Mendocino County Today: Monday, Aug 1, 2016
by AVA News Service, August 1, 2016
REMEMBER MEASURE V? It “Declares Intentionally Killed And Left Standing Trees A Public Nuisance” and, after describing the nature of the nuisance and the obvious hazard it presents, V continues, “The citizens of Mendocino County, by their authority to adopt ordinances by initiative add a new chapter to Title 8 of the Mendocino County Code to read as follows: Trees greater in height than 5 meters, intentionally killed and left standing for more than 90 days (except those created for the benefit of wildlife habitat) are a public nuisance and the party responsible shall be liable for any resulting damage when the tree is:
(1) within 1,000 meters of one or more critical infrastructures:
(a) roads including public roads, private roads and driveways, fire lanes
(b) telecommunication infrastructure including poles, wire, fiber, terminals, towers
(c) electrical infrastructure including poles, wire, substations, transformers
(d) significant water sources, including rivers, creeks, ponds, lakes
(2) within 1,000 meters of a structure
(3) within CAL FIRE State Responsibility Area
The County shall not enter residential property to verify compliance.”
MEASURE V PASSED by almost a two to one margin.
USEFULLY, Willits Weekly reporter Mike A’Dair last week attempted to find the answer.
He found variations on fortune cookie messages.
County Counsel Kit Elliott said the Supes have to order her to put it in the County code.
Mendocino Redwood Company said they won’t take a position on the measure until it is in the County code.
Supervisor Woodhouse said he plans to talk to Ms. Elliott about it.
And Supervisor McCowen said it’s already in County code by virtue of the initiative’s wording that it adds a new chapter to Title 8 of the County code.
Then we have the initiative’s odd last sentence: “The County shall not enter residential property to verify compliance.”
Which implies that 1) the drafters actually gave some thought to verification of compliance and, 2) the County would verify compliance but they can’t “enter residential property” to do it.
SUPERVISOR MCCOWEN told A’Dair that the only way to “enforce” the new law would be for someone who is "affected" by the “nuisance” — i.e., their property is burned — to sue the nuisance’s creator, i.e., MRC. In other words, if a chemically enhanced fire takes out your house, you can sue MRC for damages, and good luck proving MRC’s “nuisance” was culpable. McCowen noted the obvious: that Measure V has no enforcement mechanism and “in the absence of an enforcement mechanism, enforcement of Measure V would fall to the county's uniform nuisance abatement code section.”
But under the uniform nuisance abatement code section of the County code, McCowen added, the County would need an enforcement officer who would enforce the abatement of the nuisance. But, conveniently, there is no such person and there are no plans to hire such a person (even though the County’s Planning Department has a “code enforcement” staff).
"So Measure V in reality becomes a philosophical statement against the practice of intentionally killing trees and letting them stand in the forest,” McCowen added. “And in my opinion, the real issue here is herbicide use. The real enforcement mechanism is a lawsuit against the responsible party should someone be damaged by those practices which Measure V seeks to curtail which is what they could do before Measure V was passed."
This circular V dialog reminded The Major of his failed attempt to enforce the nuisance code against vineyard wind machines in the Anderson Valley. When The Major sued the County and his grape-growing neighbors, the County made it clear they had no intention of even trying to enforce the noise/nuisance ordinance even though there was obviously "someone who was damaged by those practices" — i.e., The Major, his dying brother, and thousands of other residents of Anderson Valley. “So, if your house burns down because of MRC’s dangerous hack-n-squirt practices you get to spend thousands of dollars to ‘enforce’ the nuisance code in Judge Henderson’s court like I did where, among other things, you’ll be asked to prove that your house burned down via months of legal folderol and thousands of dollars worth of interrogatories and discovery and proof of the dollar value of your damage,” grumbled the Major. “And then, the Major went on, “if you get past all that, file an insurance claim that you should have filed in the first place and let the insurance company lawyers shoot the wounded. Oh, you have nowhere to live meanwhile? Apply for ‘health and human services’ benefits.”
