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HOTTER TEMPERATURES are forecast for the interior this weekend. Coastal areas will have much cooler conditions due to marine air and stratus, but should break into the lower 60s. Monsoonal moisture is forecast to spread north next week, resulting in possible showers and thunderstorms. (NWS)
19 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon (5 patients in ICU).
FRIDAY AT ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING!
Farmers Market: 4-6pm
Live Music: 4:30-6:30pm
No food truck this week, but you are always welcome to bring outside food and picnic on site.
We also offer local pricing on draft pints! Let the Tap Room staff know you are from the Valley and we will give you “Boont pricing.”
JUST IN FROM CONGRESSMAN HUFF AND PUFF ($400,000 for Anderson Valley will buy maybe a third of a small house)
An affordable housing initiative in Anderson Valley is just one local project that may receive federal funding as part of the Community Project Funding process included in the House Appropriations Committee’s Fiscal Year 2022 funding bills, the office of Rep. Jared Huffman (D -San Rafael) announced this week.
“In my role in Congress, it’s an honor to work side-by-side with local governments, community organizations, and non-profits as we strive to improve the lives of people in our district. Folks here on the ground know our communities’ needs best, and the Community Project Funding process allowed them to give recommendations on what the federal budget should prioritize,” Huffman is quoted as saying in a press release.
The release also notes that, “beginning this year, the U.S. House of Representatives allowed members of Congress to recommend specific projects in their communities for direct funding through federal appropriations. The Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations Committee bills include the following projects submitted by Huffman:
Anderson Valley Affordable Housing Initiative, Mendocino County, $400,000: The funding would be used for the Anderson Valley Housing Association (AVHA) and the Anderson Valley Health Center (AVHC), who are partnering to provide affordable housing in Anderson Valley. AVHA and AVHC have a longstanding commitment to the health and wellbeing of the underserved population in the valley including those under 200% of poverty level and seasonal farm workers. There is a significant shortage of affordable housing in this rural valley and AVHA has over 40 individuals on a waiting list for affordable housing.
CAKEBREAD does indeed own the abandoned nursery at the Philo end of Anderson Valley Way. The last story I heard about the enterprise was that an out-of-the-area tweaker dude somehow managed to briefly grab title to what had been a viable business under the savvy management of Sarah Songbird of the Singing Sarahs.
Then, suddenly, the gates were padlocked, and behind the gates lots of plants, fertilizers, and miscellaneous garden supplies were simply left to rot and die. Get on it, Cakes. You're seriously frosting us in your neglect of your property.
THE ANDERSON VALLEY COMMUNITY SERVICES DISTRICT has posted a powerpoint presentation about the proposed Boonville clean water project on their website: http://avcsd.org/docs/PP052521.pdf
FORMER SUPERVISOR JOHN MCCOWEN on the dispute between the Supervisors, the CEO and the Sheriff:
I’ll start with my conclusion and then I’ll give some background.
This is a fight the Board should not be in and can’t win. The Board cannot underfund the Sheriff’s Office budget in a way that hampers his investigative authority as mandated by the State Constitution then turn around and bill him for any overruns. I believe the Board has been set up by the CEO who is angry at the Sheriff and by County Counsel who takes direction from the CEO, not the Board that hired him.
The role of County Counsel is to protect the County from liability not create it. Curtis had a duty to fully advise the Board but failed to do so. The problem is that County Counsel Curtis does not think he works for the Board of Supervisors. Whether motivated by fear, perceived self-interest or any other consideration, Curtis takes his direction primarily from CEO Angelo. Because Angelo is at odds with the Sheriff, Curtis has allowed himself to be used in setting up the Board.
This is a continuation of a pattern of unethical behavior by the CEO and County Counsel Curtis who have created a lose, lose, lose situation. This fight will drive unnecessary expense onto the County; destabilize the working relationships of the County partners; tarnish the reputations of all involved (some more than others) and reinforce the negative opinions people have of County government. This is a self-inflicted injury to the County that could have been avoided if County Counsel was ethical and competent.
Background: Earlier this year Sheriff Kendall stated he would no longer meet with the CEO because he could not rely on what she was telling him. Kendall’s statement crossed the line of no return. The CEO will not tolerate anyone who questions her or who crosses her.
At a budget hearing in June Assistant CEO Darcie Antle included a slide in her presentation citing State law that a department head who went over budget could be held personally liable. I don’t know who put that slide in but it could only have gone in with CEO Angelo’s approval.
Supervisor Williams picked up on that theme during discussion, particularly with the Sheriff’s Office and sought agreement that the Sheriff’s Office would stay within budget. Undersheriff Brewster said he would like to do so but could not knowing the budget was structurally underfunded.
The Sheriff’s Office budget has been structurally underfunded for decades, principally in overtime. The overruns for the Sheriff’s Office (and for other departments that are over budget) are zeroed out at year end using budgeted but unspent funds from other departments. After all the overruns are accounted for the County still has a year end fund balance of several million dollars.
The only thing that has changed is the CEO’s animosity for the Sheriff and the threat that he be held personally liable for any cost overruns, something that I don’t believe has previously been suggested for any department head. That being said, the cited State law section theoretically could be used to bill department heads who go over budget but there are exceptions for court orders, emergencies, or, “as otherwise provided for by law.”
The State Constitution says that nothing shall impede the investigative duty of the Sheriff nor the investigative and prosecutorial duty of the District Attorney. This section, which only applies to the Sheriff and DA, is “otherwise provided for by law” and clearly overrides the threat to bill either the Sheriff or DA for budget overruns if the funds were needed to fulfill their constitutionally mandated duties.
County Counsel Curtis, who created this situation by failing to properly advise the Board, acknowledges that a conflict exists between the Board and the Sheriff. He also acknowledges that the Sheriff is entitled to independent legal representation that the Sheriff has confidence in. Except Curtis wants to hand pick the Sheriff’s attorney. I believe the Sheriff was right to stand his ground on that point. Curtis also estimates the ultimate cost for the Sheriff’s legal representation will be $250,000.
County Counsel routinely hires expensive outside legal counsel to handle County litigation so it will be no surprise if he does so here. One of the ironies involved is that County Counsel routinely goes over budget. Maybe the Board should bill County Counsel for his budget overruns?
AL ERLE: THE MAN TO SEE
by Dick Meister
Picture a slim, beardless ruddy-cheeked Swedish Santa Claus in a slate blue business suit and brightly striped bow tie with the rough, gnarled hands of a catcher. It's Al Erle, the benevolent czar of semi-pro baseball in San Francisco for more than a half-century until his death at 95 in 1978.
Al reigned from behind a counter in the sporting goods department of a popular men's clothing store, Hirsh & Price, on the edge of the largely Italian North Beach neighborhood that had sent the DiMaggios, Joe, Vince and Dom, to the Major Leagues, and Crosetti, Lazzeri, Lodigiani and others.
The pungent leather smell from gloves heaped on tables in a mass of brown and black and yellow leather hung in the air like incense. And there, right at the top of the six steps you climbed to Al's domain , were the bats, rack upon rack of them. Few could resist the temptation to try them out, to circle a bat in a blurred arc under the harsh overhead lights that reflected in the lightly varnished white or brown ash.
Stark white and rich pearl gray uniforms hung like robes aside the bats, crushed against each other on hangars across an entire wall, some with royal blue piping and lettering, some trimmed in crimson, some in navy, some in black. Stacks of matching caps swayed on a nearby table. Glossy white balls and other magical tools of our trade-to-be sat in overflowing glass showcases, waiting to be fondled.
Most of the many semi-pro teams in San Francisco and the city's suburbs bought their uniforms and equipment from Al Erle. He in turn performed the extremely complicated task of putting together the schedules for the hundreds of games the teams played every week, and he was forever arranging dinners and other fund-raising affairs, as well as presiding over the popular San Francisco Old Timers Baseball Association that he co-founded in 1941.
