Off the Record (July 13, 2016)

by AVA News Service, July 13, 2016

AS BERNIE goes over to Hillary and establishes himself as one of our doomed country's more spectacular sell-outs, there's nothing left to say other than we predicted The Bern's capitulation when he first announced, declaring he had every intention of remaining inside the party of endless war and Wall Street. He told us up front he'd go over to Rodan. Serious people will now go all out for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate while, locally, Mendolib goes all out for Hillary, complete with the ancient lib lab keening that the other guy is worse and, for god's sake, think of the Supreme Court! It's all too awful to contemplate and, around here, where some of my best friends are Mendolibs, and who you could probably trust to babysit the kids — uh, check that — trust to babysit the kids so long as the kids don't include teenage girls.

I WROTE TO KZYX's station manager, the besieged Lorraine Dechter, to volunteer myself as the audio antidote to the hours of Democrat propaganda the station dependably donates to Mendolib at election time. Ms. D said she'd keep me in mind, but I doubt if the libs would stand for it. They'll go for the usual usuals droning on about the necessity of Hillary and how "exciting" — liberals exist on a current of perpetual excitement — they are that at last "we" have a woman running for president and so, not mentioning and probably not caring that Hillary is an ongoing disaster, gender being far more important, you see, than melting polar ice caps and drone assaults on whole families of Arabs. It's an ugly time, and boy o boy o do we have the candidates to match.

ELECTIONS OFFICE HAS PROBLEMS, a post-election editorial comment by KC Meadows of the Ukiah Daily Journal we find eminently worth re-printing here:

The question on lots of lips in this County for the past three weeks has been: “Why does it take so darn long for our election results to come out? To still have no results after a June 7 election is really ridiculous."

We agree.

County Clerk Sue Ranochak released the final results of the June 7 election late Thursday, July 1. We talked to Ranochak last week about why it takes so long, but before we get to that, we want to say that we are very concerned to hear from citizen observers of the elections process that Ranochak’s office was borderline hostile to them and certainly not inclusive.

According to the California Secretary of State’s office, election observers have the right to: “View the canvass of the vote activities following the election” and, “View vote-by-mail and provisional ballot processing.” We have been told that local observers were kept out of the room where counting was being done and were sometimes kept behind obstructed windows. While Ranochak has lots of leeway on how she allows observers to view the process, the Secretary of State’s guidelines assume that the observers are at least allowed in the room. For instance, the guidelines say elections officials can: “Use discretion in determining a sufficiently close distance for observers to stand from the process they want to observe” and, “Restrict the number of observers permitted in a room to prevent interference with the observed process.” It does not say, elections officials can make observers stand outside the room and try to see in where they can. Ranochak better think carefully about the impression she is giving of a lack of transparency if she doesn’t want a grand jury on her case soon.

As for the time it has taken to get this June’s election’s ballots counted, Ranochak says that there are two things that happen that hold up the process: the counting of the mail-in ballots that are either mailed at the last moment or brought to polls (about 15,000 this election), and the provisional ballots, which is where someone walks into a polling place and says “I want to vote” but it is not their polling place and they just fill out a ballot on the spot (about 900) this election.

Ranochak says her teams got all the mail-in ballots canvassed (meaning they were checked for authenticity, signatures, etc) by the Thursday after the election, June 9. Then the ballots are opened and counted, which takes another week, in this case, until June 16. During that time they also do a 1% physical count of the voting machine ballots to make sure the election night count is not wildly off.

Ranochak says she personally, with her highest ranking assistant, canvasses the provisional ballots, checking the name against voters rolls and precincts making sure someone isn’t voting twice (which was the case in three instances this election). After that, those ballots need also to be opened and counted. All of that took until Wednesday, June 29.

We asked Ranochak if she had more people, would the process move faster. She says no, since she likes to be able to supervise closely and the county offices don’t have the space to spread out.

We asked if opening more polling places and letting people vote there instead of dropping off mail ballots at polls would help. Ranochak said no, that polling places were the main problem since that’s where all the labor intensive provisional votes come from.

Here’s what we think:

• Forcing people into mail-in voting has simply elongated the process since people like to wait until the last minute to make up their minds and they like to go to polls. If polls were open all over the county, people wouldn’t be dropping off ballots there, they’d be voting there and the results would come in within 24 hours if not sooner.

