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Off the Record (November 27, 2019)


"For over thirty years it's been my honor to serve the people of Ukiah and of Mendocino County. During this time I've served on the Grand Jury, City and County Planning Commissions, City Council, Board of Supervisors, numerous associated boards and committees and community non-profit organizations. 

I am humbled and deeply grateful for having the opportunity to serve, for all the support I've had over the years, and for all the encouragement I've had to run for re-election. 

Two weeks ago, instead of being in a Board of Supervisors meeting in Mendocino, I was in the Emergency Room in Ukiah. It was the first Board meeting I've missed and it also served as a reminder of how completely I put the demands of public service ahead of my personal interest. 

But after a great deal of reflection I realize that I cannot continue to give 100% of my time and energy to doing the job while simultaneously campaigning for the job. Therefore, I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for re-election on March 3. Instead, I will continue to work hard doing the best job I can for the people of Mendocino County for the balance of my term."

—John McCowen, Second District Supervisor

McCOWEN'S RETIREMENT. Trying real hard to be fair to the sonorous Ukiah solon, I think he can claim full credit for straightening out the loss to the County via Brooktrails and the Teeter Plan, whose details, on the off chance you're interested in obscure, complicated fiscal schemes, you'll have to look up yourself because even typing Teeter Plan puts me to sleep. McCowen's commitment to at least trying to keep the "homeless" from trashing the Ukiah Valley's streamside ecology is also both noteworthy and praiseworthy. And he seldom missed a meeting, so give him a merit badge for attendance. Otherwise, he was simply one more auto-signator to whatever County boss Carmel Angelo put in from of him. 

THOSE FACEBOOK KUDOS for McCowen congratulating him for "your service" seem to confuse him with Mother Theresa. McCowen, a wealthy Ukiah property owner, enjoys an $84,000 annual Supervisor’s salary, plus perks, and a pension which, in his case, works out to about $25,000 a year. Put these stats against the 6,731 Mendolanders on food stamps, who include more than a few County line workers, and McCowen's "service" doesn't seem of the hair shirt variety. (On Tuesday, McCowen, typically, signed off on a truly profligate scheme that would pay a Sacramento architect to "evaluate and design" three Measure B structure projects worth $3.3 million. That staggeringly lush contract passed 3-2 with Supervisors Haschak and Brown joining McCowen in Yes votes. At the mo, the only responsible Supervisors we have are Williams and Gjerde, and Gjerde has only lately re-awakened from his prolonged, elected slumber.)

SO FAR, only two persons have signed up to fill McCowen's size two Crocs: Mo Mulheren, mayor of Ukiah, and Joel Soinila. Soinila's facebook page says: “WHY I'M RUNNING — To assist Mendocino County's 2nd district in achieving forward thinking with result-based accountability. Main areas of interest: Community, Financial Transparency/Integrity, Mental Health, Unsheltered Population Awareness, and Environmental Advocacy. — Member: Chamber of Commerce, Mendocino County Historical Society, Mendocino County Farm Bureau, Young Farmers and Ranchers, Ukiah High Alumni Association, Ukiah Elks Lodge, Cal Poly Alumni.”

NEITHER SOINILA nor Mulheren seem to know much about the Supervisor’s job, which puts them securely in the local tradition of zero prior knowledge of County affairs before being sworn in. You could grab the next five people off the street, install them as Supervisors and, for job performance, they would do as well as three of the five persons presently occupying the position. 

ALTHOUGH candidates have until December 5th to sign up to run for Supervisor, it looks like Mulheren and Silent Soinila will battle it out for the 2nd District seat. Mulheren has the edge in that there's a large angry woman vote that is instinctively and aggressively for any woman over any man no matter how testosterone-free and/or emasculated the male appears to be. 

GOOD NEWS for the Mendo economy: Tokers are expected to spend $8.7 billion on unsanctioned consciousness obliteration this year, compared to sanctioned storefront dope projected at a mere $3.1 billion in sales, according to BDS Analytics, a cannabis industry research firm. Local off-the-books growers we've talked to expect at least $1500 a pound this season, a price making the gro effort worthwhile. State and county governments expecting a windfall pot tax bonanza cooked their own pot turducken with preposterously onerous local regs, with Mendo's being the most onerous anywhere.

WE SAW a Mendocino Village (sic) house rental for $2400 a month. Using the standard one-third of your gross income formula, if you face a $2400 per month rent, you’d need a $7200 a month income which translates to $86k per year, and how many Mendo people are pulling down that kind of dough? If you’re a two-earner family, which is much more often the Mendo case, that would be $43k per earner. A house that big might be able to handle two small families which might be able to split the rent. A $15 per hour gross wage for full-time work available all over Ukiah is $15 x 2080 hours per year or about $31k per year, or $2600 per month. So that would leave you $200 after paying rent, assuming no other expenses like a whole month's food.

