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Mendocino County Today: July 21, 2012 (Parts 1&2)

Holmes

NY POLICE COMMISSIONER Ray Kelly said gunman said he was Batman's enemy. Aurora, Colorado Movie Theater Shooter James Holmes, 24, dropped out from neuroscience PhD at University of Colorado in June. Holmes bought a movie ticket, entered with crowd and put on ballistic gear. Set off smoke bomb then fired indiscriminately with as many as four guns. 59 people injured including three-month-old baby and six-year-old. At least 12 dead with youngest victim just 12 years old. Aspiring sportscaster Jessica Ghawi among those killed. Shooter listened to one song on repeat before shooting. Questions over why young children and babies were at late-night screening. Man was arrested without incident in a car park nearby and told the police that explosives were stored at his home. Apartment block in north Aurora has been evacuated as police figure out how to disarm 'sophisticated' devices inside shooter's home.

Heath Ledger as The Joker

DROP-OUT PhD STUDENT James Holmes who massacred 12 at Batman movie screening looked like and said he was the JOKER. The reclusive drop-out PhD student behind the Dark Knight screening shooting spree said he was 'The Joker' after he carried out his horrific attack, it has been revealed. James Holmes, 24, had painted his hair red to resemble Batman's arch nemesis before firing into the crowded theatre in Aurora, Colorado, according to New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. “It clearly looks like a deranged individual,” Kelly said of the shooter at a news conference, CBS reported. “He had his hair painted red. He said he was ‘The Joker,’ obviously the enemy of Batman.” A neighbor also reported that police, who were searching Holmes's apartment for explosives, asked him if he had seen 'a white guy with crazy hair, possibly dyed unnatural colors, the Denver Post said. It has also emerged that Holmes, who is accused of killing 12 and injuring 59 after buying a ticket to the film, had been studying at the University of Colorado's medical campus until June this year.

JAMES HOLMES was studying for a PhD in neurosicence. James Holmes  burst into a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado and fired indiscriminately at audience members at the new Batman film. Police said he appeared to be dressed as the Joker. Markers outside the cinema sit next to a gas mask believed to be worn by Holmes as he opened fire. The gunman had been wearing head-to-toe ballistic gear. Investigators look over evidence on ground outside the back door of the movie theatre. Neighbors at university housing in Denver described Holmes as a recluse who kept to himself. One student said: “No one knew him. No one.” Holmes had one song blaring from his stereo in the hours before the massacre and left the music on repeat in his booby-trapped apartment as he departed to commit the massacre. His shocked mother confirmed that he was behind the massacre, telling reporters: “You've got the right man.” A baby was shot at point blank range, the family were gathered around screaming. Shocked eyewitnesses describe horror as gunman opened fire at Batman screening. An aspiring sportscaster who escaped deadly Toronto shooting just weeks ago was  among 12 victims killed in Dark Knight massacre. A federal law enforcement official told the Associated Press that Holmes had bought a ticket to the midnight showing and went in to the screen as part of the crowd. He then propped open an exit door as the movie played and put on a protective ballistic helmet, vest, throat protector, gas mask, black tactical gloves. Witnesses said he threw a smoke grenade and waited for it to explode before opening random fire with an AR-15 assault rifle, a Remmington 12-guage shotgun and a 40-caliber Glock handgun. He also had another 40-caliber Glock in his car, police said. He moved up the cinema aisle shooting anyone who tried to flee. Twelve people died in the horrific attack. The youngest victim is believed to be just 12. Dozens of harrowing stories have emerged from the shooting. One of the people fleeing described how he tried to shut the door on the suspected gunman. 23-year-old Eric Hunter said he and his friends made their way to an exit door after seeing smoke and hearing shots during the movie. (Jill Reilly and Lydia Warren. Courtesy, the London Daily Mail.)

* * * PART 2 * * *

MENDO SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE David Nelson has issued a peculiar ruling in David Gurney's open meeting suit versus Fish & Game, the state of California and related et als. Gurney, of Fort Bragg, two years ago attended a meeting of tax-paid entities, a number of whom are present and in uniform, the whole mob of them breathed into life and funded by state government.

GURNEY was ordered not to record the meeting. When he persisted, Gurney was placed under arrest. He is one of many persons attempting to modify, in a way that makes it more inclusive, California’s Marine Life Protection Act.

