Off the Record (Feb. 15, 2017)
by AVA News Service, February 15, 2017
LAST WEEK, the DA's office circulated a presser announcing the DA's opposition to parole for one of the killers of Larry Long, a locally famed Ukiah street person. As Ukiah Police Chief Chris Dewey's fond memories of Long suggest the murdered man was a ubiquitous, harmless presence, shuffling around the downtown area of our County seat with rock and roll tunes blaring from his boombox.
LONG'S constant companion was an Indian named Adrian McWhinney, like Long, a man committed to strong drink. I remember once encountering the two of them in that little park off, I think, North Dora, not far from the Held-Poage Library. They were both bopping around the park to Larry's tunes, absolutely transported, the only two people in the world. It was a touching sight, two outcasts managing to find a few minutes of joy in lives that hadn't seen much to celebrate.
McWHINNEY is still around. He looks pretty good for a hard drinker. He had to have been devastated when the two mopes robbed his pal Larry and threw him, still alive, off the Talmage Road Bridge. Two then-very young men were quickly arrested and packed off to prison. One was a fellow named Portlock, now 39, and the reason for the DA's opposition to his parole. The other killer was Eric Mehtlin, who'd be about the same age as Portlock, late thirties.
I MET MEHTLIN and his parents when the future killer was a hyper-active little guy about ten. I wrote about the parents' struggle to keep Eric with them, at home, but social services didn't approve of them or their home and placed their son at Trinity School on the Westside of Ukiah which, by then, was an institution for much tougher, mostly older, delinquently-oriented boys and girls. Younger children were, to put it gently, preyed upon.
THE MEHTLINS were bulldozed by social services and, with the auto-collusion of a Superior Court judge, Eric, who, given his age and obvious little guy vulnerability, was placed at Trinity School when he belonged (1) with his parents (2) a foster home if his parents were truly defective.
NO SURPRISE that Eric emerged at the emancipatory age of 18 from the tender embrace of Mendocino County's helping professionals as a full sociopath, with zero regard for other people unto murdering them, as he helped do with Larry Long. I have no idea how he's doing in prison, and I disagree with the DA's automatic rejection of parole for men who do very bad things when they're still very young. I think parole should depend on how they do in prison, and the prison people, the people who see them every day, should decide when they get out. They know who's a menace and who's not. But Mendocino County certainly played a major role in making Eric Mehtlin into a killer.
ANOTHER FIRST for Point Arena, and I'm raising a glass to Mendocino County's smallest town for their steadfast refusal to succumb to these healthy living busy bodies. According to the American Lung Association the Fog Eaters failed every category on a recent tobacco survey — no grade higher than an F. Every other town in the County showed a decrease in tobacco use. But, heck, PA was incorporated in the first place so residents could keep on drinking while the rest of America went dry, and they're still puffing and putting them down over there in all that fresh air straight off the Pacific. Long may Point Arena's livers and lungs hold up!
THE SUPES have instructed staff to proceed with an application for $25 million in prison construction funds to expand space for ever more inmates, and space for additional inmate services.
THE COUNTY JAIL is overcrowded and falling apart. If the money is forthcoming, construction could begin in 2020.
ACCORDING to the Sheriff's Department, more than 22 percent of inmates are mentally ill, among them older inmates suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and dementia. Presently, there are only a few iso cells available to house a large number of these vulnerable inmates and the small number of extremely psychotic prisoners who must be housed apart from other inmates for their own safety and the safety of others.
FORMER SUPERVISOR WOODHOUSE is applying through the County for Worker's Compensation on a claim that the job drove him crazy.
HISTORICALLY CONSIDERED, and offhand, I can think of at least five supervisors who would be considered mentally ill any place but Mendocino County. These people were more or less functioning in that they were able to make their way to the County Admin building for meetings and, once in the building, find their way to the big leather chairs on the dais up front. But their public behavior and statements were not tethered either to the subject under discussion or the broader reality as most of us share it.
MENDOCINO COUNTY is far too lax in doling out early retirements on the basis of "stress." Cops get these tax-free gifts of public funds all the time around here. Two that I know of are simply scams, and never should have been granted. A person becomes a cop knowing the work is stressful, and unless he's been shot up or otherwise suffered consensus trauma on the job, he or she should not even attempt a "stress" out, let alone be granted one.