WHICH REMINDS ME of a comment a working guy made to me about Medicare for all. "We can't afford it, Bruce. Jesus, what else don't you understand?" Lots, dude, but how about the 2008 too big to fail bank bailout? That tax gift to a small gang of criminals was forked right over, nevermind the billions spent annually on the eternal wars on the Mohammedans. But noooooo, anything that helps out the average citizen is unaffordable? It kills me when an ordinary working person goes all-inclusive about himself and billionaires, most of whom would feed Average Joe and Jane to his dogs if their fat content wasn't too high.

IF THE IMPEACHMENT hearings were a tv show its ratings would be zero. I asked five people Wednesday if they were listening or watching. Answers ranged from No to Of course not. Despite MSM hype that the Demo's inquisition is fascinating and has Trump on the ropes, all the posturing Demo yobbos have established is what we already know — Trump wanted dirt on the Bidens in trade for arms to the Ukrainians, who apparently had no idea that the arms were being held up. Is that an impeachable offense? Was Clinton's sordid dalliance with Monica an impeachable offense? No and No. From here both shows merely look like the vipers investigating the snakes, and simply more evidence that this sucker is going down. (A little bit of Neener-Neener Schiff goes a long, long way. If anybody can make Trump look like a victim, it's Schiff and Co.)

RON JACOBS perfectly expresses my opinion of the hearings:  “One doesn’t have to consider the Democrats heroes in order to agree with the desire to see Trump face impeachment. Indeed, it is almost impossible to do so. Nor does one have to agree with the Pentagon to understand their role in putting the trumpists on notice. I know the resumes of those who testify. They don’t deserve tears or cheers. However, their participation in the crimes of the Empire don’t make Trump’s protofascism okay. The combination of the crimes of Congress and the White House proves the criminality of the entire system.”  

LINDY PETERS TAKES ON INCUMBENT GJERDE: “I have served the City of Fort Bragg for over 17 years. I have served a term as your Mayor on two occasions in two different decades. I have raised a child here, sent him through college, bought a house and paid a mortgage. I have worked more than one job to make ends meet. I know firsthand the struggle it is to get by in the 4th District and I have worked hard in my political career to help make things better. First off, we need to ensure the hospital remains open and solvent. Whatever help we can foster at the Supervisor level to accomplish this goal is imperative. Let’s get going on cannabis regulations. The State has made it difficult enough on this burgeoning new industry. They need help not hindrance. I have spent over 12 years on the Fire Protection Authority Board and am familiar with the needs of our volunteer Fire Departments. We need to continue and enhance their funding as the real dangers of increasing wildfire activities threaten our rural County. A tax measure will help. Let’s explore ways to be more self-sufficient. I will continue to explore the possibilities of a small power source or micro grid to wean us from the greed and the grid we are so dependent on PG& E to provide. I will push for a desalinization plant to provide the coastal region with the vital water source to take us into the future. The County’s IT department is disjointed and unreliable. We need to make funding available to bring it up to speed. The County CEO may be wielding too much power. The Grand Jury is looking in to this. I will ask questions and do homework so that I am not solely dependent on a staff report recommendation. I have done this my whole political life. I will treat county employees and retirees with the respect they deserve for working to make this a better place to live. I will help direct and negotiate a new solid waste contract due to expire in my first term, looking out for the ratepayers best interests. I look for solutions from the greatest resource we have. You the people. I will be active all the time, not just prior to an election. I hosted a weekly Monday Morning Meeting with the Mayor every Monday except Holidays for 2 years. I promise to do the same if elected Supervisor. You will have access in a more relaxed setting to bring your problems and ideas to me. This will move around the 4th District accordingly. And remember this: Holding on to what appears to be good for you now may be the very reason you don’t have something better.”

HOPLAND'S REAL GOODS has mostly been bought up by Flow Kana, and ever since the sale Real Goods Solar Center customers complain that trying to get technical assistance for their Real Goods solar gear has been nigh impossible. 

WHERE WAS I the day Kennedy was assassinated? You'll be sorry you asked. I'd graduated from college at San Francisco State after three-plus years bouncing around from City College to Cal Poly to SF State in pursuit of a meaningless diploma during which I learned nothing in class and not enough outside to make me employable. I often regretted leaving the Marine Corps. Post-college I was a cross between an aspiring beatnik and lumpen-commie, an eager foot soldier with the Congress on Racial Equality and hitchhiking up and down Highway One, with stops at Big Sur where I worked for a couple of weeks at New Camaldoli, now a Catholic retreat center, then an order of Benedictine hermit monks. I briefly considered becoming a Catholic. As you can see my career trajectory was hard to discern. 

