Off the Record

by AVA News Service, October 18, 2010

5TH DISTRICT supes candidate Wendy Roberts is robo-calling voters, as is Richard Johnson, the One True Green. OTG is robo-ing for Dan Hamburg, Wendy's opponent.

RICHARD HARGREAVES points out the strongest argument against PG&E's proposed "smart meters" — they'll cost jobs, lots of them, as many as 800 jobs according to Local 1245 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The Tin Foil Hat people who recently lay siege to the Supervisors neglected to mention this, the strongest argument against the things.

THE SHOCKING SUICIDE last Monday of Loyd Pedersen has saddened everyone who knew the popular Albion musician. Pedersen jumped to his death from the Albion Bridge.

THERE ARE A COUPLE of hot issues on the San Francisco ballot, one of them a proposed sit-lie ordinance aimed at giving the police more authority to remove the young slobs that tend to sprawl across city sidewalks, most infamously on Haight Street, lately a rather high end outdoor shopping mall where slob-ism is less welcome than ever. I've stepped over a few thanatoids in my day, often beating back an impulse to deliver them a sprightly kick in their stoned buttocks as I went, but if citizens were to kick every obnoxious person they encountered on Frisco's filthy streets, we'd need a third leg to keep up. The slobs have been entrenched on Haight Street since 1967. Those out there now are the grandchildren of the Original Sloths, suburban dingbats who couldn't get away with it in San Rafael or Walnut Creek so they come over the bridges to Anything Goes-ville to do their thing, which used to be called exhibitionism but today is falsely called 'homelessness.' The slobs aren't any more obtrusive today than they've ever been, a fact confirmed by several friends of mine who've lived in the Haight for years. Much more troublesome are the pure numbers of crazy people wandering around, them and the many drug and alcohol deranged casualties that plague every neighborhood. It’s the walking wounded who make public space unusable for everyone else, and they're the people a humane society would confine to mental institutions, which is what we used to do in California until Ronald Reagan closed the state hospital system. The dope crazed and the crazy crazed are way, way beyond a sit-lie ordinance. They need to be hospitalized, not helped to their feet by Officer Friendly.

I WAS TRUCKING back from the ballpark the other night about ten, part of the mass of jubilant baseball fans singing their way home along the Embarcadero where the crowd thins, and finally disappears at the Ferry Building, siphoned off into parking lots and street cars along the way. I walk on to the foot of Clay Street to get the 1 California bus. That night, a properly brought up young woman at the pedestrian crossing at the Ferry Building asked, "Excuse me, sir. Will you walk with me across the park?" The park is an unlit forty yards to the north of the Vaillancourt sculpture, that jumble of unsightly concrete that looks like a Caltrans rock pile. It's a shortcut from the Ferry Building to the bus stop. There's always a gauntlet of murk-lurks to be run in that unlit forty, and even, ah, large, relatively fit men like myself are aware that hand-to-hand combat might be necessary to successfully get from the Ferry Building to the bus at Clay. Sure enough, there was an animated crazy guy pacing around muttering to himself, a half dozen winos engaged in a sing-along, and a couple of bums asleep on the benches. The crazy guy glared at us as we passed. And that was it. We arrived safely at the bus stop. "I would have walked up Market and then over to Sacramento to get the bus if you weren't there," the young woman said, as I simultaneously felt gallant as all heck and aware that if I didn't look like an aged but ambulatory Gabby Hayes she would have considered me as also one more urban menace. It's the lurks and the murks people worry about, however, not the pit bull punks of Haight Street. Sit-lie won't do one thing to make city streets safer.

MITCH CLOGG WRITES: “Poll Studies Mendo County Election Preferences — Mendocino County voters are being examined by an unusual election- season poll that asks about four topics: Did you vote in the 2008 election and/or plan to vote in this November's election? Who do you hope wins the governor's race, the district attorney's race? Do you hope Proposition 19, the marijuana-legalization measure on the ballot wins (“yes,” “no,” “other,” “why--in one word”)? That's all. It's called the Hope Poll and is querying voters of all parties and independents. A significant segment of voters have already responded to telephone calls. Mendocino County is in the crosshairs of the statewide and national interest in Prop. 19. Poll results will be published before the election.

THE PRESS RELEASE ASKS, "How do you envision the future for Mendocino County: Vision 2030." By 2030 I'll be at the Big Ballgame in the Sky, but for those you who expect to be here I'd suppose you'll be living in a state of want and fear. Look, I'm no authority but I do try to keep up on my economics, and it's clear to me that this so-called recession is really the beginning of the end of More For Everyone Forever. Upward mobility is over. From here on the rich will get richer and they'll gun us down like dogs to keep it that way. By 2030 most of us will be serfs on a very unpleasant plantation. Local government, if there is one, certainly won't be driving around the County asking the blah-blah people what they expect local government to be like in 2030. Myself, I think anybody who deploys the word 'vision' in any form not related to optometry should be jailed for no fewer than 30 days.

