Off the Record (Sep. 6, 2017)

by AVA News Service, September 6, 2017

THE WAY WE LIVE NOW. Fred Gardner writes: Justin B., 19, has always been a bicycle person. He works at a bike store in Salem, Oregon and takes long road trips with friends whenever he can. Friday, September 1, was the sixth day of a nine-day trip. That night, at McKerricker State Park, his bike and gear got ripped off. Justin was told that it probably wound up in Fort Bragg, where some people are said to make a living stealing bikes. He was very grateful to David Moore for coming to get him and to Rosenna Miklose at Down Home Foods for her consoling perspective. Justin assumes that the components have been stripped from his frame and sold off. He most regrets the loss of a journal in which he made notes on more than a hundred previous bike trips. Just a few days earlier a friend delivering (truly) medicinal cannabis oil to East Bay dispensaries got ripped off. He said, “It’s an epidemic. It’s not like you can see you’re being followed and shake the tail. They slap a GPS on your car when you’re making a delivery to, say, Harborside. They smashed the window of our truck outside our motel in Emeryville in broad daylight at four in the afternoon.”

MARIJUANA & THE MEDIA: A Panel Discussion With: Heather Irwin, editor EmeraldReport.com and writer for The Press Democrat; Tom Gogola, news editor at The Bohemian; Stett Holbrook, editor of The Bohemian; Alicia Rose, Founder of HerbaBuena. Moderated by Jonah Raskin, contributor, Anderson Valley Advertiser. Free and Open to the Public! Thursday, September 28, 2017, 7 p.m. Arlene Francis Center, 99 Sixth St. Santa Rosa, CA. 95401. For more information: jonah.raskin@sonoma.edu

WHILE OFFICIAL MENDO has been focusing on (or more accurately stumbling toward) bringing pot growers into the permit process and using their marijuana code enforcement staff to tell unpermitted (or more accurately those who have paid for permits but have not received one) to “self-abate” any violating plants, no one has been concerned about whether the growers are complying with their (applied for) permit or the many rules and regs that a permit would cover.

BRINGING unpermitted grows into the permit (applied for) process brings big fees into the County, but requiring growers to comply with the rules does not. In fact, it requires real inspections and follow-up, something Mendo is fundamentally incapable of. That’s why the below “concerns” of the Westport Municipal Advisory Council” will only be addressed rhetorically, but nothing will be done about what the Board agrees is “going on all over the County.”

THAD VAN BUREN, Chair of the Westport Municipal Advisory Committee. Board of Supervisors meeting, August 29, 2017:

“Our community is concerned about implementation of the Mendocino County marijuana ordinance. I would like to stress what we have conveyed to you in a few letters. Based on these concerns, we urge you to remove the ordinance revision from the consent calendar and reschedule it for public comment on September 12. Our community supports regulation of the cannabis industry and feels the ordinance is generally sound. However, concerns exist about the apparent deviations from the scope certified in the environmental document. As well as the lack of transparency in the permit process. A key concern is that small groves are being inappropriately expanded under phase one. For example, Application 111 near Westport proposes expanding a tiny grow into a huge industrial greenhouse operation. This new industrial use is incompatible with the UR zoning and definitions from the CC&Rs in the subdivision. It also reflects a huge departure from the historic cultivation on this parcel. Building permits for five greenhouses exceeding 10,000 square feet are in construction. Yet no residences, water supply, septic systems are in process as required. The lack of transparency is also a concern. The safety of neighbors is put at risk. Yet permits are kept secret and our complaints go unanswered. How do we verify that our the outcomes of zoning reviews and adequacy of mitigation conditions that are not supplied. Why is a vast expansion of use in phase one not denied because it is effectively a new project? Must we wait until impacts accumulate or armed thugs terrorize our community before these concerns are addressed? We urge you to instruct the county staff that phase one permits should only cover existing operations, not radical expansions. We also recommend requiring use permits for new projects that expand cultivation footprints during phases two and three in residential districts. Neighbors deserve some avenue to express legitimate concerns and weigh in on proposed mitigations measures before the development ensues. We also feel CC&Rs should be considered in the permit approval process. Thank you for considering our input.”

