Colfax’s Last Rant

by Mark Scaramella, December 23, 2010

Before and after the Supervisors took a break for a tax-paid  "luncheonreception to honor David [Colfax]" at last week's meeting, they took several hours to lay off more sheriff’s deputies, seven of them — this round.

Sheriff Allman had reduced his argument to keep his department intact to a resigned request to be allowed to keep any future savings or new revenues that may accrue to his department to restore some deputies.

The Board turned him down, 4-1 with Supervisor John McCowen, dissenting.

McCowen and Allman continue to hold out hope that the Sheriff’s department’s budget can somehow be at least partly replenished by pot permit money. Allman asked the Board to allow him to restore deputies in direct proportion to the amount of pot dispensary money the County may get next year.

The problem with this idea is 1: the revenue estimates are coming from people who seem extremely optimistic about the earning potential of the County’s 9.31 pot dispensary program, and 2. according to current board policy any new revenues that come in between now and the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2011) must go to restoring the County's depleted reserves.

There’s also one other little problem.

The amount of money the seven layoffs are expected to save for this fiscal year is just over $300k, which still leaves the Sheriff $800k short, and nobody is saying how that shortfall is going to be made up. Even if some pot money comes in to County coffers, and even if it went to the Sheriff’s Department, the Sheriff still has $800k more to whack. Additionally, the Sheriff seems to be the only law enforcement officer in the country who publicly hopes to be bailed out by dope money.

Since these layoffs include two corrections officers, Allman informed the Board that he’ll have to discontinue doing inmate searches on low-risk inmates currently assigned to supplement county operations. Without those searches coming and going from the Jail, skilled inmate labor will no longer be able to supplement County operations in the garage or on facilities maintenance.

Next year looks worse.

Supervisor John Pinches: “We’re looking at a $2 million increase in the County's share of pension contributions next year. We are already at risk of losing our ability to do “trans” borrowing [a federal government run cash-flow semi-bank operation]. This only fixes $303k of the budget problem.”

Conspicuously missing from the delusional send-off of Supervisor David Colfax at last week’s final meeting of the year was any mention of the outgoing supervisor's specific accomplishments, perhaps because there weren't any apart from Colfax's successful agitation for his and his colleague's pay raise.

A few of Colfax’s pals from the Northcoast's incestuous Democratic Party apparat lauded their buddy in general terms, but except for Colfax’s replacement on the Board, Dan Hamburg, none of the tributes were delivered by 5th District persons, the people that Colfax allegedly represented.

Congressman Mike Thompson’s local representative Heidi  Dickerson read a windy statement of Colfax’s “civic accomplishments” that the Congressman apparently read into the Congressional Record. The Congressman cited no specific accomplishments but lauded Colfax for his “dedicated public service.”

We will note here that these lavishly compensated public servants always talk about themselves in the selfless terms once reserved for orders of nuns. Regular County employees, most of whom are lucky to make half of what the Supervisors make, simply say, “I work for the County.”

Dan Hamburg, who will succeed Colfax, was especially egregious in his praise for “David.”

“As your successor, I feel a challenge. I don’t know what size shoes you wear, but they’re not going to be easy to fill. You’ve, uh, you’ve made incredible contributions to this county for so many years in education and in politics and in, just, all the different things that you’ve been in in this county and I deeply respect your contributions. I also, um, really took, um, from the words that Richard Shoemaker said, how much your story here in this County is the story of why so many of us really love this place and they, uh, you know, the, uh, the inquiring mind, the love of the land, um, the, the, the independent spirit, those are all things that I think really define you and your work here and, um, I guess that you’ve left some very big shoes to fill and I’ll do my best and I hope you’ll be there when I get into a quandary, um, over the coming years, and, uh, and need to take advantage of some of the experience that you’ve garnered over the years so thanks very much.”

When this preposterous deluge of pure bullshit finally drizzled to a halt, Colfax, speaking as if he were as described, said, “I almost feel guilty about leaving this job at this time.”

