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Very Little Of Substance…

by Malcolm Macdonald, March 12, 2014

At the beginning of the film version of The Ox-Bow Incident a dog runs across the dirt street of a small western town. At the end of the movie, the dog meanders back across the street. The ironic implication being that nothing worthy of notice has happened in the interim. In that defining interim, three men have been wrongfully lynched.

I didn’t see any dogs on Fort Bragg’s Harold Street as I approached the town’s Senior Center, part of the larger building constructed by the CCC in the 1930s as a then new high school and auditorium. Long time locals are probably aware that Mr. Cotton moved his own residence to make room for the auditorium that bears his name.

No dog, and very little of substance took place at the KZYX Board meeting inside that venerable Fort Bragg building. What started out as a figurative lynching of KZYX board member John Sakowicz by the remainder of the nine member panel fizzled into something like a public spanking for Sakowicz, who has dared to question the powers that be (General Manager John Coate and Program Director Mary Aigner) not only at board meetings but in a letter to the FCC. Worse yet, Sakowicz has committed the seemingly ultimate sin of consorting with the pages of this very publication.

In those very same AVA pages, I have criticized Mendocino County’s newly privatized mental health system and, by extension, the county mental health board. However, whatever one thinks of the outcome of Mendocino County’s Mental Health Board meetings, anyone planning to attend is privy to a fairly detailed agenda for said meeting well in advance of the gathering. These Mental Health Board meeting agendas actually provide time limits for each agenda item. The Fort Bragg City Council also provides detailed agendas in advance of its meetings.

At the KZYX board meeting of March 3rd, I got the distinct impression that the agenda resting on a table at the back of the room was something of a shocker to the few long time observers of our county’s public radio station. There were no time limits listed on it, except that public commenters would be held to three minutes each. There were no specifics beyond “Announcements/Status Reports (Board President),” “General Manager’s Report,” “Action Items – None,” etc.

“Action Items – None”? You would have thought action was going to be taken when, early on, during “Matters From Board Members” both Bob Page and Meg Courtney rose to their feet (I want to say “petty, tyrannical feet,” but perhaps that is an inch or two of rope length too harsh) to rebuke, ostracize, and otherwise chase John Sakowicz from the sacred land of wine and cheese liberalism. Other board members followed with slightly more wishy-washy chastisements of Sakowicz. Board member Stuart Campbell was the most reconciliatory in his remarks. Courtney’s condemnation centered around Sakowicz’s supposed violation of numerous parts of a document called “MCPB Board of Directors Responsibilities,” a document that many of the board members themselves admitted not having read until recent days, when it was needed to slap Sakowicz.

Full disclosure, until the March 3rd board meeting I had never laid eyes on or had any contact with John Sakowicz other than listening to a few of the KZYX programs he hosts. Meg Courtney, on the other hand – I’ve seen her sit on her hands at several Fort Bragg City Council meetings over the past few years. Why she couldn’t convince her fellow KZYX board members or the station’s general manager to print out detailed agendas long before this is beyond me.

Sixty or so people showed up for the meeting, with the board barricaded inside several folding tables. Chairman Eliane Herring made every attempt to run a fairly orderly meeting. After the diatribes against Sakowicz dwindled to milder critiques, Sakowicz calmly defended himself for four minutes, during which he questioned the legality of the aforementioned “MCPB Board of Directors Responsibilities.”

Before any reader makes the mistake of thinking John Sakowicz is a put-upon martyr here, think again. Mr. Sakowicz’s credibility has been called into question by multiple sources (just put his name in your computer’s search engine and you’ll find those critiques). What I noticed on March 3rd is that practically every one of his comments was accompanied by a short self-serving aside, usually referencing a family member being put-upon. I’ll give him the one about Kazimierz Sakowicz, a journalist who chronicled the murders of thousands of Jews in Lithuania during World War II before he was also killed by Nazis. But John Sakowicz is a tough sucker. His politeness at the March 3rd meetings stands/sits in contrast to his ability to “dish it out” in such venues as the MCN Discussion List.

The fact that Mr. Sakowicz shared internal KZYX Board chatter with the AVA seems to have especially galled fellow board members. Some of them, and supportive staff members like David Steffen, act very defensively about any questions being raised by Sakowicz or by suspended programmer Doug McKenty. KZYX Board Chair Herring did announce that McKenty’s “Open Lines” show would return in April, with rotating hosts. McKenty will be one of the hosts, but how many others he will have to rotate with is unknown at this point, even to McKenty.

McKenty is one of four candidates for the “At Large” seat on the KZYX Board in this year’s election, though fellow candidate King Collins has apparently thrown his support behind McKenty. Paul Lambert and relative newcomer to Mendocino County Tom Melcher are the other “At Large” candidates. Meg Courtney is unopposed (!) in her district while Patricia Kovner and Jane Futcher square off for the District 3 seat.

