Off the Record (Oct. 5, 2016)

by AVA News Service, October 5, 2016

WHERE’S WOODHOUSE? The Third District Supervisor missed a Board of Supervisors meeting on September 13th. There were vague references to a personal or family situation that caused his absence. Woodhouse then missed the joint meeting with the Fort Bragg City Council in Fort Bragg on September 19. And he missed his third meeting in a row on September 20. Sheriff Allman addressed the Supervisors on September 20 under public expression on behalf of Carlin Woodhouse, the supervisor's wife. Sheriff Allman said he fully expected the Supervisor to be back in action as soon as possible.

THE BOARD is scheduled to meet today, Tuesday, October 4. If Woodhouse is a no show it will be the fourth meeting in a row he’s missed. As the AVA goes to press there is increasing concern about the health of the supervisor and speculation about what is going on. Except for Allman's brief comment on September 20, there has been no public statement from Supervisor Woodhouse, his family, or the County. But stories are beginning to circulate that the Supervisor is experiencing some sort of mental breakdown that is keeping him from his duties. When and if the Supervisor resurfaces, and especially if he does not reappear, someone needs to tell the public what's going on. In the meantime, it appears that the Third District is without representation.


IF WOODHOUSE can’t continue, either the Supes or, heaven forbid, the Governor, would appoint a successor. Which would have to be Willits councilman (and fellow Democrat) Holly Madrigal since Woodhouse narrowly eked out a victory over Ms. M when they opposed each other for the North County seat. We’d like to see Johnny Pinches un-retire to finish out Woodhouse’s term if it comes to it, and it appears it will at some point soon, but Pinches would only be considered if Ms. M declined appointment.

GENTLEMAN GEORGE HOLLISTER comments on the County’s pension fund controversy:

And, we might add, that even if you use Mr. Stephens’ more accurate lower rate of return for the stock market, you still have nothing more than a standard pension problem where the projected pension assets and revenue might someday go into net decline. The “unfunded liability” is basically a snapshot in time of the present deficit and is not an actual long-term liability. Many, many things could happen both within the system and without, and the problem, however large, is not high on our list of looming catastrophes. It is a serious problem, but it does not require drastic change, any more than Social Security does.

From the County’s perspective, “everything can be solved with enough time and money.” A problem with over leveraged equity and security investing is time and money run out. That is why there are regulatory limits to the degree of under funding in private pension plans. And that fails at times as well. Over leveraging is followed by bankruptcy, or in the case of government, a bailout, or both.

SS does not require a “drastic” change, just a five year increase in the retirement age, to age 70. Why not do the same with the county pension plan? This fits into Ted Stephens’ reduced benefits option.

HOW MANY MORE GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS can we stand? Think of all the groups bringing comfort and aid to the downtrodden here in Ukiah and Mendocino County. There is no end to the professional uplifters paid extravagant salaries to provide marginal assistance to people who are already being helped by swarms of other agencies.

We have Plowshares, the Food Bank, Nuestra Casa, CASA, the Ford Street Project, the Buddy Eller Project, Project Sanctuary, Public Defender, MCAVHN, Madrone Center, First Five, Tapestry Family Services, Redwood Community Services, Redwood Regional Center, Redwood Legal Services, MCOE, County Social Services and the Community Foundation. That’s the few I can think of as I type. There are scores more.

Squatting atop all these agencies and programs is the great grandmother of local handout franchises, North Coast Opportunities. No one knows what NCO does or how many superfluous offices exist. But its busy drones, and the drones of all those other agencies, attend innumerable meetings, create and review meaningless reports and then network, interface and provide irrelevant services to our county’s tiny target group of the allegedly impoverished.

All these workers are burrowed away in scores of bunkers spread around the county doing office-y stuff resulting in nothing of any value to the people supposedly being served. Generating budgets and acquiring grants is the main, unacknowledged focus, because the organizations in reality exist to provide lucrative salaries to Democratic supporters.

Can we survive more of the same, multiplied, by Queen Clinton?