MAN BEATER of the week honors go to Nicole Brogdon, 33, of Fort Bragg. Nicole is 5'9" and comes in at 154 pounds. Nicole apparently laid one on her significant other and he summoned law enforcement to subdue her. I ask you, Are there no gentlemen left in this doomed country?

BACKDOOR PRIVATIZATION of the County’s Mental Health Department continues. Health and Human Services Director Stacey Cryer told the mental health staff last week in an email obtained by the AVA, “I have been very busy with mental health leadership and our mental health consultants, Tom Pinizotto and Nancy Callahan looking at mental health. … I have learned a great deal and realize I still have plenty to learn. This is really a very exciting time for all of us in the agency and in the country (total financial collapse can indeed be exciting). … I want to acknowledge that I have not been as present as I would like to be in the agency for the last several weeks. … We are working to mitigate the deficit in mental health. The past weeks have included intensive analysis and discussions regarding the redesign of mental health operations and service delivery. In doing this we are looking at a system transformation with the goal of a structure that will meet state mandates and core needs in a fiscally sustainable manner. … On Monday, October 26, I will present our plan to the Board of Supervisors. Monday's scheduled agency check in meetings will give me the opportunity to speak with all of you about the areas we are looking at and what we will be presenting to the board. It will take significant actions to mitigate this deficit and I encourage everyone in the agency to either come to one of the staff meetings or ask someone to bring the information back for you if you are unable to attend. In order to accommodate as many staff as possible we have added a second Ukiah session from 9:30-10:30 in the morning in the board of supervisors chambers. Please try to attend or ask a coworker to share information with you from those sessions.”

BUT MENTAL HEALTH staffers say they have not been consulted. The only person Ms. Cryer has met with is a freshly assigned, inexperienced manager named Diane Chambers. Cryer, her top staff and a couple of consultants with a financial interest in what is shaping up as privatization and outsourcing of mental health services, have hatched the plan they intend to present in the next few weeks with no consultations with line staff and no discussions with the Mental Health Board. It's really pure “cost cutting.” Cryer and Co. assume approval from an uninformed Board of Supervisors, and the upshot will be a whole lot more County layoffs, and a whole lot more mental health patients drifting around out there without help.

AT LAST WEEK’S Third District candidate forum in Willits, Supervisor John Pinches made the preposterous claim that the County’s new General Plan, achieved at a cost of millions of dollars over ten years during which a revolving door of high priced consultants, concluded with “a $417k reserve unused from the General Plan that can be used for other things. We put them [the consultants] on a time line and got it adopted.”

HOLY MOLY, COWBOY! The “Updated” Mendocino County General Plan is nothing more than a crude makeover of the old Plan. The taxpayers got ripped off. Again.

IT’S TRUE that the Pinches Board presided over its completion in 2008, but there’s no way any money was saved, and the document itself, in its allegedly updated form, could have been accomplished in a weekend by a couple of interns. Pinches' opponent in the Third District, Holly Madrigal, a Willits City Councilperson, let Pinches’ absurd claim go without comment.

LAST WEEK'S Independent Coast Observer (Gualala) was in high editorial dudgeon at the outrageously high-handed and apparently illegal firing of Point Arena City Clerk Claudia Hillary at last Wednesday night's packed-house meeting of the Point Arena City Council. Even though Ms. Hillary asked for the open hearing she is entitled to, the Point Arena City Council insisted on meeting in closed session where they voted 3-2 to fire her. The audience was aghast, not only at the deviously cruel manner in which the popular Mrs. Hillary's dismissal was carried out, but at the utter lack of any real cause for the dismissal, apparently engineered by Mayor Laurie Sinnott.

THE ICO's Glenn O'Hara wrote a surprisingly strident editorial about the affair, certainly an indication of community outrage for a paper that usually sits out the controversial issues. This time, though, the South Coast weekly waded right in, saying that Mrs. Hilary's firing was carried out “in hiding behind closed doors and in direct conflict with the wishes expressed by many community members.” Mr. O'Hara also uncovered information demonstrating that the city Council's claim that there were no “third-party complaints” about Ms. Hillary — which would have required them to meet in open session — was simply not true. Citing comments in Ms. Hillary's evaluation about complaints from staff and the public, O'Hara came close to calling the city council's closed firing session hearing illegal. Those complaints? Few, petty and vague in the extreme.

