Off The Record
by AVA News Service, December 11, 2013
JOHN HOGGATT has died. Known in Willits simply as John The Printer, John passed away Tuesday evening at his Willits home after a protracted battle with cancer. He has printed our newspaper for many years, buying the business from our previous printer, the late Jim Chase. Printing X-Press (formerly Willits Printing) maintains the last web press in Mendocino County. We hope to have a full obituary in the next few days.
THOMAS E. CROAK died on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, in a car accident. Born on Nov. 29, 1955 to Johanna Gillette and Thomas E. Croak Sr., he was 57. For 20 years Mr. Croak was one of the best and most memorable public defenders in coastal Mendocino County history. He was a friend of the earth and a tireless servant of the people. Tom touched thousands of lives. We miss him dearly. Tom is survived by his mother, Johanna Gillette; brother, Bill Croak; sister, Mary Ann Presswood; niece, Elizabeth Bingham; and two beagles, Daisy and Comet. A memorial service was held on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, at 2pm at Town Hall in Fort Bragg.
PUBLIC DEFENDER LINDA THOMPSON did not attend memorial services for either Bert Schlosser or Tom Croak. Zero persons from Thompson's classy operation attended Croak's service, three deputy attorneys turned out for Schlosser. The boss did not acknowledge either event nor did she send flowers or condolences to family members. Between them, Schlosser and Croak put in fifty years of honest, competent defense work for people who ordinarily get short shrift, if they even get that.
BOTH SIDES to the ongoing pay dispute between SEIU and the County have bungled negotiations, which are now being mediated by the state. The mediation is non-binding and likely to limp along for some time because both sides to the dispute are intransigent. The union wants the County to restore the 10-percent pay cut County employees, most of them anyway, had voluntarily accepted. But now that the County is claiming a $9 million budget surplus, the union wants its members to get their ten percent back. Both sides have regularly claimed the other has acted illegally. Negotiations are complicated by SEIU's leadership calling the shots for the union from its distant headquarters, and making all kinds of stupidly fundamental errors as it goes while the County pays a lot of money for an outside attorney to represent its interests. Natch, the County's own lawyers can't handle this thing, and one wonders for the umpteenth time exactly what can the County Counsel's office do, so when the union says the County must have plenty of dough because it can afford a high-priced private attorney, the County can only bleat, “Yeah but we don't have enough to give our workers their money back.” The dispute is simple, but, as is the way in Mendo, unnecessarily complicated by people with nothing at stake — the County's highly paid leadership and its attorney on one side, the union's blustery, incompetent leadership on the other.
THREE UKIAH schools, all in the same South Dora neighborhood, went into lockdown mode Monday about 2pm when the Ukiah PD received report of a man with a rifle in a parking lot behind Saint Mary of the Angels School. Officers flooded the area in search of the alleged gunman, but found no sign of a person meeting the description of a white man, about 5'11, dressed in a dark t-shirt and green pants.
EVERYBODY KNOWS that the Federal Reserve’s money-pumping operations have become a replacement for what used to be an economy. Therefore, no more money pumping = no more so-called economy. It’s that simple. But it doesn’t mean that the Federal Reserve won’t make a gesture and I wouldn’t be surprised if they try it during the season that Santa Claus hovers over the national consciousness — or what little of that remains when you subtract the methedrine, the Kanye downloads, the fear of an $11,000 bill for an emergency room visit requiring three stitches, and all the other epic distractions of our time. (James Kunstler)
IT WAS AT a Chinatown event during Obama's recent visit to San Francisco that a young immigrant, Ju Hong, spoke truth directly to power when he interrupted the President's cliche-ridden remarks to shout out a plea for real immigration reform. As fat cat Democrats shouted out demands that the kid be ejected, Obama instructed the security goons to leave the boy alone and coolly lobbed additional cliches at the lad about how he was working on reform.
A FEW DAYS LATER, Democratic Party fix-it man, Willie Brown, wrote this in his Sunday Chronicle column: “The White House is steaming over San Francisco's lack of vetting of the people who joined President Obama on stage in Chinatown for his immigration speech — especially after one of them started yelling at the president about halting deportations. Mayor Ed Lee is going to have to rethink whom he puts in charge of future presidential visits — assuming there are any. On behalf of the city, Mr. President, I apologize for our bad behavior.”
