Mendocino County Today: Wednesday, Aug 3, 2016
by AVA News Service, August 3, 2016
GOOD! FOOD! EAT! HERE! NOW!
Aquarelle Café bills itself as “downtown in the middle of nowhere,” this particular outpost of nowhere being my old hometown, Boonville. Playing tourist for the weekend I had dinner at Aquarelle on the patio a couple Friday nights ago. The balmy evening was made more delicious by Aquarelle’s garlic fries and a verdant salad starring forget-me-not lettuce pulled screaming from the blushing soil, and spiked with asteroid-sized chunks of blue cheese and crisp pecans sweetened with the honey-smoke of Friday night glories beneath the fairground lights. Please know that I am not a food writer, and generally detest gastroporn, but when confronted by Fortune’s most savory embrace, I am honor-bound to bite my lip and sing the praises with a most grateful tongue.
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And thus no description of my most recent journey home would be complete without mentioning the Juice Bar at the Boonville Hotel. In fact, I hadn’t strolled Johnny Schmitt’s oasis of luxurious simplicity for too long. Both the fresh squeezed beet and carrot concoction and the perfectly designed garden space provided a double dose of health and tranquility. Charmingly rustic cabins fringe a drowsy harbor of leaf and bloom, and one feels like a happy pirate, as if stealing summer’s soft breath from a sleeping princess, as her barbarian sentries snore in blissful ignorance a mere bouquet’s toss away, in angular late-model gas-spewing coffins trekking up and down Highway 128.
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Across Johnny’s Juice and Grub Eden is the General Store, where I bought a still-warm slab of their country bread. Maybe it’s a sourdough. Or a rye of some kind. I have no idea except it’s love at first hot bite, as the butter pat melts against its spongy flesh like Bacall against Bogey’s hard-boiled Casablanca tenderness. This is the kind of bread I’ve spent months searching for in the outback wilds of San Francisco. But to no avail. If you are desperate need of true succor, both for your soul and gullet, then get thee to the General Store and beg the kind and pleasant ladies there to sell you an oval of God’s own loaf. (Note: Johnny makes equally ethereal bread, but the Hotel doesn’t sell retail. Yet.)
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A few steps north of the General Store is Mosswood Café, where I take my lattés or, if feeling especially continental, a cappuccino or even, gasp, a macchiato. Frankly my palette is as refined as an abandoned oil tanker rusting in the Malacca Straits, but there was a time in my life when ignorant naiveté was my best friend, and I wasted many a precious hour committing entire fashion and lifestyle magazines to memory, under the guise of a happily jettisoned “advertising craft,” and would bravely utter such droll pretensions as “hint of loganberry dipped in Tokyo rose” or not unlike Prada’s Gomorrah-inspired Fall Collection, “Sexy Sombers and Strangulated Sighs.” What am I talking about? Caffeine, after all, is meant to get you rocking and firing; anything else is just lingerie.
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Finally, we stopped at Pennyroyal, a park-like encampment at the southern border of town that recalls a Kublai Khan hunting lodge, though the yurt felt replaced by a graceful wooden barn-like structure that is more similar to an Etruscan palace than Gobi Desert beast and feast. Featuring goat and sheep cheeses created curd by curd from local free-ranging herds, Penny Royal is yet one more golden spike nailed into the vampire of my own youthful Boonville. I’m not saying it’s worse, I’m not saying it’s better; I’m only saying that after living in Boston, New York, London and San Francisco for most of my life, Pennyroyal had the strange even ghost-like effect of making me feel both comforted and at home, though intellectually it represented everything that my own Boonville of the 70s was not. The Penny Royal is airy and cool. The staff is attentive without being cling-filmy. There is a tasting counter for nips of their own wines, and shelves of cheeses and jams and gourmet canned coffee, of which I shot-gunned two. Outside is a shaded picnic area from which to gaze at the eminently gaze-able vineyards and trees and hills. Ironically enough, I found myself admiring the view I’ve long taken for granted, and pleased with my own cleverness at how beautiful the valley really is, I bought a two-piece satchel of chocolate wrapped prettily with a violet ribbon. Somewhere Deputy Squires is grabbing his whistle and yelling, “Anderson, get your candy ass on the goal line. Summer’s over and we’re gonna see if you can even become a boy before you can think about being a man.” Sure coach, but have you tried this Velvet Sisters camembert… mmm-mmm… OUCH!
