Off the Record
by AVA News Service, July 22, 2010
DIALED UP the “official county government on-line resource” the other morning to find a perfectly dysfunctional website to go with our perfectly dysfunctional board of supervisors. The site is illustrated with what seems to be one of Potter Valley's more desolate vistas, a pasture looking east toward the Pine Mountain pot fields. It's hard to find unappealing natural settings in Potter Valley but whoever designed the site managed it. After a vain attempt to send along a message of support to supervisor Carre Brown for her valiant attempt to censure her garbled colleague, supervisor Smith, for Smith's attempt to work both sides of the street of the recent garbage fiasco, the password verification was illegible. It, by the way, was marked with this invitation: “Please verify your humanity.” How very Mendo. The casual implication that local government is nicer-nice than its victims when, Mendolib's delusion that they live in a forward-looking, nay progressive, place, Mendocino County tolerates just about the highest rates of childhood poverty in the state and, of course, its schools are run by people who probably still think, even after a clarifying court case, that niggardly is a term of racist abuse. I could go on, but in living fact, official Mendocino County is always at least ten degrees off when it isn't all the way off. Go to any public meeting anywhere in the County, from your local school board to the supervisors, and you'll sit there wondering to yourself, “What the hell has happened? Has there been a coup? Have the dummies and the nuts taken over everything?” The County's website fits just right.
BESS AND JAMES SANDERSON'S rented house in Mendocino was an ocean view place on Lansing Street, not far from the Catholic Church. The Sandersons also rented a house near the sewage treatment plant owned by Erin Dertner, a well known painter whose gallery is located on Laurel Street, Fort Bragg. The Sandersons also may have been renting a third property in Mendocino. The Sandersons, of the East Coast, were doing their best to roll back the local real estate slump, but Mendocino being a very small town, people talked. Who were these young people with all this money to throw around? The local cops would learn that the Sandersons ocean views were subsidized by welfare benefits and Mr. Sanderson's fantastically lucrative FedEx pot business. Mr. S is doing 400 days in the Mendocino County Jail, Mrs. S just bailed and is in the process of recovering her two pre-school-age children. The kids were confiscated by CPS when they were discovered unattended and crying in the Sanderson vehicle about ten the evening of June 14th as Mrs. Sanderson was hoisting a couple at nearby Dick's Place. Mr. Sanderson was nailed as he took a FedEx delivery of $85,000 cash money. He'd also been filmed tumbling drunk out of a stolen truck at the Willits Burger King. Hey! Nobody's perfect, but if you're inclined to look at Sanderson-related events through a wide angle social class lens, you can't help but conclude that the felonies committed by Mr. Sanderson particularly, would get most of us some state time. But the Sandersons got Low Gap Road and even had enough money left over from their Mendocino County misadventures to hire a couple of very good private attorneys, Mark Kalina and Richard Petersen who argued, basically, harrumph-harrumph, that the Sandersons were nice white people from nice white homes. All this FedEx money and welfare fraud and drunken Willits cheeseburgers in stolen pick-ups and child abandonment were aberrations, serial aberrations to be sure but kinda fast-forwarded to all happen at once and, yer honor, like we said, unlikely to be repeated. Hell, judge, my client, Mr. Sanderson, even graduated college Phi Beta Kappa! His Honor, looking down from his dais at the young crooks before him, thinks to himself, “I went to law school with these people.” Bang goes his gavel. County time! “Go and sin no more, my children.”
WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT of the justice system, try visiting someone at San Quentin. You can't. Would be visitors are directed to call 415-455-5022 between the hours of 8 and 10am. But when you call that number. A voice tells you that if you're listening to him there are no visiting hours available on the Wednesdays through Sundays they theoretically occur. All booked up. You call ten more times. All booked up. I've visited friends at other state prisons where the process consists of showing up in appropriate dress, meaning women in bikinis and men wearing any shade of blue can't get in. (Blue is close enough to prison denim blue that it might fatally confuse the resident crooks with the visiting crooks.) Trying to visit someone at San Quentin is especially frustrating because, at any one time, lots of Mendo homeboys are in residence there, many of them committed readers of this fine publication. Most will be evaluated and farmed out to other institutions, but Q is handiest to Mendocino County and handier yet to Frisco where I spend part of most weeks. I can pop in off the freeway to say hello. The rest of the state's prisons are in places you don't want to go. I'll write to the warden, that's what I'll do. I'll tell him I grew up so close to San Quentin I could hear the sirens when someone ran, and I remember seeing the puff of smoke after someone was executed when they aired out the gas chamber. One of my neighbors, Joe Weiss, supervised the prison woodshop. I even played baseball against the prison team. We all just strolled on in. The field was rough, but the fans were friendly. San Quentin had a very good team featuring a pitcher who'd played pro ball but had also killed his wife. He killed us, too, with his big fastball. I've read Warden Duffy's book! I demand access! I want in!
A SPECIAL NOT-GETTING-IT award goes to the guy who shot it out with the cops on 580 the other day. His mom said he was “mad at left-wing politics.” Mr. Dumbkopf, who was on parole, was wearing body armor and headed for? Who knows? Nancy Pelosi's office? when he was riddled with non-fatal bullets fired by, you can be sure, a platoon of delighted CHP officers. The problem with Mr. D's analyis is that there is no left-wing in America. There hasn't been a left-wing since, I'd say, 1975, and that was a feeble and terminally ill left-wing. The owning classes have won. At least for now. They and their media outlets, which is all of them, have convinced the more volatile shmoes out there that liberals are left-wingers. Liberals are not left-wingers. Most liberals are barely liberals. (cf Mendolib.) One more time: liberals and right-wingers alike believe in capitalism as the basis for social organization. Left-wingers think capitalism should be killed before it kills US. Moderate liberals of the Obama-Pelosi type, and right-wingers of the Murdoch-Steinbrenner type, own the media and everything else, including the government. They're on the same side. Most of the rest of US don't own a damn thing except our credit card debt. The libs and the right-wing want to keep things as they are because they live high off the hog as it's presently butchered. And you and me, brothers and sisters, are the hog! Comprende? How many times does Uncle Bruce have to explain this stuff to you? If that fool who shot it up with the CHP down on 580 knew who his own self was he'd be a left-winger.
IN OTHER NEWS from the class war, a headline in Monday's Chronicle read: “Boxer calls out Fiorina as multiple yacht owner.” Senator Boxer and her husband are millionaires many times over, as is candidate Fiorina. The only reason the Boxers don't have yachts is because they're afraid of the water. Or not interested in yachts. Is there a Senator who isn't a millionaire? Is there a congressman who doesn't at least have a net worth of a mil or two? Our hard-hitting congressman, Mike Thompson, with a little help from his wine and cheese friends, has banked a few mil over the years. None of these people are left-wingers. They are as interested in protecting their advantage as any right-winger.
RECOMMENDED READING: “Empire of the Summer Moon — Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History.” Quanah Parker's mother was captured by the Comanches when she was 9. The child was not what you'd call cosseted by the Comanches, whose policy was the torture and slo-mo murder of adult males, gang rape and murder for most women, and the carrying off and Indian-ization of male and female children. Unless they cried a lot as they were being carried off then they'd be summarily decapitated or simply abandoned. The Comanches' childcare practices were totally inappropriate, as we say here in Mendocino County. At age 9, the day of her abduction, Quanah's mother, Cynthia Ann Parker, had witnessed the murders of immediate family members and, in the euphemism of those times, “many gross indecencies,” including the rape of her grandmother. Cynthia Ann Parker was clearly a tough little cookie, as she not only survived all this but thrived in it when she was reborn as a Comanche herself. When Cynthia Ann was re-captured she spent the rest of her life trying to return to her adopted tribe. Mean time, she'd produced Quanah, a tactical genius as a Comanche warrior, the fiercest of the fierce, who became a kind of white man himself when his Comanches were finally put down. Or died from cholera or one of the other introduced plagues that carried off a lot more Indians than soldiers ever did. Quanah did pretty well as a post-Comanche white man in Oklahoma. His mother had died unhappy, having endured a kind of house arrest after she was recaptured a second time. The whole story is nicely told by S.C. Gwynne, complete with riveting descriptions of Comanche life, including a comanche how-to on the taming of wild horses: “A Comanche would lasso a wild horse, then tighten the noose, choking the horse and driving it to the ground. When it seemed as if the horse was nearly dead, the choking lariat was slacked. The horse finally rose, trembling and in a full lather. Its captor gently stroked its nose, ears, and forehead, then put his mouth over the horse's nostrils and blew air into its nose. The Indian would then throw a thong around the now-gentled horse's lower jaw, mount up, and ride away.”
