Letters to the Editor
by AVA News Service, August 11, 2010
THE BAD SUPERINTENDENT
Mark Iacuaniello, superintendent of the Point Arena Schools District in Point Area, retired August 1, 2010. He arrived at Point Arena in 2001 after he was “let go” as superintendent of the Mendocino Unified School District (having previously been “let go” as superintendent in Laytonville). Mr. Iacuaniello told the reporter for the Independent Coast Observer (ICO) that, “it wasn’t a good match” and his being “let go” was “hurtful,’ he “felt bad.” Mr. Iacuaniello has been the superintendent in Point Arena for nine years and I would like take a moment to reflect what his accomplishments were during his leadership (I use the term loosely) at our district:
1. Elementary school: Was in Program Improvement when he arrived and continues to be in Program Improvement. This means students failed to meet minimum benchmarks in Mathematics and English set forth by State/Federal guidelines.
2. High school: Met State guidelines six out of eight years (2010 not available). Met Federal guidelines five out of the eight years (2010 not available). Mr. Iacuaniello did manage to build an all purpose central facility and new offices at the high school.
Mr. Iacuaniello said, “I wouldn’t use the STAR test other than for general perspective. I wouldn’t use it to assess a teacher on any given year, for example. You must look at the long term.”
I believe nine years is a long enough term and certainly should be long enough for anyone to assess what he, as superintendent, did or did not do for the district.
3. Employees: Mr. Iacuaniello hired a non-certificated teacher to teach at the elementary school. After he and county superintendent Paul Tichinin discovered this teacher had forged her teaching certificate she was kept in the classroom despite the principal’s objection. She left on a separate charge that ended her up in front of a judge and did not return to the classroom. Not to be denied, Mr. Iacuaniello instead hired her at the district office for a period of time.
Also, Mr. Iacuaniello hired a non-certificated teacher to teach Spanish and English Learners at the high school. The teacher gave the students a Spanish book and told them to “read the book and you will learn Spanish.” When the board realized he was not credentialed, as they were led to believe by Mr. Iacuaniello, was this “teacher” terminated? No, he became a “para-educator” in the classroom with Mr. Iacuaniello being the “teacher of record.” However, Mr. Iacuaniello was never in the classroom with this “para-educator.” After another incident in the classroom he was placed in the elementary school where he continued as a “para-educator.”
The District’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) has retired three times. Unfortunately, she had to return because the replacement CFOs could not handle the position (mind you we have a district of approximately 413 students, K-12). Last year, Mr. Iacuaniello hired a CFO who has emphatically informed me that he is quite “capable” of handling his job. However, the retired CFO has been kept on in the district earning additional, scarce educational dollars. This in spite of an open agendized item put before the school board to cut three to four school days from the school schedule. Fortunately, Board President Mr. DeWilder stated that this would not happen nor would teachers lose any of their benefits even if they had to cut into the reserve funds. I believe before the item was even agendized Mr. Iacuaniello should have looked at cutting the salary of this three time retired employee!
4. 2003 Gualala K-5 School Bond: 70% of voters passed a $3.9 million facilities bond to build a K-5 elementary school in the neighboring city of Gualala. At that time, taxpayers were informed, “the school site approval is nearly complete and preliminary drawings for the new school are underway.” However, because Mr. Iacuaniello failed to proceed in a timely fashion which then resulted in falling enrollment, the District lost matching State funding. After the school was built in Gualala, the bond allowed for the Arena Campus classrooms to be converted to a middle school. Mr. Iacuaniello did not retire the bond as was suggested by community members. The public was not given an opportunity to consider this major change. Since the Gualala school — which a majority of the district voted for — would not be built, Mr. Iacuaniello requested the board use $1.79 million of the bond funds to build new buildings at the Arena elementary school without voters having a voice. Currently, there is $2,266,378.00 remaining for the Gualala School Bond. In July 2010, there was a presentation to the school board regarding retiring the bond, but only to the tune of $1.79 million, not the remaining $2,266,378 that is left on the bond. What will happen to the remaining $476,478? The decision is to be made at the August school board meeting. I was informed at the last meeting by the board president, “this is a board decision.”
