Off the Record (Oct. 12, 2016)

by AVA News Service, October 12, 2016

WHERE’S WOODY? Third District supervisor Tom Woodhouse was again a No Show at last Tuesday’s meeting of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors. Woodhouse has now missed four consecutive Supes’ meetings. We called County CEO Angelo for a comment about her statement at Tuesday’s meeting that Woodhouse has granted himself a leave of absence but would return by the first week in November.

WOODHOUSE, a resident of Willits, has not been seen or heard from in nearly a month. There are rumors that he has suffered a nervous breakdown. The family, via Woodhouse’s daughter, finally issued a terse, uninformative statement that her father would be back on the job the first week of November.

“As many of you know, Third District Supervisor Tom Woodhouse has been absent from several Board of Supervisors meetings. Supervisor Woodhouse has a medical condition and is presently under a doctor's care. We are hopeful Supervisor Woodhouse will be able to return to work in early November. The family is asking for understanding and consideration of their privacy during this difficult time. Updates will be provided as information becomes available.” —The Woodhouse Family


AND NOW EVICTION. Mendocino College brings in football players from around the country to man a football program woefully short of local talent. This year's College team depends on about twenty athletes from Florida.

MENDO KIDS who can make the big jump from high school ball are themselves recruited by historically more competitive teams out of the area, leaving maybe a half-dozen or so gridders from Mendocino College's natural draw area — Mendo, Lake and Humboldt County — for the Mendo College team.

THERE'S NOT ENOUGH homegrown talent to field a Mendo team, and junior college coaches want to win at all costs because, like their players, they want to move up into grander college-level programs, hence Florida kids lured across the country to Ukiah to play football.

THIS YEAR'S MENDO squad is heavily dependent on the Florida kids, good kids, mostly, kids who dream NFL dreams but are academically unprepared for four-year schools, not that academic standards at big football colleges are any tougher than they are at Mendocino College. JC football is, for lots of the imported jocks, their only chance at catching on with a four-year program.

101 HORTENSE, WESTSIDE UKIAH, is a dilapidated former nursing home. A mercenary doctor named Gitlin owns the building. When Gitlin isn't slum lording, he maintains an office in Redwood Valley and an affiliation with the Adventist medical complexes in Ukiah and Willits.

GITLIN AND THE COLLEGE'S football coach, an ambitious fellow named Espy, arranged to rent Gitlin's crumbling Westside structure to about half this season's Mendo College football team, the Florida half. The doctor charged the boys $9,000 a month for premises without hot water. (The Ukiah Daily Journal carried the no hot water allegation.) Into Gitlin's decrepit structure, Gitlin and Espy stuffed the Florida Twenty. They slept where they could in a house woefully short of the usual amenities like beds, sheets and blankets. What the Florida kids did for food money is unknown, but a Ukiah liberal associated with Mendocino Environment Center offered to donate some collard greens, which may or may not be an ethnic slur depending on the degree of the donor's sophistication.

101 HORTENSE'S NEIGHBORS complained about the football players, then petitioned the City of Ukiah about late night noise, poor housekeeping, an unmaintained yard in an otherwise tidy and silent neighborhood. (The Westside is strictly haute bourgeoisie, the kind of place where homeowners nervously monitor their lawns for signs of rebel crab grass.) The complaints really boiled down to young guys being young guys.

THE COMPLAINING NEIGHBORS were immediately accused of racism by, of all people, landlord Gitlin, who stood to lose nine grand a month for his otherwise un-rentable slum.

THERE IS ZERO evidence that the neighbors are racists. They include a superior court judge, a former mayor, a reporter for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, and the famous ex-communist, Mike Sweeney.

JUST AS IT SEEMED like everyone was getting along, just as mutual outreach and a general kumbaya vibe was established between the black jocks and their liberal white neighbors, landlord Gitlin served the Florida delegation with eviction papers. The kids have got to be out by Saturday, game day, as it happens.

HOW THE FOOTBALL PLAYERS had managed to come up with the nine thousand a month rent money remains a mystery, but they were clearly getting help from unnamed donors who also pay for football accommodations at the Motel Grunge on North State.