• Even if 900 people go to the wrong precincts to vote and create provisional ballots, if you have the other 27,000 votes in the machines, it doesn’t matter if it takes two weeks to count the 900. Also if only people who were going to be out of town, or are unable to get to the polls, vote by mail, again, the majority of votes would still be counted on election night.

We know that clerks all over the state are trying to force everyone into mail-in voting. Why? Because it’s convenient for them. But you know what that means in the long run? Continued long delays while all the ballots mailed on election night are counted. Let’s reopen the polls in every town in Mendocino County! We have answers for the inevitable complaints: “You can’t get poll workers,” “There aren’t enough potential poll locations,” “We don’t have the staff,” blah blah blah.

We bet our readers do too. Just ask us.

A BOND INITIATIVE aimed at providing $2 billion worth of housing and other services for homeless California residents was signed into law last week.

THE HEADLINE REFERENCE to this homeless bond sucked me in. I have definite opinions on the subject, which I too often lay on you, suffering readers, but it's a deadly serious subject that should not be trivialized by jive-o public officeholders like our local state reps who think more money tossed at the "homeless" will get them indoors.

HOMELESSNESS cannot be solved by funneling millions more public dollars into existing bureaucracies and bumbling apparatuses like the private non-profits we find at Hospitality House in Fort Bragg and Plowshares in Ukiah. These programs have become THE problem.

BE REAL HERE. If you help a person addicted to alcohol and/or drugs by giving him a free meal every day and just enough tangible help to enable him or her to continue to drink and drug, YOU are the problem. And that's what we do now, and that's what "liberals" like State Senator McGuire want to do more of.

NEITHER of the political parties have addressed homelessness. The Hillarys and the McGuires can be depended on to shovel endless money into existing programs because the people who run and work in these programs are all Hillary and McGuire voters. They comprise a big part of the national Democratic Party. Trump, who is unaffiliated with the helping pros, and is much more pragmatic on lots of issues because he's not beholden to much of anyone, might actually do some good re the homeless. Of course, on the way he might also blow up the remaining parts of the world overlooked by Bush, Obama and Hillary.

TO GET THE MISERABLE BASTARDS off the streets and outta the bushes, we should begin with the assumption that any person unwilling or unable to care for himself or herself simply cannot be permitted to destroy public places. They've got to be compelled indoors, and there's got to be an indoors to compel them to.

SO, WHERE do they all go? A revived state-by-state hospital system for openers and, for the many thousands of honest, unaddicted, sane persons pushed out of doors by the extortionate price of shelter, the federal government must immediately build and subsidize genuinely low-cost housing.

THE ENTRENCHED LEADERSHIP — the Northcoast has been gerrymandered to keep the McGuire-Huffman-Hillary types in office forever — isn't even talking about realistic solutions to homelessness — er, check that: Gary Johnson, the libertarian candidate, in San Francisco the other day, suggested that The City re-route the annual millions it's presently spending on obviously failed homeless strategies, to immediately build 50,000 units on freed-up city-owned land. The gasps were audible.

BUT YUP. There you go. A plain, doable solution that won't get done in "liberal" San Francisco (or anywhere else) because the conservative liberals who dominate Frisco would never allow it, not to mention the small army of people getting paid to "help" the homeless, every one of them a Hillary Democrat.

McGuire

McGuire

TO REDUCE at least a little of the torrent of insults we unleash on State Senator McGuire every week, the fresh-faced little rascal actually tried to do some specific good recently via a failed bill that would slow down the wholesale use of drugs to cool out foster children who, as we know, otherwise have no defenders. McGuire notes that in 2014-15 "more than 8,000 complaints were advanced to California's Medical Board about over-prescribing of medications, but not one complaint came from the California foster care system."

MCN TALKS FOOD. Alan Haack wrote: The only food in the average store is in the outer aisle, the produce and dairy section. All the rest is boxed, canned and factory processed non-food. Except for olive oil, vinegar and wine, what reason is there to go into the center of most grocery stores?