KINDA SAYS IT ALL about how monarchical government has become, doesn't it? You round up only the most dependably Up With People personality types for your multi-ethnic photo op, the kind of natural born serfs certain to cooperate with the illusion that the present front man for money and privilege gives one hoot about most of the people he allegedly represents. As for Willie Brown's pathetic apology; the One Percent has never had a more devoted servant.
UKIAH CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBLE PLANNING have circulated a flyer headlined “Planning Commission Supports Costco — Ignores Impacts and Costs to Taxpayers” that decries the City Planning Commission's support of the Final EIR and a Statement of Overriding Considerations that says the benefits of big box proliferation outweigh the “unavoidable impacts identified in the Final EIR, specifically traffic.” The flyer complains the decision was made without a traffic plan or funding for improvements in place. (The Ukiah City Council has previously voted to borrow $4 to $6 million to build infrastructure improvements for Costco, primarily rebuilding the Talmage Road/Highway 101 freeway interchange-exit.) The flyer claims that the EIR tells us that “Airport Park is not the place for a 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.”
THE FLYER CONCLUDES with an appeal to “join us at the December 4th City Council 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 big box opponents miss the point — it is not about Costco making a few bucks, but about the City of Ukiah gaining half a million dollars or more annually in sales tax money off the Costco taxable sales. The City has been running at a deficit ever since the economy tanked in 2008, compounded later by losing the Redevelopment cash cow which previously paid for the bloated administrative overhead at the City. The City previously turned down the proposed Walmart expansion, but Walmart was all about adding a food center, which would not have generated any significant additional sales tax. Expect the Ukiah City Council, including Phil “Red Phil” Baldwin, to vote slam dunk approval for Costco and the sales tax it will bring to the City.
THAT FRONT PAGER in last Tuesday's New York Times said that you'll pay $20 for a single codeine pill, $2,229 to get a few stitches in a scraped knee, $32,901 for a heart x-ray at Sutter Health's California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco. The writer seemed surprised at these prices.
WE WANT to know the backstory. Santa Rosa police think Stephen Long, 63, of Windham, Maine, arrested Monday in Arcata for robbing a Bank of America branch, also robbed a BofA branch in Santa Rosa on November 27th. In both robberies Long made no effort to disguise himself, presenting in surveillance photos the very picture of depressed fatalism. The Windham paper knows nothing about the guy, but how did he come to be in NorCal? Why was he robbing banks. Who the heck is he?
SCIENTOLOGY IS BULLSHIT! MAN, I was there the night L. Ron Hubbard invented it, for Chrissake! We were sitting around one night…who else was there? Alfred Bester, and Cyril Kornbluth, and Lester del Rey, and Ron Hubbard — who was making a penny a word, and had been for years. And he said, “This bullshit's got to stop.” He says, “I gotta get money.” He says, “I want to get rich.” And somebody said, “So why don't you invent a new religion? They're always big.” We were clowning! You know, “Become Elmer Gantry! You'll make a fortune!” And he says, “I'm going to do it.”—Harlan Ellison, 1978
UKIAH CITY COUNCILMAN Phil Baldwin said at a recent meeting of the Council that he was voting No on three (count 'em) units of low-cost housing out of deference to the memory of the late Diane Zucker who'd opposed the units for her neighborhood. Baldwin's vote neatly combined his present hypocrisy with hers posthumously. Ms. Zucker, who was also my sister-in-law, and, perhaps, an occasional liberal, told me she thought there were already too many undesirables in her Wagenseller neighborhood, what with the lost souls at Ford Street a couple of blocks away and, more ominously, an occasional ruffy-scruffy shuffling down Joseph Street, visible from Diane's front porch! Maestro! Cue up the Phil Ochs! Love Me, I'm A Liberal.
CRIMES OF THE WEEK: • An old guy confined to the depressing shitpit called Valley View Skilled Nursing Facility on South Dora in Ukiah rightly refused to “come back inside,” emphasizing his horror at spending his last days within Valley View's hellish confines by throwing his walker at employees when they told him to get with death's program. A Ukiah police officer was summoned to ensure that the man didn't continue resisting. • Someone put rat trap glue strips in the night deposit at several branches of the Savings Bank of Mendocino, alarming the rats who own the bank. … • An occupant of one of the storage sheds on Ford Street cut a hole into a neighbor’s unit “and is possibly stealing items from another unit,” according to a unit owner calling from Arizona. Storage units seem to represent the Ukiah City Council's informal low cost housing program.
