Off the Record

by AVA News Service, May 13, 2010

THERE'S NOTHING STUPID about Ed Colombi Jr. of Fort Bragg. He's done felony stretches for theft in Oregon, but back home in Fort Bragg the justice system is giving him fantastic breaks. Colombi admits that he stole many thousands of dollars in logs and lumber belonging to Dave McCutcheon, but despite his record Colombi faces only County time and now, ace attorney Richard Petersen, has talked the always pliable Judge Lehan into reconsidering the court-mandated reimbursement Colombi owes McCutcheon. Lehan did a comparable thing when the Cottrell family of Fort Bragg ripped off their neighbor, Skye Nickel, of her timber. Ms. Nickel wound up owing the thieves' lawyers, and the way The People vs. Colombi is going McCutcheon will not only lose years of hard work and the many thousands of dollars he retrieved in sinker logs, he'll magically end up owing the crook who ripped him off. As it is, McCutcheon has spent a small fortune trying to get himself a modicum of justice, but Petersen, who always gets what he wants from Lehan, has again worked his Lehan mojo to put a criminal over on his victim.

THE LOCAL POT BRIGADES seem loathe to hear it, but legalization is the worst thing that could happen to the local economy. The Pot People should be agitating for a NO vote on the pending state ballot measure. They should also be agitating for more pot raids not fewer. With a large percentage of the Emerald Triangle's population dependent on the annual income derived from marijuana production, legalization would drive prices, which are already down, so far down that the handy annual cash so many locals have come to rely on would mostly evaporate. Also, the proposed Mendo pot ordinance, as wacky in its bureaucratic un-doability as its proponents, is always and forever trumped by the fed's zero tolerance stance. Whatever Mendo, or California voters, come up with in the way of legalization, partial or total, will not stop or even slow down local raids. Those raids are driven by the DEA, a federal agency, and will continue whatever local guidelines are adopted and whatever the statewide vote is.

LAWYERS running for DA always bring up conviction rates as if they mean something. They don't. What's complicated about prosecuting the shlebs you see in the dock? How many master criminals have passed through the Mendocino County Courthouse lately? As the late Norm Vroman often said, “We only catch the dumb ones.”

MENDOCINO COUNTY'S Deputy Sheriff's Association has voted 110-0 against a 24% pay cut to save the jobs of the department's most recent hires, and if you were a newbie cop how do you think you'd feel?

THE LAKE COUNTY PASSION PLAY “celebrates 30 years of God's choicest blessings” this weekend near Lakeport by re-enacting the crucifixion, complete with portly Roman soldiers escorting an ecumenically correct black Jesus to the cross. American re-enactments seem pretty tame alongside those the Filipinos do, complete with gaunt little fanatics who nail themselves to the cross with real nails hammered clear through to the wood, which they then drag with themselves suspended Christ-like through the streets of Manila. Does Comptche still do a Passion Play? Many years ago, as I did God's work at this fine newspaper, faithfully writing the weekly truth to legions of disbelievers, I was sitting at my office on Anderson Valley Way when it was as if Jezebel herself had suddenly appeared, a voluptuous, heavily made-up woman in a tight-fitting purple pants suit and a push 'em up bra who'd wafted in the door on a cloud of weapons-grade perfume. In a heavy Southern accent, and a little excessively basso-Peggy Lee-ish in the context, Jezz asked, “Are you interested in our passion play?” I'd been stunned into silence at this mesmerizing visitation. Flashy, done-up babes seldom appear in Boonville at any hour let alone at 9am in the grungy office of a chaste newspaper. Passion play? What was that? Love at third base? I finally stammered out something like, “I'm dabadab, er, bab a ree bab, all ears.” This lady had made an indelible impression, as you can tell. If the context had been urban, well, odd things happen in the urbs all the time. Odd things happen all the time here, too, but this particular oddity was unprecedented, I assure you. The lady was from Comptche, and her name, if memory serves, was Linda Coolidge, sister of the singer Rita Coolidge whose father pastored the church in Comptche. The church was attended by a lot of re-entry hippies who'd come repentant down out of the big naked piles in the hills after a few years of minor league sinning. In about two weeks, the church hippies had gone from, “Ya gotta do acid, man” to “Ya gotta do Jesus, man.” But the hippies still liked a good show, hence a lot of music in lieu of the discipline and sacrifice recommended by JC, and a realllllly big annual show called a Passion Play with a hippie-looking dude on a cross, Our Savior, as He's still called by the people who think He can save them. At the time, I didn't know what a Passion Play was, but I promised Ms. Coolidge I'd get the word out, if not The Word itself. I'd leave that to her.

