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Off the Top (December 16, 1998)

MONDAY, in Ten Mile Justice Court, Dominic Affinito entered a not guilty plea to a charge of simple battery on Fort Bragg councilman-elect, Dan Gjerde. A jury trial was set for March 24th at 1:30pm. The episode occurred in Fort Bragg City Hall the afternoon of Thursday, November 12th.  As at least six people looked on, including city employees, Affinito attacked Gjerde, pummeling him from behind and shouting death threats at him. Gjerde had won election to the city council by the widest margin in the town’s history. Affinito claims Gjerde made a snide remark to him as he walked past Affinito.  Gjerde, along with newly-elected city councilmen Michelle White and Vince Benedetti, have been critical of Affinito’s one-story-too-high North Cliff Motel at the north end of the Noyo Bridge.

AFFINITO appeared in Ten Mile Justice Court Monday morning with his attorney, John Behnke of Jared Carter’s Ukiah law firm. Behnke handles criminal matters involving big shots (by Mendocino county standards) for the firm which otherwise specializes in representing corporate timber and well-heeled developers.

THE NOT GUILTY plea resulted in judge Lehan ordering Affinito back to Ten Mile Court for a jury trial on March 24th. In the mean time, Affinito is ordered to stay away from the “alleged victim” and is not to otherwise disturb Gjerde. 

ALSO AT MONDAY morning’s court appearance by Affinito on the misdemeanor battery charge, attorney Behnke requested an in-chambers meeting with Judge Lehan. It was instantly granted for later Monday afternoon. Given the players, the in-chambers conference probably means that Affinito’s influential attorney has already begun to earn his hefty fees by pressuring the judge and, by extension, Mendocino County’s weak-kneed justice apparatus to his client’s advantage. The in-chambers session was requested by Behnke to achieve what Behnke called an “indicated sentence,” meaning a definition of what his client might expect given the facts of the case and the minimal charge against him. Affinito himself did not attend the in-chambers conference which lasted some twenty minutes. These conferences are fairly routine in Mendocino County, especially when attorneys and clients are persons of influence. A pre-trial conference will be held on Monday, March 22nd at 1:30pm, two days before jury selection begins on Wednesday, March 24th at 10am. Behnke will be paid very well to make sure the case is resolved long before March. It’s his speciality as Jared Carter’s in-county Mr. Fixit.

AFFINITO’S ASSAULT on Dan Gjerde was a straight up attack on an elected official. Affinito was never arrested or in any way inconvenienced in the post-assault period, although by any legal standard outside Mendocino County the circumstances of Affinito’s assault on Gjerde are felony-serious.

AFFINITO’S Santa Rosa attorney, Stephen Butler, who is representing Affinito in the contentious matter of Affinito’s flagrantly illegal North Cliff Motel, has hired Ernie Carpenter, the former Sonoma County supervisor to “mediate” Affinito’s “problems” with councilmen-elect Gjerde and White. Such a mediation, should Gjerde and White agree to it, would of course compromise whatever future business Fort Bragg might conduct with Affinito. And there’s lots of business ahead, thanks to the former City Council and former City Manager Gary Milliman who have made Affinito a virtual business partner of municipal Fort Bragg to the great advantage of Affinito. The Sacramento native has benefitted from several large-scale transactions — the Glass Beach housing development, the Social Services Building, to name two — underwritten by Fort Bragg’s taxpayers.

CALTRANS will have to reschedule a community meeting to discuss the agency’s proposed new bridge over the Noyo. Last week’s meeting in Fort Bragg was not properly noticed. Nobody except Caltrans likes the bridge’s design. 

CRONYISM is alive and well in the Mendocino County Courthouse. Where there used to be three county-paid court reporters there is now one county-paid court reporter. The county-paid court reporter costs taxpayers less money than the contract reporters, who just happen to be superior court judge Henry Nelson’s girl friend and the daughter of Tim Knudsen, County Treasurer/Tax Collector.

GOOD NEWS, interim type, for local nurses. The National Labor Relations Board’s regional director has ruled that the nurses at Adventist-owned Ukiah Valley Medical Center have every right to affiliate with the California Nurses Association. The overworked and underpaid backbone of the Adventist’s virtual monopoly over medical care in Mendocino County, Ukiah’s nurses have been struggling to unionize for six months.  The Adventists have fought the nurses every step of the way. The Adventists argue that “Christ’s admonitions that behavior must be directed by individual conscience” exempts them from the temporal claims of labor. The Adventist’s claim that Christ Himself has advised them that the “self-sacrifice required for our healing mission is incompatible with the economically self-serving goals of unions.” Aside from the dubious attribution of anti-union opinions to the widely misunderstood Jewish carpenter whose hostility to usury and other forms of temporal exploitation is well known, the NLRB’s Robert Miller pointed out that the Adventists don’t seem to have any qualms about extracting some $1 billion in annual revenues from their national network of 275 hospitals and health care facilities. The Adventists intend to appeal Miller’s ruling to the national office of the NLRB.