Even though the proponents of Measure V said in their ballot statement that “This Measure is a well-reasoned approach to public safety and corporate responsibility,” the well reasoners did not specify an enforcement mechanism for verifying compliance. So again Mendocino is left with another meaningless measure that the County (and MRC) can choose to ignore with impunity.
Conveniently for MRC and the wine industry, these empty measures always amount to a free pass for anyone with large piles of cash. In fact, it helps the moneybags by giving citizens the illusion that something meaningful in the way of regs has occurred. C.f.: The noise ordinance, the anti-GMO ordinance, the advisory personal use of marijuana initiative, the Precautionary Principle, the General Plan, the “requirement” to prove water availability for large development proposals which accepts unsubstantiated “will serve” letters as proof, the "grading ordinance" that applies only to new residences, not the thousands of acres of steep slopes with newly planted vineyards, and the many individual permit mitigation requirements that are imposed but have never been systematically followed up on.
A PUFFEROO distributed to the County's chain-owned papers touts Coast Democratic Party super-delegate Rachel Binah as she "mentors” a pair of unsuspecting Fort Bragg girls. The two young ‘uns are described as partial to Bernie, but by golly Rachel will have converted them to middle-of-the-road extremism by the time they get home.
IN THE SAME breathless piece, we read, "The longtime party loyalist [Binah] was joined this year by first-time delegate Jim Mastin, well-known in Ukiah as the former elected mayor and former chairman of the Democratic Central Committee. Mastin ran for the position of delegate pledged to Senator Bernie Sanders."
AND IMMEDIATELY went over to Hillary, weasel-lipping to the reporter, Tim Riley, about how Bernie's principles will continue to resonate inside the party.
THE FOLLOWING press release was issued by the Fort Bragg Police Department Friday: "On Monday, July 25, officers of the Fort Bragg Police Department responded to Fort Bragg Middle School and Redwood Elementary School, for reports of vandalism. Officers responded to the Middle School and spoke with the reporting party. Officers obtained video surveillance of three juveniles who had climbed up onto the roof and proceeded to cause $20,000 in damage to the school…”
AND SO ON. Not that we’ll even know the disposition of this one, but schools are vandalized, even burned, all the time by young boys to whom school is a painfully unhappy place for them.
CATCH OF THE DAY, July 31, 2016
Arreguin, Ashline, Campos-Banuelos, Furia
MIGUEL ARREGUIN, Redwood Valley. Assault with firearm, burglary, attempt to commit crimes.
JEFFREY ASHLINE, Failure to appear.
JOEL CAMPOS-BANUELOS, Ukiah. DUI, no license.
ANGELA FURIA, Covelo. Domestic assault.
Issa, James, Miller
NINA ISSA, Antioch/Ukiah. DUI.
ROBERT JAMES JR., Ukiah. Ex-felon with firearm, short-barrelled shotgun, possession of drugs while armed, loaded firearm in public, ammo possession by prohibited person.
CORT MILLER, Covelo. Failure to appear.
Rose, Roston, Serr, Silva-Hernandez
PETER ROSE, Point Arena. DUI.
BOBBY ROSTON, Ukiah. Petty theft, shoplifting, parole violation.
STEPHEN SERR, Ukiah. DUI.
OSCAR SILVA-HERNANDEZ, Ukiah. Kidnapping by force, fear; takes holds, detains, or arrests any person, false imprisonment, domestic assault, criminal threats, witness intimidation.
SENSIBLE OBSERVATION FROM MCN CHAT LINE
I'm just going to throw this out there. I don't like either of the major candidates, but I dislike the idea of picking one because we think the other is worse even more. Everyone complains about the lousy candidates we get and the corruption of both parties, and then they turn around and play the game. As long as we choose one of two bad candidates we'll keep this two party game going and we'll continue to get lousy choices — in which case America deserves what it gets. Both parties are fractured right now. Have some cajones and stop letting them scare you into voting for some one you don't like so they can keep one of the two parties in power. We've suffered through more bad presidents than I can count and the world didn't end. One more term of a bad leader isn't going to end the world either (and we're going to get a bad option either way anyway) but sending a message that we won't play this game just might change our choices next time.
