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WARM DRY WEATHER will prevail across northwest California through the weekend due to persistent upper level ridging. A frontal system will then enter the region on Monday and aid in light rainfall. Upper ridging will redevelop thereafter and favor additional periods of mainly dry weather Tuesday and Wednesday. Another round of wetting rains may occur on Thursday. (NWS)
44 NEW COVID CASES (since Wednesday) reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.
SATURDAY LUNCH AT THE YORKVILLE MARKET
Tomorrow Chef B is preparing baked chicken with a ginger-marmalade glaze served with a savory bread pudding and green salad with a miso dressing. We will be serving from 12:30 until 4:30 or sold out. Price per plate is $14.00.
Don't miss the YCBA pulling the raffle ticket for their beautiful handmade quilt at noon! This year's quilt is truly a masterpiece and if you haven't already, you can still purchase tickets at theYCBA.org or I have a few left at the Market if you stop by early.
Next Saturday, 11/20 will be Burger Day with live music from Dillion and his band - sure to be a fun -filled afternoon before the hectic Holiday preparations and feasting. More Info coming soon!
Lisa at Yorkville Market <firstname.lastname@example.org>
CEO, DA & COUNTY COUNSEL RUSHING TO ELIMINATE MENDO’S INDEPENDENT FINANCIAL OFFICES
by Mark Scaramella
Back at the August 31 Supervisors meeting, District Attorney David Eyster went on at length about how Chamise Cubbison should not be appointed Interim Auditor because he didn’t like the fact that she questioned some of his attorneys’ travel expenses and that because the DA was supposedly using asset forfeiture money, the Auditor should not have even asked any questions. That relatively minor dispute which was later resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, then became Eyster’s grounds for objecting to Cubbison’s appointment and insisting that the County needed “a more high powered individual” to do the Auditor’s job and lobbied for the dissolution of the auditor-controller’s position entirely in favor of a Chief Financial Officer who would combine the independently elected offices of Treasurer-Tax Collector and Auditor-Controller and convert them to an appointee of the Board, all because His Highness the DA didn’t like a few of his travel expenses being questioned.
After listening to Eyster’s complaints and demand, the Board declined to appoint Ms. Cubbison as Interim Auditor and elected to instead make her “Acting Auditor.”
The entire Auditor Affair simmered for a few weeks as intrigues began and the CEO saw an opportunity to consolidate even more power under her control opportunistically pivoting off of her friend DA Eyster’s petty gripes.
At the October 5 Board meeting Ms. Cubbison replied to the Supervisors saying, in part: “It feels like my hands are tied behind my back. I seem to have a conflict with the board for reasons I do not honestly understand. Not a single board member has contacted me about any concerns about my performance as an employee of the County for the last 13 years, nor as the Assistant Auditor for the last three. …”
That’s probably because all the action is in the CEO’s office, not at the Board level.
Cubbison: “I’m not sure if this is all about creating the Director of Finance and that's really what's happening. …”
She wasn’t sure, but we are quite sure that that’s exactly what it’s about.
Cubbison: “I was not aware that an item was coming forward on October 26 to discuss the Director of Finance. I would appreciate it if some people would talk to the offices that might be impacted and involved in that. …
That’s because the CEO’s office didn’t want Cubbison interfering with her plans.
Cubbison: “I don't know if anyone noticed, but the legal opinion was obtained to support the District Attorney's position on asset forfeiture funds was obtained by the CEO from a colleague of the CEO.”
Sounds kinda cozy…
“I don't know if anyone noticed that the legal opinion actually reaffirmed at the time that travel authorization was required for travel over $1000 as defined by Board policy. It included all costs of travel. And that travel had been denied for travel that was clearly over $1000 when you added all the cost of that travel together. Did anyone note that that travel policy was amended to accept the DA’s claim after all those things occurred and that all the issues brought up by the District Attorney were nearly all resolved? … It seems that the Board is of the opinion that they should be in control of the Auditor's office so that they can select when the policies apply and to whom and when. …”
Yes, it certainly does seem like that. With remarks like these, Cubbison probably pissed off CEO Angelo.
Cubbison: “I asked for this item be brought forward on on August 31. I was told at County Counsel's recommendation that it was supposed to be scheduled at the next board meeting. It did not get on the next board meeting as I had requested as part of my request to the CEO’s office for support during this transition. So it was not a good process to turn everything off and deny him access and stop the closing of the financial statements entirely until we brought him back on the books. So I'm sorry. But that was not appropriate.”
Cubbison hadn’t yet realized that items only appear on the Board’s agenda when the CEO wants them to. The CEO was again manipulating the agenda, this time to make the Auditor’s job harder and make it look like drastic action was necessary.
The Supervisors were flummoxed and were obviously being kept in the dark about the CEO’s manipulations, because Supervisor McGourty acted as if the entire subject was new to him: “There really hasn't been any discussion [of the Finance Director position]. That is something that is an opportunity with the retirement [of former Auditor Lloyd Weer]., with the strategic plan going on.”
Oh yeah, the strategic plan and “county governance.” McGourty’s big on phrases like that to hide the real purpose of creating the Finance Director position: To remove an independent reviewer of County expenditures.
The Strategic Plan is still months away. So what’s the rush in putting the following item on next Monday’s agenda?
Item 3b: Discussion and Possible Action Including Introduction and Waive First Reading of an Ordinance Repealing Mendocino County Code Section 2.16.041, Adding Section 2.16.070 and Amending Chapter 2.36 for the Purpose of Consolidating the Offices of the Auditor-Controller and the Treasurer-Tax Collector. (Sponsor: County Counsel)
1) Introduce and waive first reading of an ordinance repealing Mendocino County Code Section 2.16.04, adding section 2.16.070 and amending Chapter 2.36 for the purpose of consolidating the Offices of the Auditor-Controller and the Treasurer-Tax Collector,
2) Direct County Counsel to prepare an ordinance and resolution for the creation of the office of Director of Finance and submission to voters for approval, or
3) Retain current structure of separate offices of the Auditor-Controller and the Treasurer-Tax Collector
Previous Board/Board Committee Actions:
On October 26, 2021, the Board requested this item be brought forward for discussion.
Summary of Request:
Following the announcement of the retirement of Lloyd Weer from the office of the Auditor-Controller, the Board of Supervisors discussed whether it was necessary for the County to have separate offices of the Auditor-Controller and Treasurer-Tax Collector, and even whether it was possible to instead use an appointed Finance Director/Chief Financial Officer model. On October 26, 2021, it was requested that staff bring an agenda item forward for discussion of this topic.
Should the Board desire to consolidate these positions, it has two options. First, under Government Code section 24304.2, the Board of Supervisors may, by ordinance, consolidate the offices of the Auditor-Controller and Treasurer-Tax Collector into a single, elected office. This consolidation would be effective thirty (30) days after passage or at such later time as the Board specifies. For example, the Board could choose to have consolidation of offices begin after the next election, to coincide with the end of the incumbent tax collector’s current term.
Second, pursuant to Government Code sections 26980 et seq., the Board of Supervisors can create the office of “Director of Finance” to subsume the functions of the auditor, controller, tax collector, and treasurer, as well as perform any other duties the Board prescribes. Such a position cannot be created, however, without the approval of the voters. Gov. Code § 26980(a). The voters must also determine whether the position is appointed or elected. Gov. Code § 26980(b). If the Board chooses this option, the ordinance would not be effective until such time as it had been approved by the voters and the expiration of the term of any incumbents.
Drafted for the Board’s consideration is an ordinance which would amend certain sections of the County Code as necessary for the consolidation of offices pursuant to Government Code section 24304.2. In preparing the attached ordinance for the office consolidation, staff found several areas of County Code where additional changes and updates to provisions regarding office qualifications and continuing education requirements for the office of the Auditor are also proposed.
Should the Board prefer a Director of Finance model, then staff will need direction to prepare an alternative ordinance and appropriate ballot materials.
Provide alternative direction to staff.
* * *
The CEO had County Council quickly draft an ordinance for the Board to rubberstamp so she could speed up the process and get the Finance Director position created for no other apparent reason than the DA’s minor travel expenses gripe?
But what about the other independently elected office that would be eliminated by the CEO’s underhanded proposal, Treasurer-Tax Collector Shari Schapmire.
On October 14, 2021 she wrote:
”Honorable Board Of Supervisors
Shari L. Schapmire, Treasurer-Tax Collector Structure Review Of Financial County Offices
As the Board of Supervisors is currently reviewing the structure of the County financial offices, this letter serves to share my thoughts on the potential creation of a Director of Finance with consolidation of the offices of the Auditor-Controller and the Treasurer-Tax Collector.
