Off the Record

by AVA News Service, April 28, 2010

MONTGOMERY WOODS STATE RESERVE, as it’s called, is located on the lightly traveled Comptche Road linking Ukiah to the Mendocino Coast. In the old days, it was the primary link between the County seat and the Coast. Not many people stop in these days to gaze at the Woods' old growth redwood core, but the park itself it keeps getting bigger as the Frisco-based Save the Redwoods organization has steadily added to its protected acres now totaling about 3000. Even less known is that this important set aside began out of the agitation by an eponymous Mexican American, Ynes Mexia, whose work for preservation of that old growth led to the creation of Montgomery Woods. Born in Texas to a Mexican diplomat, Mexia married twice, the first time to a German-Spanish merchant named Herman de Laue, the second time to Augustin Reygados who seems to have had diplomatic responsibilities for Mexico, Ms. Mexia, having shed her husbands, moved to San Francisco, studied botany at UC Berkeley, and became a well-known botanist herself. She was an early member of the Sierra Club and, in between collecting excursions to Mexico with her more famous colleague, Alice Eastwood, visited Mendocino County where she found the old growth core to what became Montgomery Woods and agitated for it until it was set aside. Mexia is also credited with the discovery of many new plant species.

THE SHERIFF has announced that he has installed secure containers for the safe deposit of unwanted and outdated prescription drugs at his offices in Ukiah, Willits and Fort Bragg, the idea being to keep dangerous drugs away from curious youth and out of our water systems. Having collected your ups, downs and loop de loos, “Sheriff’s staff will collect and transport the collected medications to an approved disposal facility.”

LAUREL KRAUSE of Fort Bragg is flying to Ohio this week to hostess the Kent State Truth Tribunal, an event and entity Laurel has done much to establish. Younger old timers will recall the day the National Guard opened fire on Kent State students. It happened on May 4th 1970, killing Laurel's sister Allison and three other war protesters, wounding nine. The shootings were one more terrible event in a decade of them that began with the Kennedy Assassination in 1963. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young memorialized the Kent State shootings in a song called Four Dead In Ohio. The Guard was never properly investigated, or investigated at all, really, hence Laurel's efforts to collect eyewitness testimony all these years later. And she's done quite a job doing it. Michael Moore will broadcast the tribunal live on his website and Laurel, a woman with unmatched persuasive abilities, has gotten an array of left luminaries to sign on as sponsors. Punch in Truth Tribunal to see for yourself.

GLENN McGOURTY would seem to have a major conflict of interest. According to one of the latest of Heidi Dickerson’s tributes to Mendocino County’s wine magnates in the Ukiah Daily Journal, McGourty, as he gathers his compensation as a UC Extension ag advisor on The Grape, simultaneously lobbies against close regulation of Russian River water by that industry as he blithely operates his own vineyard on Old River Road near Hopland. What's that? Triple conflict of interest? Mrs. Dickerson works for Congressman Mike Thompson, the Northcoast’s full-time wine industry gofer at the federal level as she pens her tributes to the sons of the soil for the Journal, a nice little conflict of her own.

WORD leaking out of the County CEO’s office says the County has asked management to take 20% salary cuts. We suspect that this is all just posturing and that the County will settle for minimal salary and hour reductions for management.

