Off the Record (Jun 15, 2016)

by AVA News Service, June 15, 2016

BAD NEWS from the north. We understand that Linda Williams has left her long-time job with The Willits News. An excellent reporter, Linda's loss is one more sign that the chain-owned paper is dying as its distant owners consolidate their Mendo holdings. Those ever more tenuous holdings consist of The Willits News, the Ukiah Daily Journal and the Advocate/Beacon based in Fort Bragg.

LINDA WILLIAMS is not the only casualty at The Willits News. She has departed before the paper's staff is reduced by a third and will henceforth be managed out of the Ukiah Daily Journal's office in Ukiah. By the end of the month The Willits News will consist of three people. On journalo-life support.

WHEN A LONG-TIME reporter like Linda Williams leaves, she takes a library of local knowledge and history with her, and in a transient place like Mendocino County the recent history of the area — 1970 to the present — now resides with about a dozen people, Linda being one of them, and a crucial one of them. Sure, there are old timers in Willits and every other community in the County who know some part of the local history. But newspaper people, simply because they're in place to hear and write about local people and events on a daily basis, know a lot more. We often joke at the AVA that if we printed everything we know we'd have to move around in a Humvee surrounded by Seal Team Six. Official history is pretty tame. The off the record stuff is the true history of this place. Newspaper people know what a wild and crazy place this endlessly fascinating county is. I'm sure Linda Williams could tell some stories....

OUR ONGOING JOKE here at Boonville's beloved weekly is that we find ourselves in our seventh decade publishing an English language paper in a Spanish-speaking community as all of America under the age of sixty goes twitter tweet-tweet. Objectively, I'd have to say the enterprise is doomed.

THE INFORMAL HISTORY we've accumulated resides in about thirty boxes of random diary-like notes and miscellaneous stuff, much of which, like a Mendo version of the Kennedy Assassination files, will have to remain unopened for at least a hundred years. Great reading for the great-grandkids, though. (If someone’s around to translate it into emoticons…)

“LOOK WHAT I FOUND at the Antique Market!”

AtTheAntiqueMarket

POINT ARENA High School students took to Main Street last week to protest the firings of three teachers at the high school. Mendocino Unified also dumped three teachers mid-term while Fort Bragg gave four teachers and Superintendent Bush their walking papers. As MSP asked, "Where are the teacher's unions? They're mute. There's something amiss when students take the lead over the teacher unions. It boggles the mind."

MSP CONTINUES: "We saw this post from one of the teachers involved in the dismissals (Whitney Badgett Hasan): "I just want to say how much I love our community and our students. I have no words for what they did today in support of teachers, fellow students, and our community. They are brave, intelligent, creative, talented and absolutely amazing. I will never forget this day and am still at a loss for words about their support and kindness and I am forever humbled. All I can say is thank you, from the bottom of my heart."

PA SCIENCE TEACHER, Roger Little, had a gag order imposed on him by Arena's lockstep school board and administration. A gag order? No one around here that we talked to can remember that happening to any local schoolteacher, ever.

LITTLE, a PhD, teaches physics, chemistry and biology, and try replacing him, a guy with years of experience working in these fields in private industry. Advanced placement science instruction is hard to find in the Mendocino County schools, and for a school administration to alienate a man of Little's bona fides is simply one more indication that the Point Arena schools are run by people who either don't know what they're doing or don't care.

THANKS to agitation by Judy Valadao and other Fort Braggers, the Fort Bragg City Council will at last question, and perhaps even audit, the world's most costly garden project, a joint venture worth $187,000 between the City Of Fort Bragg And Mendocino County Hospitality Center aimed at rehabbing "homeless" people.

THE RAPE HEARD ROUND THE WORLD, an on-line comment: "No one gives a whit about the victim in this case. They can't, or it least it's difficult to, since her anonymity has been preserved by the court, as it should be. All that's left for them is their tabloid-and-talk-show-cured internet outrage, and an online target for their comments section venom. Turner, the rapist, is the perfect villain for soft, fat, angry American contempt. I am in no way excusing his behavior or sanctioning the relative leniency of his judicial sentencing, but the commentigentsia is far more interested in letting the Internet know how angry they are at the rapist then they are in making changes to prevent future rapes. Bravo, Internet Echo Chamber; you've done it again."

EVERYONE with ordinary human sympathies feels for the young woman assaulted by the Stanford necrophiliac. And her own statement about the crime is simply brilliant. She has definitely been heard from. And we'll probably hear directly from her when she's ready to be heard from directly.

