Off the Record

by AVA News Service, July 29, 2010

IT WASN'T FUNNY but I had to laugh, and every time I look at these pictures I laugh again. The man holding the gun is not Wavy Gravy though he could pass. The man holding the gun is Jack Chladek of Jack's Gualala Pharmacy. When Mr. Miller entered Mr. Chladek's thriving little drug store a couple of weeks ago and demanded, “You have 20 seconds to give me all of your Oxycontin or I'm going to kill you,” Mr. Chladek, in one second, had cranked off a round from his .40 cal Beretta at the would be bandido. The bullet hit a counter, spraying Miller “with countertop shards,” according to the Independent Coast Observer. “I shot low because there were other people in the store,” the druggist explained. Miller ran out the door where the second incompetent involved in this incompetent crime was waiting in the getaway car, a battered black Toyota. Miller and Thorson were soon spotted far to the east near Lake Sonoma on the Stewarts Point-Skaggs Springs Road. They were arrested without incident and booked into the Mendocino County Jail on bail of $150,000 each. A doper acquaintance in San Francisco tells me Oxycontin goes for about a buck a pill on Frisco's meaner streets. “Junkies love the stuff,” he says. “It's readily available down here. Hell, you can buy it online from pharmacies in Mexico. You don't have to jack up rural drug stores.”

IN OTHER CRIME news from MendoNoma as the South Coast of Mendocino County is called by its marketers, Nicholas James Lee Kindel, 20, was arrested a couple of weeks ago by Sgt. Greg Stefani of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office when Kindel emerged from a house at Irish Beach holding a lush marijuana plant just as Stefani drove past. Sgt. Stefani soon returned with a warrant and found Mr. Kindel presiding over “a sophisticated indoor marijuana growing operation” of 1,280 plants and 25 pounds of processed bud. The moral of the story? If you're going to take your pot plants for a walk it's probably a good idea to do it at night.

WHAT KIND of guy would call the cops on the lovely Ms. Dawnett E. Burghduff for biting him? Most men, even in Willits where this unhappy episode occurred, would be happy to have Ms. Burghduff, well… Anyway, Mr. Wimp-Twit isn't identified by his real name in the Sheriff's press release, but he claims when he tried to stop Dawnett from “destroying some of his personal property,” Dawnett bit him and scratched him. Unless she left her molars in Wimp-Twit's nose, not guilty!

THE MONEY AND PROPERTY seized in dope raids and dope stops in Mendocino County provides our local law enforcement apparatus with about a million bucks a year, much more, proportionately, than is confiscated in LA County. The money is divided among the DA, whichever police agency snagged it and the state, the last taking an admin cut of 10% or so off the top. Locally, formal legal notice of these seizures appears in the Mendocino County Observer based in Laytonville where it is unlikely to be seen by the persons whose money and property have been seized. In the edition of July 8th, along with foreclosure notice on properties as distant from Laytonville as Gualala, we learn that in a raid on a property in Westport located at 31901 Bruhel Points Road, $15,000 in cash plus a pair of Honda Rubicon four-wheelers were taken by the badged bounty hunters, each valued at a couple of thou. At 8361 Black Bart Trail, Redwood Valley, $30,874.00 in cash was confiscated. The long list of seizures continues through several Ukiah addresses, Laytonville itself, the Boonville Road and so on. Our District Attorney funds a whole position out of this bounty, which seems to be ever larger.

THE CITY OF FORT BRAGG is giving Nicole “Splits” Kench her deposit money back. The whole sad story was well told in last week's paper by Christina Aanestad, but Ms. Kench, an ace organizer, had intended a street fair for downtown that would have benefited charities that need benefiting. She put up a large deposit to cover police costs and jumped through innumerable hoops. The City eventually said No to it all but failed to return Ms. Kench's deposit money. Ms. Kench would have had to jump through even more hoops to get her money and, as experienced hoops jumpers know, it can cost you more money in jumps and hoops than the money you're trying to get back. The City and Splits have agreed to forgo a hearing on the matter and simply cut Splits her check. Which the City should have done a long time ago but didn't.