As Treasurer-Tax Collector, I would like to take this opportunity to outline some of the critical functions this office is responsible for:
Managing the Countywide Treasury Pool;
Managing the Countywide checkbook;
Working directly with our service bank on all banking issues;
Tracking all electronic payments received by all County departments;
Accepting Treasury deposits from all Pool Participants;
Collecting in excess of $160 million annually for various property taxes;
Collecting approximately $7 million annually for Transient Occupancy Taxes;
Collecting approximately $6 million annually for Cannabis Business Taxes;
Collecting approximately $2 million for Court fines and fees.
Although the Auditor-Controller and Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Offices are both financial offices, they have very different primary functions. The Treasurer-Tax Collector has nothing to do with the budget, accounts payable, payroll, or travel reimbursements. The Treasurer-Tax Collector does not issue checks, but ensures adequate funds are available in the checking account to clear all checks. This separation of duties is a critical function to safeguard the funds of the County, Schools, and Special District. Millions of dollars flow through the Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office on a daily basis. It is the responsibility of the Auditor-Controller to audit not only this office, but all departments, as well as Special Districts.
Along with CEO Carmel Angelo, I remain the only other financial team member currently on staff that was intimately involved a decade ago during the financial meltdown. I will never forget the difficult times the County faced and the difficult decisions that the Board of Supervisors at the time was forced to implement.
County employees were mandated to take a 10% pay-cut and County retirees lost their health insurance coverage, as the County’s long-term credit rating was downgraded to BBB-, one step above an elevated vulnerability to default risk. Throughout this difficult time, the Auditor- Controller and the Treasurer-Tax Collector remained stable forces to assist the CEO in addressing these catastrophic financial times. These offices remain extremely stable today and serve the citizens of Mendocino County well.
I mention the above scenario as I believe decisions made at that time were among the most financially consequential decisions that a sitting Board of Supervisors has made in recent decades. I believe that those difficult decisions that were made a decade ago saved the County from financial ruin. As a public servant for more than four decades, I also believe the following financially consequential decisions by a sitting Board of Supervisors have set the County on a particular path going forward:
Purchase of Property System Software
The Board of Supervisor’s approval to spend $2 million to purchase the new property system software was a major commitment and investment benefiting the financial future of the County. Please understand, this conversion has been extremely difficult and overwhelming for all offices involved. In the short run, the Assessor, Auditor, and Tax Collector all still face significant challenges as we continue to move through the year and complete yearly tasks for the first time. Many issues still exist with converted data from our previous mainframe system that had been in place for nearly 25 years, it will take many, many months to resolve these issues. That being said, we are now able to see where this modern technology will assist the County in the next several years. There has been, and will continue to be, many billing, tracking, and reporting opportunities that were simply unavailable with our extremely outdated mainframe system. The streamlining of processes will also provide time and resources for staff to discover opportunities to generate much needed revenues.
In my opinion, if the offices of the Auditor-Controller and the Treasurer-Tax Collector are combined, the success of this project is in jeopardy. The limited staff coordinating this project would also be the staff responsible for implementing policies and procedures to ensure separation of duties for all staff responsibilities. All energy needs to be devoted to developing the new property system. In all honesty, I would also have major concerns that these same key staff members may look for employment opportunities with other County departments or other agencies.
Independence of the Mendocino County Employees’ Retirement Association
In 2007, the Board of Supervisors approved the independence of the Mendocino County Employees’ Retirement Association (MCERA), thereby removing any direct administrative responsibility of MCERA from the Treasurer-Tax Collector. Separating this responsibility from the County and having dedicated full-time staff with a singular focus of administering this important financial task has proven extremely beneficial for all stakeholders.
When too much financial responsibility is placed without a singular focus on critical functions, important items run the risk of not being attended to, this was clearly the previous issue with MCERA.
Consolidation of the Assessor and Clerk-Recorder
Over two decades ago, the Board of Supervisors approved the consolidation of the offices of the Clerk-Recorder and the Assessor. At that time, the Clerk-Recorder was an incumbent with name recognition and the current Assessor had planned to retire. The Assistant Assessor at the time challenged the sitting incumbent, after a contentious election, the incumbent Clerk-Recorder was the successful candidate. The deterioration of the Assessor’s Office started immediately with extremely knowledgeable, long-standing employees vacating the office for other departments or other Counties. I witnessed the Assessor responsibilities take a backseat to everything else that was going on in the office, particularly elections.
Beginning in about 2010 or so, the Assessor’s Office went an entire decade without the Assistant Assessor position being filled. This was a critical function and should have absolutely been filled. Again, in my opinion, this left appraisers to flail with very little instruction and oversight. I believe this substantially contributes to the Assessor’s Office having a lack of senior appraisers to this day.
My goal is not to degrade the Assessor’s Office, but to tell you I have had a front row seat to witness a mass deterioration of a County office over the past two decades. All the tools to generate additional revenue for the County, such as finding unassessed properties, were severely hindered due to a lack of critical focus on functions of the Assessor. I know finding unassessed properties is very important to the current Board and I completely agree, losing out on this increased revenue source is a significant lost opportunity.
To summarize, I am adamantly opposed to the creation of a Director of Finance position. The current structure has been successful for decades, it allows for critical functions to remain at the forefront and not minimalized by lack of time and focus. It also allows for the separation of duties that is absolutely vital for financial offices. Like with the consolidation of the Assessor- Clerk-Recorder, I fear if this consolidation takes place it will set the County on an extremely negative path going forward. We have learned a lot over the decades, one thing we know for sure, it is imperative that our financial offices remain stable.
I would be happy to address any questions that any Board members may have.”
* * *
Note, by the way, that Ms. Schapmire’s well-considered letter was written back on October 14, which means the CEO and County Counsel and been floating the idea for weeks before that giving Ms. Schapmire the time to prepare these grounds for her letter opposing the idea.
Of course, the creation of the CEO’s dream of a more controlable finance officer just as she prepares to retire and turn the County’s finances over to her successor(s), would be just in time to make sure that no pesky Auditors who are not under her direct control will be in a position to complain about those finances.
Fortunately, the creation of a CFO requires voter approval. But if the CEO can manipulate the Board into getting behind her and control the spin while most voters remain oblivious to the real reason behind the change, she may well get her way.
JIM BRITT of Fort Bragg, on line comment about Skunk Train’s attempts at eminent domain seizure of Fort Bragg Mill Site:
Cities have long invited hotel projects into their core downtown areas to revitalize them. Initially, the Skunk Train envisioned a few hotels on the mill site north of Redwood Avenue and behind the Company Store and Guest House Museum. A move that could produce greater tourist visitation to our downtown and a major draw for revitalization of our downtown while these hotels would barely encroach on views of our Ocean. In addition, there was a proposal for housing and apartments on this north side. There were also plans for a wide street on west redwood with a picnic area on the south side with unobstructed views of our ocean and access to the Coastal Train. The Skunk Train has now abandoned this concept in favor of controlling the whole site and apparently running rail tracks throughout with little rail cabins for the tourists. Kudos to the City of Fort Bragg for their action. I support private property rights and the development of the mill site but the actions of the Skunk Train and its parent company is reminiscent of the railroad barons of days past.
SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS: Joined by concerned community members, I met four PG&E representatives at Faulkner Park this afternoon to discuss the application of PG&E's enhanced vegetation management. Hearing our dismay, they initiated a feasibility study of undergrounding through the park to mitigate tree removal. They committed to not cutting marked trees without first sharing plans with the county, but it's my hope, and I believe theirs, that tree removal will not be necessary. Routine maintenance, including removal of a dead madrone adjacent to our meeting circle and a couple of leaning tanoak trees might be conducted, but they'll provide notice so we can share with the public. Sarah Reith was present, so I imagine KZYX will be reporting more details.
ON LINE COMMENT about the propane truck accident in Covelo by Lew Chichester: The story going around regarding the propane truck wreck on the Covelo road is the driver was faced with a split second decision - run head on into a car over the yellow line and in his lane or avoid the head on and go off the road. The truck went off the road, flipped, the car continued speeding away. Those of us who live out here in Covelo have all witnessed, with increasing regularity lately, speeding and reckless driving on 162 as if it is some kind of personal racetrack for drivers who disregard the basic safe driving practices. I used to commute daily on that road and found that driving as fast as you could you would get there (either out to 101 or back to Round Valley) a minute or so, five minutes at the most, sooner. Go fast if you want but stay in your own lane.
