Off The Record
by AVA News Service, December 4, 2013
THE AVA has been looking all over Ukiah for a room or affordable apartment to rent for our ace reporter, Bruce McEwen. Nothing out there. Even the most flea-ridden fleabags demand upwards of $200 a week, and rooms in extremely oppressive homes — “No smoking, no drinking, no visitors, no nothing” — go for more than $500 a month. We thought of Willits, where flea bag motels are even more common than Ukiah, but even these dumps run about $200 a week. Use to be there were cheap rooms, bathroom down the hall accommodations everywhere in the land. Remember downtown Ukiah a few years back? I knew a guy who lived for years above the old Paul's Rice Bowl on North State. Paul owned the whole show, including his and his wife's restaurant on the ground floor. Drove an old Cadillac and undoubtedly died a multi-millionaire. Call him a slumlord, but I'll call him a one-man poverty program. He housed people that no one else would — drinking people mostly — and often received only partial rents from tenants whose first priority was the bottle. Fed them, too, at cut rates in his restaurant. Then there was a fire and that was that. We all know that homelessness is a large and growing problem in every community of any size in the country, and a big part of the reason is the absence of affordable shelter, especially for difficult persons. Here in the bucolic Anderson Valley, for instance, as in every area of Mendocino County, whole families occupy one-bedroom, done-over motel rooms, and that's the high end of the rental market for families whose income hovers about ten thousand short of the official poverty line. Single people are likely to remain shelter-free. Circa 1970, there were still permanent residents living in the old Boonville Hotel, as Eddie Carsey can tell you. He tended bar downstairs and, as I recall, owned the place. Anyway, if you have a rental for one of the best writers in the country, please call 895-3016.
THOMAS E. CROAK (1955-2013) A community memorial service for Thomas E. Croak will be held on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, at 2 p.m. at Town Hall, 363 N. Main St., Fort Bragg. Mr. Croak was Ten Mile Court's long-time Public Defender. A consensus good guy, and a very good attorney, Croak always did his best for the hapless souls he was assigned to represent.
RECOMMENDED READING, kind of. Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream by Neil Young. A friend called it a great book and told me I should definitely hustle out and get it. I did, and a few pages in I knew I was totally unqualified to read it because I know zero about the guy's music, and even less about popular music generally. I didn't understand most of the references to other musicians, and Young lost me completely in long paragraphs about the antique cars he collects and his work on sound technology. In a way, though, Waging Heavy Peace was interesting in the way the movie about Johnny Cash was interesting, in that you keep waiting for something interesting to happen. When the Johnny Cash movie ended, I said to myself, “That was the story of a guy who was poor, got rich young as an entertainer, got himself addicted to speed, got divorced and married again.” It was a very boring movie. Neil Young's book, to me, was like the Johnny Cash movie. These guys, if their bio's are any guide, all lead very odd but identical lives, endless rounds of encounters with other celebs and fancy hotels. Neil Young grew up in a stable, prosperous home then, still quite young, became rich and famous, and his life mostly became the predictable debauch of women and dope and, of course, music. Unless you're a really good writer, this kind of life is not interesting. Young's story needs a good biographer. Young isn't a very good writer and his life, as he describes it, is awfully boring. He does come across as a good person, certainly, in a profession where there probably aren't many good persons, but his book is only for the most avid of his fans.
