Off the Record (Aug. 30, 2017)
by AVA News Service, August 30, 2017
YOU SAY SUPE'S meetings are boring. Not the August 22 meeting, which featured both a Mendo First and an Only In Mendo.
SUPERVISOR JOHN McCOWEN began what became a memorable session of the typically plodding affair by withdrawing the letter he had drafted for him and his colleagues asking California Department of Fish & Wildlife to be a little less zealous in raiding and eradicating small pot growers in the County who had applied for but had not yet received permits.
McCowen: “I am aware that the District Attorney has commented on item 4(a). As the author of that letter and in the interest of time I am going to exercise my prerogative to withdraw the letter. I believe it has made the point. I also believe there are more constructive avenues to pursue the concerns that I've expressed in the latter. So unless my colleagues disagree I will withdraw item 4(a) from the agenda.” (No objection)
A ROOM FULL of pot people, mostly from Covelo, fully aware that the County's marijuana rules are geared to screw over small-time growers in favor of mega-grows presided over by outside corporations, filled the Supes chambers to ask for some reason (and mercy) from their representatives.
THE POT PEOPLE'S PLEAS ran along predictable lines until Sherry Glaser of Albion, looking so formidably pissed off I fought back an impulse to lock my office door, took the mike. Neatly summing up all the preceding pot people arguments, the legendary Ms. G., broke down in tears just prior to going all the way off, concluding her passionate remarks by baring her breasts at Board Chairman John McCowen and his nonplussed colleagues. McCowen, looking like he just stepped out of Ukiah’s venerable McNab's Men's Wear, was the perfect straight man for Ms. Glaser's startling presentation. He stared back unamused as he simultaneously cut the power to her mike and frantically tried to gavel her down. And Ms. G, tucking her well-known mammaries back into their holsters, stormed up the aisle and out into the hallway, her raging voice echoing back into the seat of local government.
SHERRY GLASER: I am the founder of Love In It Cooperative [a pot dispensary in Albion]. I’m very upset, very angry today. I am not thankful. We been coming to you for a couple of years talking about preparing for legalization and we are still discussing cultivation, still avoiding transportation, distribution, or sales. And we are already into harvest. And you are telling us to hurry up? You are telling us to come up here and hurry up? When we have to sit and listen to you go on and on about setbacks? This is disturbing! It's very disturbing! It's so upsetting! [Bursts into tears, pauses, recovers.]. See, what I am getting from you is that you don't understand that people's lives are at stake here! We are all affected by this long drawn out process. You can't seem to understand that we need immediately a provisional license. We need Mendocino medical marijuana licenses to cover us for cultivation, processing, transportation [gasps, sighs] transportation, distribution and sales and a way to pay our independent contractors our taxes. The busts -- the raids that are going on— people are in the process of getting their permits. That's unacceptable! I understand that you, Mr. McCowen, had a letter today to Fish and Wildlife to say lay off. And you withdrew that letter and I want to know why.
McCowen: I stated my reasons at the time. Please continue with your three minutes.
Glaser: The US attorney came in and started threatening the 9.31 program and the Board of Supervisors collapsed. It just collapsed under that. And now when we need your help — how do you expect farmers to get into this program, this permitting program, when they are going to be raided regardless of what they do? No matter how compliant people are, they are still being raided. Do you think the people of this county are going to put themselves at that kind of risk? The people who were raided in the last couple of weeks had already spent money on permitting and compliance and now they have nothing! Do you understand that? Do you understand what it's like to lose your entire livelihood? [Breaks up, tears] For a year? Do you? Do you understand? I'm asking you! These plants are cut! They are cut! Why can't Fish and Wildlife — why can't the sheriff — why can't the DA, why can't all these agencies just issue a a citation? Something simple? A ticket! Have you ever been busted? Have you ever been raided? Any of you? Have you? Do you know what it's like to have soldiers come to your property and terrify your children and your grandchildren? Do you know what it's like to have PTSD? After you are raided?
McCowen: Please conclude.
Glaser: You are here to protect us! We elected you to protect us!
McCowen: Please conclude!
Glaser: Do you realize that we have to deal with all the compliance problems?
McCowen: Cut the mike. We are taking a recess. If you don't step away from the mike we are going to adjourn the meeting.
Glaser (Pulls down the front of her shirt as she shouts, Breasts not busts! Breasts not busts. Breasts not busts!
McCowen: We are going to take a break.
[Mike is cut; no more audio.] Ms. Glaser continues screaming and pointing at the supervisors after the mic is cut. Then she shouts her way out of the chambers and the mike is turned back on and Kate Marianchild calmly takes the podium to make a statement for the Willits Environmental Center.
