Off the Record (Mar 16, 2016)

by AVA News Service, March 16, 2016

DEPARTMENT of shameless self-promotion. Because there's endless space on-line, we're able to post a lot more stuff, especially the real long stuff, up there in cyber-infinity than we can fit on 12 pages of 9-point type. Therefore, we invite you to subscribe to our ultra-groovy web edition with its daily round-up of County events and lots of information we can't fit into print at the bargain price of $25 a year. You can also read the entire print edition of the paper on-line for half the price of the print edition, however retro-cool print may be to you. Don't get me wrong here. I don't like reading on-line, and I know most of you Seniors out there share my aversion. I lament the passing of print while at the same time reconciling myself to the advent of cyber-domination. And theava.com is the ONLY comprehensive County-specific (mostly) info-site. If you want Mendo-specific info in serious depth, you're either reading the ava or you're dwelling in the dark.

ORTNER OUTTA HERE. After months of nearly universal local condemnation for services not rendered, Ortner Management Group of Yuba City, private owner of half of Mendocino County's annual mental health budget worth about $7 million a year, has given notice that they will be withdrawing from Mendocino County as of July 1st.

EVERYONE from cops to emergency room doctors to advocates for the mentally ill to ordinary citizens complained that the mentally ill were not being attended to, let alone treated.

BUT IT TOOK the bold action of supervisors Gjerde, Woodhouse and Brown, acting on the recommendations of the Kemper Report, that made it so clearly obvious that Ortner was not meeting the terms of his agreement with the County that he had to go. The jig was up for Ortner. He probably calculated that actually delivering mental health services, as per Kemper recommendations, would cut so far into his larcenous profits that withdrawal was his only option.

SUPERVISOR HAMBURG, out of the cozy relationship he has enjoyed with Ortner for free mental health services for his troubled son, naturally wanted to continue with Ortner, wrapping his obvious self-interest in his usual faux-pained obfuscation. Supervisor McCowen, who can be tiresomely obtuse, also seemed to think that Ortner, against all the evidence of Ortner's prior non-performance, would somehow incorporate Kemper's recommendations and begin, at last, to live up to his contract with Mendocino County.

NOW WHAT? Sheriff Allman is Mendocino County's de facto mental health service provider. He recognizes of course that the County Jail is not suitable as mental health provider. Allman has suggested that the County establish its own mental health site and services, which would be a case of back to the future, as Mendocino County, not long ago, did indeed sustain its own crisis unit.

WE THINK SHERIFF ALLMAN'S proposal should get serious consideration. The County, with no plan, is likely to dither and discuss while Allman has a viable plan that could be quickly implemented, and brought off a lot cheaper and much more effectively.

ALLMAN proposes a tiny temporary boost in the sales tax to fund a Mendo Mental Health Service. Yeah, yeah, we know the sales tax is regressive, but even more regressive is handing an out-of-county businessman $6-7 million a year for doing not much of anything while local law enforcement does almost all the mental health heavy lifting.

THE NOW ABANDONED Howard Hospital in Willits is the perfect place for a secure mental health facility which could be inexpensively sited there and staffed for a lot less than the roughly $20 annual millions we now spend on failed to non-existent services. The frequent fliers, the drop-fall drunks, the free range mentally ill could all be housed and treated in Willits per the Allman Plan.

THE ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS has upped releases from rapidly filling Lake Mendocino, so full as of this weekend the camp ground parking lot was flooded. The recent storms have produced a surplus of the precious stuff, most of which from Lake Mendo is sold off by the Sonoma County Water Agency which owns most of the water stored there behind Coyote dam. These discharges constitute the highest volume of releases from the lake in three years. Prior, the Corps husbanded the water, grudgingly doling it out downstream because of drought-wrought shortages.