Al perched on a stool in a corner talking quietly with a seemingly endless flow of visitors and customers, his courtly manner, if not his scarred hands, belying his background as a catcher for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League and other teams in the rough-and-tumble of professional baseball early in the 20th century. All the while, he'd be peering intently over his glasses at piles of paper strewn across the top of the showcase in front of him and scribbling notes as he sorted through them.
“Throwing a curve to a hitter like that with two balls on him? No son, I wouldn't do that. You'd be much better off, if you don't mind my saying so, just laying that fine fastball of yours right in there. Yes, I think that might be the best strategy. Lay it right in there. Odds are, with your stuff, he's not going to do much with it.”
Al turns to the manager of a semi-pro team. “I could bring the price down a little if you could see your way clear to buying a dozen...Ah, but wait a minute here. Your club's just starting up, I'm sure we can get the price down a little anyway. But don't tell anybody, now….”
Up steps an eager, much younger customer. “Son,” Al tells him, “you'd be better off with the long-fingered model. That's what a pitcher needs to hide the ball. And look here. It's cheaper than that infielder's model with the short fingers....”
Al turns to the other side of the room.
“My,” he says, “that's a nice swing, You handle the bat like Ping Bodie...Never heard of Ping Bodie? Well, let me tell you…”
The telephone next to Al rings; it's always ringing. “Hold a minute, please, Jim. Al sorts through his papers, meanwhile continuing his discourse on the hitting skills of old-time San Francisco Seal Ping Bodie. “Right, Jim, you'll Healdsburg on Sunday up there and they'll play a return game with you at Big Rec two weeks after that....”
Al knew just about anyone who counted in San Francisco baseball, at every level: Joe Cronin, by then manager of the American League's Boston Red Sox, but also Joe Burton, manager of the Owl Drug Store team in the city.
Al was, as the sportswriters often described him, “a walking encyclopedia of baseball. “They often called him “legendary” as well and rightly so. He could recall the days before the turn of the 20th century when he and others, including even catchers, played barehanded or close to it. He could tell you about the great professional players of those early days but also about many of the professional prospects playing on local semi-pro teams. That heavy hitting left fielder on the Gordon Realty team, for instance, the slick shortstop for Johnnie's Billiards, and so many others who owed so much to Al's help.
It was rare for a professional team to sign a local ballplayer without getting a recommendation from Al Erle, and he was definitely the man to see if you were looking for a team to play on, pro or semi-pro.
“Sure,” he assured by buddy Bob and me, “I can find you something for the summer.”
“For pay?” I dared ask.
Al smiled gently, and rummaged swiftly through his papers. “Sure, for pay.”
Ten bucks a game, plus easy jobs at a lumber mill paying better than three-hundred a month. We were going to get paid for playing ball! We were on the way, surely, to the New York Yankees, first stop Boonville, California the Boonville Loggers of the semi-professional Mendocino County League.
Sure, it didn't quite work out that way, but we had a great time trying to make it happen — the time of a lifetime, thanks to Al Erle, and his lifetime devotion to the greatest game of all.
HOOP HOUSE PERMIT DELAY ADDRESSED,
Deadline Thursday for petition protesting cannabis ordinance 22.18
by Justine Frederiksen
After at least one local cannabis farmer expressed extreme frustration with a delay in the processing of her application for a cannabis hoop house permit to the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors Monday, county officials announced that staff will begin clearing the backlog of permits.
Cannabis grower Monique Ramirez told the board during its July 19 virtual meeting that her application for a hoop house permit had been “sitting for three-and-a-half weeks” waiting to be assigned to a reviewer, and when she called the Environmental Health Department for an update, “they stated to me that they were directed … to not issue any more building permits that were related to cannabis until the new ordinance was finalized.
“And I am freaked out about that, because honestly, that is a bunch of crap,” Ramirez continued, pointing out that a pending ballot referendum to repeal the ordinance may delay permits indefinitely. “I am so sick and tired of this program and its negligence and incompetence. I am tired of being polite. There is going to be a lawsuit now because farmers are fed up! I’m fed up. Our government is lacking in leadership, in the biggest way possible.”
“Is it possible to hear from Environmental Health today about how we can resolve this?” asked 5th District Mendocino County Supervisor Ted Williams, to which staff responded that they were implementing a process to do just that.
In a press release issued late Monday afternoon, county officials wrote that “Mendocino County Environmental Health has received 200-plus hoop house Building Permit applications from 36 sites within Mendocino County. These reviews were postponed while clarifying Mendocino County Cannabis Program policies and County Code with County Counsel and Planning & Building Services. County Counsel has determined that the review and issuance of these applications should not be delayed, and Environmental Health has commenced reviewing these permits. It is anticipated that these application reviews will be completed by the end of the week.”
Also Monday, Mendocino County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder Katrina Bartolomie announced that “the ordinance adopting Chapter 22.18 of the Mendocino County Code … will take effect on July 23, 2021 at 12:01 am. Consequently, referendum petitions must be turned in to the Elections office located at 501 Low Gap Road, Room 1020, Ukiah during business hours no later than 5 p.m. on July 22, 2021. All signatures for each petition must be filed at one time. No appointment is necessary to bring the petitions in.”
At least one group announced this week that they were counting signatures on a petition and planned to deliver it to the county clerk either Tuesday or Wednesday.
(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
* * *
IF FRANZ KAFKA APPLIED FOR A HOOP HOUSE PERMIT — Monique Ramirez’s full statement.
Public Expression, Board of Supervisors Meeting, Monday, July 19, 2021.
Monique Ramirez of Covelo, Charter Applicant for a Mendocino County permit under Phase 1 back in 2018.
I am speaking on behalf of myself. Last week I was looking at the status of my permit application online for a hoop house for my immature plants. I realized that the County had put it under Environmental Health for the fourth review which makes five reviews total. But it had not been assigned to a reviewer. It has been three and a half weeks that it was sitting in that status. So I contacted the County last week and I spoke to someone in Environmental Health who stated to me that they were directed by someone above them that they would not be issuing any more building permits that were related to cannabis until the new ordinance was finalized. I freaked out about that. Because that is honestly a bunch of crap! I am so sick and tired of this program and its negligence and incompetence. This should be managed properly. I am SO over it. I did a public records request asking to find out the email that the staff stated was given to them for this direction. I got a response very quickly from Adrian Thompson of Planning and Building stating that there was no hold up with building permits but that I should speak to Environmental Health. Which is a clue that they did know about this issue. If somebody is in 20.17 like myself [Mendocino County Code Section 20.17 covers Phase 1 of the cannabis permit program] and I am just actually improving my immature plants buy creating a hoop house for them. I am not looking to go into 22.18 [Phase 3 of the cannabis permit program which is set to take effect soon and is the subject of two official referendum campaigns]. We know that the referendums might be moving forward and putting this on the ballot for the voters. So — what? We are just going to hold everyone up during this process? We are running out of time! I am tired of being patient! I am tired of being polite! I am tired of reading poetry! Singing songs! I have tried in every single way to get your attention! It's over! There is going to be a lawsuit now. Because farmers are FED UP! We are SO FED UP! I am fed up! I am fed up in my advocacy efforts, fed up as a personal cultivator in this program. I'm tired of the rhetoric saying that we are not going to make it. No! Mendocino County isn't going to make it! Because our government is lacking in leadership! In the biggest way possible! No fault of your own for many of you. I applaud you for even stepping into that role. Having leadership skills is not easy. I applaud you for trying. But you have to do better! I appreciate Supervisor Haschak for trying to get to the bottom of this quickly. Thank you for bringing this forward during the beginning of this meeting. I know there is more to be discussed. I would greatly appreciate it if this would be agendized so we could dive deeper and find out why there are always these blockages. It's not right! It's a ministerial process. Nothing in the ordinance should be inhibiting people from getting their hoophouse permit. Ordinance number 22.18 is completely separate. It's a different permit. Thank you.