CHRIS POEHLMAN of Gualala writes: “We have another major milestone to report for the redwood deforestation for vineyards saga, following last year’s transformation of Preservation Ranch mega-vineyard project into a consolidated conservation forestry landscape in northwest Sonoma County. The below media release reports Sonoma County Superior Court’s decision on the flawed environmental impact report (EIR) for the Artesa vineyard conversion project (an older precedent-setting permit in the works for over a decade), confirming the inadequacy of the EIR prepared by CAL FIRE. Artesa’s project is the only current pending permit in California allowing redwood deforestation for vineyard development. It’s viewed as precedent-setting. This court decision itself doesn’t permanently strike down the permit for the project, but it makes the regulatory path forward more uncertain, slower, and burdensome. But it certainly prolongs the controversy over the project. We interpret the court’s decision as more writing on the wall for the prospects of vineyard conversion in redwood forestland, but the project’s fate isn’t sealed. Plaintiff’s efforts will intensify in the coming year to convince Artesa to find an environmentally suitable alternative site, and sell the current project site for a conservation-oriented landowner. It’s not over yet! We hope you’ll follow it.”
ATTACHED: Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Elliot Daum has rejected a plan to clearcut 154 acres of Northern California redwoods to plant vineyards for a winery. The proposal in northwestern Sonoma County was challenged by the Sierra Club’s Redwood Chapter, the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Gualala River. In response, Judge Daum said the state’s “environmental impact report” for Artesa Winery’s forest-to-vineyard project violates the California Environmental Quality Act. “The highest and best use of coastal forests is to remain in their natural condition so they can protect our coastal rivers, support fish and wildlife, and combat climate change by sequestering carbon,” said Victoria Brandon, chair of the Sierra Club Redwood Chapter. The judge found that, in preparing the environmental review for the project, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) failed to properly analyze alternatives that would be less damaging to the environment, such as using an unforested area for the vineyard…
CELEBRATE the extraordinary life and legacy of Nelson Mandela on Saturday, December 14th from 5pm to 7pm on KTDE, The Tide, 100.5FM, with your host DJ Sister Yasmin. Tune in for a musical tribute to this beloved, compassionate leader of his “Rainbow Nation,” as we honor his life with music as resistance, rebellion and revolution.
IF THE E.R. DOCTOR was Marvin Trotter, we vote to acquit. The Ukiah Police Department says Daniel Ricky Escamilla, 24, 6'3” and “about 300 pounds” was arrested Friday for “breaking into the Ukiah Valley Medical Center and biting an Emergency Room doctor.” It was about 9am when Escamilla, dressed as a woman, shattered a glass door, busted on into the hospital where he demanded pain meds. Denied, he chased a nurse around the room “before picking up a computer monitor and throwing it at the doctor. He then jumped over the reception desk and picked up a small Christmas tree, which he also threw at the doctor,” rounding out his rampage by biting both the doc and a nurse. Escamilla was finally subdued with the help of Sheriff's deputies.
WE’RE WONDERING if the County's freshly privatized mental health apparatus will take this guy on. Doubt it. More likely, he'll sit in the County Jail while the helping professionals think up reasons for not dealing with him and, when he calms down, he'll be shoved out the door to do it all over again.
WE’VE published a number of complaints about problems associated with the County's recently privatized mental health system, a bonanza give away of a public function that positively reeks of insider trading. We’ve also received a few complaints about the complaints that have appeared here. Unnamed county staffers wrote a flat denial about a month ago, but without addressing specifics.
“IT IS BOTH unfortunate and frustrating that reports continue to circulate in the local media of allegations of poor mental health services, particularly on the coast, with some critics claiming that mental health services have been eliminated.”
NO ONE claimed any such thing.