ONE FORT BRAGG City councilprig, Meg Courtney, said Ms. Kench's event “wasn't Fort Braggy enough.” Meaning what? Not enough unsolved murders? Nobody sending the downtown up in flames? Short on child molesters to look after the kids? Councilman Jere Melo seemed to be the only authority figure in FB to recognize that an event bringing 15,000 people to town is good for the town, and plenty Fort Braggy.

THE MARIJUANA BUSINESS is not new to California. From the San Francisco Chronicle of July 26th, 1935: “Discovery of a patch of the potent narcotic marijuana, smoked in cigarettes, in the heart of San Francisco was announced yesterday by William G. Walker, director of the State Narcotic Division. The patch, located in the front yard of a house at 901 22nd Street, was discovered by Inspector Bernard Blonder and was in full bloom, Its current retail value, on the basis of 25 cents per cigarette, was estimated at about $1,000. After a wait of several hours, they placed Robert Gotti of 915 Twenty-Second Street under arrest. Gotti admitted possession of the weed and told officers that about three months ago it was given to him by a Mexican, who promised that the plant would grow beautiful flowers. He said he had never seen the Mexican since. The arresting officers also found 50 gallons of untaxed liquor in Gotti's residence. He is charged on both counts.”

SOUTH OF THE BORDER is a documentary film by Oliver Stone. It introduces and un-demonizes the Latin American heads of state that our government and long-distance warriors like draft dodgers Sean Hannitty and Rush Limbaugh claim represent as large a menace to “American interests” as Al Qaeda. Neither Hugo Chavez nor Al Qaeda menace me in the least, and I don't know a single person who thinks that 9-11 was anything but pure luck on the terrorists' part. (I'll confess that I was pleased with the counter-attack on the Taliban but, like most people, I was and remain disgusted by the D-Day tactics deployed against Iraq and Afghanistan ever since. Day-to-day, I feel more menaced by the lamebrain prose and political assumptions of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat than I do Bin Laden, but I'll concede a certain provincialism here.) I watched South of the Border at the Kabuki complex at Fillmore and Post, San Francisco. I got there for the 2 o'clock showing. The Kabuki has this cockamamie computerized seating gizmo. You buy your ticket then you select your seat on an undersized computer screen. My eyes are bad, and the screen is level with a midget's eyeballs so I just reach down and punch a number at random. I knew there'd only be about a dozen or so geezers and wheezers strewn among two hundred seats. You don't need assigned seating at any documentary film that is in the least lefty-wefty, let alone one showing in the middle of the day. Sure enough, inside the murk there were three clumps of old ladies totaling ten in all and another ten or so old guys, two of them sporting the lib-inevitable Greek seaman's caps, all of whom, like me, sitting alone. (Why is it that old ladies go to movies in groups, old men by themselves?) I caught snatches of conversation heavy on medical catastrophe. The lights dimmed. Out of the corner of my eye a shadowy figure stared at her hand as she stumbled up the stairs towards my row. No! She couldn't be trying to find her assigned seat! Her assigned seat couldn't be on my otherwise unoccupied row! Still staring at her ticket and swiveling her head to check seat numbers, the determined figure headed straight for me! And, without a word, sat down in the seat on my right. Twenty people in a two hundred seat auditorium and this woman, about 50, has to plunk herself down right next to me, discomfiting both of us. I groaned and moved over three seats. Now for the un-politically correct question: Of what ethnicity was the designated seat occupier descended? I've polled ten San Franciscans and every one of them, without hesitation, said, “Chinese.” Which is the correct answer. She was muy cool though, laughing at all Chavez's jokes, and even hooting once when some blow dried Fox News fool said that Evo Morales of Bolivia was the biggest menace “to the American way of life” since Fidel Castro.

A FEW FOLLOW UP notes from the July 13, Board of Supervisors meeting:

PERSISTENT Supervisors critic Jim Houle told the Board (again) that they could save a lot of money by capping County salaries at $75k per year. “There are 142 of them as of December, 2009,” said Houle. “Cutting their salaries down to $75k would save almost $2.5 million immediately. I know it’s unpopular. The working man is usually cut, he takes it in the neck every time. But the median household income [in Mendocino County] is $35k per year. Half make less than that. Half more. Per capita it’s only $19k. So cutting back to $75k is still more than double what the average household makes. It’s not an unimaginable cut. But the people at the top don't want this to happen. We have one employee who makes the same as a four-star general, $213k per year. [Dr. Rosoff, the Mental Health physician.] … We can't afford this. Figure out how to cut these people back to $75k.”