ANOTHER BIZARRE SUPE'S INTERLUDE occurred when the audience, all of them brandishing neat little printed signs reading “Support,” leapt to their feet in silent but animated jubilation as pro-small farm remarks by Supervisor Hamburg boomed out of a speaker phone. (Hamburg was participating long distance.) The “Support” signs are in lieu of clapping and cheering, and also in lieu of “twinkling,” the wiggling of fingers in the air as approval for statements from the podium.
NOT EVERYONE WAS AMUSED, a Reader writes: “As entertaining as it may have been, Sherry Glaser’s Breasts Not Busts Show did nothing to move the issue forward. And completely feigned — straight out of her performance artist playbook. Close observers claimed the crying jag was sans so much as one welled up tear in her rabid eyes. The best part was when she was railing at Croskey: "Have you ever been raided?" to which Croskey should have replied: "No, but I've never sent Schedule One controlled substances through the US mail to Texas, either." I’m just glad they were not fully unleashed, which would have been a spectacle, but not a pleasant one as gravity is taking its toll.”
THE KEEGAN CASE. Miracle One occurred when the DA presented it to a specially convened criminal grand jury meeting in unnecessary secrecy in the mostly abandoned Willits Courthouse. Miracle Two occurred when the GJ said, "Yeah, book his murdering ass." Miracle Three, as the miraculous subsided into Mendo predictability, occurred when The Doctor was booked in and out of the County Jail seven years after he bludgeoned his wife to death. I never thought the case would get this far and, quick, remind me of another local perp — alleged perp — who could put up three hundred thou cash as his promise to appear.
THEN THE MENDO JIVE RE-COMMENCED. Everyone knows Keegan will plead Not Guilty, but Judge Moorman gave him until October 20th to do it. Why?
BECAUSE this thing will never get to a jury, that's why. Keegan's lawyer says his client is a terminal cancer case, implying Keegan’s medical condition should give the defendant every consideration. And prosecutor Tim Stoen is not only ancient, he also suffers ill health.
OPPORTUNITIES for delays are endless in this situation. Keegan will never see the inside of a jail, but he's gotten justice of a sort with the now public revelations that the cops and the DA are convinced he murdered his wife, Susan. Most of the Mendo public is also convinced of the doctor's guilt, apart from a few Westside Ukiah credulity cases who are saying stuff like, "But, but..... but Peter was my doctor!"
KEEGAN'S LAWYER, Chris Andrian of Santa Rosa, has racked up a kind of nether rep as the go-to guy for doctors who murder their wives. He argued that a Sonoma County medical man’s wife had killed herself ostrich-like in a pale of water in the front yard. That guy never went to jail, either.
TYPICAL JUDICIAL MENDO. A criminal grand jury indicts Dr. Peter Keegan for the murder of his wife, Susan. The law says ten working days after the indictment the transcript of the GJ proceedings is made available to the public. It is, after all, a publicly-funded work product. A judge can order it sealed and/or the defendant and/or his attorney can request it be sealed, which no one has yet done.
SINCE no one has yet requested the record of the proceedings be sequestered within the ten days they had to do it, we assumed we'd get a copy on Monday, August 21st, ten working days after the GJ proceeding ended.
WHEN our ace crime reporter asked for the report last Thursday, he was told that Judge Ann Moorman "had the report on her desk" but "she's on vacation." The upshot? We don't expect to see that transcript any time soon, if ever.
DEFENDANT KEEGAN was already given a huge break by Judge Moorman when she put the date for his formal entry of a plea two months from indictment day. Keegan gets to state his inevitable not guilty on Friday, October 20th, 9am. Two whole months of delay, no reason stated.
SO HERE WE GO. Endless delays and special consideration from the local courts for a well-heeled defendant. If Joe The Tweeker's wife had been discovered dead in the same circumstances Susan Keegan was found dead in November of 2010, Joe would be in his 7th year in the state pen.
SHARING INFO out of closed session meetings of public boards is supposed to be a violation of law, but don't expect to see the cops slap the cuffs on Dave Turner of the Fort Bragg City Council for alerting Meg — Meg The Inevitable — Courtney that the Council was not renewing city manager Linda Ruffing's contract. Meg The Inevitable alerted her fellow Gandhians, and twenty of them turned out to try to bully-whine-sob the FB City Council into retaining Ruffing. Twenty weren't enough and out Ruffing goes with a big pot of Fort Bragg's tax money to ease her into her golden years.