MEANWHILE, and from the start, Mendo College president Arturo Reyes, Coach Espy, and the school's athletic director, Matt Gordon, have shirked all responsibility for student-athlete living arrangements. They claim to abide strictly to NCAA rules governing aide for athletes. To hear them tell it, there's no association with the Florida Twenty and the school other than football.

INLAND LIBS of the better sort, Barry Vogel for one, are marshaling practical support for the evicted ball players (and Vogel is certainly launching a lawsuit against deep pockets Mendo College) while one of the kids, according to the Journal, has already departed for home.

NEITHER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE so much as acknowledges the looming financial crisis, and Trump thinks the rolling ecological catastrophes don't exist. Hillary says she "believes" in global warming but says nothing about how she might address it. I think Trump might actually be 5150, but all this talk about him being Mussolini or Hitler comes from lib hysterics who don't know much history. Adolph and Benito were writers and thinkers, albeit of wrong-headed thoughts. Trump is like some drunk bellowing at the end of the bar at Ukiah Rotary. There's no indication he knows much of anything beyond beauty pageants and how to beat paying his taxes.

THE CLOSEST we've come to American fascists were the America Firsters, Father Coughlin, maybe Huey Long, but Coughlin and Huey were economic populists of a national type we don't see unless you count the pathetic sell-out, and tip-toe socialist, Bernie Sanders. Roosevelt thought Coughlin, Long and the Firsters were all dangerous enough to neutralize, which he did although Huey Long was stopped by an assassin, not voters. Long’s economic ideas were right on the money, and boy did the money hate him. Coughlin was a mean, stupid bastard but correct about the plutocracy.

TRUMP'S like one of these Infomercial shouters yelling about how much time you can save in the kitchen with a Salad Shooter. And he's a trickle-down guy who thinks Reaganomics was a terrific way to run an economy. "You see all these rich people out there? If you lower their taxes they’ll hustle out and build businesses and give people jobs." In fact, they buy more houses overseas, second and third yachts, and bad art like you see at SFMOMA. Democrats and Republicans of yesteryear taxed the rich at over 90% and socked them with big inheritance dues. But the rich proceeded to buy the political system, which they now entirely own.

WHY IS ANYONE surprised that villains like the Koch Brothers are for Hillary? The smart money always goes for the candidates least likely to interfere with them. Hillary and Bill are dependable errand runners for the One Percenters. Trump is a wild card, a guy who might bring on major economic disaster faster than they are going to occur anyway. (I know some lefties who are voting for him because they hope he'll blow up the system.) And Trump isn't the worst that could happen. The worst already happened with two terms of Bush-Cheney who managed to destabilize the entire world.

THE BEAST is loose. Four years from now we’ll be lucky to have a benign general running what’s left of the greatest show on earth.

AS IT HAPPENS, the current New Yorker (October 3rd), features a profile of the fascist of the future, a version of whom would go over boffo in the US. The article is called "Germany's New Nationalists" by Thomas Meany and centers on Frauke Petry of the Alternative fur Deutschland or AfD. Petry is called "Adolfina" and "die Fuhrerin" by her many critics, but her immigrant-bashing and her call for fewer restrictions on big business has made her party the fastest-growing in Germany. Petry is much like the other neo-fascists on the rise in Europe, Marine Le Pen in France for example, and like Le Pen, her inner circle contains straight-up, unreconstructed fascists of the World War Two type.

BILL CLINTON blasted ObamaCare last week as “the craziest thing in the world.” Clinton said that the poor and the elderly are getting a good deal, but “The people who are getting killed in this deal are small business people and individuals who make just a little too much to get any of these subsidies.” Natch, Clinton didn’t mention that he and his wife had the chance to go for Single Payer when he was President but instead, and catering to the insurance combines as always, came up with an even more unfair version of what became ObamaCare.