* * *
POT GOALPOSTS MOVED AGAIN
Dear Cannabis Ad Hoc,
Without any notice or announcement, the MCP [Mendocino Cannabis Program] updated its Site Plan Requirements on a new document dated 7/10/21, though I suspect it was not posted until sometime between 7/15 and 7/20/21. That new document was not available online on 7/10/21. I downloaded the most recent Site Plan Requirements on 7/12/21 and it was the revision from 1/13/21. I had been in the habit of checking the site frequently for updates, especially for the Site Plan Requirements, but none had been made or posted. I stopped checking because I assumed that if it was not done by the time the Portal List (who would need to resubmit) was posted, it would not be updated, especially without adequate time in advance of the submission opening date. The portal list was posted on 7/15, I think. The document (Site Plan Requirements) is not listed in the forms portion of the website but is buried (as it has always been) in the RENEWAL section of the site. There is no reference in the Portal Info page to the updated information and requirements for the Site Plan.
I currently have many clients who spent money on professional drafters to create Site Plans based on the Site Plan requirements that have been posted for some time. I also have clients who have been waiting in cue for a month for professional assistance that is scarcely available. The failure to provide the applicants and the public with the resources they need to be successful in a timely manner, together with the rigid timeframe for the portal availability gives the impression that the county does not want applicants to have a fair opportunity to succeed. I know that is not the case. However, the lack of information in sufficient time to meet the expectations successfully, the failure of the county to even review complete submissions form prior 30-day action letters and instead require complete resubmission, combined with the recent EH debacle, all add to that perception.
By the way, the example provided in the “updated” site plan requirements still does not meet its own listed requirements. That was a failing of the prior iterations of the site plan requirements that the Program Manager identified and said that if the site plan requirements were going to be updated (and she stated that due to the workload, she was not sure if there would be time to), the sample would in fact follow the listed requirements. It does not.
If these new requirements are going to be enforced, there MUST be additional time given for the portal. If they are not going to be enforced, what is the point of posting new requirements (without any notice of it) at the last minute? Which standard will be applied and how will it be evenly be applied? By the way, someone on social media pointed out that the new SSH Questionnaire is incorrect as well. It accidentally listed one item twice instead of two separate items that might be required to be attached. Of course, mistakes happen. But when there are such rigid and punitive standards for applicants, especially in terms of limited time to correct a mistake before the portal closes, and where instructions and information regarding NEW standards and processes is not released until the last minute, it is a double standard that is untenable.
I am writing to you directly because my attempts at getting answers and explanations and my requests for meetings with the MCP does not work. For example, several days before the portal list was published, I happened to call the MCP and specifically ask if we could have a timeframe of when they thought they might be publishing it (I got tired of refreshing my computer to the website multiple times per day). I was told that I would get a return call. I did not. The list was published at some time later and someone who found out on social media (because they had continued to refresh their computer) let others know. I wrote MCP to ask what criteria was being used to distinguish between those that were required to have portal resubmission versus those that were in good standing when they had each submitted complete submissions within this year in response to the 30-day action letter in a timely manner. I was called and told that information was not available, that they could not tell me what criteria, and that it should just be “easy” for people to resubmit if they in fact just resubmitted everything anyway. It was not until I probed further that I found out that there were many 30-day action letter responses that were NEVER REVIEWED by staff! I am not talking about long ago program difficulties; I am talking about this year (and a lot at the end of last year as well). I did have an enormously helpful conversation with one staff member regarding Appendix G. It would be great if information sessions for Appendix G could be scheduled like the portal submission ones are scheduled. I have numerous CEQA consultants who state they cannot get answers to their questions.
I hope that my writing about these issues does not result in retaliatory action (or inaction as is sometimes the case) that I have experienced. I am truly trying to help people get thought he processes. I fully appreciate and understand the challenges of the MCP and its staff and I want them and it to be successful in addition to helping applicants be successful. I know that the staff members that are in MCP are working hard to get everything straightened out. I am only complaining about the failure to give timely and correct requirements information and still hold applicants to standards that the program itself is not able to meet, but with much greater consequences for the applicants. Everyone makes mistakes. Time is needed for people to submit under a new system properly and successfully with new requirements if those new requirements are the standard against which their applications are being judged against.
Thank you for your consideration.
Hannah L. Nelson Attorney At Law
* * *
SUBJECT: MENDOCINO GOVERNMENT SENDS "COURTESY" LETTER THREATENING LIVELIHOOD OF LOCAL FARMER
TO: Mendocino County Board of Supervisors
FROM: Russell Green, CEO, Kure Wellness, Inc.
July 21, 2021
I am writing you out of great frustration and dismay regarding what I can only characterize as our local government's discrimination against and mistreatment of my businesses. More globally, I am also acting as a voice for members of Mendocino County's legal cannabis industry.
My name is Russell Green. I am the founder, CEO and single shareholder of Kure Wellness, Inc. I grew up in Willits, lived here my entire life and raise two children in my hometown.
My Mendocino County roots are deep. My grandfather, Richard Gravier owned and operated the Chevron Station in Laytonville for 33 years. My maternal great-grandfather Chet Merrill owned Merrill's Variety and created the Red Buck Lodge in Laytonville back in the 40's. My other maternal great-grandfather, Mervin Gravier was the co-owner of Gravier Brothers Mercantile in Covelo, and my paternal great-grandfather Cummins was one of the lead engineers who designed the Cedar Creek double-arched bridge in Leggett. I owe a profound debt of gratitude to my ancestors, who paved the way for the entrepreneurial accomplishments I enjoy today.
I was the fortunate recipient of the first Cannabis Facilities Business License in Mendocino County. I hold the distinction of being the only "Mendocino County son" who owns and operates dispensaries in our region. In just five years, I have expanded my retail footprint from one to three licensed dispensaries and additional cultivation sites, all located on this land I love working for and serving the community I love even more.
I am requesting an email sent to me on July 13th by the Cannabis Division be rescinded. I am requesting a joint meeting with the Building and Planning Department and the Cannabis Division to resolve questions regarding my cultivation site's license renewal application. I request an acceptable path forward on the month-to-month temporary approval status of my drive-through dispensary window, with consideration of my attorney's opinion that planning can approve it if they would like. And finally, I ask you to mandate that the above agencies adopt a timelier, more customer-focused public communications policy, and that threats to revoke or actual revocations of cannabis licenses be strictly limited to criminal, non-responsive, or grossly non-compliant applicants.
Like my colleagues, the majority of my time is spent attempting to comply with local and state regulations. My efforts often become more complex, in part because of a years-long pattern of untimely and sometimes incomplete responses by county staff.
Despite clearly documented efforts to communicate with licensing agencies, I recently received a threat of license revocation for my permitted greenhouse operation - replete with arbitrary deadlines and "threats" – that I am in danger of losing my license.
The particular property in question is not some stereotypical, treeless "grow site." It is our family homestead - originally my father's property, sold to me. As this is my children's legacy, I care greatly about development and doing it properly. Application renewal submittals were emailed on November 18, 2020. They were not responded to until mid-April of this year.
On Thursday, June 10, 2021, I emailed the B and P Department for parcel number clarification I needed to complete the property's cultivation renewal package. We specifically asked the department to respond in the modality easiest for them - email, appointment or phone. Perhaps my mistake was assuming I would receive a timely response - or any response whatsoever. Instead, I received a letter from the Cannabis Division on July 13th, stating my cultivation permit had expired, and that "failure to renew your permit in the 30 days provided will result in your permit being ineligible for renewal."
We re-forwarded my original email to the Planning Department - informing them we had now received an expiration notification from the Cannabis Division. For the sake of transparency, I cc'd both emails to the Cannabis Division. I received a terse and infuriating response from them - with no one acting as signatory, stating, "This is not a matter that the Cannabis Program can assist you with. I have blind copied the planner that issued the Kure Wellness cannabis permit."
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Vandy Vandewater from B and P responded to our original request for information. I am aghast that despite my years of full cooperation with the county, I did not receive a shred of acknowledgement from the Cannabis Division that a communication failure originating just a few doors away from their office resulted in my missing this arbitrary deadline.