Depending on how you calculate it, and whether Colfax gets credit for his earlier “service” on the County Board of Education, Colfax stands to get a minimum $20k a year pension, tax free, from Mendo’s beleagured pension fund.

In the afternoon session the Board considered jacking up pot grow fees from the current $1,050 to $1,500. The cost of zip ties per plant will go from $25 to $50, effective January 14.

Pay these fees and, in theory, you can grow 99 plants without being disturbed by local law enforcement. Federal narcs, who are permanently resident in Mendocino County, remain at zero tolerance. As happened last grow season, the very first person to wend her way through the local pot licensing process was immediately raided by the feds.

Allman says the hikes in local pot fees are necessary to recover more of the actual cost of providing the permits. But even this increase is somewhat speculative because the current and pending layoffs in the Sheriff’s department may make it difficult for the Department to process the permits.

The Board voted 4-1 (Colfax dissenting) to approve the big fee increases — but not before Colfax, a former pot grower, delivered his final incoherent but lucidly hypocrital rant as a public servant.

“Well, I didn’t vote for 9.31. I think I was the only who did not. And what I’m sitting here thinking about is if I were to tell my friends in Florida or New England or whatever that this is what we’ve done, well, they say why would you have done that? You’d think on the one hand your constituents are calling you saying, I was stopped in Marin County or I was stopped in Sonoma County, what do I do? Or I was stopped in Mendocino County. How much do you have, whatever? I put them in touch with some attorneys. They’re mom and pop operations and they’re probably about as clean, I would guess, just knowing the individuals who are involved, they are out of work, or they are people who are using it to be able to buy a piece of land or just to buy a big truck or waste it on maybe more different substances like Irish whisky. The reality here is this almost sounds to me like we are in a situation, Sheriff, where we are handing out permits to print money. The money is counterfeit, but we’ll all pretend that it isn’t. And I understand that, I guess. My real concern is this: Hard times make people do stupid things, such as growing marijuana and getting caught and stuck with it and so forth because it’s hard times. But they also make officials, maybe even sheriffs, do things that they would not otherwise do and I appreciate the quandary you are in, the problem you are facing. But on the one hand when I get somebody that’s being busted for carrying three pounds [!] from, uh, Ukiah, to, uh uh…, Sea Ranch, and that person has to go through the whole apparatus, they’re going to have to see David Eyster; they’re going to have to go through the whole process here, they’ll get a lawyer, they’ll pay five, eight, ten, fifteen thousand dollars depending on what the case is and they’ll get out of it. We’re wasting money on that and we go through the process and sometimes they won’t get off. I don’t mean this to be a diatribe, but it’s beginning to sound like that even to me, but I am concerned with the fact that this is unfair and unequal when I see people in the audience who have never been before us. OK? They’re not my constituents. Who are we serving? Are we serving the cartel’s new clean face? The new elements that are out there? I know you need the money and I will support almost anything you would suggest. But I don’t like being party to a deal that rewards a particular segment that can get all their shit — and I use the term colloquially — all their stuff together. They can put together the package. They’re legal. Etc. Etc. Etc. Except for one thing. What they’re doing gives them an advantage over all the other little mom and pops that aren’t quite right, not quite smart, don’t have the resources to put together what some of these folks have successfully done. And you’re facilitating it and asking us to make it possible. … Cut me off in a minute, Madam Chair. I guess what bothers me is this is the sort of thing we did not discuss when 9.31 was put before us I believe in Fort Bragg. We did not understand the implications. Now I understand the implications and I see some of the consequences, the unintended consequences of 9.31 [the County’s complicated marijuana ordinance]. I’m not blaming you, I’m just seeing a real problem here with unanticipated consequences. The little guy is getting screwed and the big guy is going to just make, uh, if they don’t make $100k on their 99 plants, can they be, maybe working for the county as Supervisor? But I don’t know. It’s just, it’s tough not to make that kind of money. And should we be in the business of facilitating that?”

Sheriff Allman’s simple reply: “We already are, sir.”

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