Pint Arena’s Political Shittle
by Debra Keipp, November 18, 2015
News traveled fast in Point Arena about two weeks ago, when finally, down where City Councilwoman Heatherstone-Szantos lives on her property which straddles Point Arena Creek, she received a 14-day move-out notice from authorities yet unknown. Why? She does not live in a legally habitable structure within the City limits; also a requirement of her elected seat on City Council. No legal shitter or infrastructure where she's lived since 2010, and with no accountability for all those years she also sat on City Council, as it now turns out - illegally. Ditto for Mayor Koogle. Point Arena is having difficulty finding applicants who fulfill the minimum of legal requirements for elected seats on City Council.
Once again, at least two out of five Council members are usually appointees, rather than elected officials, who replace the two who almost always evenntually quit because they can't stand the political bullshit. And as is the case with Point Arena, two of the other Council members gained their City Council seats while living lies about their residency in order to qualify.
About three Mayors ago (only three or four years), the owner of Cove Coffee at Arena Cove looked out his window onto the deck, covered with about half-a-dozen Council Members and City Planners, all spontaneously meeting for morning coffee to obviously determine the outcome of former Mayor Lauren Sinnott's potential recall. He shouted over the sputtering espresso machine, “That would be Brown Act violations happening on my front porch!”
'Zactly! ...That's Point Arena politics in a “City” too small to run a government. (Yet smaller than the Village of Mendocino!)
Two fifths of Point Arena City Council members quit their posts last month: Phil Burfoot and Trevor Sanders. The two Councilmen were out-numbered by the other (rarely dissenting) three: Mayor Jim Koogle, Deborah Heatherstone-Szantos, and former Mayor Doug Burkey. Burfoot was interviewed by the ICO in Gualala, where he stated that Mayor Koogle's intimidation tactics, familiarly-known to many locals, were implemented in particular towards Burfoot by Koogle during Burfoot's time as an elected official on City Council.
On the heels of the recent resignations of Councilmen Burfoot and Sanders, the seemingly impossible happened. Councilwoman Deborah Heatherstone-Szantos, who has been living for the last five years in an uninhabitable shed without septic on Point Arena Creek, was finally served with a 14 day move-out notice to vacate the property she bought from Tom Wodetski of Albion. One reason Tom sold the property was that there were no longer any legal living structures with sewer on either connected parcel straddling Point Arena Creek at Hwy One and Iversen Road. Located at the bottom of the hill in Point Arena, 125 Main could no longer generate rental income, therefore. Tom's former property consisted of two two-story homes at 125 Main Street which burned down in 2008, leaving the property with one structure, an uninhabitable shed without infrastructure South of Point Arena Creek on an adjoining parcel. Heatherstone (legally named Szantos) and her partner chose to make this their new home since purchasing the property in 2010 - even though the last renter of the uninhabitable shed, a glass blower who was living in the structure also without a proper shitter, was evicted by former fired City Clerk, Claudia Hillary, in 2009, prior to the sale of the property by Wodetski.
So how could Heatherstone-Szantos live on Point Arena Creek all those years in violation of environmental regulations involving sensitive habitat in a riparian zone, without the City of Point Arena providing enforcement of this obvious water quality issue, at least? The problem with pirates is that they only possess one good eye. Makes it easier to turn the other blind eye. So I ask, how could Councilwoman Heatherstone-Szantos not provide her own enforcement? Why would she choose to slander and threaten citizens who have voiced their opposition to her obvious unhealthy and illegal living situation for certain health considerations, to include infectious disease caught by surfers, some of whom have lost their hearing and others who now and then catch some type of “infection” from swimming at the other end of Point Arena Creek where it spits out into Arena Cove. How could Heatherstone-Szantos, as an elected representative of our local government and a so-called “greenie”, think it was okay to live in an uninhabitable shed in a riparian zone, within the California Coastal Zone, in a City that charges sewer fees to every other address but hers? Unfortunately, Heatherstone-Szantos doesn't know Point Arenans already lived like that in the City before the sewer ponds went in on Port Road in 1984.
