Off the Record 1/13/2010
by AVA News Service, January 13, 2010
MENDO PEOPLE close to the dope trade say “dimes were dropped” in the Schlosser case, probably lots of them. Ukiah resident Deborah Schlosser, 56, wife of Bert Schlosser of the Mendocino County Alternate Defender's office, has been sentenced to 18 months probation and a $10,000 fine in Utah (of all places) for transportation of 162 pounds of Mendo Mellow. Schlosser was headed east in her SUV on I-80 on January 24, 2009 when she was stopped near Salt Lake City by the Utah Highway Patrol whose drug dog soon sniffed out the mega-load of bud in Mrs. Schlosser's vehicle, a load valued at $810,000, a load certain to get its teamster, a state prison sentence in Mendocino County and most other places in America. Mrs. Schlosser got off with no jail time. On October 23, 2009 she had pleaded guilty to a third degree felony drug possession charge. More than a hundred pounds of dope in Utah is usually treated as a second degree felony with 1-15 years in prison plus a $10,000 fine, and that doesn't include transportation. Mrs. Schlosser works for the Windsor School District where she makes more than 50k annually. Hubby probably takes in close to a hundred thou a year, and it's one more Mendo mystery we'll never know the Why of.
SUPERVISOR John McCowen’s bold attempt to scale back the inflated salaries of elected officials in Mendocino County was voted down three to two, last week. McCowen thought that with the County’s continually worsening budget picture, Mendo’s five elected top officials — District Attorney, Sheriff, Treasurer/Tax Collector, Auditor/Controller and Assessor/Clerk/Recorder — should forego their recent 6.5% increase. The five officials opposed cutting their pay, as did Supervisors David Colfax, John Pinches and Carre Brown acting to defend them. It was an odd vote. Colfax (who has since called for renewed discussion of pay cuts) has complained loud and long about overpaid bureaucrats. Pinches considers himself a fiscal conservative and might ordinarily be *for* saving the County a few bucks, and Brown usually votes with McCowen. Fort Bragg's Supervisor Smith is all over the place on the issue, and is especially militant when it comes to protecting her own lush take, as is Colfax. Smith and Colfax are quite willing to whack other people's salaries but their pay is off the negotiation table. McCowen then suggested that another advisory panel be created to examine the pay of elected officials, but even that tepid suggestion went nowhere. (Sheriff Allman, by the way, has voluntarily whacked his salary, but he was against making it official.)
MEANWHILE, the Board got more bad budget news. State funds routed to counties will be lower than expected this year, and in-County tax revenues will be lower than had been expected by people who don't seem to realize the magnitude of the financial crisis. The state budget's projected income turns out to have been hugely underestimated, hence all that recent talk from Sacramento Democrats about a federal bailout for California which, Obama says, is not going to happen.
MENDOCINO COUNTY'S financial picture grows more dismal by the day — approaching $7 mil and growing. We tend to forget that Mendo is typically two or three years behind the rest of the state because, “progressive” rhetoric notwithstanding, the terrible news tends to arrive ruinously late to Mendocino. Again, the state has belatedly realized its numbers are off, way off, so far off that the state will be stiffing the counties for lots more than the counties had expected to be stiffed for. So, what does Mendo do? Hires 40-plus new people in the last few months, plus proposes to hire a special assistant for the CEO's office at $80,000 a year. Prudent fiscal behavior would hard-freeze hiring.
NONE OF WHICH prevents a “strategic planning workshop” in Hopland at Weibel Family Vineyards for supervisors and department heads where “an outside party will facilitate the meeting.”
TRANSLATION: A catered, tax-paid affair presided over by one of their “facilitator” pals, undoubtedly a very groovy Mendo guy, a drawstring pants guy, complete with groovy guy pony tail. Groovy guy will be paid tax dollars to run a meeting that could just as well hold in Ukiah at no extra cost to the taxpayers in the offices of the strategic planners with Assistant CEO Carmel Angelo doing the “facilitating.”
