PARK LANDS UP FOR GRABS — An investigative story broke Monday, June 11th, on MSNBC detailing some of the most disturbing trends across America regarding public parks. InvestigateWest, a Seattle based non-profit, details how governments, from local to the national level, have broken pledges and failed to carry out their regulatory responsibilities. The National Park Service, to begin with, is charged with monitoring and reporting policies and actions by state and local governments that propose to convert parkland to private use. But in these budget stressed times, says David Siegenthaler of the National Park Service, pledges are forgotten, local agreements abrogated, and the law is broken when federally funded parks are “repurposed.” McDonald’s, for instance, came within a hair’s breath of converting the only public access beach in American Samoa into a fast-food franchise. Lake Texoma State Park, on the Oklahoma-Texas border, was turned into a private luxury resort, Pointe Vista, in 2008. A Benton Harbor, Michigan, park was taken over by the state of Michigan and turned into a private golf course. In Louisiana, a campground concessionaire sold off RV pads to private parties. The state of Oregon has a decade long backlog of 60 cases of parkland being converted to private use. — Franklin Graham
WHAT ALL THIS ADDS UP TO for our state of California is the growing temptation of elected officials from the local to the county and state level to brush aside agreements and covenants regarding the holding and operating of parklands in trust in order to generate short-term revenues and deliver to real estate developers precious public resources. Naturally, there are laws that in theory provide for compensation by way of providing alternative land of equal value. However, such provisions are widely ignored. The for-profit developers, in effect, get free land and the public is deprived of public park space. And so goes our “democratic, law based system of governance. — Franklin Graham
MENDOCINO COUNTY MUSEUM Celebrates 40 Years with an Anniversary Dinner and Chautauqua Show on Sunday, June 24. The Mendocino County Museum is celebrating 40 Years of making history with an Anniversary Dinner and Chautauqua-style Variety Show on Sunday, June 24, 2012, from 3:30-7:30 PM at the Museum in Willits. The program will include an amazing line-up of Mendocino County performers and musicians focusing on different aspects of the Museum and local history. Kate Magruder will read from Voices of the Frolic, a play about the Frolic shipwreck which is featured in the Museum; Linda Pack will share characters and stories she has gleaned from Mendocino Remembered, a set of oral histories in the Museum's collection; Joe Regelski, via recording, will introduce the radio broadcast of Seabiscuit's match race with War Admiral in 1938; and Dan Barth will speak through poetry. Elizabeth McDougall, Patrick Nagel, Clay Hawkins, and Antonia Lamb will share their musical talents. The Coyote Valley Dancers and Northern Drums will share Pomo culture and music. A wonderful dinner buffet and local wines and beer will be served. This is a special event and funds will go to new and refurbished Museum exhibits, public programs, and school field trips. Everyone who loves museums is invited to join us on Sunday, June 24. Tickets are $50 per person and must be purchased in advance, from the Mendocino County Museum in Willits, or at Mendocino Book Company in Ukiah, Good's Stamp Shoppe in Willits, or Cheshire Books in Fort Bragg. For more information, please call 459-2736 or go to the website: www.MendocinoMuseum.org.
SERGEANT SHANNON BARNEY, Mendocino Office of Emergency Services, alerts us: “On June 6, 2012 the Mendocino County Office of Emergency Services (OES) received a report regarding a five gallon container that had washed up onto a beach in Mendocino County. The container had a small quantity of an unknown liquid inside. The container appeared to be a generic type flammable liquids container similar to gas or fuel cans sold here in the United States. The container had both Chinese and Japanese writing imprinted on it at the time of manufacture. There were no ‘owner applied markings’ that could be used to determine the origin of the item. The writing indicated to keep the container away from flame or heat as the contents could be flammable. The container was turned over to the Redwood Empire Hazardous Incident Team (REHIT) for identification and disposal. The testing process showed the substance was not radioactive nor was it flammable or combustible. The substance did not test positive for any known hazardous materials and was later disposed of. At this time it is not possible to determine if the container was debris related to the tsunami in Japan on March 11, 2011 or if it was from another source. The Office of Emergency Services would like to remind the public that marine debris in the Pacific Ocean is a continuous problem and is not necessarily related to the recent tsunami in Japan. However, OES is working closely with State and Federal Emergency Management Agencies and is interested in tracking observations of Marine Debris that may be related to the tsunami in Japan. If members of the public observe marine debris along our coastline you can post your observations in an email to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and to the County Office of Emergency Services at the following email addresses. If the debris is suspected to contain or involve possible hazardous materials do not touch it or approach it and to report the item(s) to local authorities immediately.
