Off the Record (May 4, 2016)

by AVA News Service, May 4, 2016

OF ALL THE MURKY deals made by our County’s overpaid, underworked leadership, the new County Courthouse presently beginning to establish itself in Ukiah is the murkiest since, I dunno, DA Susan Massini mysteriously allowed a couple of Fort Bragg crooks to burn down the old Ten Mile Court and adjacent library and a landmark downtown hotel, and, poof! in one brazen hour much of Fort Bragg’s history was in the wind. That was some major murk. The upshot of that one? A murky new Ten Mile Courthouse for Fort Bragg owned at extortionate rents far, far into the future by Dominic Affinito, a private individual. Fort Bragg's then-supervisor, the ineffable Patti Campbell, ran interference for Affinito on that one, her and then FB city manager, Gary Milliman. Cowboy Johnny Pinches wanted the County to build its own courthouse in Fort Bragg, but....

THEN there was the major murk of the hurry-up County Courthouse our over-large delegation of Superior Court judges said we really, really, really needed for Willits “to better serve the north county.” (Whenever you hear lavishly compensated public officials talk "service" you can be sure their "service" is going to cost you a lot of money.)

THE WILLITS COURTHOUSE turned out to be the ugliest structure its size ever erected in Mendocino County. It was used for about a decade before being permanently abandoned, and it sits to this day in the middle of town, a rotting hulk so malignant even the barn swallows fly around it.

WE’VE LISTED the myriad reasons why the new County Courthouse is already a disaster, but the major disaster is for Ukiah, because by establishing the Courthouse three long blocks from the center of town where the present and perfectly adequate County Courthouse is located, Ukiah will be left with a second white elephant in what’s left of its downtown center, the abandoned Palace Hotel being the existing elephant.

WE’RE TRYING to find out what the Northcoast Railroad will do with the money it will soon receive for selling the Courthouse property. The NCRA runs a railroad with no trains, and really exists as a jobs program for featherbedding Democrats well paid to do whatever it is that a railroad with no trains does all day. (The NCRA's present boss is Mitch Stogner, former aide to career Demo officeholders. Stogner pulls down upwards of a hundred grand a year pretending that trains will again run from San Rafael to Eureka. Hard to believe now, but the old Northwestern Pacific Railroad once ran two trains a day to and from Marin, and as late as the 1950s you could board the old Skunk in Fort Bragg, connect with a southbound train in Willits, and be in San Francisco in time to watch the sunset over the Golden Gate.)

AND, count on it. This new County Courthouse structure will cost at least twice the hundred million the judges are claiming it will cost, and for much less than a hundred mil the present County Courthouse could be transformed into the architectural jewel it once was before America went blind.

DowntownUkiah

THE REASONS given for a new County Courthouse include a claim that it’s impossible to install handicapped accessibility to such an old structure, nevermind that it's been done everywhere in the United States in old structures, including the state capitol. The present County Courthouse could be made entirely accessible for the handicapped at much less expense than a whole new structure can be erected.

AND SECURITY. We can never be too secure, can we? Way back, a distraught mommy tried to hand off a gun to her killer son out on the sidewalk as killer boy was being walked into the Courthouse from the transport van. She was quickly disarmed, and that was that, but the judges have ever since cited "security" as a major reason for a new Courthouse, nevermind that prisoners will still have to be driven to the new Courthouse from the County Jail on Low Gap Road.

IF THE JUDGES say they have to sit around "twiddling their thumbs" while waiting for defendants, to be driven over from the County Jail, then there must be too many judges here in Mendo, a county with 9 of them for a population of 90,000, the largest ratio of black robes to population in the state. Also, one of their honors could be permanently posted to the jail to do a lot of routine stuff there instead of hauling people back and forth.

AND WHEN ALL OTHER arguments fail, haul out earthquakes. What if the County Courthouse falls down with everyone in it? What if we're attacked by flying pizzas? What if California falls into the Pacific?