TWICE ALREADY this baseball season I've enjoyed a gift seat directly behind a young woman whose bellowed insults at the opposing team remind me of the old days at Candlestick where even the brawls in the left field bleachers were often allowed to run their course, the cops looking bemusedly on. And the air was blue with the foulest (and least imaginative) language imaginable (sic). You'd sit there wondering if your fellow man was fully human. The Giants run a much tighter ship at AT&T Park. They emphasize "the family experience," i.e., civilized personal behavior. Bad language gets you a warning, persistent bad language or other objectionable behavior — drunken upchucking, for instance, gets you an escort out onto the street. I thought for sure this girl — she looked young enough to be in high school, and maybe she is — was for sure going to get the heave-ho. Togged out in complete Giant mufti right down to orange finger nail polish, and with a big pretty face as empty and innocent as the Breck Girl's, she started off the first inning with a sudden scream, "You fat bastard, Penny! You traitor! Go to hell!" Brad Penny, the Cardinal pitcher, toiled briefly for the Giants last year, picking up a cool five hundred grand each time he strolled out to the mound. I'd hoped he'd be toiling for the Giants this year, but the Cardinals offered him many millions more and off he went to St. Louis. Last Sunday, Penny shut down the Giants no problemo, and by the fourth inning The Breck Girl was purple with rage. Denouncing Penny as a traitorous "fat bastard" and consigning him to Beelzebub was the mildest insult she'd come up with. She produced some truly pathological barbs, delivered full decibel, that had the males in my row staring at each other in disbelief and the women seeming to disappear into their seats. I thought for sure someone was going to call security and get her outta there. (You can now summon security by anonymous text message, and with a big crowd you'll always have a few ejections.) At a minimum, Miss Breck had a stern warning coming. But no one called her in, and on went her cringe-inducing shouts, all be them periodic, like one per inning. If she'd been yelling non-stop it would have been too much. I like Penny myself. I like his truculence, the deliberate, chin-first way he pitches. He easily mowed down the Giants. During the 7th inning stretch I tapped Miss Breck on the shoulder and said, "I sure wish Penny was back with us." She looked back at me for ominously long seconds, long enough to cause me to regret saying anything to her. These days you never know how far nuts another person is. All I wanted to do was sit in the sun and watch a ball game, not get into hassles with screaming meemies. If Miss Breck had gone for my throat I wouldn't have been all that surprised. But she finally said, "You just don't get it, dude."

IN OTHER CITY NEWS, parents of very young children in my neighborhood are on red alert at what they claim is the suspicious appearance of a man with a camera at the play area of Mountain Lake Park. Mountain Lake is San Francisco's only naturally occurring pond, really, not a lake at all because it's so small. Travelers catch glimpses of it as they roar in and out of the Presidio tunnel to and from 19th Avenue. Father Junipero Serra, on foot, and his Spaniard body guard paused there on their first mission expedition to San Francisco. Serra's body guards watered their horses in Mountain Lake. A hundred years later, Ishi, America's last Indian, would walk down from his odd display case of a home at UC on Parnassus, walk down the hill and over what were then sand dunes to watch the water fowl on the little body of fresh water. Today, early in the morning, there are platoons of elderly Chinese doing Tai Chi exercises, the usual off-leash collections of dogs, and lots of driven young mommies and daddies jogging behind expensive strollers, a content canine lashed to the baby's seat as mommy and daddy multi-task on the run, ear phones and hand gizmos fully on. So this mystery man shows up at the monkey bars one day and proceeds to snap pictures of the tots, the toddlers, the moppets. He hadn't brought his own children. And he's snapping one photo after another of our kids, a respectable-looking gent, apparently, although descriptions vary so widely I wonder if he ever existed. Immediately, though, he gets a perv jacket from the young parents. The guy's surreptitiously followed to his car, its make and license plate carefully and multitudinously confirmed. You never see an unescorted child under the age of twelve anywhere in the northern half of the city. They all wear protective gear for even the least strenuous activity. In the southern sectors of town, the Mission, Hunter's Point, you see little kids playing all kinds of sports with no protective gear because, of course, their parents can't afford it and their parents aren't neurotically protective and their parents are at work at real jobs. As the unprotected kids gallop unsupervised, unrelated adults are sitting on benches drinking beer out of paper bags, bums snore in the shade, someone off his meds is screaming on the corner. These kids look like they're having fun; the kids armored like King Arthur's dwarves always have a parent hovering nearby and barely manage to look like they're supposed to be having fun. Back at Mountain Lake, I doubt that even the most dedicated pervert would try to do his thing in the conditions of total surveillance that exist there, but I got an e-mail notice from the Richmond District Police Station saying that the police were in the process of tracking the man camera to determine his intentions. The Protective Gear Parental Brigade has demanded action.