MAYOR TURNER'S SUMMER ADVENTURE. Back in August, Dave Turner, Fort Bragg's lightning rod mayor, placed a frantic late night 911 call from deep in the Noyo woods. Turner and family had been enjoying a tranquil stay in and among the old, but still serviceable cabins once available to Union Lumber families, then Georgia-Pacific families. Before the collapse of one of the tunnels on the Skunk Line, local people could ride the train back and forth to the idyllic site, which hasn't been regularly in use for some years now, especially since the Skunk tunnel cave-in. To get out there today means a meandering journey through several locked gates that begins on the A&W logging road out of South Fort Bragg near the police station. That route is, in itself, a ride back through time, passing through what was a bustling little community called Finn Town or Soinala. The mayor being the mayor, Turner had the gate combos and, of course, he could enjoy the camp. But the times being either “unsettled” or "way outta control," depending on the intensity of your alarm at what seems to be social collapse, the camp is often visited, and perhaps even enjoyed by "transients" and/or tweekers, of whom Fort Bragg seems to have more than its share. Long story short: There's no story, or not much of one, and one wonders why the cops and the mayor himself don't just tell us what the heck happened. Which was, two tweekers, home grown Fort Bragg boys, well known to law enforcement, showed up at the Turner camp. Frightened at their appearance, Turner called for help. The tweekers tweeked off, and that was it. End of story. We're still waiting for the Sheriff's Department to release their "findings," which may or may not include the names of the tweeks.

NO ON AF signs are going up in vineyards all over the Anderson Valley, meaning lots of the wine people see the marijuana people as threatening. If ever there was a better time to call down a plague on a pair of houses, this election in Mendocino County is it. But a couple of Yorkville wineries display ‘Yes on AF’ placards perhaps because as a friend speculates: “Think about it. An acre of grapes gets you $3,000. A pound of pot gets you $3,000. Make dope legal and all the vineyards will have pot planted in the vines.”

THE STONER COMMUNITY'S initiative AF, is, of course, not a good idea because it was written by them and would, if passed, turn over pot regulation to them. By contrast, the grape and wine people are not regulated by anybody. Not really. County government lives in fear of the wine bloc because they are big and powerful with all our elected reps up to the federal level totally in their pocket. The inland wine crybabies even complained when the state told them they could write their own water use rules!

THE LOCAL POT LOBBY is in the process of destroying themselves. If state Proposition 64 passes, marijuana is essentially legalized, and here come large-scale industrial pot grows, and there goes the cottage pot industry that has nicely supported several thousand Mendocino County residents for many years, not to mention cops at all levels of government who take off enough dope every year to keep the industry profitable. (We recommend NO votes on all four pot measures — County and State — on the November ballot.)

BUT FOR THE GRAPE AND WINE industry to boldly claim, "Protect Communities and Environment", well, please, spare me. The wine grape onslaught on the land and water of Mendocino County has been terribly destructive, and all perfectly legal. They've been much worse on the environment than pot gardens (so far) and the wine industry has restructured every community in the county were they are dominant. How? Thousands of immigrant labor families, which I think has been a good thing for my revitalized home community of Anderson Valley, but it's the existing institutions of these communities who provide education and health care subsidies for the wine juggernaut's labor, without which there would be no wine industry. (The industry now struggles every harvest season to find labor because (1) the industry has grown faster than it has labor to run it and (2) much labor has moved over to the pot industry because it's much more lucrative than seasonal vineyard work.)

THE WINE INDUSTRY has not protected communities; they have re-ordered them by their dependence on cheap labor, for which labor they provide almost no housing and no benefits while host communities are left to provide these basic amenities.

IF POT is legalized we will see an intensification of what has already begun — corporate-like mega grows owned by people with zero attachment to Mendocino County, which we already have, largely, with the wine industry.

NORTHCOAST DEMOCRATS have long called themselves "progressives," another term made meaningless by people who, at their very best, are barely liberals, let alone the Super Libs implied by "progressive." Used to be we had real liberals. Strange as it may seem today, we once had a bona fide liberal representing the Northcoast in Congress — Clem Miller. He was the last one, and he died in a plane crash in what? '63? His name was still on the ballot, along with Republican challenger, Don Clausen. Clausen went to Congress as the first NorCal person to lose an election to a dead man, Miller.

OUR PRESENT-DAY CONGRESSMAN, JARED HUFFMAN, full-time gofer for the wine industry, is a veritable portrait in political courage set alongside our Assemblyman, Jim Wood, and our State Senator Mike McGuire, both out of Healdsburg or, as some people call it, "the Carmel of the North." Wood and McGuire both abstained on the recent farmworker overtime bill. The wine industry opposed the bill, and Wood and McGuire wouldn't dare vote no. But abstentions? These guys give gutlessness a bad name.