OPEN LETTER TO MENDOCINO COUNTY B.O.S. – Aug. 1st 2016
RE: Outlet Creek Asphalt Plant UNPAID fines and penalties totaling $173,225 and new permit negotiations with MCAQMD
Dear Mendocino County BOS,
I am a resident of the Cherry Creek Subdivision located adjacent to the Longvale asphalt plant on Outlet Creek. At your July 19, 2016 BOS meeting, myself and multiple neighboring property owners addressed you during the Public Comment portion of the meeting; pleading with you as the de-facto Directors of the Mendocino Air Quality District NOT to issue new permits allowing more asphalt production on Outlet Creek, and requesting that existing Air Quality violation penalties totaling $173,225.00 not be waived, negotiated downward or ignored.
The comments below were read into the record and also emailed to each of you, with a reply requested. To date no replies have been received.
BACKGROUND: During your March 15th 2015 meeting, on recommendation from 3rd District Supervisor Woodhouse, the 5 of you voted unanimously to fast track approval of asphalt production on Outlet Creek, citing “original jurisdiction” under Resolution 15-054, thus bypassing the County's Design Review process. My community's concerns over air pollution, noise impacts, and degradation of the Outlet Creek watershed, which were presented to you in written form and in person prior to, during, and after your March 2015 meeting, were ignored.
At that meeting, the project's owner stated in his proposal that his new rubberized asphalt plant would be, quote, "more efficient" than the old non-operating plant that had been rusting on the site, unused, for a decade.
What my community actually experienced while the plant was in operation last year was not a “more efficient” operation, but instead was a facility operated in violation of the Air Quality permit issued by the Mendocino Co Air Quality Management District. The Outlet Creek Canyon was filled with dust and choking air pollution and the unabated, uncontrolled smoke and acrid odor of burning rubber, trapped by the narrow canyon and weather inversions that form there. According to an October 14, 2015 investigation by the California Air Resources Board, during this period, the facility was in willful violation of multiple statutes of the California Health and Safety Code. Despite assurances from you, our Board of Supervisors, public health was not protected. You have all been provided a copy of the CARB report which was submitted to the Clerk of the Board on 7/19/16. Also submitted was photographic documentation and public testimony on multiple air pollution episodes caused by the asphalt plant emissions, provided to you by multiple neighbors who live and breathe above the asphalt plant to the north and south along Covelo road.
Over $173,000 in fines and penalties were levied against Grist Creek Aggregates and Mercer Fraser for violating your Air District's regulations, the CA Health and Safety Code, and multiple permit conditions in the facility’s Authority to Construct permit. To date none of these fines have been paid by the offending facility, and they were in fact allowed to complete their contracts without fixing their poorly maintained and operated facility. Last Thursday, on July 14th, the facility operators began new negotiations with your Air Pollution Control Officer, Mr. Scaglione, seeking new permits for another paving project, AND simultaneously I am told by Mr. Scaglione, seeking a reduction of penalties still on the books.
I am writing to ask three things of you as the Directors of the Mendocino County Air Quality Management District;
1. Please direct your Air Pollution Control Officer, Mr. Scaglione, to uphold the laws protecting your constituents from illegal environmental pollution and to collect the full dollar amount in fines and penalties that have been assessed against Grist Creek Aggregates and Mercer Fraser in the amount of $173,225. Allowing these penalties to be negotiated away on promises of future good behavior from the asphalt plant operators is a slap in the face to the constituents your represent.
2. Before considering ANY new permits for this facility, and as a condition to be met before the MCAQMD accepts new permit applications, require the facility to hire an appropriately designed meteorological study (weather study), vetted and approved by the California Air Resources Board, to fully characterize the formation, duration and extent of summer and fall weather inversions in the Outlet Creek Canyon. (These inversion patterns have been documented by both CARB and the MCAQMD to trap asphalt plant emissions in the breathing zone of families living on both sides of Covelo road.)
3. Once the inversion patterns have been fully characterized, do not allow the facility to produce asphalt during these periods.
I’d like to emphasize that the seasonal inversion issue is the exact mechanism and justification used by the Air District for its wintertime open burning ban; when inversions form, they trap air pollution in valleys, resulting in poor air quality, public nuisances, and unhealthy breathing conditions for the public.