ACCORDING TO NELSON, MLPA staff, its commercial contractors, and the 34-member “North Coast Regional Stakeholders Group” (NCRSG) were not bound by the state's open meeting laws.

ADDITIONALLY, THE REQUIRED PUBLIC comment period at the April 20-21, 2010 MLPAI public meetings, which “Initiative” facilitators failed to provide, was also ruled superfluous by the Ukiah judge.

ALTHOUGH UNIFORMED California State Fish and Game Wardens were providing security, and a quorum of over 25 California Department of Fish and Game officials and MLPA “I Team” contractors were present, along with the “stakeholders,” at the two-day public meetings, the judge found that “the NCRSG is not a state body subject to the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act.”

NELSON DECLARED that the North Coast Regional Stakeholders Group was neither a state body nor an advisory committee subject to the law. According to language in the ruling:

THE NCRSG is not a state body “created by statute” as defined in Government Code 11121(a); It is also clear that the NCRSG is not an advisory committee “created by formal action” of [a] state body or any member of a state body; The NCRSG was not “created by formal action of the legislature or any other state body.” (Again, kind of like spontaneous combustion, the committee just happened.)

AT THE BEGINNING of the two-day, April 2010 MLPAI “North Coast Regional Stakeholders Group” meetings, reporter Gurney was ordered by privately contracted facilitators to cease recording the proceedings. He continued several times to try to acquire background footage of the NCRSG being divided into two groups against their previous vote. He also sought footage of the computerized “marine map decision tool” —being introduced by MLPAI facilitators to determine ocean closures. He was ordered several times to quit recording.

NEAR THE END of the second day of meetings, during a question and answer period, Mr. Gurney asked why the MLPA “Initiative” was not addressing ocean industrialization issues besides fishing, as mandated in the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act. The response of the “Initiative’s” private contractors was to order the arrest of Mr. Gurney by a uniformed California Fish and Game warden.

INITIALLY, MLPAI officials argued that the two-day NCRSG meetings were “workshops” — and so exempt from Bagley-Keene open meeting law. When these arguments failed, the Office of the Attorney General and private attorneys for the MLPA “I-Team” asserted that the entire “stakeholders” process was not subject to state law, and that the group was not an advisory committee, nor state body of any kind. (Logically, then, it had self-materialized.)

THE NCRSG ultimately went on to create the “unified proposal” that was approved by the MLPAI’s “Blue Ribbon Task Force,” and sent on for adoption by the California Fish and Game Commission as the basis for public fishing/gathering closures on the North Coast. The NCRSG recommendations will be written into law within the next year.

GURNEY, along with Attorney Peter Martin of Eureka, California filed a lawsuit two years ago against the privately funded MLPA “Initiative,” and the state of California, for among other things, violations of California's Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act laws, and state and federal guarantees for freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Final resolution of the case is pending.

FURTHER INFO and reactions to Nelson's ruling, go to Gurney’s NOYO NEWS blog, http://noyonews.net. Contact Info: David Gurney, Jugglestone Productions, P.O. Box 2150, Fort Bragg, CA 95437 Tel: 707-961-1339 and/or Peter Martin, Law Offices, 917 Third Street, Eureka, CA 95501 Tel: 707-268-0445

THE GOOD NEWS! A press release wafting out of Sacramento tells us: “The Judicial Council working group overseeing the judicial branch’s facilities program met on Wednesday in Sacramento to discuss criteria for scaling back statewide courthouse projects in light of the recent budget cuts to the judicial branch. By next year, nearly $1.5 billion of court user fees originally designated by the Legislature to be set aside for court construction will have been borrowed, transferred to the General Fund, or redirected to court operations. This year the Legislature directed that another $50 million be permanently diverted annually from the court construction program to trial court operations — which requires eliminating upwards of $500 million in projects.”