SOURCES WITHIN SEIU confirm that Andrea Longoria, who mounted an ineffectual challenge against incumbent Second District (Ukiah area) Supervisor John McCowen, selected herself to run for the post after an SEIU search for a qualified candidate failed. SEIU was also trying to recruit candidates in the First and Fourth (Fort Bragg area) Districts. Presumably SEIU is comfortable with Dan Gjerde, who easily turned back a last minute write-in campaign, because they don't know that he would have voted for the pay cuts that fueled their anger with the Supes. First District (Potter Valley area) Supe Carre Brown was re-elected without opposition. Longoria, a member of the bargaining team that botched the labor negotiations, insisted on running although it was clear, including to many within SEIU, that her chances were slim to none. Once Longoria was in the race the SEIU leadership felt they had to work all out on her behalf in a futile effort to avoid a lopsided defeat that would further tarnish the credibility of SEIU within the community and with their own membership.
DESPITE OUTSPENDING MCCOWEN 4-1, Longoria lost by better than a 2-1 margin. A spread of 55-45 is considered a landslide. McCowen ran a fairly low-key campaign that consisted of a single mailer, his homemade signs which blanketed the community and old-fashioned door-to-door precinct walking by the candidate. Longoria, funded largely by SEIU, with lesser amounts from the Pinoleville Pomo Nation and the utterly debauched local wing of the National Women's Political Caucus, put out slick glossy mailers through a company based in southern California and had the benefit of extensive phone banking and precinct walking organized by SEIU. According to one report, local SEIU guru Joe Louis Wildman, who used to be named Hoffman, joined the precinct walkers. We have always thought that Wildman's reputation for political acumen was seriously over-rated. We are told that the bushy bearded Wildman, described as somewhat dishelved looking and with the wild eyed look of the true believer, is currently the perfect physical incarnation of his chosen surname. For the undecided, Wildman on their doorstep probably tipped the scales in favor of McCowen.
McCOWEN GOT AN UNINTENTIONAL ASSIST when Longoria's campaign disclosure statement revealed she had been spending her campaign money on food, clothing, gasoline and “holistic healing” — because, we guess, the stress of being a candidate is so great. Imagine the stress if she'd gotten elected. If Longoria or her campaign treasurer had bothered to read the instructions for filling out the disclosure form, they would have known that individual expenditures of less than $100 don't need to be itemized. But then The Great Unwashed wouldn't have known that Longoria was splurging at Fashion Bug, In-N-Out Burger and whatever holistic healing entails. Longoria, who said she was all for the local economy spent most of her campaign money in southern California.
LONGORIA WAS ALSO COACHED by Paul Kaplan, full-time SEIU political organizer, who was brought in to run the campaign to throw the bums out and install a labor-friendly majority on the Board of Supes. When the effort to field a full slate of candidates fizzled, with only Longoria taking on McCowen, SEIU was faced with the dilemma of letting Longoria run on her own (with an endorsement and token campaign contribution) or throwing their full weight behind her. In a continuation of poorly thought out decisions, the SEIU leadership, who blames McCowen for the pay cut, chose the latter. But the SEIU message, that the Supes unfairly cut their wages by 10%, never gained traction with the general public which understands that the economic downturn and steadily escalating health care and retirement costs have driven public employers, like the County, to the brink of insolvency. Joe and Jane Six-Pack, who can only dream of the health care, retirement and other benefits enjoyed by public employees (and SEIU bigshots), probably think it's about time that public sector employees were asked to tighten their belts like everyone else.
BY LAUNCHING an all-out campaign against McCowen and failing, SEIU has bolstered McCowen's stature and diminished their own. SEIU miscalculated that County employees in general, and SEIU members in particular, would form a solid block against McCowen. If 90% of the County employees, (the majority of whom live in the Ukiah area) and their families and friends, voted against McCowen, he would be out. But McCowen has spent a lifetime in the community and has worked with and knows many of the County workers personally. Longoria's largely rhetorical campaign had trouble gaining traction even among the County employees, many of whom realized the pay cut, or some such similar reduction, was needed to balance the County budget, not a plot to punish the employees. Longoria's brochures, apparently written by the same out of the area consultants who printed them, also played up her SEIU connections, but Ukiah is not known to be a union town, and is even less of one now thanks to the SEIU clowns.