BOARD CHAIR John McCowen: “The changes requested would not allow the board to go forward today if they were discussed and incorporated. This is not going to be the only opportunity to revise this ordinance I am pretty confident. So with that said, do board members have any comments or a motion?”

SUPERVISOR Carre Brown: “We have this happening all over the county. I have had many phone calls. So I feel very strongly like the MAC (Westport Municipal Advisory Committee) does that this is something that has to be considered in the future as we go forward in revising.”

SUPERVISOR Dan Hamburg,  long-time grower and elder statesman of Mendocino County’s pot planters: “I want to echo both my colleagues. We are seeing these problems around the county. I find that some of these situations really need referral to our code enforcement, specifically the cannabis enforcement unit. Some of the things you describe do not sound to me like they are within the parameters of the ordinance as I understand it. So I'm really wondering whether Mr. Taylor (Code Enforcement Officer for marijuana) should be contacted or those in his unit because those do not sound like legal expansions that you are talking about. And this is not the last rodeo or last bite at the Apple. But also for the people who are trying to just trying to live their lives peaceably and truthfully in Mendocino County.”

MOST OF US in and out of the marijuana business yearn for the day it becomes just another Mendo export. As is, especially at this time of year, with the home invaders roaming the hills and the swarms of transients drawn to the Emerald Triangle hoping to cash in on the green rush, and not to mention the prevalence of methamphetamine that fuels harvest time labor and the bizarre behavior it inspires, Mendo people pray hard for the first rains to wash it all away.

LOTS OF VIOLENCE comes with production of the love drug but there’s even more unpleasantness of the low intensity type. Right here in the wine theme park of the Anderson Valley, we hear the sad story of an elderly widow whose water tank has been repeatedly emptied by the neighboring scum dogs who’ve tapped into it. The dogs have also installed a pot garden in an area of her property inaccessible to her. Another older single woman who spends much time in the city battling cancer suffers an illegal grow on her place. Fortunately for the Anderson Valley, we have a resident deputy who takes crime personally and, knowing him, he’s on the case. But everywhere deep in the outback of bucolic Mendocino County one leaves the pavement at one’s peril, and the law is being broken in so many places the whole county is permanently in traction.

THE COUNTY’S pot rules are an unworkable mess that favor the corporate pot producer who has the time and the money to comply with them. The cops only get to a sliver of the illegal grows out there. In theory, there’s a Code Enforcement Officer (a retired Ukiah cop named Trent Taylor) to whom a put upon non-grower can complain with an assurance of confidentiality. But that process remains mysterious. There are many more people than ever in town for a hoped for, quick cash-in while the enforcers of the rules, rules under constant revision, are simply overwhelmed.

THE HUNT FOR CODE ENFORCEMENT

A local reader with a couple of outlaw guerilla dozer-grows nearby asked us for help reporting the problem. A good question: How do you file a complaint? With the Board of Supervisors saying Tuesday that Code Enforcement Officer Trent Taylor should be involved, we decided to check.

First stop: Google: “Mendocino County Code Enforcement.”

Result: https://www.mendocinocounty.org/government/planning-building-services/code-enforcement

The County’s cannabis complaint page asks for various parcel id info, adding: “Note: In order for Code Enforcement to investigate potential violations, the subject property address and/or parcel number must be correct.”

It also asks the complainer if they want to be notified of the results of the complaint. And “Complaints that constitute potential health and/or safety hazards will be given priority. All other complaints will be investigated as they are received.”

A guerrilla grow with possible armed guards sounds like a “potential health and/or safety hazard.”

There’s also the “Cannabis Compliant Hotline”: 844-421-WEED (9333).