THIS THING boils down to a major misdirection of public money. The judges say it won't cost the taxpayers anything. More bullshit. They and their buildings are funded out of public money and fine money (ever more exorbitant and disproportionate), and this thing has already cost the City of Ukiah in site prep. And Ukiah needs another ugly building like Boonville needs another winery.

AND NOWHERE do the judges mention all the disruption to the County’s supporting offices — (DA, Public Defender, Probation, Jail, private attorneys, staff, etc.) that the new Courthouse will cause. That’s not their problem, not their responsibility, not even mentioned in their cost calculations.

MENDOCINO SPRING POETRY Sunday, May 22. Here we have the 41st anniversary of the Mendocino Spring Poetry Celebration at the Hill House in Mendocino town. Info: Gordon Black, (707) 937-4107, gblack@mcn.org

RANDY BURKE WRITES: "Back around 1982, we were at Candlestick raising hell in the stands. A man of the law approached and requested we tone it down a bit. During the conversation I asked if my son could wear the officer's hat. As you can tell, he obliged and with a smile and let me take the picture. Somehow back then, folks seemed a bit nicer, even the loud ones in the stands. Both son and daughter were impressed."

BurkeAtStick

WELL, THAT WAS FAST! Supervisor Dan Hamburg is getting divorced from Lauren Sinnott, former mayor of Point Arena. The version of the Supervisor's bubbling love life that we have says Hamburg suggested last October that Ms. Sinnott return to Point Arena and stay there. They'd been married about a year, if that. Sinnott begged Hamburg not to divorce her until she could have County-paid surgery on both her feet, which she is in the process of doing. Gentleman Dan agreed. But when the surgery is complete, it's splitsville. Meanwhile, Hamburg has been seeing a married Ukiah woman named Sarah Stark.

WE SENT THE ABOVE to our regal supervisor for comment prior to our publishing it. He replied, “It's Sara not Sarah.”

HAMBURG’S PRIVATE LIFE is nobody’s biz but his. It becomes public business when he uses public money to fix his estranged wife’s feet. On the other hand, who can begrudge the abandoned Ms. Sinnott, a nice lady fallen into narcissism's very cynosure? We hope she lands on her new feet.

IN OTHER NEWS from the fog belt, long-time ICO reporter Lisa Walters has been severed from her job at the Gualala weekly, and her many friends and admirers are wondering why.

WHEN BERNIE SANDERS first announced his run to be the guy in the lead car in the armed limo motorcades, we predicted he’d wind up on the big stage at the Democratic Convention, arms linked with Hillary, urging unity, grinning at the cameras like he’s happy with the way things turned out. Sure enough, that’s where The Bern is headed and, sorry all you people still feeling the Bern, me among them, but if Bernie were truly serious he’d go third party, he’d blow up the Democrats like Trump is because, as he’s said forever, they are the enemies of the vast majority of us. Bern's also said he won’t abandon them. But we knew all along he’d rather switch than fight. So what us proggies are left with is Mandatory Hillary, a person intellectually and emotionally impossible to support.

BERN put it this way this week: “This campaign is going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform that calls for a $15 an hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition free, and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change.”

NO, YOU’RE NOT, BERNIE. You’re going to make a symbolic appearance, run out all of the above as if it has a chance in hell of being adopted by the forces of pure evil, then you’re going to give Hil a great big hug, grin for the cameras, bask in all the, “Gee, Uncle Bernie. Gosh, he tried but now he’s getting serious, and we should too, because look at the alternative.” (We’re heard that now for what? Fifty years? And what could be worse than eight years of Bush and Cheney? )

WE THOUGHT the Republicans would unify behind the weasel Rubio as the least crazy among their candidates. We thought Trump, who’s better on some big issues than Hillary, would have finished himself off by now. But here he is, and we know lots of people who say they're for Bernie but will vote for Trump before they'll even consider voting for Hillary.