I HAD NO IDEA what I was doing beyond a determination not to do what the culture thought I should do. I was broke with zero prospects. So I converted my pointless diploma into a temp job as a junior high teacher. The principal, or whatever he was, who hired me at San Luis Obispo Junior High School practically embraced me, he was that desperate for someone, anyone, to take the job. "I don't care what you do, just keep 'em in the room and out of the halls." Keep them from "roaming" the halls, he added. I soon learned from the little hormonal horrors themselves that I was something like the fifth sap in a month to take them on.

THERE were six classes organized as ability groups, at least that was the theory. I thought several of the 14-year-olds in the dummy class were smarter than any of the alleged gifted in the smart kid's class, and it was clear, from a "parents night," that the true organizational principle was social class. No parents showed up for parents nights except the parents of the two alleged gifted classes. Whatever the basis for the classification of this batch of our nation's future, they were all accustomed to a lack of classroom order. Their regular teacher, an older woman close to retirement, had completely wigged out, locking herself in the classroom with a fifth of whiskey and stripping down to her underwear as the "kids" cheered her on. The fire department had had to break down the door to haul the poor thing away. 

I WAS ON MY OWN. There was zero supervision. In my two weeks as lion tamer no one checked to see what I was doing in the way of pedagogy, which was little more than six hours of mutual story telling with me as the lead entertainer. I recall the student stories — mostly of family pathology and their odd experiences in the world outside — as a harbinger of the mass estrangement coming up.

IT WAS a Friday morning when a disembodied voice from the intercom informed us that the president had been shot and that we should all go home. It was only 9:30. I was even happier than the young scholars to get the rest of the day off — and away from them — but had no idea Kennedy had been killed until I got back to my tenement room downtown. As a wobbly liberal, I liked Kennedy and was surprised anyone would want to kill him. A friend of mine was overheard saying of the shooting, "So what?" winning himself an interview with the FBI as a likely subversive. Which he was, but he remained unconfined. People generally took Kennedy's death very hard.

TWO DAYS LATER, as I and most of the country stared at black and white television screens, Oswald, who'd declared he was a "patsy," not the killer, was shot and killed in the basement of the Dallas police station by a strip club pimp called Jack Ruby. That event seemed to me more shocking than the murder of Kennedy.

A LOT of people think the country veered off the rails with Vietnam, the assassinations of '68, hippies, and the rest of the improbable years of the later 1960's. I think Kennedy was the turning point because, in its way, it reminded Americans, after the bland social serenity of the 50's, that much was not as it seemed, and our country was not immune from terrible events.

THE SCHOOL BOSS begged me to come back. He said I'd done a great job, that I had a wonderful future as a junior high school teacher. By the Keep-Them-From-Roaming-The-Halls standard I guess I’d done good, but I told him I was leaving for Big Sur to become a monk.

TRUMP ON GAY MARRIAGE: “It’s like in golf. A lot of people — I don’t want this to sound trivial — but a lot of people are switching to these really long putters, very unattractive. It’s weird. You see these great players with these really long putters, because they can’t sink three-footers anymore. And, I hate it. I am a traditionalist. I have so many fabulous friends who happen to be gay, but I am a traditionalist.”


[1] I am waiting for some reporter to ask Trump what is the square root of 64 divided by 2 times 10. To which the President would surely respond: “Well, sir, there are two possible answers depending on where the brackets are placed, and you have failed to provide that information. One answer is 40 if we assume the problem is stated as (Sq root of 64/2)*10. And the other answer is .4 assuming the problem is stated as Sq root of 64/(2*10) Which did you have in mind?”

[2] I have cut down a few trees. Made me sad and I’d rather have not but they were a danger to my house, being near and rooted in unstable land. Cutting trees in a wood is an education. You think, “Well, this one has to go,” then you become aware of the next one back. And the next one, the next. At some point you make the choice that here is where it stops.

For some people, where it stops is where there is no money to be made by going further. That turns out to be the edge of their ownership. For others, it’s not one for any reason. For me, it was “it’s possible but not likely to kill me if the top breaks off. ” All different values.

Living in a world of food banks, AFDC, Section 8 housing, emergency rooms, etc., even while not automatic in every situation, has made us forget that a hundred fifty years ago people died— their children died— their parents died— when work was not there. For all the complaining that goes on about how “Society” owes the “unfortunate” now, then a child abandoned by their parents could starve or end up adopted as child labor or simply get sick and die. The children or old people who did survive, did so in large part because they had family who were willing to work and work hard to take care of them.

So it’s easy to get all nasty-judgy over the destruction of these woods that were so magnificent but there were people mostly working from dawn to dusk in great danger because it kept their families alive. It was never so easy for humans as it is right now and look where it has ended up so far— drug addiction, begging, determined oblivion. And stupid, stupid, stupid. People are like trees that way— take care of one and the next one one pops into view. Only trees are so much more appealing and useful.

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