MARCO MCCLEAN REPLIES: Well, let's see: frozen pizzas, frozen vegetables, frozen meatballs, half-and-half, eggs, forty different kinds of pasta, forty different kinds of pasta sauce, canned beans, sardines, 200 different kinds of crackers and cookies, toothbrushes and real toothpaste, ice cream, filleted meat and fish, a hundred kinds of soda pop (including sugarless), wonderful chicken corndogs (three together microwave in in two minutes) (and mustard, of course), granulated spices...I find that the Safeway Signature brand is economical and generally the best tasting, throughout Safeway, at least. The SS rising-crust frozen pizzas are pretty good, and they're as cheap by the pound as plain bread. Half a medium fits nicely in the toaster oven.Wine? Bleagh! There's more poison in a glass of wine than in normal amounts all of those other things put together. Alcohol harms (and kills) more people every year than car accidents do, and that's just from its health effects; add to it that it's implicated in most car and gun deaths too, and isn't it weird that alcohol and tobacco are perfectly legal and they're still locking people in jail for weed?Speaking of alcohol and gun deaths, it occurs to me to ask John Redding if he thinks it should be legal for a person who drinks alcohol to have a gun? The founding fathers obviously thought so, they were constantly drunk. But it took a couple of minutes to get a gun ready to shoot, then. You had to be able to see straight to pour in the powder, pack in the ball, clamp the flint properly, and so on, and that gave you a little time to cool down after feeling hotly insulted or having your manhood impugned. You couldn't drive by with one hand and shoot everyone on the sidewalk with the other one. Times change. That's why we have the amendment process that gave yez the second amendment in the first place. It's an amendment.

THE TRANSFORMATION of Point Arena's Sea Shell Inn is downright jaw-dropping. What was recently a fog belt sin center — tweeters, twackers, clackers, hookers, and shmookers — is now The Wildflower Boutique Motel! If the walls of this place could talk…

SeaShellInn2

THE MENDOCINO REDWOOD COMPANY, A BRIEF Q&A:

Q: Haven't they already hacked and squirted the largest tracts?

A: In sixteen years they've done a lot, but that was still only about a third of their total holdings. (One of the core problems here is they own too damn much, which induces them to think in terms industrial.) MRC recently told their greenwashing outfit (Forest Stewardship Council-FSC) that they wanted to continue doing hack&squirt for another 20-30 years.

Q: Will it be worth it in public relations to use hack and squirt permanently?

A: This is part of what makes MRC's upcoming decision so interesting. Hack&Squirt has become an obvious PR nightmare for them, and they could gain a lot of good will by scaling it back now. (This latest Mendocino referendum was a public repudiation of last year's cowardly Board of Supervisors votes from the three nays: McCowen, Brown, and Woodhouse.) After cutting tanoak and observing the effects for years now, my guess is they will: look for ways to get rid of the tanoak trunk wood (firewood being one obvious example); lop and scatter the smaller material (branches and leaves); and continue poisoning the largest and most troublesome stumps. The gyppos like this because it creates more work for them (that is, cutting and extracting tanoak, as they already do with conifers).

ONCE A WEEK, trying to remember what my purpose is, I stride purposefully past the somnolent offices of State Senator McGuire and Assemblyman Wood, and on through the blank halls of the mostly vacant and mildly creepy Ukiah Visitor's Center. I'm there solely to use the men's facilities where there are enough urinals to accommodate the SF Opera. I get the feeling that I might be the only guy all day to avail himself of these amenities. There's usually some earnest-looking person sitting at a desk in the see-through sterility of Mike and Jim's cubicles. I suppose they're doing the public's business. Or trying to look plausibly busy. I asked five random citizens around Boonville if they'd ever called on either McGuire or Wood for anything. The answers ranged from, "Who?" to "Why would I?"

IF MEMORY SERVES, Mendolib, Inland Branch, diverted a whole lot of public money to build the Visitor Center on the fatal but touching assumption that groups of people would come to Ukiah on purpose. Never happened, of course, and there it sits complete with no smoking signs and handicapped parking spaces, like a birthday party where nobody showed up. (Boonville, I believe, boasts the largest number of handicapped parking spaces on the Northcoast; we've got 19 at the Boonville Fairgrounds. Not far away, on Anderson Valley Way, at a beautifully re-done old building converted to a roadside fruit and vegetable stand, a six-foot handicapped parking sign disfigures the entire visual for a quarter mile around. I'm not saying that the handicapped, mostly fat people too portly to walk, should crawl up to the counters of retail businesses, but these signs are outta hand. Do we really need five million handicapped signs for a thousand cripples?)