OUR MOST IMPORTANT CITIES are overcrowded, alienating habitats for most of those who live and labor in them but palaces of consumer delights for those with money. And the rest of the nation consists of the lesser cities, with their moribund downtowns and decaying infrastructures; suburbs, with their sameness, shopping malls, green lawns, trim houses, and spiritual deadness; small towns, with no services, inferior food in the grocery stores, poor medical care, and their own brands of environmental destruction; the vast wastelands of what is left of rural America, with factory farming, pesticides choking the air, trailer parks, amphetamine epidemics, and towns where residents so often look worn out and alone. Even the remaining beautiful places have become victims of urban cash. You will never see a full moon or stars as bright and numerous in a city as you will in Moab, Utah or Estes Park, Colorado. Yet, tourism wreaks havoc in both places, and natural gas fracking devastates the landscape. (Michael Yates)
A READER WRITES: “The dastardly USPS once again shirks its duty to deliver the AVA in a timely fashion [or at all]. Bottom line is that my last edition is November 6; so, that's two-and-one half editions that are probably stacked up behind useless piles of Lands' End catalogues and mountains of ‘It's the holiday season: please send us $$$ for The Great Cause.’ I finally broke down and went to the website (first time) to console myself with reading online but — although it is a very snappy website, it is of course inadequate to those of us accustomed to, and weekly hoping for, THE REAL THING. It was a pleasure meeting you, Major, briefly, back on October 17th our way through Boonville en route to Daniel Parker's ranch in Comptche, where my wife and I were communards back in '69-74. Sorry to have missed meeting the Great Satanic Socialist/anarchist himself, who you said was in SF. Anyway, my fond hope for the holiday season is that Santa, or the USPS, will bring me the AVA in its beloved paper edition, on a weekly basis, in 2014 and henceforth. Best wishes for a good Thanksgiving, etc.”
THE DEMOCRAT APPARAT, NorCal Division, of Huffman Feinstein, Boxer, Thompson and several other office-holding enemies of hope, have group-signed a press release that begins, “Drug trafficking organizations… are making forests and open spaces unsafe for working and recreation. We urge you to consider the significant impacts of drug cultivation operations on public and trespassed lands throughout the country and add new emphasis to countering the environmental damages of drug production.” And so on straight from their press release hearts. Huffman et al want to “direct the U.S. Sentencing Commission” to increase prison time for persons found to be doing “environmental harm during trespass marijuana operations.”
THE OFFICEHOLDERS claim, accurately, “In 2012, nearly one million marijuana plants were eradicated from 471 sites on National Forest lands found in 20 states across the country. The operators of these illegal grow operations frequently level hilltops, starting landslides on erosion-prone hillsides, divert and dam creeks and streams, and use excessive pesticides to protect their crop. A single 2011 law enforcement operation in Mendocino National Forest located 56 marijuana cultivation sites and removed 23 tons of trash, over a ton of fertilizer, 57 pounds of pesticides and herbicides, 22 miles of irrigation piping, and 13 man-made dams...
SO, WHAT TO DO? An on-line comment re Huffman's grow initiative: “Jail time isn't the answer, Friend. Increased mandatory sentencing for possession, manufacture, and sales have done exactly ZIP to reduce drug-related crime in this country. About the only thing such measures have done is increase prison overcrowding and enrich for-profit penitentiaries. If we really want to hurt these individuals, go after their money — every last cent that can be even remotely associated with their illegal grows. Confiscate their equipment, their vehicles, their homes. Everything they own, down to the backpacks on their scrawny backs. Then branch out and go after those they know — relatives, friends, everyone. If you can't prove that what you have hasn't been purchased with illegally earned drug money, it's gone. Impoverish the bastards and instead of such monies being turned over to local law enforcement for shit like military style ordnance, use the money to clean up these grow sites. I'm sick of our elected officials enacting this kind of legislation — laws that do nothing to actually address the problem. It sounds good on the evening news and gets a cheer from an ignorant electorate, but it doesn't do a thing to change the behaviors. Go after these assholes' pocketbooks. Then they might actually think twice and realize that it's not worth the trouble when the Feds come confiscate everything down to their Tevas.”