THIS MAY MEAN an end to the Mendocino County Superior Court’s meglomaniacal plan to foist off a new Courthouse on Ukiah and the people of Mendocino County. “The court construction program must be radically refocused to accommodate the new fiscal realities of the judicial branch and the state,” said Justice Brad R. Hill, chair of the Court Facilities Working Group and Administrative Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District. “Our previous approach of reducing construction costs, while necessary and continuing, is likely to be inadequate. We now know that we will not be able to undertake all projects originally planned. I know this is distressing news for courts that have waited a long time to replace deteriorating facilities and I am committed to making this process open and transparent. The sad truth is that four years of deep budget cuts to the judicial branch have had and will continue to have significant impacts on court operations. These operational changes may also affect where new courthouses should be located and how large they need to be. These changes, along with significant cuts to court construction funding, dictate a fundamental relook at the slate of projects originally approved in 2008.” The working group will open a five-week public comment process to discuss potential criteria and a process to be used to reprioritize the 38 projects currently funded under Senate Bill 1407. Next week, draft criteria to be used for re-evaluating the projects and a decision-making process will be posted on the California Courts website’s Invitations to Comment page. The courts and the public are invited to provide written information on how the potential criteria apply to planned projects and to comment on the proposed process for selecting which projects should continue.

THE COUNTY OF MENDOCINO and something called BI Incorporated, “an innovative criminal justice program for non-violent adult probationers,” will host an open house on Thursday, July 26, from 11am to 2pm at Mendocino County Day Reporting Center, located at 579 Low Gap Road.

TURNS OUT the County has sub-contracted out the Probation Department's work, or at least a hunk of it, to a private company. How much does BI Incorporated charge for doing Probation's work, and why can't Probation do the work we're already paying it to do?

A PRELIMINARY LOOK at California State Parks’ finances has revealed that for at least 12 years the department under-reported tens of millions of dollars to the state Department of Finance. As a result, the Department of Finance was not aware that the State Parks and Recreation Fund and the Off Highway Vehicle Fund held $20,378,000 and $33,492,000 respectively above their official, most recently reported balances. The under-reporting occurred over the course of two prior gubernatorial administrations.

MEANING, there's been plenty of dough to keep Hendy Woods and the rest of Mendocino County state-run parks up and running, so much dough one is staggered by the incompetence of the persons who claimed State Parks was broke.

Coleman

PARKS DIRECTOR Ruth Coleman has resigned and the department’s acting chief deputy is also being removed from his position.

THE STATE PARKS and Recreation Fund was established in 1979. Its sources of revenue are fees, rentals and returns collected for the use of any state park system area. It can be used for resource management and protection, planning, acquisition and development projects.

THE OFF HIGHWAY Vehicle Trust Fund was established in 1971. Its sources of revenues are off-highway vehicle registration fees, transfer fees, penalties, fines and forfeitures. It can only be used for acquisitions, development, construction, maintenance, administration and conservation of areas for the use of off-highway motor vehicles.

STATE PARKS HIDDEN ASSETS were discovered when new Parks fiscal staff began an internal review of accounts, following a separate investigation by the Attorney General over unauthorized vacation buy-outs. The moves come in the wake of a scandal, revealed by The Sacramento Bee on Sunday, in which a deputy director at State Parks carried out a secret vacation buyout program for employees [actually top parks department executives] at department headquarters last year. That buyout cost the state more than $271,000." (The AVA reported this last year based on an employee tip, but we were told that the number was closer to $600k, so there will probably a lot more to this scandal as it unfolds.)

ACCORDING TO THE SACRAMENTO BEE State Parks Director Ruth Coleman has resigned and her second in command has been fired after officials learned the department had been sitting on nearly $54 million in surplus money for as long as 12 years. The Bee’s investigation took the original tip further by submitting a Public Records Act request for the fund data last Wednesday. John Laird, secretary of the state Natural Resources Agency, which oversees State Parks, told The Bee that investigations have been launched by both the Attorney General's office and the Department of Finance to figure out how and why the Department of Parks and Recreation squirreled away so much money for so long. The Bee’s sources said the vacation buy out was carried out by Manuel Thomas Lopez, 45, of Granite Bay, who was demoted in October and then resigned in May. The surplus money consists of $20.3 million in the Parks and Recreation Fund, and $33.5 million in the Off HIghway Vehicle Fund, which are the two primary operating funds at the agency. This money was not reported to the state Finance Department, in contrast to normal budgeting procedures. The department sat on the money for unknown reasons even as it carried out, over the past year, the unprecedented closure of 70 parks to satisfy state budget cuts. Most of those closures have not occur because nonprofits and local governments scurried to find money to take over or finance the parks. The hidden money could also have prevented drastic cutbacks in hours, staffing and services that have stricken nearly every park in the state over the past two years.