PAUL EDERER, a coastal forester who works for Campbell Hawthorne (Formerly G-P) writes: "A quick look at Google earth would show that many of the houses on Albion Ridge are not obeying laws already on the books about maintaining defensible space for fire safety. Firefighters should be focusing on that instead of what’s happening in the woods. Seems like a wildland fire would be low priority when there are structures at stake. I’ve seen CALFire refuse to enter a forest fire with standing dead snags so what keeps firefighters safe is using what is between their ears not laws and regulations. Tanoak management has been going on in the county since the Indians and Imazapyr has been used for hack and squirt since the late 90s, Where are the ill effects and enormous conflagrations? Comparing the tanoak situation to the conifer die-off in the Sierras is comparing apples to oranges. And what is wrong with making a profit from the trees? If you can’t make money growing trees then maybe you can subdivide and put in more houses, more roads and more fire danger. Look at the Lake and Butte fires — not much hack and squirt there but 1400+ houses lost in the urban/ wildland interface. Making money from it keeps the forest a forest. After decades of effort and a lot of people thinking about how to use it, tanoak is still a loser, so why not reduce its numbers and replace it with redwood or Doug-fir?"

HOW TO TELL it's raining in Lake County: A Clearlake woman is accused of attempted murder in a knife attack on her live-in boyfriend. Embree Vance, 40, reportedly stabbed her 58-year-old boyfriend multiple times while he was engaged in a fight with her adult son. Police say they met up with the victim at St. Helena Hospital in Clearlake where he showed up with several stab wounds to the midsection. Officers went to the house on Dam Road and found Vance and her son, Shandoah Vance, walking nearby. Police say they were both intoxicated. Investigators say she admitted stabbing the victim during an altercation between the two men. Police say she still had the knife in her possession. The son was also arrested for public intoxication.

PAUL SEQUEIRA, former chief prosecutor for Mendocino County under DA David Eyster, has filed a claim against the County for "Continuing breach of contract. Entered into an employment agreement with the county and began work in September 2011. The county has failed to pay the compensation set out in the agreement while continuing to represent to me they would take care of it." Amount of claim? $90,000.

RE SEQUIERA'S CLAIM, a reader notes: "Sequiera's claim? An agreement with the County typically needs to be signed. He seems to be claiming he had some kind of verbal agreement. After he retired from Contra Costa County and comes up here I am sure he wanted as much money as he could get. I can imagine he was told, 'We'll see what we can do,' but I doubt anyone (except maybe the DA) ever told him 'You got it.' This may be a case where the DA promised more than he could deliver, but I am not sure how that obligates the County. I do know Sequiera's position was taken out of the management bargaining group so it could be dealt with separately. He was also hired as 'extra help' which was a work around that allowed him to be paid more than if he had been a regular employee. The reward for doing everything legally possible to max out his compensation is a bogus claim on the way out the door."

ENCOURAGING to see that Ukiah will honor the late Judy Pruden with a commemorative plaque downtown. Often a lone and much derided Ukiah voice for preserving Ukiah’s historically significant buildings, she was appointed to the Ukiah Planning Commission in 1994 and helped shape countless city projects including, of all structures, the Safeway at Gobbi and South State. In the case of Safeway, instead of the usual utilitarian eyesore foisted off on the public everywhere else in the land, thanks to Ms. Pruden, we got a Mission-style structure that isn't bad at all for a building its size. I wish she was here to take on the new County Courthouse — guaranteed to be both a visual and utilitarian disaster. That thing is being shoved down our collective maw by Mendocino County's Superior Court to no opposition from anyone.

BLOODY THURSDAY at Mendocino High School saw three experienced teachers lose their jobs last week, all three delivering quite touching appeals to the Mendo School Board to keep their positions. Why were they offed in the middle of the school year? Why at all? It seemed cruel as hell, and even more arbitrary, as you can see for yourself on the essential MendocinoSportsPlus Facebook page.

BURNED AGAIN. By Mick LaSalle, the Chron's impaired movie critic. Here's what Mick said about Triple 9, starring a bunch of people setting new on-screen records for how many times they can say motherfucker. “Triple 9," writes LaSalle, is no routine crime film. It has a meticulous Swiss watch of a script, written by newcomer Matt Cook, and it’s directed by John Hillcoat ('Lawless,' 'The Proposition'), whose films are soulful, serious and marked by strong performances. Hillcoat is drawn to stories involving grim challenges and awful choices, and he gets to grapple with both in “Triple 9.”

I'M PRETTY SURE I saw the same movie. The script was like a bunch of sixth graders saying to each other, "Hey, then we can throw a bunch of severed ears in the trunk of a car where two people are tied up and all bloody. And when the guy throws the ears in, another guy throws in a bag of teeth like the dentist just pulled them, and says, ‘Here ya go, muthafuggas’."