OF ALL the people arrested at the grows in the Mendocino National Forest, and as I recall we're talking two or three people, how many were prosecuted? Maybe one, and I think one guy was deported, meaning he's already back and growing wherever. Few to none of the Mendo Forest miscreants were even identified with anything like reasonable certainty. Locating the money, even with the total government surveillance we now apparently live with, asset seizure is impossible even if the multitude of police agencies co-dependent with the dope industry had the will and the capacity to do it. If you think press release threats to increase sentences will stop a single grower, you probably vote for Democrats. Don't want to sound glib about it because big grows, trespass and non-trespass, are doing huge environmental harm to the Mendo outback, but maybe this is a problem with no solution. Late capitalism has produced lots of them.
STEPHEN CLARK PEASE, 57, the co-owner of a Sammy Hagar-themed restaurant in Roseville that is the centerpiece of a revitalization effort in the Sacramento suburb, was found dead by recreational divers off Gualala earlier this week. Pease was last seen November 3 when he checked out of a hotel in Fort Bragg, more than 50 miles from the spot where his body was recovered by a game warden who swam out into the ocean to bring it ashore. Pease was driving a rental car that has not been recovered. Sheriff's Capt. Greg Van Patten said there was no obvious sign of foul play, but investigators hope to learn more from the rental car.
NOT TO SULLY the memory of the unfortunate Mr. Pease, but a redevelopment project pegged to Sammy Hagar? I doubt even the Ukiah City Council would put any eggs in that basket.
TRAVEL ADVISORY: Kudos to CalTrans for Big Orange's work this year on Highway 20 linking Willits and Fort Bragg. The radical increase in the number of turnouts on the Fort Bragg end is most welcome and should cut down on the accidents caused by impatient drivers who swerve out into the oncoming lane and on into eternity.
THE CITY OF UKIAH'S own appraisal some years ago concluded that restoration of the Palace Hotel was not feasible, that no investor could expect a return large enough to recover the money he'd have to put into rehabbing the 19th century edifice. The present owner, Ms. Eladia Laines of Marin County, has strung along the present Ukiah City Council for years, assuring the Council that she's just about to move the rehab of Central Ukiah's royal structure into high gear. If Ms. Laines had the dough to do that the site would have been teeming with workers years ago, shortly after she picked up the property at auction for $115,000. She says she's since put a quarter mil into clean-up and site prep, although as of last week she hadn't even managed to cover the leaking roof with a protective sheeting of plastic.
EVEN IF MS. LAINES had the capital to once again make the Palace habitable, her condo-dreams are unrealistic. It's unlikely that people who can afford million dollar accommodations would choose to live anywhere in Ukiah, even the Westside where they might swap NPR excitements with Little Benj and Miss Rodin, and get invited to intimate fundraisers featuring Wes Chesbro and Congressman See Through.
THE UKIAH CITY COUNCIL should simply concede that the Palace is finished and move on to what they're really good at — screwing up the rest of the town. But Laines remains their only hope for rehab of the Palace. Give her another fifty years and $10 mil and the place will be up and humming by 2085. Ukiah doesn't have the money for demolition, besides which a ghostly old three-story brick building is more aesthetically pleasing than an endlessly empty lot. These are the only realistic alternatives. Let it crumble I say, a collapsing symbol of a time when Americans, even outback Americans, still knew how to do things, and small town money still had the civic pride to make their communities look good.
FOR TWO DECADES we’ve repeatedly brought up the County’s complete lack of management reporting. Any organization larger than a two-man pizza parlor needs regular reports to management on staffing, budgeting, ongoing projects, and anticipated problems. But Mendo has no regular departmental reporting system even though the basics are simple and would help the Executive Office and the Supervisors understand how their departments operate and to make better informed decisions, especially in this time of “doing more with less.”
A DEPARTMENTAL REPORT would simply graph the department’s actual versus budgeted expenses which, in government, are primarily personnel since that’s where most of the money goes. The chart would track each department's budget against its actual expenses. A second personnel chart would break down how time was spent in each department: productive time, time off, lost time, training time, etc., along with number of positions, vacancies and recruitment status.
A THIRD CHART would summarize major projects and any changes affecting budget or staffing.