ONE OF THE SADDEST photos I've seen in years was the one in a recent Ukiah Daily Journal of the freshly refurbished Ukiah Depot with the indefatigable Judy Pruden standing matronly guard in front of it. That's the Ukiah Train Depot, a relic of those long gone times when four trains a day ran between Sausalito and Eureka, two northbound, two south. Imagine that! You better imagine it because it will never happen again unless our mass transit is subbed out to the Japanese or the French. And imagine a time when Americans cared about what their towns looked like. Imagine a time when Ukiah cared about what it looked like. (Answer: 1946) Ms. Pruden — her and Sisyphus — are just about all that's left of Ukiah's civic aesthetic. So the graceful old depot has been gussied up, and now it sits there like a bride abandoned at the altar, alone, in a post-industrial moonscape of rusty railroad tracks and broken beer bottles. I give it a month before its windows are punched out and roving bands of remedial readers have slathered it with spray paint.

JEFF COSTELLO WRITES: “Al Blue's far right ravings are highlighted by his recent comment accusing lefties of “not having an original thought since 1960.” The likes of Mr. Blue, whose outlook neatly defines solipsism, self-absorption and the Philistine profile, do not even pay attention to each other, and therefore do not understand how drearily clichéd their entire repertoire is. Most of what he says is indistinguishable from the words of a particular couple of right wingers I've encountered on an internet forum. I suppose the difference might be that as a Randian cultist, he has a license.”

TO GREAT CHORUSES of County-wide schadenfreude Mr. and Mrs. Meredith Lintott have filed for bankruptcy. Mrs. Lintott is Mendocino County District Attorney. She seems to arouse an animosity out of all proportion to her person and function because, in real life, or as real as life gets here behind The Green Curtain, Mrs. Lintott is quite pleasant, jolly even. Just because she appears to be in over her head in her present job shouldn't be cause to celebrate her going broke. Meredith and her mister ran up a million bucks on their charge cards — that and their two underwater Mendo mortgages, one in Fort Bragg, the other in Redwood Valley. “I think I'm in the same boat as many other people,” Lintott told Tiffany Revelle of the Ukiah Daily Journal. Well, not exactly, Meredith. Most people aren't district attorneys and not many American couples make $200,000 a year, but most of us do spend more than we make.

AT THE APRIL 5 meeting of the County Board of Education, Superintendent Tichinin tried to explain who of his staff would be allowed to speak first, saying that the simplest way to handle it would be alphabetically, adding, “Alternative Education starts with an A” so they’d go first.

THE MEETING was the usual “workshop” with Tichinin’s bloated staff wringing their chubby little hands over budget cuts, and not how the cuts will affect “the learning experience” as it applies to “the kids,” but the cuts as they affect them and their pay. There wasn't a quorum of the County School Board on hand so no business, such as it is, could get done. But one revealing discussion involved which part of the County's edu-apparat was going to the ten grand a year the state pays to educate local delinquents. (If Mozart were a kid in Ukiah the state would kick down about a third the money they kick down for junior criminals.) A Probation Department staffer who was only described as “Peter” apparently gets his budget from MCOE as the coordinator of the mini-school at Juvenile Hall. The Juvenile Hall’s mini-school is having budget problems because even though Ukiah High School has expelled dozens and dozens of students lately for drug offenses, they haven’t made it to Juvenile Hall because Ukiah Unified can’t afford to let the fat ADA (Average Daily Attendance) money leak out of their District. Ukiah Unified's solution: Set up their own mini-Juvenile Hall where they do their own mini-Juvenile Hall School education — off-campus (but nearby). Because of Ukiah Unified’s clever way of hanging on to drug-offender ADA money while still claiming to have expelled the miscreants, the Probation Department’s mini-school budget is way down and they may now only be able to afford one classroom.

AMONG other minor revelations at Tichinin’s budget workshop: There’s been a large increase in the number of students with severe disabilities. ROP (aka Vocational Education) is going to offer a class in “virtual enterprise” which, apparently is “expensive to offer” because “student competition and student travel and student fund-raising” cost a lot of money. (We have no idea what “virtual enterprise” is — perhaps it’s something like “virtual education.” We also don’t know why they can’t do it with “virtual travel.”)