AS PER OUR ANCIENT PRACTICE, we’ll vote for the weenie greenies as we listen to local Democrats blame people like us for throwing the election to the other side. Yep. Mos def we will not be aboard the Democrat’s Sociopath Express as we watch Trump beat Hillary in the general election. And, no, he won’t be worse than Bush-Cheney. But Hillary, for sure, will be.

WE ALWAYS KINDA liked Obama. Not for his policies, which are a continuation of Bush-Cheney, but we never understood the hatred he generated. Obama is not a hateful person on a human level. He’s just weak. He couldn’t stand up to the malevolent money arrayed against him. Hillary is the representative of the malevolent. She thinks malice as international policy is good, and benign neglect is viable as internal social policy.

OUR JIVE-O CONGRESSMAN, the usual big-toothed grin machine of the empty suit type popular with Northcoast electoral libs, is a super-delegate for Hillary. A month ahead of the California vote of his alleged constituents, even if Bernie somehow wins the California primary, Congressman Huffman is for Hillary. Huff, natch, has no prob with rigged elections. Here’s how he weasel lipped his Hillary stance: “To my friends who have been urging me to endorse Bernie Sanders for President, and to those who have urged an endorsement of Hillary Clinton, I have an announcement. I like Bernie very much and definitely ‘feel the Bern’ in terms of his positive, authentic, progressive message and especially his relentless focus on addressing income inequality and fixing an economy that is rigged against the middle class. His candidacy is a very good thing for our country and he has already impacted the race in positive ways. Plus, I enjoyed traveling with Bernie and his wonderful wife Jane to Chile last year on a CODEL (Congressional delegation) focused on human rights. I'm also very impressed with Secretary Clinton, especially the strong positions she's taken over the past couple of months on trade, climate, environmental protection, and gun violence. She is uniquely qualified to be President, and her very strong performance in the debate and the sham Benghazi hearing reassures me that her candidacy is only gaining strength. And, as a bonus, I think our country would benefit from electing a qualified woman at long last to be our President. Considering the terrible GOP candidates, the imperative of winning in this very consequential election cycle, and the opportunity to create a wave election in 2016 that returns both the Senate and the House to Democrats, I believe Hillary is our best candidate." Huffman wheezes to his flawed conclusion: "For that reason, and with lots of respect for Bernie, I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and pledging my support as a ‘Super Delegate’ to her at the Democratic convention. I wanted those who are interested in this to know of my decision and my reasoning."

MENDOCINO REDWOOD COMPANY says it is paying too much tax, specifically $9,384 so far paid to the Albion-Little River Fire Protection District. MRC wants the money back. MRC says it doesn’t own property within the Albion-Little River Fire Protection District. County Counsel says MRC is being fairly assessed via County property taxes while MRC has hired big gun lawyers out of Ukiah’s Mannon-King law firm to elude the Albion Fire part of its property taxes.

HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES standing committee of Supervisors John McCowen and Tom Woodhouse are unusually critical of the County staff’s handling of the abortive Animal Shelter privatization process. "…Animal Care Services has continued to be controversial and an ongoing topic of public comment. The Board has also received regular updates from interim Animal Care Services manager Mary Jane Montana but has not had the opportunity to discuss the issues or give direction.”

THE TWO-SUPE committee said they “believe: 1) it was appropriate to close the request for proposal for the shelter privatization] process; 2) the RFP process went on far too long; 3) questions remain about the RFP process and related issues that are not easily resolved; 4) shelter operations, management, staff morale and volunteer relationships suffered during the extended RFP process; 5) there is broad consensus of the need for improvement in Animal Care Services operations, management and transparency; 6) for the benefit of the animals in our care the focus for the immediate future needs to be on improving existing shelter operations.”

COUNTY STAFF (presumably the newer managers they’ve got in Health and Human Services — the “staff” being complained about is gone with the exception of CEO Angelo) “is expected to present information on possible short and long term strategies for improvement of shelter operations and management, including improvements to the physical plant.”