Further, it is unlawful for any person who is employed by the District to serve on the Bond Oversight Committee regarding bond funds. Yet, Mr. Iacuaniello not only served as secretary on this committee but also as chairman. Mr. Tichinin knew about this but did nothing to stop it. I also informed Supervisor Colfax regarding this and what was happening with the bond monies, although he stated, "It seems like it is not right for this to be happening." He also informed me that this was not within their purview to do anything about it!
5. Mr. Matthew Murray: In 2004, Mr. Murray left a promising career as a school administrator in Southern California to become principal of the failing Point Arena Elementary School. He was brought in by Mr. Iacuaniello as a “change agent.” Unbeknownst to Mr. Murray and/or his family there had been nine principals in the previous eleven years at the school. Within a year Mr. Murray brought test scores up to the point that the school was taken out of Program Improvement, just as he had been hired to do. However, this did not come without predictable complaints from a handful of lazy, disgruntled teachers.
Mr. Iacuaniello assured Mr. Murray during his hiring process that he “had his back” because Mr. Murray knew that if things were to change the first to complain would be the teachers. However, when it came down to it, Mr. Iacuaniello supported the handful of teachers who didn’t like being asked to actually educate their wards and not Mr. Murray even though there was, as Mr. Iacuaniello stated, “a large contingent of the community” who wanted Mr. Murray to continue as principal. I believe it was this large contingent of the community support that concerned Mr. Iacuaniello because it was not until the voices of the community began to speak out loud and clear in support of Mr. Murray that steps were taken to terminate Mr. Murray quickly.
• Mr. Iacuaniello informed the ICO reporter, “If I had to do it all over again I would have done it much sooner.” Yet, Mr. Murray (as the records show) had stellar evaluations from Mr. Iacuaniello. Also, even though Mr. Murray “waived his right to privacy” and have his termination discussed in public, at the meeting when Mr. Murray was terminated the board refused the public’s demand to know why they were doing this — a violation of the Brown Act.
Mr. Murray not only did a great job elevating the children’s education in Point Arena, but the problem the school was having with discipline and gang related incidents declined drastically. Where is the elementary school today? Right back in Program Improvement.
Mr. Murray could not get a job in his own State of California and is currently serving as a school superintendent in the State of Idaho. This community and our children lost a great educator and leader. Why? Only because he did the job he was hired to do, and did it extremely well. Possibly, too well because he outshined Mr. Iacuaniello and he had a “large contingent” of the public who wanted him to stay. I believe Mr. Iacuaniello’s own insecurities got the best of him.
Mr. Murray did take Mr. Iacuaniello to court over his unfair termination. The ICO reporter stated, “Murray was unsuccessful.” I do not see it that way. I believe it was 1. obvious to anyone who followed the case that Mr. Iacuaniello committed “fraudulent misrepresentations, 2. more narrowly speaking it was a tie because Mr. Iacuaniello lost on two counts and Mr. Murray lost on two counts. Technically, Mr. Murray had to win three out of the four counts. Mr. Iacuaniello also stated that he was “getting bogged down in a legal battle that cost me and the District.” I’m not sure what it cost him and/or the District because Mr. Murray had to pay the court cost for the District. Mr. Iacuaniello went on to state to the ICO, “I guess one of my weaknesses is to give people a lot of chances; sometimes I win and sometimes it doesn’t work out for me.” Again, the ones who it did not “work out” for were all the students in our elementary school, parents, community members, Mr. Murray and his family.
• Finally, Mr. Iacuaniello stated, “It was an emotional drain and it took its toll on productivity.” So, I guess we can now also blame Mr. Murray for the failing scores of our elementary and high school since he left and not Mr. Iacuaniello’s lack of leadership skills!
6. We are classified as a Basic Aid School District which means the majority of our funding comes from our property taxes and not the state. Basic aid schools are envied by state-funded schools because while those schools are experiencing revenue cuts, our schools only see a trickle down effect and can count on approximately 2% increase each year from property taxes. Last year (2009-10), our district received $7,437,402.56 in funds/grants to educate 413 students — or $18,008 per student! An undergraduate student attending California State University, San Francisco currently pays fees of $7,000 to $8,500 (tuition and books only) per academic year enrolling in more than six units. Yet, our students who are failing to pass State/Federal Guidelines are receiving more funds than it cost for students at the college level. I can’t make sense out of this!
