Off the Record

by AVA News Service, March 3, 2010

WENDY ROBERTS of Mendocino was the featured Supervisor Candidate on UkiahValley.tv last week. Ms. Roberts dismissed opponent Dan Hamburg as a one issue (pot) candidate with a casual, “Dan Hamburg obviously has his own constituency.” Then she brushed aside candidate Jim Mastin by pointing out that Mastin (like Hamburg) is from Ukiah, implying that Mastin's not really a Fifth District person. Ms. Roberts, a Stanford grad, says she's “worked on public school projects around the county,” an experience which gives her “a broader perspective” than, presumably, her Ukiah-bound opponents. She has a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA) and undergraduate degrees in Communications and Psychology. “Those skills would come in very handy,” she said. Ms. Roberts then rattled off a few statements about local job loss, investment revenue loss, and declining retirement incomes while making it clear that she’s against any new taxes. “I don’t see much opportunity for squeezing more revenue out of the populous,” the candidate said. “It just isn't a viable option.” Ms. Roberts wants the County to be more business friendly. “The County has been raising fees,” Roberts went on. “Every time you do that you're cutting off the economy and restraining it from growing. So I think the best things the County could do would be working on trying to support the private sector to generate new jobs and specifically things like streamlining the permit process, working with, hopefully, some federal funding to get broadband access around the county.”

MS. ROBERTS has made it clear she's the conservative candidate in the race. She's for tax sharing between cities and counties, not because it would remove artificial barriers to likely commercial locations but because it is “important to allow potential retail development to move forward.”

MBA ROBERTS, like her fellow candidates, didn't have specific ideas about what to do about the County’s ever-larger deficit. (We say whack management, including the supervisors, 10% for openers.) “This is going to be incredibly hard,” she said. “We are looking at cutting things like birth control for teenagers, tuberculosis monitoring for latent TB cases, alcohol services in the remote parts of the county. When you start cutting things at that level, you're cutting bone and muscle; there isn't a lot of fat left.” Also like her fellow candidates, Ms. Roberts bemoaned the compounded effects of interest rates: “Eight million per year on interest on bonds that were floated in the past will cripple this county for many years to come,” said Roberts. “So this is going to be very, very difficult times and there will be a lot of tough decisions to be made.”

BRUCE McEWEN REPORTS: “Glenn Sunkett had his Marsden hearing last Wednesday, his formal attempt to dump his public defender, Linda Thompson. These things usually take less than half an hour; Sunkett's been in court four times on his. Chief DA Prosecutor Jill Ravitch gave me the heads-up during lunch break just before Number Four started. I was on the back steps grabbing a smoke when Ravitch stopped by to apologize for firing me up in front of a crowded courtroom the day before when she wondered out loud why my newspaper and placed Public Defender Linda Thompson's predicament with Glenn Sunkett on the front page. But before I could respond, Judge Ron Brown came out of his lair and the court was again in session. But when Ms. Ravitch talked to me the next day she exclaimed, “You guys gave him (Sunkett) so much ink!” I promptly sold her a paper and noted we'd given Sunkett more space this week. The prosecutor asked me to call her Jill and we parted on jolly terms. The public is excluded from Marsden hearings to spare the lawyer in question from embarrassment. The only way media slime can find out what happened is from one of the involved parties, preferably both. The DA's office rolls right over for the San Francisco Chronicle (as they did in the Vargas case last week), but remains grim faced and standing when it comes to the AVA. And The Public Defender won't even so much as deign to return a single one of our repeated calls, then whines privately that we're unfair to her.”