— Tommy Wayne Kramer

HOW MANY MORE GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS can we stand? asks James Marmon in a response to a Tommy Wayne Kramer column enumerating those we have here in Mendocino County:

TWK, you left out the Mendocino County Youth Project. I worked there twice, 93-95 and 98-99. They have all kinds of programs too, and they are in most of our schools in some capacity. They have non-stop grant writers as well. Mendocino County is drunk on federal and state funding, and can’t seem to put it down and look for other solutions.

The poor and needy population provides hundreds of helping professionals with jobs so there will never be a solution to the problem because of that. If we ever did our jobs right we wouldn’t have any work which could lead to possibility of having to find real work, maybe at a sawmill. Oops, we don’t have any of those anymore, they moved to China and Mexico where they mill our logs, while the rest of our nation buys their lumber from Canada.

— James Marmon. MSW

A READER ASKS, “Aren't you afraid of being sued by Michael Emmitt (sp) Sweeney? Also don't forget this Maoist bureaucrat has a concealed weapons permit in order to protect himself from the Editor of the Anderson Valley ADVERTISER. And remember that it was his $econd wife who wanted to organize the pot trimmer$ into the one Big Union.”

I’VE ALWAYS HOPED the cunning little psycho would sue me, but he claims, variously, that he can’t because (1) I don’t have any money and (2) he can’t sue because my wealthy nephew would pay my legal bills.

TRUE, I don’t have any money, although an honorable person would sue for a token dollar. Untrue that my nephew would pay my legal bills. When I asked Nephew about paying my legal bills he snorted and said, “I’ll pay Sweeney’s legal bills!”

THE TRUE REASON Sweeney doesn’t sue is because he would then have to answer, under oath, questions whose answers would put him in federal prison. Maybe put him in prison — I’m pretty sure I know what spared him prison in the Bari case, but that’s a longer story and nobody except maybe me and five other people are interested. But Sweeney should have been put away years ago for the crimes he began committing as a student at Stanford, and kept on committing up through the car bomb he put in his ex-wife’s car back in 1990. A few more bombs and Sweeney would have been right up there with the Unabomber. But Mendocino County being not only a population of amnesiacs but a place where you are whatever you say you are and history starts all over again every day, it was the perfect (and probably the only) venue in the country where a major felony crime wave like this character could completely reinvent himself as a highly paid public bureaucrat and righteous anti-pot crusader. (The entire Sweeney brief can be found on the ava’s website.)

OUTTA THE WAY, GRAPES! Apparently the almost 900,000 acres where “medical” pot is currently allowed to be grown in Mendocino County isn’t enough for the growers backing Measure AF.

THE TOTAL AREA within Mendocino County to be made available for Medical Cannabis Cultivation is approximately 1,788,000 acres, and including Forest Land and Timber Production Zones.

THERE ARE ABOUT 3900 square miles in Mendocino County. At 640 acres per square mile, that’s about 1.8 million acres out of about 2.5 million total acres that could see pot pharming, or 72% of the County’s land.

NEIGHBORS of that convicted Ukiah chomo, the one from a famed local wine family, the one who lives on Empire Drive, the one the cops have at the very top of their watch list, well, neighbors wonder how he gets away with a backyard full of dope. The chomo’s nabes wonder how come his gro isn't a violation of his parole?

POT GROWERS were scurrying to get the bud outta the rain that began Sunday and continued sporadically through Monday. Prices continue to fall. Long-time Boonville growers tell us they're lucky to get $1500 a pound these days. Everybody and his brother now has a garden going, and Devil Weed is so pervasive here in Boonville you can smell it just driving through town. When it was still illegal, and the cops were actively going after it, these same long-time growers got $5,000 a pound and up. For years, law enforcement functioned perfectly as a price support presence, taking off just enough dope to keep prices up. Last few years, the cops raided only the more egregious grows, the ones that are also doing major eco-damage or otherwise annoying neighbors. With legalization, Mom and Pop Gro will become museum pieces, as the Marlboro Man rides into the Central Valley and grows it like grapes. Romantics insist that Mendocino County’s marijuana planters will be able to compete with the Marlboro Man via quality boutique bud, much as some boutique wineries survive on superior product.