I utilize "temporary shade cloth structures" at my cultivation site. Despite extensive research, I am still unsure they require permits. These structures are "old technology" and have deprecated as the path toward auto-dep greenhouses has become clearer. I have had numerous questions requiring responses from the county before I could confidently move forward with permanent building placement - the definition of "contiguous," questions regarding grading the property or cutting down trees. I haven't yet funded permanent greenhouses because in part, I feared the county would revoke licenses or change rules - and that's exactly what's happened, despite the fact that this currently zoned RR-5 parcel has a lengthy, unambiguous history as an Ag property and was once zoned as such. Would any businessperson in any industry pour concrete for permanent structures without knowing if their parcel was about to get stricken from a "table?"
Years ago, our family ran a large-scale ostrich livestock operation on the parcel, where we raised, slaughtered and sold ostrich meat, eggs and hides - replete with clean rooms and incubators. The prior owner of our land, Ms. Bertha Cook operated a commercial flower farm on the site - complete with greenhouses. This property has an LSAA, on-stream pond storage permission, SIUR and pre-1914 water rights. If there ever was a bona-fide Ag property, I can't imagine one more perfectly suited to grow hay, flowers or legal cannabis. Yet come permit time, I continue to be treated as someone who is trying to thwart the system or am simply ignored.
How did we get to this impasse? The Black Tail Deer lawsuit. The sudden "retirement" of Ag Commissioner Diane Curry. Vacancies left by former Supervisors Hamburg and Woodhouse - resulting in empty Third and Fifth District seats during key policy votes. Big money lobbying from the shadows. What other challenges do we live with?
- Continued fallout from recovery from several of the largest fires in the history of California and the ongoing threat of PSPS and evacuations - both of which may result in total crop loss in the space of 24 hours.
- Continuing to work through the pandemic with minimal support from regulatory agencies.
- No "right to farm" clause. In this case, there is a preponderance of documentation demonstrating my cultivation site has been used for commercial agricultural enterprises for a minimum of 70 years.
- A shortage of architects due to post-fire rebuilds, thereby slowing the completion of cannabis projects.
- No access to banking.
- The closing of employee accounts merely for being employed by a cannabis business.
- No way to remit taxes except cash
- Temporary permits (embossed receipts, really?)
The cannabis permitting and licensing process is a daunting, expensive enterprise that continues to hamstring an industry that worked thanklessly through the pandemic - continuing to feed county coffers while employing hundreds of folks and providing recreational and medicinal products to tens of thousands of people - many who travel significant distances to shop at Mendocino County dispensaries.
My travails are shared by scores of taxpaying businesspeople. Despite reams of evidence pointing to the safety and economic benefits of legalization, the growing and selling of cannabis continues to be the most improperly, wrongly regulated and overtaxed industry in American business history.
At a 2018 gaveled-in California State Cannabis Hearing, Mendocino County's former Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar stated, "If the overall goal of this program was to create a regulatory scheme to favor corporate, big-dollar industry, we've succeeded. If the goal was to create a regulatory pathway for existing cultivators to become legal, I think we've failed." Mr. Linegar - an unrivalled expert on Ag regulations, water, ranching, forestry and viticulture called out CEQA and other environmental regulations as "over the top," and declared, "Any other Ag industry would be run out of business," if they were required to comply with current cannabis regulations. He saw no compelling reason to regulate cannabis differently than other crops, while characterizing the regulatory and taxation burden that cannabis farmers carry as "exponentially disproportionate" in comparison to other parts of the agriculture community.
Did lawmakers heed Mr. Linegar's admonishments? It appears his cautionary statements had no impact whatsoever on our policies.
We continue to be taxed into oblivion.
Local cannabis taxes are paid atop state excise taxes. Is this not double-taxation? During the pandemic, Mendocino County operated in lockstep with the state, casting doubt on the local governments sovereignty from state government - possibly nullifying the argument that, "It's not double-taxation because we are separate governments." Which is a bad justification given to me by county staff anyway.
Kure drops approximately $80,000 in taxes per year into the county's revenue stream. Between myself and my family, we pay another $100,000 annually in property taxes. We are the lucky ones, because we have sufficient assets to provide for our employees, grow our businesses and support our children. What of the small farmers, hanging on by a broken thread - hoping against hope that per-pound prices will miraculously increase, or that the mind-numbing miasma of regulations will somehow work to their advantage?
When Mendocino County grants what are essentially vested property rights, and then, as in my case - denies that said property exists, I become a victim of taxation without representation. Please explain how the cannabis industry is represented when law-abiding businesses are subject to:
- A seemingly endless parade of cannabis departmental shifts (from Sheriff to Ag to B and P to the current cannabis program), with no continuity provided during departmental transitions.
- Astronomical levels of staff turnover.
- Documented promises and assurances provided by county staff regarding the approval of my drive-through window that were later reneged upon.
- The shuttering of public access to government buildings, with lack of access further compounded by non-response when phone or in-person appointments are requested.
- County staff not responding to urgent emails, while simultaneously decreeing strict adherence to deadlines.
- Departmental buck-passing (i.e., three separate departments "blaming" each other for lack of communication or lack of knowledge - ostensibly to skirt accountability)
- Lost documents which were duly submitted to the county.
- A less-than-scientific focus on drought-driven cannabis water restrictions (read the findings of UC Davis researchers on how little water is really used by legal cannabis farms) with limited or non-equivalent restrictions required of other agricultural enterprises.
- A newly minted Code Enforcement division which thus far seems focused more on mitigating low-hanging dozens or hundred-or-so plants, as opposed to eradicating environmentally disastrous, patently illegal multi-thousand-plant mega-grows in remote localities.
Everyone deserves equal protection under the law. No single industry should be subject to discrimination or abuse. Embossed receipt holders awaiting the launch of the cannabis portal received a 90-day grace period to file paperwork. The fact that I already have a permit apparently means nothing. I am provided only 30 days to comply, despite months of non-communication from your side of the net. This seems like an arbitrary edict designed to harass, not to assist.
What other industries require their own county department? Is there a Winery Department? A Tire Shop Department? The fact that a "Cannabis Division" exists is direct evidence that this industry is being singled out and treated exceptionally and unequally under the law. Wine and beer are psychoactive, lucrative county industries. The entire acreage of legally cultivated cannabis could tuck into a couple of vineyards between Ukiah and Hopland. As Mr. Linegar opined, could the wine industry survive under cannabis regulations? It's doubtful.
More voters and legislators continue to voice their desire to end Prohibition, locally and nationally. Instead of being at the vanguard of clean, craft cannabis, celebrating our heritage and the culture that surrounds it, Mendocino County cannabis licensees live in "Prohibition 2.0."
Cannabis is our livelihood - expressed through the will of the voters and sanctioned by the passage of state and local laws. Once livelihoods are codified, citizens rely upon that industry's continued existence. We have only to look to history to see the consequences of threatened livelihoods.
The amount of psychological distress and PTSD in our industry is no joke. Like Sheriff Allman recently stated, mental health - not cannabis - is our county's biggest challenge. Cannabis entrepreneurs and their loved ones are being disproportionately affected and destroyed, not just financially, but emotionally - in part because for years, we have been forced to live and work within a topsy-turvy regulatory nightmare. Does anyone wonder why more farmers aren't joining the program?
Imagine if Mendocino County had found farm subsidy funding for cannabis industry fire victims, or if aggressive county pressure helped to secure local banking. In my case, imagine if the county offered unambiguous support for our drive-through window at our flagship store, instead of contradictory pushback. Many of our drive-through customers are disabled. Some are seniors. Some wish to socially distance or don't want to leave their pet in a hot car. We have a minimum of 5 drive-through businesses within 5 miles of my dispensary, including a bank and a pharmacy. Please provide one cogent reason why a drive-through cannabis window - staffed by professional dispensary operators, located on property that has historical "in-and-out" traffic patterns can possibly pose a community detriment.
