Off the Record
by AVA News Service, December 30, 2010
POST OFFICE BLUES. Last week's paper — three bags for three zip codes — did not reach San Francisco. We're sending replacements out with this week's dispatch. It's getting tiresome, isn't it? Every month the mighty AVA doesn't get where it's supposed to get. Fed Ex? UPS? Might be doable. We'll see.
THE AVA will appear in small claims court, County Courthouse Ukiah, Wednesday, January 5th at 5:30pm in our ongoing effort to recover for the County's general fund the $3087 Supervisor Smith received for travel untraveled.
THE ROYCROFT REPORT: Doug is ensconced at Coast Hospital but expects to soon be moved to Sherwood Oaks, the convalescent facility from which one's chances to emerge alive used to be fairly remote. The place is much improved, however, and with Doug on the receiving end of its services we will soon have first-hand verification.
THE PRO PUBLICA website informs us that the Pear Tree Dialysis Center in Ukiah has a mortality rate about half that of the Fort Bragg Dialysis center, and what exactly that statistic implies I'm hardly qualified to say. But if I had to get my blood washed on a regular basis I think I'd be doing it in Ukiah. (Although both have higher than "expected" mortality rates.) For more information go to http://projects.propublica.org/dialysis/
ON A RECENT trip to the County seat, never so bleak as in the winter and never so chill that obese guys in wife beaters aren't prevalent, I couldn't help but read a large banner hanging from the Dragon's Lair at Perkins and South Main: "Simply Love One Another." I was tempted to heave a brick through the window but it was still daylight and I didn't want to be David Eyster's first prosecution as DA. Myself, I've never met a self-identifying hippie who wasn't at least twice as violent as the average NFL linebacker and three times less affectionate, the very last people to be passing out socio-advice.
OUT ON NORTH STATE in Ukiah the enormous eyesore of the long-vacant Fjords restaurant punctuates the general civic decrepitude of North Ukiah. You'd never know that a mere sixty years ago Ukiah was a graceful little country town with Elm-lined streets and well-maintained buildings and neighborhoods. There's a lot of money in Ukiah but civic pride has disappeared, hence, Fjords. It should simply be abated but its owner, a crusty octogenarian named Henry Erikson, recently departed for the eternal smorgette, had enough dough to simply sit on the property for which he asked, and his heirs still ask, the extortionate rent of $8000 a month. Prior to World War Two, the city fathers would have moved to abate. Now? Like the Palace Hotel in the center of town nobody with the means to do something about it gives a hoot.
IN AUGUST of 2007, The Major wrote a piece for the Ukiah Daily Journal about the ominous expansion of the housing bubble. He called it “Crunch Time Ahead.” “I’m not saying I’m a particularly good economic forecaster,” said the Major last week, “but it was obvious even to me as early as 2007 that Mendocino County was soon going to face some serious budget problems.” “Foreclosures are also rising in Sonoma County,” wrote the Major. “Therefore, as Sonoma County's illegitimate stepsister, a proportional rise in foreclosures in Mendocino County is not far behind. Increased foreclosures mean a softening of the housing market which means lower property assessments which mean lower tax revenues for counties which means the inevitable public agency revenue crunch is not far off. County administration staffers are already worried about the budget impact of reduced assessments and the reduced property tax revenues that accompany them. For the last few years, Mendo has been running on the fumes dependent on increased property values in an ever up-surging, if artificial, housing market. … Nobody knows how much negative impact the housing crunch will have on Mendo's tax revenues. But then, nobody knew how the stock market would react to the free-lending banker/broker/piper who always sits on our shoulder waiting to be paid.”
WHAT DID MENDO DO to prepare for the big downturn in the economy? Nothing. And here we are entering 2011 with revenues dramatically down and draconian cuts being forced on all offices in the County. The impact could have been softened significantly if Mendo had taken steps to deal with the looming budget crunch when it was obvious to anyone who was paying any attention.
MAKING MATTERS WORSE is a forthcoming revenue reduction from the end of that portion of the Vehicle License Fee designated for law enforcement. As it breaks down, this latest hit is estimated to hit the Sheriff’s Department budget to the tune of about $715,000 which translates to funding for seven officers. The cut will also take a big bite out of the Probation Department’s budget and reduce DA allocations by about $85,000. The Board of Supervisors has written to Assemblyman Wes Chesbro for assistance in having the license fee period extended so that the cuts will be postponed, which is the epistolary equivalent of writing to your dog to ask him to stop chasing cats. The Board has also asked Mendo citizens to write to Chesbro, meaning Chesbro will get three identical letter from Joe Wildman, Rachel Binah, and Jim Mastin. The money is gone! Chesbro will eventually write back care of KZYX: "Gosh, Rach, I tried, but those meany-faced Republicans told me to sit my jive ass down and shut up. They said if they wanted any more bullshit out of me they'd squeeze my head."
