Letters to the Editor
by AVA News Service, July 21, 2010
WHAT THE HELL?
For What I’m Worth!
In my head I hear voices, they give me direction, they give me choices.
Right or wrong I can’t decipher, I guess I’m blessed, I’m not a lifer.
Why should life be so confusing, and my freedom I’m constantly losing?
Does our system have a mental scar, when the Judge says, Au revoir?
When I sleep I turn and toss, because my wife and kids are lost.
It’s not what I did that’s sick and funny, the State is broke and I’m worth money.
Two dead worms inside one apple, that’s what we have inside the Capitol.
But they’re doing their job so what the hell; we’re slowing dying but they do mean well.
Larry D. Wilson
DELIVERING THE TRUTH
Enclosed is my subscription renewal check. The issue that arrived with the stamped notice of my current subscription’s expiration was a particularly interesting one, notably Gary Smith’s stunning article, “7 Days In The Life Of A Catastrophe.” I haven’t read Mr. Smith in years, but I remember him as part of the golden age of “New Journalism,” and that breed of writer and brand of periodicals that looked at the world in fresh and exciting ways. Smith’s beat was the world of sports and I recall him as a natural storyteller who treated his subjects with compassion and an eye for the telling detail. His article on the Gulf Coast disaster reads like a field trip to Hell, exposing the dead core of our so-called culture. But Smith makes an apocalypse relatable in the heartbreaking reflections of Mr. Eugene of Happy Jack. This article should be required reading for all Americans.
A small army of electronic mass media have gone to the Gulf — TV talking heads with cameras and cables and tons of equipment — and have not brought back a thimbleful of the truth of one writer charged with getting a story.
Thanks Gary, and thank you AVA for delivering the news.
Mark Cotta Vaz
TRUTH TRIBUNAL IN FRISCO
Dear Friends & Supporters of KSTT,
The Kent State Truth Tribunal will soon travel to San Francisco to gather the collective memories and stories from original 1970 Kent State shooting participants and witnesses at a west coast location.
We launched our inquiry at the 40th anniversary in early May this year and broadcast each of the narratives live at MichaelMoore.com.
Since May 4, 2010 two notable events draw our attention and super-charge our continued efforts to uncover the truth at Kent State in 2010:
1) A copy of an original Kent State audio tape was analyzed by the Cleveland Plain Dealer and an order to 'prepare to fire' has been verified by two professional forensic scientists; and
2) An apology for Bloody Sunday was publicly voiced before Parliament by British Prime Minister David Cameron for the actions of British paratroopers killing 14 demonstrations in 1972. 38 years after the shootings, strikingly similar to Kent State, Britain has taken responsibility for it's ill-guided, malicious and deadly actions.
We now gather our energy and set our focus on learning the truth about Kent State in San Francisco. We know that many individuals that were directly affected by the Kent State shootings now call the West Coast home and pre-registrations are up.
Kent State Truth Tribunal in San Francisco will also be broadcast live from 9am to 5pm Pacific on August 7 and 8 (the weekend) at MichaelMoore.com so you'll be able to watch 'live, streaming Kent State truth' from your desktop.
Most importantly right now, we seek your donation to KSTT as we raise funds for crew travel to San Francisco. OUR GOAL IS $2,600. You may donate at http://TruthTribunal.org/donate via credit card and paypal. KSTT is a 501(c)(3) tax-deductible organization.
Every incremental contribution supports KSTT, first amendment rights and Allison Krause's call for truth at Kent State in 2010. Funded solely by the Krause family and concerned citizens like you, we shall only succeed with your help.
Then on August 7&8, when you watch KSTT San Francisco at MichaelMoore.com, know that you made it happen!
Thank you for donating NOW at http://TruthTribunal.org/donate
Laurel Krause (www.TruthTribunal.org)
SIMPLE LIVING BOOKS
We want to do a local author/book and historic book table at the Simple Living fair. These books can be sold there or people interested can be referenced to Laughing Dog bookstore for purchase or ordering. The event itself might be a bit historical and real bodies accompanied by their real books will provide an interesting perspective.
If you can attend and take a shift or two at the table please let me know at 895-3897.
Memo of the Week
(Ed note: the following letter was sent to the County labor negotiators before the board voted to reduce deputy pay by 10%, not the 16% recommended by CEO Carmel Angelo or the labor negotiators.)
July 12, 2010
Ms. Teresia Haase Mr. Rick Haeg
Human Resources Director Labor Relations Consultant
579 Low Gap Road 2221 Home Drive
Ukiah, CA 95482 Eureka, CA 95503
Re: County of Mendocino Last, Best and Final Offer
Dear Teresia and Rick:
I am writing to you on behalf of the Mendocino County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association (MCDSA) and MCDSA President Dan Edwards. This letter is in response to your July 1, 2010, letter to President Edwards.
