo.com
Photo: Carol Brown, Mary Danchuk, Nancy Meagher, Jim Davis, Denise Stenberg, at Sr. Center dinner before the Cotton Auditorium concert.
THE TIMELESS LEADEN day merged imperceptibly towards eve. After the rude midday meal Adam was bid by Judith to put Viper, the vicious gelding, between the shafts of the buggy and to drive backwards and forwards to Howling six times to revive his knowledge of the art of managing a horse. His attempt to stave off this event by having a fit during the rude meal was unfortunately robbed of its full effect by the collapse of Meriam, the hired girl, while in the act of passing a dish of greens to Seth. Her hour had come upon her rather sooner than was anticipated, and in the ensuing scene Adam's fit, which he had staged in the cowshed out of regard for his personal comfort and safety, passed almost unnoticed except as a sort of Greek chorus to the main drama.
—Stella Gibbons, 1932; from “Cold Comfort Farm"
DFW OWES COUNTIES OVER $17 MILLION AS BROWN FAST-TRACKS TUNNELS
By Dan Bacher
Opponents of Governor Jerry Brown's Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels asked how taxpayers would trust “deadbeat state agencies” to pay billions for seized farmland and habitat when news reports reveal that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife owes counties over $17 million.
Restore the Delta (RTD) on November 14 responded to news reports in the Sacramento Bee and on Capital Public Radio that the State of California has failed to pay for land it acquired from thirty-six counties.
This report of defaulted payments comes as the State pursues its plan to purchase, or seize through eminent domain, tens of thousands of acres of farmland to build a pair of water export tunnels to deliver massive quantities of Sacramento River water to corporate agribusiness, developers and oil companies.
“Why would we trust these same agencies to keep their promises about the $54.1 billion tunnels, the land they will purchase or the ‘habitat’ they will buy and manage?” asked RTD Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla. “The failure to repay for lands is just one in a long series of broken promises by these same agencies. They are not trustworthy.”
The $54.1 billion cost of the tunnels includes $14.5 billion for construction, $1.5 billion for O&M (operation and maintenance), $26.3 billion for interest on tunnel revenue bonds, $7 billion for habitat and conservation, $3.2 billion for interest on General Obligation Bonds and $1.6 billion for administration and research.
The state currently owes the counties more than $17 million, according to California Public Radio (http://www.capradio.org/articles/2013/11/12/fish-and-wildlife-owes-counties-millions-of-dollars/
Bob Moffitt at California Public Radio explained, “The Department of Fish and Wildlife long ago bought properties for wildlife projects in three dozen counties. The department agreed to make yearly payments equal to the amount of property taxes that counties would lose as a result of the sale.”
H.D. Palmer of the California Department of Finance told Moffitt that the state hasn't made a payment since the end of the 2001 fiscal year.
"The rural counties have sent letters to the governor seeking that those payments be re-instated and we are still working on the decisions on the budget that the Governor will submit in January,” Palmer said. “So, we can't say one way or the other what will be in that budget regarding the in-lieu payments.”
"This week, Yolo County sent the Department of Fish and Wildlife a past-due invoice for about $1.4 million. The county says property like the one known as 'No Man's Land' near the Yolo Causeway are not generating tax revenue because they are owned by the state and are a burden on neighboring landowners who pay more than their fair share for fire protection services,” Moffitt reported.
The state owes Riverside $2.7 million - the most of any county- followed by Napa, Yolo, Butte, Merced, Lassen and San Diego, according to Moffitt.
To read the Sacramento Bee article, go to: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/11/12/v-print/5906242/yolo-county-asks-state-for-14.html
Protesters have greeted Governor Jerry Brown at his recent appearances throughout the state to oppose his support of fracking, the peripheral tunnels, massive fish kills on the Delta and REDD. (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/10/18/18745051.php
MENDOCINO COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT PRESIDING JUDGE DAVID NELSON recently announced the judicial assignments for 2014. These assignments are reviewed every two years and new assignments are made as appropriate. Judges Ann Moorman and John Behnke will remain in Departments A and B, respectively, where they will handle criminal trial matters. Judge David Riemenschneider will continue to handle family law matters including divorces and child custody disputes in Dept. C. Former Presiding Judge Richard Henderson will move to Dept. E where he will preside over the civil department and hear unlimited civil lawsuits, probate matters and conservatorships. Judge Cindee Mayfield will move to Dept. F and preside over the juvenile division, hearing delinquency and dependency cases, including the Family Dependency Drug Court. Judge Jeanine Nadel will remain in Dept. G, hearing traffic and civil limited cases, including small claims and unlawful detainers. She will also handle a portion of the unlimited civil cases. Judge David Nelson will move to Dept. H to hear the master criminal calendar, where all criminal cases start before being referred to the two trial departments in A and B. He will also preside over the Adult Drug Court. Judge Clay Brennan will continue to manage the Ten Mile Court in Fort Bragg and its criminal, traffic, civil, juvenile and family law cases. Judge Nelson announced that the Executive Committee which manages the court will be comprised of himself, Assistant Presiding Judge Behnke and Judge Moorman. All assignments last two years.