THE UNSIGNED PRESS RELEASE CONTINUED, “The following list of mental health services currently provided in coastal Mendocino County has been compiled in an effort to set the record straight. Services are provided by the County, RQMC, OMG and various sub-contractors, some of whom have been providing similar services for years. It is especially unfortunate that some individuals choose to discuss knowledge of very particular cases, something that providers can not respond to out of courtesy to the families involved and due to strict confidentiality laws and HIPAA requirements. No story is one-dimensional. Often there are many, many facets to consider. Certainly they are not to be played out in the pages of any local media outlet. To do so is to risk victimizing the patient, their family and friends. It also undermines the efforts of many very dedicated public servants and private providers. Reports are often not accurate, not fully told and serve to do more harm than good.”
TRANSLATION: Stop complaining. You don’t know what you’re talking about. We're going a great job. Our “professional ethics” prevent us from discussing specific cases or we'd show you how wrong you are. And, in true passive aggressive style, “complaining in the media (i.e., the AVA, the only place the complaints have appeared), “risks victimizing the patient, their family and friends.” And, “undermines the efforts of many very dedicated public servants and private providers."
CRITICS may indeed not be aware of the “many, many facets to consider.” But the people running the County’s mental health system probably don’t either. To simply dismiss complaints as “often not accurate,” or “not fully told” is a lazy way to avoid dealing honestly with the difficulties.
ALL OF WHICH is to repeat that the Board of Supervisors and County management are failing miserably in not requiring regular departmental management reports — especially from Mental Health, which is more important as the County transitions to private, for-profit mental health services. At present, the only reports the County gets from its departments are occasional self-congratulatory choruses that they're doing a heckuva job. Few County bureaucracies, if any, are going to report anything that might make them look bad or lead to more difficult questions. What the Board and County management need are reports that require the departments to provide useful information they might not provide on their own, such as, in the case of mental health, client counts by category and location, numbers of calls by category and location, number of minutes billed and by whom for what, expenses to date, number of closed cases, summaries of reports by family members on how successful the intervention was, number of calls not serviced or responded to and why. Billings to date. Etc. As it is, the only reports on Mental Health and the privatization status are the ones selectively prepared by the self-serving snivelers who wrote the press release telling the complainers to shut up. Without useful management reporting all we’re left with is random complaints and anecdotes. Tens of millions of dollars (and maybe more under Obamacare) of public money is being spent on private mental health services. The public has a right to know what they're getting for the money. Speaking only for your beloved community newspaper, we'd be quite wary of getting much compassion, let alone practical help, from people capable of weasel-lipped press releases like the one cited above.
A READER WRITES: Regarding Privatization of Mental Health. A report of accountability of public money would be excellent from the Mental Health Board and Board of Supervisors. Where is the money going from OMG and RCS? How much is OMG paying to the subcontractors Hospitality Center and Manzanita. Who is employed by OMG locally, and who is employed abroad? How much is going to the Access Center in Ukiah? How much is not going to the Access Center in Fort Bragg, which still doesn’t exist? Another tasty statistic would be how many people were imported outside Mendocino and how many people inside Mendocino became unemployed? Perhaps a survey to the clients about satisfaction of services would be beneficial. One other thought— If emergency psychiatric services have improved by the new private contractor, OMG then why is the current leadership still employed? Obviously by their actions they were unable to provide adequate services and maybe they are just incompetent! Why should they get any public paychecks while unable to utilize and improving the existing services. Ridiculous. Start at the top, Carmel Angelo, Stacy Cryer, and Tom Pinizzotto. Try the trickle down theory, and anyone below that who blindly obeyed orders–the golden showers of incompetence.
WALKING AROUND with $18,000 cash? A youngish man was arrested the other night in Arcata with marketable bud and $18 grand in his backpack, one more story that will act as a Get Rich Quick magnet to every struggling person who reads or hears about it. Come to the Emerald Triangle and you too will soon have 18 grand in your backpack.
SOMEBODY TOOK A BLUE PEN to the initial draft of the County’s proposed “Right To Industry” ordinance we reported on a few weeks ago. The changes are good. It's no longer simply a “shut up about it” law. The changes make it clear that the “shut up” provision only applies to manufacturing operations that pre-exist its neighbors and are being operated properly and within the law. The original 300-foot notification/applicability zone has been retained, not enlarged. And the question about whether renters need to be included in the notification has been resolved: No, renters need not be notified. But to pretend even a sensibly revised ordinance will somehow attract industry to Mendocino County remains a complete and utter fantasy almost as delusional as the notion that biz was deterred from coming here because of bellyaching neighbors.