7. Brown Act Violations: There is absolutely no transparency within our district. As a matter of fact, there was a time the board had an off site meeting in the home of a district employee. This was not an agendized meeting nor was the public made aware of the meeting. The meeting did not have handicapped facilities. All of these are violations of the Brown Act. Our district runs from Stewart’s Point to the south up to Elk to the north. That is a distance of 44 miles. This means that if a community member would like to see what is on the upcoming agenda he had to drive over 45 minutes to the district office where the agenda was posted outside. I guess this is better than what it used to be because in the past it wasn’t posted at all. Mr. Iacuaniello does not make it available at the local post offices in this district for those members of the community living outside the town of Point Arena. The Brown Act was instituted so board members would be responsive to the public they represent and protect their investment. Unfortunately, this Law has fallen short of protecting the community because you have board members who protect the leaders, not the people! Most board members haven’t a clue what the Brown Act requirements are. I believe before a person serves on a board that is governed by Brown Act Law they should be required to pass a test.
8. Mr. Iacuaniello received the 2010 Superintendent of the Year Award for Mendocino County after being nominated by County Superintendent Paul Tichinin. But the elementary school is in Program Improvement and the high school is failing. Certainly Mr. Iacuaniello could not possibly represent the top Superintendent. When I repeatedly inquired as to what he actually did to deserve this prestigious award, no one could give me an answer. Not even the editor of the ICO who ran the story about the award! The only reason the editor offered was that he was nominated by the County superintendent. (This is the same Superintendent who thinks that “niggardly” is a racist slur and got all his fellow superintendents, including Iacuaniello, to sign a letter to that effect.)
Finally, regarding Mr. Murray’s termination, the ICO reporter stated, “a few [people] continue to loudly criticize Mr. Iacuaniello (and anyone else who gets in harm’s way) even now.” This statement makes me believe what Mr. Iacuaniello has done as superintendent of our small district should be considered the “norm” within all districts of our state. However, I believe it should not be considered a norm when there was such an outcry to maintain an educated leader like Mr. Murray as principal in our small district! I believe schools should be educating our children and improving test scores (as Mr. Murray was able to do). Mr. Iacuaniello stated to the ICO reporter “We have tried everything, including bribing them.” Can someone please, please explain to me just how Mr. Murray was able to accomplish this task — without bribing the students? Although Mr. Iacuaniello has now “retired” from the district I will continue to be an advocate for our students and in spite of the ICO reporter’s attempt to paint me as an isolated critic.
Education shouldn’t just be about buildings, which is Mr. Iacuaniello’s single legacy in his nine years at our school district. Everyone knows buildings do not educate our children, teachers do. With the generous funding our district receives to educate our children they should know how to read, write and do the math. Mr. Iacuaniello states that because “the test scores are not available until the following year” he sees them as “ineffective.” He has been with our district for nine years and the schools continue to fail in meeting the standards set forth. So, does this mean if he were superintendent for ten, fifteen, twenty more years, he just might be able to do something about test scores and educating the children? I think not, because, as he stated, test scores shouldn’t be used other than for “general perspective.”
The last statement from Mr. Iacuaniello to the ICO reporter was probably the most chilling of all, “It seems every time there is a lull in my life, another door opens up.” I pray for the sake of our children it is far away from the educational field!
GOOD WHEN YOU AGREE
As marijuana legalization momentum explodes in the media, it is good to know that honorable reporters like Carole Brodsky are in the fray, conscientiously uncovering the stories of shattered lives.
Carole did a good job covering the July DEA raid on Joy Greenfield's Covelo medical marijuana garden (AVA 7/14/10) by going to the source, getting Joy's story first-hand at the July 14 MMMAB (Mendocino Medical Marijuana Advisory Board) update meeting in Ukiah.
But her follow-up story “Joy Greenfield and the Russians” (AVA, 7/21/10) left much to be desired. In the proverbial twist where the victim becomes the investigated and accused, the story was turned on its head.
Brodsky's angle revolved around questioning the truthfulness of Greenfield's story and the motives underlying her involvement, while accepting the Sheriff's story and the involvement of his office.