AV Village Monthly in-person Gathering: Cookie Exchange
Tomorrow, Sunday, November 14th, 4 to 5:30 PM, Senior Center
Outside weather permitting or inside if not. Join us for a festive exchange of cookies, cupcakes, brownies, sliced cakes, etc. We hope to ride into the holidays on a sweet note! It's all bakers on deck here — please bring 2 or 3 dozen of your wares to share and a list of ingredients used. Not a baker, not a problem you can bring something else to share or just come anyways, we would love to see you! Everyone please bring your own container to load up with treats.
If you feel so inclined you can list what you are bringing on our google docs (but again not necessary): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1sPA4I9t7XCMWuNUD-aOjC-8rf1sEvyiTVFNM7i7LYb8/edit
Please Note: Our gatherings are open to everyone, but COVID Vaccinations are now REQUIRED - please bring your vaccination card as proof or be prepared to wear a mask - thank you in advance for your understanding.
Please RSVP with the coordinator — thank you!
Anica Williams Cell: 707-684-9829 Email: email@example.com
Join us for a Seminar: Medicare Annual Choices & Changes
Tuesday, November 16, 2021 10:30 am, Online Zoom Seminar
Learn which Part D premiums & formularies are changing
Understand Advantage Plan changes
Learn how to pay less for your medications
Understand Advantage plans and your Medicare
Join us as we partner with Anderson Valley Village for an interactive online seminar.
Reserve your seat: 1-800-434-0222 or https://senioradvocacyservices.org/gva_event/medicare-annual-choices-changes-online/
SORRY, DENISE, BUT…
On Thursday, November 11, 2021 at about 2:00 PM a Mendocino County Sheriffs Deputy conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle for an observed traffic violation in the 900 block of Branscomb Road in Laytonville, California.
The driver, Denise Hluchy, 41, of Laytonville, was contacted a wants/warrants records check was conducted which revealed Hluchy had three outstanding Mendocino County warrants for her arrest. One of the warrants was a felony for motor vehicle theft (10851 CVC).
Hluchy was taken into custody for Motor Vehicle Theft, Driving without a valid Driver's License, and Failure to Appear in Court, and was booked into the Mendocino County Jail where she was to be held in lieu of $20,000 bail.
THE GANG'S ALL HERE
On Thursday, November 11, 2021 at approximately 9:55 PM, A Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputy conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle being driven by Rafael Govea-Lopez, 23, of Willits, near the intersection of North Highway 101 and Black Bart Drive in Willits.
The Deputy conducted a wants/warrants records check which revealed Govea-Lopez had an outstanding felony warrant for his arrest for Possession of a Controlled Substance and a Loaded Firearm. The Deputy found firearm ammunition components in the vehicle which belonged to Govea-Lopez.
Govea-Lopez was arrested for the listed outstanding arrest warrant and booked into the Mendocino County Jail.
The Deputy was aware that Govea-Lopez resided at a residence at the 1700 block of Main Street in Willits and was privy that law enforcement had received several calls for service at the residence for the reports of gun fire.
A search warrant was obtained for the residence where Govea-Lopez resided. Deputies served the search warrant on Friday, November 12, 2021 at about 1:45 AM and located Harold Knight, 59, of Willits and Alberto Morfin, 47, of Willits.
A search of the residence revealed over a hundred pounds of processed marijuana, a .45 caliber pistol and several hundred rounds of firearm ammunition cartridges.
Knight was found to be a registered sex offender and is prohibited (felony) from cultivating or possession of marijuana for sales.
Knight and Morfin were arrested for possession of marijuana for sales, and conspiracy to commit crime.
Both subjects were booked into the Mendocino County Jail on the listed charges and both subjects to be held in lieu of $15,000 bail.
Additionally Govea-Lopez was charged with Possession of Controlled Substance and a loaded Firearm and conspiracy and was to be held in lieu of $35,000 bail.
DROUGHT UNCOVERS LONG-AGO FAMILY HOMESTEAD SITE hidden beneath Lake Mendocino
by Mary Callahan
Andy Mattern knew exactly what he was looking for as he scanned the receding edges of Lake Mendocino.
Finally, he spotted the tops of a handful of wooden stakes protruding from the mud and bird droppings along the shoreline.
Cut from virgin redwood almost a century earlier, those stakes had been driven into the ground by his grandfather, Lorenzo Fracchia, to support his grape vines.
That was early in the 20th century, when there was no lake.
Coyote Valley was home to a vibrant young settlement of immigrants from northern Italy, struggling farmers and families, the Fracchias among them.
And now it was as if the drought-ravaged lake’s receding waters had opened a window to the past for Lorenzo Fracchia’s descendants.
A week earlier, Mattern and his brother had taken their 93-year-old mother, Jeanette Fracchia Byland, to the same spot, the place where she’d lived the first 12 years of her life.
The trip was reminiscent of one Mattern had made 44 years earlier with his grandmother, the last time the lake was this low. Back then they were able to see the foundation of the family home, the one Jeanette grew up in.
Still the water had withdrawn enough to reveal dozens of gnarled vines that Lorenzo Fracchia planted there in 1926 and which had been underwater now for more than 60 years.
“Wow,” Mattern said. “My grandfather’s vines. That’s amazing.”
Mattern pried loose a few stakes to take home for family members as keepsakes.
“You could still stake a vine with them. That’s how good they were,” he said.
Recent rainstorms have raised the lake level enough to submerge the area again, but those recent visits remain vivid, as do the memories they refreshed.
“I’m kind of living my life all over again,” Jeanette said.
It was a trek to get out to the northern edges of Lake Mendocino, to the muddy fringes of water pooled toward the center of the lake bed at the peak of the drought in mid-October.
Before construction of the dam that would help tame the Russian River and form part of the region’s complex water supply system, immigrants from the Piedmont region of northwest Italy came to this place to settle the land and build their lives.
Many, like Lorenzo Fracchia, planted wine grapes to sell and to use in their own wine, carrying on the customs of their homeland and laying the groundwork for the viticultural traditions that still dominate the area’s economy.
There were the Aggis, Accorneros, Ghiringellis, Massavellis, the Fracchias and the Garzinis — the growing family of Batista Garzini, who arrived in the valley in 1907 and was the first of the Northern Italian immigrants to put down roots there.
The Dal Pozzos, Guntlys, Bartolomeis, Parduccis and others would arrive a bit later.
For half a century after Garzini settled there, properties in the Coyote Valley were divided and sold and farmed until finally the homes were emptied and purchased by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which built a dam and flooded the Valley more than 60 years ago.
Lake Mendocino plays a critical role in providing flood control and delivering water to domestic and agricultural users along the upper reaches of the Russian River.
It is also a popular destination for recreation. Until the drought, speedboats and Jet Skis plied its waters.
Where bass and catfish normally reside now, farms and country roads, orchards, vineyards, a dairy and two schoolhouses once provided the backdrop for a hardscrabble life that tested the Fracchias through the age of Prohibition, the Great Depression and an emerging World War.
The most dramatic family stories are well enough known to Lorenzo Fracchia’s children and grandchildren.
There was the day, for instance, in 1929 when he was arrested and jailed overnight for bootlegging potent grappa, a pomace brandy made from the grape leftovers from winemaking, which helped sustain his family during Prohibition.
There also was the time after “the killer freeze” of May 1930 that destroyed the region’s grape crops, including Fracchia’s. When the bank came for his tractor, Lorenzo Fracchia reputedly climbed atop it with his shotgun, and said, “You take my tractor, you take my life,” his grandson said. “And they let him keep the tractor.”
Only twice since Coyote Dam was raised in 1958 to hold back the East Fork of the Russian River has there been drought so severe that artifacts of the Fracchias’ early life were revealed.
The first time was 1977, when the reservoir reached its lowest level ever after two years of historic drought. Rosie Fracchia, then 79, made the trip across a stretch of dried lake bed that year with Andy Mattern, now 71.
They saw the grape vines that time, too, planted shortly after Lorenzo and his bride purchased 30 acres on the east side of the East Fork Russian River in 1926.
Byland was living out of state at the time and has since moved back to Northern California to live with her son. So when the water dropped low last month, she seized a chance to make the pilgrimage to her family’s Coyote Valley homestead.
“I was curious, you know?” she said. “It brought back lots of memories, and I was excited to get back out there because I know that my mother went out there when she was in her 70s.”