The remaining septic for the two burned out homes at 125 Main is from the 1950's and leaches where it sits, smack-dab in the middle of Point Arena Creek. The concrete septic lid was discovered by the earth mover hired by Szantos (the name on permit), on an expired demolition permit, when he removed the foundation blocks from under the burned out homes and disturbed the ivy which obscured the septic in the creek. As Councilwoman, H-S clearly operates outside the limits of the City's own Muni-Code and permit process time and again.
But, who can find the Muni-Code guidelines when you need them? (See AVA article “Pint Arena's New City Manager”.) They've been stolen from the binder that sits in City Hall! Truly. Chapters 14 through 18 of the City's Muni-Code, specifically relating to the Councilwoman's current property plight and which governs violators like the City's Councilwoman Heatherstone-Szantos, have been stolen from City Hall and no longer exist? That's what we are told. City Hall can't find what REALLY exists for Chapters 14 through 18 — not even on the City's computer files? Shoemaker's not returning inquiries. It's a public shut-out. So what gives with any management at all of the City of Putin.. err aaaa, Point Arena? Is Point Arena still able to operate as a real City? It hasn't done such for quite a few recent generations of Mayors - four or five so far in just about as many years. And now Council has chosen Richard Shoemaker as Point Arena's newest City Manager?
Do we need a City Hall with such slimy morals, passing the position of Mayor like a rugby ball?
Last week Council again, like a bad boomerang, redundantly reappointed “the replacements” on Council. For the umpteenth time, Richard Ad Nauseum Wasserman, former Mayor of Point Arena and one of PA's infamous peddlers is a City Council Member, once again. Did I mention he's been on the City's payroll several times already?
The only reputable Council member at this point is newly appointed Scott Ignacio. We remain hopeful, but at this point, he could wind up being that one dissenting vote.
Last Friday night I visited an old friend in Point Arena whom I've known for about twenty-five years. She lives across the street from Heatherstone-Szantos and her partner where they squat still in Point Arena Creek behind 125 Main Street, living out the duration of their 14-day eviction notice. My friend is ill. She's had a catastrophic health history including the radiation modalities of thirty years ago which were simply archaic, and now continue to wreak havoc on her body. Radiation keeps on marching long after exposure. She's fragile, is my point. And because of her near deathness from time to time, and some of her experiences sailing around the world by her own hand in her healthier days, she views a much bigger picture each day she lives her life. She doesn't care to gossip and I like that about her. When we visit, I love our talks for their simplicity and objectivity. We talk of transcendental things, mystical happenings where magic and hope still exist, life, love, death, sailing (she's circumnavigated - the world with her late lover in their two-person sailboat), food (she's an authentic, world-class, lavish chef), ...we focus on good things. I have few friends like that who can honestly focus on the positive qualities, and it is the thing I love most about her. I kept running into her as she walked up to the Post Office last Friday, so decided to go down to her home along Point Arena Creek for a visit.
We sat peacefully outside on her porch, when down the street stomped Heatherstone-Szantos (H-S) with her dog, headed down to their illegal living structure on the creek, where they still abide. We went quiet as H-S (which could also stand for High School) asked my friend from across the street, if she was okay. H-S kept repeating, “Are you sure you're okay?” Then finally responded to my friend's affirmative responses each time with one final, “I don't think you are okay!”.
My friend looked at me and asked, “What did that mean?” We heard H-S barking orders at her partner as if he was an attack dog, on their creek bridge as she stood on Hwy One. My friend said to me, “Is she making threats?” We stood still and listened. The Councilwoman didn't want me on my friend's porch. My friend says that H-S tries to implore her to dislike me, and is obviously bent out of shape that I am there visiting. (Makes me wonder if H-S is both a psychopath and a fascist!)
We could both hear Heatherstone-Szantos asking her partner Phil to go across the street to beat me up(!). He asked “Who?”. She screamed so I could hear her, “Debra Cunt! She's across the street. Let's go! !#%?*!@?^!*”.