A LONG-TIME RESIDENT of Ukiah writes about the Ukiah Visitor Center: "If we’re talking about the old JC Penney building that the city took over, the idea was to let 'starter' companies take retail space for free or very low rent so they would be able to grow, prosper, become independent and move out to some vacant lot and hire high paid workers to sell classy stuff without having to chop down trees or drill for offshore oil. They wanted people kinda like Ross Liberty but without the blue collar image and the Libertarian views. They called it 'incubating' a business. Karen Record opened her Mendocino Bounty shop in the convention center about 15 years ago, and has taken over more and more interior space as walls get knocked down to accommodate her inventory. She’ll be leaving the nest any day now. Tom Liden opened a photography studio at the convention center even though he owned his own building a few block away (corner of Main and Church Streets) with an existing photo studio. The rent was so low, why not? (He still has the original studio.) Everything else seems to be local politician offices or empty 'conference'rooms that can be rented out."

MENDO DA DAVID EYSTER released his up-to-date pot stats last week: 2nd Quarter 2016 Non-medicinal Marijuana Prosecution Stats: Fifty (50) individuals charged in Mendocino County with illegal marijuana-related primary offenses had their case resolved during the 2nd quarter of the 2016 calendar year. The resulting conviction rate for the quarter was 92%. It is noted that convictions for BHO and other chemical extraction labs are not included in these stats.

Of the 50 people charged, four (4) individuals had all charges dismissed against them. Two (2) defendants were convicted of non-marijuana misdemeanors. One (1) defendant was convicted of a related non-marijuana felony. Thirty-one (31) defendants were convicted of a marijuana-related misdemeanor. Twelve (12) individuals were convicted of a marijuana-related felony. Seven (7) of the 12 felons (58%) received prison sentences, with one of that seven being sentenced to state prison. The other six received commitments in the local prison (jail), as mandated by the Governor's Realignment laws.

The 33 misdemeanants and 5 of the 12 felons are now on either supervised (formal) or summary (informal) probation. All 38 are subject to warrantless search and seizure on demand of any peace officers, as well as being subject to other terms and conditions. As one term of their probation, 27 of the probationers must perform a collective 3,670 hours of community service, with monitoring of their enrollment and completion of the hours undertaken by the staff of Mendo-Lake Alternative Service, Inc. (MLAS).

WE WERE STARTLED to see a chart in the County’s recently passed 2016-2017 Budget that shows a decline of almost $7 million in the County’s discretionary revenues this year and there’s no asterisk on the chart explaining the drop. But there had to be a reason, so we started reading budget…

BURIED DEEP in the giant collection of numbers, charts, graphs and text we found this: “The Auditor’s projections for discretionary revenue include modest increases in property tax revenue with a slight regression in room occupancy tax revenue due to a number of one time corrections in FY 15-16, and a continued slight decline in sales tax receipts. A detailed breakdown of discretionary revenue projections is included on page 31.”

SO, ON TO PAGE 31: “The Auditor-Controller’s projections are the same as third quarter, with the difference of $6,758,535 being the shift of Proposition 172 funding from Budget Unit 1000 directly to the Public Safety Budget Units These budget units have also had their Proposition 172 funds decreased from the amounts included in the Department Net County Cost assignments based on the Board direction to provide $564,874 of Proposition 172 funding to support Fire Districts. This funding is appropriated in Budget Unit 4016 - Emergency Medical Services.”

SO THE PROP 172 SALES TAX REVENUE was moved from “discretionary” to specific departmental budgets and in the process about $565k was sliced off for local Fire Departments and Ambulance Service subsidies. There’s no discussion of the impact of the reduction in the DA’s, Sheriff’s or Probation budgets and we haven’t heard about any grumbling from those departments after the 8% reduction. There’s also no indication what the fire departments will do with the new money, money that almost everyone thinks is long overdue because Prop 172 was originally supposed to fund not just “law enforcement” but the larger category of “public safety” which obviously includes fire and emergency services.

WE EXPECT that a good chunk of the $565k will go to pay the extortionate insurance rates that Mendo’s approximately two dozen independent fire departments are required to pay, more than half of which is for workers compensation.

IN ANDERSON VALLEY, for example, the Golden State Risk Management Authority, the district’s general insurer, currently charges the local Community Services District about $40,000 a year for “insurance,” more than half of which is workers compensation. (The charge is reduced to about $36k if the District submits a large pile of “loss control” paperwork, which it does.) In the more than 25 years of covering that fire district The Major can only remember two small workers comp claims, both of them stemming from minor injuries to volunteer firefighters, and one or two minor vehicle accident claims. This for an activity that clearly involves major property and personell safety risks. For this the district has paid hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars meant for fire protection over to the big insurance companies with almost nothing to show for it.

