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Mendocino County Today: July 17, 2012

Stein

THE GREEN PARTY has selected Jill Stein, MD, as the party's presidential candidate. Ms. Stein, a 62-year-old internist from Lexington, Mass, is already being denounced by Democrats as working for Romney, the same canard the middle-of-the-road extremists used in the Bush-Gore election, although Gore couldn't manage to win his home state of Tennessee and failed to challenge the Republican's election theft in Florida.

THE PROB the Greens have is hydra-headed, of course, given the reigning corporate duopoly's funding advantage, and that duopoly's fading commitment to even a pretense of political democracy. Ms. Stein won't be allowed into the “debates” and, if she even dares show up, like Ralph Nader, the cops will be called and she'll be escorted out of the arena. The Greens are ballot-qualified in only 21 states, but Stein says she's shooting for 40 by election time in November. She's very brave. If Obama loses to the blandly sociopathic Romney she'll get all the blame.

Maples

AN AUTOPSY has confirmed that Mark Maples, found dead Friday night in a pick-up truck beside Sherwood Road last Friday evening about 7:30, was beaten to death, dying from “blunt force head trauma,” according to the Sheriff's Department. Maples, 53, of Ukiah, was discovered near death by his girlfriend on whose nearby property a large marijuana grow was subsequently discovered. She'd returned to the home she shared with Maples on Third Gate Road west of Brooktrails where she found Maples unconscious and near death. She managed to get him into her truck in a frantic effort to get Maples off the property and to the hospital but, by the time emergency services appeared on Sherwood Road, Maples was dead.

MAPLES' COMPANION has not been identified because, Smallcomb said, “At this point, I don’t want the possible suspects to know her name.”

A BASEBALL FAN reminds us that the regional Babe Ruth playoff commences this week at Anton Stadium in Ukiah. “You won't believe how good some of these kids are,” he says, “and most of them are only about 15.”

MANAGEMENT & LABOR: A Marriage Made In Mendo — by Mark Scaramella

Sakowicz

We didn't expect John Sakowicz's “County labor-management” show on KZYX last Friday morning to live up to the hype Sakowicz posted on the AVA's website early last week. Because?

Because public radio in Mendocino County is lob ball all the way. Adult give-and-take on local matters is unknown, probably because there are very few adults associated with the enterprise, which is why the only time you hear any energy out of the place is when they're gearing up for a “boogie.” A boogie, by the way, is a social event characterized by bad music played at top decibel as skeletal old stoners hurl themselves around up front like a bunch of spastics.

Sako is a smart guy who can talk, but he's got to bland himself down if he expects air time at Public Radio, Mendocino.

We were right about what we'd hear.

Sako's management-labor hour didn't even make it half way to low expecrtations. There was one smart call. The rest of the show was…

According to Sako's pre-show press release we were getting a serious discussion of an important local issue.

“We will be joined by SEIU Local 1021 leadership, Louise ‘Weezer’ Gonyo, chapter president, and Dave Eberly, chapter executive board member, along with SEIU political organizer, Paul Kaplan. And County CEO Carmel Angelo.” …

Sako's hype rolled on.

“Times are tough for public workers. In the last few years, Mendocino County has trimmed over 400 jobs from its payroll. Remaining workers had to take a 10% cut in salaries. Last year's salary negotiations between SEIU and the County Board of Supervisors was marked by conflict and allegations of bad faith during labor contract negotiations. As Mendocino County enters its new fiscal year, many questions remain unanswered. … Does the County truly consider its workforce to be its most valued asset? What is the county's compensation philosophy, and does its compensation philosophy include market competitiveness and workforce stability as its goals?”

This is where we are in the country where a hundred years ago a labor guy walked into US Steel and shot the owner, defining for all time the essence of labor-management reality.

Sako would have had everyone in Mendocino County listening if he'd stated the situation more forcefully, say, “Is SEIU even a labor union in any traditional sense of the term, and if the County is broke why does this Carmel Angelo person keep spending money on so-called consultants and new bureaucrats?”

Few real issues even got mentioned, and when they did they were buried in the usual KZYX-Mendolib blather-blizzard of abstractions like “sustainability,” “labor and management working together to solve problems,” which flabbed on into the County's well-worn funding difficulties (over which neither the union nor management has much control), employee attrition, the pros and cons of using extra help, increasing workloads on fewer employees, the possible impact of Obamacare (nobody really knows), and “transparency,” a fashionable term favored by professional obfuscators and jive merchants that pretends everyone wants the truth when no one does.