CAUGHT THE TAIL END of Marie Jones talking about the possibility some day for a Fort Bragg de-sal plant on the KZYX News this morning. (As a station member I am gratified the Philo-based, semi-public operation is at least trying to do some local reporting.) Ms. Jones is Fort Bragg's "Community Development Director." She was rattling on about de-salinization as a possibility for her water-short town although it isn't likely. Ever. It's so expensive even where it's been installed in relatively wealthy areas it's a struggle to afford, and Fort Bragg, even if you turned everyone upside down, you'd be lucky if fifty bucks clattered to the sidewalk. (Note to reporter Dan Young. Down boy! Slow your delivery, and occasionally, just for form's sake, ask a skeptical question. You're a reporter, not a stenographer.)
ANOTHER SUGGESTION for the local semi-public radio club: We don't need five minutes of weather as "news." If it's hot in Ukiah, it's hot in Lakeport. How about, instead, “Another warm day for NorCal, warmer of course in the dependably ghastly inland areas but quite nice here in the fog belt where us cool people live." In the winter, barring some globally-warmed gust off the Mongolian plains, "It's cold and rainy. It'll be like that until April when it starts to warm up again." The weather has been the same here for a zillion years. A two-degree temp diff between Gualala and Boonville is not worth noting. And five minutes of it is dumb, even by KZYX standards.
AT LAST TUESDAY’S Board of Supervisor’s meeting, Jane Futcher said, among other things, that there are many reasons why a marijuana cultivator would want to take a year off from growing, complaining that pot farmers might lose their permit if they took a year off. “It is unfair to require farmers to license their farms every single year or risk losing out forever. Do you ask grape growers or ranchers or apple farmers to re-license every year or risk losing their license?” Futcher asked.
APPARENTLY THIS STATEMENT hit a nerve with Supervisor Carre Brown, who reacted with huffy indignation: “My family ranches. We farm. We have no time out. OK? That’s insulting to me!”
INSULTING? Since when are ordinary policy complaints related to matters under discussion ‘insulting’? Jeez, Carre, lighten up.
LATER, Supervisor Brown quoted Oregon Ag official Bill Hall who reportedly said (regarding pot legalization): “This is the most chaotic mess I’ve ever seen.” Adding, “When counties attempt to regulate land use for cannabis growing operations they should be prepared for chaos, and also be prepared for unintended consequences.”
A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, Supervisor Brown reacted to an ordinary remark by Eel River Restoration activist-biologist Pat Higgins by saying that he “lied” in some minor water flow related comment he had made. Higgins, of course, had not “lied” about anything. He just said something about Supervisor Brown’s private Potter Valley water supply that Brown disagreed with. When we contacted Higgins (who lives in Humboldt County) about Brown’s insult for a response, Higgins was magnanimous, saying he’d heard it all before and it wasn’t worth arguing about.
MS. FUTCHER’S comments that Supervisor Brown said “made me mad” were hardly risible; if another Supervisor had been publicly snappish, Supervisor Brown would have been quick to reply, “Now children….” But you cross the Potter Valley solon at your own risk. (Mark Scaramella)
WE HEARD YESTERDAY that the UDJ this week laid off Yvonne Bell, their business manager of some forty years, and the entire graphics department at Lake County's Record-Bee is also out, as their work goes very long distance all the way to India.
WE UNDERSTAND that the local Digital First employees — The Willits News; the Ukiah Daily Journal; Advocate-Beacon on the Mendocino Coast — had all been asked to use up their vacation time by the end of the fiscal year.
HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES WANTS TO SPEND $161K ON STAFF TRAINING on things their senior staff are already paid to know. “Summary Of Request: Trainings under the Agreement with UC Davis are to provide professional, mandated, and continuing education in areas not covered by Core Competency trainings. The subject of the trainings will be journey level direct service support primarily for social workers, eligibility workers, and support staff working within the community….Etc. and blah, blah, blah.
MARK SCARAMELLA NOTES: When my brother was a senior analyst in Mendocino HHSA specializing in the subjects mentioned above (until he died of cancer in 2013 a few months after retiring), he made a point of keeping up to date on these things because it was part of his job. He monitored the usual relevant state departmental websites, went to regional conferences on related topics (paying for his own travel, but on county time) and then came back and conducted office trainings and seminars as needed and as an in-house consultant to whoever needed info or a policy memo. Apparently, those days are gone and nobody in HHSA bothers to keep abreast of developments and policy updates any more. Hell, why should they? If the County’s willing to spend $161 a year for training on subjects that senior staff should already know, why learn anything?