On July 8, 2010, the County’s Last, Best and Final Offer (LBFO) was presented to the General Membership of the MCDSA. Approximately eighty-five percent (85%) of the membership was represented at this meeting (three meetings were held simultaneously via video conferencing). The membership unanimously rejected the County’s LBFO.
The concerns most expressed by the members towards the County LBFO were the enormity of the compensation reduction (10% wage reduction and the loss of the 6% County contribution towards retirement funding) and the disparity between the LBFO to the MCDSA versus what the County came to agreement with for the Mendocino County Department Head Association on June 8, 2010 — a 10% wage reduction only.
Our members do not understand why and have never been offered an explanation for the reason the Board of Supervisors feels the most highly compensated employees in the County, the Department Heads of the County, are being treated more generously than line level employees. Compensation is compensation whether it is in the form of salary or some other monetary benefit such as an employer contribution towards employee costs, i.e., the 6% the County contributes towards our members’ retirement costs.
A straight 10% wage (compensation) reduction is certainly significant. The reasoning for increasing the reduction for line level employees by 50% (the loss of the County contribution towards retirement costs) over what the County required of Department Heads one month ago is simply unfathomable to our members.
In an effort to maintain a positive relationship between the membership of the MCDSA and the elected representatives of the citizens we serve and protect, we are asking you to not impose your LBFO. Instead, the bargaining team of the MCDSA respectfully asks the Board of Supervisors to direct your negotiator to return to the bargaining table. The MCDSA bargaining team, given the opportunity, will strongly recommend to our membership a successor collective bargaining agreement with (1) a term of one (1) year from date of ratification by the Board of Supervisors, (2) the elimination of the County six percent (6%) retirement contribution effective with the first full pay period following adoption of the agreement by the Board of Supervisors, (3) a reduction of five percent and one-half (5.5%) of base salary for all bargaining unit members effective with the first full pay period following adoption of the agreement by the Board of Supervisors and (4) the tentative agreements referred to in your letter of July 1, 2010. This proposal is a mirror image to the loss of compensation the Board of Supervisors agreed to with the Department Heads Association thirty (30) days ago.
We know the job of the Board of Supervisors is a difficult one. In these economic times, hard decisions have to be made. However, those decisions should be fair and equitable in so far as they affect the work force of the County.
In closing, we ask that you share this letter with the Board of Supervisors in the closed session scheduled for July 13, 2010. It is also our understanding a Special Session of the Board of Supervisors has been scheduled for 9:00 am on July 14, 2010. Should there be any change in the County’s position, please notify either Dan Edwards or myself as soon as possible.
John R. Noble
Sr. Labor Relations Representative
In 1970-71, my house, along with 16 others, was destroyed in a massive, slow-moving landslide in the Oakland hills. We homeowners banded together and consulted geologists and engineers to see what might be done to stop the slide. Nothing could be done. We were told that the houses were built on serpentine, known to engineers as an incompetent rock where building should never have been allowed. It was the first time I had heard that adjective applied to an inanimate object.
When considering the state budget and other examples of governmental paralysis, it becomes apparent that serpentine is the perfect choice for California's state rock. It typifies our governor, the Legislature and all the voters who elected them.
THE COAST SCHOOL BOND
Realizing the Independent Coast Observer prides itself in bringing truth to the community I would like to give some facts regarding the presentation from Joanna Bowes, Vice President of KNN Public on “Public repayment of partial bond funding” which took place at the Point Arena School Board Meeting last Thursday.
I asked Ms. Bowes where she obtained the figure of “$1.7 million” because in the remaining bond fund there should be a total of $1.9 million. To be precise, $1,799,131 is in the Gualala School Fund and $187,980 in the Undesignated Reserve Fund for a total of $1,987,111. Ms. Bowes stated, “the county.” I asked her could money from the Undesignated Reserve Fund be used to help pay off the debt of retiring the bond which comes to approximately $25-30K? She stated, “Yes.”
Superintendent Iacuaniello quickly said to School Board President DeWilder, “She can't be asking her that,” and then DeWilder informed me that this will be a board decision.
I stated, “I realize this is a board decision but I wanted to know if this was an option?”
Along with the realization the board makes the final decision, I also realized the County (Tichinin’s Office of Education) had to obtain their information from only one place, the district. That is over a quarter of a million dollars below what is actually available to be refunded to members of our community!
I hope the following takes place once Dr. Colleen Cross comes on board as Superintendent after the 1st of August:
1. There is more transparency on the board and decisions regarding open door agenda — items are not made in closed door sessions.
2. As of March 9, 2010, there was a total of $1,987,111. This is without any accrued interest going into the undesignated reserve fund. So, there could be more. Community members who voted on having the school built in Gualala and will never see this dream come to its fruition should have every penny possible returned to them.