THE POINT: This is yet another example of how the public is ripped off in the absence of national single-payer health care. Whether you’re General Motors (whose Canadian plant right across the border from Detroit pays no exorbitant health insurance comparied to the nearly bankrupting health insurance costs for US workers and retirees) or the little guy with one or two employees or even a small public agency with volunteers, monopolistic health insurance costs are imposed everywhere you look: your auto insurance, workers comp, MediCal, Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance, Obamacare, general liability, group and private insurance, retiree insurance, emergency rooms, medications… It all adds up to a huge and unnecessary burden on commerce, not to mention providing mediocre care at high cost to only a certain percentage of the population. And even General Motors and their other big business pals can’t bring themselves to lobby for single payer because they dare not buck the insurance mafia.

EARLY SUNDAY MORNING, I was trying to get at the pastry cabinet in a fancy-schmancy store in Fairfax called the Good Earth. (Strike One!) Anything with “earth” in the title is presumed, especially in Marin County, to be a repository of everything correct, and from the Moonie-like smiles pasted on staff pusses and many customers you're immediately aware you've entered a kind of alternate universe. Myself, I get a definite apocalyptic vibe at Good Earth. It's simply too-too, if you get my drift, one of those stores where everything on the mag rack is aimed at stone narcissists, and many of the customers look way too pleased with themselves, oblivious that outside in all directions a violent tide is rising. And the prices are double Safeway's on most items. Marin is home to lots of rich people, but they aren't good at it. Being rich, I mean. There's no detectable noblesse, less oblige. But the bread at Good Earth is super, and I'm a bread guy. Ordinarily, I grab my loaf, a cookie and I get out, always feeling like I've somehow escaped from a faintly sinister third dimension. (Reader recommendation: Henry Miller's essay on bread is the definitive work on the subject.) The cookie cabinet at Good Earth is a busy venue. Not only are the cookies behind its glass doors, and I can tell you right here that the oatmeal jobs at Good Earth are nowhere as good or as all-round satisfying as the oatmeal cookies at the Yorkville Market. But at Good Earth the cookies and the wan croissants and the bland bagels, are all contained in this big, glass case. But there's only this one access point, and Sunday morning there's this draw-string pants guy in the way of access. He's on his cell phone directly in front of the cabinet doors. There's me and four other people piled up behind him. Not to single out the draw string pants people, although in Marin they're so prevalent it's like all of them are in uniform, but this guy was draw string pants-plus. He was also wearing about five pounds of beads — oops, ethnic beads and a tattoo in Chinese characters on his tanned little arm and some kind of froo froo sleeveless jacket that would get him assaulted in Covelo. He was trying to explain to the idiot on the other end of his phone line that, "I don't know which one has less butter, sweetie; they aren't marked. Maybe you should go for the bagel." This conversation went on. And on, as he speculated as to the ingredients of the different items in what is essentially a great big cookie jar. I finally tapped him on the shoulder. "Excuse me," I said. "Can I get in here?" Draw String, without turning around, holds up an imperious forefinger in a "Just Wait! I'm Busy Here" manner and goes on talking pastry ingredients with the screwball at the other end of his phone. And he's still blocking access. I turn to look at the other people in line. One shrugs his shoulders. The rest look resigned. I guess they're accustomed to this kind of casual rudeness in this store, clearly an oasis of the self-obsessed. Restraining an impulse to simply heave this arrogant little prick out of my path, I managed to get shoulder-to-shoulder with him and kind of bulk him sideways and outta the way. He just went on talking into his phone about cookie ingredients, although I confess I'd bulked him emphatically. It was like if he brought home the wrong item he'd get killed.

DID BRUCE McEWEN win the judge election for Keith Faulder? He most certainly did. Any election in Mendocaino County that's won by less than 200 votes like Faulder's was, and with the mighty ava strong for Faulder, means we were the diff. Way back, back before the techno-revolution, back before everyone got their own newspaper on Facebook or blogs, experts told us we not only enjoyed "total market penetration" in the Anderson Valley but probably influenced the votes of everyone in our circulation area, which is primarily Mendocino County. We still have a kind of diminished electoral influence, but in the case of Faulder vs. Pekin we knew that the MCN shut-ins, and Mendolib generally, would vote as directed by the local lib lab herd bulls, people like Steve Antler and Tom Wodetski, who put it out on their recommendations that the Nice People, the Hillary-brained, the white wine and cheese brigade, Mendo branch, should support Pekin, a new guy, a guy without anywhere like the legal experience Faulder has. To Mendolib it didn't matter who was likely to make the better judge, it was simply a matter of the herd, to belong or not belong. But I'd suppose almost all our readers went for Faulder, and we were the difference, especially McEwen who wrote the most for Faulder, though all of us here at the ava were strong for Faulder. Soon as we all get together we're going to array ourselves in a circle for simultaneous handshakes and pats on the back.