THESE THREE basic charts would give the Board of Supervisors not only a useful snapshot of current operations, but would give the board an opportunity to avoid problems that may be approaching and, over time, would produce a record for new executives or board members to learn crucial areas of County functioning. Without regular reports, the Board is too dependent on what staff chooses to tell them. And we're talking about an organization of more than 1,000 people. It wouldn’t take much work to set the system up and the benefits of better management would produce immediate and tangible results.
NOT ONE PERSON in the County’s executive or board staff has any experience managing a large organization and so, to be charitable, they apparently don’t realize how crucial foundational reports are to effective management. To be uncharitable, however, since such reports are so basic to the running of any large organization, it’s just as likely that the Board and executive staff actually don’t want to know what’s going on in their own departments and prefer to be uninformed so that they can claim ignorance and thus retain plausible deniability when things go awry.
SURVIVAL TIP: Always employ the California Three Second Rule. Count to three before leaving the relative safety of the sidewalk to cross a street and, if driving, wait at least that long before proceeding through an intersection.
ADD TO MENDO COUNTY'S ever-expanding roster of low-level international rogues, the name of Mr. Gianluca Murroni of Sardinia and Willits. Willits? Willits. Murroni was arrested in Willits on November 23rd for drunk driving and is also being held on an immigration hold. Just sayin' but Murroni may have been in Mendoland to make his way in the dope business, as so many furriners before him have done. Although Monsieur Murroni is our first Sardinian, we've had nationals from Bulgaria, Russia, China, Israel, Spain, Japan, Italy, to name the most intrepid explorers of international marijuana who've passed through the welcoming portals of the Mendocino County Jail. Sardinia, by the way, is an island off Italy, just south of Corsica, birthplace of Napoleon. There aren't many Sardinians even in Sardinia. This guy should get a plaque at the County Jail.
WE ALL HAVE A PRIVATE PAST, a store of thoughts, feelings, sensations, disappointments that nobody else will ever unearth. That's just life. But in Miss Saraswati's case, it seemed to me, there was something more deliberately hidden. Areas cordoned off. I suppose it was only natural. So much is kept off limits these days. There are things we don't speak of, things we not only don't remember but carefully forget, places we do not stray into, memories we bury or reshape. That is the way we live nowadays: driving along a road between hallucination and amnesia. — Romesh Gunesekera, Roadkill
COSTCO IN UKIAH? It's staggering towards construction, maybe by 2015. Big cities build ballparks for billionaires, Ukiah spends tax money on a private corporation, lots of tax money. As a reader put it, “The estimated cost to Ukiah is $4 million-plus for the interchange improvements. But it is hard to believe that Costco would come in without insisting that Ukiah also rebuild Airport Park Boulevard from Talmage to Commerce where subsurface drainage (from west to east) has compromised the road base leading to pavement failure and a humpty-bumpty ride over what should be a flat surface. Ukiah sued the developer, claiming he built the road to a substandard condition, but he argued that he built it to city specs and the city accepted it into the public road system. The judge ruled for the developer. That was going on 15 years ago and the city has done little more than slap fresh asphalt into the worst of the pot holes.”
ANOTHER READER WRITES: “Regarding the KZYX Board and upcoming elections: I'll never forget the phrase used by a former Fort Bragg Senior Center manager from Sonoma who was ousted by the Senior Center Board for trying to do her job back in the 1990s. (Kinda like the last one, but without the public backlash). After her ouster, she was refreshingly forthcoming. She observed that in these outback areas, most of the allegedly democratic (and frequently ‘liberal’) ‘boards’ like KZYX are dominated by ‘incestuous little groups of friends who see the organization as their own’ and who, along with senior staff, operate the organization as their own little sandbox. And once they're entrenched, it's very hard to remove them — even if they're exposed as incompetent or even crooked. I also recall when Bruce Anderson ran for the KZYX Board once back in the mid-90s. KZYX immediately recruited Guy Rowe who won then hated his one four-year term on the Board. During the on-air debate between Rowe and Anderson, Rowe said Bruce Anderson represented ‘revolutionary change, but I represent evolutionary change.’ Rowe won handily. But, of course, there was no change at all.”
