‘Downtown Watch’

by Malcolm Macdonald, February 1, 2017

A large fir has uprooted and fallen across the footbridge directly in front of the Russian Gulch waterfall. For me that's the biggest takeaway in a week filled with Fort Bragg City Council, Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) Finance Committee and Board of Directors meetings. It's not that the goings on at those gatherings isn't important, but hiking trails and hiking off trail multiple times each week is just as much of a priority. The exercise may be what provides the stamina to sit through a five hour city council meeting (Fort Bragg, CA, Jan. 23).

By the way, if your mind wandered off path at the phrase “but hiking trails,” do not be alarmed. What you experienced was the confusion that confronts readers when a word can serve multiple functions as a noun, verb, adjective, or gerund. “[H]iking trails” appears to many as a two word adjective-noun concept; but in the context of doing something multiple times per week, the word “hiking” is used here as an active verb. Entire sentences can lead readers down an ambiguous garden path, so to speak: The old man the boat. Nearly all fluent English language readers make no sense of this thought at first glance. Their eyes literally move back and forth over the short sentence far more times than the eyes might take to scan an entire paragraph. Having been alerted to the “garden path” type of phrase or sentence many of you have already figured out that the five simple words mean that the elderly operate, or serve as the crew, of a boat.

If you want ambiguity at a public meeting, try Fort Bragg's “Downtown Watch.” This group meets occasionally, seemingly with the same five or six business owners in attendance. A couple of those are hanging on in Franklin Street businesses in buildings that are rotting or molding away, with landlords reluctant to make meaningful repairs. A couple more are Franklin Street refugees who have moved to Laurel Street to ply their business acumen.

At the January 23rd Fort Bragg City Council meeting, two days before the “Downtown Watch” got together, there was considerable discussion about the expenditure of an additional $200,000 per year in Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) money for promotion and marketing. That discussion seemed to center around promoting Fort Bragg to tourists, which inherently is a boon to hotels, motels, B&B's and the like, but not necessarily the downtown businesses. Not once at the City Council meeting did the concept of spending some promotion dollars on local advertising come up. In other words marketing local businesses to the locals who will always be there as a foundation to any profit making venture. Fortunately, that idea did arise among the business women and men at the “Downtown Watch” meeting. Therein arises the ambiguity, or irony if you wish. The “Downtown Watch” gatherings are chaired by the President of the Board of Directors of Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center (MCHC), Lynelle Johnson. The immediate past president of said board, Gary Johnson (Lynelle's husband) usually sits in on the “Downtown Watch” meetings. MCHC is a non-profit. The Hospitality Center at 101 Franklin Street and Hospitality House on McPherson (sic) Street are currently being run in a manner that proves detrimental to the businesses around them. Multiple Hospitality Center clients have engaged in multiple examples of shoplifting at nearby stores recently. The alleyway that runs beside the back entrance of Hospitality House is fraught with drug use of all sorts, occasional fights between clientele, as well as litter of the paper, plastic, and fecal variety. When mildly confronted with this information the Johnsons, as the movers and shakers of MCHC's Board of Directors, almost always respond with some sort of feeble excuse at best or we didn't know at the most ignorant worst. Current examples of why Hospitality House and Hospitality Center are not good for business are almost inexhaustive. Frankly, I'd rather get exhausted in a wilderness tromp.

At its Jan. 23rd meeting Fort Bragg's City Council authorized staff to move one step closer in linking the north and south sections of the coastal trail on the former Georgia-Pacific mill site and moved similarly along the way toward creation of regulations for in town sales of recreational marijuana.

As for Mendocino Coast District Hospital, the basic news is that the long awaited update to the Nurse Call System is more than three-quarters completed, but four other major repair projects are still at the beginning stages in the eyes of California's Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD, pronounced “osh-pod”). Those long awaited repair projects include the central sterilization system for the hospital; an automatic transfer switch (ATS), needed when electric power goes out; telemetry upgrades; and the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) unit. Costs for these projects which have been ongoing problems for more than half a decade in most instances are still uncertain, though logic would imply that those costs will rise the longer the repairs take. Final expenditures will be in multiple millions at best. Meanwhile, MCDH's Chief Financial Officer, Wade Sturgeon, continues to pursue bond opportunities that will help cover such repair costs and also help out with MCDH's day to day cash flow.

Though trees have fallen across the multitude of trails within Russian Gulch State Park in many places and “Trail Closed’ signs await at entrances to the park, intrepid hikers can still get through with a modicum of climbing over or limbo-ing under the fallen trees, most of which uprooted in the series of January storms.

Uproot yourself to the author's website: malcolmmacdonaldoutlawford.com

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