THE ICO was editorially silent during the comparably groundless 2006 dismissal of Point Arena Elementary School Principal Matt Murray. Murray was fired under nearly identical circumstances as Mrs. Hilary — in closed session over the objections of what appeared to be majority community opinion. (A cabal of entrenched, sloth-like teachers got Murray sacked, although he'd raised PA's perennially troubled elementary school to state status as functioning. The teacher leading the charge against Murray magically succeeded him as principal.) In Murray's case, when it was obvious that there was at least one “third-party complaint” as demonstrated by the letter from the Arena Elementary teachers union whining about him to the PA School Board, that board also retreated into closed session to off him. Coast liberals, the culprits in both these cases, could give Stalin lessons on silent murder.) And, just like Ms. Hillary, Mr. Murray had asked for the session to be held in public but was curtly refused. Then-acting District Attorney Keith Faulder subsequently wrote a concise summary of the several Brown Act violations committed by the Point Arena School Board as the Independent Coast Observer looked passively on. Later, when Murray made his case even stronger during his unsuccessful lawsuit against the school district, the Independent Coast Observer not only ignored the trial but, when it ended, claimed it was a victory for the school board and former Superintendent Mark Iacuaniello, PA's spine-free educational "leader" and, of course, a fast ally of the grotesquely incompetent Paul Tichinin, County Superintendent of Schools, locally famous for publicly denouncing the adjective 'niggardly' as a racist insult.

IN OTHER NEWS from the fog belt, the Point Arena library will lose its County-funded librarian if the supervisors ignore the outraged delegation of Fog Eaters who appeared before them at this week's meeting to complain. The County's thinking seems to be that since the library has a committed cadre of volunteers, the County can keep the library open using them, thus eliminating another paid position.

SITTING in a bar the Scotsman says, “As good as this bar is, I still prefer the pubs back home. In Glasgow , there's a wee place called McTavish's. The landlord goes out of his way for the locals. When you buy four drinks, he'll buy the fifth drink.” “Well, Angus,” said the Englishman, “At my local in London, the Red Lion, the barman will buy you your third drink after you buy the first two.” “Ahhh, dat's nothin',” said the Irishman, “back home in my favorite pub, the moment you set foot in the place, they'll buy you a drink, then another, all the drinks you like, actually. Then, when you've had enough drinks, they'll take you upstairs and see that you gets laid, all on the house!” The Englishman and Scotsman were sus-picious of the claims. The Irishman swore every word was true. “Did this actually happen to you?” asked the Englishman. “Not meself, personally, no,” admitted the Irishman, “but it did happen to me sister quite a few times.”

OCCASIONAL AVA CONTRIBUTOR Ted Dace writes to his prospective book agent: “Dear Mr. Shepard: I'm writing you in search of representation for my first book, Escape from Quantopia. My aim is to restore our sense of reality and our integrity in a world reduced to numbers. Starting with the apparently innocuous proposal that time is real, contra modern physics, Quantopia upends our most ingrained beliefs about nature and ourselves. Informed by the works of Darwin, CS Peirce, Henri Bergson, David Bohm, Walter Elsasser, Ilya Prigogine and the infamous plant cytologist Rupert Sheldrake, my book heals the breach between matter and mind, providing the foundation for a genuine understanding of time, evolution, memory, intelligence, insanity and social evil. It’s a spontaneous and combustible commentary on freedom and determinism, the basis of life and the meaning of death. If you start with matter distributed across space according to timeless laws of physics, you get rockets and hard drives and 3D glasses, but you never get a human being. You never explain us. To arrive at the mind you've got to start with time. In nature is depth, interiority, purpose. My audience is all who sense that big science and big business are rendering us into unthinking consumers of expert opinion, mass merchandise and phony politics. We are faced with a scientific establishment that denies the possibility of free will and a political economy that concentrates power among the few at the expense of individual and collective self-determination. Escape from Quantopia occupies a middle ground between science books that perpetuate a heartless worldview and self-help books that encourage us to take charge of our lives but never explain how such a thing is possible in a universe determined by physical law and a brain programmed by genetic accident. One of those ‘everything you know is wrong’ books that appears once in a blue moon, it’s comparable to Thomas Merton’s The Way of Chaung Tzu, Lewis Mumford’s The Pentagon of Power, David Bohm’s Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Rupert Sheldrake’s The Presence of the Past and Barbara Ehrenreich’s Blood Rites. With a sizzling finale straight out of Paradise Lost, this is philosophy of the captivating kind. I've published numerous articles in the radical press, including the Anderson Valley Advertiser, Left Curve and Z Magazine. Many of my science-oriented pieces appear on the Skeptical Investigations website. Most recently my paper on the mind, ‘Analysis of Russell,’ was printed in the peer reviewed Journal of Consciousness Studies. Thanks for your time.”

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