ON FRIDAY AFTERNOON, after the news of the hidden cash came out, San Rafael State Assemblyman Jared Huffman told KQED's Scott Shafer, the situation is “extremely troubling. … It’s very distressing. I think like everyone, when you hear this news, it just sort of makes you sick frankly, cause this is not way to manage the public’s money.” But he said he applauds Gov. Brown’s leadership in immediately involving the Attorney General’s office.

CALIFORNIA State Senator Noreen Evans also issued a press release calling the Parks Department's Secret Slush Fund “theft”: “This discovery uncovers the ultimate betrayal of public trust. It is inconceivable to me how anyone with an ounce of morals could outright steal $54 million of taxpayer money intended for our historic public lands. They are responsible for the decay at every park in the state that suffers from maintenance that has gone undone, the job losses across the state from shortened park hours or partial closures, the dollars lost by local communities and businesses that depended on the tourism dollars parks bring in to the state. In fact, I’d say, they’re largely responsible for the budget cuts we’ve made as healthcare for the needy has been slashed, school budgets have been decimated and the majority of the people in the state have suffered from reductions to services they depend on for their health and well-being while these selfish bureaucrats stashed away money for their personal gain. But, the real question now is, where does it end? If one department can hoard $54 million for 12 years, who else is playing the same tricks of deceit and thievery? I call upon the Governor to conduct an administration-wide audit of every department and every division to be made available, line by line, to the public. It’s no wonder to me that voters have lost their faith in their elected officials. Acts like these bring shame upon those of us who hold the public trust in the highest regard and take pride and honor in our public service. Public theft should carry special penalties in a court of law. I intend to introduce a bill when session reconvenes to do just that. Lastly, I request the reopening of all parks and beaches in Parks District 1, where the majority of these closures have taken place. Further, I call upon the Administration to immediately submit plans to the Legislature for the reopening of every park that has been closed or incurred shorter operating hours. The people of California deserve nothing less.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTS that California lawmakers have handed out raises to more than 1,000 employees of the Legislature in the last year, even as they made deep budget cuts and trimmed pay for other state workers. The news comes as Democrats promote a November ballot initiative seeking to temporarily raise income and sales taxes to help ease California's ongoing budget woes.

NEWLY RELEASED documents show that officials in the state Assembly and Senate approved raises as high as 10% for some top-level staffers. More than 110 of the 1,090 raises given out in the last fiscal year went to legislative employees who were making salaries above $100,000, according to the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the raises.

SENATE PRESIDENT Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said he would seek to freeze pay increases in the Senate for the coming year, but the Assembly has not made any such move.

STEINBERG'S SPOKESMAN, Rhys Williams, said the merit increases came after several years of pay freezes and reductions in operating expenses in the Legislature. He said the cost of living has risen much faster than legislative pay over the last five years.

“THE REPUBLICAN members have given their staff raises as well. They are nonpartisan staff … They all fall in the same category, which is having seen their pay overtaken by inflation,” Williams said Friday.

HE SAID all the raises were merit increases based upon performance reviews and that lawmakers who objected were free to reject the recommended raises for employees under their purview.

STEINBERG'S chief assistant, Kathryn Dresslar, was among those who received pay raises, a 10% increase to $183,480 a year.

CHRISTOPHER WOODS, chief budget consultant for Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, was the highest paid employee to receive a raise, of 3.6%, which puts his annual pay at $193,476.

JON WALDIE, chief administration officer for the Assembly Rules Committee, said more than 200 of the 300 Assembly staffers who received merit increases were lower-paid support staff. He said employees who had not had a merit increase in at least three years were eligible to receive increases between 3.6% and 5%, with lower-paid staff getting the higher percentage increase. About 200 additional Assembly employees received “reclassification” increases when they changed jobs, Waldie said.

MEANWHILE, thousands of state employees are being required to take one day a month of unpaid leave, which amounts to a pay cut of about 5%. The reduction was part of the state budget that lawmakers approved last month and signed by Brown.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Every Senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave. This chamber reeks of blood. Every Senator here is partly responsible for that human wreckage at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval and all across our land — young men without legs, or arms, or genitals, or faces or hopes. There are not very many of these blasted and broken boys who think this war is a glorious adventure. Do not talk to them about bugging out, or national honor or courage. It does not take any courage at all for a congressman, or a senator, or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed. But we are responsible for those young men and their lives and their hopes. And if we do not end this damnable war those young men will some day curse us for our pitiful willingness to let the Executive carry the burden that the Constitution places on us. This chamber reeks of blood.” — George McGovern, 1970 

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