WE AGREE that the judge should go. Like the perp, he's a Stanford guy and by definition a privileged person who meted out a wrist slap of a sentence to another blonde suburban beast, probably out of fond recall for his own easy slide through higher ed.

ORDINARILY, rape is an automatic 2-4 years in prison, not six months in a county jail that sees the perp out in three months. 2-4 years is the statutory minimum. In this circumstance the punk should have gotten a lot more time, which might have sent a message to the rest of the frat heads at "the prestigious university" where, according to a news report, there's an average of a rape a week.

THE STANFORD CASE has again brought seething class resentments to a boil. Class privilege is driving much of the anger over this depressing event, one more depressing event in a daily deluge of them, so many that the deluge numbs us to many of them. If the victim hadn't been so extraordinarily articulate, she would have simply been one more victim of a justice system terribly skewed to money and influence.

IN THE ONGOING DELUGE of anger at the judge and the perp, there is of course the predictable political cash-in by opportunists like Joe Biden who took precious time out of his busy schedule doing nothing to write a minor masterpiece of false feeling in the form of an "open letter" to the victim. When I saw the front-page Chronicle headline announcing Biden's croc tears, I flashed back to that creepy visual of Biden caressing the wincing wife of some White House big shot as he whispered perv-drenched endearments into the trapped woman's ear. I'll bet Biden knows a thing or two about rape. Scott Simon of NPR, who long ago established the national standard for generalized fraudulent emotion was, of course, almost weeping with indignation.

SO, WE HAVE the usual national hypocrisy festival complete with vows from our cash and carry elected cadres to stop rape. Of middle-class white girls especially. I had to laugh at the Press Democrat's bold editorial called "Rape is rape, not '20 minutes of action’." That was the rapist's psychopathic father who said that, but I personally have yet to meet a single person who (1) reads Press Democrat editorials and (2) wouldn't read one even if it announced that the entire editorial staff had suddenly died from reading their own prose.

THE SILLIEST COMMENT I saw was in the SF Chron, sillier by the day with wayyyy too much fluff by prose-handicapped columnists. This one was a guest commenter whose title was, "The other reason for Brock Turner's short sentence." The other reason? He'd get assaulted in the county jail, maybe even sexually assaulted. Not a chance. Most people are doing only a few months in a county jail. They just want to do their time and get out. They are unlikely to risk a much longer sentence by attacking an infamously famous person. Anyway, jails are pretty well managed these days. The hard cases are kept separate from the catch-of-the-day people, with the vulnerable — crazy people, mainly — being confined to their own unit. Real bad guys of the assaultive type are housed in isolation cells. A criminal like the now world-renowned Turner would also be held in isolation simply because jail staffers have enough to deal with without lawsuits on top of their nearly impossible jobs. The worst thing about county jails is noise, followed closely by boredom. Food isn't all that bad and there is a lot of lively conversation, livelier than, say, you'll find anywhere during Pinot Fest.

OBAMA CARE is one of the great smash and grab crimes ever foisted off on Americans, which is saying a lot considering that our owners and their elected gofers are always thinking up new ways to rip us off. The insurance combines wrote Obama Care and we get the IRS sicced on us if we don't sign up. The Democrats are hailing this breathtaking rip-off as one of Obama's signal accomplishments, along with wiping out thousands of women and children who happen to share a house with an alleged terrorist when Obama's drone strikes.

A YOUNG BOONVILLE working guy we know makes about thirty grand a year. His Obama health insurance costs him $300 a month with, get this, a $5,000 deductible! And this scam will likely cost him more because the insurance carriers can raise rates whenever they feel like raising them. Not to mention the co-pays if he ever actual needs professional medical attention.

HERE'S SOME MORE bad info for you. The Ellen McArthur Foundation reports that by 2015 there was more plastic than fish in the sea. About one third of all plastic produced winds up in the ocean, the McArthur study found. Every minute, tons of plastic leaks into the ocean, which is equivalent to a garbage truck dumping it in every minute.

UNSOLICITED praise for Paul McCarthy's wondrous blog, MendocinoSportsPlus. The indefatigable Elk journalist gets up a truly amazing volume of mostly local news and information every day, including all events great and small from the Mendocino Coast, from passing ship traffic, to videos of school graduation ceremonies, breaking police news, the weather, and, of course, local sports all the way down to coed softball. If you don't send this guy a few appreciative bucks, give him an attaboy when you see him around. I check in with MSP at least a couple of times a day.