I stood there on my friend's porch first wondering if, as an elected government official, Heatherstone-Szantos should harass with such scarey threats of violent encroachment onto my disabled friend's porch to punch out one of her guests.
I said to my friend, “What a low-girl! They're making threats!”. We sat waiting, still as stone, to see if they'd walk across the street. I knew I could probably handle my own, but what about my (fragile, disabled) friend?
I mumbled to her, “If they get to the bottom of your sidewalk, you hop in the house. I'll lock the door and call the sheriff.” She nodded as she shuffled her heavy boots closer to the front door, a bit fearful. We just stood there in silence, not responding - staring at the morons, who gave up and crawled back to their hobbit hole on the other side of the creek.
This is a City Council member making violent physical and verbal threats, and we're trying to avoid being beaten by her? It must be viral, cuz Koogle's like that too: a puncher, a shover, a bully. One woman, also a former City Planner, suffered a fracture when she was shoved by Koogle down the steps of the old Upstairs Cafe in Point Arena: A tumble of about twenty steps down to Highway One.
If you haven't read the resignation of Councilman Burfoot in Gualala's ICO from a coupla weeks ago, former Councilperson Burfoot also described his experiences with the impossibility of trying to maintain his own opinion and vote on Council, while sitting next to Mayor Koogle, without being physically threatened and intimidated by the (also illegally-elected) mayor. I applaud Burfoot for choosing his words well, because what he probably experienced, was much scarier than what appeared in the paper, knowing Koogle the way many of us do in Point Arena.
Are these government officials on steroids? Or crack? Or shocked on misplaced personal power — even going so far as to steal the pages of law in order to bend it for their own best interests? (Aren't these Council members responsible for Muni-Codes 14-18, which disappeared while they currently sit on Council?) No explanations are offered... a sabotaged government.
With a small population of around 500, what do we have to do in Point Arena to be capable of drawing from a larger constituency in order to elect some City officials with actual business acumen and experience, let alone decorum and manners? Currently, most elected officials tend to act like thugs under Point Arena's small-town microscope. The old retreads they keep pulling from the closets are beyond tired, too, while Main Street doesn't look much better, with all its empty business fronts and tourists walking from one end of town to the other with nothing to do, nowhere to spend their money, looking disappointed, shrugging their shoulders... Without prepping Point Arena for her future, what exactly did former Mayor Dahlhoff have in mind for Point Arena with the onslaught of “The Monument”?
Every citizen I've quizzed says Richard Shoemaker, the newest in a string of City Manager-type employees working for the City of Point Arena, won't respond to anyone who calls wanting to know sic em. I was told he is the partner of Linda Ruffing of Fort Bragg City Council fame, who has sons with local, Chuck Henderson. About a hand-full of folks from Anderson Valley who've asked me about him, advise to beware. “He's a slimy bastard!”, two chimed in simultaneously, during one breakfast round-table. To which I respond that he'll have like company in Point Arena City Hall!
I've written at least half-a-dozen e-mails to Shoemaker asking him, specifically, what agency gave his Councilwoman her 14-day move-out notice, and he won't respond. But when I pointed out that the City's web site advises visitors to Point Arena City Hall to stop by for a talk with the City Manager on Fridays, when City Hall is clearly closed on Fridays, he did respond that the web site is in the process of being updated. So why not respond to my other e-mails? Is this “doing his job”? What IS his job?
The perfect metaphor for this episode in dirty conspiratorial Point Arena politics is the story of the City Sewer employee who remains so fraught with previous experiential concern over the incompetence of Point Arena's City Council, he personally chose to not report to City Council as a part of his employment agreement when rehired to his previous old job with the sewer department some months ago. He alone, as employees go, reports to the City Manager, only. I'd say he's righteous in that decision, especially with Heatherstone-Szantos's disregard for Point Arena Creek by turning it back into “Shit Creek”, (which it was called in previous years when all sewer lines on Mill Street poured and glopped into Point Arena Creek, directly from each home through ceramic asbestos pipes).