HARD TO BELIEVE, especially in a county that regards itself as sophisticated and generally cool-o, that various of our luminaries — Doug McKenty and Doug Roycroft to name two — still argue that vaccination is to be avoided, citing the usual totally discredited internet sources. The internet has been very bad for the credulous, expanding their areas of concern from, say, the relative efficacies of rattling chickenbones to ward off the evil eye in tin or porcelain containers to the even more crucial, Why did Building 7 collapse? The Building 7 people dismissed my Building 7 explanation as “simplistic,” although it was clear to me at the time that Bush and Cheney, working late at night and even on weekends, humped in explosives for months prior to 911...."

DENNIS ROUSE spotted this bumper sticker on a Wyoming big rig: "Don't like trucks? Quit buying all the shit. End of problem.”

OFFICIAL MENDO is updating its “sexual harassment” policy to include any kind of “harassment,” not just sexual. The new definition of Harassment is: Harassment means unsolicited or unwelcome words or conduct that are subjectively and objectively offensive to another person. Harassment need not be motivated by sexual desire in order to be unlawful, actionable harassment. An employee alleging harassment is not required to sustain a loss of tangible job benefit in order to sustain a claim of harassment. Harassment includes, but is not limited to, the following types of behavior undertaken because of a person’s membership in a protected classification:

1. Verbal conduct such as epithets (nicknames and slang terms), abusive or derogatory jokes or comments, slurs, including graphic verbal commentary about an individual’s body or that identify a person on the basis of his or her protected classification, or unwanted sexual advances, invitations or comments.

2. Visual conduct such as making, sending, or displaying derogatory, sexually suggestive and/or obscene letters, notes, e-mails, invitations, slurs, jokes, gestures, pictures, cartoons, or posters related to a protected classification.

3. Physical conduct such as assault, unwanted and/or offensive touching (including pinching, grabbing, and patting), leering, and blocking normal movements or interfering with work.

AND TO THINK, the above used to be assumed as basic mannerly behavior. Now it has to be spelled out even though much of it is the kind of thing that gets people arrested.

BAD NEWS FOR NECROPHILES: California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that mandates state prison time for those convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious person. The legislation was in response to the Brock Turner case, in which the Stanford student was given a short jail sentence after being convicted of raping an unconscious woman. Turner ended up serving just three months behind bars, and his case received national attention when his victim’s letter excoriating his defenders was made public. The judge was also a Stanford grad.

VAL MUCHOWSKI and the Mendocino Women's Political Coalition, a front for the Democratic Party of Mendocino County, sponsored an election forum last Thursday at Ukiah City Hall. The evening opened with two Ukiah City Council members running unopposed. Ukiah businessman Doug Crane, a 12 year council veteran, and Steve Scalmanini who lucked into the position two years ago when no one else ran for the seat vacated by the resignation of Mari Rodin. Each will each get another term, which is a good thing in Crane’s case, not so good in Scalmanini’s, a scattered, wacky sort of guy who has not only led the charge against a CostCo for Ukiah, a stance that puts him at odds with most of the people of Mendocino County, but often veers off into areas of discussion that make sense only to him. Scalmanini is one more example of the porousness of Mendocino County politics where people pop up out of nowhere, get elected or appointed to important local positions, then disappear, never to be heard from again.

SHERIFF ALLMAN strongly made the case for Measures AG and AH which would impose a temporary half-cent sales tax to raise funds to develop facilities for the treatment and diagnosis of mental illness and substance abuse. The only known opposition comes from Supervisor Dan Hamburg and Nancy Sutherland. The latter recently resigned as chair of the Behavioral Health and Advisory Board (previously known as the Mental Health Board). Sutherland has correctly argues that not one cent of the measures will be spent for services, but she ignores the primary benefits of having local facilities that will provide local services with the large sums of public money now spent on shipping the mentally ill to distant and very expensive (and largely ineffective) facilities far from Mendocino County.