KEITH FAULDER'S election as Mendo Superior Court judge is bad news for Ukiah murder "suspect," Dr. Peter Keegan. A few days after Keegan bludgeoned Mrs. Keegan to death, his wife of thirty years, the doctor hired Faulder, a first rate criminal defense attorney. The doctor said Mrs. Keegan had died from a bathroom fall, so why would he hustle out and get himself the top legal gun in the County? (Because he did it.) The Faulder hire is only one piece of evidence against the healing professional in a tsunami of evidence pointing straight at him. Unaccountably, Mrs. Keegan's murder remains unprosecuted five years later although her official cause of death reads "homicide." Doctor Keegan was the only person alive in the Keegan home when the sun came up, a fact that would eventually rouse suspicion though at first it magically didn't.

WE THINK KEEGAN has gone unprosecuted because DA Eyster, an excellent courtroom attorney himself, has been afraid to take on Keegan and Faulder, as if it's the DA's decision to decide life and death matters and not a jury's mandated responsibility. Any capable defense attorney is likely to inspire "reasonable doubt" in the mind of a juror or two, but that's no reason for DA Eyster NOT to let a jury decide if they think Doctor Keegan murdered his wife.

SUPERVISOR JOHN McCOWEN resigned from everything but his Board seat last Tuesday after his colleagues delivered what McCowen called “a slap in the face” concerning his and Supervisor Tom Woodhouse’s work on the County’s Marijuana Ad Hoc Committee. Aggrieved, Supervisor McCowen had considered their committee work complete and ready for the Board to review, but the specifics of his complaint were left unclear as McCowen referred to unspecified comments from a previous board meeting when he said his colleagues “would not be surprised” by his resigning from his other committees after the vote to turn it over to General Government.

SUPERVISOR CARRE BROWN seemed to be the driving force for turning the marijuana regulation preparation task over to her own General Government Committee because, she said, they had a tight timeline to meet the state requirements to have an ordinance in place by early next year and running it through too many committees while still holding the necessary public hearings would take too long.

SINCE the new rules treat growers who apply for permits as “farmers” doing “agriculture” (if they meet extensive and expensive state and county rules and permit requirements), it’s possible that Supervisor Brown, who sees herself as the Farm Bureau/Ag Supervisor and who certainly has her share of pot growers in her Potter Valley constituency, now thinks she ought to have more to do with the new regulatory/taxation process. (Supervisor Brown might also see a water angle with the process, but that’s just speculation.) At last count there were only 58 applicants for permits under whatever the new rules look like, but even that small number requires the County to have a whole new series of fees, zoning and taxation regs (on top of the cultivation rules that previously existed) in place on schedule.

FOR HIS PART, Supervisor Woodhouse was happy to be free of the pot reg drafting committee saying it “wasn’t fun” dealing with self-interested, greedy pot growers, apparently even the ones who were willing to come forward and get County/state permits to grow their pot.

A POLISHED lawyerish woman on the County’s staff named Sarah Dukett — who clearly has her act together and knows her subject matter — seems to be the lead staffer in the reg-writing process, as she introduced a draft set of regs to the Board that she claimed no one had previously seen.

SO EVEN though McCowen had gone to some trouble to submit a comprehensive list of the marijuana ad hoc committee’s accomplishments last week, Ms. Dukett's draft doesn’t seem to have derived from the McCowen/Woodhouse committee. McCowen has been slaving away on the County’s various pot rules for years and would seem to be a legitimate expert on the subject and it’s not hard to believe he’d be miffed to have the subject taken off his agenda at this late date.

BUT TO QUIT all the other committees he’s on seems like an overreaction. Maybe things will calm down as the process proceeds.

POSTSCRIPT to yesterday’s report about Supervisor John McCowen’s unhappiness about the transfer of the marijuana regulation preparation process from McCowen and Supervisor Woodhouse's marijuana ad hoc committee to the general government committee. Last week, Willits Weekly reporter Mike A'Dair reported on the situation. At the end of his report Mr. A'Dair provides a list of committees which McCowen has resigned from: the Criminal Justice Committee, the Tax Sharing Ad Hoc (a years-long seemingly futile attempt to share sales taxes in the Ukiah Valley between the City of Ukiah and the County), the Little River Airport Ad Hoc Committee, the Ad Hoc Committee trying to settle a legal dispute with Solid Waste Systems, and an Ad Hoc Committee attempting negotiate rate adjustments with Solid Wastes of Willits.