Only a narrow stream traced the snaking path of the river’s east fork along the east side of the valley, and she had to hike through a broad swath of parched weeds reaching above six feet at the northernmost edge of the lake basin.
She then had to cross a dense band of seedling cottonwood trees that have cropped up since the lake bottom became exposed.
After that, Byland boarded a fat-tired garden cart to which her son had lashed a lawn chair for the rest of the trip across a wide plain of dried, cracked mud with fractures deep and wide enough to insert a hand.
A younger son, Erich, 67, had traveled out from Elko, Nevada, to join the expedition. They were accompanied by Andy Mattern’s wife, Pauline, as well as a young family friend.
Byland says one thing that really struck her was how flat and uniform the terrain had become without the fruit trees, gardens, farm houses and fences, and the natural rise and fall of the landscape that she remembered from more than 80 years earlier.
“You’d have to check the mountainside to see where you are,” she said.
A point of land on what’s normally the western shore, a place once known as Vinegar Hill, was the site of an old winery operated by the Garzini family.
It offered a reference point for finding the Fracchia homesite east of the river and what had been Highway 20, which had cut diagonally across the valley before it was rerouted around the new lake.
Finally they found a familiar mineral spring sprouting gently from the lake bed. Byland remembered that it bubbled up near the family chicken coop in earlier times, confirming the family group had reached its destination.
Not from there, near the water’s edge, is where they found the vineyard stakes.
Andy Mattern had pulled some out in 1977 and recalled that they came out of the soft, wet ground easily, having been under water not quite 20 years at the time.
His brother came to visit the site this year primarily so he could retrieve some as well, “and see what my grandfather’s work looked like.”
“Here’s something that’s been under water since 1959. It was made 100 years ago, and it’s still viable,” Erich Mattern said later. “I mean, I used it as a walking cane coming back.”
For Byland, the trip brought to mind memories of industrious “Piemontese” families whose first-generation parents spoke the same French-influenced dialect of her parents and shared favorite pastimes from home, like bocce.
There were gatherings at the Aggis when Byland was a young girl, and the women would flock to the kitchen for conversation that did not interest her.
So she would join the men in the front room, where they stood in a circle, arms around one another’s’ shoulders, belting out Italian songs. At least one of them always had a stogie.
“I didn’t like the smoke, but in order to stay with the men, I had to stand it,” she said.
She remembers hiding at times behind the seat of her father’s old Model T so she could sneak along with him to the Pallini’s deli in nearby Forks, where the men would rake the gravel to make a bocce court.
On other occasions, Byland walked east to the Hoopers’ Dairy Ranch to play with Barbara Hooper. “She had dolls and stuff and had a bush by the house that made an interesting play area,” she recalls.
On Sundays, there was Sunday school and in the evenings Christian Endeavor — a popular youth ministry in the early 1900s — as families gathered at the schoolhouse, which doubled as the church, for barbecue, potlucks and games.
And in the summer, when chores were done, “we could give a Tarzan yell to the Garzini kids, and if they were outside they could answer and we would go down to the river and go swimming,” Byland said.
Most of her childhood memories, however, focus on labor and how much of it everyone did, most especially her parents, but kids of all ages, as well.
Lorenzo Fracchia had come to California as a very young man and worked as a cooper, making wine barrels for Asti Swiss Colony Winery near Cloverdale, his daughter said.
Later, he was working as a groundskeeper for a wealthy businessman in Albany when he met his future wife. She had grown up only 20 or so miles away from him in Italy, but it wasn’t until both had arrived in California that they were introduced at an Italian-American social club in Oakland.
They wed in 1921. A year later, their twins, Eda and Mario, were born. Five years after that, the young family followed a friend and fellow emigrant from Lorenzo Fracchia’s hometown to the growing Piemontese settlement in Coyote Valley, according to a historical account of the community.
Together, the Fracchias cleared the land of brush, trees and stumps, using mules and stump pullers, assisted by neighbors, their son, Mario Fracchia, told a local historian at one point.
Lorenzo Fracchia chopped firewood in the surrounding hills to keep money coming in and cut scores of vineyard stakes from freshly logged redwood stumps in the hills around Comptche, in order to plant his vineyard.
They built the family home and barn, and raised nearly all of their food — chickens, rabbits and squab to sell in Ukiah and put on their own table; vegetables grown in a huge garden and fruit from trees planted on the farm and preserved by Rosie Fracchia in a huge copper boiler.
They made huge batches of bread in a brick Dutch oven Lorenzo Fracchia had built and in which he would make a large fire of manzanita and old grape vines, heating the oven overnight while the dough rose. When the oven was hot enough, everything was scraped out and the surface inside cleaned so the loaves could be inserted and baked “to make a tender flaky crust,” Byland said.
For the kids there were always chores: weeding and suckering vines, picking fruit or bundling alfalfa for the rabbits.
Mario Fracchia described using a BB gun to shoot robins for dinner when they were drawn by the dropped pears on the ground in winter. His father watched and waited for quail to catch when they were attracted to discarded grape pomace from winemaking and became drunk.
The children also picked prunes and hops at neighboring farms.
“That’s how you survived,” Byland said.
Byland remembers that residents of the Coyote Valley Rancheria near her childhood home largely kept to themselves, though she remembers riding the school bus into Ukiah with some of the kids for fifth and sixth grades. Some of the people from the Rancheria also attended Christian Endeavor.
Byland was aware of the poverty and outsider status of the Indians, but also identified with it, to an extent, given how her own family and friends were viewed in town.
“We weren’t considered top quality people because we were wops,” she said with the same matter-of-fact expression with which she delivers most information.
Byland said her father’s grappa cooking continued to be a source of friction between her parents, though he could use it as barter during lean times — for fare on the ferry that would take him across the bay to sell his grapes, for example.
It foreshadowed some of the hardship she would face herself through two turbulent marriages to alcoholic men, both of whom died from their disease, before she met the man she married and loved for 38 years.
In 1939, when Byland was 12 and her twin siblings had grown, her mother decided she had had enough of the still and took her youngest daughter to Berkeley, closer to cousins and other family. She bought a small grocery store there that soon profited.
The couple later reconciled, and Lorenzo Fracchia joined them after a short spell, their daughter said. They stayed in the East Bay through the war, when the senior Fracchias, not yet American citizens, were restricted in their travel and activities.
By 1944, they had traded up in the grocery business and saved enough money to purchase a large ranch south of Ukiah where they grew pears, prunes and grapes.
Though Lorenzo Fracchia had given up cooking grappa, he made himself another still — this one, battered by his angry wife at one point, then and repaired, now resides in the Mendocino County Historical Museum — and resumed making the high-proof brandy, primarily for home consumption, Byland said.
Byland, finished high school in Ukiah and was soon off to start her own life as a married woman, living out of state in Nevada and Idaho for decades but visiting home for weeks at a time.
She said she doesn’t remember her parents reflecting on their time in Coyote Valley, on the hardships of that early part of their lives, though she’s not sure why. And it’s not something she dwells on much either.
“Once it goes under the water,” she said, “you don’t think too much about it anymore. It’s not your valley anymore.”
(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
CATCH OF THE DAY, November 12, 2021
JEFFORY DECKER, Willits. Touching of intimate parts of another against their will, probation revocation.
SCOTT ENGLISH, Willits. Domestic battery.
RAFAEL GOVEA-LOPEZ, Willits. Controlled substance while armed with loaded firearm, pot possession for sale, conspiracy.
STEVEN GREEN, Fort Bragg. Mandatory supervision, failure to appear, probation revocation.
TRAVIS HUMPHREY, Redwood Valley. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, paraphernalia, failure to appear, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
HAROLD KNIGHT, Willits. Pot possession for sale: sex registrant, conspiracy.
DAVID MEHR, Nice/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
ANAMARIA MEJIA, Ukiah. Taking vehicle without owner’s consent.
ALBERTO MORFIN, Pot possesion for sale, conspiracy.
LAWRENCE ORTIZ, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, suspended license, evasion by wrongway driving, probation revocation.
YVETTE ROCKEY, Willits. Battery, probation revocation.
JORGE SANUDO-ZAVALA, Ukiah. Controlled substance, probation revocation.
MONICA SAVIDAN, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
KURTIS SMALL, Fort Bragg. DUI-alcohol&drugs, misdemeanor hit&run with property damage, resisting.