REEL QUICK MOVIE REVIEW: I lasted about 45 minutes into "Wind River" to see how dumb it could get frame-by frame. It was still descending when I hit the exit. It was about white guys driving snowmobiles on a winter-time Wyoming rez shooting other white guys and, now and then, a bad Indian. Adding considerably to the dumbness of the whole, there's a robotic female voice-over telling you what you're seeing on the screen, as in, "The rugged man leans in the doorway looking at the woman." Etc. The voice-over apparently lasts the entire movie. All us citizens know we live in a rising tide of scumbaggery, but true connoisseurs of depraved behavior long ago moved on to television crime shows of the documentary type. Reality long ago outstripped imagination. (My fave is Chris Hansen's “Crime Watch Daily”). So, why make lame-o movies about murder and mayhem when the true stories are better than the ones conjured by movie land?
SO, the fascisti cancelled their rally at Crissy Field. Then they said they would appear at Alamo Square for a "press conference." The cops said, "No unpermitted event of any kind would be allowed at Alamo Square." I imagined The Chuckle Buddies news teams racing frantically around the city, from venue to venue, praying for a violent shot in time for the 5 o'clock news.
THE RIGHTEOUS were massed and ready to go, but had to settle for non-violent events — assuming you consider tired rhetoric about how "we all need to love one another" to be non-violent.
SPEAKING of rhetorical crimes, the new pronunciation of antifa as "An-TEE fah" makes anti-fascism sound like your long lost Arab aunt. And don’t dare tell the antifa forces that racism of the legally enforced type, and even the everyday nastiness of street-level racism is largely over.
THIS TREVOR JACKSON GUY is a natch for the movies. He’s got a perfectly villainous look going, and an apparently highly irritable personality to match. And guns. And dope. And a posse of mopes who look to him as their gang boss. Jackson has been at the very top of Mendo’s Most Wanted list for a couple of months now, and Sheriff Allman himself said Saturday he was relieved that Jackson was in custody, telling us that he was doubly relieved a patrol deputy was able to arrest Jackson without the county’s SWAT team being called out.
HOME INVASIONS, Jackson’s alleged specialty, are an ongoing concern to all residents of the Emerald Triangle, whether or not they grow marijuana. He was involved in one right here in Anderson Valley that involved a midnight shoot-’em up in the area of Upper Peachland.
PENSION MATH: County Retirement System Administrator James Wilbanks tells us that for the 2016/2017 fiscal year the Mendocino County Pension Fund took in about $25 million in combined contributions from employees and the County and paid out about $34 million in benefits, loan repayment, and administration which means they paid out about $9 million more than they’re taking in. BUT, the fund’s investment asset value in that same fiscal year increase from $426 million to almost $484 million, an increase of almost $58 million due to the continued improvement in the stock market and the fund’s investments. Which translates to a net overall increase of about $52 million even with the $34 million payout. Wilbanks told us that in the last 13 years (starting in 2004 where Wilbanks says the data becomes reliable) the average increase in asset value per year has been about 7.5% which is actually above the controversial “assumed rate of return” of 6.5% which the fund management assumes while critics say they’ll never get that much.
WE TOLD WILBANKS that we have very little faith in the stability of the Wall Street and the stock market where most of Mendo’s “assets” are invested. But Wilbanks says he still believes in the power of American entrepreneurism and that in the long run (by which me means 50 years) the fund will continue to grow in asset value and proceeds and that Mendo’s pensioners have nothing to worry about.
WE RESPONDED that this rosy view tends to downplay American capitalism’s predictable and frequently devastating downturns which, among many other things, devalues the assets and returns and puts the fund into the red or worse. Wilbanks acknowledges that likelihood, but insists that such downturns are always followed by recoveries. We agreed to disagree.
WE ASKED WILBANKS what he and his board would do if someone local came to them with an investment opportunity, say a small housing development or some other project with a public benefit component. Wilbanks said the pension board has no policy on local investments at present and he wouldn’t want to invest locally unless some criteria were established such as public benefit, level of risk, how much money the presenter had in the project, what percentage of the fund’s total assets would be involved, etc. — similar to the way a bank might consider a loan application. Although there’s been talk of such proposals over the years, there’s never been anything specific put before the Pension Board and given Mendo’s ratio of rhetoric to action there’s not likely to be in the near future. The County would have to buy in to such an idea too, with some kind of preliminary approval and support, otherwise the County’s obstructionist bureaucracy would kill any development proposal before it got off the ground. (cf: Costco, Garden’s Gate, most of Masonite, the Fort Bragg Mill Site, etc. etc.). Local conservatives like to blame Mendo’s haphazard self-described environmentalists as the primary obstacle to local business development. But the real reasons are: 1. Water and sewer limitations, and 2. Mendo’s many bureaucratic hoops which can take years to even get an answer on, much less final approval from. (Mark Scaramella)
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE WEEK: “Because when economic and living conditions become more and more dire, the people running the show want distractions. Hence, the LGBTQ washroom controversy, then it was Russian election meddling and now Confederate statues and when that runs its course, and it will, there will have to be another distraction. Can’t wait to see what it is.