HERE'S THE PROBLEM with Thompson from the perspective of the editor of this fine publication: Sunkett is a black man from Oakland looking at the rest of his life in prison for a home invasion conviction. Thompson is a diminutive lesbian who dresses in men's suits, which is the gender equivalent of a male lawyer appearing in court dressed as a woman. Juries have a hard time getting past distractions of this type, which I state as a fact because local jurors have talked to me specifically about cases involving Thompson. Thompson is Mendocino County's Public Defender, the boss of the office. And she's Sunkett's lawyer. Sunkett says Thompson not only screwed up his case big time, she won't do him the ordinary courtesy of returning his phone calls. Looked at from his perspective, the perspective of a drowning man, I think Sunkett's got a beef, a major beef. He ought to be able to get Thompson off his case, and she ought to get off his case if for no other reason than it's his case with his life at stake. I don't think Thompson is a good lawyer. I don't think she's even an adequate lawyer, not that inability has ever prevented success in public sector Mendocino County. I've written at length about another criminal matter, that of Tai Abreu, where Thompson's grotesquely incompetent defense put that kid, age 19, in the pen for the rest of his life without the possibility of parole while his two confederates got convictions that will put them back in Fort Bragg while they're still fairly young men. I think Thompson puts her vanity and her apparent need to make a political gender statement ahead of the lives of the people she's allegedly defending. Why has it taken Sunkett four hearings to get away from her? Why do the tax-paid lawyers involved prevent the public from being fully informed as to how the Sunkett matter, and lots of other matters, are resolved? They wouldn't get away with dummying up in a major media market, but they get away with it up here because the Boonville weekly is the only goddam paper in this lunatic jurisdiction that ever asks anybody anything. The public has an absolute right to know how effectively their money is being spent, and Thompson and the rest of legal hackdom over there in the County Courthouse has zero right to keep us in the dark.

THE U.S. CENSUS will hold an informational gathering with particular emphasis on farm workers this Thursday, March 4 at St. Mary's Church social hall, 900 South Oak, Ukiah. Farm workers, labor contractors, farm worker employers, and organizations involved with ag workers are urged to attend. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9am. Jerry Cox of the Anderson Valley Housing Association will be the keynote speaker.

THE FEW PEOPLE who follow planning matters say that we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss the off-parcel leachfield discussion as purely bureaucratic and of little consequence. More than one Coastie called us last week to say that the idea — apparently sponsored by Supervisor Carre Brown and her development friends affiliated with the Farm Bureau — is an end-around the planning process to make small lots “developable” which otherwise would not be. “It's an incremental thing,” said one caller. “First you buy an easement on a neighboring parcel for a leachfield. Then once that's established, if you don't already own the neighboring parcel, you can buy it and apply for a boundary line adjustment to incorporate the leachfield and then it’s easier to get a permit to build a monster house right on the coastal bluffs.” Conservationists think the change will open the door to increased home building for the vulgar rich, and these days there are no other kind, who will pepper the Coast with their McMansions on the coast where it's difficult to meet septic system requirements on existing smaller parcels. Of course, this all assumes that the housing market on the Coast will recover, which, at present, there's no sign of.

LAURA HAMBURG WRITES: “Dan Hamburg, candidate for 5th District Supervisor, announced his key campaign staff this week and submitted hundreds of district-wide signatures with the county elections department. The 5th District, an area encompassing 40 percent of Mendocino County, includes the coast from just south of Caspar to Gualala, Comptche, Anderson Valley and communities to both the north and south of Ukiah. Key campaign staff include Anderson Valley farmer Doug Mosel (Campaign Coordinator); Pt. Arena Mayor Lauren Sinnott (South Coast Co-manager); Ukiah writer Laura Hamburg (Inland Co-manager); Mendocino retired businesswoman Gai Daly (Area Coordinator) and Comptche school district nutritionist Terry Nieves (Area Coordinator). John Schaeffer, founder and president of Hopland’s Real Goods/Solar Living Institute, chairs Hamburg’s Finance Committee. The Committee also includes Johnny Schmitt, chef and owner of the Boonville Hotel, Shannon Hughes, coastal chef and Geoffrey Baugher, Pt. Arena contractor. Baugher also serves as the campaign Treasurer The staff joins a team of countywide campaign volunteers who collected 486 valid signatures to put Hamburg on the ballot. The deadline to file signatures in lieu of candidate filing fees was February 26. Candidate Wendy Roberts submitted 110 valid signatures and Jim Mastin turned in 24 valid signatures, according to the Mendocino County elections office. Hamburg thanked volunteers and the Mendocino County residents who signed the petition to place him on the ballot. 'Now that we’ve filed the signatures, the campaign kicks into high gear,' Hamburg said. 'We’re energized by the support we’ve received,' he said. 'And we look forward to meeting and hearing from as many voters as possible over the coming months.' Dan Hamburg’s campaign website is: www.votehamburg5.org.