LAST THURSDAY MORNING'S pot discussion on KZYX — pot is very, very central at our local public radio station — was an impenetrable fog of fine print parsing of the pending marijuana measures. The guest speakers on Jane Futcher's bi-monthly cannabis hour were Pebbles Trippett and 4th District supervisor, Dan Gjerde, with KZYX's Valerie Kim in the mix. If I had to take a test on what I heard, I'd flunk. And the callers-in they were as confused as I was. But then, the entire pot discussion, to me, is sooooooo tedious I tend to tune out at the very mention of the subject.

A LISTENER WRITES: “I tried to listen to Jane Futcher’s Cannabis Hour Show on KZYX Thursday. It was billed as some kind of debate between Supervisor Dan Gjerde and Coast marijuana grande dame Pebbles Trippett. They were supposed to be debating the Mendo pot measures that will be on the November ballot: Measure AF, the pot growers’ 60-page deal; and the County’s two measures, AH and AI I think, that have to do with taxing marijuana along with an advisory measure about how to spend the marijuana tax revenue. Frankly, I never quite got what the dispute was over. Mr. Gjerde sounded level headed. I still have no idea what Pebbles and her crowd really object to. Something about "deeming," I think. I guess Pebbles is for AF (The Heritage Act) because the County, she insists, is continuing to treat stoner-growers as second class citizens via the old misdemeanor "nuisance" provision of enforcement that used to be in County code. (I’m not sure if it still is. I don’t think anyone has ever actually been charged or convicted under this provision which Pebbles hates so much.) I read Pebbles’s recent letter on the subject on the AVA website. You can read it for yourself. Her letter says she's down on the County "deeming" pot violations as misdemeanors which, she says, means no court of law to dispute. Etc. All very tedious. Gjerde says, No, the Treasurer will collect the tax like all other County taxes and the Ag Commissioner will administer it, not the Sheriff. Gjerde had to repeat that several times because it didn’t appear that Pebbles was injesting the point. I also gather that Pebbles thinks the pot sellers, growers and dispensaries, are being overtaxed because they are selling either medicine or food and therefore should not be taxed. Ho-hum. I did sort of get that the County's measure is simply a tax measure, not a larger measure to legalize or regulate — that's much bigger but separate and coming up next. I simply don't understand Pebbles's typically overly legalistic position and am not particularly interested in exploring it. We are not facebook friends. Given the two measures, the County one is clearly superior. There are tax provisions in both and the County's tax is higher and could get even higher if the Supes vote to increase it later at set dates at set amounts. So if they both pass they'll have to figure something out about which tax applies. Boy, do I NOT care. BTW, I remembering hearing at a Supes meeting that the County stands to gain upwards of $50 million from their tax measure — a seemingly ridiculous amount. If the accompanying advisory measure passes, all those millions are supposed to go to mental health, roads and marijuana enforcement — maybe even that damn “deeming.”

MIKE SWEENEY APPEARS TO BE OVERWROUGHT at the prospect of a stoner community takeover but can't bring himself to include the AVA in his distribution list of local news organizations. And why should he? The AVA merely has the largest market penetration of any newspaper in the county. Sweeney seems surprised that nearly all the Yes on AF campaign cash comes from marijuana related businesses. And Sweeney seems suspicious that the Yes on AF folks might be failing to report all their cash donations. But in an industry fueled by blizzards of $100 dollar bills its easy to lose track of who threw money into the hat and just how much. If the race for Measure AF were close, it might make a difference, but AF (also known as the Heritage Initiative) is going down, likely by a wide margin.

THE MAIN BENEFICIARY of the Yes on AF campaign cash is their campaign manager, Sarah Bodnar, who has paid herself just over $20,000 out of the total $50,000 collected. Sweeney also notes that Ms. Bodnar has paid her friends another $5,000 or so. And claims that the original Yes on AF Treasurer has been replaced with an employee of Bodnar's. Sweeney speculates that sloppy reporting of the cash contributions may explain why the original treasurer has been replaced.