THE ONLY APPLICANT for the at-large “timber representative” slot on the County’s Planning Commission to replace long-serving Karen Calvert is Roger Krueger. Krueger is described as “Mendocino Redwood Company's real estate consultant” in a September 2011 on-line lawsuit involving a dispute between MRC and a neighbor. Krueger was also described by Malcolm Macdonald last April as “another holdover from the Louisiana-Pacific team, still employed by Mendocino Redwood Company.” The guy will clearly be MRC’s man on the Planning Commission, and he’ll probably have to recuse himself from a lot of forestry-related votes. The appointment will be considered by the Board of Supervisors on December 10. We never saw any notice of Calvert’s retirement or of the vacancy with invitations for applicants, although just a few days ago, on November 27, it did appear toward the bottom of the list of board and commission vacancies, a list which very few people know about, know how to find, or keep track of.
THERE’S STILL PLENTY OF MONEY OUT THERE. The Yankees have signed center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a $153 million contract. And here in Connecticut, the ‘board of regents,’ a gaggle of political hacks, scumbags, minority grievance mongers, and candidate fundraisers overseeing the state college system, just got 6% raises on top of their $450,000 per year salaries for their do-nothing, no-show jobs. They meet a few times a year, don’t do sh-t, don’t teach any classes … every time they meet tuition at State U goes up a little bit. I don’t know, maybe all this swag is imaginary, a result of $85 million per month QE. You all talk about the 1%. I think there’s a different, more important dynamic: you’re either an insider or an outsider. The insiders are the politicos, local, state and federal, and all the parasites grafted to them, including the public sector unions. That’s where the big money is, the lavish benefits, the generous pensions. The outsiders are everybody else struggling in the collapsed and dystopic cities and towns, nevertheless having the life sucked out of them to pay for the insiders. That about sizes it up. — James Kunstler
STEVE SCALMANINI is the only candidate to file papers to run for the Ukiah City Council vacancy created when Mari Rodin resigned to take a job working for the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) of Monterey County. Rodin, as her parting civic contribution, timed her resignation to preserve her taxpayer-funded healthcare, which meant her replacement could not be elected in November. The City Council dithered over whether to appoint her successor, or hold a special election in March, the earliest opportunity after missing the cut off for the November election.
COUNCIL MEMBER Mary Anne Landis advocated for an appointment by the remaining four councilmembers, arguing that an “election” by the four westside-of-Ukiah cronies would be as democratic as an election by the citizens of Ukiah. But the council majority finally decided to hold a special election in March. Scalmanini, decidedly not a Westsider, has stepped forward to seek the position, setting the stage for the Council to either appoint him in lieu of an election, or let the election go forward with only one candidate on the ballot.
SCALMANINI is a founding member of the Smart Growth Coalition and something of an inland political gadfly. He has not been above publicly criticizing his fellow libs on the City Council, who seem determined to make “liberal” synonymous with “stupid” and “self-serving.”
SPENDING $27,000 in public money to take out three parking spaces to build an outdoor dining platform at their favorite downtown restaurant so they can hobnob in style with all their westside Ukiah pals isn't quite the most spectacular legacy of this Council; they also spent a $1 million bucks in redevelopment money to pay administrative salaries instead of fixing broken up sidewalks, crumbling roads, and sub-standard drainage systems, the kind of projects redevelopment was intended for.
THE COUNCIL CAN SKIP THE SPECIAL ELECTION, estimated to cost $30,000 to $40,000, and simply appoint Scalmanini, since he is the only candidate for the only seat. Or they can decide to hold the election and hope that one of their Westside chums will run as a write in. The mystery is why the councilmembers didn't recruit someone just like them to campaign for the seat. Landis is believed to have had a person lined up, but that individual, true to the form of these people, would only agree if he/she could get appointed without having to go through the bother of an election. If nothing else, if Scalmanini makes it onto the Council, if will help break up the cozy little Westside tea party that has run Ukiah into the ground the last few years.