HOUSING & THE HOMELESS IN BERKELEY
by Jonah Raskin
When Osha Neumann sees people living on the streets of Berkeley and Oakland he doesn’t feel a sense of hopelessness or powerlessness. Nor does he turn away, or want the homeless to disappear, become invisible and not make him uncomfortable, which is how some citizens feel when they see people living on the streets. The word “hope” and the word “hopelessness” are not part of Neumann’s working vocabulary. “I don’t believe in hope,” he told me recently. “I think the problem of homelessness is pretty much hopeless.” Still, he has never thrown up his hands and walked away from the problem. “We fight our little battles where we can and do what we can do,” he says. He’s not alone.
Neumann pauses for a moment, gathers his thoughts and tells a story about a friend named Barbara who was having dinner with the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. When the conversation turned to Palestine she asked, “How do you have hope?” Ginsberg banged his fist on the table Khrushchev style and shouted, “It’s not about hope. You have to do what you have to do.” Neumann agrees with the teenage Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, who wants people not to hope but to panic and do something about issues such as climate change and global warming.
What Neumann does weekly if not daily is to help the homeless in Berkeley, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, and also in Oakland where Huey Newton and Bobby Seale formed the Black Panther Party in 1966 and issued a ten-point program. Point four called for “Decent Housing Fit For The Shelter of Human Beings.” So what happened? Why didn’t that come to pass? Neumann isn’t the only 1960s, 1970s rebel asking that question. It’s on the lips of every thinking survivor from Berkeley to Brooklyn, N.Y. and beyond. Neumann hopes to write a book that will provide some answers, but right now he’s awfully engaged as a lawyer fighting for the rights of the homeless. The book, which would be his third, will have to wait.
In the process of doing work with the homeless he has learned a great deal about their lives and their situations, “pushed to the fringes of our society, along highways and Freeways.” Just so I won’t generalize and get abstract, he explains, “There is no such things as “the Homeless with a capitol H. There are enormous variations and differences.” Still, some patterns emerge. There is a higher proportion of Blacks than whites who live on the fringes, much as there is a higher proportion of Blacks than whites in California’s immense penal system. What’s especially heart breaking for Neumann is “the complete and utter annihilation of personhood,” or at least the attempt to do that with the kind of force that’s used by colonizers against the colonized. Still, he sees valiant attempts by the homeless to survive together. “People give up what they call their ‘government names,’ and take new names,” he says. “They form communities and bond together.” That takes courage, concentration and will power.
The homeless in all their individuality and collectivity are arrested for a variety of offenses, he tells me: trespassing, violation of a curfew, blocking a sidewalk, breaking rules about lodging, smoking in public, which is against the law, vagrancy and not having a key to unlock a door, go inside and lie down in one’s own bed.
“There is no way not to be illegal if you are homeless,” Neumann says. “I try to defend their right to form and sustain communities.” Doesn’t the First Amendment to the Constitution say that the people have the right to assembly peacefully and to ask for a redress of grievances? It does.
Over the last few decades—Neumann became a lawyer in 1987—he has won victories in court, including the right to have amplification of sound in People’s Park, long a Berkeley battleground. He also provided legal defense for a man who wanted people to say, “I hate you,” and who also wanted them to push against him. That fellow received various tickets from the police. Neumann went to bat for him again and again. He was odd, for sure, but he also had rights.
Now Neumann is in the thick of an argument with the City of Berkeley which planned to place a toilet in front of a mural he painted years ago and that has become a destination for tourists and locals who want to see the history of the Free Speech Movement and People’s Park. Berkeley certainly needs public toilets, but it doesn’t need them in front of works of art. Merchants don’t want a toilet in front of their business. That eliminates a lot of potential sites.
The marginalized who live on the fringes of Berkeley also want toilets. Some, Neumann explains, use a pot to poop and pee and after it’s sanitized recycle it to cook and eat. Survival takes ingenuity.
The homeless problem in the San Francisco Bay Area won’t be solved anytime soon, Neumann argues because there isn’t enough affordable housing, though the Panthers demanded it 55 years ago. “In America today housing is a commodity and not a human right,” Neumann says. “Disparities in wealth are beyond obscene.” They were when he helped to create the anarchist affinity group, “The Motherfuckers” in the 1960s. They still are.
(Jonah Raskin is the author of Beat Blues, San Francisco, 1955.)
PALESTINIANS BELONGING TO SIX HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS recently declared “terrorist” organization by Israel had been targeted by spyware made by the Israeli technology firm NSO Group, a company that has been the subject of so many accusations of abuse that even the Biden administration took action to sanction the group–though, typically, it avoided placing any sanctions on Israel itself.
— Jeff St. Clair
THE CLIMATE CHANGE AGITATION is based on a central grandiose fallacy of our wobbling technocratic age: the idea that if you can measure enough stuff, you can control it. The master-wish in this case is what, exactly? To control the weather? (Which we might define as the day-to-day expression of the planet’s climate?) That ain’t gonna happen. In case you haven’t noticed, the business model of industrial civilization is already broken, and many of its dazzling tricks with it. And, anyway, the earth’s climate is forever and always changing, as is the adaptive response to it by human populations over the centuries, sometimes slowly and sometimes fast.
So, the net result of this year’s Glasgow Climate Summit is to pledge gobs of money from the “rich” nations to protect the poor nations, while mandating the reduction of oil, natgas, and coal in all nations, i.e., the global economy. Apropos of those “rich” nations, guess what: all of our modern money rests on promises to deliver future volumes of energy (and products of value made from it) and those promises are without basis in reality, so the money itself is increasingly worthless. Thus, the cost of getting that future energy exceeds the promises embedded in the money based on the energy. How’s that for a paradox? We’re the proverbial snake eating its own tail and now we’ve bitten off more than we can swallow.
We’re going to use less energy whether Klaus Schwab (and the Persian cat in his lap) likes it or not because our money is increasingly no good, which translates into a general loss of mojo for this round of civilization. The massive matrix of mutually self-reinforcing activities is seizing up — the mining, making, harvesting, and transport of stuff. That’s exactly what the “supply chain” melodrama is about. Of course, the Glasgow Summit did allow a bunch of people to feel self-important, to bethink themselves morally superior, which is the status currency of our time — the brownie-point having more actual value than the dollar these days. It certifies the “good” people and validates their persecution of the “bad” people, which is the central political drama of our time. The reward is power for its own sake, which is — let’s face it — the essence of evil.
The collapse of the global economy is underway and working itself out as it will, and the fear associated with that epic loss of resources, goods, comforts, and conveniences is driving Western Civ batshit crazy…
— James Kunstler
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I lived in Alaska. 6 winters. Palmer, Biglake, Wasilla, (home of Sarah Palin) summers in Willow running a sawmill. (2007-2013).
You have to stay at least 3 winters to get to know locals, natives and long time Alaskans.
A few mottos to learn before you head up, “Stop complaining about the weather, God makes the weather, what you have is Bad clothing options!”
If you don’t like the scenery, you are going to hate the weather.
The state of mind in Alaska is,” you got 3 months to get ready for winter!”
All these statements one hears daily to tell the tourists the “way it is.”
The fishing is called catching, no permits to build a house or cabin whatever you want to accomplish.
A few problems with staying warm and dry but other than those few items, its like Siberia.
Lots of Russians, they don’t interact with the lower 48.
Lots of Minnesota folks.
Most folks can’t hang after 2 winters.
It rains everyday, is cloudy, gray, moose in the yard eat everything you plant as long as it is green. Got to have studded tires, block heater in you car, look forward to long, long dark days.
Great people live there. I think about it everyday. I have been back in Cali since 2013.
OUR BROTHER PAUL GOSAR NEEDS TO BE STOPPED. Merrick Garland, are you listening?
by Jennifer Gosar, Dave Gosar, Tim Gosar
Marvel Studios? Hollywood? Have we got a blockbuster new superhero for you. Get this. He’s 62 years old, a retired dentist, and a grandpa. Interested? Wait, there’s so much more! He associates with white supremacists. He has been accused of dabbling in anti-semitism and anti-Muslim bigotry — a real religious hate two-fer. He has demonized immigrants, spreads Covid lies, and is apparently very proud of using terms like the “Wuhan Virus” — a term that was subsequently picked up by Donald Trump and helped incite murderous attacks, assaults, and bullying against the Asian community. And last, but certainly not least, this man was allegedly instrumental in inciting the attempted overthrow of our government. It’s a winner, don’t you agree?
Oh, and we forgot two other key points about this new superhero you’re going to absolutely love. He already has a superhero name, “The Weasel” — his actual nickname in high school. And you don’t have to write a single script because you can simply have him dictate to you all the fantasies he imagines about himself, in his unique word-salad style. Like, for instance, the recent “Attack on Titan’’ video he posted online where he fantasizes about killing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joe Biden....