A WOMAN in a hot air balloon realized she was lost. She lowered her altitude and spotted a man in a boat below on a lake. She shouted to him, “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am.” The man consulted his portable GPS and replied, “You're in a hot air balloon, approximately 30 feet above ground elevation of 1,346 feet above sea level. You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude.” She rolled her eyes and said, “You must be an Obama Democrat.” “I am,” replied the man. “How did you know?” “Well,” answered the balloonist, “everything you told me is technically correct. But I have no idea what to do with your information, and I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help to me.” The man smiled and responded, “You must be a Republican.” “I am,” replied the balloonist. “How did you know?” “Well,” said the man, “you don't know where you are or where you're going. You've risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. You're in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but somehow, now it's my fault.”

ILLEGAL sub-divides in Humboldt County have become an increasingly big problem for our neighbor to the north, according to North Coast Journal Editor Hank Sims. “There's a plethora of illegal parcels — created by subdivisions not authorized by the planning department — for which the Assessor's office has issued assessor parcel numbers for taxation purposes. Owners of these illegal parcels, however, can't get permits from county planning to legally build on them, nor can they borrow against them. So there they are paying taxes, while being called illegit.” Many of these parcels are on land zoned for ag or timber. "But," says Sims, “for years now some people have divided their TPZ lands into less than 160 acres and sold them to new owners, who did not file timber management plans. Belatedly, the Assessor's office discovered this and stopped processing changes in ownership involving substandard parcels lacking timber management plans. So the new owners, though they paid for their property, aren't recognized as the legal owners and can neither sell, trade or borrow against their land. Or even pay their taxes — the tax bills are going to the old owners.” Mendocino County? Probably happens, and often, but so far no official mention of the practice.

LEAVES OF GRASS BOOKS will be closing it's doors in June, which is the worst news from Willits and for Willits since the late Neil Beckman got paroled. "Please come take advantage of closing sales: currently 20% off all regularly priced books (not including special orders) and 30% off regularly priced non-book items. We have plenty of stock now but will be doing ongoing returns so shop early if there's something you know you want. We will take special orders until mid-May (10% discount for pre-pay) Changing times have made it impossible for us to keep going. Thank you to all our friends & supporters for these wonderful years!"

SCOTT PETERSON, creator of the Mendocino Game Company and the board game “Pirateer”, has filed an appeal of last year’s trial in which a Mendocino County jury ordered him to pay damages totaling $791,000 — a county record — including $400,000 in punitive damages to three former business associates: Ron Stark, Sally Stewart and Birdie Wilson-Holmes. Peterson has not spoken publicly of the trial or verdict. His appeal alleges errors in the trial, including a judgment that “does not appear to have been signed by a judge,” as noted in the filing. That judgment, Peterson alleges further, omitted a complaint he filed against his former spouse Kathryn Andarin Arvola. His motion last year for a new trial, based in part on that missing complaint, was denied. His appeal again seeks a new trial, including allegations against another former associate, Larry Wagner. Peterson’s complaints against his former business associates allege breach of fiduciary duty, conversion (a form of theft), defamation, invasion of privacy and conspiracy to commit a tort (a wrong against someone) by the five defendants. His attorney, Mark Bonino, has brought over five hundred appeals to state and federal appeals courts and argued landmark cases in the California Supreme Court. He is president of the Association of Defense Counsel for Northern California and Nevada and admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. The attorney for Wagner et al, Charles Cochran, teaches ethics classes for the California State Bar Association. In 2006, he and other lawyers were fined $1.1 million (this sum later reduced by $650,000) for causing a mistrial in a $600 million groundwater contamination lawsuit. Cochran lost the subsequent trial after two hours of deliberation by a Sonoma County jury.

BILL BRADD will sign copies of his new book “Notebooks from the Emerald Triangle,” on Sunday, May 2 from 4 to 6pm at the Caspar Inn. There will be a musical interlude and blues will be available for purchase. AVA readers may recognize the stories in “Notebook” from excerpts in the AVA last year. Very good stuff, and the definitive statement on, well, you know our primary export crop. There's that and lots of fascinating side excursions to Bill's life. Slowly but surely the true history of the Northcoast is getting written.

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