What is the status of the $18 million in "Newsom cannabis funding" the county is slated to receive to help push provisional licenses to the finish line? Where are we in this process? Why has there been no communication to licensees?
I implore each of you to step back and consider the futures of those you took a sworn oath to serve. If "courtesy" letters threatening my livelihood are routinely sent to cooperative, compliant businesspeople like myself, the system is broken. This is not about regulations. No amount of regulation will replace the basic tenets of good management: an expectation of courtesy towards the public, timely communications response and the decency of putting a human face or a name to any and all correspondence. When cannabis is removed from the Federal Controlled Substance list, it will likely be illegal to harass taxpaying citizens in this fashion. More to the point, it's just not right, and I can no longer be silent.
- Please instruct the Cannabis Department to rescind the 30-day cancellation letter and instruct them to renegotiate a reasonable cancellation date after the following:
- I request a face-to-face or other appropriate meeting with both the B and P and Cannabis Division to discuss any lingering questions regarding the submittal of my renewal application for cultivation site AG_2017-0272.
- Please bring resolution to the current "month-to-month" status of Kure's drive-through location at Lake Mendocino Drive. We have committed in writing to any and all improvements or modifications recommended by the Building and Planning Department.
- Require that both departments commit to a 72-hour maximum response to emails and phone calls - a response which includes a staffer's name and direct contact information, an inclusion of dates and times that staffer is available for appointments, and the creation of a few "emergency" time slots weekly - specifically allotted for those who are in danger of license suspension or cancellation.
- Please only resort to the use of threatening language or actual revocation of cannabis licenses as a method of last resort - to be utilized in extreme situations such as gross environmental destruction, commission of serious crimes or a licensee's documented lack of response to the Cannabis Division.
Thank you very much for listening. I appreciate the time taken to address these issues and hope that we can come to an outcome that will positively benefit everyone in our community.
Russell Green, CEO, Kure Wellness Inc.
MENDO GRAND JURY: Mendo incapable of processing housing permits.
The Mendocino County Grand Jury has released a report on housing needs.
“Due to the critical lack of affordable and available housing, the Grand Jury (GJ) began investigating what was currently being done to improve the availability of housing in Mendocino County. Planning and Building Services (PBS) functions are currently limited to permitting the development of housing and ensuring that projects meet regulatory standards. PBS is not active in seeking modifications to State standards to meet the local housing needs and have experienced difficulty completing permit applications in a timely manner. All PBS functions are passive without specific direction from the Board of Supervisors (BOS).
The Mendocino County Community Development Commission (CDC) and Rural Community Housing Development Corporation (RCHDC) have been primary sources of developing new housing to address local needs. Of the cities, Ukiah has developed a creative way to adapt to the demand for new housing developments through a trust fund, supported by leasing city-owned property for market-rate construction.
It appears that the County will not meet the State assigned number of new units without local action to remove obstructions to development, increase Agency collaboration and find funds to develop new infrastructure. The GJ believes that PBS should be directed to increase its capacity to serve these functions”.
F1. The areas around cities have the best developed sewer and water systems for new housing in Mendocino County. Rural areas of the County do not have adequate public infrastructure and amenities to meet HCD projections.
F2. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, PBS has developed more efficient digital options for routine matters which has created a more streamlined process to free PBS to pursue new opportunities for solving departmental issues and verifying State regulations and statistics.
F3. MCOG is designated by the State of California Department of Housing and Community Development to coordinate the housing need allocation process for Mendocino County. By default, this has become the regional planning agency.
F4. Lack of housing forces the price of existing housing to be unaffordable for working families as well as preventing new potential employees to choose to work in Mendocino County.
F5. The Median income of county residents and the higher cost of goods and services does not keep pace with the cost of new single-family homes, which discourages contractors from building here when they can profit from building in other areas.
F6. The current shortage of affordable housing will continue without Mendocino County hiring qualified housing and community development planners. Such assets would assist in locating funding sources for infrastructure improvements, attracting appropriate developers, and informing the BOS what effect proposed regulations may have on the development of new housing.
F7. There is no formal or consistent communication between PBS and its counterparts in the cities of Fort Bragg, Point Arena, Ukiah and Willits which is indicative of the lack of planning on a regional basis in this County.
F8. The prohibitive cost of new construction and limited income of most area residents makes new market-rate projects risky for builders.
F9. The activation of a Mendocino County Building Trust Fund (In-Lieu fund) would give Mendocino County leverage in encouraging proactive development to meet the county’s needs for infrastructure and housing projects.
F10. Federal and State funding is targeted to urban areas and the BOS does not direct PBS to actively seek mitigations on these restrictions to acquire funding for housing projects when State & Federal funds become available.
F11. As a result of restrictions on the use of local budget monies, Mendocino County’s Native American Tribes may only be invited to the table when discretionary funds for housing are available through Federal sources.
The recommendations and the entire report are attached, and will be posted to the Grand Jury’s website: https://www.mendocinocounty.org/government/grand-jury/2020-2021-reports
2020-21 Mendocino County Grand Jury
THE HUMBOLDT COUNTY SUPERVISORS voted unanimously last week to nominate a redistricting committee to analyze and recommend HumCo’s 2020 supervisorial district boundaries. They did it in spite of their own staff’s recommendation that time was tight. According to a report on LostCoastOutpost.com by ace reporter Ryan Burns, the Humco appointees will “undergo training in September and then host a series of community outreach meetings to be held across the county in October. There will be five public hearings before the board adopts a final map in December.”
THAT’S FUNNY, Mendo was told by the CEO and staff that there wasn’t enough time to do what Humboldt County is doing. Not only that, but our supes could jump start the process by reviewing the 2010 recommendations which are still quite good with only minor population adjustments. The law says that districts must be similar in population plus or minus 10%. But in 2010 the Redistricting Committee was told that they had to be within plus or minus 3% to avoid a lawsuit. But nobody ever sues and that advice is simply bad. The Fifth District is way too big geographically and should be adjusted down to the legal minimum. It’s nuts to include parts of the Willits zip code in the Fifth District just because some lawyer says somebody might sue (and lose, of course, but just the remote chance of a lawsuit and everyone gets the shakes.)
WE KNOW the Mendo Board won’t consider this, of course. But it’s just another indicator of the prevailing Mendo incompetence, helped along by bad advice from the CEO, County Counsel and other staff.
FORMER SUPERVISOR John Pinches told us recently that if the County was serious about doing something about water problems, they could run a smallish pipe along the Skunk Train right-of-way from Willits, which has some spare water, up to the ridgeline where it could then gravity flow down into Fort Bragg’s distribution system. Pinches noted that since it’s just water, there’s no need to bury it, no need to do an EIR. And in all likelihood it would probably be funded by state drought money. Pinches said he suggested just such a thing to current Supervisor John Haschak who called Pinches recently for advice.
BUT we have not heard anything from Haschak about this creative idea. Nor are we likely to. Mendo is incapable of even considering any practical ideas to deal with the water shortage besides holding gab-sessions, hiring staff and wondering about speculative grant applications that won’t arrive in time or at all.
SAN JOSE GANGA BANGAS
On Sunday, July 4, 2021 at about 8:20 PM, Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies and medical personnel were dispatched to the Cal-Fire Covelo Substation for a reported victim of a gunshot wound who was dropped off at the location.
The 28 year-old male victim initially reported being shot by a family member following a reported physical altercation along the roadway near the intersection of Highway 162 and Mendocino Pass Road north of Covelo.
Prior to Sheriff's Deputies arrival, the adult male was flown to an out of county hospital for treatment.
Based on the unclear nature of the location of the assault, Sheriff's Detectives and an investigator from the Investigative Services Unit of the California Highway Patrol-Northern Division responded to interview the adult male working jointly to determine the circumstances that led up to and following the shooting.
Further investigation revealed the suspect in the shooting was identified as being Angel Reyes-Guzman of San Jose and Modesto.
An arrest warrant for Reyes-Guzman was sought and issued by a Mendocino County Superior Court Judge.
