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Supes Notes (May 13, 2020)

Supervisor John Haschak announced Tuesday that Dr. Joseph Iser has been hired as Mendocino County’s new Health Officer. 

Dr. Iser retired as Chief Health Officer of the Southern Nevada Health District (Las Vegas) in January. He will start on an interim/familiarization basis in May and take over as official replacement for Dr. Noemi Doohan on June 1, 2020.

Supervisor Williams: 

New public health officer Dr Joseph Iser, MD, DrPH, MSc will be starting as Mendocino County Public Health Officer June 1. Dr Doohan will continue consulting to ensure a smooth transition. Most recently Iser was Chief Health Officer of Southern Nevada Health District (2013 to 2020). Dr Iser will be relocating to Mendocino County. As a board, we interviewed him last week and I believe he will be a good fit. 

MD, University of Kansas School of Medicine, May 1979 DrPH, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, April 2000 MSc (Infectious Diseases), University of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, November 2004 BA, Anthropology and Sociology, University of Colorado (Boulder), May 1972 Residency, Internal Medicine, University of Missouri at Kansas City Affiliated Program, training completed July 1982 

CEO Carmel Angelo told the Supervisors on Tuesday, “This is quite an interesting time,” as she introduced the third quarter budget presentation. There wasn’t much new in the the relatively rosy budget presentation which we previously covered except for a newly identified projected deficit the County will suffer of about $2 million in the Teeter Plan (which pays projected tax revenues to schools and districts no matter what the revenue is, but is theoretically recovered with penalities and interest when the late payers finally get around to paying). Supervisors McCowen and Gjerde said they were sure that these “IOUs” from the taxpayers will eventually come in someday plus penalties and interest which will ultimately benefit the County. But for a year or so, there’s a cash flow gap which wasn’t in the original third quarter budget presentation. We’ll have more on the seemingly unrealistic budget situation and some cost savings options the CEO and the Board discussed (to no conclusion whatsoever) in the next few days. 

There’s lots of interesting stuff buried deep in Mendo’s departmental reports, most of which goes unnoticed and always un-acted upon. For example in the April 28 CEO report there was this notice from the County’s Building Division (in Planning and Building): “We typically issue 70-80 permits per week and we are now down to 8-10 permits issued per week. People are not able or are unwilling to pay for the permits, although staff has notified numerous applicants of permits ready to issue.”

You’d think our well paid officials would want to know WHY after going to all the trouble of applying for a permit, “People are not able or are unwilling to pay for the permits.” Could it be the exorbitant cost? Could it be that the permit has taken so long to be processed that they have given up and no longer want to proceed? Could it be that the corona virus has caused people to withdraw their projects? 

The “Cannabis Division” had little to report: “We continue to process active phase I applications (approx. 900) and renewals and permit transfers.” 

Which is pretty much the same as it was last year. The program is so dormant nobody even cares about it anymore. Again no interest from any managers. 

However, that didn’t stop the Supervisors from engaging in a pointless discussion on Tuesday of an upcoming phase (3?) of the cannabis program during which Supervisor John McCowen claimed that recent aerial surveillance and enforcement being conducted in Southern Humboldt County has pushed some illegal pot grows from there down into Mendocino County. That was followed by a discussion of whether Mendo should do its own version of aerial pot grow surveillance and enforcement. Supervisor McCowen thought that, basically, letting too many illegal growers go unenforced is unfair to the few growers who are trying to go legit. Supervisor Ted Williams opined that there wasn’t much point in enforcement if the County didn’t have a functioning permit process that the illegal growers could enter. Williams also thought that enforcement alone would cost money the County doesn’t have right now.

The discussion also drifted into Mendo’s implementation of the state’s newly approved “cannabis equity program,” which offers financial and technical assistance to growers who, allegedly, have had trouble entering the legal system for financial or technical reasons.

Mendo is of course fully on-board with this program because it will translate into more money for Mendo — not because it will improve anything cannabis-wise. The program is so unwieldy and unworkable that no amount of “assistance” will help. But it will funnel more money into the county’s cannabis bureaucracy after being laundered through a few recalcitrant growers which seems like the program's unstated goal. If they wanted to actually bring some of the bureaucracy- for finance-challenged “legacy” growers into some kind of “compliance” they’d make the program more workable. Without simplification, the more than $2 million in equity “assistance” will not bring any illegal growers in from the cold — especially when they can still make more money in the black market without all the hassles of the legal cannabis program.

As of April 2, 2020, Measure B has brought in about $15.5 million and expended about $0.5 million ($274k of which was spent on the Redwood Valley “training center.” Consultant Lee Kemper got about $64k. Consultant Sarah Riley got about $13k. And Measure B reimbursed the County for almost $162k for the cost of the measure’s election. (There is no breakdown of the $162k.) 

Supervisor John McCowen proposes eliminating the stipend approach to supervisor travel, replacing it with a reimbursement/claim request as was the practice back when Supervisors Kendall Smith and David Colfax submitted bogus travel claims which were exposed by three consecutive grand juries until Smith was forced by newly elected DA David Eyster to pay back the $3100 she falsely claimed for travel she didn’t travel. Colfax never paid anything back beause the Grand Jury couldn’t figure out exactly how much money he falsely claimed reimbursement for. 

At present the Supes can opt for a stipend based on the estimated distance they are from Ukiah. Brown gets $450 a month; McCowen $125 a month; Haschak $900 per month; Gjerde $810 a month; and Williams gets $700 a month. 

Agenda Item 6a) — Discussion and Possible Action Regarding Repealing Board of Supervisors In-County Travel Allowance Retroactive to April 1, 2020 and Reversion to the Previous Practice of Filing Travel Reimbursement Claims for Travel Actually Taken (Sponsor: Supervisor McCowen) Recommended Action: Repeal the Board of Supervisors In-County Travel Allowance Retroactive to April 1, 2020 and Reversion to the Previous Practice of Filing Travel Reimbursement Claims for Travel Actually Taken. 

Supervisor Dan Gjerde commented on the item: “Back in April I requested an immediate suspension of my monthly car allowance. Even though various County contracts say the monthly car allowance can only be adopted or suspended in January and July each year, in place for six months at a time, County staff was willing to immediately suspend the payment, as I had requested. I assume I wasn't the only County employee, or the only other County supervisor, to do this. — Dan Gjerde, Mendocino County Supervisor, District Four” 

McCowen’s proposal might be intended to save a few bucks or maybe because they’re not traveling much these days, but if he and the Board were serious about the growing extent of the coming depression, they’d stop pretending this is not much of a problem and propose pay cuts for themselves and the CEO back to the days when Smith and Colfax filed their false claims.

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