Then we got into the coma-inducing soporifics of “we have to live within our means,” “healing the organization,” increased benefit costs, the possible impact of Jerry Brown's tax proposal initiative on the November ballot (bad, if it fails), “a level playing field,” trust, accountability, objectivity, financial stability, and, of course, “communication,” public-private partnerships…

As everyone silently screamed for the torture to end, Sakowicz contradicted his own press release with the announcement, “I don't want to talk about last year — except that the contract negotiations were a nightmare,” adding that it cost money because of “outside attorneys, outside negotiators, you name it — today is a new day! We go forward!”

We do? After you, kemo sabe.

CEO Angelo didn't add much to the clarity of the conversation, saying things like, “The true answer to the county's sustainability is that we will know that in the next few years.”

Sako may have redeemed the otherwise dreary hour when he suddenly veered into the rhetorically surreal. “Think of this show as — do you remember the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa after apartheid? This is what this show is! We are going to get to the bottom of stuff so we can all, like, forgive each other and know what the truth is and forget the lies and the rumors and move on, you know, in good faith, and with real facts!”

A female caller miraculously broke through the happy blab with a sensible statement reflecting the true state of County affairs: “Hello. I am married to a county worker and I thought it would be a good time to hear a little bit about that side of the story. County workers are demoralized. Communication from management down to the line workers is nonexistent. Rumors and paranoia are rampant. Tons of County workers are out on stress leave because they can't take it anymore. Now they want to privatize mental health services, which is basically just trying to get rid of that population and wash their hands of it. It just makes me sick to my stomach. My spouse has worked for the County now for 11 years and is making less than $50,000 a year. I suggest that upper management go for six months on minimum wage and watch their savings disappear and their credit card bills getting higher and higher. Then they would have a better understanding of the situation of the people who are really doing the work, who are really serving the community and are dealing with people on a daily basis.”

CEO Angelo replied, “I had a lot of difficulty hearing her. Could you please, if she has a question, would you please repeat it?”

Sakowicz, the alchemist: “Sure. Listener, why don't you just rephrase your comment as a question? … Okay, she's gone. So I will ask everyone here around the table, what can we do to improve employee morale?”

Which wasn't even close to the caller's point.

Angelo, immediatley non-responsive: “The number one thing we can do to improve employee morale is communication. My office is the first to say that we have not communicated enough. Our goal is to do that. And with the aid of Weezer [Louise Gonyo, local union president] and Paul [Kaplan, union rep] and everyone helping us with that I think will make a tremendous difference if we can develop the communication pathways, bidirectional, front-line staff up to administration.”

Communication pathways.

Please, you're killing reality, murdering truth, slaughtering language. Major felonies are being committed here!

Louise ‘Weezer’ Gonyo replied by spraying the airwaves with rapid fire cliches.

“I think the first step is open lines of communication and then transparency with the county budget. Working together to come up with a solution. What we have now is demoralized workers, workers who are out on stress leave which is very very unfortunate and very expensive and we need to stop that flow. We need to stop that hemorrhage in this County and we need to come back together.”

Dave Eberly is County computer specialist, member of the union negotiating team and seemingly on-task.

“One of the biggest problems is how we manage the workload. And we are going to be bringing some proposals to Carmel about that.”

All the way to Monterey County?

Oh, that Carmel, the Ukiah Carmel you're all on a cozy first name basis with. The Boss. Miz Slippery.

And what about the caller’s suggestion that management share more in the sacrifice?

Not a peep from the lions of labor.

The cliches were flying so fast and furious it was hard to focus, but at some point in the tedium, Paul Kaplan of SEIU stated:

“We need to come up with a plan with the County management to make our employees whole again, to get back that 10% and bring them back up to today's standard of living as opposed to living 15-plus years in the past because that is an unsustainable place to be.”

So you took 12% a year later?

“Make our employees whole?”

