LAST WEEK Governor Jerry Brown’s office announced that the state will allow the Pinoleville Band of Pomos north of Ukiah to build a 90,000 square-foot casino, an accompanying 72,100-square-foot hotel with 125 rooms and banquet facilities, and a five-level parking garage. The tribe expects the facility will attract up to 3,500 customers a day, and employ approximately 215 people. A man named Michael Canales is “a development partner with the tribe.” (See this week’s “Rez Notes” by Eric Enriquez, an illegally ex-communicated tribal member, for more on Mr. Canales.)
WITH A LITTLE internet research we found that the Pinoleville tribe plans to apply for a $90 million bank loan for the project. Assuming they can build all that stuff for $90 million, at 5% interest, this translates to a monthly payment of over $500k for 30 years. It all seems far too grand, especially given that there are already seven other casinos in Mendocino County and a huge one near Geyserville popular with Bay Area gamblers. The Pinoleville casino would have to generate almost $20k per day just to cover the loan payment, not to mention all the other operating costs which would be at least $150k a month if they really hire 215 people at going rates. At last count, the Coyote Valley Casino just up the road employs about 180 people.
THERE are a number of other problems with the Pinoleville casino proposal besides its wildly implausible financing, not the least of which is the single access road to the site — Low Gap Road.
OUR RESIDENT Pomo Nation correspondent, Eric Enriquez comments: “Governor Brown has been hoodwinked. Canales finally got his casino project after his multi-year effort to turn this federally-recognized Tribe into a tool to establish his own personal fiefdom and provide for his own retirement. Citizens of Mendo/Ukiah beware! After the way that they treated their own membership, I would advise you to hide your pets, lock up your elders and safeguard your watershed. This casino project is brought to you by the Bureau of Indian Affairs — California Area Office, devised by carpetbagger Michael Canales, and paid for with the legacy of the true members of Pinoleville Rancheria.”
BESIDES removing much miscellaneous contraband — growers, cash, plastic pipe, fertilizer, poisons, vehicles, guns, and so on — The recently concluded Operation Full Court Press in the Mendocino National Forest had another interesting side-benefit for Mendocino County. In the days leading up to the big operation, Sheriff’s Sergeant Randy Johnson — Sheriff Allman’s point man on Mendo’s medical marijuana rules — made it clear to Covelo-area growers — both registered and not — that they would be well-advised to make sure they’re in full compliance with Mendo’s pot rules because there would be lots of cops around. Upshot: Sheriff Allman sold several hundred more zip-ties and received several more grower collective applications with accompanying fees. The official total amount of new pot grower fees has not been released yet, but estimates are in the area of $600k or more.
SHERIFF ALLMAN ALSO CONFIRMS: “Yes, there was a raid on Margie Handley's property. It was a federal raid and there were less than 25 plants.” The Handley Ranch is east of Willits. Mrs. Handley is a prominent local Republican.