WOODHOUSE? Like everyone else I'm sorry that he lost his mind. I hope he can be medicated back to a semblance of normal functioning. But his family, early on, hired a lawyer, Chris Neary, to get Woodhouse a range of lucrative County benefits he was not entitled to from less than two years on the job. It took the threat of prosecution by DA Eyster to finally persuade the Woodhouse family to give up their agitation for the gamut of County employee benefits. The prosecution would have stemmed from the episode where the berserk Supervisor was choking his wife when a pair of cops arrived at Woodhouse's home, only to have Woodhouse attack them. The two officers were kicked and bitten, and had quite a struggle to finally subdue the Supervisor. By that time, Woodhouse already had twice been hospitalized in out-of-County psych facilities at great cost to County taxpayers.
CENTRAL AMONG the reasons for recent hikes in our power bills is explained by a recent story in the L.A. Times: "To cover the expense of new plants whose power isn’t needed — Colusa, for example, has operated far below capacity since opening — Californians are paying a higher premium to switch on lights or turn on electric stoves. In recent years, the gap between what Californians pay versus the rest of the country has nearly doubled to about 50%. “This translates into a staggering bill. Although California uses 2.6% less electricity annually from the power grid now than in 2008, residential and business customers together pay $6.8 billion more for power than they did then. The added cost to customers will total many billions of dollars over the next two decades, because regulators have approved higher rates for years to come so utilities can recoup the expense of building and maintaining the new plants, transmission lines and related equipment, even if their power isn’t needed. “How this came about is a tale of what critics call misguided and inept decision-making by state utility regulators, who have ignored repeated warnings going back a decade about a looming power glut."
ANIMAL SHELTER DIRECTOR RICH MOLINARI told the Supervisors on Tuesday that UC Davis’s veterinary school will do a three-day assessment of County Animal Shelter on March 14-16 to review animal health and welfare.
DANIELLE BRADLEY is State Senator Mike McGuire’s new “district representative” for Mendocino and Lake County. She’s probably in her 20s, but she looks and sounds like a high school kid. Apparently she’s from San Diego and is a 2016 UC Davis grad in political science with a minor in human rights.
MENDO COLLEGE has pulled the plug on its long-trouble football program. Without re-hashing the history of those troubles they boil down to imported athletes who, when they arrived in Ukiah, they were ill-housed in premises owned by an almost comically exploitive landlord and otherwise did not benefit from the Mendo College experience.
WILD HYPERBOLE. I was startled the other day to hear a woman compare the Fort Bragg mill site contamination to Fukushima. She was speaking on a local news show. Whenever tech-talk strays from the professionals qualified and involved in the actual work of remediation, I mentally ask, "Can we have a show of hands of all those people who passed high school chemistry, including the speaker's bona fides?"
HERE COMES BIG POT: This is the link to the company that's in escrow to purchase the Fetzer home ranch and turn it into a cannabis processing center: https://www.flowkana.com/home
SWEENEY IN NEW ZEALAND. Mendocino County's most interesting person, Mike Sweeney, is presently living in New Zealand. The former director of Mendocino Solid Waste Management Authority is a former revolutionary communist involved in a series of violent episodes back to the late 1960s, and remains the primary suspect in the 1990 car bombing of his former wife, Judi Bari. Sweeney had lived in Mendocino County since the 1980s where, having cast off his previous incarnation as a Maoist, Sweeney soon reinvented himself as a recycling bureaucrat, with one of his first acts being an attempt to recycle his inconvenient ex-wife. Prior to his departure for unsuspecting New Zealand, Sweeney had lived on Ukiah's Westside with Glenda Anderson, a reporter for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. It is not known if Ms. Anderson will join Sweeney in his New Zealand exile.
