At this time of year — high spring, with the gamboling of tourists — the magical golden coast of Mendocino is at its most agreeable and inviting. And while nattering nabobs natter on about jobs, here in paradise, we're doing something about them: killing them.
• Claude Hooten, the new owner of KMFB — now KUNK — set free ten people who had been there for a total of a couple hundred years. He converted the station to a more conventional sports-and-pop-music outlet, bearing slight resemblance to the distinctive, one-of-a-kind “renegade radio” that listeners and sponsors heard for decades, through several earlier changes of ownership.
• Overlooking sparkling Mendocino Bay, the windows and balcony of the landmark Bayview Café and Restaurant stare blindly out, the eatery locked because the landlady has “other [unspecified] plans for the property.” Ten full-time year-round jobs are gone, too, along with 10 to 15 more seasonal jobs, cooking and serving meals at reasonable prices.
• At the Fort Bragg campus of College of the Redwoods, perennial stepchild of the Eureka-based college, Dean of the college Geisce Ly (pronounced “Jessie Lee”) abruptly, in mid-stream, closed down the ceramics program, including, among others, a staff member of 35-plus years. The students who were learning and plying their craft were left to quit making pottery or find other places to do it. Among those was a severely brain-damaged student, victim of a grave head injury, who found solace and purpose in working with clay, making slow-but-sure progress. There were 15 to 20 serious students locked out and many others more recently enrolled.
• Two ladies whose home and office are in a little house by Mendocino High School, where for more than 30 years they have come out to rescue people with missing keys and broken locks, got word from Wells Fargo Bank that since they were behind on the mortgage, their house would be sold at auction at the County Court in Ukiah. As it stands right now, Mendocino Locksmiths is still in operation. Locksmith Linn Turner is embroiled in trying to keep their house and home, but the prospect of using Obama's promised foreclosure-relief programs have so far evaporated. Wells Fargo, speaking to her from offices in Minnesota, Arizona and California, seem determined to lock the locksmiths out.
Behind Mendocino's visitor-friendly facade, behind its vaunted exceptionalism, which was true for a fine, short while, it is now “business as usual.” If you're out of work, it's worse: the California Employment Development Department, once a big, bustling, energetic shop in Fort Bragg, is now one guy, and FB's unemployment rate is 12.7 %, compared to 8.1% nationally.
Dean Geisce Ly, interviewed several times about his closure of CR's pottery program, refused to say the reason for his actions. He said it was “under investigation” and might rise to the level of police involvement. He did not return calls to say what his investigation revealed or what further consequences there might be. Bob Zvolensky, the longtime instructor, is out. Instructor Marlene Placido is also out. In the academic year just concluded, all the pottery students were out. A new man is slated to teach ceramics, starting in the fall.
Jim Jones, proprietor of the Bayview for 25 years, has his kitchen equipment, tables and chairs in storage. In the quarter-century that people climbed the stairs inside the water tower on Main Street to his eatery, he calculates the rent he paid Bob Raymond at $2 million.
Raymond, who died in 2009, was a major landlord in Mendocino and often the object of complaints about excessive rents. He lived in a large home just south of the Village. His widow, Loisjean, has since moved to Ukiah and remarried.
His tenants complained that he set the rents high and then said they were only “what the traffic will bear,” having set that mark himself. Jones said property manager Matt O'Halloran, working for Mrs. Raymond, assured him she would renew the lease, but shortly after, Fort Bragg attorney Brandt Stickel gave him 45 days to clear out. The rent was paid at the time, Jones said, as was his custom.
When reached for this article, O'Halloran would not discuss the matter. Mrs. Raymond, now Mrs. John Simmons of Ukiah, said she chose not to renew the lease and acted lawfully through her representatives. She said she does not know what might be the next use of the former Bayview property.
KUNK's owner, Claude Hooten, was contacted for a follow-up conversation, after an earlier face-to-face interview. He said that the former broadcasters stole the station's property, including records, tapes, music discs and a microphone. The former KMFB broadcasters say the stuff is their personal property, accumulated over years of working at the station and stored there for frequent use.
Hooten responded to a question about the former workers, who, in separate interviews, contended that while preparing to buy the station he said repeatedly that he enjoyed KMFB's programs and had no immediate plans to change them. He answered as follows: “I never said that in my life, and I'm not going to go through this on the phone with you about the fucking losers who used to work here.” He then hung up.
Claude Hooten is the author of a memoir, “Drunk & Disorderly Again,” about his life as an alcoholic, a sexual predator and a radio personality. It is available at amazon.com for $0.02 (2¢).