Point Arena politics have become so transparently high school, bully, and lame, that the “City” must either disincorporate at this point, or expand it's boundaries to include several hundred more voters on the periphery of Point Arena. Koogle and Heatherstone-Szantos are asked to resign from City Council based on their continued duping of the public's trust: Heatherstone-Szantos's obvious creek shame, and the fact that Koogle lied about his actual living address to election officials in order to get on the election ballot in the first place. (On Koogle's election application he listed his gutted ten+ year vacant property at 53 Lake as where he lives, because it is in the City limits, and legal residency is a requirement of running for elected office within the City of Point Arena.) I say that the same consideration should be given to everyone in a new election — not just Koogle, if election law is to be overlooked in this regard. Last election is a do-over, I say. Fine the dirty bastards for their violations, have a new election, and move on. Re-annexation of Point Arena by expanding the borders of the City limits is long overdue. Maybe it's time to put the Stornettas back in the ballgame!
Point Arena Creek
After the passing of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, Point Arena Creek became one of the first creeks in Northern California to undergo creek restoration. When I first owned the long stretch of Point Arena Creek which ran thru my three Mill Street parcels, I checked into further rehab of Point Arena Creek, to repair damage by bottle “diggers” who eroded the creek banks. I found that creek restoration had already been done on PA Creek by a Berkeley environmentalist.
Since the 1900's PA Creek had been known as “Shit Creek”. All of the outhouses for the homes built between Mill Street and Point Arena Creek, lined the creek banks behind their homes. The census of 1911 counted 3000 men and 200 women at a few addresses along Point Arena Creek(!). Since the laws of the time prohibited women from drinking alcohol in public, the women did their consumption in out houses; there disposing of their empty bottles in the “shitter” (now antique treasures for bottle collectors). The problem was (and still is) that the creek banks were further eroded by ensuing bottle diggers; collectors along Point Arena Creek. Most imported bottles were glass from the Orient or black & tan clay Guinness bottles with a stamp on the side of the bottle at the base, which said “Glasgow”.
Subsequently, the Coastal Zone was created with a sewer situation like Point Arena Creek in mind, in such close proximity, flowing to the ocean. PA Creek was “restored” by the 1980's and the City's sewer ponds and facility created in 1984. In fact, there was a recent (unreported to the EPA) sewer spill into Point Arena Creek under Mayor Dahlhoff, which caused hearing loss in a few of the surfers, as well as odd skin infections. These, the best reasons for not letting sewer into Point Arena Creek.
Bonnie Morgan, a friend who has lived in Point Arena for over 60 years now, tells me stories of when she lived in several consecutive houses on Mill Street, which runs parallel to Point Arena Creek. She raised her family down on Mill Street before buying her present home at 50 Lake. She tells me that Bill Hay dammed off PA Creek several miles up, so he could divert water to his beef cattle. It dried up and made a mess of “Shit Creek”, as Point Arena had named the small vein of water, up to the time of creek restoration when it was reclaimed as “Point Arena Creek” in the 1980's.
Unfortunately, the Mill Street homes of the 1950's all had ceramic asbestos sewer pipes which let directly into Point Arena Creek without septic. The Creek would wash away the raw sewage, down to the ocean(!). Finally a sewer facility was created in Point Arena, and the environmentalist from Berkeley came to begin restoration of Point Arena Creek, which mostly entailed creating a sewage treatment plant facility with sewer ponds for Point Arena in 1984.
In addition, I found out that John King, the former dog catcher of PA in the '70's, quit his job in PA to care for his elderly parents in Santa Cruz, where he then researched and facilitated grants in his spare time for the beginning of the Pacific Coast Trail, which currently runs from below Santa Cruz to the Hills of Oakland. Eventually this big chunk of Coastal Trail will be added to the Coastal Monument in Point Arena, as more coastal property is purchased by government agencies and added to the protected areas of the Pacific Coast Trail between Point Arena and Santa Cruz.