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Mendocino County Today: August 4, 2012

MR. ED SANDER clarifies State Parks' plan to remove the old haul road south of Ten Mile River, Fort Bragg.

Since the State got all worked up about the “fraudulent letter” bit I thought I ought to clarify. This is a copy of my reply to the Fort Bragg Advocate regarding the misunderstood letter. It apparently really got the State's panties in a bunch due to the fact that it so completely sums up our worries about the consequences of the haul road removal. Lots of sand on the loose…

July 6, 2012
Letter to the Editor
Fort Bragg Advocate News
Re: “Fraudulent Letter”

I am responsible for the Bedrossian information in last week's Letters to the Editor. It was included as a supporting document for my own Letter to the Editor. The geological conclusion points were hand-transcribed from the 2012 Mitigated Negative Declaration for MacKerricher State Park, Appendix E (sand grain analysis) page 15, available at the Fort Bragg Public Library. Indeed, the name of one of the authors (Trinda L. Bedrossian) was misspelled, a few words slightly altered and one conclusion entirely missing. This document was not meant to appear as a letter from the author of these conclusions and no deception was intended. I thank John Parrish. PhD, State Geologist of California for his clarification and including the missing geological conclusion.

How does the State intend to mitigate the predicted outcomes of Trinda Bedrossian and William Short's conclusions?

— Ed Sander

The fact of the matter is this project should not even be considered because the State committed to repair and use the haul road as the bicycle and hiking bypass for narrow but scenic Highway 1 in the MacKerricher Master Plan. They are obligated to keep their commitments and not stonewall for 20 years and hope we will all forget. With the importance of tourism and the state parks to our local economy it is becoming increasingly apparent that we can no longer trust the State to do the right thing for the community. I now firmly believe that we must find a way to regain local control over this out-of-touch bureaucracy.

They did pull this terrible plan but are again determined to reintroduce it at a public meeting Aug 6, 2012 at 6:30 at the Inglenook Grange. I understand they are still trying to slide by with a “mitigated negative declaration.” It is absurd, this is a big project: 2.5 miles of road berm and the relocation of two stream outflows — lots of issues. I am sure that a full EIR [Environmental Impact Report] is absolutely mandatory. The only thing we know at this point is that they are trying again. The disturbing thing about this is they ask us to trust them while they completely ignore their previous commitments regarding the repair and use of the haul road to provide for handicapped access, hiking, and a bicycle bypass to Highway 1.
— Ed Sander


PREDICTABLY, REPUBLICANS are using the State Parks scandal as an argument for privatization as two more Parks bigwigs resign. Ann Malcolm has quit. She had been chief counsel at the Parks Department for two years and, before she went to work for State Parks, she was Fish and Game's top lawyer. Jay Walsh, special assistant to Parks director Ruth Coleman, has also resigned.

THE STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE has set up a phone hotline  and email address to collect tips as it investigates the department. State  employees and members of the public with relevant information are urged to  call (916) 324-7561 or email They only want  information on the surplus funds, not the vacation buyout, which it  already investigated.

REPUBLICANS have now urged Democratic budget leaders to repeal $15.3 million in annual funding for state parks passed in June. The money is in a new “incentive” account for projects that generate more revenue, such as adding improvements at campgrounds and credit card kiosks to collect entrance fees.

THURSDAY, the California State Parks Foundation, a longtime nonprofit partner with the state, asked for a separate investigation of State Parks by the state auditor to assure an “autonomous and unimpeded audit” of state parks. It urged lawmakers to appropriate the surplus to keep parks open and to fund new revenue generating programs.

A CEREMONIAL Indian basket has been stolen from the Lake County Museum. Curator Linda Lake told Lakeport Police the basket was discovered missing from its display case on July 26 and is believed to be worth more than $1,000 to collectors. The finely wrought artifact is six to eight inches in size and made of mallard and meadowlark feathers, quail plumes and shell beads. Anyone with information is asked to call Lake County police at 707-263-5491.


JAMES BIELA was convicted of the 2008 rape and murder in Reno of Brianna Zunino Denison. Miss Denison was 19 when she was abducted and murdered by Biela. She was the daughter of Bridgette Denison of Reno and the granddaughter of Bob and Barbara Zunino of Mendocino. Brianna had attended Mendocino schools for six years, from third through eighth grade. Biela’s death penalty was unanimously upheld Thursday by the Nevada Supreme Court.


WITHOUT REVISITING the grisly details of Ukiah's recent garbage deal, it has been made clear that the City entered into a 15-year-contract that ratepayers will regret for the 15-year life of the thing. The Grand Jury has confirmed what the contract's critics complained about when the contract was being drafted.


THE CITY COUNCIL'S invincibly righteous Mary Anne Landis and Mari Rodin, not to mention City Attorney Rappaport and City Manager Jane Chambers, have a lot to answer for but, predictably, they're complaining about the Grand Jury's prose! If they'd devoted as much attention to the garbage deal's stipulations as they have to their fatuous responses to the Grand Jury's right-on criticism, the people they allegedly represent might have been saved thousands of dollars.