It is within your authority as the Directors of the County Air Quality District to require these three actions of your Air Pollution Control Officer, who serves at your pleasure.
Please do not use the excuse of ongoing litigation to delay taking action to protect the public from further harm originating with the previous approvals and permitting of this facility. Lives have been disrupted and damaged; property values and public health have been harmed. This facility is in a bad location and its ongoing operation, due to the topography of the canyon which traps noise and pollution, is a virtual guarantee of ongoing public nuisance complaints which will continue to cost the county money and resources.
The lives of the families in my community depend on their right to a clean livable environment and the peaceful enjoyment of their homes and properties. Our welfare depends on your leadership and we are keenly watching how decisions are made by you, our County leaders and regulators. We are not going away, there is too much at stake.
Your response would be greatly appreciated.
2351 Raven Road
Cherry Creek Subdivision - Longvale
Ambient Air Monitoring Program Manager (Retired 2014)
Bay Area Air Quality Management District - San Francisco CA
MY OFFICE WINDOW looks out at the Redwood Drive-In. Us and them are maybe a block from Boonville's beating heart, which is the Boonville Hotel. We're like a ventricle down the street.
THE DRIVE-IN is a busy place, with people swooping in to buy fuel, food and even this newspaper from the opening gong at 6am until the versatile enterprise closes every night promptly at 9.
THERE IS DRAMA at the gas pumps. One hot afternoon a couple seemed to explode from their Taurus, she from the passenger seat, he from behind the wheel. I'd say they were mid-forty-ish, trim, well-dressed, conventional-looking in the way of school teachers or social workers. Low-level professionals. But, as my friend Mike Koepf says, crazies dress normal. She immediately took a wild, closed-fist swing at him that glanced off his shoulder. He moved in to deliver a chest bump to her. Neither party seemed to be saying anything. They pushed each other for a few more seconds until he broke off and went inside to the market. A man at the other pump tried hard not to watch the psycho drama a few feet from him, but his jaw finally dropped just as lover boy broke it off. She had already re-seated herself in the Taurus when LB came back out of the store, and, smiling to himself, quickly pumped probably five bucks worth. He was still smiling to himself as they drove off toward Mendocino.
ANOTHER DAY, a much friendlier, much younger couple had fondled each other the whole time their car was filling up, oblivious to the PG show they were putting on. As an old guy, I still have trouble processing what my intake apparatus is processing for me.
SUNDAYS, late afternoon, there are the poignant child custody hand-offs. The ones I've seen have Mom, the custodial parent, driving up with the kids to retrieve them from Dad, the weekend parent.
A BIG MAN arrives with his son. The apparent mom pulls in next to him. They don't speak. The big man strolls inside with his son, a boy of about 12. Mom sits in her car. The two males stroll back out with ice cream cones. The boy gets into his mothers's car without a word, and his father, also without a word, walks slowly back to his truck with his ice cream cone.
A DAD pulls up with two young children rigid in the back seat. This couple begins arguing the moment Dad approaches Mom, who is still behind the wheel of her van. He gestures to the two kids in the back seat of his car, a battered Mustang, and doesn't say anything to them as they climb into the back seat of Mom's vehicle. The children are smiling as Mom pulls out of the Drive-In, headed for their heart's home, if that isn't supposing too much about the family dynamic.
LET THE GAMES BEGIN
by James Kunstler
Hot air balloons may be crashing in Texas, but in Philadelphia last week sainted Hillary, draped in spotless white privilege robes, floated through the glassiest ceiling of all on mighty gusts of saccharine gas. The good wife… the good mother… tireless fighter for the rainbow outcasts and gender martyrs of this patriarch-plagued republic, she pledged both continuity and change to the credulous faithful as history yanked her above the gurgling cesspits of allegation, suspicion, and distrust that lo, these many months, had come to be her natural haunt.
The cameras cut to poor brooding Bernie seated just above the delirious groundlings, frowny-faced, arms crossed, brow beetled beneath his white Corinthian curls, perhaps suffering the effects of cheese-steak poisoning. He’d endorsed Saint Hillary with all the passion of a Seventh Avenue soft goods jobber hawking last-year’s resort-wear, and the next day he would up-and-quit the Democratic Party — as if that was not sending a message to the true believers.