THE MAIN PROB with Measure AF is that it was written by the industry it seeks to regulate. The Yes on AF folks bristle at this charge, pointing out that the wine and grape industry seem to be able to do whatever they want, so why not them? We agree the wine and grape people, following the time honored practice of American capitalism, have been very effective at buying political influence. Congressman wine guy (aka Mike Thompson) and his little brother, Congressman Huff, are well paid errand boys for the industry, always eager to do the bidding of their corporate masters. The grim reality of the legal intoxicant industry is hardly an argument to give the stoner community a pass to also write their own rules. There are a lot of problems with Measure AF but the discussion is as boring as Trump vs. Clinton. Bottom line: if you think the stoners should be able to do whatever they want, vote for AF. If you think the rules should offer some protection for the rest of us and the environment, vote no.

MS. BODNAR, a political neophyte, has made a series of "Town Hall" meetings the centerpiece of the Yes on AF campaign. Except the so-called Town Hall meetings are really one sided dog and pony shows. And from what we have heard, they are very lightly attended. The Willits Town Hall drew about twenty people, half of whom were part of organizing it. David and Ellen Drell, Mike Sweeney, Supervisor John McCowen and a couple of other members of the No on AF Committee also showed up. Which means about five people, max, showed up to hear what AF was all about.

SWAMI CHAITANYA, a Laytonville area grower, and Tim Blake, founder of the Emerald Cup, also a Laytonville area grower and dispensary owner, were on the Yes on AF panel in Willits with Ms. Bodnar. Only in Mendocino County could a wealthy white guy wear white robes, put a red dot on his forehead and expect to be taken seriously. The Yes on AF panel took up most of the Town Hall trading monologues on the virtues of AF before taking questions that had to be submitted on index cards. There was no opportunity for follow-up or rebuttal. But it didn't matter because no one showed up to hear it. If Sweeney and the rest of the No on AF folks thought they needed to show up to counter the Yes on AF story line they needn't have bothered. Reports are that the rest of the Yes on AF dog and pony shows have been equally sparsely attended, with the organizers usually outnumbering the public.

THE NO ON AF COMMITTEE has succeeded in rounding up twenty endorsements from a broad spectrum of the community, as reported in the above press release. As it becomes apparent that AF is failing to gain traction with the mainstream community, and as Sweeney keeps firing away with charges about campaign finance improprieties, the Yes on AF committee seems to be growing increasingly desperate. When the Board of Supes endorsed No on AF, which should not have been a surprise, Ms. Bodnar issued a press release claiming the Supes were betraying the voters and compromising public safety. They accused McCowen of making false claims, presumably the points cited by the Supes justifying a No vote on Measure AF.

WHEN YES ON AF was late with their latest campaign filing, Sweeney sent out an earlier press release taking them to task for it and also accusing them of having an oversize sign. When the AVA remarked that the sign was an inch too big, a No on AF partisan complained that it was double the allowable size. Ms. Bodnar fired back with her own press release, claiming that all of the No on AF signs were illegal and that she had reported them to the Fair Political Practices Committee, the Sheriff and the District Attorney. Ms. Bodnar, doing her best impression of Starhawk, also claimed "This is the patriarchal advancement of the self-interest of a handful of well-off men who have sabotaged the county's efforts to move forward with cannabis regulation in the past, and will continue to do so at all costs, because they want their name on it." Bodnar appears to be forgetting that Ellen Drell of the Willits Environmental Center, motivated by her concern for the environment, is also a deeply involved contributor to the No on AF committee.

THE AVA RECOMMENDS a No vote on Measure AF just because we don't think the stoner community should be writing their own rules. We would also gladly recommend a No vote on the committee working against AF, based solely on Sweeney's involvement. Swami Chaitanya? Pebbles Trippett? Mike Sweeney? Only one of them has retained their given name, but all have escaped from somewhere else and reinvented themselves right here in Mendocino County where — as we must frequently point out — you are whoever you say you are and history begins all over again everyday.MENDO COLLEGE has announced its annual plant sale as I annually wonder why local nursery businesses don't complain about unfair competition.

AS NOTED BY MIKE KOEPF: "I knew it. In the end for Bosco and his money boys, it was all about real estate and not the lofty bullshit about a responsible, regional newspaper Bosco was slinging."