SUPERVISOR COLFAX, who seems at least half way down the road to Alzheimer's, on the alleged ethics violation against Supervisor Kendall Smith for criticizing the Solid Waste privatization decision before the Fort Bragg City Council: “It’s unfortunate that this matter has been raised as it has. An unethical conduct charge is serious. It won't affect me. Except for the next 5.5 months. This was not a final decision of the board until Fort Bragg approves. There’s Part 1 and then Part 2. Or a and then there's b. Nothing happens until b is taken care of. My District Votes for Me! My District, the people who vote for me! Plus others at large. I am their representative.”

SUPERVISOR McCOWEN: “[Supervisor Smith] said things [about solid waste to the Fort Bragg City Council] that were proven inaccurate as proven by anyone who's read the documents. … She urged rejection because there wasn't enough money for the county for the extension, an issue Fort Bragg has no stake in. … There were ways to make your point without disparaging the actions of the County as was done here.”

MR. HOULE returned to the microphone to point out: “If any censure is in order it should be of the entire board for not doing your homework. You had committees, staff, an erstwhile solid waste advisor and consultant, Mr. Sweeney, and no one came up with a solution to a problem you were all aware of: that the people in Fort Bragg didn't like this idea; they didn't think they were getting a fair shake. Supervisor Kendall Smith tried to make this clear to you when you made your supposed final decision and you just went ahead! You should have held back! Go find a solution! Go ask Mr. Sweeney if he can come up with a solution. He's supposed to know the whole business. He was supposed to make what Mr. McCowen claimed was a final decision. Well, it was not a final decision, it was a contingent decision, and once the contingency was satisfied then it would have to come back to the board.”

McCOWEN interrupted: “No.”

HOULE: “I'm afraid I just don't agree with your interpretation. A little better homework would be in order.”

THE SUPES then went to great lengths to say that they all had been assured that “all the issues” with Fort Bragg had been “satisfactorily responded to.” Several repeated that the privatization decision was a “two-step” process. (Step 1: Board of Supervisors approves. Step 2: Fort Bragg vetoes? Or Fort Bragg Rubberstamps?)

McCOWEN pointed out that some of the reasons Fort Bragg voted no (3-2) were simply incorrect. McCowen also correctly noted that the layoff of the County’s transfer station attendants was premature since the contract with Solid Waste of Willits was not finalized before the layoffs. Now, for the Transportation Department to meet its recently cut budget, the County is drastically cutting hours and days of operation at all the County-run transfer stations, including Boonville, probably in mid-to-late August.

SUPERVISOR SMITH has some vague idea that the County-run Solid Waste operations could still be run without any subsidy from the County’s General Fund, particularly now that gate fees are going up. Trouble is, raising the gate fees to anywhere near what Smith has in mind will generate even more illegal trash burning, illegal roadside dumping and more self-haul to cheaper dumpsites like those in Willits and Ukiah — as everyone involved realizes but don’t seem particularly upset about, probably because they make so much money that exorbitant dump fees for the people they allegedly serve are no biggee.

THE NEXT DAY, July 13, the Board was dealing with only one issue: the “Last, Best and Final Offer” to the Deputy Sheriff’s Association, imposing a total of a 16% pay reduction (10% salary reduction and the Deputies would pay the County’s portion of their own pensions, 6%, totaling 16%.

AT THE BEGINNING of the discussion all five Supervisors said they “supported” the 16% reduction, although reluctantly. McCowen then observed that the Deputies think that “more than 10% is unfair,” failing to mention why. (The Board, in their typical incompetent way, had voted to cut Department Head salaries by 10% s few months ago, effectively making that percentage the baseline that all other employees would compare themselves to in subsequent negotiations, and making the Board an easy target for criticism. Smith and Colfax have made it worse by not accepting 10% voluntary reductions themselves like the other three Supervisors had.) McCowen then proposed a 10% pay cut and a 3% pension subsidy as an alternative.

THEN PUBLIC EXPRESSION began — and it was very critical, many speakers repeating that it was unfair to cut the department heads and other supervisory personnel 10% but the deputies 16% or 13%.