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT daily confirms it's edited by morons, but even by that debauched paper's standards the AP story it ran Tuesday called “Biden Eulogizes Mother, Calls Her Courageous” was, well, instantly nausea-inducing. If Biden had denounced his mother for giving birth to one of the great corporate bagmen of all time we'd have something newsworthy, at least until Biden realized it was his mum he was talking about. It's as if chimpanzees hurl random stories at the paste-up boards of the Rose City daily.
ELIZABETH McNEIL of Fort Bragg, widowed when Aaron Vargas shot her husband Darrell McNeil, is owed an apology from us to her as she documents in a letter to us: “I am writing in regards to the attached article. I would like to know where Mr. McEwen gets his information. I did not attend the hearing.” The hearing referred to was a bail reduction hearing for Vargas. Mrs. McNeil had, prior to that hearing, expressed support for Vargas, a victim of Darrell McNeil's sexual predations when Vargas was a child. But as Mrs. McNeil says, she did not attend the hearing cited by McEwen in last week's paper.
THERE IS MUCH CONFUSION in the world. Last week I received this e-mail from a certain Mr. Taylor: “We really loved your book. Just wanted you to know that your writing and subject matter is so very inspiring and worthy of praise.” The book referred to is called “Tantra for Gay Men” by Bruce Anderson. Well! This Bruce Anderson had to look up tantra to understand the reference in any context, let alone that of the gay male. Sorry, Mr. Taylor, the tantric Bruce Anderson isn't the Boonville Bruce Anderson.
WATER AGENCY JEFE Roland Sanford told the Board last week that the rainfall needed to make up for three prior Mendo drought years appears unlikely this rain year. Lake Mendocino levels remain perilously low, lower yet because diversions from the Eel have been reduced as minimum flows into the Russian River downstream are maintained for fish habitat. “We are almost exactly where we were last year,” said Sanford last week. “The situation is not good at all.” To date, Ukiah rainfall is at 53% of average, typical of most other locales in the area. “It looks grim today,” said Glen Wright, Santa Rosa's deputy director of water resources. “I think we should start thinking about it and we are thinking about it. We are definitely concerned, but it is not over yet; we have had miracle Januaries and Februaries and Marches before.”
COMPOUNDING the drought and restrictions on lawful diversions, a Sacramento Bee article by Lloyd Carter, always good on water issues, reported last week that California’s Water Resources Control Board “enforcement staff has inspected about 130 of the largest illegal storage diversions of the 800 known storage diversions in the Russian River watershed for which the board has no record of a water right. After completing those investigations, the board members directed me to provide a field enforcement presence in the Delta, and the enforcement staff (six of them, which is all of them) were reassigned to investigate suspected illegal delta diversions. Enforcement related to those diversions is imminent.”
MEANING THAT NOTHING will be done about the many flagrantly illegal diversions along the Russian River which would suck up much of whatever additional flows the rains might bring. “Back in September 2008, the Board reassigned its ‘enforcement’ staff from pursuing 1,771 known illegal water diversions in the Russian River watershed, wherein illegal ‘take’ of listed salmonid species is occurring in ‘Wine Country’,” continued Carter, “and put the bloodhounds to work sniffing out potential ‘illegal’ diversions in the Delta [water diversions by the State Water Resources Department (DWR)] that may have been ‘stealing’ water from its sister agency!”
THERE ARE ALMOST 1800 known diversions in the Russian River watershed, most of them by the avalanche of vineyards in recent years, and who knows how many pot diversions along the Eel which, at the Potter Valley Diversion, supplies Lake Mendocino and the summer time Russian River.