RECOMMENDED WALKS, Frisco Division: Specifically, turn right at the city end of the Golden Gate Bridge, park any old place in the abundant free lots for the next quarter mile and walk on! You'll soon be treading the bluffs above the ocean, but the more adventurous (and fit) will enjoy the fairly well-maintained trails running parallel to the pavement down below, just above the breakers which, at this time of year, are spectacular. I like to make a big loop from the Bridge and down on to Baker Beach, up the sand stairway from the Beach, on up another set of stairs and sea cypress leading to the overlook on Washington Boulevard. To me, and not to go all woo-woo on you here, this area inspires kaleidoscopic images of the entire history of the state, from the centuries of expeditionary sailors, beginning with the Spaniards, who were oblivious of the great bay hidden by its tiny mouth, as they sailed on by out to sea. sometimes only a few miles offshore. If you take a good long look at the Golden Gate you understand why it remained unexplored for so long even after Sir Francis Drake had lingered just a few miles up the coast at Tomales, where he marveled at both the hospitality and the physical beauty of the Indians. He especially marveled at the strength of the males, noting that one Indian easily carried a sea chest that it took two of his sailors to tote. Fairly early in the twentieth century, after too many ship wrecks, the Marin side of Gate was dynamited to enlarge the passage to the bay. It remains a visible gash. I always feel like a character in one of those corny old movies where a character wakes up from a coma and says, "It all comes back to me now," but it really does, everything from the Russians at Fort Ross to John Sutter, to the Gold Rush, to the waves of immigrants, to the outbound troop ships, many of whose troops never came back. In the summer months, especially at Baker Beach, this walk can be X-Rated. The beach is a gay trysting zone where, ah, outdoor consummations of sudden friendships are not an unusual sight, as is the occasional outdoor hetero boff. Mid-winter is the best time to explore the acres beneath the west side of the Bridge to enjoy the full force of the Pacific as it batters at Frisco's door.
THE MOST MEMORABLE outdoor exhibitionists I've seen in the area were a youngish couple posted at the foot of the Baker Beach sand stairs in a way that forced persons climbing the stairs to walk around them. They were both nude, and she was fondling his flaccid penis. I wanted to call the Appropriate Police but I didn't have either a phone or the number.
SPRINKLE DENIED. AGAIN. Mendocino County's most thoroughly screwed state prison inmate, Mark Sprinkle, has again been denied parole. He will appear before the State Parole Board again in 2020.
THE UKIAH truck driver got 45-to-life for 90 seconds of sexual touching back in 1996. The crime consisted of a bizarre episode where three young girls, two of them prematurely sexualized to put it mildly, voluntarily, as a "joke," took their clothes off in Sprink's car. They testified to that basic fact and seemed truthful in their testimony about what ensued. Which was a fast round of vaginal pats and breast chucks. Sprinkle still insists he didn't even do that, and initially turned down a 3-5 deal if he would plead out.
WHAT WE KNOW for sure is he didn't rape, murder or otherwise coerce the three innocents. And his denial that he did even that has kept him in prison. Two of the three girls initiated the episode. The third was a ten-year-old the two older girls were babysitting. (!) Sprinkle touched them inappropriately, as Mendolib describes everything from bad table manners to mass murder. 21-plus three for this?
WHAT I KNOW from reading all the paper on the case is that the state authorities, including a prison shrink, were unaware of the bizarre basics of what happened. And weren't interested in adjusting their views when they were made aware.
ASSUMING SPRINKLE touched the girls, and it would be a heroically disciplined man who could restrain himself from "molesting" the preternaturally statuesque ringleader, and given the voluntary circumstances of the touching, does he deserve to die in prison? There are at least fifty guys sitting in the County Jail right now who've done a lot worse.
SPRINK has been locked up for almost 21 years now, and he is a guy who was always employed on the outside but also a guy the local cops found highly irritating because he was always around trouble, always around tweekers and, of course, used tweek himself. But if we doled out life sentences to local people who lived the tweeker life a lot more Mendolanders would be locked away.
WHEN PUNISHMENT is out of all proportion to the crime alleged there's no justice, and Sprinkle has been on the receiving end of a disproportionate sentence for going on twenty years now and, as he says himself, "I'm never getting out." He probably isn't. Alive anyway. Sprinkle is in failing health.