ANOTHER victim of the budget ax, according to the unidentified ROP coordinator was MCOE’s phlebotomy classes. “We have flooded the market with phlebotomists,” the well-dressed lady sadly reported.

ACCORDING TO the State Department of Justice website, Mendocino County was second in total asset forfeitures for 2008, behind only Los Angeles County for the second year in a row. The DOJ’s on-line Asset Forfeiture lists go back to 2004 when Mendo raked in about $807k. In 2005 Mendo was down to $312k, but back to about $700k in 2006. Then it spiked to $1.75 million in 2007 and declined slightly in 2008 to about $1.4 million.

BY COMPARISON, for 2008, Humboldt County got about $620k; Lake County got a paltry $2,000; Sonoma County got about $333k; Glenn County got about $28k; San Diego only about $17k. In the Bay Area San Francisco got about $610k and Alameda County got about $1.1 million. Trinity County, generally considered to be the third leg of the Emerald Triangle, got no asset forfeiture money at all.

THERE DOESN’T SEEM to be a consistent method of distributing of the funds. The proceeds of each forfeiture are apparently distributed to a list of local law enforcement agencies who may have been involved in the underlying criminal case. Typically, in a relatively straightforward case, 18% of the money goes to pay the “Asset Forfeiture Officer,” 10% goes to the DA’s office, and 5% goes to the Sheriff and each of the city police departments. 10% goes to the state’s forfeiture administration office, and 18% goes to the County’s Marijuana Eradication Team. But sometimes seized asset money is also spread around to the Highway Patrol or the Major Crimes Task Force.

COUNTY AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER Tony Linegar is gearing up to defend the wine industry from an attack by the European Grape Vine Moth. The pest has been discovered in several vineyards in the Ukiah Valley. Linegar has deployed language that General Patton would be proud of — lines of defense, targeting our forces, enlisting our allies, etc. The state ag department has sent in some additional troops to set out and monitor traps, but Linegar wants the Board of Supervisors to authorize him to hire at least two biologists to help enforce the quarantine which, as of late last week, has not yet been formally announced, although it’s widely anticipated. Linegar said he thinks the moths that came in from Europe on imported vineyard equipment in the wine counties to our south are now finding their way north to Mendocino County. The moth deposits its larvae right into the budding grape bunches and produces not only fruit damage, but a mold that can be tasted in the wine if not caught early enough.

LINEGAR’S sense of urgency is understandable, but Mendo doesn’t have cash sitting around loose to fight the wine industry’s pest battles for it. The wine industry is always quick to extend the begging bowl for public money, but it's an industry quite able to fight moths on its own. But lack of a funding source didn’t stop the Board of Supervisors from authorizing Linegar to begin the hiring process for the two biologists.

SURPRISINGLY (or perhaps not) no one on the Board of Supervisors suggested asking the wine industry itself to pay for saving their own crop, not even to pony up the initial phases of the Battle Against The Moth until an official infestation is declared by the State and (perhaps) more state money is available. Individual grape growers are taking some steps to be cooperative on detection, isolation and quarantine on their own land, but when it comes to threats to the entire industry, they seem to think they’re entitled to a government hand-out and instant emergency response to their own industry’s threat. And many of these are the people who say the government can’t be trusted to do anything right.

IN THE OPENING moments of Karen Ottoboni's interview of local judge candidates Ann Moorman and Caren Callahan on KZYX last Friday morning, Ottoboni asked Moorman to explain why judicial candidates can't answer questions about a host of subjects because of “judicial ethics” and “the law.” Moorman duly launched into the usual recitation of what Ottoboni had asked for. The only time you'll see or hear from a judge is at election time, and to miss an opportunity to ask their would-be majesties a few basic questions is, well, a missed opportunity. “Tell us, Judge, why you can't talk about anything.”

COURT APPROVED traffic schools listed by the Mendocino County Superior Court sound like most of them are aimed at 12-year olds: Fun 4U-Fast2, Easy Fast Fun Online, Comedy School 4 Less, Certified Defensive Driving, Happy Traffic School, Traffic School Online, Simple Fast Fun, Drive-In Fun 2 Learn, Traffic101.com, Online Traffic School, Affordable Home Study, Fast Easy Happy Online, Trafficschool.com, California Jammin' traffic school, Not Guilty Traffic School, Instant Traffic School, The Original Home Study, Painless Payless Traffic School, Facil Divertido Y A Su Alcance, Comedy School, Pacific Seminar Traffic Safety, Cheap School, and Pizza 4U Great Comedians.

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