BUT ALL those illegal diversions are carefully avoided by local vineyard industry when it comes to the possibility of frost protection regulations being proposed by the state Water Board. In a letter to the state in December 2009, Mendocino County, acting as hired spokespersons for the local wine industry, told the board that frost protection was not the cause of the 2008 fish stranding and die-off and that a self-serving bunch of vineyard owners calling themselves the Upper Russian River Stewardship Alliance (URSA), was “well on its way to providing solutions for the fish and the farmers” and urged the state not to further regulate stream flows. Those “solutions” are mainly empty promises to somehow keep vineyard pumpers from all turning on their pumps at the same time, and to build more ponds, which, while perhaps mitigating some of the peak demand frost protection pumping, will further dam up the Russian River. In the letter written explicitly for the vineyard owners and no one else in the Ukiah Valley, the Board of Supervisors claimed that “scientific studies” have shown that flows out of Coyote Dam over the years have contributed to problems like streambed reshaping that harm fish stocks and that “direct diversion for frost protection did not cause these problems and a ban on direct diversion will not prevent them.” That's a specious claim at best. While the Coyote Dam releases may have contributed to “streambed reshaping,” they in no way exonerate the vineyard pumpers from dewatering the Russian when they all dip in at the same time to combat the effects of sub-freezing temperature on their precious grape buds. “It must be understood that conditions in the tributaries are highly variable and the blanket imposition of policies may have little or no benefit to listed species, yet have severe consequences for the regulated community.” Hopefully, the water board will see through this transparent attempt to shift the blame for fish strandings to anybody but “the regulated community,” i.e., the grape growers themselves.
THE UKIAH Daily Journal announced last week that they finished a major archiving project digitizing their newspapers going back to the 1860s. For a relatively modest $50/year interested parties can subscribe to the archive which also includes several now defunct paper archives for the Redwood Journal, the Ukiah Republican-Press, and the Dispatch Democrat. Local sponsors have provided the archives free of charge at the Ukiah Library, the Held-Poage Research Library in Ukiah, and the Grace Hudson Museum with each having access to the entire database collection at no charge. Donations are welcome to help defray those free-access points. The archive is searchable by keyword. For more information on how to become an archive sponsor, contact Daily Journal Publisher Kevin McConnell at 468-3505 or at email@example.com or Daily Journal Deputy Editor Jody Martinez at 468-3517 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re going to sign up too.
THE WILLITS BYPASS will never be built but Willits seems to enjoy talking about it. The fantasists are kicking around all kinds of hypotheticals as if the bypass were a done deal when all its really got is lines on a map, the proposed route. Many obstacles remain, not the least of which is funding in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Not that the hand-wringing hasn't commenced among the worryworts. What will happen to all the re-routed traffic while construction is underway. Will giant trucks rumble along Willits' unprepared byways, spewing gravely debris on Tony Orth's Subaru? Will contractors dump 1.4 million cubic yards of fill dirt and 34,000 cubic yards of concrete in Lanny Cotler's backyard?
ACCORDING to a breathless story on the Fort Bragg Advocate-News by Tony Reed the “Honda ad recently filmed in Mendocino” had the rubes agog, none more agog-ed than Reed himself. “The commercial will show a man returning to Mendocino with several Honda vehicles, including a scooter and a zero-emissions car. Once at home, his house will be powered by a zero-emissions generator.” As will his indoor grow, presumably.
JIM GIBBONS REMEMBERS: “The Big March you attended at Troublemaker Central in San Francisco back in '68 after Martin Luther King's murder caused me to flash back to 1967 in Milwaukee when comedian Dick Gregory was in town to march with Father James Groppi for Civil Rights. I had this beatnik friend named John Bentley who talked me into going to check it out and we turned out to be the only white guys besides Groppi, and talk about 'race baiters shouting insults from the sidewalk.' We marched to the South Side, a predominantly Polish neighborhood, which was all white and seemingly all pissed, especially at a couple of white guys hanging with the 'niggers.' Even the blacks seemed surprised at how hateful the whites were toward other whites, and needless to say, this naive 23-year-old was shocked and scared and never marched for no cause ever again.”