SUPERVISOR MCCOWEN may be on other committees that he has not yet resigned from. It’s very hard to navigate the County’s many layers of optional and required committees, boards, commissions, joint powers authorities, districts, etc. McCowen is probably still on a few statutorily-required board and commission appointments that he cannot resign from. But A’Dair’s list shows he’s resigned from all of his voluntary positions.

SUPERVISOR McCOWEN RESPONDS (and explains):

"Contrary to your initial report, I have not resigned from everything but my Board seat, but only from the Board of Supervisors standing and ad hoc committees. The Health and Human Services Standing Committee is currently reviewing mental health related contracts with a goal of having them all easily accessible online so that anyone may review them at their leisure. The Criminal Justice Committee has yet to meet this year and the three ad hoc committees to which I am currently appointed have not been particularly active.

I SUPPORTED DISBANDING the medical marijuana ad hoc committee (I made the motion to do so) for the simple reason that the committee, appointed last November, had completed its work. The committee reported back in December, as scheduled, and recommended adoption of an updated cultivation ordinance and submitted a timeline for doing so. The timeline anticipated adoption of an updated ordinance this spring. The ad hoc reported back with a long list of recommendations and supporting information on March 15. The Board gave direction at that time on some issues, but not others. The ad hoc reported again on April 18, seeking Board direction on those issues that were still unresolved, but the Board remained non-commital on a number of key issues.

ALSO ON APRIL 18, the ad hoc reported that development of an amended cultivation ordinance would be delayed several months due to the need for environmental review and concurrent adoption of an ordinance amending the zoning code, an action that also requires Planning Commission review. I will take my share of responsibility for thinking an amended cultivation ordinance with enhanced environmental protections could be adopted by introducing it at one meeting of the Board of Supervisors and approving it at the next, but a number of individuals in Planning & Building and County Counsel could have said that was unrealistic when the Board adopted a timeline back in December.

ON MAY 16TH, at the urging of staff, the ad hoc again sought Board direction, this time successfully, on several remaining issues so that staff could complete an amended draft ordinance for final Board review before sending it to the Planning Commission. At this point, in my opinion, the work of the ad hoc committee was complete. But as often proves to be the case in human events, opinions vary.

THE WORK OF THE AD HOC committee was challenging, partly because various stakeholders, especially marijuana advocates, were actively lobbying all members of the Board of Supervisors, as well as County staff that were working on the issue. The ad hoc was under a lot of pressure from the marijuana advocates to be as permissive as possible. I believe I speak for my colleague on the ad hoc [Supervisor Tom Woodhouse] when I say our intent was to balance the interests of the growers with the interests of the general community and the environment. Overall, I believe we succeeded. The Board did agree with most of our recommendations and revised a few of them in line with their own concerns and those of their constituents.

I DISAGREE WITH, but respect, the decision of the Board on June 8 to refer the issue to the General Government Standing Committee. In fact, later that same day, at my suggestion, the Board referred the possible development of a local marijuana tax to the same committee. What I do not respect is the direction that appears to have been given by the Executive Office for various staff, including an appointed department head, to act as if the ad hoc committee had been disbanded prior to that decision having being made by the Board of Supervisors."

PS FROM McCOWEN: "Just a few minor corrections and clarifications: There is no pending State deadline for the County to adopt an ordinance. Local cultivators will need a permit from the County in order to get a State license, but State licenses will not be available until 2018. The number 58 refers to the number of growers who registered with the Ag Commissioner indicating a willingness to apply for permits once permits are available. Enthusiasm for registration fell after it was announced on April 18 that the amended cultivation ordinance would probably not be in place this year. Meanwhile, permit applications are being accepted for the urgency ordinance that was adopted by the Board on May 17th. I don't know the current number of applications but it is probably approaching the number of registrations. No one expected all the growers to rush forward and apply for permits at the first opportunity. But State law will require everyone to have both a local permit and a State license by 2018 unless they qualify for limited exemptions for patients and caregivers.