3. More community members become involved in seeing what is taking place in your school district. As I have stated many times before these students are our future.
PS. Recently, I spoke with a young gentleman who just graduated from the Point Arena School District. I asked him how his experience was at Point Arena and he stated he signed up to take Spanish because he wanted to learn the language. He went on to state, “The teacher assigned to the class was Mr. Bergu, Berga, Bagu…” He couldn't figure out his name. I stated, “Mr. Lu Beguiristain”? “Yes”, he replied. He went on to tell me that Mr. Beguiristain handed out Spanish books and told the class, “They could learn to speak Spanish if they studied the book.” I asked him if he passed the class and he informed me, “We all passed the class because Beguiristain was never credentialed to teach Spanish.” Although passing, this young man couldn't speak Spanish!
However, both the Superintendent, Mr. Iacuaniello, and the board approved Mr. Beguiristain to be in the high school as a teacher until it was later discovered he had no credentials to be teaching. Even after that he was kept at the high school as the teacher but under a different status. Mr. Iacuaniello was the "teacher of record” and Beguiristain was classified as a "para-educator.” However, Beguiristain was the one in the classroom every day by himself without another teacher. Beguiristain was later transferred into the elementary school to be a para-educator because of another incident that occurred at the high school. The bottom line is how could Iacuaniello and/or the board not know he was uncredentialed? After all, Beguiristain was only a para-educator at the Pacific Charter School in Point Arena which everyone was aware of. So, how could this possibly have been such a big surprise to them? They got caught!
WHO SHOULD HAUL TRASH?
RE: County contract with Solid Waste of Willits
Given the two 3-2 votes on this matter (Board of Supervisors and Fort Bragg City Council), this contract was obviously controversial.
The controversy, in my opinion, is not primarily about “ideology” so much as about the specific provisions of the deal and to some degree, the past performance of the proposed contractor, Solid Waste of Willits (SWOW).
One thing that seemed problematic to me from the start was the composition of the Board's ad hoc committee charged with negotiating the contract; that is, the committee lacked coastal representation. This seems to me a major oversight in light of fact that Caspar handles by far the most volume of the six county transfer stations and the fact that three of the other stations (Albion, Fish Rock, Boonville) are the 5th district. Fish Rock has been particularly at issue because of serious overcharging that occurred at that facility over a number of years.
Wendy Roberts has claimed that it makes sense for the rates at Caspar to be raised (according to the proposed contract from $25 to $28 per cubic yard and from $4 to $5 per 30 gallon can) in order to subsidize the higher costs of operation at the County's other five stations. However, according to Fort Bragg Councilmember Dan Gjerde, “the existing contract between the County and the City guarantees Caspar's revenues can only stay in Caspar.”
Mr. Gjerde's memo to the Council dated 6/28/10 lays out his reasoning for opposing the new Caspar Joint Powers Agreement, an essential element of the SWOW contract. Gjerde claims that this agreement: 1) authorizes SWOW to operate Caspar with significantly higher fees and 2) absolves the City of theoretical future deficits at the Caspar Transfer Station (an eventuality that Gjerde finds implausible given the higher fees that are proposed).
He complains that the new agreement: 1) does not direct any profits from the large Caspar site to benefit Caspar customers and 2) does not eliminate or reduce the County's largest bill to the City for Caspar, that being the annual landfill post-closure costs.
I could go into a lot more detail here on the issues of Landfill Closure Costs and post-closure costs and how these affected the vote at the Fort Bragg Council, but would instead invite readers to examine two documents: 1) Gjerde's memo; and 2) the agenda summary written by Mendocino Solid Waste Management Authority (MSWA) director Mike Sweeney to the Fort Bragg Council on the issue of the 14.5 year contract with SWOW.
Supervisor Kendall Smith has pointed out that in long term agreements of the kind proposed between the County and SWOW, the party offering the contract (in this case, the County of Mendocino) commonly extracts a fairly large sum of money. These contracts, have real monetary value (that's why SWOW wants to enter into it in the first place!). This proposed contract contained some beneficial provisions for the County (including keeping employees on board, capital improvements at Fishrock, etc.), but no money paid directly to the County for the privilege of a 14.5 year exclusive contract to both haul the County's curbside waste and to operate the transfer stations.
There is an ideological question here as well, even if it's not the primary consideration. What is the proper role of the government in overseeing the delivery of an essential service that is important to every single resident of the County; i.e., the disposal of solid waste? It seems to me that this is precisely the kind of function that should rest with government. However, as I've said before, if this proposed contract was sufficiently attractive for the County, I would overlook that philosophical objection in favor of an agreement that was truly cost-effective and beneficial over the long term.
Below are links to the memos I mentioned above. I'm sure this won't be the last we'll be hearing and writing about this long-standing controversy!