I thought the washroom issue was inspired. I laughed and laughed, Democrats did superiority dances for months, the Republicans were outraged at such degeneracy. All over what exactly, pissing arrangements for a point something miniscule percentage of the population?
If they can’t come up with something it’ll be abortion again or evolution or maybe they’ll dredge up school prayer. Or maybe the right of Muslims to have prayers in schools but no school prayer for Christians and Jews and Hindus. That’ll be fun to watch. Progressives will take on this issue and stand up tall and proud and… well, we’ve seen this movie already so you can fill in the rest…”
MY LATE FRIEND, Rusty Norvell, was often good company because he was a wonderful story teller, and he had a lot of them. He told me one about his first sight in New Orleans was a dwarf albino running down the middle of a 4am street. Then there was the girl at the posh private school where he taught he tried to run away with. And getting thrown in jail in Japan. He had a million of them, and they were all good. Rusty was a loose-limbed, lean man who dressed in modified cowboy — Western-cut sport coat, slacks, Stetson with a length of kelp as hatband. He and his matronly wife, Flo, in her big sun hat, always stood out among the sartorially indifferent at local gatherings. And Rusty had talent, both as a writer and an editor. He operated on my limping prose on many occasions, sparing me complete journalo-paraplegia. He’s been gone for about a decade now, but lots of you will remember him, just as many of you will recall his wife, Flo, to whom "long-suffering" certainly applied. Heir to a comfortable Oklahoma oil fortune, Rusty drank hard in periodic drop-fall binges. He had an arrangement with a motel at the north end of Fort Bragg where he'd periodically check in with a case of whiskey for a week. The proprietor would shove a pizza through the door on day two or three. Rusty would eventually emerge thin and pale and stay stone sober for a few months while he wheedled pain killers out of local doctors “for my migraines.” He’d rest up for months, then it was another liquid run in that bleak Fort Bragg motel room. Rusty was a book guy, and it was that mutual interest that made us friends. He told me his history: he'd been honorably discharged from the Navy, circa 1950, married Flo, lived in Japan for a few years, worked as a reporter for a SoCal daily, taught at the old Whale School in Albion. He and Flo were ground floor ocean protectors and put in hours of time lobbying our alleged representatives. The professional Democrats appropriated ocean protection as their work, but it was Sue Miller, Dobie Dolphin, Rusty and Flo who did the spade work. He said he was writing a novel. I told him if he was truthful it would be a good one. Rusty promised it was truthful. He'd never let me see it, which I understood; few writers want their unfinished work read by critical eyes. Maybe it was so strong it drove the guy to drink. The guy was also a dogged anti-Semite, which I tardily realized when I couldn't help but notice he always worked Jewish conspiracies into whatever the conversation happened to be, although he was on friendly terms with many Coast Jews. Early in our relationship I told him I wasn't interested in "the socialism of fools," as Isaac Babel memorably dismissed anti-Semitism. Rusty denied his bigotry. "Why then," I asked him, "do you have five thousand books on Jews?" He'd said something like, "Because they're smarter than everyone else, they stick together, they run the world, and I'm a scholar of the obvious reality." I countered with, "Smarter? Then how do you account for the Jews of Mendocino County?" He thought that was very funny. But it was all tiresome as hell. I finally had to tell him not to call me, that I wanted nothing to do with him if he continued to lay this evil nonsense on me. We've all known One Note Johnnys, but have you even known an interesting, even tolerable monomaniac? Rusty would forbear for a while then… One day he called me up to say, "I have something I've got to tell you, but I can't talk about it on the phone. It's too dangerous. You’ve got to come out here. I’m not kidding, Bruce, this is important.” I’d just walked through the door of his ocean bluff house at Caspar when he leapt from his chair with an old, obscure book on Abraham Lincoln. He'd marked hundreds of pages with what he thought were indisputably killer references "proving" that the Lincoln assassination was a Jewish conspiracy. I laughed, told him he was nuts and I was leaving. And I left. He soon called to promise me he'd never bring it up again. Which gave me another laugh because I knew he couldn't help himself. Early one morning a mutual friend called to say that Rusty was dead. He’d piled into one of those giant eucalyptus trees south of Mendocino. Flo had been gone for a year, and Rusty had been even more lost since her passing. I started to call the CHP for the details of his last act, but decided against it, not really wanting to know. I’m sure he killed himself, and I hoped he did it sober.