DAN HAUSER is still battling Dan McCorkquodale to become director of Fish and Game. Although Hauser sat for years as the Northcoast’s assemblyman, he has no record whatsoever of environmental accomplishment. McCorkquodale actually did a few things for the creatures and their homes while he was a state senator representing the San Jose area. The Press Democrat naturally prefers Hauser since he stands for absolutely nothing, mirroring exactly the vast emptiness of the Rose City daily. In the PD of Wednesday, December 9th, Mike Geniella misquotes two prominent local environmentalists on the Hauser versus McCorkquodale choice. Geniella has Helen Libeu say, “Hauser’s performance during his long years in office was by no means of any help. I think he was viewed as  carrying water for the timber industry.” Mrs. Libeu told the AVA Thursday that the assessment of Hauser as environmentalist she’d delivered to Geniella was this one: “Anybody who carries water for the timber industry as he did can’t lay any legitimate claim to being a friend of the fisheries.” Geniella also has Point Arena’s Craig Bell down as having worked with both Hauser and McCorkquodale although Bell hasn’t worked with either. And there’s the obligatory quote from Arcata Fats — Tim McKay — on what a swell guy Hauser is. McKay has feasted for years on enviro grants routed to him because of his craven acceptability to environmentally-destructive Democrats like Dan Hauser and Mike Thompson. (McKay’s now so obese he has to walk sideways in and out of his Arcata office.) The self-circumcising remarks of the enviro-boys in Geniella’s piece prompted Mrs. Libeu to speculate aloud that perhaps the much discussed timber gap may be less ominous than what she calls “the apparent testosterone gap.”

THE GAP BOYCOTT, by the way, arises out of the pure self-interest of several Elk residents who were unable to persuade Mendocino Redwood Company to pick up the legal bills Elk had incurred trying to stop logging in the area of the town’s water supply. Mary Pjerrou tried to get MRC’s Northcoast boss, Sandy Dean, to withdraw the Elk timber harvest plans bequeathed MRC by Louisiana-Pacific. Dean said no because the withdrawal of the plans would make MRC liable for the Elk group’s tab with Tom Lippe, the expensive San Francisco environmental attorney. Pjerrou, Anna Marie Stenberg, Norman deVall et al then went on-line with a boycott of The GAP clothing chain because it is owned by the billionaire Fishers of San Francisco, who also now own Mendocino Redwood Company. The boycott was kicked off without the participation of the county’s existing environmental organizations, among whom Pjerrou and Company are considered not fully compos mentis.

BROTHER ROB checks in on the subject of the Northcoast’s overabundance of enviro lunatics and media sluts: “Anna Marie Stenberg and deVall! Please! Naturally she (Stenberg) likes the pieing tactic, though she and her goofball allies don’t have the guts to actually do it. Norman issues his statement and takes off for New Zealand. Typical. His attention span has never been very long. The Garbage Gang does the timber issue! You’re giving the Coast nimbys a lot more space and credit than they’re worth.”

MOI? I merely thought, and think again this week, which makes it two weeks in a row that I’ve thunk thoughts, that the reactions to deVall’s recent remarks about Mendo’s depleted forests and Stenberg’s symbolic pieing of CDF director Richard Wilson, were wildly disproportionate to the dynamic duo’s alleged offenses. deVall did not say he was indifferent to woods and millworkers (he’s not that wacky) and Stenberg’s odd appearance at the CDF confab was commemorated editorially in the Fort Bragg Advocate in language ordinarily applied to assassins and terrorists. As I’ve said many times, and said again last week, corporate timber interests have for years enjoyed a perfect set of enemies on the Northcoast. 

ARE DEVALL, STENBERG, Pjerrou and the rest of the cracked crock pots indifferent to the continued employment of woods workers? Are narcissists, exhibitionists and solipsists ever concerned about the welfare of anyone but themselves?