I GET a lot of people wanting me to do what I guess you'd call advocacy writing, which I do a lot of on my own from my own long list of grievances. Sometimes people have an honest beef that deserves public attention, sometimes not. If someone says they are getting railroaded, we'll get the police reports and make our own judgments which, of course, are resoundingly fallible.

IT'S VERY, VERY RARE that a person is arrested and charged for no reason at all, but the disposition can be hugely disproportionate to the crime alleged. Take, for example, the case of Mark Sprinkle, the Ukiah truck driver who got 45-to-life for 90 seconds of sexual touching. The touchees were three girls, the oldest of whom was 14, a lass reminiscent of the voluptuous Oakland girl who recently brought down numerous police officers from at least three Bay Area police departments and now makes her way as a street prostitute. She started boffing cops when she was 14.

IT'S LAUGHABLE that in a sex-drenched society like this one we get these purse-lipped press conferences from people like the priggish mayor of Oakland who feigns shock at male sexuality which, as any mature woman, or any woman who grew up with brothers, can tell you, is more dog-like than most dogs. Any man who goes all righteous and says he would never even consider touching an underage girl even if the underage girl is shaped like the Venus de Milo with both her arms is lying. He'd at least weigh the consequences. The Bay Area cops simply couldn't control their canine impulses. They're supposed to control themselves, of course, and are now paying a price for their joyous moments at the STD roulette tables, a price few men would not at least consider paying.

WHERE THE PURSED LIPS went way wrong, seems to me, is their indignant huffing and puffing at the black Oakland cops who were telling each other Klan jokes. That's already funny! The least the Mayor could do was let us all in on the merriment.

GETTING BACK to my friend Sprink's case, the girl vic, er ringleader, was a Daisy Mae physical type who hung out at the truck stop on North State Street. No, she was not selling late-night Girl Scout Cookies. And she would later testify, she suddenly and voluntarily took her clothes off in Sprink's car as a joke, thus inspiring Sprink's frenzied 90 seconds that cost him 45 years of his life. No force, no penetration, nothing but a breast check and a pube pat. Sprink might as well have raped and murdered the young lust bunnies, and left them out on the old Masonite Road where this unconsummated affair took place. The judge, James Luther, claimed he had no sentencing discretion, which is not true; judges have god-like discretionary authority, but it's a rare judge who risks his fat pay check and life tenure job to do the right thing.

THE SPRINKLE back story is of a guy who was both regularly employed and regularly in low-level trouble, a guy who ran with tweekers, would taunt the Ukiah cops, set dumpsters on fire — stuff that put him in and out of the County Jail and also put him right at the top of local authority's Get This Guy list. There were probably high-fives all around the Courthouse when the cops, summoned by Sprink's tweeked-out flooz of an ex, in obvious Gotcha Mode, knew she could get her revenge on Sprink for not marrying her and the cops would get Sprink out of Ukiah for a while. Rather than take the 3-5 molesto deal offered by the DA, Sprink went to trial.

THE JURY was not of Sprink's peers. The only peers most criminal defendants have are other criminals. The jury members were respectable Mendo people who wore the shocked looks we inevitably see on the faces of all juries hearing criminal cases in Mendocino County. "These people live in my community? Good lord. Don't stop at the defendant. Lock up all the witnesses, too." And off Sprink went for the rest of his life. He's old and tired now. Let him out tomorrow and he'd go back to driving truck, and be highly unlikely to re-offend. But there's no mercy in this justice system once it’s got you. None.

DEFENSE LAWYERS always tell their "clients" not to talk to the "media." Which in Mendocino County is us, because we're the only media likely to tell a story from the alleged perp's perspective. We always tell the perps and miscellaneous mopes who call for help that "public attention never hurts, especially in this county. The more people aware of your plight, the more likely the system will be to play by recognizable rules. Outside publicity may irritate the black robes and public defenders — especially the boss public defender, Ms. Dump Truck, who brings her office in under budget every year. For a public defender to always be under budget means that public defender is not going all out for the "client." She's watching the bottom line to keep her cush job. With the Mendo Public Defender, justice is a secondary consideration. The bottom line is the bottom line.