SUPERVISOR KENDALL SMITH was not censured by her colleagues last week. The item came up, various Supervisors opined on the subject at tedious length, but nobody moved to officially castigate the garrulously incoherent Fort Bragg solon.
THE 4TH DISTRICT SUPERVISOR did manage to inspire a round of derisive laughter when she tried to “explain” why she thinks she’s already taken a pay cut. Board Chair Carre Brown had to ask the room to calm down when a chorus of guffaws met Smith's astonishing first sentences aimed at explaining how her pay had not been raised two years ago when the department heads got their raises. Smith's jaw dropping bullshit continued, however, as she insisted that she be allowed to brandish what she seemed to think were substantiating charts and graphs at the audience.
SUPERVISOR SMITH went further after the board’s failure to censure her by telling UkiahValley.tv that “There’s a lack of understanding of what an ethics policy would be and its applicability to whatever decisions we make.” God must have been distracted when Smith began to lecture on ethics, of all things, or He would have struck her down. Smith's entire tenure has been an object lesson in unethical behavior, from her irrefutably documented travel reimbursement chiselings to her recent treachery on privatization of County trash.
THE BOARD voted unanimously to put a sales tax measure on the November ballot as per Supervisor Kendall Smith’s belated proposal. (It will be slam dunked by the voters, and we're here to give odds if you think it won't be.) Informed that raising the County’s sales tax rate by half a percent would mean that the County's four incorporated towns would see have their sales tax rates go up to a hard-to-take 9.25%, Smith blinked a couple of times and babbled on.
ACCORDING to California’s contorted tax measure rules, sales tax hikes require only a 50% plus 1 vote because the money’s not earmarked for any particular purpose,
THERE WAS some discussion of appointing a citizens oversight committee for the tax measure proceeds as a possible sop to those who think the Supes might not manage the money properly. But nobody as interested enough to formally propose it.
“SUPERVISOR SMITH is off the rails. Supervisor Kendall Smith appears to have made her decision not to run for reelection when her term expires. Smith not only led the charge to the excessive pay supervisors now enjoy. She also was the one demanding the outrageous travel stipends awarded supervisors — hers is among the highest — after she deliberately collected mileage and travel reimbursements she wasn't entitled to and refused to repay the more than $3,000 she owes us, the taxpayers. She is also refusing to take any pay cut in the midst of the county's worst budget crisis when employees are being laid off and taking furloughs and pay cuts right and left. Now, she has also decided it's not her job to support decisions made by the County supervisors if she disagrees with them. She went right to the Fort Bragg City Council and encouraged them to vote against a garbage hauling privatization contract agreed to by the full Board and which is aimed at saving the County hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and the jobs of several county workers who otherwise will have to be laid off. Supervisor Carre Brown correctly called her on the carpet about it. Now this greediest member of the Board of Supervisors is also spearheading an effort to raise the County's sales tax, and she put the idea on the agenda without even knowing the important information that a hike at the County level means a hike at the city level — which translates, for instance, to a Ukiah city sales tax of 8.25%. Whether you agree that the County needs more money or not, Supervisor Smith is certainly the poster child for a “No” vote on higher taxes.” — K.C. Meadows (Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
FOOTNOTE to the Solid Waste Fiasco in the wake of Fort Bragg’s 3-2 after-the-fact vote to veto the deal: When the Board voted to accept the Department of Transportation’s interim proposal to make major cuts in operating hours at the six County-operated transfer stations and leave the layoff notices in place for the County’s current crew of transfer station attendants in indefinite limbo, the Board also voted to send the still-unapproved contract between the County and Solid Waste of Willits back to the same ad-hoc “committee” which screwed it up in the first place: Supervisors McCowen and Pinches plus Mendocino Solid Waste Management Authority/County Solid Waste Director Mike Sweeney. Even though the entire situation has deteriorated to the point that the transfer stations are nearly closed to the public and essential employees are out of work, the ad-hoc committee was given no date, no deadline by which to come back to the Board for a report, much less a new contract with Fort Bragg’s prior sign off. In other words, the Board of Supervisors screwed everything up and there doesn’t seem to be any interest from them in un-screwing it up.