SENIOR DA INVESTIGATOR Kevin Bailey got right to the heart of the matter: “I will not waste my time appealing to a group of individuals who have proven themselves unworthy of performing the jobs they were elected to do,” said Bailey. “When you ask those who have given so much of themselves to this community to give more than you yourselves are willing to give, you should be ashamed. Any member of this board who votes to impose a 13% reduction should look at their shoes when they pass a law enforcement officer. You're not worthy to look them in the eye. We're not saying we should not be part of the solution; we're only saying we should not have to give any more than any other group. Supervisors Colfax and Smith have sat idly by and given NOTHING of their own salary while they raise their hands in support of a 13% pay reduction. You [first] gave marching orders to your negotiator to present DSA with a 24% pay cut. And then you declared impasse when it was voted down by membership. You did this and you called it “negotiations”? Your conduct throughout this entire negotiation has made it clear that you do not support or appreciate the sacrifices and dedication made by those who put it all on the line for this county. I spent 14 years doing this job for this County. I started in the jail, moved to patrol, moved to detectives, and now I'm a DA investigator. I've been in the emergency room twice; I've been in the back of an ambulance once seeking emergency medical treatment. I've bled for this county. I suffered for this county. But I did not ask my family to go hungry for this county. Remember, you were elected to represent us, not rule us. Enjoy your full paychecks while you can and we'll meet on election day. When I pass you on the street, I'll be the one with the stiff back with my head held high and you'll be the one looking at your shoes. You should all be ashamed.” Bailey got a loud round of applause.

ON & ON it went, mostly along the same lines, almost every speaker singling out “the two supervisors who have not taken any pay cut” but not mentioning “Smith and Colfax” by name. Several speakers said that an unknown number of cops and corrections officers would quit if a pay cut of more than 10% was imposed.

SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION rep Jackie Carvallo said she was very concerned about the “strong-arm tactics” the Supervisors were using. “This is not negotiations,” said Carvallo. “You have made predetermined conclusions which are not good faith. This will affect other areas too. It’s bad management.”

DEMONSTRATING her usual insensitivity and political tone-deafness, Supervisor Smith then tried to “explain” why she hadn’t taken a pay cut. “I want to clarify the supervisor salary issue,” said Smith, as audience eyes started to roll. “Part of it is misinformation out there and probably most of you are not from the Coast. Most of you have not read the Advocate News and the Mendocino Beacon. Those newspapers have accurately reported the situation. (Untrue. Those papers simply wrote down what Smith herself told them.) The misinformation and the lack of accurate knowledge about this is that the Board of Supervisors is the only group that has received no wage increases over the last three years. And as for the elected officials…”

AT THIS POINT, the room began to erupt in derisive laughter and groans. Investigator Bailey was so fed up he got up and left the room as the jeers and groans continued. One guy in the audience put his face in his hands and shook his head.

“LET’S have order please,” said Board Chair Carre Brown.

AS IF HER demonstrably untrue statements had been met with a chorus of bravos and bouquets of roses, Smith obliviously plowed ahead: “The other elected officials have received five or six raises over the period of the last three years…” and on and on, basically saying that even with the 10% cut the other elected officials have still got bigger raises than the Supervisors — so she’ll be damned if she’s going to give back anything like Pinches, McCowen and Brown already have. “I can get all the graphs and charts from HR,” said Smith. “Proportionately, if I had received all the raises the other elected officials got, my salary, with the 10%, would be greater today than it is. So in effect, Supervisors have already taken a 10% raise [sic — she meant cut, but was obviously not thinking straight]. We are the only group that doesn't have a bargaining agent to represent them. This misinformation might work for a particular public commentary, but…”

THE AUDIENCE was mutinous. Groans had turned to audible insults.

SMITH, finally aware that nobody believed her, appealed for assistance. “Madam Chair?”

CHAIR BROWN: “We need to have order please.”

SMITH: “So I'm ready to meet with you in order to go over details because misinformation has been put out because I have taken more than a 10% salary reduction and my salary has been flat for three years. It has not been portrayed accurately or fairly. We do not accrue sick leave, we do not accrue vacation, we do not accrue overtime. And we work 60 or 70 hours a week.”