WHEN WE KILLED — or exiled — God, we also killed ourselves. No God, no afterlife, no us. We were right to kill Him, of course, this long-standing imaginary friend of ours. And we weren't going to get an afterlife anyway. But we sawed off the branch we were sitting on. And the view from there, from that height — even if it was only an illusion of a view — wasn't so bad. (Julian Barnes)
THIS ONE isn't as trivial as it may seem to some people, but San Francisco's Commission on the Environment has rightly resolved to stop the release of butterflies at weddings and other celebrations. The insects are specially bred for special occasions, a frontier of free enterprise most of us hadn't known existed until some enviros spoke out against it. Apart from the pure perversity of exploiting butterflies simply for the pleasure of the insensate, the fear is that lab-raised butterflies can throw what's left of the Bay Area's natural world further out of whack.
THE MENDOCINO COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, at their December 10 meeting, will issue the usual insincere proclamation honoring Al Beltrami for “his years of dedicated service to the county and his community.” You'd think the guy was a volunteer all those years, 1965 to 1989, not the well-paid bureaucrat that he was. Then he was back again as interim CEO at big pay. Not to be too harsh about it, but Mendocino County has never been a Swiss watch of civic functioning. Beltrami's only lasting accomplishment was staying in the job as long as he did.
IN 2005, THE COUNTY went to a Chief Administrative Officer (CEO) arrangement on the theory that a CEO would be able to hold the appointed Department Heads accountable in a way that the Board of Supes could not. Exhibit A for the utter lack of accountability under the old CAO system is Ray Hall, who served thirty undistinguished years as Director of Planning and Building Services. Except under Hall there was no planning. None. Which explains a lot about the way Mendocino County is today.
JOHN BALL WAS HIRED as the first CEO under the new system and quickly demonstrated that he took the power to hire and fire department heads seriously. For doing his job, the Supervisors fired him. Ball had a habit of firing people without first making sure he had the support of a majority of the Supes. But his fatal mistake was crossing the famously self-interested Fourth and Fifth District Supervisors, Kendall Smith and David Colfax who later distinguished themselves as being the only Supes to adamantly refuse to take even a one percent pay cut when they were eagerly imposing a ten percent pay cut on the rest of the County workforce. (For pure, grasping hypocrisy, Mendocino County's “liberals” are in a class by themselves; Colfax and Smith, any other place, would have been looking at jail time for stealing public money via their relentless chiseling on their travel reimbursements. Colfax got clean away with his thefts, and it took a serious threat from newly elected DA Eyster to convince Smith she'd better cough up at least a partial re-pay.)
SUPERVISOR SMITH, ALWAYS LOOKING TO AUGMENT her taxpayer funded travel budget, ordered CEO Ball to add another $100,000 to the Supes budget, half of it earmarked exclusively for additional travel. When Ball refused she immediately turned to Supervisor Colfax, urging him to use his power as Chair of the Board to straighten Ball out. Within the hour Colfax was on the phone to Ball, invoking his authority as Board chair to order Ball to “do what Kendall says.” Ball replied that he would be happy to as soon as he was directed by three votes of the Board in open session to do so. But Smith and Colfax wanted Ball to take the fall for doing their dirty work. When he refused, the writing was on the wall. But Ball had the foresight to write into his contract that as long as he survived one year in Mendocino County, he would be entitled to one year's severance pay. Because he had served just over a year before being canned, the County was forced to fork over another $130,000, courtesy of Smith and Colfax, clearly two of the most self-aggrandizing and dishonorable individuals ever to serve in public office in this county.
AFTER SACKING JOHN BALL, the Supes, led by Smith and Colfax, immediately changed the CEO ordinance to require that the CEO first had to check in with the Board before hiring or firing department heads. Which meant the CEO no longer had the power of a CEO. And which explains why Ray Hall, widely rumored to have been next on John Ball's hit list, was able to finish out his long tenure of unrelieved incompetence. The Board then exhumed Al Beltrami to serve as the interim CEO (CEO in name only), thereby assuring that the County would instantly return to its familiar, rudderless mediocrity.