FROM HERE, the privatization deal doesn't look bad, apart from its proposed 14-year length. Trash hauling is privatized in most communities, haulers enter contracts worked out with municipalities. Jerry Ward of Willits is a local guy who, unlike the County's garbage bureaucrat, Mike Sweeney, enjoys a reputation for honest dealing. Sweeney, an old adversary of Ward's, wrote the contract with Ward, probably with a view to sabbing it, which is what happened. Ward has a lot to recommend him. His transfer station in Willits is a model of efficiency and, as a customer of his here in Boonville, I've found Ward's rates to be reasonably low and the reliability of his service, perfect. Sweeney and the supervisors screwed up the privatization deal; Fort Bragg's participation, if there was going to be a deal with Ward, should have been nailed all the way down before the County rushed out to announce it done. So, what will happen? Nothing, probably. We'll limp along with extremely high transfer station rates, so high that roadside dumping, already prevalent in the County outback, will increase.
ANOTHER IRRITATING development is the stoner community's reaction to the DEA's Covelo raid on the transplanted Southern belle who, reinforced by the local marijuana community, is both feet on Sheriff Allman's case for what? Not lying down in front of the fed's raid vehicles? For years now, the DEA has been raiding whomever and whatever they feel like raiding, including fully legal state and local dispensaries. They're suddenly going to make exceptions for Mendocino County, ground zero of the bud biz? The Covelo raid has got to be nothing but a big headache for Allman. He's tried to work out accommodations with local growers on a local basis, but now that one of those accommodations has gone awry, and it just happens to be the first accommodation under supervisor McCowen's wacky and unworkable new rules, the pot brigades are denouncing Allman and appealing to McCowen for help! McCowen has demagogued the issue from the get-go. He's much more part of the problem than the Sheriff is. The Sheriff's policy continues to be the pursuit of the armed syndicates, the big time growers, not the mom and pops. The fed's policy is zero tolerance. Get it, bong brains? Zero. None. The feds can and probably will arrest you for residue. When Scarlett O'Hara-Greenfield said the other day that she was shocked at the federal attack on her Gone With The Wind Acres out on Chicken Ridge, especially after she'd worked so hard to get Obama elected, I just had to laugh. And laughed harder when one of the DEA agents told O'Hara-Greenfield, “We don't care about Sheriff Allman's program.” If he'd only thought to say, “Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn,” we would have had perfect symmetry.
SISTER YASMIN WRITES: “Dear darling handsome smart and wonderful Brucie baby, will you please promo this, sweetie pie?” Which is, Yaz dee-jaying an event in Gualala called the Summertime Parking Lot Faire — A Celebration of Community! Starts at noon at Village Cobblery and La La Smokes with, at 1pm, Tessa and Ling-Yen performing a “Bollywood number.”
THE DEPUTY SHERIFFS Association ended up with a 10% pay cut, not the 16% CEO Carmel Angelo and her negotiating team recommended. The 10% cut ended up being the product of supervisor John McCowen’s response to audience disapproval after he'd recommended 13%. The chamber, stuffed with cops and their supporters, applauded their own 10% pay cut.