CONCLUSION: “The HHS Standing Committee recommends that the RFP process not be reopened at this time; that staff be directed to consider alternative means of improving shelter operations, including identification and implementation of improved programs, practices and protocols. It is further recommended that the Board consider staff and public input and provide additional direction as deemed appropriate.”

THE BOARD will take input on the subject on Tuesday. Lots of animal people are expected to be on hand.

TOO BAD THE SUPES won't consider the best Shelter option, which could be called “Turn the Shelter over to the Sheriff who has said he would managed it along with its natural co-department, Animal Control, which is already under the Sheriff’s Department like they’ve been doing successfully in Humboldt County for years.”

WE DON'T THINK the Shelter should be privatized, i.e., given over to a wealthy family out of Sonoma County named Mountanos who, we understand, hope to install their daughter, a veterinarian fresh out of college, as boss. The Mountanos bid for the Shelter was rightly rejected by the County as incomplete, which seems to mean deficient in many respects.

WHO'S SPENDING HOW MUCH TO GET ELECTED

Mendocino County Superior Court Department 5 Judge

Patrick Pekin: Money from individual contributors received to date: $2,449. Largest money contribution: Sandy Schmidt, retiree, $300. Total loans received: $40,000 ($20,000 each from Amanda Pekin and Michael Pekin). Expenditures made from campaign finance account: $17,060 (includes value of nonmonetary contributions received, i.e. gifts, or the value of a service provided by an organization/individual to the campaign). Largest expenditure to date: Indie Politics, campaign consultant, $7,753

Keith Faulder: Money contributions received to date: $6,275. Largest money contribution to date: Keith Faulder, attorney at law, $3,000. Total loans received to date: $27,500 from Keith Faulder. Expenditures made from campaign finance account: $4,249. Largest expenditure to date: Delphi, Herb Phillips, campaign consultant/feasibility study, $3,000.

District 1 Board of Supervisors

Carre Brown: (no filings to report)

Montana James Podva: (no filings to report)

Countywide ballot measures

Measure W: Charter Commission: Money contributions received to date: $6,046. Largest money contribution to date: Vandana Shiva Fundraiser ticket sales, $4,849. Total Loans received to date: $1,506 ($1,441 from Robin Sunbeam, and $65 from Mary Zellachild). Expenditures made from campaign finance account to date: $21,380. Largest monetary expenditure to date: 40 books by Vandana Shiva for resale, $538.

Measure V: Public Nuisance Standing Dead Trees.

Citizens for Safe Forests (proponents). Monetary contributions received to date: $5,842. Largest monetary contribution to date: Frey Vineyards, $2,500. Total loans received to date: $0. Expenditures made from campaign finance account to date: $1,832. Largest monetary expenditure to date: Netbrands Media Corp., campaign paraphernalia, $1,350.

Humboldt Redwood Co./Mendocino Redwood Co. (opponents): Total independent expenditures reported: $27,279.

Mental health initiative (Sheriff's initiative)

Revive Mental Health Services (proponents): Monetary contributions received to date: $1,500. Largest monetary contribution to date: Barbara Newell, executive, Performance Coatings Inc., $1,500. Total loans received to date: $0. Expenditures made from campaign finance account to date: $0. Largest monetary expenditure to date: $0

(Note: The mental health initiative has not yet qualified for the ballot.)

THE CLOVERDALE POMOS received federal notice last week that their longstanding request to create a reservation on 62 acres of land in South Cloverdale had been approved, a decision that a tribal representative described as a major step toward developing a third tribal casino in Sonoma County, meaning there may be casinos about every twenty miles through Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Presently, they're about every twenty-five miles apart, although all of them have been hurt by the mega-casino at Rohnert Park.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING. Maybe. I liked it, but I like Hemingway so I was naturally interested in a film about the great writer. It’s called “Papa: Hemingway In Cuba” and filmed in Cuba, much of it in Hemingway’s house near Havana. I’ve always wanted to see that famous house. It’s grander than I’d imagined it from reading about it but of course Hem had become a wealthy man by the time he was 35 or so. But it was the house he lived in most of the time and pre-rev Cuba was the country he seemed to like living in most. It’s not hard to see why from this film.