ON ITS FACE, this seems workable for filing complaints. But is action taken besides asking an occasional grower to “self-abate”? County Officialdom needs to ask for a monthly report on the nature of the complaints, how many are “health and safety” related, how many are backlogged, and how they’re handled and how fast. Plus, the Supervisors, who say they’re getting calls and complaints about outlaw grows or unpermitted grow expansions need to carry cards around with them with the code enforcement reporting contact info and names.

JAMES MARMON WRITES: I couldn’t help but notice that the Board of Supes went into closed session again yesterday to discuss Turner vs. Losak and Mendocino County. This thing is moving right along. Joan Turner is the only deputy County Counsel I have anything good to say about, I enjoyed working with her when I was at Family and Children’s Services, you go girl. A blast from the past:

“JOAN TURNER IS SUING MENDOCINO COUNTY and Interim County Counsel Doug Losak in federal court alleging numerous violations of her constitutional rights. The Supervisors went into closed session at today’s meeting (Monday, December 19th) to mull over the case. Ms. Turner was an attorney in the County Counsel’s office assigned to child welfare cases. When Doug “Midnight Rambler” Losak was appointed acting County Counsel he became Joan Turner’s supervisor. They had a mutual dislike for each other, based at least in part on the Rambler’s late night escapades that resulted in his arrest for speeding down the highway with a bag of dope and an unregistered concealed weapon stuffed under the front seat of his car. (If that’s the worst thing lawyers did after dark Losak would be up for a gold star for deportment.) Losak was aware that Ms. Turner did not approve of his extracurricular activities, and while she was out on leave for one or more medical conditions (hypo alert!) Losak, she alleges, singled her out for retaliation and discrimination based on age, gender and medical condition. Or maybe because she was an unreasonably prudish pain in the ass, a condition not in the law books. Losak’s conduct is alleged to have been so blatantly retaliatory against Ms. Turner that he is being sued as an individual in addition to his official capacity as Mendocino County’s attorney. These kinds of cases typically grind on endlessly until the deep pockets County agrees to settle for a hunk of taxpayer cash.” —Mendocino County Today: Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016 http://theava.com/archives/63786

WHERE'S GJERDE? Where's our fresh-faced seaside solon, our Fourth District Supervisor, the guy who looks like he's still a junior at Fort Bragg High School? Yurp, that's where. Europe. On vacation. Gjerde, the very soul of civic responsibility, tried to time his time away from the continent not to miss meetings, and still has missed only one, the other two missed meetings being hurry-up, off-the-regular schedule affairs.

IN OUR ODD, amnesiatic county where history starts all over again every day, and you are whatever you say you are, and everyone else is in a federal witness protection program, it can't be stated often enough that it was Dan Gjerde, as a Fort Bragg city councilman, who singlehandedly took on the Milliman-Affinito alliance that had diverted much of the town's collective treasure to Affinito’s private advantage. How is our  cherubic solon as a supervisor? Good and getting better. Except for his support, all the way back to its murky beginnings, the proposed Highway 20 taj trash transfer station which, we hope, is permanently on hold as its author, former Maoist and presumed car bomber, Mike Sweeney, seems to have departed for New Zealand.

NOT ON HOLD, unfortunately, is site prep for the new County Courthouse that nobody wants  except the black-robed cabal presiding over the Superior Court, that daily legal processing of citizens with annual incomes under forty thou a year. This project will further deteriorate what’s left of old Ukiah’s civic center and is being built solely to house judges and their courtrooms. For the money being spent, more than $240 million, the present County Courthouse could be re-modeled and then some, perhaps even restoring it to a semblance of its early 20th century architectural glory. The new County Courthouse will be your basic concrete bunker, but such a large one whatever residual hope we had for a County seat that would do Mendo proud is forever doomed. We’ll get another huge, ugly structure set in Ukiah’s sea of fast food franchises and pavement, the town’s leftover trees looking like they’re struggling to breathe, which they are.

AS RECORD BREAKING FLOODS cause countless deaths and billions of dollars of destruction from India to Texas, many government officials continue to deny that fossil fuels accelerate the global warming which is causing the extreme weather, and the corporate press still will not say the words "climate change" on air.