Yet another email maelstrom almost spoiled the gala, this one revealing the strings and levers pulled by the DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in violation of the Party fairness charter. She was axed in a New York minute, and the whole country — including the ADD-afflicted news media — dropped the story to behold the awesome ascension of She-Whose-Turn-It-Is. All except the arch-boor Trump who cracked that maybe Russia could find those 20,000 emails missing from I’m-With-Her’s fabled server. The entire nation, including the aforementioned Special Needs news media, actually missed the point of the gag — which was: how lame are the US security agencies if they couldn’t find those emails but Russia could? And how come nobody raised that question?
Julian Assange then appeared, Jacob Marley-like, to warn the minions of Hillary that he had portfolios full of interesting material yet to dump, and would take his sweet time choosing the opportune moment to do it. How Hillary must wish she could send a Navy SEAL team into Ecuador’s London embassy to ventilate that hacker-rat! It will be fun waiting for Julian to make his move, and to see how much Xanax Hillary will require in the meantime. The DNC coronation show will prove to be only temporary relief from the phantoms and revenants of misdeeds past.
The distraction du jour is whether Trump has become an agent of Russia. Notice that this line of intel comes direct from the neo-con central agitprop desk. This unofficial US War Party representing the amalgamated war industries has been busy demonizing Russia throughout the current presidential term. Not all Americans are so easily gulled, though. Those who know history understand, for instance, that the Crimea has been a province of Russia almost continually for hundreds of years — except the brief interval when the ur-Ukrainian Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev one drunken evening gave it away to the then-Soviet region of Ukraine in a fit of sentimentality, assuming it would remain a virtual property of Greater Russia forever. Notice, too, that since Russia annexed it in 2014 (being the site of its only warm water port and major naval stations) not even the US neo-con war party has been able to make a credible case for fighting over it. Instead, they’ve resorted to name-calling: Putin the “thug,” Putin the “worst political gangster in the world.” This is exactly the brand of foreign policy that Hillary will bring to the Oval Office.
Not that Donald Trump offers a coherent alternative. The reasonable suspicion persists that he doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground vis-à-vis how the affairs of the world actually work. For him it’s all the same as tough-talking the sheet-rocker’s union. Then, of course, Trump had to immediately step in dog-shit by bad-mouthing the mother of an American army hero who-just-happened-to-be of the Mohammedan persuasion. Trump for practical purposes is a child and a reasonable case is not hard to make for denying him presidential power.
And so the great disaster movie of 2016 commences: Godzilla Versus Rodan the Flying Reptile. Which one will survive to completely destroy the sclerotic remains of our nation? The good news is that voters are moving to the Third and Fourth party nominees, Gary Johnson (Libertarian) and Jill Stein (Green) in droves, herds, flocks, porpoise pods, and stampedes. Perhaps both of these relatively sane candidates will show enough polling strength to make it into the Great Debates. Won’t that be fun?
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page: https://www.patreon.com/JamesHowardKunstler?ty=h)
CATCH OF THE DAY, August 2, 2016
Cauley, Dow, Fabela
CHRISTOPHER CAULEY, Ukiah. Domestic assault.
LORI DOW, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear.
MICHELLE FABELA, Laytonville. “Convicted of certain misd within 10 yrs owns/poss/receive.” (?)
Gale, Hammon, Rivers, Rodriguez-Meza
RACHEL GALE, Hamilton City/Ukiah. Community Supervision violation.
SEAN HAMMON, Willits. Domestic assault, false imprisonment, witness intimidation, criminal threats, possession of meth for sale. (Notice trademark wife-beater singlet.)
DMITRI RIVERS, Salinas/Covelo. First degree robbery of dwelling, conspiracy.
JUAN RODRIGUEZ-MEZA, Willits. Domestic assault, false imprisonment.
Sanders, Schuler, Sparkman, Vargas
THOMAS SANDERS, Willits. Drunk in public, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
JAKE SCHULER, Willits. Burglary, probation revocation.
KRISTOPHER SPARKMAN, Ukiah. Under influence, failure to appear, probation revocation.
ROBERTO VARGAS JR., Hopland. DUI, parole violation.