HUMBOLDT COUNTY BLOGGER Kym Kemp (kymkemp.com) wrote last week: “Who Got Arrested In The Mendocino National Forest during Operation Full Court Press? Mexican cartels or homegrown hoodlums or…? The question of whether the marijuana grows on public lands are manned by Mexican cartels or if those assumptions are based on racist stereotypes is one that has been tossed among locals and even the national media. The recent blitzkrieg of marijuana gardens in the Mendocino National Forest by a variety of federal, state, and county agencies (Operation Full Court Press) offers an opportunity to inform this debate, and make more rational decisions on how to combat a crime that most of the American public and the local folk wish to see stopped now. With 132 growers arrested, the opportunity to assess the home addresses of those captured offers valuable data. Unfortunately, this mass of agencies is difficult to gather information from. Believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve searched the internet. No luck. I’ve put out questions to CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) officials and received no answer. However, at least our local Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman did his best to answer my questions. He said, ‘As for the arrest statistics, they will not be available anytime soon because of several reasons: 1) Federal arrests are only reported when charges are filed (sometimes 2 years later) [I know I'm not patient but this would strain even Mother Theresa!] 2) Non-federal arrests went to one of the six county jails, depending upon where the arrest was physically made. I am not aware of any single piece of paper that has all of the arrests on it (yet). I will “guess-timate that the final stat sheet with be ready in 4 weeks but this will NOT have the Federal stats on it. To answer one of your questions, there were very few local arrests made IN the forest but my bet is that because the investigations are still in process, there may be local arrests as we continue to turn over stones.’ I appreciate that these pieces of information are not immediately available but the more we know statistically about who is likely to grow on public lands, the more we can understand and combat the problem. This recent press release announces that at least 14 of those arrested were “foreign nationals detained on administrative immigration violations” but other foreign nationals are facing federal or state charges (in this case in Tehama County where two men from Mexico are the first to be prosecuted as the result of Operation Full Court Press.) Were most of those arrested foreign nationals? Are most local growers looking for places to grow that aren’t likely to be tied to them legally? Are many US Citizens from other areas looking to exploit the rugged backwoods country of Northern California and then return to their own homes? The approaches to ridding the land held in common for all of us from damaging grows could vary depending on who is there. Let’s get those answers available and allow us all a chance to hash out solutions.
THE NATIONAL NEWSPAPER ASSOCIATION'S AWARD to the Mendocino Beacon for their reporting of the Board of Supervisors meetings during early 2010 is as bogus as the Association itself. But the bogus Beacon's response to its bogus award from the bogus association took bogus-ness all the way over the top. “We're very proud of our efforts, but are especially proud of our readers for their part in curbing the bleeding of services. Silence — ours and theirs — would have allowed the county to cut much more deeply into the quality of life here, particularly for the less fortunate.”
THAT THERE'S a straight-up lie. There’s no indication, much less evidence, that Beacon readers or the Beacon had any effect whatsoever on anything the Board of Supervisors did.
FROM HERB CAEN'S column of September 24th, 1969 in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Towards a brighter America: The Ukiah Public Library has five copies of Philip Roth's 'Portnoy's Complaint,' with 12 people on the waiting list. As soon as these have satisfied their curiosity, the five copies will be destroyed by burning as ordered by the Library's trustees. Bully! …”
THE DEATH near Westport first attributed to a bear mauling before a bullet entry wound was discovered in the dead man has turned out to be a murder, the murder of a popular Albion man named Matt Coleman, environmentalist and property manager. Coleman's body was found about 10pm in his car on Highway One. The Sheriff's Department is so far at a loss for persons who might know something about the crime.
THE RELOCATION of the small contingent of Mental Health staff in Fort Bragg from the Affinito rental building to the County-owned Avila Center has run into some glitches and confusion about who's supposed to go where. The staffers became so frustrated by the confusion and inability to get answers that the receptionist walked out and didn't reappear for several days and three staffers were temporarily unaccounted for. They'd tried to reach their administrators in Ukiah to find out where they were supposed to establish their desks, but no one was home there either. Emails to Supervisors came back undeliverable because the County's computers were down. The disoriented Fort Bragg staffers even tried going to their Willits branch office with no success but found that Willits had also moved, with their new whereabouts unknown. At press time the entire mess remains unresolved.
A WOULD-BE high school wrestler in Fort Bragg showed up at the Fort Bragg Health Clinic for his sports physical where he told the duty nurse that the Fort Bragg High School wrestling coach had told him that the best way to drop some pounds to get to his weight class would be to take an overdose of ex-lax, symptoms of which he was suffering while waiting for his physical.