ANY PUBLIC DEFENDER who goes all out for a "client" quickly becomes even more of an enemy of the Robes and the rest of the County Court House apparatus than the perp, er, the presumed innocent. The late DA, Norm Vroman, described a public defender named Garry Preneta as "evil." In reality, Preneta was a great attorney. He was an all-outter. He'd demand tests, subpoena records, hire private investigators — the works. And he was smart. And totally committed to whomever he was defending, even if the guy was a total scumbag cosmically deserving of a quick bullet to the back of his head. But Preneta was the way the system is supposed to work.

THE MAJOR said he remembers the time Preneta got an obvious criminal named Poe off by “proving” that his “client” was in jail at the time of the alleged offense.

“Oh yeah,” said the Major, “I remember that one. The ‘wife’ of Mr. Poe called us to say that her ‘husband’ was being persecuted by the DA. Hubbykins was accused of molesting a nine-year old Willits girl after luring her into his house with kittens. And right here you say to yourself that justice for the guy would be a bullet to the back of his head. Preneta conceded that his client was probably guilty, but when the girl testified in chambers that she remembered the day she was molested because she was wearing a special sundress her mother gave her after she'd been treated for a rash at Howard Memorial Hospital. The child explained that her mother wanted her to wear that dress until the rash cleared up. Preneta subpoena’d the girl’s medical records that showed the court that Mr. Chomo was in jail the little girl was violated. The prosecution  logically responded that she was just a nine-year old and she must have got the date wrong, because everything else about her story held up. But members of the jury said that based on the evidence presented about when the crime occurred, Poe could not have done it and they acquitted him. The DA was livid that the girl had been tricked into confusing the dates. But it was one more example of why Preneta was described as ‘evil,’ although he was just doing his job better than it's usually done around here.”

PRENETA was hated much more intensely than the alleged criminals the justice system lives off. He cost the system a lot of money, taking up hours of court time on matters that should — heh-heh — be bargained by reasonable people. Prenetsa took his job as “defense attorney” very seriously and he took the whole show way into Miller Time, and a Courthouse is pretty much a 9-5 operation. Yeah, yeah. They all go home with the files and toss and turn all night about what to do. That may happen in individual cases but I doubt many local attorneys are Ambien-dependent.

ANYWAY, and apologies for my old coot-like garrulousness here today, it has been inspired by a case that has caused me some consternation simply because it's so sad and because the kid's mother thought I might write it up in a way that would somehow helpful to the federal case she has pending. And her own peace of mind, I would imagine. But I read the file, and absorbed the known facts, and all I could feel was sadness at a situation where, it seems very clear, the alleged victim was a victim of his own weakness, his own love of the drugs that killed him. He wasn't killed by the cops, and he wasn't killed by his jailers. I'd be lying to myself if I wrote it up otherwise.

One Response to Off the Record (July 13, 2016)

  1. George Hollister Reply

    July 17, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    “After cutting tanoak and observing the effects for years now, my guess is they will: look for ways to get rid of the tanoak trunk wood (firewood being one obvious example); lop and scatter the smaller material (branches and leaves); and continue poisoning the largest and most troublesome stumps. The gyppos like this because it creates more work for them (that is, cutting and extracting tanoak, as they already do with conifers).”

    There is limited demand for firewood, compared to the availability of tan oak. Tan oak that goes into firewood, is from trees that either don’t require logging, or where logging is low cost. Also, the market for tan oak firewood, outside of Mendocino County, is being pressured by air quality regulations that limit people use of firewood.

    Gyppos like logging tan oak? That is news to me. If the ground is flat, the tan oak trees are straight, and a feller-buncher is available, maybe. A straight tan oak is a rarity. Much of the tan oak out there is on yarder ground, that means the ground is steep, and the trees necessarily need to be logged whole tree. This is always a mess on the landing. And a good loader-man is required to handle these trees. Ground skidding tan oak can be managed, if possible. This all adds up to high cost. Too high cost.

    The high cost is why no one logs it, including small landowners. There is lots of talk about logging and utilizing tan oak, it seldom happens. When it does, it is not for long.

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