First was the access question. Joy, 69, explained at the meeting that she had such a hard time finding cannabis in Colorado for her congenital eye condition that when she found some old marijuana that wouldn't burn easily, she mixed it with bilberry and eyebright and drank it as a tea and found the cannabis combination helped her see better “by dilating the arteries that allow the blood to flow to the eyes.”
As part of a separate several-hour interview, Joy described to me the flare-up in her eye condition that sent her to the emergency room and caused her to create the cannabis tea. She was there to study “healing with energy” and didn't know anyone who used cannabis. She told me there were no dispensaries at the time, only health food stores.
In response to Joy's claim of scarcity in Colorado, Carole retorted in disbelief, “Really? It is difficult to fathom how Ms Greenfield was unable to locate cannabis in a state as ganja-friendly as Colorado.” As contrary evidence, Brodsky recalled the 1972 John Denver song Colorado Rocky Mountain High singing “everybody's high,” then recalled the 2000 Colorado Ballot Initiative that allows “treatment of certain illnesses,” and last month's dispensary regulation bill signed by Governor Ritter covering the estimated 1000 dispensaries statewide.
There is no reason to disbelieve Joy's claim of lack of access. The 1972 pot-friendly atmosphere has nothing to do with medical use in 2010. The 2000 Colorado Initiative was one of the most restrictive farces in the country (I believe it was limited to 2 ounces and covered very few conditions, probably not Joy's.) My own sister, who lived in Colorado when it passed, said she too was having a hard time finding quality cannabis or a doctor to approve her use. The proliferation of hundreds of dispensaries didn't occur until after Greenfield had left the state.
Carole also questioned the legitimacy of Joy's dispensing collective, “Light the Way,” based on a full menu with “20 varieties of cannabis plus concentrates and edibles∏ and routine questions by DEA agents probing for Joy's “associations” and “other grow sites.”
Brodsky asks, “Was it Greenfield's dispensary and not the fact that she was the test case for the county's nuisance ordinance -- that provided agents the evidence they needed for the raid?”
Joy answered: “Maybe Brodsky could enlighten me by telling me what evidence the DEA needed for the raid -- to come on my property, hold 14-16 guns to a young man's head who was unarmed, and threatened to taser him if he didn't tell them where my other grow sites were. There were no other grow sites.”
Brodsky also asks, “Could Greenfield's 25 plant Covelo grow or even her proposed 99 plant garden have produced enough varieties and quantities of cannabis to provide for 1000 patient members of her dispensary?”
Joy's answer: “Apparently Carol must not be familiar but all medical marijuana dispensaries have a variety of medical cannabis that collective members grow.”
The San Diego dispensing collective is still in tact with no special law enforcement problems. Greenfield says, “The city of San Diego is now ordering all dispensaries closed with cease and desist letters across the board. The bottom line is there is no ordinance to regulate them. They want them all closed.”
The remainder of Brodsky's comments on the raid were based on quotes from Sheriff Allman, but none raised the questions begging to be asked.
Joy described an incident that happened before the raid, where a Sheriff's helicopter flew over her land as though about to drop down. She went to the Sheriff's office in distress, and got an appointment with Lt Rusty Noe of COMMET. She complained, “I thought you guys were supposed to be protecting me.” According to Greenfield, Noe answered that that wasn't them, that “the Feds lease the sheriff's helicopters.” That raises the question of who pays for what? Who pays the overtime salary of the deputies who do more than ride along -- whose job is plant eradication -- since the Feds don't do that kind of work.
Allman explains why his deputies accompany DEA personnel on raids. “I would not turn down a DEA request for support, especially in the interest of officer safety.”
But plant eradication goes beyond “officer safety” or “watching the back” of other officers. How can Sheriff Allman justify his deputies from COMMET accompanying the DEA to do the heavy lifting of eradicating medical marijuana plants supposedly protected under the Sheriff's zip-tie program?
Despite being the first applicant with permission to grow under Sheriff Allman's 99-plant exemption program, Joy's “protected” cannabis garden was destroyed. The DEA muscled their way in to her land and stole her plants, contrary to the Holder Memo and Obama policy in medical marijuana states. She is the victim of bad marijuana laws and a failed federal policy. No amount of questioning of her character and motives can change that. Allman needs to come clean about his role in the process and no amount of refusal to question him can change that.