WE WERE SITTING around in front of the big screen watching Detroit vs. Green Bay last Thursday, waiting to commence an hour of turkey-themed gluttony. Ordinarily, I restrict my television sports to Giants baseball and 49er football and, occasionally, the last 15 minutes of a Warrior's game. Gluttony is harder to suppress, especially for a guy who thinks of food as fuel, not ceremony. Shovel it in and get right back to ensuring that readers of this fine publication put the paper down cheered and edified.
THE HALF TIME show came on. These things may be of interest to high school cheerleaders, but I can't remember watching one with anything like attentiveness. I polled the room. Answers, from men and women, ranged from, “Of course not” to “I'm not that kind of idiot.” Used to be you got something wacky but relatively wholesome, a pee-wee football game or a college marching band. Exactly when half-time went Vegas, I don't remember, probably about the same time as jumbothrons, or whatever the big screens are called, and bad music played top decibel throughout the game.
BUT THIS HALF-TIME SHOW? Christ Jesus spare us all! All the tootsies and the lead gyrator were togged out as Indians, you know, Native Americans, insulted annually this time of year with serial deluges of falsified history about that first great intra-ethnic feast prior to the slaughters of the ensuing 200 years. Not to go all PC on you here, but other than white rednecks, Indians seem to be the last insult-able Americans.
THE LYRICS accompanying more or less rhythmic sexual pelvic thrusts, consisted, near as I could make out, of “Baby, baby oh baby.” All these weird half-time presentations are the same, as you sit there wondering who the things are aimed at. I found myself deep into my own half-time reverie inspired by the fascinating story of Quanah Parker, the great Comanche chief, born to a white mother kidnapped by Comanches who, I believe, were the only Native Americans who lived by making total war all the time on whomever possessed what they wanted. Comanche warriors are regarded as the best horsemen ever to gallop the world. They would array themselves in great spinning circles of man and horse, psyching themselves up to hurl their horsebacked selves at the enemy...
“HOLD ON, SPORTS FANS. Some kind of mass disturbance has broken out. Hundreds of… what the heck are they, Mel? Horsemen? My god, they're shooting real arrows into the crowd, and they've just set a fat man in a Niner jersey on fire! And they're laughing! Whoever they are, this is no half-time show. This is a full-on terrorist attack.”
COMMENT OF THE WEEK: Thanks loads to Doug McKenty for his KZYX Manifesto article. Nasty things inevitably happen in the dark, and nasty people cement their control in this way. If I had to guess, KZYX will go the bankruptcy/corporate take over route that so many of its soundalikes have taken in recent years. Right now KZYX functions as a corporate gatekeeper ensuring that the manifest crimes of the few and powerful do not come to light. Doing a damn good job of it too. Of course, if you are sociopathically inclined, there can never be enough centralized control, and the nastier the better.
Good listening Mendocino.
PS. I think perhaps the first step is to begin to establish community so we have some muscles to flex. But even then it would be uphill. Our Gini Coefficient (Mendocino County as a whole is 0.429) locally, the disparity of incomes, is undoubtedly rising rapidly. Locales with a lot of inequality have a hard time sponsoring “community” projects that do not cater to the dreams desires of its wealthiest people. It is entirely natural that KZYX has the character described. Wealth is not interested in democratic rules, or democratic rule, for that matter. Authority and privilege in highly unequal communities ALWAYS reflects the values and interests of the most well off. The fact will be hidden behind amorphous statements about the mission, but the basic rule is no-money-no-influence. There is the commercial interest in seeking membership donations, and lies will be told to secure as much money as possible (why not?) but control will be centralized the better to be responsive to this narrow segment of the listenership. This is happening all across the country where wealth is settling. New York is our least equal city/county and WBAI is failing. Elsewhere “community radio” is coming to resemble commercial radio with commercial breaks and “uncontroversial” programming. Inequality causes virtually all the ills we complain about (see The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger by Kate Pickett, Richard Wilkinson and The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills, Recessions, Budget Battles, and the Politics of Life and Death by Stuckler and Basu for a deeper understanding of this crucial fact) in everyday life.