McKenty was ostensibly suspended for allowing a f-bomb on the air during the “Open Lines” program last year. At the March 3rd meeting, the board announced that a seven-second delay machine, that will bleep offending language, has been purchased. No one on the KZYX Board seemed to notice the inherent contradiction of punishing programmer McKenty for not catching a curse word with a device that wasn’t available to the station until now.

Board Chair Herring announced the formation of a Community Advisory Board, but discussion of a Programmer’s Advisory Board seemed to be swept under the table. McKenty is a proponent of such a board or committee. It seems that, to this date, the KZYX Board has done very little heavy lifting in the way of forming committees to look into questions posed by current programmers like Sakowicz or McKenty, or, for that matter to look into anything beyond the barest basics of running a radio station. The general manager is apparently unwilling to reveal his salary. This is the general manager of a public station, in part funded by real dollars from real members of the public. That general manager sat silent during most of the meeting, one might say smugly silent.

I sit here looking at page after page of notes taken during the March 3rd meeting, and what I’m left with is this impression: when the meeting was down to its last agenda item, “Set Date For Next Meeting,” the date, Monday, May 5th, wasn’t as important as Chairman Herring’s words, “Hopefully at a venue where we can partake in alcohol.”

Are you freakin’ kidding me?!

No.

Nearly every other board member chimed in with favorite watering holes. In the hallway walking out, I asked Ms. Herring about the appearance of a Board, that theoretically represents public radio listeners across the entire county, not just championing alcohol consumption before driving home at night, but gleefully modeling that behavior. Suffice to say, she doesn’t get it. The vast majority of the board doesn’t get the difference between a private gathering of station staff or programmers and the public nature of what the elected Board does. This is essentially the problem, the KZYX Board seems to be just vaguely aware of the questions and problems surrounding them, like a drunk waking in a fog to find he or she isn’t leaning against the old wine tree behind Perkins Street, but smack dab downtown in full view.

In the 1950s, when I was a small boy, we had one coastal radio station to listen to here at the ranch. That being KDAC. At night the big radio/phonograph in the living room could be tuned into KSFO for Giants games or KGO or KCBS. In those days one could still listen to Jack Benny’s program on the radio. You could hear a half hour version of Gunsmoke, with rotund actor William Conrad voicing the Marshall Dillon role, as well as Have Gun Will Travel, with John Dehner speaking the lines Richard Boone portrayed on television. In the 1930s John Dehner was a Bay Area acting colleague of Margo Farrar, who moved to the town of Mendocino in the 1960s and played an important part in the very early years of the Mendocino Historical Review Board.

Farrar, and anybody who lived in Mendocino County fifty or more years ago is as lost to the KZYX Board as the man in the moon. Sakowicz’s letter to the AVA, printed in the February 26, 2014 edition, points toward a lack of programming for, about, or by Native Americans. He suggests possible programs for Libertarians or the Green Party as well as a conspiracy theory show. Anyone who laughs at that better look up the ratings that George Noory’s late night “Coast to Coast” program brings in on AM radio. Anyone who has even glanced at the MCN Discussion List knows there are many, many conspiracy theorists in this neck of the woods. The 5th District Supervisor believes in Sept. 11th conspiracies.

The day before the KZYX meeting I attended a presentation put on by the Mendocino County Historical Society just a few blocks away in Fort Bragg. Out of the dozens of people at the MCHS program only three, including me, were in attendance at the KZYX meeting. The Historical Society folks drove from all over the county, but I don’t see or hear anything on KZYX that represents programming directly targeted at them.

That leaves us with the wine and cheese crowd, who seem afraid that if they give an inch on the matters brought forward by Mr. McKenty or Mr. Sakowicz then somehow Beth Bosk will storm the Philo station with a phalanx of Redwood Summerites and play Amy Goodman in the morning and intersperse the rest of the day with call-in shows centered around marijuana cultivation and curse words.

Just so our irrepressible editor knows, during the public comments section of the meeting, I had to defend the AVA against some of the pettiest, gutter snipe comments I’ve heard this side of the MCN Discussion List. It never ceases to amaze me that if people want the ideal of a “free press” then they have to be able to let that press say whatever it will, like it or not, Fox News to the AVA and beyond. And a public radio station’s board will have to answer harder questions than where’s the next boozing venue we can hold a meeting.

Nearly three and a half hours after it started the meeting was over and I drove my car west on Fort Bragg’s Pine Street, heading for Highway One. A dog strolled leisurely across the street. He paused to glance toward the dim headlights then went on his way.

That’s right. Essentially nothing had happened. We will have to wait for the Board Election process to finish and for the May 5th Board meeting to see what direction this KZYX Board is going. Will they leave the nooses at home and bring their hearing aids? We shall see.

4 Responses to Very Little Of Substance…

  1. John Sakowicz Reply

    March 13, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    It is an extraordinary thing that Mr. Clogg and I never actually met. Yet, he rants and raves. I don’t think Mr. Clogg and I travel in the same circles or know many of the same people. Yet he carries on and on about me. And on and on and on. He rants. He raves.