MENDO’S PENSION DEBT
by John Dickerson
I've written a series of 3 articles about our County's unfunded pension debt. This is a huge dangerous issue - one that everyone who cares what our County government does should take seriously. This is the first of those articles - the next comes out next week and is addressed to our County's employees and retirees.
I put a link to this article on the front page of my website - www.YourPublicMoney.com. In the article that opens a new window are links from the various assertions I make to pages in the site with data and information that supports those assertions. I've been putting this stuff out for a decade now and County and Retirement officials have not disproved one statement of substance I've made.
Our County is heading towards bankruptcy. Since the County can seize your property if you don't pay taxes regardless of how bad their services and roads get (2nd worst in the state) they can go on in a near-brain-dead condition for a very long time. But - it's heading toward bankruptcy.
Here's the article…
Mendocino County's Unfunded Pension Debt - The Result of Rewarding Failure
John G Dickerson
A huge irresponsible unfunded pension debt has been imposed on Mendocino County over 25 years. Twenty-one California counties have independent Pension Funds. Ours is the most damaged by unfunded pension debt. County taxes are increasingly diverted to pay this debt. County services, roads, and jobs are being destroyed. It'll get much worse.
Through last year almost $300 million of unfunded pension debt has been created. Nearly $2/3 Billion will be extracted from taxpayers through 2040 to pay it. More than half will be interest expense. It won't produce one minute of public services, won't fill one pothole.
And the Pension Fund continues to produce more debt. Why?
The County Board of Supervisors and unions generally set what retirement benefits will be in collective bargaining agreements. An independent Retirement Board that controls the Pension Fund establishes the plan to pay for them. This includes an annual amount paid into the Fund called the "Normal Contribution". The County and employees each pay a share. The Retirement Board says that Contribution and investment profits are all they need to pay pensions. But their "plan" failed. They created hundreds of millions of unfunded pensions. Unlike the Normal Contribution only the County has to pay extra to eliminate it. Employees and retirees have no such obligation.
This is simple math. The Retirement Board set the Normal Contribution too low. It should be about double. This isn't an accident.
State law directs there will be 9 Retirement Directors. Three public members are appointed by County Supervisors. But of those three today only one never worked for a local government. County retirees and employees elect four from their ranks and two are elected County officials who are also employees. These 6 believe their primary duty is to their peers who put them on the Board. They want employees to pay less for their pensions, retirees to get more benefits, and County officials to have more money to spend the following year.
Dozens of the Retirement Board's actions over decades delivered those goals. But they paid for them by exercising their unilateral power to impose unfunded pension debt. They didn't care about the impact on taxpayers, residents, and future employees and officials. So far they've transferred nearly $300 million from taxpayers to employees and retirees behind the public's back. They're still doing it.
As long as this perverse incentive that rewards the creation of debt resides in this unaccountable Retirement Board they will impose more debt. You don't get success by rewarding failure and holding no one accountable.
Retirement and County officials want credit for acting better and making some good changes. OK - they are and have. But they're nibbling around the edges of this deeply flawed system that will eventually destroy itself - and much of County government with it - by creating so much debt it can't be paid. Officials refuse to recognize this core threat much less do anything real to stop it.
Laws were broken. Policies to placate the public were passed then ignored. Financial reports were rigged. Decades of reckless financial management went unchallenged.
At first I thought officials did this on purpose because it was so obviously wrong. But then I read the "Kroll Report" about the City of San Diego's unfunded pensions. This quote from that report exactly applies to our County.