“YOU ARE CORRECT that Administrative Analyst Sarah Dukett is the lead on this issue for the Executive Office, but Ag Commissioner Chuck Morse, per Board direction on March 15, is the lead author for the updated ordinance, in collaboration with County Counsel and other relevant County departments. A complete draft of an amended ordinance has not been presented to the Board, but will be presented to the General Government Standing Committee on June 20th at which point it will be a public document. Following review by the General Government Standing Committee, I believe the plan is for the draft ordinance to be presented to the Board of Supervisors. It will then be subject to the environmental review process and consideration by the Planning Commission prior to returning to the Board for possible approval. The entire process is expected to take approximately six months from now to final adoption."

MCCOWEN DOESN’T SAY SO DIRECTLY, but the obvious conclusion is that his resignation(s) was/were triggered by orders from the County Executive Office to bypass his committee, a committee of the Board of Supervisors. But the Executive office is an “office,” not a person. Assuming McCowen is correct, who gave the order? Only CEO Carmel Angelo can direct a department head (like the Ag Commissioner). But which department head? County counsel? Planning and Building? The Ag Commissioner? All of the above?

WE HAVE LONG thought that CEO Angelo wields too much power and frequently wields it in a heavy handed way if anyone dares to cross her. Maybe McCowen was trying to send a signal that his colleagues might pick. Obviously, it hasn’t worked. So far.

THE HEADLINE READ: TOPLESS COURT-INVADER WITH ‘TRUMP SUCKS’ PAINTED ON HIS CHEST STORMS NBA FINALS. The ‘Trump Sucks’ guy charged on to the court during Friday night's playoff basketball game between the Warriors and the Cavs. The NBA, and its courtside announcer-shills, pretended it didn't happen. Viewers were neither shown nor told what had happened. We didn't see the pictures of the disruption until Saturday morning. Not that we approve of drunks and random nuts running on to the fields of play, but denying us viewers the occasional disruption assumes that ball games are somehow apart from the real world. The NBA did let us see Draymond's famous kick to Adam's pills and last night's almost-fight between Draymond and LeBron. The Trump Sucks guy was the first political streaker we've seen in years. He'd undoubtedly paid a small fortune to get into the auditorium, and we just have to admire his political commitment. Oh, and one more minor beef: How about an occasional close-up of interesting fans. During the Giants telecasts we get them. Granted, baseball has a lot more time between plays but basketball draws some real doozies. Let's see one occasionally for our End of Days memory book.

TrumpSucks

SOME UNEXPECTED good sense out of Chron movie reviewer, Mick LaSalle, as he begins a Sunday assessment of "Genius," a movie based on a famous editor, Max Perkins, and his work with the great American novelist-writer, Thomas Wolfe. I haven't seen "Genius" yet, but LaSalle's description of what editors do, or used to do, is the best I've seen:

"Of all the creative gifts, the ability to edit — that is, to edit text — is the least heralded and the least understood. Most people have never been edited, and of those who benefit from it most tend to forget that the editing ever happened. But the ability to see a shape within a mess, to recognize a structure before it’s in place, to understand on a first read what there is that doesn't belong and what belongs that isn't there — this is no casual talent."

AND A TALENT that Perkins brought to the gifted Wolfe. Perkins saw the shape within Wolfe's mountainous, handwritten manuscripts and made four truly great books out of Wolfe's piles of prose. Wolfe is often sneered at these days in the lit crit sectors of the faculty lounge, but his work holds up quite well, as does that of Ernest Hemingway, who Perkins also edited.

THERE ARE A FEW BOOK EDITORS still around, I guess, but they're as doomed as books and newspapers. Hundreds of lesser "editors" are still employed by newspapers, but they function more as gatekeepers than editors in the Perkins sense. (Yes, yes, I know. The editor of this paper also functions as a kind of gatekeeper who sees his function as partly line editor for writers who need it, and partly as the guy who tries to keep the entire weekly production tight and bright, and as reflective of the life of Mendocino County as it is lived.)

TAKE THE PRESS DEMOCRAT'S posse of so-called editors. (And the Chron's for that matter.) Their primary task is to remove any comment likely to upset the wine industry. Second, they ensure that Santa Rosa's and Sonoma County's reps come off as the elected equivalents of Socrates, and not the corporate toadies we all know them to be. The daily result is the newspaper equivalent of Live At Five, a blandly errant collection of received opinion, barely re-written police reports, shrinked-wrapped blonde babes babbling about the weather, and huzzahs for billionaires and their elected gofers. If you've ever wondered why print and television news media are so pathetic, look no farther/further than their editors. And owners, of course. Farther/further? Get me an editor, quick.

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