WITH ONLY LANDIS AND RODIN voting “yes,” the Ukiah City Council Wednesday approved a response that says the Grand Jury's criticism was not only factually wrong (which it wasn't), but it hadn't objectively considered “the entire public record.” (Which it appears to have done.)

THE GRAND JURY found 46 instances that added added up to a lack of oversight by the City. And, the GJ concluded that Ukiah had been “outclassed” by the garbage company's negotiators, as is self-evident in the deal the City reached.

BUT UKIAH, with Landis and Rodin leading the charge, characterized the Grand Jury's accurate and subdued descriptions of City incompetence as “less-than-professional” and the “allegedly hidden business transactions” that had gone down as a “conclusion without substantive support.”

UKIAH, for instance, is now obligated to fund a food waste processing facility for a private entity when a much less expensive Cold Creek Compost in Potter Valley already exists. Ukiah's response? “Contrary to the factually flawed accusation in the Grand Jury report, the City Council elected to move quickly but responsibly toward developing a food waste program and to require its franchised waste hauler to propose a full range of options, taking into account the latest technologies as well as the impact on the ratepayers.”

TRANSLATION: “We are the true and the good. How dare you question our judgment, our due diligence.”


COUNCILMAN CRANE has always exempted himself from this discussion because of a stated conflict of interest. The ineffable Benj Thomas, the fuzz-think male version of Landis and Rodin, was absent. Phil Baldwin voted not to support the City's response to the Grand Jury, meaning Baldwin agrees that the report is accurate and that Ukiah's garbage ratepayers are on the hook for 15 years of unnecessarily inflated trash fees.



“I DISAGREE with some of the responses, so I'll be voting no,” said Red Phil. “I voted against both contracts, so I think it would be hypocritical of me to approve this response at this time.”

“I think the response is very good and I'm proud of it,” said Mayor Mary Anne Landis. “I stand behind the decisions that were made regarding the contracts, and I think the grand jury was a little less than professional at times in how they stated their remarks. I think we did good work, and I stand behind our decisions.”

“I do believe the city acted with due diligence,” said Council member Mari Rodin.

Vice-Mayor Doug Crane had recused himself from all of the discussions and votes regarding the contracts and recused himself from voting on the response, and with Council member Benj Thomas absent, that left only three members to vote.

City Attorney David Rapport said the response could be approved by a majority of the members remaining, so the response was approved with Baldwin voting “no” and Landis and Rodin voting “yes.”

BOOK REVIEW by Bill Maher — Reefer Madness:‘Too High to Fail,’ by Doug Fine

“Too High to Fail” is a good rebuttal to those who say stoners never accomplish anything — Doug Fine did.

“Too High To Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution,” by Doug Fine. Illustrated. 319pp. Gotham Books. $28.


Doug Fine has written a well-researched book that uses the clever tactic of making the moral case for ending marijuana prohibition by burying it inside the economic case. We’ve become a ruthless society, and almost everything (I’m looking at you, Environment and Health Care) has to be sold as “first, it’s good for business.” To his credit, Fine doesn’t do what so many of us do and scream, “Can’t we just stop jailing potheads because that would be the right thing?” Also to his credit, he never admits he’s one of them.

The “war on drugs” is America’s longest war. It has cost taxpayers $1 trillion in the last 40 years, Fine notes, and it has turned our nation into “the most highly incarcerated society in history.” In 2011, a global commission on drug policy (whose members included Paul Volcker, George P. Shultz and former presidents of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico) declared that “the global war on drugs has failed.” 67% of Americans agree. Antonin Scalia and Pat Robertson are now to the left of President Obama on pot.

In a way, the author of a polemic on marijuana policy suffers from the odd case of having too many facts on his side. To a person coming to the subject of pot — agnostic, it might seem as if the issue is being loaded. No, it is loaded. As Fine points out, the real addicts of the drug war are the law enforcement agencies that live off this senseless game of cops and robbers.

“Too High to Fail” takes the form of a fly-on-the-wall account of Northern California’s burgeoning legal cannabis industry. Fine, an investigative journalist, takes us to Mendocino County, where he follows one plant from seed to medical marijuana patient in the first county in the nation to decriminalize and regulate cannabis farming.

Fine fits in well in Mendocino. Bearded and driving his vegetable-oil-fueled truck, he looks and plays the part. But be warned: if you are indifferent to drug culture, you may roll your eyes at some of the stoner talk. When Fine says, describing a Mendocino grow house, “I felt like I was inside a Peter Tosh album cover photo,” even I wanted to tell him he was harshing my mellow.

Mendocino County is depicted here as a kind of democratic utopia where local law enforcement and cannabis farmers are on the same side. In 2008, the county passed a land-use ordinance called Chapter 9.31, which authorized growers to cultivate up to 99 cannabis plants (this has since been reduced to 25). Rather than turning the county into a police state, legalization made it safer. Revenues in the municipality increased, and cannabis farmers were treated as law-abiding citizens.