THE MOVIE’S PRODUCERS say it’s based on a true account by a newspaper writer befriended by Hemingway when the newspaper writer was a very young man. Hard to say how closely the movie resembles either the newspaper guy’s book or the known facts of Hemingway’s life in Cuba, especially the time depicted here, which was when Castro’s revolutionaries were making their move on the usual degenerate, US-backed junta many of us associate with Latin governments and just as many of us assume is the kind of government our State Department prefers.

THE MOVIE EVENTS are so many and so varied they could all be movies by themselves. None of them are boring, but some of them are painful and may or may not be true, They involve Hemingway and his fourth and final wife, Mary. When they were drinking they’d say unforgivably cruel things to each other. Most of us adult-type people have either experienced this kind of thing directly or been unwilling witnesses to couples destroying each other. I’d rather not pay $8 to watch domestic cruelty but, fortunately, we don’t get unbearable amounts of it here. But what we do get is plenty: she belittles him, he says the only wife he loved was his first wife, Hadley.

IN BETWEEN marital battles, Hemingway drinks a lot and drops occasional profundities about how life ought to be lived. We get the most famous and shortest short story ever written, attributed to Hemingway, a newspaper man in his early days whose prose style was newspaper-spare but powerful: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

HEMINGWAY is played by an actor named Adam Sparks. He’s very good as the great man. I thought the entire cast was good, but I'm easily entertained. The movie got real interesting where the famous American fascist and cross-dresser, J. Edgar Hoover, goes after Hemingway because Hemingway, drunk, once told an FBI agent and true Hoover believer that he knew Hoover was gay. Hoover heard about it and devoted much time to investigating Hemingway who was allegedly smuggling guns to the revolutionary Castro. The movie assumes Hemingway was indeed running guns to the revolutionaries. An American gangster, Santos Trafficante, is depicted as getting the news to Hemingway that Hoover was trying to get him.

THIS THING is a kind of Hemingway in Cuba stations of the cross — Castro, Cuba itself as backdrop, American thugs, the writer on his boat, the writer unhappy, the writer with writer’s block, the writer as besieged celebrity, the writer as good guy, the writer as not such a good guy, the writer as suicidal. Which he was 18 months after he left Cuba.

MENDOCINO REDWOOD COMPANY, via one of their pr people we assume, wrote the following to local papers: "To the Editor: Mendocino Redwood Company was created in 1998 from lands purchased in Mendocino and Sonoma county with the publicly declared mission to be good stewards of the forest and at the same time run a successful business. This set a different, sustainable and better path from the legacy of previous owners. In addition to the California Forest Practice Rules, MRC voluntarily subjects itself to third party verification of forest…"

WHICH SET ME a-thinkin.' Mendocino County history is pretty thin, its formal history, that is. A lot of stuff never got written down. I hope someone will straighten me out if I'm wayyyyyy wrong here, but I've seen fleeting mentions here and there from old Ukiah newspapers of smallholders being cheated out of, and even violently driven off, their timberlands and inconvenient in-holdings when the large interests put together the mammoth timber forests we see today in Mendocino County. I imagine a day will come when the local timber families will reverse that process and reclaim corporate forests to run them in small, self-sustaining parcels like, say, Comptche's Hollister Ranch, and we'll be a county of freeholders like Thomas Jefferson had in mind. Of course we're aways away from that glorious day. Mean time, everyone in the in-County timber business is more like a Russian serf from Czarist times, albeit a serf with a tv set and a six-pack, but just as dependent on the master, in the case of MRC, a savage Frisco-based family called Fisher.