THE MAN BEHIND THE WARM SPIRITUAL GREETINGS
by Steve Heilig
Attentive/obsessive AVA readers might recognize the name Craig Louis Stehr - he has long been one of the paper's most frequent and loyal correspondents. His missives usually tell of his travels around the nation, with ambitious and optimistic plans and wishes for political action and spiritual progress, often sent from transient locales. But who is the man behind these words and why does he take the time to write to us? We decided to ask…
* * *
Tell us about your earlier history — where born, education, where you live, a couple of most formative experiences.
I took birth by cesarean section at 10:45 AM in the Catholic hospital in East Cleveland, Ohio, on September 28, 1949. My father once observed: "You came out screaming, you haven't stopped yet!" I graduated from the Summit School for Boys in 1963 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the accelerated English class and first in my class in Latin. I graduated from the private University School of Milwaukee in 1967 in the advanced placement English class. (Instructor: Peter Straub wrote "Hot Story," I was also in a class of six studying Ciceronean Latin. I was captain and most value player in the sport of golf. One of only two high school students admitted to the Avant-garde social club which featured mostly blues acts from Chicago.
I graduated from the University of Arizona in 1971, with a Bachelor's degree in World Literature (specializing in 20th century American writing, particularly Saul Bellow), minor in economics, specializing in the economics of poverty and discrimination, particularly housing issues. I moved to New York City and was active with the experimental living theater, dated my college sweetheart who was from there and lived mainly in jazz clubs. I wrote about it all, featured in the East Village Art-Literature publications and so on and so forth. I remained friends with Judith Malina for the rest of her life which inspired me beyond description.
What is your connection to Mendocino County and the AVA?
I held the position of "Cook" at the Big River Farm Zen Retreat Center located exactly six miles up the county road from the town of Mendocino in 1972 before going to New York City. Our sister commune was Ken Brandon's place in Casper called the Casper Compound. I enjoyed hillside parties featuring The Little River Band and Canned Heat. Also enjoyed naked hot tub parties at our retreat center which is where the San Francisco Zen Center members stayed when they chose more relaxed schedules.
My secondary connection to Mendocino County is that in the 1980s my motley collective housing group in Bernal Heights in San Francisco ended due to the sale of the house. Members moved to Ukiah to put children into Ukiah High School, buy a house at 296 Gardens Avenue and start two businesses. (Greenfield Ranch resident King Collins was a collective member.) Just got an e-mail from him this morning. We are still in touch.
You seem to travel widely. Is that out of desire to see much of the nation and world, necessity, or…?
I do not travel for pleasure, only to get to a location for radical environmental direct action and attending peace and justice activism, all of which I write about. I cannot even imagine being a "tourist."
Your letters express political convictions. What if any political persuasion or party would you say you belong to or be leaving?
I have never belonged to any political party. I generally vote according to the recommendations of the League of Conservation Voters and generally support Green Party candidates.
What political policies, proposals, actions or initiatives do you most favor? Do you have some most or least favorite political figures, past or present?
You also often express "spiritual" sentiments. What kind of spiritual tradition and/or church do you subscribe to; or more generally, how would you describe your spiritual tradition and leanings?
My spiritual identification is a result of having performed sufficient sadhana, to the point of Nirvikalpa Samadhi. I once sent the Anderson Valley Advertiser publisher Bruce Anderson pages of detailed accounts of profoundly mystical experiences both in the United States and in India. He replied: "Craig, the mystical stuff isn't right for the AVA. I suggest the you re-read 'Animal Farm'."
What do you do "for a living," or how do you support your travels and efforts?
Presently I don't do anything for a living. I've got $150,000 in my Mechanics Bank checking account and a debit card. I just finally paid the 2014 taxes which were necessary due to having received an inheritance. Previously I was "Top Temp" at AccountTemps in San Francisco on and off for 15 years. I was once head of the Cheese department at Other Avenues community food store at 44 and Judah in San Francisco. In 1979 I was a cashier at Zen Center's Tassajara Bakery at Cole and Parnassus in San Francisco and was the only Zen Center city center member with no absences for morning zazen the entire year. I left after that concluding that the Zen Center was not ultimately my cup of tea. I enjoyed a significant literary friendship with the poet Philip Whalen. Also occasionally said hello and chatted with California Governor Jerry Brown who was dating singer Linda Ronstadt and partying at the Baker's private residence located next door to the Zen Center main building at 300 Page Street. Actually, my initial connection was Linda's brother Mike who was my drill instructor for ROTC Air Force at the University of Arizona. I enjoyed Linda's early band, The Stone Ponies which played at the Stone Pony in Tucson regularly. Jerry Brown lucked out with her.