THERE WAS A CRUDE outline of a plot, I guess, and here it is: Russian scumbags want to break their chief scumbag out of prison somewhere. To do it, the Russian scumbags enlist American scumbags, some of whom are cop scumbags. The scumbaggery, aka the plot and the imbecilic script, is mostly violent encounters with numerous other scumbags, all of whom shoot big guns and blow stuff up. It's the kind of cretinous film that you wish every single person in it would kill each other in the first five minutes so you could trade in your ticket for some month-old popcorn out in the lobby.

I LASTED ABOUT 45 minutes before I remembered that I was an elderly male with limited time left who belatedly wondered why he wasn't outside in the windy, sun-streaked rain of a splendid March day instead of watching celebrations of scumbaggery on a big screen with surround-sound muthafuggas.

SO, SPECIFICALLY? Here's what you get in Triple 9. Woody Harrelson is in a bar with some other slob, a younger special ed case Harrelson has taken under his wing to impart some flawed advice to be an old slob like him. At no visible provocation in an otherwise sedate scene of an older man giving a younger man errant tips on how to achieve perfect slob-ism, Harrelson, supposedly a cop, produces a gun, jumps up and yells, "Any of you motherfuckers got a gun?" Then he sits back down and resumes mumbling to the younger slob.

THATS THE KIND of movie it is. Made by morons for cretins. Like me and Mick LaSalle. Mick at least got to see it free.

CONTRAST AND COMPARE. Lake County has been trying to build a new county courthouse for the past seven years. But unlike the unneeded and unwanted new county courthouse for Mendocino County, which is sailing along to groundbreaking outside all local processes, the Sacramento judicial gods have balked at Lake County's new justice spa. The judge's admin arm has suspended all work on the Lake County project to consider alternatives and costs.

THE NEW LAKE COUNTY courthouse is estimated to cost well under a hundred mil. It was supposed to be finished in 2014 but now it may not be ready until 2019.

HOW COME Mendo County's new courthouse is almost double the trimmed back Lake County courthouse cost of $90k-plus? Could it be.... nine judges for Mendo, four for Lake? And how come the extra scrutiny for Lake but none for Mendo?

REDWOOD VALLEY residents opposed to a Dollar Store plunked down in their crossroads shopping area are organizing themselves as “Smart Growth Rural Mendocino.” There is growing opposition across the country to Dollar Store's expansion into ever smaller communities. A community meeting to discuss a “Redwood Valley Municipal Advisory Council” will be held this coming Monday at 5:30pm at the Redwood Valley Grange on East Road.

ON SATURDAY, March 19th, there will be a “Rally for the Valley” beginning in the vicinity of the highly popular and much supported independent Redwood Valley Market. The rally will move across East Road to where the Dollar General will, if not stopped, be located.

THE OWNERS of the Redwood Valley Market have filed a CEQA lawsuit against Mendocino County and the parcel owner and developer. The case is up in Superior Court this Friday, March 18th.

“THE DANS” — Dan Hamburg and Dan Gjerde — make up the Ad Hoc committee that was appointed last November to come up with a way to provide some Prop 172 money to emergency responders as required by the text of Prop 172. Since November The Dans have labored long and hard on the matter for four whole months and come up with… NOTHING!

OF COURSE, the simplest idea get some of that Prop 172 money to outback emergency services people would be to propose what Comptche Fire Chief Larry Tunzi proposed years ago: “The increment” — i.e., baseline the revenues at something like the present $7 mil and give anything over that to the Chiefs to allocate as necessary to the various rural districts. But of course Dan #1 is totally tone-deaf and Dan #2 has not been around long enough to know about Tunzi’s proposal.

THE NEWLY FORMED “Fire Districts Association” originally asked for around 30% of the $7 mil — a non-starter since it would take millions from the Sheriff’s budget and would never pass. But of course the County is ethically and legally bound to subsidize the rural fire and ambulance districts with as close to regular reliable funding as possible. (Not that that noble aim has been a factor before.)