IT'S NOT A MATTER OF CHOICE
Some anti-vaxxers say that the COVID vaccine is “an individual’s choice” and should never be imposed by the government. Perhaps some additional information might prompt such people to reconsider.
However, as a Ph.D. biologist, I feel obligated to warn readers that this additional information involves an extremely abstract, difficult-to-understand concept — namely that COVID is a communicable disease, meaning that if I become infected, I might infect you. Or if you become infected, you might infect me.
Therefore, the notion of “individual choice” with regard to COVID vaccines clearly implies that people have the right to increase the danger to others by refusing vaccination. How to justify this notion? Does Kozlowski find it consistent with the concepts of social responsibility, respectful behavior and just plain moral decency? I wonder.
As for Kozlowski’s fear that the vaccine might have “unforeseen bad consequences for our bodies,” I would ask her how she balances the possibility of “unforeseen bad consequences” against the casualty count of 759,000 dead Americans, as of Thursday.
SALMON SURGE INTO NEW HATCHERY LADDER on American River
by Dan Bacher
RANCHO CORDOVA — As hundreds of Chinook salmon congregated in the rock-lined channel at the entrance to the new Nimbus Fish Hatchery ladder, the Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) on November 2 held a short ribbon cutting ceremony marking the completion of the hatchery’s new Fish Passage Project.
Before the ceremony, hatchery staff took over 700 salmon into the facility in just 20 minutes, according to Gary Novak, hatchery manager. The hatchery has trapped a total of 1800 salmon and has taken 650,000 green eggs in two spawning sessions to date.
State and federal officials said the modernized ladder and flume fishway will help fall Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead returning to the hatchery.
The 1,900-foot-long passageway consists of a rock-lined channel, weir fish ladder, and concrete flume. The new project features a visitor plaza with underwater public viewing windows. Construction began in spring of 2020 and was completed in October 2021.
Speakers at the event included David Palumbo, Deputy Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation; Ernest Conant, Regional Director, Bureau of Reclamation; Chuck Bonham, Director, California Department of Fish and Wildlife; and Drew Lessard, Central California Area Office Manager, Bureau of Reclamation .
The officials said the project, which took ten years of planning and construction to complete, creates “a more reliable and safer system” for collecting adult fall-run Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead trout at the Nimbus Hatchery.
“Not only will this new and improved fish ladder greatly improve our hatchery operations and efficiencies at Nimbus, we’ve moved the ladder entrance to lessen the disturbance for those salmon and steelhead spawning naturally in the river,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. ”We’re proud to be part of a project that simultaneously benefits both our hatchery operations and wild-spawned fish and improves the visitor experience along the river and ladder for our Sacramento-area constituents who love to tour this facility, even though it has been closed recently due to COVID-19.”
Bonham also announced CDFW’s Nimbus staff have been tasked with increasing hatchery production to 4.5 million salmon smolts this year by producing 500,000 additional fish to “combat effects of the drought.”
“Chinook salmon returns to the American River declined significantly during California’s last drought,” said Jason Julienne, supervisor for CDFW’s North Central Region fish hatcheries. “We’re using those observations and that experience to get ahead of any population declines this time around by increasing production to help sustain this important salmon run.”
However, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance fishery biologist Tom Cannon said in his California Fisheries Blog that “American River fall-run salmon escapement has dropped after recent drought years and would be expected to fall again in 2022 and 2023 as a consequence of the 2020-2021 drought period.”
“Until river and Bay dry-year flow conditions are improved, a 10% increase in hatchery smolt releases will unlikely improve escapement to recent historical levels,” he stated.
Cannon said he likes the new ladder because it gets rid of the weir that they had to take in and out each year by reducing Nimbus Dam releases. “It also opens the river up to Nimbus Dam,” he stated. Information: https://calsport.org
The Nimbus Fish Hatchery’s facilities are still closed to the public due to COVID-19, but the lower portion of the fish ladder is open to public access.
Additional virtual opportunities and resources are available at: https://wildlife.ca.gov/Learning.
Sacramento River Late Fall Chinooks: While fall-run salmon are now in spawning mode, the Sacramento metropolitan area is producing bright late fall kings. Rob Reimers of Rustic Rob’s Guide Service and Jimmy Downs had a great day on Friday, November 5 when they landed 3 salmon weighing 18, 16 and 8 pounds while trolling with Brad’s Cut Plugs behind flashers from Discovery Park to Garcia Bend. Information: (530) 632-0051.
HOW EASY IS IT TO BUILD A GHOST GUN?
by Austin Murphy
It was one of the more unusual assignments I’ve had in my nearly four decades of journalism.
With the problem of ghost guns proliferating not just around California but the country, my editors wanted me to see how easy it is to get your hands on a firearm that has no serial number and can’t be traced.
They picked a good month for me to to build a ghost gun.
“Glocktober is FINALLY here!” proclaimed the email in my inbox from an outfit called JSD Supply on Oct. 1.
The Pennsylvania-based company is one of the country’s leading retailers of do-it-yourself kits for making so-called “ghost guns,” the term for firearms that lack serial numbers and are therefore untraceable to law enforcement.
While these weapons have been around for about a decade, law enforcement officers in Sonoma County — and across the country — have noted a recent, dramatic uptick in the numbers of ghost guns being used in violent crimes. The problem is especially acute in California, which on Oct. 13 threw its weight behind a lawsuit against a trio of companies who make and sell ghost guns.
After seizing three illegal, unserialized weapons in 2018, then 10 in 2019, Santa Rosa police collected another 15 last year. As of Wednesday, said Sgt. Chris Mahurin, officers had brought in 37 ghost guns – more than a quarter of all the firearms they’d collected for evidence purposes.
As of Oct. 13, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office had seized 28 ghost guns over the previous year, said Sgt. Juan Valencia. That was up from the 23 they’d collected the year before. The majority of those weapons, he added, “have been linked to narcotics and gang activity.”
Around the state, communities are seeing similar increases in seizures, which the Los Angeles Police Department describes as an epidemic with deadly consequences.
In 2013, one of the guns used to kill five people in a mass shooting at Santa Monica College was an AR-15 built from a kit; and a Tehama County gunman, who was prohibited from owning a firearm, killed five and injured nine others in 2017 using guns he made at home illegally.
To help us better understand the issue, Press Democrat editors asked me to purchase and assemble a ghost gun. They had a lot of questions, but the main one was this: How easy is it to buy, and build, one of these weapons?
The answer: shockingly easy.
Why we had a reporter build a ghost gun At The Press Democrat, our editors began discussing ways to explore the rise in ghost guns in ways that readers could relate to and easily understand.
But in order to solve or explain a problem, you have to understand it, and frankly, we didn’t understand much about ghost guns.
To get a better handle on the issue, we asked one of our veteran reporters, Austin Murphy, to do two things: Tell readers how serious the problem is and also see how easy it is to obtain a weapon that has no serial number.
For more on why we wrote this story, go here.
Getting my hands on the parts was a snap.
Shopping online, I had no trouble ordering the lower receiver, or frame, of a pistol. In a separate transaction, I requested a completion kit for that gun, including the slide, barrel and trigger mechanism — “everything needed to finish your own pistol like a professional, without the paperwork,” promised the supplier.
Both packages arrived on my doorstep a few days after I’d ordered them. Actually building the gun, for this un-handy reporter, was a heavier lift. Even with help from two friends, it took about a day longer than I’d expected.
But all in all, it took less than eight hours, spread over several days, to build a smoothly functioning, lethal weapon.
Press Democrat writer Austin Murphy builds a Polymer80 Glock 19 clone "ghost gun" with parts acquired through internet dealers in his home on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat) Press Democrat writer Austin Murphy builds a Polymer80 Glock 19 clone "ghost gun" with parts acquired through internet dealers in his home on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)
That felt slightly surreal — I’ve never owned a firearm — as did submitting, on a recent expense report, a $109.98 charge for the lower receiver of a Polymer80 PF940C handgun — basically a Glock 19 knockoff.
But I still needed a slide, barrel and other components to complete the weapon. That’s when the sticker shock hit. It looked like those parts were going cost in the neighborhood of $450.
To the rescue came JSD Supply, based in Prospect, Pennsylvania. With a hefty Glocktober discount, I scored a PF940C “Full Build Kit” — minus the frame, which I already had — for $319.
It wasn’t time to build the gun just yet.