NO, YOU DON'T, and when you do “work” you screw things up and waste everybody's time and talk incessantly and repetitively and incoherently and the County would be better off if you and Colfax didn’t come to work at all, Ms. Smith.

THEN the Supervisors took turns blaming the state for the budget problems, as if that was the issue, and as if everybody didn’t already know that the state's budget problems are affecting Mendocino County. The issue was simple: The employees will take their share of cuts, but they really, really resent being asked to take more cuts than management.

SMITH said she was sorry that people were unhappy, that she understood why they were unhappy. And that maybe the Supes (while she was one) weren’t getting good information from their subordinates.

SUPERVISOR McCowen — perhaps sarcastically, but this is not a man known for his wit — called Smith’s admission of guilt and lack of information “eloquent” and then proposed that the pay cut be 10% with no pension subsidy from the Deputies. After a few moments of hesitation the other board members agreed and it was indeed done. The room full of public safety employees who had just had their pay cut by 10% erupted in a Standing Ovation for this pathetic Board of Supervisors. There are too many ironies in this to even try to enumerate.

CEO CARMEL ANGELO noted that she would have to make cuts elsewhere to make up for what the Supervisors gave back to the Deputies. Supervisor Pinches conceded that the vote wasn't all good news because it would mean there would have to be more layoffs. Ms. Angelo will be back to the Board with the next batch of layoff bad news in August.

IN AN INTERNET exchange floating around the internet last week, Fifth District Supervisor Candidate Wendy Roberts commented about the inland libs’ idea of implementing some kind of local currency to keep money in the County; one idea is Mulligan Books owner Dave Smith’s “Mendo Moola” proposal. Roberts wrote: “I'm curious about the local currency example you describe from the Berkshires. I wasn't able to attend that event and wonder whether the discussion included how such systems deal with local taxes. Given that we all depend on our government agencies for things like emergency responders, clean water and trash disposal, what systems are in place so that people who engage in barter or use local currencies still contribute their fair share toward such essential public services?”

IN AN ON-LINE response, Jennifer Poole of Willits replied: “There is no sales tax on bartering, nor should there be. If Wendy Roberts traded her extra washing machine for Dan Hamburg's dog cage, the sales tax has already been paid on both those items. Same with garage sales. Can you imagine the powers that be trying to enforce a ‘sales tax’ on bartering or garage sales? Talk about intrusive government. As far as trading services, as I understand it, sales tax is not generally charged for services in California, no matter how they're ‘paid’ for. Local currencies, however, are subject to sales taxes when used to buy taxable goods. Here's a paragraph from the ‘Mendo Moola’ blog: ‘Sales taxes are charged by merchants in product transactions using Mendo Moola just like any other sales transaction. Think of it as a gift certificate you buy from a merchant. No sales tax is charged on the gift certificate itself. it is an exchange of a $20 bill for a $20 gift certificate. But sales tax is charged on the product when the gift certificate is used to purchase it.' Local currencies are a great way to promote the concept that money spent locally benefits the community.”

GENE BORISSENKO and Janelle Rau of the County's General Services Department both told us last week that the item on the recent Supervisors Consent Agenda about the purchase of a big, shiny, fancy new SUV for the County’s Disaster Preparedness Officer, Sheriff's Sgt Shannon Barney, was only a budgetary item for estimating purposes — not the actual procurement process. The quote from Hansel Ford in Santa Rosa, Mr. Borissenko said, was simply to get an idea how much the SUV would cost. Now that the Board has approved the lavish purchase, General Services will go out to competitive bid for the vehicle and, presumably, if any local auto dealers want to bid, they’ll get their 5% local preference discounted from their bid.

MICHAEL MOORE will broadcast the San Francisco Kent State Truth Tribunal — West Coast witnesses & participants invited to record their stories — on Aug 7-8, streaming in real-time the accounts of participants and witnesses to the events surrounding the 1970 Kent State shootings, that left four students dead and nine injured. This livecast will be broadcast on www.MichaelMoore.com from 9am-5pm PT. The Tribunal in San Francisco follows a four-day tribunal in Kent, Ohio, in early May which marked the 40th anniversary of the campus shootings and assembled over 70 testimonies.

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