APPARENTLY, winemakers must not like having their wine tastings interrupted by loud commercials. Fresh off solving the big problems like the Big Bank Bailout, the Insurance Industry Protection Act (aka Health Care reform), the Tax Giveaway to the Wealthiest Americans, and two hugely expensive wars Congressman Mike “Winebottle” Thompson is co-sponsoring a bill that would require television broadcasters to limit the volume of TV ads. Congressman Winebottle called complaints from his constituents that Congress ought to have better things to do “sophomoric,” adding, “If the TV folks were more sensitive to the problem legislators wouldn’t have to consider a bill to do this.”
SPEAKING OF CONGRESSMAN CORKTOP, is it irony or merely depressing that the Navy already has approval for lunatic war games off the Mendo-HumCo coasts but the organizers of the recent post mortem hearings on the done deal thank Thompson for getting the Navy to listen to another round of complaints? And you can bet your last inflated dollar that every single one of the protesters will dutifully vote to return Thompson to Congress.
THE VERY FIRST PERSON to successfully apply for local pot grow permits last year was raided by the feds the very next day. Joy Greenfield, a grandma hailing from Mississippi, was the first applicant to negotiate the local process for her medical grow on Chicken Ridge, Covelo, just down the road from a Bulgarian grow and not far from a Sacramento Valley shoot-out at another grow. Chicken Ridge isn't likely to be mistaken for a Senior Center, and three cheers to Granny Greenfield for devoting her golden years to pioneer free enterprise in Mendocino County's international free fire zone. The federal raid on Gran Greenfield was led by the DEA with local deputies providing back-up in case, one supposes, the old girl decided to go down hard. But the old lady promptly got herself a new set of zip ties and re-planted, and there is no verifiable reason to suspect the raid was in any way related to her status as an applicant, but it does seem awfully like a clear message from the feds that says: "We don't care what you do in Mendocino County to decriminalize marijuana. We remain zero tolerance."
WHAT ISN'T CREDIBLE is the belief in some County sectors that pot permit fees and zip tie revenues could be sufficient to re-fund laid off deputies. If permit fees and zip tie income funded a single deputy it would be a minor miracle. Most growers will continue to prefer anonymity because they know their chances of getting caught are minimal. But their chances of getting busted might be maximal if they register their gardens with the cops.
A BIG HUNK of County money, some $2.1 million, is dispensed annually under the vague budget category called Travel. Some $500,000 of the $2.1 seems to go to the transportation of the mentally ill because Mendocino County has no secure in-County facilities for its growing population of dangerously disturbed persons. The rest of the $2.1 mil budgeted for travel is apparently spent on dubious conferences for upper management, and do we even have to note here that these things are invariably convened in plush hotels in places like Monterey and Las Vegas?
WILL MENDOCINO COUNTY go formally bankrupt? With ever more cuts at the state and federal levels of government combined with big tax breaks for the rich and a fading local tax base along with a built-in 12 mil in annual debt service on the money the County has already borrowed to meet its hazily perceived obligations excluding retirement obligations, bankruptcy would seem to be inevitable.
"I CAN'T BELIEVE garbage is this complicated," said Vice Mayor Meg Courtney, during the December 13th meeting of the Fort Bragg City Council. "It's unbelievable."
GARBAGE isn't that complicated, Meg, but when you have a self-interested obfuscator like Mike Sweeney, whose only interest is preserving his own little sinecure as the County's trash guy, it can be confusing. And very expensive, as much of Mendocino County has discovered lately, thanks to Sweeney-added confusion. It's really only a matter of getting garbage outtahere at the least expense to customers, and what's complicated about that? As of now, it appears that Solid Waste of Willits will get the contract with FB, thus privatizing all of Mendocino County's trash hauling, thus making Sweeney an even more expensive redundancy than he has been.
MIKE SINGLETARY, the 49ers head coach, was sacked right after the Niners dismal loss to the Rams Sunday. He probably deserved to go because of his losing record and because things had deteriorated to where he was in screaming matches with his players on the sidelines. But the unceremonious way people are summarily fired in sports, if applied to the rest of American life, might do this country some real good. Could the leadership survive the same kind of scrutiny from media that sports figures get? What if this country's craven media suddenly began writing about public affairs with the caustic intensity with which their sports writers examine ball games? Can you imagine Lowell Cohn of the Press Democrat's sports page unleashed on Mike Thompson and Wes Chesbro, not to mention the criminals who have looted the country for whom the Thompsons, the Chesbros, the Obamas, and the Limbaughs run their daily errands? And if the millions of Americans applied the same incessantly scrupulous analyses to their leaders and their political behavior as they do to sports, well, America would be a better place tomorrow morning.