Regardless, I made $6 per hour at the Zen Center bakery, lived frugally at a nearby apartment building with the Zen Center bakers, and found out that if I just stay centered in my own svarupa that I would go where I need to go and do what I need to do.
By the way, in the early 90s Swami Satchidananda (the guru who opened the Woodstock Music Festival) told me at Yogaville in Virginia where I was a Karma Yogi during the rebuilding phase that God had no choice but to give to me everything that I needed because as a Karma Yogi. I was doing spiritual work in accord with a "higher will." I submit that this is a significant factor in regard to my ability to survive.
Most recently you've expressed a desire to "settle down." Can you say more about that?
I have no interest in "settling down," per se. I do have a strong predilection to win a lottery and create a living experiment for all who identify with the fourth dimension. Feel free to bring your well-worn copies of Animal Farm.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
It is only August 1. From now to Labor Day is a political eternity. Then from Labor Day to election day there are two more political eternities. This election is a scripted professional wrestling match with lots of twists and turns thrown in to somehow keep the ADD attention span of the junk food eating and junk media gazing US electorate.
The plain and unvarnished truth is that both Hillary and The Donald belong to the same establishment and there won’t be a dime’s worth of difference in what they do – just their style of doing it.
Now if all the disaffected Bernie voters flock to Jill Stein and the Greens and a significant number of “angry white males” (everybody boo and hiss on cue!) flock to the Libertarians, and if this election is as close as many polls claim it to be, then the Greens and Libertarians together could possibly deny either party the electoral majority they need to claim victory.
In such a case it would be thrown into the House where the overwhelmingly Republican majority would have the choice of either Trump or Hillary (both of whom they despise!) or maybe some other establishment drone (JEB! Bush and John Kaisich come to mind) whom the rest of the country detests.
Although a snickering good dilemma which couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch of political courtesans, such an outcome could easily be the trigger event for a prolonged civil war within this country. Regardless of who ends up in the White House, I believe a credible argument could be made for 2016 being the last national election for the US.
BLACK LIVES MATTER PLATFORM
GIVE US SHELTER
Anyone know of an available house for rent?
My husband and I are looking for a house not too far from Fort Bragg (15-20 miles?) in a nice setting that is quiet and private. If you know or hear of anything like that, I would so appreciate a heads up. My mate's been here for 35 years. He worked at Cafe Beaujolais for 27 years and then retired. Margaret Fox, Kristin Otwell, Louise Mariana and many more would be references. We've lived at the same place for 8 years and have to move because the owners are selling. I've been working at Parents and Friends for 8 years. Thanks for your help!
Peggy Ray, 357-3207
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ FACES FEC COMPLAINT from Progressive Challenger
THAT SUCKING SOUND of a County Going Bankrupt
A MCFB Update on Our County Pension Fiasco
The retirement board sent out the Callan draft investment report today. For the FY year-end just closed looks like we lost 2.2% on investments. Last year we had a 3.1% gain on investments. For two years our investment returns were less than a gross return of 1% combined...less than a half percent gross a year...about a flat net return for each of the two years...a far cry from the net 7.25% Target Rate the retirement board and supervisors base their contributions on.
The Retirement Board and Supervisors like to keep the target rate high as it keeps the contributions low. The problem (for us anyway) is that any miss on the low side adds to our debt and the county picks up the entire 100% shortfall; the employees, super majority of the retirement board and all supervisors pick-up none of the cost personally. It is like asking the foxes when we have to start saving the chickens. We have a Moral Hazard by design; it is also how we have wiped out the entire 165 year net worth of our county (we now have a negative net worth due entirely to the pension system debt). Foxes tell you everything is fine, you have to be patient and listen to the experts who say you just need to keep sending in more chickens...
The returns above are before you factor in the negative cash flow of paying more in benefits and administration expense than comes in via employer and employee contributions. The plan must sell part of the normal return just to meet benefit and administration payroll. A new contribution dollar never makes it to the plan...even in the good years. The system must sell assets to make benefit and administration payroll; with about a 2/3 funding level, and low investment returns, this is doomed to produce a bunch more debt (and most likely fail). Even with the employer paying almost 50 cents on every employee payroll dollar...and when you add in the almost 10 cents average every employee contributes...no new dollars ever make it into the plan. As a side note, if I was a county employee looking out the front windshield I would be very, very worried when I glanced in the rear view mirror! All this is before the next hit of higher than predicted benefits and mistakes comes in and adds to the debt the county will need to pay 100% of also.