THE UNWIRED VIEW
I sit in a cell for 24 hours a daze, seven daze a week with no TV, no phone, no radio. No radio gives me a unique perspective on life. Although TV is allowed, I have not had one and I do not really miss it. Yes, I miss sports and some realitie shows and I am a sucker for extreme home makeover. Otherwise, not so much.
I listen to those around me talk about TV shows and the conversations are not even interesting so I figure the shows that they speak about can not be much better.
Insofar as the news goes, I don't need it or miss it. I get some sparse tidbits -- oil spill, Obama sucks, killer caught, Obama is great, car crash kills family of five, alcohol the cause. And I knows it's bad. I get a headache just writing about it. Let alone, More at six.
Phones. Man alive, now they only make calls by default. You can make videos, shoot movies, take still photos, go online, check e-mail, send e-mail, tweet, text, even download stuff off the Internet. Heck, you can press a few buttons and take a photo of yourself from outer space and see where you are, or type where you want to go to your phone will show you how to get there by turns.
Me, all I still want to do is phone home. (Anyone under 28 might not get that.)
As for computers, I would not even know how to turn one on. I've heard a lot about them and they kind of scare me. Anything you can simply push a few buttons on and get to see anything, go anyplace -- oh-oh. Pornos, chat rooms, millions of videos about every and any thing. Buy and sell damn near anything. Good news for me. I would not leave my house to get into trouble. If I was to leave my house with laptops being super thin with eight hour battery life. Or, better still, coffee shops with plug in spots and free Internet access. Bad news: I would never leave the front of the computer. Just thinking about it stresses me out.
Now we come to the radio. I miss that more than the rest of these dam-vises. Music is manna for the soul. I try and remember all the words to all the songs I know. Sometimes I close my eyes and try to hear the music but it just isn't the same. I find that I try less and less. It’s as if it has lost its edge. All these dam vices have lost their shine. They don't seem to matter. I just don't feel any pressing need for them.
People say, I can live without them while still having them. Me, I'm without them and still living. It's like I'm an anomaly. I read books and magazines. I communicate using words written on a piece of paper using a thing called a pen. Then I send it by putting it in an envelope using what is called snail mail. I know this: if I worked for the United States Post Office I would not be pulling for any prison reform. With over two million people in prison, using snail mail if you let too many prisoners out it would be a hit to the Post Office. Heck, the loss of stamp sales alone would put a couple of postal workers out of job.
The crazy part is this: if I got any of these Dam-Vises, I figure it would not be long before I thought I could not live without them. Until then all I know is: I have no headaches, no stress, no worries about not catching the latest updates at six. Still I write using a pen and paper and not pushing buttons and I could just be saving a few people their jobs.
That's just my perspective.
The already saved Richardson Grove State Park is still being threatened by Caltrans. They think their plan to widen Highway 101 through there is a done deal. Who can stop this madness? When does saved mean saved? Is it time for the Save The Redwoods Again League?
The Beckingtons, Confused in
I send you my respect and thanks for the newspaper that I receive every week. Here at San Quentin the AVA is the only newspaper in Mendocino that brings all the good news and bad news.
I'm sending this letter to confirm or say that Johan Espinoza never had a life sentence or anything like that. He took the deal for 15 years. Why? Because he was scared to go to trial and his dump truck attorney, Berry Robinson, scared him more than he already was. That is why he took the deal for 15 years. Now after he took the deal, Berry Robinson and convinced Johan Espinoza to snitch on everyone. That is why he says in a letter that Berry Robinson brought up a good idea or point to get off after he testified against me on trial. All those lies he said about the case and on the record. He said that he never heard or knew of a better deal from the DA’s office. He snitched on us because he wanted to do the right thing. I was found guilty not because a jury or the judge did not believe him. They know that he was lying from the beginning because he wanted to get off from doing any time at all. I got 25 years plus 8-to-life for being a man and taking it to trial. After five months I find out that Johan Espinoza got four years for his cooperation on the case. After he and District Attorney Newman said on the record that there was no deal. He was looking at 15 years — “no deal at all.” I guess St. Nick came in and gave him four years for being a good boy and snitching. The only problem about telling is when you get to prison you have to be escorted and be in protective custody for the rest of your life.