THE BELTRAMI PROCLAMATION makes the inflated assertion that “Al (sic) served as a stabilizing presence, demonstrating leadership, accountability, and teamwork in restoring a sense of unity throughout an evolving organization as it endeavored to chart a new course.” Leadership? Accountability? Please. In 2006 and 2007, when Beltrami served as a caretaker CEO, the County was still in the pre-financial crash mindset of business as usual. The pension fund, hopelessly upside down, was being steadily milked for its imaginary “excess earnings”; the overdrawn Teeter Plan was tottering; the preposterous Slavin Study, pushed by supervisors Colfax and Smith, found that top-tier local management like, surprise! Colfax and Smith, needed their pay doubled, although the raises were undermining the fiscal solvency of the County; and incompetent department heads were insulated from any and all accountability as the County stumbled towards the fiscal cliff.
BELTRAMI, out of his public job, was a co-founder and the first Executive Director of the Employer's Council of Mendocino County, which lobbies local government on behalf of the private interests of local moneybags. The rich irony of a guy who spent much of his life on a government payroll lobbying for outback tycoons probably has to be spelled out for the people now issuing Mandela-like superlatives in Beltrami's memory. But Beltrami finally did one good thing when he established a nursing scholarship at Mendocino College.
“THEY ARE NOT BEATNIKS. That's for sure. When the Grant avenue scene was going full blast a decade or so ago, and Eric Nord and the Co-Existence Bagel Shop were magical shibboleths, I would guess 30 percent of the beatniks were bums. I mean bums: shiftless, dirty, uncommitted, unemployable. Guilty, insecure and dependent. The hippies who are making the Haight Ashbury the greatest tourist attraction in America next to the Grand Canyon are another cup of tea altogether. Based on a couple of hours peeking and peering the other day, I should put the percentage almost the other way 'round. A clear majority of these kids are anything but bums. Hippies were pedantic garb, but they are clean. They go barefoot, but have a concern for their appearance that is theatrical. The beatnik was in full flight from life. The hippie is determined to create a vital subculture. Unless my eyes deceived me, they have gone a long way toward doing it.” (Charles McCabe, SF Chron, April 1967.)
THE CONTROVERSIAL PACE PROGRAM, with Ygrene Energy Fund as the contract administrator, is also scheduled to move forward with a couple of enabling resolutions and approval of a Third Party Administration Agreement and a Contribution Agreement. The former hands the program over to Ygrene, who stands to make a handsome profit by borrowing money at 3% from a shadowy group of investors and re-loaning it at 7% to participants in the Mendocino program to fund solar and alternative energy and water conservation projects. The program got voted down back in June and was resurrected via an ad hoc committee of Supervisors Hamburg and McCowen who recommended moving forward with the program with Ygrene as administrator when they reported back to the Board in November. The Board gave direction to staff (with Supervisor Gjerde voting with Hamburg and McCowen and Brown and Pinches opposed) to negotiate the terms of the agreement and return to the Board. This one is fated to stay a 3-2 all the way.
THE BOARD is also being asked to endorse a letter of appeal sent by the Department of Transportation (DOT) protesting a decision by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to take a six acre parcel into trust for the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians. The parcel sits on the north side of the access road to the Tribe's Shodakai Casino right at the intersection with North State Street, directly opposite the abandoned foundation work which was underway when a previous casino expansion effort ended in bankruptcy. The Tribe's plans for the six acres known as the Pine Crest Fee-to-Trust application are much more modest, involving a gas station and mini mart which are projected to generate 51% of the traffic of the former casino expansion project.
DOT IS APPEALING because the original driveway into the Coyote Valley reservation was only designed to accommodate 30-40 single family homes, not a full blown tribal center, casino and gas station and mini mart. The DOT letter dismissing the Tribe's “Environmental Assessment” is peppered with such phrases as: “completely inadequate; lacking any substantive basis; unscientific.” DOT complains that the tribe has failed to complete traffic safety improvements that were agreed upon back in 2006. But Tribal Sovereignty being what it is, the Tribe will probably get its way as the Great Father in Washington seems predisposed to take land into trust status for any purpose. In fact, land is often accepted into trust status on the condition that no casino will be built, only to have the Tribe and the BIA renege on the promise years later, once financing for the planned casino project is in place. But in this case, the worst that will happen is another schlock gas station and mini mart alongside 101 north of Ukiah.