On Thursday, July 15, 2021 working with the Stanislaus County Special Investigative Unit who were attempting to locate Reyes-Guzman, investigators located him in the 300 block of Primo Way in Modesto.
Reyes-Guzman was arrested without incident and booked into the Stanislaus County Jail for the outstanding arrest warrant and an open charge of possession of an assault weapon.
Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Detectives responded to Stanislaus County to continue the investigation.
On 07-19-2021, Sheriff's Detectives served a search warrant in the 29000 block of Barnes Lane (Covelo) for the purpose of locating evidence related to this reported shooting.
Additionally, it was learned the location was a large non-permitted and illegal marijuana growing operation encompassing two adjoined parcels.
Sheriff's Detectives were assisted by the Mendocino County Major Crimes Task Force (MMCTF), the County of Mendocino Marijuana Enforcement Team (COMMET), CHP Officers from the Garberville and Ukiah area offices, and a CHP helicopter and Special Investigator assigned to CHP Northern Division-Redding.
Upon arrival at about 9:00 AM, at least twenty (20) people were observed on the property believed to be actively participating in some form of marijuana cultivation or marijuana processing.
At least thirteen (13) unidentified individuals ran from the property and were not identified.
Eight (8) individuals were detained and questioned at the illegal marijuana growing location.
Seven (7) of the detained persons were identified as being from either Santa Rosa, Fresno, Paso Robles, or Shandon, all being locations in California. All seven (7) people were offered work in the illegal marijuana grow and had arrived within the previous two weeks.
On the two properties, two large livestock barns were converted to marijuana drying and processing areas along with makeshift living quarters. There were twenty-eight (28) plastic style greenhouses, most of which contained active growing marijuana plants.
At the conclusion of the search warrant, there were 13,732 marijuana plants that were seized/destroyed along with approximately 8,865 pounds of processed marijuana bud, marijuana shake and drying marijuana stalks.
At this time, Reyes-Guzman remains in the Stanislaus County Jail awaiting transport to Mendocino County for the charges of attempted murder and the personal use of a firearm causing great bodily injury and is being held in lieu of $650,000 bail.
The large illegal marijuana operation remains under investigation and at the conclusion of the investigation will be forwarded to the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office for review of additional charges and/or potential prosecution.
Special thanks to our allied agency partners at the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Office, Stanislaus County Special Investigations Unit, San Jose PD Homicide Unit and the CHP Northern Division-Redding Investigative Services Unit for their assistance in this joint investigative endeavor.
CHECK ME if I'm feeling things, but every year in the last weeks of July I can feel a slight earthly tilt in the direction of early fall. The dawn mornings are crisper, colder, the afternoons warmer. It was 46 this morning when I set out on my two-mile aerobic lurch, the chill reminding me it was time for a second layer.
IF YOU NEED metaphors for the present functioning of Mendocino County, go ahead and use the Supervisor's totally unfounded beef with the Sheriff and, closer to home, Indian Creek Park remaining closed in the middle of summer. Starting trouble where none should exist with the elected Sheriff and an inability to accomplish something as simple as finding a live-in caretaker for the park.
WATCHING the KGO television news the other night, there was a long interlude of four chuckle buddies laughingly swapping non sequiturs when I thought they just might go off into pure hysteria, falling on each other in a mass of screams and eyeball gouging.
AS A SENIOR CITIZEN way short of the civic deportment merit badges required for full citizen clearance, I read these journalo-blips that say things like, “Difficulty hearing in crowded rooms may be a sign of early senility.” I can't hear much with one other person in the room, but what am I supposed to do? Run to the doctor? Couple of years ago, a doctor asked me to count backwards from ten to make sure I've got all my marbles. “Well,” he said, “you're not senile.”
DICK MEISTER'S profile of Al Erle took me back, wayyyy back, when Al Erle was the most important guy in NorCal among semi-pro baseball players because he told us every Sunday morning in the SF Examiner where and who we'd be playing. He had the amazing ability to schedule teams according to overall ability, meaning, say, that the Bill Irwin American Legion team out of Oakland wouldn't be playing Ayoob Brothers Plumbing out of San Francisco. The Oakland team was national champs several years running with successive teams of teenagers who went on to play in the major leagues, guys like Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Curt Flood, Jesse Gondor, Ernie Broligio. Ayoob Plumbing fielded the Ayoob family and friends. Erle would know to schedule the Ayoob bros to play Mokenbuhler Jewelers, a team featuring the Mokenbuhler bros. Erle sent the best teams out of the Bay Area to play the Fort Bragg Loggers, a semi-pro powerhouse for many years through the late 1940s and 1950s, when semi-pro baseball was the primary Sunday entertainment for many people all over NorCal, when communities were still communities. I wonder if the mostly black Bill Irwin teams ever played in Fort Bragg. Any old timers out there who might know?
ON LINE WATER COMMENT
Well, legal or illegal grows, the fact is the Round Valley aquifer is rapidly being sucked dry. Water trucks are delivering to both legal and illegal grows to the detriment of local wells. Residents in Covelo area are watching their wells run dry. It seems to me if a legal grow is permitted then it ought to prove sustainability with on-sight water. No importing of valley water, period. When a 400 foot valley well has run dry its a no brainer something must be done. Expansion of legal cannabis grows during a massive 10 year drought is the height of Mendocino County stupidity. And the fact is that most legal residents do not want any further expansion of the legal grows. If the valley aquifer is not allowed to replenish, this area will likely see the valley floor subside. Not only are the great oaks deprived of needed moisture, but the aquifer too will never recover once it sinks.
PLANNING CANCELED AGAIN
Cancellation of the August 5, 2021 PC Meeting
The Planning Commission meeting cancellation notice for August 5, 2021, is posted on the department website at: mendocinocounty.org/government/planning-building-services/meeting-agendas/planning-commission
Please contact staff with any questions.
Commission Services Supervisor
Mendocino County Planning & Building Services
860 North Bush Street, Ukiah CA 95482
My Direct Line: (707) 234-6664
Main Line: (707) 234-6650
Fax: (707) 463-5709
CATCH OF THE DAY, July 21, 2021
LELAND BEAN JR., Willits. Domestic abuse, burglary, protective order violation.
GEORGE BRITTON-HOAGLIN, Covelo. County parole violation.
ESAU GUILLEN-ROSALES, Covelo. Domestic battery, child abandonment/neglect.
KEEGAN KNIGHT, Ukiah. County parole violation.
BEVERLY KOZMA, San Rafael/Fort Bragg. Shoplifting, disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.
DYLAN LETSINGER, Fort Bragg. DUI.
MYA MARTINEZ, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
CARRIE MATA, Westport. Burglary.
CHRISTOPHER MURGUIA, Ukiah. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, special allegation: great bodily injury of victim over 70 years old.
JUSTINE NORTON, Ukiah. Protective order violation, resisting, failure to appear.
KRISTO OUSEY, Ukiah. Petty theft of merchandise with priors, trespassing: cutting down, destroying or injuring any kind of wood or timber.
JAMES TIMMONS, Eureka. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
ELEA VANWORMER, Fort Bragg. Burglary, protective order violation, probation revocation.
OLIVERO VARGAS-VARGAS, Forestville/Ukiah. DUI causing bodily injury.
by Paul Modic
Traveling across the country I see a whole lot of places I wouldn't want to live: dirty cities, crowded suburbs, beat-up shacks on nasty little roads in wind-blown towns with lonely bushes trying to survive in the desert.
Out here on Interstate 10 any of these desolate scenarios could have been amazing with a sweet wife, wonderful kids, and a satisfying career but what were the chances of that happening? Most likely it would have been a meaningless life in a stark hellhole, which might be how most people live. (Like the Trumpers in their shit-hole towns who don't believe the election results, the angry ones who swallow the lies spewed from their corrupt cult leader.)
It's no wonder the normals turn to meth heroin pills TV internet sugar fat salt and facebook: fake news fake boobs fake boners fake lives.