They already made a song about protective custody here in prison. It goes like this: Now you wish you could walk the mainline. But you shouldn't have dropped the dime. Now they're yelling out ESCORT every time you walk the line. You shouldn't have done the crime if you couldn't do the time. Now your mom is sad cause your all bad. Escort, escort, escort.
Very truly yours,
Juan 'Rico' Fernandez
PS. For all you guys out there, if you get caught for anything and if you don't want to do the time, get Berry Robinson who will find you a good deal and put you in protective custody the rest of your life. That is his game. I am not mad at Johan Espinoza. He should and played his cards right and taken his time like the man that God made him to be. I believe in karma. God will take care of the rest. I send mine! Keep your head up out there. God bless you all.
UNEASY ABOUT EASEMENTS
Mendocino County Board of Supervisors
Dear Chairperson Brown and Members,
June 21, 2010 — Off-Site Septic systems should be considered as both a Planning issue and Public Health and Safety issue.
The current and recent update of the Mendocino County General Plan Goals and Policies are set with an approximate knowledge of the number of parcels, their size and designation impacting the nine elements of the General Plan outside the Coastal Zone and fourteen elements contained within the Local Coastal Program Element.
As there is no known or approximately known number of developable parcels which may be created by this change in policy, the impact on the Mendocino County General Plan may be significant. In fact, significant to the point that it can jeopardize the Environmental Impact Report determination necessary to approve the updated General Plan.
In sum, we do not believe that it is reasonable to consider such a policy change without a study of the potential number of developable parcels which may be created by such a policy change.
We are concerned with five related points:
• Numerous known areas which cannot meet perk requirements are also water short or in drought;
• Current county policy does not require proof of water prior to the issuance of a Building Permit in General Plan areas;
• Such a policy change can cause a deflationary price drop of existing parcels held by many as prospective investments, as the supply of parcels could dramatically increase;
• If the Board approves the policy it should be required that all such systems have a dedicated maintenance agreement which runs in perpetuity with the land;
• The existing policy should not be changed in the Coastal Zone where Boundary Line Adjustments combined with off-site septic systems can create numerous legal non-conforming parcels impacting a number of LCP policies.
We would suggest that the Board of Supervisors review the ability of the County to oversee and manage an increase in the amount of septic tank pump-outs. As the Board knows neither “septage farm” on the Coast is either owned or under contract with the County.
These issues clearly indicate that a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review is necessary prior to consideration of adopting a policy which can jeopardize the General Plan and its Local Coastal Program element.
Norman L. de Vall, President
Redwood Coast Watersheds Alliance
PS. August 4, 2010 — We wish to reiterate the points made on this subject in our June 21, 2010 letter and continue our opposition to the suggested policy of allowing Off-Site Easements for Disposal of Septage.
Such a policy, without limitations, could or would create an unknown number of parcels thus impacting some, if not all, of the elements of the County's General Plan. In addition, we wish to state that if such policy were to be imposed within the Coastal Zone that it would, in effect, constitute an amendment to the Local Coastal Program without the benefit of the public process or CEQA review.
In our opinion if such policy were to be consummated that the action of the Board would be in violation of Coastal Act of 1974 as amended. We therefore request that the proposal be tabled or voted down until such time the cumulative impacts of such a policy have been enumerated.
WHAT’S THREE YEARS?
I hope enough time has passed since it was published that mentioning the following item won't be upsetting. I thought it was wonderful at the time and still do.
“7/25 9:42pm A 48-year old man, Pedro Saldana Rios, 51, was questioned by deputies in downtown Boonville about an unnamed relative who was arrested at his home on Anderson Way for outstanding warrants.” — AVA, 2009-07-29 p. 4, Sheriff's Log
GOOD RIDDANCE, IKE
I see from the ICO that the Point Arena school superintendent is departing.
Goodbye and good riddance to Mark Iacuaniello, who in my personal view has to be the worst piece of bureaucratic trash it's ever been my displeasure to personally encounter in an otherwise legitimate public position.