RECOMMENDED READING: And don't let the title throw you off. "Show Me a Hero: A Tale of Murder, Suicide, Race, and Redemption," is really about public housing policy. What? How can that possibly be interesting? Lisa Belkin, a writer for the New York Times, and a very good writer, creates a riveting account of the federal mandate to build a proportionate number of public housing units in the rigidly segregated small city of Yonkers, New York. The author tells the story in the voices of the people involved, black, white and hispanic, and a fascinating story it is, so fascinating HBO, via the genius writer and producer David Simon, has adopted it for viewing as a series.

SUPERVISOR GJERDE: “…the state has been taking money away from transportation projects, not giving them more…” Mendocino County Supervisor Dan Gjerde correctly pointed out on Thursday when explaining why the Board of Supes would like to put a significant portion of any new pot revenues into road upgrade and repair that the State of California has not increased the piddling 18¢ a gallon gas tax since 1996 even though state government is dominated by Democrats who claim to be worried about greenhouse gasses and global warming. Not only has the 18¢ not increased, added Gjerde, but its purchasing power has dropped substantially.

A FRIEND suggests that for the purposes of voting, Fort Bragg's city limits should be expanded to include Simpson Lane to the south, Ten Mile to the north. I agree that those are the natural, logical city limits of Fort Bragg.

"YES ON AF INSTALLS illegal signs, fails to file campaign finance statement…" says Mike Sweeney of the No on AF committee. AF is the Mendo initiative written by the County's lead pot people. It would basically permit them to establish and administer County pot policy.

SWEENEY, a neo-respectable but unindicted car and airstrip bomber, is driving the No on AF bus. He found that the AF sign was too large? And that AF's financial reporting was a few hours tardy. Ho bleeping hum. Sweeney goes on to suggest that the Yes on AF campaign is the work of a bunch of crooks with access to all manner of untraceable cash-money. Which, truth to tell, is kinda true, but he's the very last person in the County to accuse anyone, including the current population of the County Jail, of wrongdoing.

A READER ASKS, "What to tell a 10-year-old daughter? Why hasn’t Mr. Trump outgrown the locker-room talk? These are among the questions being asked across the country."

WHEN I was raising ten-year-olds I told them that most people were nuts and to never be surprised by anything that people do or say.

CHRIS BRENNAN and the Swami are neighbors near Laytonville. That would be Swami Chaitanya. Brennan has lived on his place for 36 years, the Swami on his for 13. “The Swami has a natural prairie on his property that trees will not grow on,” Brennan says. “I have ridden my horse through it and hiked through it I can't tell you how many times. Dozens and dozens of times before the Swami bought in.”BRENNAN SAYS there’s an ancient archeological site on the Swami’s property at Blue Rock Creek. "Every time I used to ride through there — I run cattle — and I was walking around this meadow one day and I could see the old campground because the soil is all dark black there. There are Indian signs everywhere. If you go to the website he has pictures of himself excavating the Indian camp. Ripping it to pieces. He has to know what it is.”


AT THE RECENT town hall meeting in Laytonville called to discuss Measure AF — the marijuana initiative heavily supported by the Swami — Brennan, brandishing a photo from the Swami’s website showing the Swami excavating the site, asked the portly mystic, (a Mr. Natural look-alike), “Do you realize in this picture that you are ripping up a Native American camp? Do you realize under the CEQA laws that Native American camps are protected? But you guys found a loophole around CEQA. There is good reason why you don't want to have a CEQA check because it would then become a protected site.” And Brennan suggests, inconvenient to the proprietor of a major dope operation.

BRENNAN points out that loggers must report likely historical set-asides to “everyone — archeologists, botanists and Fish & Game, and Water Quality. “But," the indignant rancher insists, “you guys have found a way to get around that so you can do whatever you want.”

THE SWAMI responded to Brennan that there were no Native American artifacts on his land because it was harvested before he logged it and there were no artifacts found.”

BRENNAN fired back. "No. You are wrong. There are no artifacts found in the harvest boundaries because when they do a harvest plan there is a harvest boundary. They don't look at the meadows. That's a waste of their time. So I told him he was wrong there."

BRENNAN makes a strong case. He seems to see it as hypocritical of the Swami to make the usual ethereal claims about “walking lightly on the land” while heedlessly going about his business as a major marijuana grower and entrepreneur and destroying what appears to be an ancient Indian camp, a site likely to be legally protected if the authorities were aware of it.

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