In The Beginning There Was George

by Rex Gressett, February 8, 2017

The insider's club is on the march.

The recent election was really about City Manager Linda Ruffing. The people of the City thought that they were voting to end Ruffing's reign of deception. The good and honest people of Fort Bragg, after decades of patience, had become tired of her schemes to create policy by means that if not exactly illegal were so close to illegal that the two Councilmen most deeply implicated in her schemes quit the council before the last election and headed for the deep woods.

The City Council, new members and old, may not want to face the expectation of the people, but the electorate had every reason to think that the first thing they would do was to fire Linda Ruffing. The Council now has the majority that the people gave them. They can fire her if they want to. We shall see.

At least we can agree that the new Council explicitly told the people that they were men of integrity and courage. They made brave declarations that they were out to slay dragons. However, to slay dragons you have be able to tell who the dragons are. One (of the few) nice things about being a dragon slayer, is that you can often sit down and the dragons will often come to you. That is what is happening presently.

One important dragon is smiling George Reinhardt.

It must be said that the newly elected City Council has been hard at it trying to figure out what the heck is going on. From what I hear they have both been repeatedly to City Hall asking for documents and digging for the truth.

That in itself is a hell of a lot more than the old City Council ever did. A couple of months ago there was a sweeping (but faltering) consensus that the job of the Council properly consisted of being a rubberstamp and doing it with a smile. That is over. The City Manager is in hiding and the second string (tonight George Reinhardt) is working the ropes.

Who is this George Reinhardt?

In the days of old, 2011 and before, there was universal happiness and nobody even ran for the City Council (possibly out of disgust) or perhaps because the self-appointing Council wistfully reflected, because things were just so damn good in Fort Bragg that nobody needed to raise any issues at all.

Even then there was George.

Of course in those days we had the same 58% of the City living under the minimum income it takes for the city to qualify for CBDG grants. But we were happy then.

George likes to go to City Council meetings, and has always gone to meetings even when he is the only one there. This was mostly the case for a long time. Gradually, there began to be two of us, but my presence is regarded at best as an annoyance and implicitly a threat. But this is not true of George. George is here to help! He's a smiler for one thing. George is never out of sorts or disagreeable. He is in favor of whatever the City is doing.

George may not be as selfless as he may appear. (Or wants you to think.) Many folks have to work for a living or once did, or struggle, or swim upstream. George seems to harbor a distaste for those who have to engage in the grubby business of making a living.

George got his money the only way that a gentleman can honorably get it. He inherited it. He shows a strong preference for folks who understand the patrician status of hand me down money. Scott Menzies, a great favorite of George, is also in the easy money club. That gives old Scott the opportunity to operate a business without ever actually being there, without anyone being there. Candidate Menzies' sole income appeared to be from a meal ticket gig from the poverty pimps who run our civic homeless program (which he defended with vigor) and teaching tai chi to George Reinhard. If Menzies had other clients I would be interested to know it.

Scott Menzies just wanted to sit in the Council chair and bask in the strokes that come with high office. In Fort Bragg, a small town. He is a simple man.

George Reinhardt is a bit more complicated. He has been at the business of public deception a lot longer.

Let us remember how we got to this City Council meeting that is going to occur tonight, which will forever affect the fate of the old Georgia-Pacific millsite, although they don't want you to know that and George has gone to lengths to hide that important truth behind one red herring and his burnished credibility.

In the high and far off times, the people of Fort Bragg thought that they should get together and push the City Council to develop the millsite. For anyone who does not know and there might possibly be someone, the millsite is a vast (420 acre) piece of heavily polluted land that sits between the City of Fort Bragg and the ocean.

By any measure it is a world class property. Here exploding waves pound the Mendocino coast and sea lions bask on the rocks. The beauty is stunning, no other word for it.

And so in the long ago, people came forward, and in city-sponsored meetings poured out their visions for the use of this spectacular site.

Doug Hammerstrom, who made an art form out of subverting the Brown Act, got his start as a kind of wide-eyed and charmingly disingenuous Boy Scout at those meetings. He rode that perception on to the City Council and stayed there unopposed for a long time.

The proposals of the people for the envisioned Millsite were brilliant and, predictably, were never considered, never read, never even looked at. All public proposals went immediately into the trash. But a plan for the development of the site and access to the ocean was hacked out. It was very different than anything anyone wanted. This was “The Specific Plan.”

George had a big part in it. The Plan cost $2.5 million. Georgia Pacific (that is the Koch brothers) paid for it. The Specific Plan was the responsibility of the Fort Bragg development director, Marie Jones. Marie did the plan and Dan Gjerde who, without opposition (almost), thereafter ascended to the County Board of Supervisors worked right along with her.

George provided cover and pamphlets. Together this team went to many meetings with the Coastal Commission and held quite a few meetings with the people of Fort Bragg. George Reinhardt opened an actual office and loyally carried water for the City in many glossy publications and handouts.

All together they did such a bad job of designing the Specific Plan that two things happened. The first was that the Coastal Commission required 830 amendments to the plan.

That is like missing 830 questions on multiple choice.

The City Council and the City got their plan for the development of the millsite but Marie Jones had botched it so bad that rather than deal with 830 separate blunders the Council just had to shrug it off and go on to simpler matters. The whole thing died.

The second thing that came out of it besides nothing, was that Marie Jones (undeterred) leveraged her failure into a new plan (the coastal trail) which allowed the public access to the ocean by going around the mess that she had made in the Specific Plan. That new project required an EIR which she did (although it was a couple of years late) but finally the bruising inertia and incompetence of the Development Director shamed the Coastal Commission into giving her “The Trail” and thereby taking from the people access to the rest of the property. This is the great achievement of the City which they celebrate at every opportunity.

In all of this George Reinhard played a key role. His little super well funded outfit nudged this “achievement” into existence. He did maps and proposals and evaluations with glossy covers and in-depth analysis, all of them supporting in clear terms with great graphics the crazy and unworkable Specific Plan of the Development Director. It was all bull. But it had the effect of giving cover to City as they floated the unworkable specific plan. And ultimately of keeping the whole development on a back burner. This was what they wanted.

George, who has rarely missed a meeting, is back to screw you again on behalf of his loyalties to those in power, who oppose in their very genes the welfare of the City.

He wants you to give up $750k in grant money that has been allocated to connect the two halves of the trail that Marie Jones got with so much blundering and that people love so much. George wants the Council instead to agree that instead of just connecting the trails we hold off in favor of a big loop that encloses a couple of acres including the most polluted parts of the mill site. But if people stay on the trail they will not be put in danger.

He claims that this is because George doesn't want us to agree to any deal until the pollution is cleaned up. But his proposal does nothing to ensure that any cleanup will ever occur. He is floating a red herring. What he wants has nothing to do with what he says. It is very simple. George wants the city to own a chunk of the millsite. The center chunk. That will have the same effect as the botched Specific Plan and the trail. It will take the pressure off to develop the whole site and keep most of it out of our hands. I know it is hard to believe but that is what they want.

I understand that such an assertion cannot stand alone. I frankly had a hard time believing it myself. But that is what they want. They do not want prosperity; they do not want a development of any kind; they do not want a park that will bring people to the City; they do not want the millsite developed or used because that will lead to prosperity and they don't want that. I know that these assertions must be supported and in the coming weeks I will support them and prove them.

Tonight's meeting is a land grab. George has been setting it up for weeks with the Mayor in secret talks. It gives them a city-owned corridor to the ocean and it makes tackling the whole site a lot harder. Stay tuned.

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