It was pretty lucky living the semi-adventurous life of a modern-day outlaw for forty years in the pristine Mendo hills. Yes, some of us became victims at the end of lonely dirt roads but most did pretty well in the grow flow. The casualties are finally grasping that the good times are over and they better find some dogs to walk, dishes to wash, or some old lady's ass to wipe, possibly my mother's.
The leftover freaks and weirdos cheat steal scam scheme and dance our silly heads off in a cloud of marijuana smoke in our alternative universe far from the deadly fumes of civilization, resisting the pull of normalcy.
JUAN comes up to the Mexican border on his bicycle. He has two large bags over his shoulders. The guard stops him and says, “What’s in the bags?”
“Sand,” answered Juan.
The guard says, “We’ll just see about that. Get off the bike.” The guard takes the bags and rips them apart; he empties them out and finds nothing in them but sand. He detains Juan overnight and has the sand analyzed, only to discover that there is nothing but pure sand in the bags The guard releases Juan, puts the sand into new bags, hefts them onto the man’s shoulders, and lets him cross the border.
A week later, the same thing happens. The guard asks, “What have you got?”
“Sand,” says Juan.
The guard does his thorough examination and discovers that the bags contain nothing but sand. He gives the sand back to Juan, and Juan crosses the border on his bicycle.
This sequence of events if repeated every day for three years. Finally, Juan doesn’t show up one day and the guard runs into him in a cantina in Mexico.
“Hey, Buddy,” says the guard, “I know you are smuggling something. It’s driving me crazy. It’s all I think about… I can’t sleep. Just between you and me, what are you smuggling?”
Juan sips his beer and says, “Bicycles.”
(via Dave Smith)
ON THE ROAD
A friend of ours from San Carlos writes:
“I met an amazing young man that is walking across America and is now headed from San Diego to Seattle, then to the 62 national parks (another 15,000 miles and 3 years of walking), with the hopes of raising money for kid mentoring programs. Anyway, he's outside of Gualala headed north through Ft Bragg on Thursday night. I told him I'd ask you if you had any suggestions on hostels or places to stay in your area (he usually wild camps or KOA). Anything I can pass along? His name is Chris Foster. #hobowithanapple on Instagram.
Great young man. He spent 3 days with us about 10 days ago. Met him while biking on my last adventure through the Mojave.”
We're unable to accommodate him and are hoping someone can offer to help. You can contact him on Facebook.
NEW ZEALAND OLYMPIC WEIGHT LIFTER Laurel Hubbard was born a male, but has reputedly “transitioned.” Some kill-joys still scream foul because she/he developed muscles as a man and is now using those very same muscles as a woman. That has to be some kind of fraud?! Bait and switch, maybe? Meanwhile, American transgender athlete Chelsea Wolfe is on the US Olympic Women’s BMX bike team. I didn’t even know those silly little bicycles were an Olympic event. Even skateboarding has been approved as an Olympic event and frisbee is not far behind. The Olympics are becoming too absurd for words. Anyone into cat juggling?
(On line comment)
PG&E TO BURY LINES
PG&E vows to bury 10,000 miles of California power lines, as the Dixie Fire explodes
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. executives committed Wednesday to move 10,000 miles of the utility’s power lines underground, a daunting and expensive task for the embattled utility that’s just emerging from bankruptcy after it was held responsible for some of California’s most destructive wildfires in recent years.
The announcement came at a press conference in Butte County, where a plume of smoke from the Dixie Fire could be seen in the distance. Just three days ago, PG&E told the Public Utilities Commission that its equipment might have sparked the fire.
At the press conference, PG&E CEO Patricia Poppe told reporters a utility employee called in the fire after he found it burning near where a 70-foot tree fell on a utility power line along the border with Butte and Plumas counties, though she didn’t directly acknowledge that the tree sparked the fire.
Full article: sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article252927498.html
WELCOME TO HELL
Coming Soon to a Sky Near You: Fire-Breathing Dragon Clouds
If you’re spooked by West Coast wildfire smoke in New York City, get ready for more.
by Mike Pearl
East Coasters woke up on Tuesday morning to a brownish, hazy sunrise and a smoky smell that wasn’t wafting from the lox on their breakfast bagels. It had arrived courtesy of the wildfires raging on the other side of the continent, and specifically appeared to stem in part from the Bootleg fire in Oregon that has consumed a swath of terrain larger than the city of Los Angeles.
The message from the experts? Basically: Get used to it.
“I’m from Connecticut, so these problems can seem remote. I do feel like there’s a bias sometimes, that this isn’t affecting the average person,” said Neil Lareau, a researcher focused on fire weather and wildfire plumes at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Thanks to climate change, however, “as our fire seasons get worse in the West in the summer, that smoke is going to go from west to east,” Lareau told The Daily Beast, adding that the smoke will “become an export of the western United States to the rest of the continent moving forward.”
These sorts of large-scale effects are far from unique to the United States. Which is all the more reason to be concerned.
“We’ve seen smoke in South America from Australian fires,” Vincent Ambrosia, associate program manager for wildfires at NASA’s Applied Science Program, explained. “These transports are global in mechanism, so that’s how it’s going to affect people in other parts of the United States. They go, ‘Oh, this is just a problem for the West.’ It’s a problem for all of us.”
How big of a problem is it, exactly?
Pretty big, according to Chris Dicus, researcher in natural resources management at California Polytechnic State University and president of the Association for Fire Ecology. “Even if not in the fire’s path,” Dicus told The Daily Beast, people will have to deal with what he called a “toxic witch’s brew of chemicals from burning homes [that] can significantly impact people even hundreds of miles away from the nearest flames.”
“For example,” Dicus added, “San Francisco was buried in smoke for weeks in 2020 from fires that were far away from the city, giving it an other-worldly appearance and causing all kinds of respiratory problems for those living there.”
So where could phenomena like this “other-worldly” smoke appear next? “You’re going to see much greater air quality issues in places like Denver, Kansas City, the upper Midwest in particular, just due to standard airflow patterns,” Ambrosia said.
Worst of all, smoke in the air isn’t the only fire-related weather phenomenon that could become more widespread.
To start with, more Americans are going to see pyrocumulus clouds. As Ambrosia explained, these are “basically a lot of smoke and particles that are carried aloft, and those chemicals and particles—ash, whatever you want to call it—become cloud-condensing nuclei.”
In other words, they allow moisture in clouds to attach to those particles, and create particle clouds that rain down onto the fire itself—which is not in and of itself a big problem. But the rain can also fall “at some small distance from the fire event,” he explained.
Ambrosia said this pyrocumulus rain contains nitrates from the burned plant matter, which can act as fertilizer, but can also contaminate the water supply wherever they fall. According to the CDC, nitrates in water are a health hazard, especially for children and pregnant women.
Ambrosia described pyrocumulus clouds as a problem mostly for the western U.S. to deal with, but Lareau is concerned that they might not stay quite so contained. He pointed to a history of pyrocumulus and pyrocumulonimbus clouds—the latter described by NASA as the “fire-breathing dragon of clouds”—in New Hampshire “back when the logging industry was much more active, pre-National Forests.”
He also pointed to “fire tornadoes in the upper Midwest,” as events with historical precedent, and thus something to watch out for, even if they aren’t likely per se.
Fires in New England with the size and intensity of the ones currently devastating communities in the West sound outlandish for good reason—the landscapes are simply so much greener and more moist than many of those in states like California and Oregon. If such fires do materialize in the coming decades, the weather patterns leading to them would be quite different.
“In the West, the summer is hot and dry. We get relatively little—and sometimes no—precipitation in California for the duration of the summer, and that almost certainly will never be true along the East Coast of the United States, but there are those windows and those opportunities in a warming climate in particular,” Lareau said.
For example, according to Lareau, “sometimes we see active early-spring fire seasons [on the East Coast] before the green-up of the vegetation and after the snowmelt. So it’s kind of a different window there for high-impact fires.”
Joel Thornton, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, agreed that while folks on the East Coast aren’t about to get used to the sight of pyrocumulus clouds, “if a large enough fire can get going in that region, it wouldn’t be a surprise to find a pyrocumulonimbus develop.”