Fine calls Mendocino the state’s “progressive lab,” because it was essentially engaging in an act of civil disobedience. It may have been in accordance with California law, but ever since states (17 now, plus the District of Columbia) started legalizing medical marijuana, the federal government under a Democratic (Clinton), then a Republican (Bush) and now a Democratic administration has consistently resisted going along. Consequently, Fine observes, Mendocino has a kind of fifth season: helicopter season. “Helicopter noise is Mendocino County’s summer soundtrack,” he writes of the federal choppers circling overhead. “Something you just have to deal with in warm weather, like the summer before 10th grade when it was ‘Born in the U.S.A’.”

The most eye-opening and persuasive parts of the book explore the revenue and benefits to be had from cannabis without a single joint’s being lighted. Throughout human history, cultures from Mongolia to Peru have used the non-psychoactive cannabis plant for food, shelter, clothing and medicine. Early drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper, and the covered pioneer wagons that took America westward were made of cannabis fiber. In 1942, cannabis prohibition was suspended because of a shortage in industrial supply during the war, and the government actually encouraged farmers to grow it, using a propaganda film, “Hemp for Victory.”

The place industrial cannabis has not found yet, Fine points out, is in the above­ground American economy, thanks to its listing as a Schedule I narcotic. The Drug Enforcement Administration’s official stance is that it has no medical value at all: “Smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science — it is not medicine, and it is not safe.” O.K., Fine seems to say, but tell that to the doctors with evidence of its ability to shrink tumors and ease the effects of chemotherapy; or to the seniors of Orange County who depend on medical marijuana to treat their arthritis, and the doctor who uses it to treat his glaucoma; or to the 30-year-old Iraq war veteran with the shrapnel injuries who thanks God every day for this drug. It is prescription drugs that are now the leading cause of fatal drug overdoses — more than 26,000 each year. Also each year, over 23,000 Americans die of alcohol-related causes. None have died from cannabis alone.

As I said, the issue is loaded. And yet the side that has all the load never seems to win in America. The ending of “Too High to Fail” — spoiler alert — is a real bummer. Just as Fine was about to send the manuscript to his publisher in November 2011, the feds cracked down in Mendocino. The 9.31 program was essentially abandoned, and the local, participatory democracy Fine immersed himself in for a year was pushed back underground.

He should have seen it coming. Halfway through his adventure, Fine was pulled over by a state trooper when he left the friendly confines of Mendocino and crossed into Sonoma County — where it’s cool to get high on wine, but not on pot. Fine was doubtful that anyone in California actually used the old war-on-drugs tactics until this incident, but it was a reminder that some people are still in battle mode.

Relating how he was taken into custody, Fine describes something he calls “Panzer’s Paradox” — basically, the fact that “when it comes to distribution, there is no uniformity in cannabis legal interpretation now,” as William Panzer, a lawyer specializing in cannabis defense, says. (Panzer was an author of Proposition 215, the medical-marijuana act passed in California in 1996.) Fine boils down the difference between a cannabis-friendly county and an unfriendly one to “the career ambitions or personal cannabis views of the local D.A. and sheriff.”

He also paraphrases “The Art of War”: “If a war is ill conceived at its core, it can’t be won.” (Bill Maher is the host of “Real Time With Bill Maher” on HBO.)


  1. August 4, 2012

    The Luddite Award goes to the AVA for its brave refusal to give in to the insidious campaign to convert to the metric system.
    First it was a Mendocino County Counsel in possession of 3-4 ounces of marijuana, later corrected to 3-4 grams, a much smaller amount.
    Today it is a Native American basket stolen from the Lake County Museum. It is reported above to be 6 to 8 inches in size, plenty big enough to hold 4 ounces of good bud.
    I hope this is soon to be corrected to 6 to 8 centimeters in diameter, a good size for 4 grams. Also a much easier size (about half) to steal.
    Jim Armstrong

  2. John Sakowicz August 4, 2012

    Next week, I’m treating myself to a subscription of the AVA. Why? First class reporting on local government. The AVA’s reporting on city, county and state politics is second to none. Accurate. Fearless. Penetrating.

    Penetrating, like Superman’s X-ray vision. The AVA looks deep under the superficial smiley faces of local government.

    The AVA deserves to be supported through a regular readership in its subscription base. Newspaper people tell me that a subscriber base helps sell advertising.

    Why subscribe now? In the past, I’ve bought occasional news stand copies at the Mendocino Book Company or the Ukiah Food Coop, but frankly now I think I’m hooked.

    Incidentally, the AVA and many of its back issues at the county library in Ukiah are routinely stolen. That should tell you something. People want to read the AVA so badly, they read it and steal it so they can read it again. Really, ask the reference librarian.

    I’ll call next week and give you guys my credit card information. Or do you prefer a check?

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