DURING TUESDAY'S pot rules discussion before the Supes, a Redwood Valley mom offered this poignant, first-hand account of what it's like to live in a grow area, and all of Mendocino County is a grow area, which in turn prompts the influx of criminally-oriented street people, drug and alcohol-dependent derelicts generally, who in turn create a cadre of helping professionals, who in turn prompt grant grabbing by the county and the individual cities of the county, and everyone just goes on tsk-tsking the steady growth of scumbaggery without even an honest discussion of who all these neo-funding units are, where they're from, what their criminal histories are. And the so-called rules governing local marijuana production are already a joke before the ink is dry because the county has little enforcement capacity, and we won't even begin to get into the thugs attracted to the NorthCoast because they know growers, many of them also armed, tend to keep a lot of cash around. We think the following statement by Mrs. McEwen is a realistic account of what life is like for many non-pot people living in Mendocino County:
Heather McEwen, Ukiah: I am here as a mom, a mom of four. We bought our home 17 years ago at the end of Redemeyer Road outside Ukiah. My kids are 10 years apart, two are in their 20s and two in their teens. 17 years ago when we moved into that neighborhood we were able to go outside and play hide and go seek, basketball… All the neighbors were out there with them. They were able to run around, go on a jog if they were training for something… Now my two teenage kids are not allowed to go outside the front door. We never locked our house before, we do now. They can't go on walks by themselves, they have to have an adult. And I am not comfortable out there either. We know that the high fences and the dogs and the traffic and all that is a nuisance. But I have witnessed having people in my woodpile or looking in the garage door seeking a marijuana grow. I have had people knocking on my door asking if we sell marijuana. I have met people peeking over my fence, going through my yard, past my children's window or doors because they are stealing marijuana from that neighbor. That neighbor then came over the next morning and accused me of stealing it and then hating me because I called the Sheriff's department and somebody came and he had to pull his grow out. I have had my other neighbor come over and ask if I saw someone come and steal his $19 grand in cash which was stolen over the weekend. I've had people come driving through our garden and threaten to kill me because I wouldn't tell them where a certain person lived. They were looking for his grow. I've seen people peeking over fences to see where people are growing marijuana. It's not — we've had somebody raped just down the street. It's not safe. It's not fair that my kids have to stay indoors and not be able to go outside and be a child and play and be with their friends — they have to stay inside where they are bored. I never stayed inside as a child. It's not fair for them to have to stay inside as well. Please do not allow them to grow in our neighborhood, near our property. My neighbors can afford to buy new cars every year and remodel their homes with all new landscaping. I can't afford to do any of that. I can't afford to buy a new house and move out. I cannot afford to go buy property and go grow my marijuana somewhere else. I need to be in a residential area. Thank you.”
AND ARE WE the only people to notice the increase in shopping cart-ism in Ukiah? As we repeat ad nauseum, persons unable or unwilling to care for themselves cannot be permitted to live on the streets.
HOW DO WE GET THEM off the streets and into shelter is the question. The answer is not likely to come from the state or federal government. It's up to us, and here's a vote for a mandatory safe space set aside on public property where the homeless would be required to stay while they remain incompetent. The Ukiah Fairgrounds, the old hospital in Willits, the abandoned Point Arena Air Force station, the Boonville Fairgrounds. (There's four or five vacant acres in Boonville.)
THE SHERIFF'S PLAN to house and treat the mentally ill portion of the homeless population was the right idea at the right time, but it was narrowly defeated by a tiny sliver of County voters misled by the "liberal" member of the Board of Supervisors. There is a large population of people out there — many of them not from Mendocino County— who are not technically mentally ill, but they are career drunks and drug addicts committing public suicide. It is not humane to encourage or facilitate aberrant ways of outdoor living.
DURING PUBLIC COMMENT at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors discussion of the final draft of the new medical pot cultivation rules, Hal Wagenet said that Chris Brennan, who filed the complaint about Stuart Bewley (described in last week’s AVA) was prevented from signing because of an impacted tooth and Swami Chaitanya, aka William ‘Bill’ Winans, said the Mendocino Cannabis Industry Association had voted to endorse the letter "with concern." This coalition formed to support the Board’s essentially middle of the road position to allow new pot grows in many areas (not including forest or rangeland) but permit existing grows and allow limited new ones in most other rural areas. Conspicuous among the non-signers is the group fronted by Coast marijuana legend Pebbles Trippet whose smaller pro-marijuana organization is suing the County on grounds that the County is imposing an illegal tax on their “medicine.”
SATURDAY AFTERNOON, I offered this San Rafael street skell ten bucks if he'd tell me his story in broad outline. He'd just spare-changed me. "Just the basic facts like where you were born, how you got to where you are," I said. He told me to go fuck myself. I told him he'd have to get in line, a very old joke. But he laughed, and said that was the first funny thing he'd heard all week. I gave him a dollar. He was still laughing as I walked on. I wonder if my charity qualifies as one of those random acts of kindness you read about on bumperstickers. Or was I just being a supercilious prick?
COUNTY SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT of Education, Warren Galletti, published a long, cancer-causing essay in Sunday's Ukiah Daily Journal apparently intended to reassure the slower members of the local edu-bloc that they were safe from Trump.
WE'VE GOT this theory that falsity, carried to extremes, and cumulatively, especially in persons who deal in it all their stunted lives, shortens one’s lifespan. Read Galletti's op-ed front to back and deduct that time spent from your longevity.