"HOW WIDESPREAD is this promiscuous devotion to the untrue? How many Americans now inhabit alternate realities? Any given survey of beliefs is only a sketch of what people in general really think. But reams of survey research from the past 20 years reveal a rough, useful census of American credulity and delusion. By my reckoning, the solidly reality-based are a minority, maybe a third of us but almost certainly fewer than half…”

KURT ANDERSEN makes a strong case in the current Atlantic that about two-thirds of our fellow citizens are, to varying degrees, functionally batshit. Applied to Mendo, Andersen's theory would reveal, in my direct experience, that maybe 20% of the population could be described as reality-based, as we note the strong correlation between ava readers and people capable of taking the bull by the tail and looking reality square in the puss.

ANDERSEN CONTINUES: "Only a third of us, for instance, don't believe that the tale of creation of Genesis is the word of God. Only a third strongly disbelieve in telepathy and ghosts. Two-thirds of Americans believe that angels and demons are active in the world. More than half say they're absolutely certain heaven exists, and just as many are sure of the existence of a personal God — not a vague force or universal spirit or higher power, but some guy…"

THE AUTHOR provides a kind of credulity checklist, and in no particular order:

1. Global warming is a hoax.

2. Our ancestors were just like us, not the more talented monkeys.

3. The government is hiding evidence of natural cancer cures.

4. We get visitors from outer space.

5. Vaccines cause autism (Very big in Mendo and among neo-hippies generally).

6. Trump won the popular vote.

7. Obama is not a citizen and the anti-Christ besides.

8. The government is engaged in mind-control experiments.

9. There are witches. (Also big in Mendo.)

10. The government was complicit in the 9/11 attack.

11. Astrology/Tarot/gurus

12. KZYX is free speech, listener-supported public radio.

13. These are The Last Days and/or The End Timers (Article of faith at the ava.)

KURT ANDERSEN concludes: "Why are we like this? The short answer is because we're Americans — because being American means we can believe anything we want; that our beliefs are equal or superior to anyone else's, experts be damned. Once people commit to that approach, the world turns inside out, and no cause-and-effect connection is fixed. The credible becomes incredible and the incredible credible."

A MAJOR contributing factor to the prevalent credulity has got to be the steady diet of lies we’ve all been force fed by government and its “experts” for nearly a hundred years now.

“EXCITING FALSEHOODS tend to do well in the perpetual referenda, and become self-validating. A search for almost any “alternative” theory or belief seems to generate more links to true believers’ pages and sites than to legitimate or skeptical ones, and those tend to dominate the first few pages of results. For instance, beginning in the ’90s, conspiracists decided that contrails, the skinny clouds of water vapor that form around jet-engine exhaust, were composed of exotic chemicals, part of a secret government scheme to test weapons or poison citizens or mitigate climate change—and renamed them chemtrails. When I Googled chemtrails proof, the first seven results offered so-called evidence of the nonexistent conspiracy. When I searched for government extraterrestrial cover-up, only one result in the first three pages didn’t link to an article endorsing a conspiracy theory.” — Kurt Andersen

BRIAN WOOD of Boonville points out, “Google tries to provide the shortest path to satisfy your query. Blame someone’s poor critical thinking skills when they can only bring up confirming information from their search. The right way to decide if something might be true is to see if you can disprove it. An intelligent search for the truth about chemtrails would not be “chemtrails proof”, but rather something like “chemtrails bogus”.