Doubtless I've been misled, but I see him as the sort of guy who will always give an earnest citizen — petitioning for help on a significant mission — an evasive, unhelpful answer if there's any way to avoid a simple, straightforward, useful response.
(My mission, actually, was on behalf of AVA Editor Bruce Anderson, to locate high-school pictures of Martin Laiwa “in his football uniform.” How could a school super find any reason to obstruct this public-interest objective?)
My feeling is that a man like “Ike” should never, ever be given any sort of public charge, not even dog-catcher. The dogs would deserve better.
As to the disgraceful episode of Ike's deceitful hiring of Matt Murray — and basically fraudulent termination of Murray shortly thereafter (again just in my personal opinion) — Murray is ten times the man Ike is. What a pity Murray wasn't the superintendent, and Ike the job applicant! I'll warrant that Murray would've seen through Ike in about 30 seconds (as I did, back in 2001), and would've sent Ike packing to peddle his damaged goods elsewhere, preferably in Alabama.
Let's hope that nobody's stupid enough to hire Ike to work for Mendocino County as… anything!
Sales Tax Blues — Buying Online to Avoid Sales Tax Costs Us Locally.
While economists nationwide argue over whether we have begun to recover from the Great Recession, one financial reality is beyond dispute. Our state, our county, and our town of Ukiah, continue to face the biggest budget challenge in decades. Even in a slowly rebounding economy, California is faced with continuing budget shortfalls, which means that local governments — even if they raise school and property taxes — are going to be cutting support for such essential services as policing, fire fighting, and schools.
The enormous irony in these troubling times is that California is allowing hundreds of millions of dollars in sales tax to go uncollected by allowing remote online retailers with a significant business presence in our state to ignore their obligation to collect sales tax.
Given the sums involved, you would think there would be many in the state calling for this situation to be remedied. There are not. Perhaps it's because opponents of sales tax equity have, so far, managed to obfuscate the issue through a combination of misinformation and scapegoating.
Under current sales tax law, any out-of-state retailer is required to collect and remit sales tax for purchases made by residents in California if the retailer has a physical presence in our state. Current sales tax laws dictate that an out-of-state retailer has a physical presence in a state if they have a store, warehouse, office, or sales agent in the state.
Amazon.com and other online giants have thousands of affiliates in California, and they are actively promoting products sold by these out-of-state businesses. When this promotion results in a sale of said product, they earn a commission. That, by any definition, is a sales agent, and that means that these online mega-retailers have the legal presence in our state that requires them to collect sales tax.
The Amazons of the world and online affiliates are naturally opposed to any steps that states might take to enforce sales tax laws. Strategically, their stance makes a lot of sense because it gives them a significant competitive advantage over local businesses that must add the additional cost of sales tax.
Furthermore, there is no doubt that consumers enjoy this so-called advantage. They will shop at out-of-state e-tailers just to avoid paying sales tax. Hence, the recent closure of two local music stores just after Christmas who not only found themselves paying the same price wholesale that their customers were paying retail on-line, but also having to collect an additional 8.75% sales tax that their on-line competitors refuse to collect.
We need to ask ourselves, in the long run, who really is footing the bill for these duty-free purchases? Well, I can tell you who is not paying the bill: Neither online affiliates nor remote retailers.
We are not talking about just a few dollars here and there flowing out of our state, county, and city. The reality is that hundreds of millions of dollars are “leaked” out each year, and the figure is growing. This is money that should be going to first responders, to local communities, and to lessen our tax burden. Instead, this money is flying out of our city and county to remote retailers and the affiliates that pocket the cash while taxpayers subsidize their use of our in-state services, our roads, and their very business.
Taking advantage of our state's unwillingness to enforce sales tax laws during the best of times is egregious enough. However, during a recession that has hit us all so hard, it's an affront to every business and citizen in the state.
And what's worse, on an economic level, it makes no sense.
Legislators who oppose sales tax equity tout their belief in fiscal responsibility. But, in truth, how fiscally responsible is it to maintain a public policy that subsidizes out-of-state retailers while punishing in-state, tax-paying businesses and residents? Does fiscal responsibility demand that out state government burden residents and businesses with higher taxes and fewer services to placate out-of-state retailers that only take from our state and provide nothing in return? Yet that's the stance our state legislators and Governor are currently taking.