Here you go, Kaplan, and for all of you out there in Radio Land and County government seeking to be whole again, this is for all of you forever on the trail of transparency, looking to heal, questing for public-private partnerships! we dedicate, “You Make Me Feel Brand New!” Take it away, Stylistics: “I'll never have the words, my love…” ¥¥

Rhodes

DUSTY RHODES & Her Handsome Cowboys Play Parducci's Acoustic Cafe this Saturday. Their music is described as Roy & Dale Evans meets The Smother’s Brothers. The festivities start around 7pm with gates opening at 6pm. General Admission is $12 and tickets are available at Parducci Wine Cellars tasting room, calling 463-5357 or go online at parducci.com/ Wine-Store/Event-Tickets. Food will be available throughout the summer from The Potter valley Café and North State Street Café with part of the drink proceeds benefiting the Alex Rorabaugh Center (The ARC). Seating fills quickly so be sure to show up early enough to get a seat at 6pm.

MILL FIRE UPDATE — On Monday, July 16, fire crews conducted burning operations in the remaining fuels between the fire’s edge and Goat Mountain Road. Firefighters are now working to put direct line on this edge of the fire. Crews will be staffing the area overnight, watching for any hot spots and keeping fire activity in check. Firefighters will continue to secure containment lines around the fire perimeter, extinguish hot spots from the fire’s edge, and patrol up to 300 feet inside the lines. Fire repair efforts have begun around the fire. — Calfire Press Release

One Comment

  1. John Sakowicz July 17, 2012

    Bruce, Mark…good critique of Friday’s show in today’s blog. I’ll take your criticisms to heart. Really and truly. I respect both of you…not sure which of you writes Mendocino County Today.

    But I’d also like to make a few important points.

    First, the show was “historic” insofar as, to the best of my knowledge, county management and county labor have never shared the same public forum, spoken together with any degree of civility, and done it all on the record.

    A major accomplishment in itself.

    In the past during contract negotiations, all the public seemed to get were angry and bitterly worded press releases from each side…the usual rhetoric….the posturing in the court of public opinion. It was all so unproductive, so pointless. And expensive.

    Second, if management and labor can agree to talk during the next round of contract negotiations, then perhaps they can avoid the unnecessary and wasteful expense of hiring outside attorneys, negotiators, and such.

    Lord knows, Mendocino County needs every penny in its General Fund.

    Third, management and labor did seem to agree on several things. Importantly, they agreed that Mendocino County is on the bubble of bankruptcy, as is much of California. Falling tax revenues. Higher healthcare and pension costs. Structural deficits. A piss poor credit rating. A monstrous, and probably unfundable, unfunded pension liability ($124.9 million as of our actuary’s report last year, and the liability is bigger now). It wouldn’t take much to trigger a real fiscal crisis here.

    Yes, if we don’t work together, we could easily be the next San Bernardino, Stockton, or Mammoth Lakes.

    Both management and labor agreed on that much…these are desperate times. Significant, I think. Why? Because it’s a shared belief. It’s common ground that both management and labor can build on.

    Management and labor also probably share the same belief that we can’t lay off any more workers, and we can cut salaries any further, nor can services to the public be cut any further. We’ve hit the wall.

    Fourth, the county and labor both agreed to come back to the show in three months time. Also significant. If the show is an open channel of communication, perhaps both sides want to communicate. Then, they won’t have to meet in court.

    Fifth, County CEO Carmel Angelo seemed to agree, in principle at least, to do a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report ( also called a CAFR). She would have to work with the County Auditor on this project, of course.

    A Comprehensive Annual Financial Report has worked wonders in getting the retirement system back on track, and it could work wonders for the county, too.

    A Comprehensive Annual Financial Report is a set of U.S. government financial statements comprising the financial report of the county that complies with the accounting requirements—generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)—promulgated by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

    Very importantly, a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report would seem to satisfy SEIU’s requirement of financial transparency. If both management and labor are working from the same set of numbers, it would seem that a contract would follow.

    Sixth, and finally, I was very direct in questioning CEO Angelo about SEIU’s fear that she was trying to bust the union by privatizing services, like mental health.

    I also asked CEO Angelo about the county’s increased use of temp workers and part-time workers…both non-union.

    SEIU’s leadership listened and seemed to take CEO’s Angelo’s answers into consideration. Maybe they’re were just processing Angelo’s answers for rebuttal at a future time, but they did not jump all over her on the show.

    This is another hopeful sign, I think.

    All in all, the show was a good start. It could have be more confrontational and edgier, but that wasn’t my purpose.

    The show brought both sides together. Both sides spoke publicly. They agreed to do it again. There was some agreement.

    And I want to thank the AVA for reporting on the show.

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