IN FACT, Joe Scaramella, former Fifth District Supervisor, remembered small becoming big this way: “Before Masonite, the biggest lumber companies were the Albion Lumber Company, the Caspar Lumber Company, the Mendocino Lumber Company and Fort Bragg Lumber Company. They owned most of the forestland. Interspersed in between those lumber company lands would be private holdings of various sizes and values. I remember around 1910-1912 there was almost a regular war with rifles out here on the road to Boonville. The Eli White Lumber company in what is now Elk was claiming land out there toward the Coast that some of the settlers had filed claims on. I don't know if there was actual shooting, but people were ready to go. The rapacious lumber companies were trying to grab it and these people thought they had prior claims and rights. It was one huge controversy, it was quite a mess there until it finally subsided. I think what finally resolved it was the old ‘money counts.’ The lumber companies backed down for the moment, but soon the farmers and settlers were starved out because most of them still had to sell their lumber to the big mills at prices the mills set. So they had to sell their lands, and ‘somebody’ bought them.”

DEPARTMENT of unintentional humor, the headline in the Ukiah Daily Journal this week that read, "City of Ukiah, Palace Hotel owner still in discussions." Those discussions have been going on for almost a decade now, and we're no closer to resolution than when the discussions began. So a visiting judge wafts into town on golden per diem and advises the two sides — a wacky and underfunded Marin woman who has title to the abandoned hotel, and the lavishly tax-paid lawyer for the dying city of Ukiah — to "mediate." This is the process. Over and over again.

THIS CHRONICLE SENTENCE jumped off the page at me this morning: "Also demonstrating were members of the protest group Black Lives Matter, the Oakland Workers Collective and several self-professed communist organizations, including the Progressive Labor Party, whose members were reminding observers about how they reinvigorated mundane May Day marches in the 1970s."

PROGRESSIVE LABOR? I knew those guys back when, and they were almost all guys, and of those guys probably half were FBI agents. The late John Ross was PL's lead guy. AVA readers will remember John when he wrote for Boonville's beloved community newspaper. John was just about the most fearless person I've known, fearless to where I assumed he wouldn't make it out of the 60s alive, fearless to where I thought he was more than a little nuts. He got beat up by the police a bunch of times, he got beat up by the Black Panthers, he got beat up by passersby on the street who didn't like the bi-lingual sidewalk speeches he delivered in the Mission on Saturday mornings. He insulted me as a "liberal" (which I am, kinda) every time he saw me, and he insulted me by mail, then e-mail when he wrote for the paper. He once wanted to use the paper to insult Alexander Cockburn, a man you insulted at your peril who was also a great personal friend of mine, and as a good friend I wasn't going to sponsor a crazed attack on him. I refused to do it, explaining to John that his denunciation of Cockburn was so unhinged that he, John, would look like a total nut doing it. And then he'd get a prose beating from Cockburn worse than the physical ones he was used to taking. But what I liked best about John was that he wasn't a grudge hoarder. He'd go off and then that was the end of it. Would never bring it up again.

PROGESSIVE LABOR DID INDEED enliven demos. They torqued up the tensions wherever they went. They were Maoists then, probably still are, and, as individuals, smart and funny so long as the subject wasn't politics. But the only political ideas at the abstract level that ever resonated with me were those of the classical anarchists. I thought Maoism, as applied to America and Americans, was so far from any known Americano applicability that you might as well be peddling mass conversion to Islam. So, PL is back? Look for street demos to become much more enlivened for sure.

One Response to Off the Record (May 4, 2016)

  1. BB Grace Reply

    May 7, 2016 at 5:27 am

    re: THE REASONS given for a new County Courthouse include a claim that it’s impossible to install handicapped accessibility to such an old structure,

    Why not attach solar powered vacuum ADA elevators to the exterior (there’s plenty of room) update the modern architecture with new tech? It takes vision beyond insider self preservation.

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