OUR FAVORITE BANK ROBBER, Flynn Wash-burne, 51, is described as a Fort Bragg transient. Washburne was arrested in Fort Bragg on August 8th for sticking up the Ukiah branch of the Bank of America and Cheshire Books in Fort Bragg, now owned by Chris Lindauer and believed to be the first armed, or pseudo-armed robbery of a book store in the United States. TweaPolice found that Washburne had used a toy gun he'd painted black in both robberies. Ms. Lindauer was understandably upset to be robbed at apparent gun point in the middle of a mild Fort Bragg afternoon. The Fort Bragg PD was on-scene in less than three minutes, but the crafty Washburn, who'd apparently changed clothes in the alley behind the store, eluded them.
UKIAH POLICE, in the aftermath of Washburne's BofA job in their city had announced that “Washburne is on parole and uses marijuana and methamphetamine. He should be considered dangerous.” Fort Bragg's Sgt. Gilchrist went deeper, saying of Washburne, “He's a very morally conflicted person. He knows it's wrong to steal, but he can't stop himself due to a substance abuse problem.” Washburne also fessed up to other thefts in Ukiah and Fort Bragg. He said of the Cheshire Books robbery that he'd planned to rob Reynold's Mens Wear, but changed his mind when he noted that the store had two employees, one of whom was a man.
COME GET ME. Mr. Washburne maintains a Facebook page, wherein he posted the photo of him doing his thing taken by the Bank of America security camera along with a news story about how the police were looking for him. A comment added by Mr. W. on July 27 reads, “Well, people, I've advanced into the big leagues. Without going into too much detail, I have definitely stopped fence-straddling in the matter of being a criminal or not.” This post is illustrated with a homemade wanted poster of himself with the caption, “Stand and Deliver, motherf-----s.” Also posted was a more benign side of the bandit's personality. “It's depressing, really, to be honest about myself, so I'll just pick out a couple of positives. I'm kind to animals, I like to dance, and I'm rarely late. Children and dogs generally like me and I have good manners.” Washburne's name appears as a defendant nine times in the Mendocino County Superior Court case index since 2004. Jail personnel said that even though a bail amount of $325,000 was set for Washburne, he cannot be bailed due to his parole/probation status. As of press time, it had not been determined why he was on parole.
LAST WEEK Lake County finally approved its long haggled medical marijuana dispensary ordinance. The ordinance has been in the works for two years, during which a moratorium on new dispensaries was in place. Currently, a mere ten dispensaries serve Lake County's ill. The new ordinance, narrowly voted into law by a 3-2 vote of Lake's supervisors limits the total number of dispensaries to five, each of which will need a minor use permit (which involves public notice, public comment, background checks, zoning restrictions, and other conditions to be imposed). Permits will be processed on a first-come-first-served basis. Dispensaries will not be allowed on main streets in downtown areas of Lake County's many little towns. Three of the ten existing dispensaries can stay in their current locations if they file for the required minor use permit applications and meet the other requirements. Edible products can be sold if the kitchens where they’re prepared meet county health and safety codes.
THE LAKE COUNTY dispensary ordinance demonstrates the complexities of the issue, particularly those provisions that would limit the number of dispensaries to less than the current number, or might require existing dispensaries to relocate. When a sitting Supervisor’s daughter plans to open a dispensary in Boonville before any rules are in place, that Supervisor appears to have a vivid conflict of interest, and might have to recuse himself.
WHICH IS PROBABLY why Supervisor Dan Hamburg resigned from Mendo’s Pot Dispensary Ordinance Drafting Ad Hoc Committee last week. By calling it an “ad-hoc” committee, Brown Act rules don’t apply — they only apply to standing committees, even though the process may take years as it did in Lake County. Supervisor Hamburg didn’t give a reason for removing himself from the Ad Hoc Committee, but the timing of his decision looks like he realized there was at least an appearance of a conflict of interest with his involvement with the ordinance preparation. The only remaining question is whether he’ll recuse himself from Board votes on dispensary rules. If he does, it could get interesting because 2-2 votes, if that's what happens, of the four remaining Supervisors will not produce an ordinance. We'd suppose that Carre Brown and John McCowen would take a hard regulatory line on dispensaries while supervisors Kendall Smith and John Pinches might be more liberal.