“No way to track your purchase”
To legally make a homemade firearm in California, you must apply to the state’s Department of Justice for a unique serial number. While I did jump through those bureaucratic hoops, many who buy and build ghost guns do not — for the simple, obvious reason that they’d fail the background check.
Under JSD Supply’s online “Terms and Conditions,” customers are asked to certify that they’ve never been convicted of a felony, or of domestic violence, or been “committed to a mental institution or adjudicated as mentally defective,” and that they are not “currently under a court order restraining you from stalking, threatening, or harassing a child or an intimate partner.”
Yet the company could hardly be more overt in its appeal to potential buyers who want a firearm, but couldn’t pass a background check for precisely the reasons cited above. It poses the question on its website: “Why build your own gun?”
With other firearms, comes the reply, “You go to the gun store, fill out a bunch of forms. They’ll run a background check, and depending on your state, you could wait awhile.”
By ordering with JSD, “you’ll have the 80 percent lower receiver and all the parts you need to finish a firearm yourself shipped to your door. No paperwork. And without serialization, there is no way to track your purchase.”
Press Democrat writer Austin Murphy ordered the pieces necessary to build a Polymer80 Glock 19 clone
Untraceable, unserialized firearms a growing scourge in the country — and in Sonoma County As my three brothers never tire of reminding me, I am not handy. I was the Cub Scout whose Pinewood Derby rig wobbled across the finish line missing a wheel. I have fired a gun twice in my life. And now I would ... build one?
The white, cardboard P80 box containing the PF940C’s “lower receiver” arrived in the mail with a cool sticker, but no instructions. For guidance, I went to the Polymer80 website and clicked on “Manuals.” To properly bore the holes for various pins, I would need a drill press equipped with a cross vise, a contraption that does not appear in my modest, motley tool collection.
Feeling a twinge of panic as I reviewed the instructions, I texted my neighbor, Nathaniel, who owns several guns and has access to a serious workshop. The next day, we headed to his shop with the kit.
Drilling the holes went smoothly. Polymer80 pretty much idiot-proofs those steps by including a jig that holds the lower frame of the gun, ensuring the holes go in the right place.
The parts of the Polymer 80 Glock 19 "ghost gun" are held into place using pins hammered through the firearm through predrilled holes. Photo taken on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat) The parts of the Polymer 80 Glock 19 "ghost gun" are held into place using pins hammered through the firearm through predrilled holes. Photo taken on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)
It took longer to cut and bore out, then smooth the “barrel block.” After employing a drill bit, X-acto knife, then some sandpaper to finish that job, we used a nipper to cut out rectangles of polymer sitting in the way of where we needed to sink the trigger housing rail, then the front locking block.
Setting down a file at one point during this process — which, frankly, was already proving more laborious than I’d been led to believe by Polymer80 — Nate noted that the time required to assemble this gun served, in a way, as “its own cooling off period.”
Life, and a series of other deadlines, intervened. I would finish the gun on my dining room table two weeks later.
An ‘enormous problem’ in California
I hadn’t realized, when placing my order, that this handgun was the same Polymer80 model used by a man who shot two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies in the head in an ambush last year. The assailant had a prior felony conviction. Both officers survived.
In response to a new rule proposed by the Justice Department in May to regulate ghost guns, Ted Cruz, the conservative senator from Texas, argued in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that they are “a made up problem” requiring no new regulation.
“There is nothing ghost-like about ghost guns. They look like guns. They shoot like guns. They kill like guns.”
Committee chair Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, countered that the proposed rules were critical.
“There is nothing ghost-like about ghost guns,” he said. “They look like guns. They shoot like guns. They kill like guns.”
Another gun made of Polymer80 components was used in a triple murder in Glendale in April 2019, according to a lawsuit filed against the company by the city of Los Angeles, in conjunction with the gun control advocacy group Everytown For Gun Safety.
More than 700 untraceable Polymer 80 firearms were recovered by Los Angeles police in 2020, the complaint said.
After serving a search warrant in the 100 block of Howard Street in Petaluma in late August, detectives from the Sonoma County Sheriff’s office located a pair of Polymer80 DIY weapons, along with an AK-47-style rifle. A 19-year-old man was charged with being a felon/addict in possession of a firearm.
“This is an absolutely enormous problem in California.” Because of its relatively strict gun laws, the Golden State has become an especially lucrative market for merchants of ghost guns.
In 2019, around 10,000 of the unserialized weapons were recovered by law enforcement agencies across the country, according to estimates by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF. A full 27% of those weapons were collected in California.
In 2020, that number was up to to 65%, according to a statement from the office of Chesa Boudin, the District Attorney of San Francisco.
“This is an absolutely enormous problem in California,” said David Pucino, a staff attorney at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which has offices in San Francisco and Washington.
Ghost guns do more than put firearms in the hands of those who shouldn’t possess them, Pucino added. “They make the business of trafficking illegally in firearms much, much easier, by eliminating the need to find straw purchasers” to obtain the guns, thus eliminating records that might provide investigators with a paper trail, when those guns are eventually used in a crime.
The Giffords Law Center filed that civil suit along with the city of San Francisco. By some estimates, he said, as many as 40% of guns recovered in the state are now ghost guns.
“And there’s no reason to expect those numbers to go down,” Pucino said. “In fact I would expect them to go up, unless and until the Biden administration’s rule goes into effect.”
Under the 53-year-old federal Gun Control Act, the kits sold by Polymer80 and other companies to assemble ghost guns do not fit the definition of “firearm,” and therefore aren’t regulated as such.
Ghost guns makers “have found a weak spot, exploit a weird definitional problem, especially in federal law,” said Alex McCourt, an assistant scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
Laws governing these weapons “have lagged behind the technological advancement,” he said.
President Biden wants to fix that.
In April, the Department of Justice announced an executive action that would expand the definition of “firearm” to include ghost gun kits.
The new rule, which required no approval from Congress, could go into effect by late 2021. When it does, those untraceable, home-assembled gun kits will be treated like other firearms: they’ll be required to have serial numbers, and will only be sold after a background check.
“Home built firearms aren't new. Criminals using firearms isn't new. If any group of people need protection and a means to self defense, it's the repressed people of the state of California.” The new law is certain to be challenged in court. It has long been legal, many gun rights advocates point out, to build firearms in the privacy of one’s home.
“We’ve had that right ... ever since we’ve had America,” said Val Finnell, director of the Pennsylvania chapter of Gun Owners of America, a gun-rights group on a recent podcast.
His guest on that podcast, JSD Supply founder Jordan Vinroe, described the pending Biden rule changes as “potential feel-good things” that will fail to “curb any crime.”
“Building your own firearm is a right we have had since the firearm was invented,” Vinroe wrote in an email responding to an interview request from The Press Democrat.
“Home built firearms aren't new. Criminals using firearms isn't new. If any group of people need protection and a means to self defense, it's the repressed people of the state of California.”
He challenged me to “point to any evidence that background checks and serial numbers” actually prevent any crimes.
Vinroe’s point is one often made in the argument against regulation of ghost guns: the new rules won’t work, because criminals will simply find some other illegal avenue to get weapons.
Using that logic, replied Adam Garber, executive director of the Pennsylvania-based gun control group CeaseFire PA, why write any laws?
“We have laws against burglary. Do people still break into homes and steal stuff? Sure,” he said. “But the laws discourage that. They come with consequences.”
Yes, laws can be broken, Garber said, “but they create a disincentive. They provide a structure for our society to keep people safe.”
CeaseFire PA isn’t calling for a ban on all firearms, he added. “We’re pointing out that we live in a country with some of the highest death rates from firearms in the world. And that’s because we don’t have safety protocols and provisions in place. So let’s do that.”
While Santa Rosa police Sgt. Mahurin understands the concerns of citizens “with strong ties” to the Second Amendment, “those aren’t the folks we’re arresting,” he said. “Those aren’t the folks we’re dealing with for having ghost guns. It’s gang members, it’s people with assault charges and other prior felony convictions who shouldn’t have guns in the first place.”
The parts of the Polymer80 Glock 19 clone "ghost gun" are held into place using pins hammered through the firearm through predrilled holes. Photo taken on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat) The parts of the Polymer80 Glock 19 clone "ghost gun" are held into place using pins hammered through the firearm through predrilled holes. Photo taken on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat) ‘A danger to our community’
I bought the parts for my faux Glock online after failing to find an area gun shop that carried them.