The GASB 67 report two years ago (YE 6/14, published January 2015) predicted we would have assets today of about $488M; our assets at the end of this fiscal year are about $427M. This is a 12.5% asset shortfall from what was predicted by the actuary less than two years ago! It does not take a rocket scientist to predict that the only thing we can really predict about the actuary's prediction is that it will produce a bunch more debt... fool me with a 1996 pension bond fix, shame on you; fool me with a 2002 pension bond fix, shame on us; fool me with negative county net worth and an ever increasing unfunded pension liability today, shame on both of us us! It seems like just a few short years ago I was being told if the market ever recovered our pension funding would be beautiful...Too bad the market didn't recover...oh, it did!
At just about every retirement board meeting I am a lone voice to stop this madness. I am sure most of you remember the Supervisors-Retirement Board Joint meeting...the only action was to kick the can further down the road. Wiping out the entire county net worth built up over 165 years didn't happen by accident; it took the deliberate avoidance of those with a vested interest to keep looking the other way. When will this system finally go bankrupt? What will the level of county services look like after the pension monster is had it's way gobbling them up? What employees will be left with an empty bag? This is very hard to predict as the pension debt is a slow cancer. One thing I do know is this cancer is getting worse even with the ever increasing funds we are throwing at it while the market has made new highs. In single year our pension debt payments are more than the entire 5 year sales tax revenue for the mental heath building proposal! This is for a retirement plan that was supposed to be "pay as you go". We are shelling out huge expenses tomorrow for services that were rendered many years ago. This system low balled it yesterday as it will want to tomorrow.
I have asked for our dismal funding level to be an agenda item at our upcoming board meeting on the 17th, but I am pretty sure it will be met with the usual yawns, frustration with me for bring this up and desire to do nothing. That is how a Moral Hazard takes a county.
1101 College Ave., Suite 210
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Securities Offered Through FSC Securities Corp.
A Registered Broker/Dealer
(ED NOTE: We’ll be commenting again on this tedious topic tomorrow.)
ANNUAL ART MIX 3 Coming to the Village of Mendocino August 4 - 28
Mendocino, CA – In the summer of 2015 an art show came to the village of Mendocino which people talked about for months afterwards, and there a lot of art shows on the coast! From sculpture to assemblage, pottery to photography, furniture to painting, Art Mix 3 Mendocino is the most eclectic collection of Mendocino and regional artists to assemble in one show each year. This dynamic show celebrates the imagination of diverse artistic minds collectively spanning many centuries of art creation. Art Mix 3 will run August 4th through the 28th at the Odd Fellows Hall in the town of Mendocino (Kasten St & Ukiah St). There will be a Grand Opening Reception with music, food and wine Saturday August 13th from 5pm to 8pm with all the artists in attendance to greet patrons and talk about their art at this highly anticipated celebration. The artists participating this year include Spencer Brewer, Hans Bruhner, Harry Cohen, George Gruel, Jo Killen, Michael Killen, Dan Olson, Odis Schmidt, Esther Siegel, Susan Spencer, Michael Wilson and Lynne Zickerman. Come and support the critical role that the arts play in stimulating creativity and developing vital communities. Artists and their work have a crucial impact on our economy and are an important catalyst for learning, discovery, and achievement in our country. Art Mix Mendocino guarantees to stimulate the imagination and creativity inherent in us all. For more information call the Odd Fellows Hall at 937-2486.
STILL IN FRISCO
Warmest summer greetings, Please know that I have booked into the HI-San Francisco on Ellis & Larkin, on the edge of San Francisco's edgiest neighborhood, through August 16th. This will provide me with sufficient time to finally and forevermore reconcile all outstanding matters of any kind whatsoever associated with me on the planet earth. Beyond August 16th, I have no plans at all. I am unobstructively open to all possible spiritual opportunity. Period! Otherwise, I am playing the highest paying California lotteries regularly, and if I hit, then a movement to create a non-cult residential spiritual center will commence. Premature suggestions for a location are now being accepted. Thank you very much for your courage in these absurd times, Craig Louis Stehr