SUPERVISOR DAN GJERDE spoke in support of Measure AI, the county Marijuana Tax, and Measure AJ, an advisory measure that says if AI passes, the voters want a majority of the funds spent for marijuana regulation and enforcement, mental health, road repairs, and fire and EMS. Measure AJ is non-binding, but if the Sheriff's mental health initiative passes, the marijuana tax could be a source of funds for staffing costs for the new facilities that will be developed. The only known opposition to AI comes from the vaguely populated Mendocino Medical Marijuana Patient's Union. Even the proponents of Measure AF (which includes a tax measure of it's own) are calling for a "YES" vote on Measures AI and AJ.

THE DEBATE ON MEASURE AF (also known as the Heritage Initiative) was the highlight of the evening with Sarah Bodnar (the paid campaign manager for AF) squaring off against Supervisor John McCowen. According to Erick O'Donnell, reporting for the Ukiah Daily Journal, Bodnar said "We can't make money for this county until this industry has rules they can follow.” Ms. Bodnar called marijuana "the most important economic engine for the future of this county." Bodnar said that Measure AF was needed to provide "regulatory certainty" and align Mendocino County with state law. Bodnar declared "until there are laws that every part of the industry can follow, from cultivation to processing, manufacturing, lab testing, distributing, and dispensing, we have prohibition."

McCOWEN BEGAN by reminding the audience that he has been directly involved with local marijuana regulations for the past twelve years, declaring, "This isn't about regulating marijuana. It isn't about being pro- or anti-marijuana. It's about writing regulations that fairly balance the needs of medical patients, cultivators, the general community and the environment. On every score, Measure AF fails."

IN RESPONSE TO A QUESTION on the effect of repealing the county's current marijuana laws and replacing them with Measure AF, McCowen listed all the setbacks that would be reduced or eliminated, including any setback from a youth oriented facility, like a Boy's and Girl's Club. "By taking us back to when neighbors were in conflict because neighbors were inappropriately growing marijuana too close to their neighbors, they are not promoting public safety, they are doing the opposite," McCowen said.

BODNAR GAMELY COUNTERED that Measure AF is in alignment with state law and that there was no certainty the county would be able to get regulations quickly in place because the county ordinance could be challenged by a lawsuit, as happened earlier this year with the urgency ordinance. McCowen responded that because Measure AF was put on the ballot as an initiative, it would not be subject to environmental review and there would be no opportunity to identify significant impacts or mitigate them. McCowen drove the point home by noting that Ellen Drell and the Willits Environmental Center were opposed to Measure AF because of the threat to the environment. McCowen claimed AF would allow hundreds or even thousands of new marijuana cultivators on new cultivation sites.

McCOWEN ATTEMPTED to provide assurance that the county was moving forward with all the state license types. He said the current draft cultivation ordinance was available for public review and would be going to the county Planning Commission on Nov. 3 and Nov. 17 before coming back to the Board of Supervisors late this year or early next year for adoption. McCowen said he expected the ordinance to change as it moved  through the process, reminding listeners that Measure AF is an "all or nothing proposition" and we will be stuck with it if it passes.

THE DEBATE GREW TENSE in response to a question about campaign finance reporting by the Yes on AF committee. McCowen said the committee had not listed a $10,000 payment to a marijuana defense attorney who wrote the Heritage Initiative. "That's because he didn't accept it," said Bodnar. But given the largely underground marijuana economy, and the prevalence of cash transactions, who knows what payments are being made?

MOST OBSERVERS gave the edge to McCowen, who cited specific provisions of Measure AF to back up his claims that it did not protect public safety, the environment or small farmers. Citing the opinion of County Treasurer-Tax Collector Shari Schapmire, McCowen even claimed the tax in Measure AF was uncollectible because it lacks a mechanism for collection or enforcement. Bodnar, who has been involved with local food policy issues, came across as bright and articulate but often had no effective response to McCowen's pointed criticism of Measure AF.

ACCORDING TO McCOWEN, a growing list of community groups, including the Mendocino County Fire Chief's Association, Fire Safe Council, County Board of Education, Peregrine Audubon Society, California Native Plant Society, Mendocino County Farm Bureau, Ukiah Valley Trail Group, Deputy Sheriff's Association, and others, including, of course, the Board of Supervisors, are all recommending a "NO" vote on Measure AF.

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