WE DON’T begrudge the cops; they earn every bit of it, especially now that mental health has become their responsibility. But the Deputy-pay issue was as bungled as everything else the Supes touch these days. Apparently nobody asked the Deputies what they'd take which, as we read their letter — see Memo Of The Week — was 11.5%. So the Supes could have received just as big an ovation for imposing an 11.5% cut, saving more scarce General Fund dollars. Only in Mendo.
CEO ANGELO wrapped up the 10% deputy-pay-cut bungle by telling the Supervisors that she would now have to go back to the other departments and find hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings to compensate for the reduced cop pay-cut.
AFTER the usual wandering discussion about the value of the County’s federal lobbyist — a DC firm called Alcalde and Fey tied at the hip to the national Democratic Party, the Board finally voted to terminate the contract. Supervisors Colfax and Smith supported the $72k/year consultant because he might, just might, maybe, someday, stumble across some federal money the County could snag. Colfax and Smith are, of course, active Democrats.
AFTER last week’s report on the bust of Teddy Muth at the so-called “rave” concert at Area 101 outside of Laytonville last week, we read the police accounts of the bust and suddenly realized that “undercover” operations at stoner festivals are now common. A similar operation was underway at the recently concluded Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in Boonville. The organizers of the Boonville event, with years of experience orchestrating large-scale concerts, were so adept at their own security the cops couldn't find anyone to arrest.
THEN THERE WAS this interesting post on the Ukiah Daily Journal forum last week after the Area 101 bust: “My company did sound for this event. Just to put things in perspective let's compare it to four events I’ve done over the last seven days. Friday in South Tahoe, I brought gear up to Little River Band at a casino. I noticed a clear scent of weed in the air. Sunday, I brought gear to the casino's night club for a foam party, the most drunken debauchery you could imagine. How many drove home through a town loaded with pedestrians? Who knows? But I'm sure it was a lot. Wednesday in Reno, heavy metal show, heavy scent of weed in the air, tweekers lurking about, clear indication meth was on hand. Now, Stilldream [the Area 101 event], a three day campout where campers parked their cars a half mile from the event, probably 98% stayed the entire event and drove home sober during the day light. Weed, yes. Ecstasy, some. Your local drunk drivers leaving your bars I guarantee are a much bigger hazard to your safety than this festival. Ask your local shop owners if they were busy serving up food, gas, supplies and lodging. You [Laytonville residents] live in a town that relies on tourism. Don't just expect it to be all retirees pumpin' diesel, pulling a 30 footer and buying wind chimes. You live in an area that has the largest harvests of weed probably in the world. If you don't like it, move. This location used to cater to hard drinking bikers that I'm sure you complained about as well. It's cleaned up, it serves up some great food and drinks and is trying to make ends meets just like you and I. We're all in this together. Festivals like this are fun if you are young. Every young person will go to at least one if they like the music; whether or not they hunt down and take a bunch of drugs is based on how well they were taught to love and respect themselves. Everyone needs to be responsible for their own actions, including your journalism Ukiah.”
WE E-MAILED the County CEO’s office asking why there weren’t any local bids for the $40k Emergency Services SUV, a vehicular extravagance destined for use by Sergeant Shannon Barney, Mendo’s Emergency Services honcho. The Supervisors just keep forgetting their own incessant claims that the County is broke. They approved this unneeded purchase via their consent agenda, accepting the one bid from Hansel Ford in Santa Rosa. If even this obviously egregious expenditure can be so completely mishandled — no competitive bids, no local bids, no discussion of why such a vehicle is needed — without so much as a single question, what does that tell us about Mendocino County’s overall procurement practices?
THAT WAS an interesting piece last week about the “homeless court” in Humboldt County by the always readable North Coast Journal reporter Heidi Walters. Ms. Walters describes how a Humboldt County judge named John Feeney pays regular visits to Eureka's St. Vincent DePaul homeless shelter where he benignly relieves deserving street people of their legal burdens. The Humboldt approach to chronic offenders of the defenseless type is five years old. It's saved HumCo lots of money. Mendocino County would similarly benefit from the Humboldt strategy, but when's the last time official Mendocino County pulled off anything remotely creative?