"While this conduct was plainly unlawful, the evidence does not demonstrate that officials set out with the objective of defying legal mandates. ,,, Officials fell prey to the same type of corruption of financial management and reporting that afflicted municipalities such as Orange County and private sector companies as Enron. .Officials cultivated and accepted a culture of financial management and reporting premised upon non-transparency, obfuscation, and denial of fiscal reality. Under the pressure of short-term needs, officials gave expedience a higher priority than fiscal responsibility and came to view the law as an impediment to be circumvented through artful manipulation."
This is not a partisan issue. It's about Good Government. No matter what your politics are We the People of Mendocino County are all now simply debtors forced to pay nearly $2/3 Billion for this debt that isn't supposed to exist. What would you have wanted our $648 Million to do? Whatever it is - kiss it goodbye.
Data that supports this article is available at www.YourPublicMoney.com. The second of three articles in this series appears in two weeks - "Employees and Retirees - Your Pension House is On Fire!"
* * *
DICKERSON’S critical views of Mendo’s admittedly overlarge pension debts and obligations are essentially the same ones he’s been promoting for the last ten years. We’ve never seen any practical solutions from Mr. Dickerson, however, because the County is severely constrained in what they can do under the California pension laws, and cutting the modest pensions of ordinary retirees would be very unfair. We have attempted to take a somewhat calmer view of the County’s looming pension debt in the AVA in the past, most recently back in November of 2015. So we won’t bother commenting again at length. If you’re really interested in the subject, feel free to dive back in to our responses from last November:
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Smart people such as your elected representative, Mike McGuire, think it’s critical that we spend millions more dollars making sure Ukiah is a warm and welcoming place for wandering drunks, drugsters and criminals to visit. He came to town recently to instruct locals on how to get a chunk of a $20 million state slush fund meant to help encourage more bums to come to town and enjoy our domicile-free outdoor lifestyle experience.
Apparently we haven’t shoveled enough money at the losers who wake up most mornings (er, afternoons, actually) planning to make Ukiah a little bit worse than it was the day before.
We just spent a couple million dollars building the Hobo Highway over near the railroad tracks, then raided the city’s road budget so we could install high-tech lighting along it. We’re planning on providing “Tiny Houses” for them so they have somewhere to drink after free lunch at Plowshares, but before they go to their benefits appointment at the Socials Services Department.
Despite being busy collecting all these goodies, they somehow still manage to find time to steal Safeway shopping carts and loaf around Alex Thomas Plaza with their smelly backpacks and dangerous dogs.
And while we spend lots of money coaxing aimless drifters into settling in Ukiah, the city is currently obtaining grants to combat the problems the homeless cause.
Thus our leaders want to use your tax dollars to combat the woes caused by the way they spent your other tax dollars.
— Tommy Wayne Kramer, Ukiah
FRED GARDNER WRITES:
Donald Trump was being sarcastic when he urged the Russians to find more emails in the wake of the DNC revelations...
This chart may be the greatest thing ever written:
From Fowler's "Modern English Usage"
Our thing is invective.
I've seen stories buried before, but never so fast or successfully as the one that just got transmogrified from "DNC Undercut Bernie" to "Russian Hackers Defile Sacred Election."
And while we're at it, here's a new word. I just made it up as her voice came over the car radio: Nominatrix.
Given that you don't read the New York Times, maybe I'll undertake a column called Good Times and Bad to let you know what you're missing.
POLITICAL SCIENCE. A fizzing erotic romance of simplistic rhetorical plugs and sockets, pumps and valves, a sawtooth wave of airheaded chuckles and sharp regret, and helplessness to ever accomplish anything at all until it pleases the idiot giant to lift his ham-handed foot off your neck.
"A mind like yours, Carver, too smart for the room, over-thinks everything, easiest to manipulate."
The recording of last night's (2016-07-29) KNYO and KMEC Memo of the Air:
Good Night Radio show is available to download and keep and skip around in via http://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
Also at http://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com you'll find links to a plush selection of not necessarily radio-useful but nevertheless worthwhile things to read and play with and learn about, such as:
How the first written languages spread.
Ode to joy.
And non-threatening leadership strategies for women.