IF WE'RE LUCKY someone will suggest the Tunzi idea and things might budge. Otherwise, with Hamburg in the loop, it could take years.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: ‘Amy: The Girl Behind the Music, The Amy Winehouse Story.’ You don’t need me to tell you that this singularly sad and insightful movie is worth watching. The critics are raving about it. But what they don’t say is: One: It’s actually more of a carefully edited and unscripted assemblage of semi-chronological home and personal videos than it is a documentary film. Everybody gets to say whatever they want, there’s no independent research or background material. Given that young people grow up nowadays with iPhones and GoPros grafted onto their wrists, it’s not surprising that much of their life is on a video somewhere, especially if they’re talented and that talent is obvious at an early age. Two: Another overlooked aspect of the film is how much the almost completely unparented young Amy, who grew up in North London, was screwed up by heavy teenage pot smoking. (Reminiscent of Patrick Cockburn’s son’s pot-fueled schizophrenia as wrenchingly described in “Henry’s Demons” co-written by Patrick and his son Henry. Henry was lucky to have had competent, loving parents who could help him — and did. Amy was not so lucky.) The pot obviously made Amy Winehouse into some kind of very talented schizophrenic or bipolar kid who was intensely vulnerable to the emotional ups and downs of a young person’s life. And Three: What a fine musician she was! And what a loss to music! She was a jazz prodigy at an early age and could play some very tasty and advanced jazz guitar to accompany her unique singing voice (which one of her friends correctly described as reminiscent of a polished 65-year old jazz singer’s voice). The clips showing how she developed her own compositions detail her advanced experimentation with sophisticated chord progressions. She later moved away from her jazz roots as producers and promoters convinced her to move to more popular styles, but the poetic lyrics remained achingly sincere and heartfelt — and disturbing in a way that should have been a warning if anyone had been paying attention. Winehouse’s mostly absent father and weak, ineffectual mother come across as contributing factors in Amy running off the rails early on. (For example, in her now-iconic tune “Rehab,” there’s a line that explains the main reason she didn’t want to go: “…and if my daddy thinks I’m fine.” He did, but she wasn’t — and that’s probably why she didn’t wanna go to rehab, no, no, no. Add the pressure of being an instant pop icon almost overnight. After the teenage pot-poisoning, Winehouse went on to the heavy alcohol and drug abuse that tragically killed her at age 28. But based on the film, it looks like the alcohol and heavier drugs were more of a misguided attempt to blot out the effects of her pot-wrecked soul. To someone in their 70s like me, there were some strong overtones of the tragic Judy Garland story, But Judy — who died at age 47 — didn’t have the addiction accelerator of marijuana at an early age that Amy Winehouse had. —ms

PURE GOSSIP. Has the Hopland Band of Pomo Indians really voted to disenroll 50 members of the Sandra Sigala family over embezzlement allegations? Ms. Sigala had been tribal chairwoman, but if her entire family was clearcut because of Granma's alleged transgressions, well, that's a whole lotta payback. Tribal affairs generally aren't discussed with palefaces, but if someone from the tribe can tell us about it we're interested.

FROM THE FORT BRAGG ADVOCATE of 19th March, 1919: "Leung Young Quoi, commonly known as 'Jim the Chinaman,' was found dead in his cabin on the De Haven beach Friday. Deceased is known to have been alive the previous Wednesday morning, but is believed to have died sometime during the day. In this brief period of two days Mr. Chapman found that rats had eaten all the flesh off of the man's hands and head, when he entered the dingy little cabin to take charge of the body. The little hovel was built of driftwood and was without windows, the ceiling being so low that a person had to stoop while moving about inside. Deceased was 80 years old and had resided on the beach for the last 17 years, going there from Noyo. Jim was well known and liked. He made a living by drying sea weed and abalones."

WE NOTE HERE how much more vivid and informative Coast journalism was in the first quarter of the 20th century than it is now in the first quarter of the 21st century.

QUADRANSCENTENNIAL POETRY READING for Enchanted Meadow. A benefit for Friends of Enchanted Meadow, a local nonprofit. Event takes place on Sunday, March 20, doors open 3:30, reading begins at 4 with reception afterwards. Tickets can be purchased at ICONS in Mendocino $15 in advance, $20 at the door. These award winning local poets read for our benefit to save Enchanted Meadow in 1991 and are reuniting for us once more. Deveraux Baker, Gordon Black, Bill Bradd, Cynthia Frank, Lydia Rand, Joe Smith, Dobby Sommer, Ruth Weiss and Theresa Whitehill.

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