ENJOYING A WALK SATURDAY before the serious heat kicked in, I was trucking along the Golden Gate trail that eventually gets to Baker Beach, an open air sex bazaar on hot days and dependably weird even in cold weather. It was 9am but already warm, warmer than I've ever known it on the ocean trail west of the Bridge, record-breaking warm. I overtook a young woman gazing upward at a sea cypress. "Excuse me, sir, are you from here?" At my age, young women no longer fear The Man. I get smiled at, said good morning to, lots of merry hellos. Not always in Mendo, of course, where my reputation is, let's say, mixed among the major genders. But that question — “Are you from here?” — is a kind of geriatric trigger, at least to this wheeze. I've got to beat back the impulse to launch into full, garrulous coot mode. "Am I from here? Well, let me tell you my young pumpkin, I arrived in Frisco on a troop ship from Honolulu in '42, sailed under that iconic span you see behind you there. We lived in an old mansion on Hayes between Fillmore and Diviz. It had been divided into apartments. My mother said she didn't want me playing with the 'Oakies,' the very first of her many injunctions I ignored. There was still an old carriage house out back. The place went back to the years just after the Gold Rush. That was the old, old Fillmore District.  That property is now a giant Baptist church. The neighborhood in the War years was predominately Jewish, the bakeries Russian. I think Yehudi Menuhin had grown up nearby. I can remember the church bells ringing when World War Two ended.” I forbore the bore, settling for, “Yes, I've lived here off and on for a very long time.” The young woman said she'd walked across from Sausalito. I sweated at the thought. “How do I get to Golden Gate Park from here?” she asked. Up the stairs to Washington and walk south until you're there. “Thank you, sir,” she said and, looking from one old tree to the other, resumed looking upwards at the cypress.

LEADERSHIP MENDOCINO seems your basic oxymoron given the civic functioning of our beloved home place. The only leadership I’m aware of, at least in the initiative-seizing sense, has come from Sheriff Allman. Whatever other virtues they may have, if you can think of a single initiative arising from fifty years of Northcoast supervisors, congressmen, assemblymen and state senators, please share it with the rest of us.

THE GUALALA Dust Bowl Softball League features a team called the “Rednexicans,” further evidence that race relations, at least here in Mendocino County, are copacetic.

RECOMMENDED READING: Also in the current Atlantic, "Innocence Is Irrelevant" by Emily Yoffe. "For most of its history, the United States relied on the trial system to administer criminal justice. Not anymore. We live in the age of the plea bargain — and millions of Americans are suffering the consequences."

THIS ARTICLE substantiates via stats and irrefuted argument that district attorneys are meting out justice in this country, not the courts. Public defenders simply sign off on whatever punishment the DA comes up with. That's certainly the way it works here in Progressive County where, fortunately for our miscreants, we have a sane and mercifully-disposed DA dealing mostly with misdemeanors committed by people who ought to be locked up for their own safety. The DA works with our Potemkin public defender, Linda Thompson. She stays in her un-elected sinecure by staying within her budget, meaning she's always up for Let's Make A Deal, which is cheaper than going to trial and all the expense justice might entail. When Thompson herself wheezes into court, she and whatever sap she’s “representing,” are double slam-dunked by the DA. The Public Defender’s staff turns over so fast the DA is typically dealing with some kid just out of law school, meaning for the catch of the day they might as well plead guilty without being bussed downtown for the formalities. (And there's talk of further dumbing down the BAR exam!) There's also an overcrowded county jail and an overcrowded state prison system, all of it adding up to an overwhelming necessity for plea bargaining just to keep the entire system from breaking down completely.

ON LINE COMMENT OF THE WEEK

My one visit to Houston, where I admit I ate well and bought some cool boots, was tinged by the realization that “this screwed up place is doomed.” They just paved over everything and the water had nowhere to go. Most US metro areas are like that, but nothing rivals what I saw in Houston. The Enron building was still there, then, too, another great symbol of US short-sightedness. Meanwhile, Irma? We are overdue for another hit in the Mid-Atlantic States. The last one featured me loading every firearm and sitting near an oil lamp while on a major thoroughfare nearby, bikers raced at 100mph and fired guns. We heard a few full-auto bursts that second night, before the cops resumed control. Just wait until the year in the not-too-distant future, when a warming Atlantic spawns five direct hits on the Gulf or East Coasts. New Orleans should have been the canary in the coal mine. Instead, we just keep killing the poor birds.

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