IN IDLE moments at Boonville's beloved weekly, we nominate people for our Insincerity Roster. Scott Simon, the supreme audio ass kisser of all time, sets our standard. So far, a few people have come close but nobody has surpassed Simon. David Muir and Scott Pelley, national newscasters, have been put forward but, phony as they are, they still can't touch Simon. Wolf Blitzer at CNN? Comedians don't count, nor do the chuckle buddies we see on the television news out of Frisco. They'll all die young.
GALLETTI'S DEPRESSING DOCUMENT might get a charity 'C' at a reputable high school, but really, it's a strong argument every which way for a total re-build of public ed which, at this point, resists all reform. Also note that Galletti now has two assistant drones where the last time I checked he had only the hyphenate, Joens-Poulton:
THE SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION begins, "I was talking with the Mendocino County Office of Education Associate Superintendent Paul Joens-Poulton and Assistant Superintendent Becky Jeffries about our local educational programs and funding, and we realized that many people do not know how lucky we are to be in California…"
OF COURSE YOU WERE, WARREN. You don't have anything else to do in your big, silent office at the Talmage compound, where perfumed men and women, Moonie-like smiles plastered on their uncomprehending, unevolved pusses, wander around with their coffee cups on expensive flooring, talking about in-services and new paradigms.
I'D REPRINT the whole thing if I wasn't afraid of killing someone.
THIS DEAD HORSE has been flogged so many times it's been a mound of glue for at least thirty years. One more time: The Mendocino County Office of Education does not perform a single function that the individual school districts of the County could not do better and cheaper. If Trump accomplishes anything, it is my fervent wish that he not only destroys the pointless federal office of education, and all the state offices of education, but pulls the plug on MCOE as a ceremonial last act.
CAROL BRODSKY'S piece on the essential County history archive at the Held-Poage Library in Ukiah will, we hope, inspire more people to contribute time and money to Held-Poage, the largest but not the only collection in the County.
THERE'S A TON of interesting old criminal and civil records a'mouldering in the Courthouse basement, and an invisible County museum in Willits, and even the happy papoose collection at Grace Hudson. Then there are the several small, community museums in Mendocino, Boonville and Fort Bragg. It all ought to be coordinated somehow, and we really need a professional County curator like we used to have, but in place of the pro at the County Museum we have a loyal County gofer, Allison Glassey, presiding over a handful of volunteers and virtually nothing collected. Most Mendolanders, I daresay, are unaware that any local history is collected anywhere.
THE AVA, ahem, has amassed its own collection of stuff because, cough-cough, of hostility from the existing local entities. UC Davis, the U of Michigan, the Sonoma County Library, the San Francisco Library, and several other institutions I can't recall off the top of my fraught head, collect the paper. Years ago, Davis talked me into giving them some correspondence with famous people and other lefty-wefty artifacts that I wish now I'd kept for my own museum to the rear of my Boonville place, tentatively called the "Non-Fiction Mendocino County History Collection," by appointment only and don't even expect to be approved for admission.
TRASH. The Supervisors just granted the County's primary trash outfit, Solid Waste of Willits, a deal that knocks about $300,000 off owner Jerry Ward's annual operating budget. The buyback recyclables kiosks in Boonville, Westport and Gualala are closed, as is the Westport trash transfer station.
LOOKED AT as a business deal, it's always surprised me that any free enterprising buccaneer would even try to make a go of assuming responsibility for trash hauling from Covelo to Gualala, a huge area that requires a fortune in fuel costs alone to cover.
HARD TO SAY, but Ward may be going broke. Also hard to say, but it looks like he's trying to make his business look more lucrative than it is. He as much as told the Supervisors he'd go glub, glub, glub if they didn't let him out of Westport, and a third out of Boonville and Gualala.
WE'VE ALWAYS THOUGHT Ward did a good job. He's certainly developed an impressive trash infrastructure, with a fleet of trucks, employees who seem mostly happy with the conditions of their employment, his big sorting center in Willits. Solid Waste of Willits is a turnkey business, it appears.
THE RUB for us customers, though, and Mendo generally, has been ever greater dump fees and, for Mendo County as unspoiled vistas, ever greater numbers of people dumping by the side of the road because they simply can't or won't pay dump fees. (Lots of Anderson Valley people save up their trash for monthly runs to the other trash concessionaire's transfer station off South State Street, Ukiah, where dump fees run about half what they do in Boonville.)
LONG-TERM, who knows? Rival garbage companies are said to be salivating at the prospect of succeeding Ward, and here's hoping he gets out with more than the shirt on his back. He's done a pretty good job in Mendocino County, I'd say, and done it in difficult circumstances, too.