A READER WRITES: “Ahh, Hamburg. I enjoyed the AVA's comments on this sad fellow's political reemergence. Yes, yes: a revenue stream to county coffers from marijuana cultivators. Only at the point of a gun, Danny boy. Growers are the most unregulated (and often quite ruthless) capitalists and they will never pay taxes for the common good. And, the mythos of Mom and Pop growers is a silly self-serving fantasy. None of them ever gave a damn about the Mom and Pop fisherman and loggers who've been tossed on the economic junk pile in Mendocino County without so much as a so-called marijuana medicine joint to ease their family's pain. Hypocrisy is colored green.”

THIS YEAR the 27th annual Women's History Gala is on Sunday, March 14th at the Saturday Afternoon Clubhouse, 107 S. Oak St., downtown Ukiah. The theme is writing “Women back in to history.” Silent auction begins at 1;30 pm, the program at 2 pm. Honorees are Molly Dwyer, Peggy Kingman, Katarazyna Rolzinski and keynote speaker Noreen Evans. (Judy Pruden, 462-4945)

A READER WRITES regarding Catcher in the Rye: “Is there anyone in America whose feelings for Holden Caulfield have not followed this progression: 1.) Age 13: you sympathize wholeheartedly with Caulfield. 2.) Age 14 (girls) or 18 (boys): you begin to find him infuriatingly unfinished as a character and wonder what you are missing. 3.) You either read the rest of Salinger’s far more subversive and far less 'school-assigned' work, which forgives everything; or if you’re not a big reader, you turn 65 and experience a desperate, Stockholm-syndrome-like urge to accept the world and venerate all its idols before Death takes you, and realize, to your great comfort, that you 'are old enough now to separate myself from Holden and his barbs.'”