    I want to say I have my theories about Mitch Clogg, but I don’t want to be unkind.

    Suffice it to say, he’s full of bull. Anybody who knows me knows that I’ve passed every background check to which I have submitted, either in the private sector, where I most recently worked for the Swiss bank, UBS, or in the public sector, where I worked for the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.

    Earlier in my career, I worked on the floors of the COMEX, NYMEX, and NYSE on Wall Street.

    currently sit on several boards and commissions, and I am a public trustee and bonded fiduciary.

    The things Clogg claims about me are all hearsay. Blogs posts. Newspaper articles. Hearsay. Anyone can say anything in a blog. Absolutely anything.

    Such is the open source nature of the Internet — as much disinformation as information.

    As for newspaper articles, well, what can I say is that in 1990-1991, I was a confidential witness in a major political scandal in Massachusetts that shook the Weld Administration. I was targeted for smears by Weld’s handlers. It’s a common political practice that when a powerful public official is accused of wrongdoing, the official’s handlers find it much easier to try to impeach the source rather than to answer the allegation.

    Another thing.

    Much has been made of Gretchen Giles, the editor, at the North Bay Bohemian, and how she similarly tried to impeach my credibility. Within a week of a hit piece about me that she published, Ms. Giles got a demand letter from my attorney. She ending up taking down her hit piece from the Bohemian’s website. She was shortly looking for a new a job.

    Meanwhile, who is Mr. Clogg?

    Indeed.

    By his own admission, and in his own words on LinkedIn, Clogg is someone who has made several “hapless” runs for Congress.

    He further states he is a guy who has worked for “self”. He has also worked at “Acme” and at “this and that”. And, he also worked at “freelance this and that.”

    He is a retired “reporter”. A “storyteller”. A guy who includes “talking” on his list skills.

    Dear Lord!

    Some of the characters in Thomas Pynchon’s novel, “Vineland” comes immediately to mind!

    The novel was published in 1990, and was written right here in Mendocino County by Pynchon who was living here incognito. He made a careful study of a certain stratta of local folks.

    The novel features self-styled militants and toxic personalities. Psychic vampires.

    They are above all, self-righteous. And none seem to have a real job.

    Sounds familiar?

    In “Vineland” a nation of hippies and dope smokers, called the People’s Republic of Rock and Roll, start out okay, but quickly morph into a nation of self-righteous liberal fascists.

    Also, the People’s Republic of Rock and Roll has a militant film collective that seeks to document the imagined transgressions against freedom and the hippie ideals.

    Does any of this sound familiar? Does this sound like Mitch Clogg?

    “Vineland” also features female ninjas, astrologers, heavy pot smokers, drop-outs, lazy asses living on welfare and food stamps, tinfoil hat wearers, television addicts, those who hum musical interludes, including the theme song of The Smurfs, and, those who speak in metaphors, including those drawn from Star Trek.

    But mainly, there is an all-pervading meanness in “Vineland”.

    Does this sound like a certain strata of Mendocino County? Certain people?

    Again, I don’t want to be unkind, but if the shoe fits…

  2. David Gurney Reply

    March 13, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Great article, Malcolm.

  3. Mitch Clogg Reply

    March 13, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    Mr. Macdonald pulls his punches regarding Sakowicz. Sack has sought to ingratiate himself with the AVA, with some success. It’s too bad. No news-reporting source is better suited to tar & feather this fraud than yours.

    It doesn’t matter that he’s sometimes on the right side or that he is downright lyrical in chanting the stock truisms of citizenship. He is a devious man, a quality blindingly visible in everything he does and says. His attention to the truth or falsehood of anything has only to do with expediency. If a lie will further his present position, that’s far more legitimate, to John Sakowicz, than any other version, including the true one.

    His oratorical antics, his self-congratulations often composed from nothing more substantial than wind, would be laughable, except nobody’s laughing. This, keen-edged humor, is a mode of delivering information at which the AVA excels.

    I’ll be delighted when the AVA stops allowing itself to be a megaphone for this creature.

  4. John Sakowicz Reply

    March 12, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    In “The Ox-Bow Incident”, despite being of Mexican descent, the character Juan Martínez (Anthony Quinn) repetitively replies “No sabe” to questions. The correct conjugation of “I don’t know” in Spanish is “No sé”.

    This would be another apt metaphor from the movie that applies to the KZYX Board. Having given total control of operations to General Manager and Executive Director, John Coate, the KZYX Board can’t possibly ever know what it doesn’t know.

    I say the Board should re-write Coate’s employment contract. Take away the Executive Director title and responsibilities.

    And the Board should support the newly formed Community Advisory Committee and insist on the creation of the yet-to-be-formed Program Advisory Committee.

    My advice to the Board? Take control. Know, at least, what you don’t know about KZYX.

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