JAMES ROBICHAUD, a high-living Coast realtor and property manager, has been arrested on grand theft charges. Robichaud is accused of stealing more than $150,000 from 21 absentee Coast landlords and also helping himself to the bed tax revenues from 32 additional visitor rentals. Many people have wondered for years how Robichaud maintained his flash and dash lifestyle of expensive antique cars and Super Bowl tickets while he notoriously stiffed everyone from the maids who cleaned his rentals for him to the owners of the rentals themselves. He’d done business for years as Pacific Resorts and Pacific Resorts Realty of Little River.

AS TO ANOTHER WHY of local public affairs, and contrary to the mealy-mouthed and entirely self-serving platitudes on the subject from supervisors Campbell, Shoemaker and Peterson, the supes shunted their proposed pay raise to a so-called Blue Ribbon Panel simply to avoid the hullabaloo of giving themselves a big raise, which they have the authority to do. By local ordinance, pay raises for supervisors can also be made the responsibility of the County Grand Jury to consider, but given the recent conversion of the GJ from perennial in-house patsy to a serious shouldering of its defined responsibility for examining the functioning county bureaucracies, the supes who engineered the end-round pay raise — Campbell, Shoemaker, Peterson — came up with the Blue Ribbon Panel evasion. Of course the supes wouldn’t dare put the raise for themselves to a vote where it would be sure to fail. 

THE ARGUMENT by elitists that increased pay means a better caliber of supervisor ignores a basic fact of contemporary American life: Millionaires run state and national government. If money translates as quality, what the hell happened? Second, as Mark Scaramella, the lone holdout for no raise on the pay raise panel points out, representative government works a lot better when the representatives make the same kind of money most of their constituents make. In Mendocino County the average employed person makes $19,000 a year with no benefits. The Supes presently get $32,000 with a full load of health benefits for themselves and their families. How hard do they work? How hard is it to go to tax paid conferences in places like Palm Springs? How hard is it to answer a constituents telephone call? Lots of people work a lot harder than elected officials — especially the current crew of elected supes who, as is obvious from the quality of the discussion at their meetings, often are totally unprepared to intelligently, rationally conduct the public’s business. They don’t deserve a nickel more because they’re overpaid now.

SISTER YAZ refuses to become a non-person. Despite KZYX’s blithely cruel and extra-legal attempts to consign the fog-belt rastafarian to the dust bin of boogie land, Yaz has announced she is a candidate for the station’s board of directors. While she gears up for a run at Philo’s public radio mafia, Yazzle is also appearing on stage with Eek A Mouse at a tribute to Martin Luther King, Friday, January 8th, at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma. Then ol’ Dazzle Frazzle stars at an event billed as the wrestlemania of reggae in San Francisco called, “Reggae Superstar Extravaganza.” This thing’s at Maritime Hall, Friday, January 22nd.

AMONG THE MANY handicaps of being born uncool white guys with absolutely zero groovy potential, whole areas of American life are unavailable to the AVA. At least in the 60s uncool white guys could throw on a hippie wig to finagle a furtive, joyless boff out of equivalently fraudulent costumed flower maidens. That was then, now is now. The uniforms of cool are a lot more complex these days. We couldn’t fake it even if we wanted to. The Major, who’s even more uncool than I am, claims he once saw a reggae show on C-Span. “It was a lot of stoned-looking people in dreadlocks shuffling more or less rhythmically to a monotonous beat with lyrics about how they were going to take power. But doesn’t taking power, at a minimum, require a drug-free lucidity, not to mention energy and enterprise?” Yes, son, it does. Which is why gawd made so many of us uncool people who, after the rev, will certainly allow the self-medicating and the willfully delusional to do their own thing in peace. 

ALL ONE NEEDS to do to understand that Willits is a badly run municipality is to veer off the main drag and onto a potholed side street. It’s six miles of unplanned sprawl of a main drag is further confirmation that nobody’s home at the Willits Civic Center. Overlooked in the accumulated scams known as the Northwestern Railroad is that the Willits City Council took $300,000 in public money designated for the town’s haphazard sewage system and “loaned” it to the Northwestern Railroad. As collateral for the loan, Willits got title to Ukiah’s railroad station on East Perkins Street, the only attractive structure on that hideous mile of litter-strewn vacant lots, bunker-like undercapitalized banks and loan shark joints, fast food emporiums, empty warehouses, and hump-a-pump service stations.  The railroad is of course broke and, given its management and the composition of its board of directors, will obviously stay that way for the foreseeable future, promises of state and federal bailouts notwithstanding. (The Northwestern could not get a loan from a private lender, which is why it hasn’t even tried.) As collateral for the $300,000 “loan, now up to $390,000 with a truly usurious rate of interest added on, Willits got title to Ukiah’s old railroad station. The Northwestern quickly made it clear it would never be able to repay the “loan,” from Willits’ city fathers and Willits has now begun foreclosure proceedings on the abandoned train depot whose value is less than the loan’s principal. Willits sewers need repairs, the money for the repairs is gone down the Northwestern rathole. And we will note here that none of the railroad’s promoters nor a single member of the Willits City Council have any of their own money in the rail enterprise, but don’t hesitate to obligate the public for ever-greater sums.