Opponents love to argue that folks like me are calling for a new tax. The idea that any struggling retailer in our town would demand a new tax on consumers just doesn't pass the giggle test. In truth, if an out-of-state retailer does not have nexus in the state, shoppers are already required by law to submit the sales tax to the state. The real question is over who should collect this tax — you as a consumer or the out-of-state retailer. Now, granted, our state has not really done much to enforce the collection of use tax from residents, but as the budget situation worsens, it will. So either you're going to pay it or someone is going to collect it from you.
Finally, as for those who worry that sales tax equity would somehow harm online business in the state, let me stress that most online retailers, including Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, and Sears, already collect and remit sales tax for online purchases. Technological advances have greatly simplified and automated this task. Huge corporate retailers like Amazon.com and Overstock.com are the few remaining holdouts. That said, the money they siphon from our local community and residents is significant and growing exponentially each year.
If our county needs to add to the local sales tax to fund local, critical services, so be it. As a local retailer, I support that, but with the provisos that the County Supervisors and top managers share the pain equally with those who do the work, as citizen Jim Houle continues to insist on, and that stupidity of privatizing public services stop now.
When you go to the Internet for some tax-free shopping, I urge you to remember that your purchase isn't really free at all. In fact, that tax-free purchase costs all of us and our communities a lot more than you might think.
National Health Center Week 2010 (August 8-14) is about celebrating the mission and accomplishments of Community Health Centers for the past 45 years, as well as looking ahead to what they will achieve under Health Care Reform. While the earliest changes from the health care overhaul won't take effect until next month, Community Health Centers coast-to-coast are gearing up to be key figures in the government's five-year plan to cut wasteful spending, expand access and strengthen primary care.
One of the bright spots in America's health care system, Community Health Centers are the family doctor to over 20 million people at 8,000 sites nationwide. Health Centers are especially vital in rural and medically underserved areas. Health Centers in Anderson Valley, Laytonville, Gualala, and Point Arena are the sole providers of care in their community. In 2009, Community Health Centers in Mendocino County served 49% of the county’s residents. In Anderson Valley, 78% of the residents sought care at the Anderson Valley Health Center. This rise in demand during a year of recession reflects the health centers' commitment to providing access to care regardless of the patients’ ability to pay.
Demand for access to care is projected to rise under health reform and expanding health center capacity from 20 million to 40 million nationwide over the next five years is central to the White House's plan to deliver quality care to the currently uninsured while trimming health care costs.
Community Health Centers are effective providers because their approach to health care is local and targets the unique and diverse health needs of the populations they serve. They are directed by patient-majority governing boards that ensure the health center's services are responsive to the patient population, culturally appropriate and deliver results that improve health outcomes. With unfettered access to a range of primary and preventive care services under one roof — including dental, medical, and even behavioral health services — more people will receive regular care that is coordinated and targeted to their specific health care needs. By focusing on preventative care and providing patients with a medical home, health centers are projected to save the US health care system as much as $300 billion over the next ten years.
National Health Center Week is sponsored by the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). To find out more about Health Centers and their role in Health Care Reform, please visit www.nachc.com. For more information about Health Centers across Mendocino County, visit www.ruralcommunityhealth.org.
Re: Raven Roost Rubble that was once a string of trees on the south side of Fort Bragg high school —
With a blanket pulled over her head, Detective Diana Wood Duck of Deadtree nests in a hollow log near a woodland lake beside some decapitated trees. Geez. Though I'm not Ripley, believe it or knot, the United States shall soon be paved. Clean-shaven? Wo-ho! So-ho then! Concrete cerebral cortex, bad weather. Faruna bangs her black metal dish. Bang! License tags in Washington State say “Evergreen.” At loggerheads with logging, The Raven Roost at the high school is rubble. Sticky beaks say, large machines and a dirty place soon become a teacher's parking lot!
As Rubicon asphalt approaches — our terrorist: Rubicon asphalt. Tree me, tree me.
Diana Vance, Nancy Drew of the Forest
PS. No! I refuse to put metal utensils in my mouth.