I'VE GOT my own Feinstein and Blum story. It's not much of a story, and it's probably one shared by at least some of the other daily mortifiers-of-flesh trudging aerobically up and down the Lyon Street Steps past Feinstein's and Blum's elegantly fortified front door at ruling class ground zero, Pacific Heights. I'm surprised us grubby public is allowed so close to their five floors of secure splendor. But there are two security cameras on the roof, and through one of the heavily screened windows I've seen a back-lit portrait of the Senator herself. One morning I saw Blum, a nondescript, lumpy gent in a business suit moving slowly up the stairs with a phalanx of young people. It wouldn't be unfair to describe the phalanx as “doting.” Blum looked at me like I should recognize him. “How ya doin' today?” I said. We were briefly side by side on the stairs, me headed down, him up. I felt I had to say something in the face of what I took as Blum's expectation, if that's what it was. I kept on going, of course, having nothing more to say of a civil nature to an even more major enemy of the people than his wife. I hit the Lyon Street Steps a couple of times a week, as do several professional athletes and their trainers. One of the jocks, a huge blonde blur of a kid with those world class fast-twitch muscles the big time ones are born with, moved past me one morning at an improbable speed, nudging me aside with, “On your left, gramps.” Other than a couple of unwitnessed stumbles, “Gramps” is the only humiliation I've suffered at that particular venue. A little farther up the hill there's often a young, plump, Mediterranean-looking woman togged out in mountain-climbing lycra. She walks backwards up the sidewalk in tiny slo-motion steps. I've always wanted to ask her to define the benefits of her workout. “In your own words, honey, what possible life-extending value is there in creeping backwards up and down thirty feet of sidewalk?” The odder people's behavior, the more defensive they are about it, and you've got to watch it in that neighborhood — when someone calls the cops they arrive instantly and from all directions. The other night me and the missus went to see ACT's production of the Caucasian Chalk Circle. The tickets were a gift, a gift that keeps on giving with about ten plays a year. I'd never seen a Brecht play. I'd read this one and looked forward to seeing it presented. I'd also read that the director was “ferociously inventive.” In the daily deluge of pure bullshit that fuels our fading country and ricochets around my head like a bb in a box car, “ferociously inventive” should have put me on red alert, but it wasn't until I got to “gleefully irreverent and bracingly modern,” followed by “brand new translation” that I knew we were in for a rough two hours of theater. Brecht was a communist. The play is about class warfare. It doesn't need “irreverent,” and it doesn't need a “brand new translation.” The production was so scattered that if I didn't know the story I'd have been completely lost. And it was boring, insulting even, with the ferociously inventive Mr. Doyle apparently telling the actors to go ahead an ad lib it whenever they felt like improving on Brecht, the result being a lot of gratuitous vulgarity the playwright wouldn't have tolerated. So, it was a bummer, a waste of talented actors. The old boy two seats from me kept being nudged awake by his wife. When she'd sat down she'd looked at me and said, “You look like Colonel Schweppes.” The liberties people take these days! Colonel Schweppes. Completely off. I'm a lot closer to Gabby Hayes, physically and mentally. I took a closer look at my seatmate. She was swathed in layers of Magnin silks and, truth to tell, she looked like Big Bird, but as a gentleman I didn't say so. Of course you've got to be a million years old even to remember the ads with the Colonel, but there we were in an old playhouse teeming with elderly Marxists waiting to hear the master lay on the class warfare. O yea. Out on the night time Frisco streets, it's more and more like medieval London, with beggars, street acts, cripples, and crazy people, and all of it faster and faster. I'm still shocked at seeing ten copies of R. Crumb's illustrated Book of Genesis prominently displayed in the Marist's book shop at Old St. Mary's Church, California and Grant. Robert Crumb in a Christian book store? We had dinner at Max's across the street from Brecht. I went for the chicken pot pie assuming it would appear in recognizable form like those little Swanson pot pies us television tray people eat when the ball game is on, but here it was the size of a literal basketball. I ate what I could and hauled the rest of it up to Boonville to show it to some fat guys. “Fifteen bucks, boys, and I'm still eating on it three days later!” I read Robert Hurwitt's review of Caucasian Chalk Circle in the Chron: “But a degree of confusion seems to be built into John Doyle's approach to Brecht's parable about contested motherhood....” Yes, Robert, there certainly was narrative confusion, and I'll bet Mr. Doyle laughed all the way home to England about putting another one over on US. The next day I went on my favorite bad weather adventure, the $13 Muni Day Pass, six hours on different bus lines from the Bay to Candlestick. And most points between. After several hours on Muni, and the grandest tour possible at the price, I was sitting in Washington Square thinking about Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio at Peter and Paul's Church and eating a genuine Italian apple turnover from Mara's genuine Italian bakery when a wholesome-looking kid approached to ask if I would help him with his UCLA socio-wingding paradigm project. Something like that. I'd already agreed to it before he'd finished explaining what he was up to. “Can I film and record your answer to one question?” he asked. Sure can, lad, and what's the question? “What would you like to be different at the end of the day?” The end of the day? I turn in early. My day that day would end in about four hours, and I was still an hour away from a nightcap at Max's 540 Club on Clement. What would I want different about the whole world? By 9pm? I didn't want to say something sappy about world peace, something soporifically Mendo-lib-ish like that. Or something unkind about Fox News and Sean Hannity. The kid probably had hundreds of those kinds of statements after a day in North Beach. The question was a puzzler, though. “Well?” The kid was getting impatient. I was standing there zoned out, trying to think up something interesting to say when suddenly I had it! I said I hoped Los Angeles by the end of the day was a tectonic inch farther south of this fine city of San Francisco. “Amazing!” the kid exclaimed. “You know what? Another guy said almost the same thing.

One Response to Off the Record

  1. trebuchet Reply

    March 5, 2010 at 4:52 am

    Now wait a second, Bruce- ‘several hours’ on the MUNI, that sordid cluster of compound miseries? I well recall your amusing excoriation of that organism in The Mendocino Papers; you remain, mysteriously, one of the few folks I’ve ever heard complain about the blunt insult to the brain delivered by the pre-recorded, infantalizing hectoring that pours forth incessantly from their speakers. Eerily , no-one I’ve ever mentioned it to seems to mind. I reckon that in many cases there’s just no internal voice, no pensiveness, to be discombobulated by such inane distractions.

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