THE FORECLOSURE by Willits on the defunct Ukiah train station throws the Mendocino Transit Authority into a big tiz because they’ve planned a grandiose transportation hub with the old depot as the hub. 

WHAT’S OVERLOOKED in this civic comic opera is that most of the characters involved are pals, ol’ buds from this or that quasi-public or fully public agency. They’ve been around for years, moving from one public job to another. Gordon Logan, Bruce Alfano, Jim Mastin, Bruce Burton, Richard Shoemaker, Bruce Richards and fifty or so other monuments to serenely incompetent rural public management spread throughout the county. Dave Nelson, the Ukiah attorney and prominent big D Democrat, serves these boys as herd bull, scurrying back and forth from the offices of Mike Thompson to get the public money to keep these acronym-spouting gas bags at the levers of local power. Mendocino County has a whole lot of government for the size of its population, and it’s this parasitic apparatus of Clintonoids who milk local institutions for all they  can get out of them. Public benefit is a secondary consideration, when it’s a consideration at all.

THE COUNTY’S Health Department nearly destroyed Willits’ family-owned Super Taco when the department prematurely pinned an outbreak of shigella on the unsanitary personal habits of Super Taco’s employees. It wasn’t the workers. The real cause of the famous diarrheal mini-epidemic turns out to have been contaminated celantro shipped in to Willits and Super Taco by the same outfit whose infectious parsley led to recent shigella infestations in other parts of the country. County Health was quick to blame Super Taco but has been slow to inform the Mendo public that the popular eatery was in fact innocent, having merely prepared food with a vegetable they’d presumed was safe. The Willits shigella outbreak is now memorialized in the state’s public health annals as “Mendocino Strain.”

SODA CREEK PRESS has opened a remaindered book emporium in Ukiah which is running big ads for discounted books and audio tapes in the Ukiah Daily Journal. True book people will, the AVA insists, want to remain loyal to the small book stores of Mendocino County which have served us all so well over the years. Soda Creek and Bargain Book Outlet are enterprises run by millionaire transplants of the politically retro type named Tom and Lucinda Segar who have settled in the hills not far from Boonville. They also operate a business called Mysteries By Mail but might just as well be peddling mass-marketed woozles. They’re to books what Harold Robbins is to literature. Bargain Book Outlet? No Segar!

LARRY BENSKY has been fired by Pacifica. That means Pacifica is down to one intelligent, honest voice — Amy Goodman. 

MEANWHILE, at Mendocino County’s preciously PC pseudo-public radio station,  the “national search for excellence,” has narrowed to two candidates for the KZYX manager’s job. One finalist is a five-foot 120-pound bisexual man from Florida, the other a six-foot 300-pound “ravenously heterosexual” woman from Sacramento. The dilemma KZYX faces is said to be this: The male candidate is fully qualified as to height, weight, commitment to wine, bad art, hours of tedious music, and Terri Gross but is, finally, a white male. Nor is there independent confirmation of Florida Man’s sexual flexibility. (Florida Man promised to send video confirmation of his self-alleged erotic elasticity to Philo, but it never arrived.) The female candidate, a Pacific Islander from landlocked Sacramento, meets the station’s female heft standard which confines her to a wheelchair — Third World handicapped woman — but she’s unyielding in her devotion to her sexuality.

SPEAKING of which, Rusty Norvel enjoyed the unconscious irony in Bill Clinton’s resort to the Rubaiyat last Friday as he ambled out into the Rose Garden to issue another transparently bogus apology for his sordid encounters with Monica in the wake of the announcement that he was headed for impeachment. Clinton said “a friend” had sent him this consoling stanza: “The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, / Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit/ Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, / Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.” Leave it to Clinton to extract the most maudlin, self-pitying stanza in the entire epic, all of it a prolonged hymn to wine, women and song and not at all the lit Clinton should be referring to at this point in his sociopathic presidency.

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