SEIU AND THE COUNTY get mutual credit for the botched negotiations, but SEIU gets special mention for taking an unnecessarily adversarial tone and for having their membership vote on an agreement that had not been agreed to. Following an agreement in concept for a reduced workweek of 36 hours instead of a 10% pay cut (on the premise that the reduced work week equaled a 10% savings) the SEIU leadership insisted on voting on a version of the reduced workweek that did not generate a 10% savings. SEIU spurned pleas by the County to hold off on the vote until the details could be worked out. Following SEIU's attempt to force the process, negotiations went steadily downhill. County staff is said to have identified a series of flaws with the reduced workweek, number one being that if the work being done in 40 hours could not be done in 36, then the County would be forced to hire extra help or pay overtime. It was also predictable that the County's seven other bargaining units would immediately ask for the same reduced workweek. Except that 24/7 functions like the jail and juvenile hall can't operate on a reduced work week, resulting in increased costs, instead of the hoped for savings.
THE COUNTY NEGOTIATING STRATEGY, spelled out in background materials for the September 2010 budget hearings, was always to balance the budget by cutting employee compensation by 10%. But the SEIU leadership, driven by whatever it was — inattentiveness? incompetence? — steered their membership into a 12.5% cut. John Heise, who was hired on an interim basis as the SEIU business agent, fought to get SEIU to take a 10% cut, the minimum that all seven other bargaining units had already taken. Heise, who was canned from Planning and Building Services on trumped up internet porn charges, had as much reason as anyone to have it in for the County, but he was smart enough to know that if a 10% cut is the best you can do, then you take the 10%. So Heise got sidelined and the membership got hit with a 12.5% cut. As word spread through the SEIU rank and file, the SEIU leadership was finally forced to put the agreement for a 10% cut to a vote, which passed overwhelmingly.
ONCE SEIU AGREED TO THE 10% CUT, it was expected that the Public Attorney's and Probation bargaining units, who earlier took a 12.5% cut after dragging out negotiations for a year, would be knocking on the door demanding they also be allowed to get back to a 10% cut. An attorney familiar with the negotiations says the County is ready to go to 10% as soon as the attorney's and probation agree to a new retirement tier for new hires, something that will have no effect on the wages or benefits of any current employee. By failing to agree to the new tier for new hires, the attorneys and probation are blocking the County from putting it into place for other bargaining units, thereby preventing the County from making its retirement system more sustainable. Logic says making the system more sustainable should be good for those who are depending on it for their future retirement benefit. The parameters of the new tier are defined in state law, but the attorneys and probation are holding out for the right to approve the exact details of the new tier, a condition that was not agreed to for any of the other groups, including SEIU. Not to mention that change may be coming at the state level that will dwarf anything that might be implemented locally. So the attorneys and probation, victimized by their own lack of strategic thinking, are stuck at a 12.5% cut on into the foreseeable future.
LAME DUCK SUPERVISOR KENDALL SMITH is seeking Board approval for an all expenses paid travel junket to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania July 13-17 to attend the annual National Association of Counties (NACO) conference in Pittsburg. The chances of Mendocino County benefiting in the slightest from Smith's taxpayer funded wanderlust is of course nil. A similar request was turned down last year with only Hamburg in support of Smith’s pressure tactics. If the request is approved it will amount to an extension of lame-duck Smith's personal job search.
NORMAN SOLOMON, as reported here previously, is still holding out hope that final returns will boost him into second place for the congressional seat from this area. Solomon, and everyone else, discounted the chances of a Republican finishing in second place. But despite two Republicans splitting the vote, Dan Roberts is currently headed to the run-off with vote-leading Jared Huffman in the fall. Roberts got a boost by advertising with a Eureka television station that covered Humboldt and Del Norte counties. The Huffman camp broke out the champagne when Roberts moved into second place, knowing that Roberts will have no chance in November in the heavily-lib-lab northcoast district. Huffman, in a continuing demonstration of political tone deafness, had no election night festivities in Sonoma County. Mendocino County celebrants had to find their way to the home of Heidi Dickerson, his Mendocino County campaign manager (and Congressman Mike Thompson’s Mendocino Aide — Dickerson must be hoping for a Huffman patronage job). Dickerson was originally low key in her support, but became increasingly public about her enthusiasm for Huffman as election day neared. The widely respected Dickerson is the prospective district rep for Huffman, a role she has filled for Congressman Mike Thompson for years. In another tone deaf gaffe, Huffman's last Mendo County mailer listed Kendall Smith as first among his local endorsers.
MICHAEL ALLEN, a run of the mill hustler “representing” southern Sonoma County, may be one of the first victims of the top two primary system. Allen, who was fined for voting on a project that he was paid to push through the Sonoma County Planning Commission while he was a sitting Commissioner, finished first in the June 5 primary but will face another Democrat in the runoff in November. Despite outspending the second place finisher 6-1, Allen managed to win a relatively narrow victory. But 60% of the Democratic votes went to someone other than him. Add in the 20% or so Republican votes, plus independents, and Allen is likely in trouble. Under the previous system, where the top Dem faced the top Republican, Allen would have been assured of victory in November.