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Mendocino County Today: March 22, 2012

R. Kruse

IT TOOK HIS JURY only three hours to find Richard ‘Rick’ Kruse guilt of molesting a 7-year-old-girl he babysat in his home five years ago. The child is now 11. A 40-year-old woman had also come forward to say that Kruse, a long-time resident of Albion, and the founder of an all-female water ski team, had molested her when she was a child. Kruse, 68, was found guilty of one count of “lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14 under force, duress, menace or fear.” He was found not guilty of sexual penetration. He will be sentenced on May 25th and could receive up to ten years. Kruse admitted to touching the girl, now 11, but said he’d merely been examining her for signs of previous abuse. An obvious perv and major menace to female children, the guy got off light.

D. Kruse

MEANWHILE, MRS. DEBBIE KRUSE was arrested last Friday, March 16, on a complaint of witness intimidation. Her bail was set at $25,000, but Mrs. Kruse, who is working as an in-home caregiver, quickly bailed out.

She said Monday night that she was “trying to explain to someone that Rick would never kidnap and kill a pet chicken.” Mrs. Kruse also said her husband's trial was going “swimmingly.”

CAN HENDY WOODS and other Northcoast Parks be saved from the budget axe? Marin Assemblyman Jared Huffman thinks so, based on the unanimous approval of the recently introduced AB-1589, the “California State Parks Stewardship Act,” which was unanimously approved by both Democrats and Republicans of Huffman’s Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee. “Introduced by North Coast Assemblymen Jared Huffman and Wes Chesbro,” wrote Ukiah Daily Journal editor KC Meadows on Tuesday, “the bill would save the parks by providing permanent financial support that would not impact the state general fund. Huffman said after the hearing Tuesday that he was optimistic the bill had a good chance of passing. ‘We absolutely have a chance, that's why I was so encouraged that today we had universal bipartisan support in our first committee hearing," Huffman said. "We need to pass it quickly with an urgency clause. I couldn't have asked for a better start to what is admittedly an ambitious effort but a doable effort.’ Huffman said he hoped the measure will be able to save the state parks before any of them close. Key provisions of the bill include: Encouraging formation of a state compact that guarantees an ongoing level of state funding for operations and maintenance of state parks. Creating a State Park Enterprise Fund to be used for construction and installation of modern revenue and fee collection equipment and technologies to increase park visitation and revenues. Producing a California State Park environmental license plate which individual vehicle owners could purchase and have the fees go towards support of state parks. Providing the option for taxpayers to voluntarily purchase an annual state park access pass when they file their state tax returns. Requiring the Department of Parks and Recreation to be more transparent on how it evaluates and selects specific parks for closure, and places a cap of 25 state park units on the number of park closures allowed from 2012 to 2016 without legislative approval. Huffman said the bill as written could actually increase revenues for the parks. "I think it'll be revenue positive, absolutely," he said, citing not only the new revenue mechanisms but the fact that investments in improving the parks will bring more paying customers to them.”

APPARENTLY, then, as long as the people pay privately for their state parks, even the Assembly’s No-tax Republicans are for it — which may be the best that can be done under the current political regime.

MEADOWS CONTINUES: “Huffman also said he believes that the ‘real costs of park closures are becoming more apparent.’ AB1589 ‘has been months, if not years, in the making,’ Huffman said. He said it includes ideas that the State Parks Foundation and others have developed since the parks have been threatened in the budget. Some 70 state parks are threatened with closure July 1, including Hendy Woods, Jug Handle, Manchester, Russian Gulch, Point Cabrillo Lighthouse and Standish-Hickey in Mendocino County. Ideally, this bill would be passed and signed into law by June 30, the end of the current fiscal year. ‘That would be pretty quick for this place,’ Huffman admitted about the pace of the Legislature. ‘As this bill moves forward, we all also have to make sure that the budget process is moving in a complementary way and not at odds with this.’ Huffman said he did not know yet how Gov. Jerry Brown feels about the bill, but ‘our goal has been to be collaborative and not adversarial on this issue. There's always a bit of tension when there's legislation that tries to redirect something the administration is doing.’ He added, however, that he hoped that if a better solution is found, the governor would be open to it. … ‘Our local economy centers on visitor service and if we lose our only state park, Hendy Woods, every business in our community will be badly affected,’ said Kathy Bailey, chief organizer of the Hendy Woods Community group and AV Chamber of Commerce rep. ‘AB1589 recognizes that closing parks should be the last choice, not the first, when trying to balance the budget. We're very happy that the authors want the State to formulate common sense approaches to management reform and revenue enhancement before taking the drastic step of shuttering a vital component of our community's economy.’ The next step for the bill is a hearing in the Assembly's taxation and revenue committee. Thus far there has been no official report on the bill's financial impact on the budget.”

PURE GOSSIP of the recurrent type: Are local game wardens working under a quota requirement? That they have to make a certain number of stops per shift? Some outdoorsmen suspect as much, and we’ve heard from several of them that they’re pretty sure it’s true. Fish and Game, however and of course, denies they’re operating under any kind of quota system in place.

THE SUPERVISORS AND SEIU said last week in a joint communique promising that their working relationship will be more harmonious than it has been. SEIU represents some 750 Mendocino County employees, which is almost all of them. Budget cut negotiations between SEIU and the County limped along for an acrimonious 18 months before an agreement was reached that workers take a ten percent pay cut. Both sides accused each other of bad faith, and there was a lot of unnecessary posturing by the union, whose paid representatives seemed not only inexperienced but unable to adopt a consistent set of demands. County workers pay tens of thousands of dollars every month in union dues to their SEIU local but, for the most part, are now alienated from both their employer and their union.

FERNDALE HIGH SCHOOL'S football program has been put on probation for next season by NorCal's high school sports honchos. A few of Ferndale's more oafish fans have pelted visiting teams with what the school bureaucrats are describing as “racial epithets,” pronounced by them as “epitaffs” or “epilauts.” McClymonds and Salesian high schools both complained about Ferndale fan behavior which, it seems, boiled down to the behavior of one or two racists inflamed at the sight of black kids playing football. Ferndale's hard-hitting school management is putting together a plan pegged to banning repeat offenders from the hometown fan base.

AMONG THE MOB assembled deep in the bowls of the County Courthouse for jury duty recently was the well-known actor Matthew Broderick. As often happens, everyone waited around for several hours until Judge Behnke finally appeared to tell the throng that both cases had settled, and that they and Ferris Bueller were free to resume their days off.

THE PROSPECTS are slightly less stark

Although the picture is still pretty dark.

To avoid the budget axe

Dems must repudiate any tax

that would properly fund Hendy Woods Park.

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