Staff report written to City of FB by MSWA director Mike Sweeney:
Gjerde memo to FB Council:
WENDY ROBERTS REPLIES
Candidate Hamburg has raised some interesting questions about the waste management contract.
I concur that it is the County’s responsibility to ensure that every County resident has appropriate, cost-effective options for solid waste disposal. The County already ensures the availability of curbside pickup for many residents through franchise agreements that it oversees with independent contractors. The current discussion is about the proposed contract to extend existing franchise agreements with Solid Waste of Willits (SWOW), include management of the 6 transfer stations and provide for capital improvements to the Caspar and Fish Rock stations. This contract was prompted by huge County budget deficits that have grown as transfer station costs have increased and the flow of revenue-producing trash has declined in recent years.
Dan states that he “…can think of no valid reason that the (Ad Hoc negotiating) committee should have lacked a coastal supervisor.” I was present at the BOS meeting when the ad hoc committee was formed to work on the contract with Mike Sweeney and the County/City of Fort Bragg coordinating committee. John Pinches invited Colfax to serve on the committee and he declined, saying that he was opposed to the committee and wasn’t going to “miss a Celtics game” to serve. Supervisors Smith and Colfax remained in the loop as members of the Joint Powers Coordinating Committee.
Hamburg mentions “…serious overcharging at Fish Rock.” Despite the absence of a coast supervisor, the Ad Hoc committee did examine issues around the rates charged by SWOW to curbside pick-up customers on the South Coast. After analyzing cost factors, the committee determined that some rates were higher and some were lower than justified by actual costs. The proposed solution was to require SWOW to compensate any customers who had been overcharged and to then approve increased rates that take all cost factors into account.
The claim that Fort Bragg was uninvolved and uninformed as the contract negotiations proceeded is simply inaccurate. The Joint Powers Coordinating Committee met in April for the express purpose of hearing any and all concerns that needed to be addressed.
Smith and Colfax represented the County; Councilman Dan Gjerde and Mayor Hammerstrom represented the City. Mike Sweeney, the County’s Contract Administrator and other staff were also present.
Fort Bragg did not want to continue to pay a subsidy to County for monitoring the closed landfill and managing the Caspar Transfer Station. The negotiated contract would have eliminated this payment. Fort Bragg wanted to establish a fund that would be reserved exclusively for improvements to the Caspar Transfer Station or predevelopment of a new long haul transfer station. This, too, was included in the agreement by a clause that would have reserved for use at Caspar all funds paid by Fort Bragg residents plus a dollar for dollar match from fees paid by County residents. Other issues were also discussed.
When the Ad Hoc committee met in May, Mike Sweeney confirmed that all of the Fort Bragg issues had been addressed. If, in fact, Mr. Gjerde had unresolved issues, he did not raise them until after the BOS-approved contract reached the City Council. Gjerde, Sweeney and Smith all confirmed that this was true during last week’s BOS meeting.
At the City Council meeting, Supervisor Smith argued that the County was “leaving money on the table” by not insisting on a substantial up front payment for extending existing franchise agreements and agreeing to a 14 ½ year contract. She had made this point previously and was unwilling to acknowledge that any such payment was precluded by the declining volume of revenue-producing trash and by the fact that SWOW had already assumed more than $4 million of debt for capital improvements in Willits and was accepting responsibility for another $400,000 in improvements at Fish Rock. In addition, the contract requires SWOW to assume about $8,000/year in State permit fees that the County currently pays and to take on all liability for accidents or other litigation related to the waste management function.
Supervisor Smith also argued that the Ad Hoc committee had not looked at how other Counties are faring with solid waste management. At least one member considered the fact that Humboldt and Lake Counties are still dumping waste into landfills. I was also told that Sonoma County received a $1.8 million payment for extending curbside pickup franchises and raised its transfer station rates 16% in one year and still expects to lose $2.6 million in the coming year because of increased costs and the decline in trash volume.
The bottom line is that increased costs and decreased volume of revenue producing trash have made internal management of the transfer stations a disastrous drain on Mendocino County taxpayers. The County is attempting to resolve this matter by expanding its contract with Solid Waste of Willits to meet waste management needs through 2024. Without this action, there will be no capital improvement fund for Caspar, Fish Rock or any other site. The South Coast will continue to be held hostage to high tipping rates for ultimate trash disposal at the Annapolis site in Sonoma County. Jobs will be lost and access to local transfer stations will be drastically reduced.
I’ve followed this discussion closely over the past year because of its potential impact on Boonville, Albion and the South Coast. While I do not claim comprehensive knowledge of the subject, I learn more of the details every day. From all that I have seen, I believe that the people we’ve elected and the professionals they’ve hired are working hard to reach an agreement that is in the public interest.
Candidate for Fifth District Supervisor