The important thing to keep in mind—as all these experts stressed in one way or another—is that with the climate in flux, “normal” is basically gone. “We’re dealing with a moving baseline, and that makes it hard to know what that ‘normal’ or ‘what to expect’ is,” Lareau said.
Everyone’s quality of life is being impacted by these fires in ways that, according to Lareau, we “haven’t begun to quantify.”
“I really think it’s kind of a pressing challenge, societally, moving forward, figuring how how we’re going to navigate the pyrocene—the onset of fire playing a larger role in our lives,” Lareau said. “I think it can’t be understated how major of an issue this is, whether you’re remote on the East Coast, or dealing with it in your community on the West Coast.”
(Courtesy, the Daily Beast)
NO MORE NEED TO WAIT AND SEE:
“COVID-19 vaccines safe and effective, while the unvaccinated are highly vulnerable to the delta variant,” declare RANCHO health officials (RANCHO: Rural Association of Northern California Health Officers)
July 14, 2021
As the second summer of the pandemic unfolds, our region faces unique concerns. Some of our counties have among the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the state. Our region has consistently shown a lower rate of COVID-19 antibodies, meaning more residents are susceptible to the virus. In sum: we are vulnerable. We are entering a summer season that will be affected by the more contagious and more threatening delta variant. And, it is summer with tourism in full force both between counties in our region and travelers from all over the world.
A wide range of views about the virus and the pandemic itself exist in our region. The science about the COVID-19 pandemic has become much clearer over time. Despite this increase in knowledge there are some strongly held beliefs about COVID-19 that have not changed. As your regional health officials we view that as extremely concerning and would like to weigh in on some common vaccine myths. We no longer need to wait and see, because the science and the evidence are clear that these vaccines are safe, effective, and are protecting those who have been vaccinated.
Myth #1: “I have had the virus, so I won’t get it again.”
Reinfection is well documented. Infection with the virus creates an immune response for most people, but the response is not consistent from person to person. Some people have to get very sick to get a strong immune response, and some people have almost no symptoms when they are ill. The reality is that we cannot reliably predict who will mount a good immune response from natural infection.
Additionally, many people are assuming that they have had the virus already. But, if you did not get a confirmed test for the virus, research shows you have almost an 80% chance of not having had COVID-19 when you had COVID-like symptoms. The immune response to vaccination is much more safe, predictable, reliable, and shown to create more protective antibodies than infection alone.
Bottom line: The COVID-19 vaccines result in high levels of protection, while immunity from past infection is unpredictable.
Del Norte County Glenn County Humboldt County Lake County Lassen County Mendocino County
Modoc County Shasta County Siskiyou County Tehama County Trinity County
Myth #2: “Getting the vaccine is worse than getting COVID-19. Plus, I’m young and healthy.”
The vaccine causes a sore arm in most people. Some get other minor aches or feel like they have the “flu.” These symptoms last a few days at the most and are thought to represent the reaction of our immune systems. If you are vaccinated, you might have some short-term symptoms but there is a greater chance you won’t end up in the hospital and you won’t die from the virus. With rare exceptions, our local data show that the only people getting seriously ill from COVID-19 are the unvaccinated. State and international data is even more compelling with larger numbers to study.
Though quite rare, there have been cases of inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) and/or the lining around the heart (pericarditis) with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, mostly in young men in their late teens and twenties. Most cases have been brief and self-limited, recovering on their own or with simple treatments like anti-inflammatories, with rare cases requiring hospitalization. In comparison, COVID-19 infection can and does cause severe myocarditis and pericarditis with the most striking cases associated with MIS-C (Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children) and MIS-A (Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Adults). There have been over 4000 cases of this condition reported, mostly in the 12-20 year old age group, with 1-2% resulting in death. COVID- 19 can and does kill children and young adults-and COVID-19 is now ranked as the 10th leading cause of death among children in our country.
Bottom line: COVID-19 vaccination is much safer, effective and predictable than the infection, regardless of your age.
Myth #3: “The vaccine is experimental - it was rushed into use.”
The vaccines are relatively new technology, but hardly experimental. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine uses vector or “carrier” technology that has been studied and tested previously in a number of vaccines for almost 20 years, including Zika virus, influenza viruses, respiratory syncytial virus, HIV, malaria, and most recently, Ebola virus. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA technology (mRNA). The basic science around this has been studied for nearly a quarter of a century, with the biggest breakthrough discovered in 2005. The mRNA technology has been developed and studied for Zika virus, cytomegalovirus, rabies and influenza. Was production rushed – yes! Production drew on existing technology and was pre-paid so manufacturers were willing to build their facilities before knowing if the vaccine would be approved. A historic success! Bottom line: The science used to create COVID-19 vaccines is decades old, is not experimental, and hundreds of millions of people who’ve received the vaccine are proof it is safe and effective.
Myth #4: “The vaccine will make me sterile.”
There is no data to support this. Sperm counts in males have been reported to be normal both before and after vaccination. Women have delivered healthy babies after vaccination, even becoming pregnant between doses during trials. Birth outcomes are closely monitored and to date there have been no unusual problems reported. In fact, during phase 3 studies of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines, 36 women became pregnant, half in the vaccine group and half in the placebo group with no difference in birth outcomes.
The fertility myth stems from the theory that antibodies against the coronavirus spike protein might attack proteins in placentas and sperm. This is not true. The proteins are immunologically distinct. Saying they are the same would be the equivalent of saying that two people share the same social security number because both contain the number six.
Bottom line: COVID-19 vaccines do not reduce fertility.
Myth #5: “The vaccine will mess around with my DNA. Somebody is trying to rewrite our genetic code.”
There is not even a chance that this is the case. mRNA is a temporary copy of the information encoded in DNA molecules (in the nucleus) and then sent out from the cell nucleus to the cell machinery that makes proteins. The mRNA vaccine completely bypasses the nucleus, providing a template for the cell machinery, like a blueprint on a construction project. It is a one-way process, and when the mRNA is done with its protein building work it is digested and recycled. It does not “rewrite” code in one’s DNA.
Bottom line: COVID-19 vaccines can’t change your DNA. Their only long-lasting effect is to protect you from COVID-19 infection in the future.
Myth #6: “We don’t know what the long-term consequences of these vaccines are.”
Decades of vaccine safety monitoring show that side effects generally happen within six weeks of vaccination, and long-term health problems are extremely unlikely following any vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccine. Also, “long-term” is a relative phrase. We are already well past half a year with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine can trigger a serious but extremely rare clotting problem, mostly in younger women. The Pfizer vaccine is showing a capacity to stimulate inflammation of the heart in some young persons, but this is very rare, usually resolves on its own or responds well to treatment and is clearly less than the risk of the virus itself.
By contrast, we know that persons of all ages and disease severity can develop “long COVID,” a term for ongoing symptoms months after “recovery.” Some recent studies have shown as many as 70% of hospitalized cases still complain of at least one COVID-19 symptom two months after the acute infection has cleared. As many as 10% of all COVID-19 survivors, including those who had very mild to no symptoms with their infection, develop long-haul COVID symptoms.
Bottom line: Long-term adverse effects of the vaccine are unlikely, but we are definitely seeing long-term effects from COVID-19 infection itself, even in those who had mild to no symptoms.
Health officials of the RANCHO region are very concerned that even as the nation seems to be pulling out of the COVID pandemic, our corner of the country has some serious hurdles that remain. The delta variant is on the rise and already has been found in our region, and the COVID- 19 vaccines will protect our communities against this variant. And by getting vaccinated, you can help protect our children who are too young to be vaccinated as well as community members who are immunocompromised. The truth for the foreseeable future is that almost all cases with any severe consequence at any age will happen to those who aren’t fully vaccinated. Vaccine is safe, effective, free and widely available, so we hope those holding out will reconsider, and do so as soon as possible. The time to wait and see has passed. It is time to get your COVID-19 vaccine.