Considering the economic and social realities of Mendocino, I seriously doubt that KZYX will adopt a more transparent and populist character. — Herb Ruhs, Boonville
KZYX BOARD ELECTIONS for 2014 are coming up early next year. The station has posted a candidate application form which can be seen at kzyx.org. Station reformers hope that some electable candidates will apply who will try to bring some “local” to their local public radio station and work to reinstate Doug McKenty’s open lines show and maybe even some real local public affairs programming. (Applications must be submitted by January 30, 2014.)
REEL SHORT MOVIE REVIEW: If you only see one movie this year you won't go wrong with Nebraska starring Bruce Dern, 77, and June Squibb, 84. This is a wonderful little movie, and Dern's and Squibb's performances as a squabbling old couple are so good they should be up for Academy Awards. Dern plays an old guy who gets one of those Clearinghouse Sweepstakes letters telling him he's won a million dollars. He sets out, at first on foot, to get his big payout. His resigned but indulgently concerned son accompanies his deluded father from his bleak home in Billings, Montana, to his even bleaker hometown in Nebraska where they're joined by Mom, memorably played by June Squibb. Her running commentary on old friends eternally at rest in the couple's hometown Nebraska cemetery is one of the funniest passages I've ever seen in a movie.
AS THE BIPARTISAN onslaught continues against Americans making less than $50,000 a year, San Francisco, like Mendocino County, resorts to pure smarm to mask both social realities and the dirty work of keeping the walking wounded on the move. On 9th Avenue, just up from Irving, there used to be a couple of benches. I believe they were installed by merchants in the area. Across the street, the city has installed one of those parklets, kinda like the one Mary Ann Landis and Mari Rodin got Ukiah to build out of public money at their fave private restaurant, Patrona, in central Ukiah. The parklets the city is installing all over town rest outside busy coffee shops and bakeries, places the homeless aren't allowed to linger. San Francisco, like Mendo, is dominated by “liberals” of the type dominant in the Democrat Party. SF's elected libs tolerate, nay encourage, the escalating war on the poor as Washington defunds helpful programs, and I'm not talking only about the visible poor we see everywhere on the streets. Anyway, the two benches on the east side of 9th have been removed. I'd never seen an undesirable, other than myself, sitting on either of the benches but, like everywhere else in the city except for Pacific Heights and the Presidio, there are always a few drunks and completely gone mental cases flaked out on the sidewalks or shuffling along with their shopping carts. Since the 9th and Irving neighborhood borders Golden Gate Park where many homeless people spend their nights, a large number of them spend their days in what's called the Inner Sunset. I often sat on the benches on 9th myself to enjoy the passing parade. The other day I noticed that the benches were gone, and an officious, government-looking, bold-type notice, an instant classic of passive-aggressive prose, was posted nearby: “Bench Removal. With great sadness these two benches have been removed at the request of the San Francisco Police Department. They believe that the removal will encourage particular individuals to avail themselves of city homeless services. We cannot in good conscience watch our fellow human beings kill themselves before our very eyes.”
A LAUNDRY ROOM fire that broke out in a dryer Saturday night about 10:30 caused water damage at Ukiah's Buddy Eller Homeless Shelter. None of the approximately 30 homeless people at the Brush Street facility were forced to leave overnight, but firefighters stayed for several hours cleaning out copious amounts of water that flooded the area of the fire from overhead sprinklers.