“We’ve never sold the kits,” said Brian Thomson, director of operations and training at Rinkor Arms on Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa. The possibility that an unserialized firearm could end up in the hands of the wrong person “is a danger to our community,” he said, “and we don’t support anything of that sort.”
An employee at another Sonoma County gun shop described himself as “somewhat in agreement with the Second Amendment people who say, ‘Hey, if you want to build it, that is your given right.’”
At the same time, said the man, who asked that neither he nor his business be identified, to avoid becoming “a pariah in the gun world,” he is solidly opposed to selling ghost gun kits.
“You don’t want some dirtbag to get one.”
In a 2020 affidavit filed by ATF special agent Tolliver Hart to secure a search warrant for the Dayton, Nevada, headquarters of Polymer80, he recounted how it took another agent “approximately 3 hours” to transform the components of a Polymer80 “Buy Build Shoot” kit into “a fully functioning firearm.”
That made me feel a little better, as I struggled to finish my wannabe Glock. Phase 1, to mill and complete the lower receiver, took an hour and 45 minutes. Phase 2 took place in my dining room.
To make sure I made no dumb, dangerous mistakes, I invited a gun-expert acquaintance to observe and help. Even with guidance from several YouTube videos, and his considerable assistance, it took us another 2½ hours to finish the project.
He provided expertise. I provided slapstick — witness my dozen or so attempts to drop the itty-bitty slide lock into its elusive groove. Another Gong show: it took at least six tries for me to insert the needle-like rod into its proper channel, then slide the magazine release button under it.
When it finally came time to “rack” the slide, the movement started off smoothly. Halfway through, however, the slide kept running up against some unknown roadblock. We spent another hour disassembling, smoothing, filing, tinkering, reassembling.
There was profanity.
But the slide continued to be stubborn, balky. I could fire one shot, had I been at the range. After that, the gun would jam.
A quick internet search revealed that this is a problem common to those of us building Polymer80 Glock clones.
“You're going to have to oil the crap out of it and manually rack the slide about 3 or 4 hundred times.”
Eventually, wrote AfghanVeteran1488, “The friction and abrasion will give you the tolerances you need.”
My friend the gun expert took the pistol home overnight, and spent a few more hours troubleshooting. By the time he was finished, the slide was, well, sliding. The gun was cycling flawlessly, he reported, and ready for the range.
Except, it wasn’t.
Before heading to a shooting range, I went to Sportsman’s Arms in Petaluma to pick up a 10-round magazine and some bullets.
But California requires a point-of-sale background check to buy ammunition. When the guy behind the counter swiped my driver’s license, he shook his head. “It’s not letting me sell you the ammo,” he said.
He checked my Firearm Safety Certificate. To apply for the unique serial number, I’d been required to pass a 30-question basic gun safety test. Then he glanced at a document I’d handed him. On it, I’d underlined the unique serial number.
“Is your gun registered?” he asked. I thought I’d done that by applying for the serial number, I replied.
With great patience, he explained that no, I still needed to register the weapon with the state. Because I hadn’t, he couldn’t legally sell me ammunition. As he spoke, he put his hand over the 50-round box of bullets on the counter, sliding it away from me.
“I can still sell you the magazine,” he said. “Do you want it?”
Unlike me, not everyone buying ghost guns is bothering to abide by the rules, as law enforcement personnel across California can attest. Back I went, into the bureaucratic labyrinth, to fill out the form and write the check that will allow me, in 10 days or so, to legally fire this weapon.
In the meantime, the folks who sell ghost guns are keeping a wary eye on the Biden administration, as it works to fix a much bigger problem.
(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
I'VE DISCUSSED NUCLEAR WASTE REPEATEDLY. The nuclear technology I advocate produces no long lived waste. None. And it eliminates existing long lived waste. That's why I support it.
The existing nuclear technology has a horrible record of treatment, storage, leakage, environmental pollution, and the sloppy handling of plutonium. We need to stop using Light Water Nuclear Reactors, which were originally chosen for their ability to produce weapons grade plutonium.
The US Nuclear Industry has in fact got an impeccable safety record. There is only one known death, a technician was killed in a fuel rod accident in a military pilot reactor in Idaho; https://www.historynet.com/going-nuclear-idaho-falls.htm
The radiation release at 3 Mile Island was sufficiently small and diffuse that nobody was harmed. Even the atrocious handling of nuclear wastes have luckily happened in places that didn't put human life at risk. The real loss of life associated with the Nuclear Industry has been to Native Americans exposed to radioactive mine tailings and poisoning of groundwater, which is a discussion worth special attention unto itself. That and the rare mishandling of medical and industrial radioisotopes, having resulted in accidental death. But that's not specifically a failing of the nuclear industry.
— Marie Tobias
TAKE ACTION NOW! Tell The Board Of Supervisors You Support Scientific Review Of Jackson Demonstration State Forest (Jdsf)
Monday, November 15 Board of Supervisors will consider:
Resolution No.21 (see below)
Requesting Scientific Review of JDSF
(Sponsors: Supervisor Williams and Supervisor Gjerde)
The Coast Democratic Club Leadership Team unanimously voted to support Resolution 21 at its meeting, November 11. We urge you to join us!
Here's How To Show Your Support:
Before Sunday, November 14:
Email support letter to firstname.lastname@example.org re: Agenda Item 4.a, Resolution 21
Monday, November 15: call in support by signing up for Telecomments
Resolution No. 21
Resolution Of The Mendocino County Board Of Supervisors Requesting Scientific Review Of Jackson Demonstration State Forest
WHEREAS, the science is convincing that our existential fight against climate change demands expanded effort to store carbon in the State's natural and working lands to remove it from the atmosphere; and
WHEREAS, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors embraces the responsibility to mitigate the systemic risks climate change poses to humans and natural systems; and
WHEREAS, on October 7, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom, through an executive order, committed the State of California to a goal of protecting 30% of California's land and coastal waters by 2030; and
WHEREAS, in November, 2021, leaders of more than 100 countries, including the United States, held climate talks in Glasgow and President Biden pledged to end deforestation by 2030; and
WHEREAS, the Governor's executive order directs the State's Natural Resources Agency to draw up a plan by February 1, 2022; and
WHEREAS, the County of Mendocino has an integral role to play in helping the State achieve its 30 by 30 climate goal encouraged by California's Climate Change Scoping Plan for local governments to adopt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15% below 1990's levels by 2020, 40% below 1990's levels by 2030 and 80% below 1990's levels by 2050; and
WHEREAS, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has adopted commercial Timber Harvest Plans for Jackson Demonstration State Forest based on goals not yet refreshed to reflect the State's recent climate commitments and has commenced logging; and
WHEREAS, science-based forest management is vital to bolstering long term forest health, improving forest resiliency from wildfire, protecting wildlife habitat and riparian corridors; and
WHEREAS, the County of Mendocino respects the guidance of Mendocino's indigenours people, many of whom are calling to prioritize carbon sequestration and in-forest storage, preservation and protection of Native American cultural heritage, equitable access to public lands, and the protection of California's rare and endangered species; and
WHEREAS the State of California should ensure there is no inconsistency between Jackson Demonstration State Forest management goals and the adopted State of California climate change commitments.
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors urges Governor Newsom and the State's Natural Resources Agency to include any climate impacts of commercial logging on State lands in drawing up the plan to protect 30% of California's land use and coastal waters by 2030, and to publish a science-based report that evaluates carbon sequestration capacity and wildfire resiliency of current management practices, as well as alternate management scenarios, of Jackson Demonstration State Forest; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors strongly urges Governor Newsom to align Jackson Demonstration State Forest management goals with the adopted State of California climate change commitments, and to do so in a way that enhances the wide-ranging scientific, recreational and economic opportunities offered by Jackson Demonstration State Forest.
WALL STREET’S TAKEOVER OF NATURE Advances with Launch of New Asset Class
A project of the multilateral development banking system, the Rockefeller Foundation and the New York Stock Exchange recently created a new asset class that will put, not just the natural world, but the processes underpinning all life, up for sale under the guise of promoting “sustainability.”
by Whitney Webb
Last month, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) announced it had developed a new asset class and accompanying listing vehicle meant “to preserve and restore the natural assets that ultimately underpin the ability for there to be life on Earth.” Called a natural asset company, or NAC, the vehicle will allow for the formation of specialized corporations “that hold the rights to the ecosystem services produced on a given chunk of land, services like carbon sequestration or clean water.” These NACs will then maintain, manage and grow the natural assets they commodify, with the end of goal of maximizing the aspects of that natural asset that are deemed by the company to be profitable.
Though described as acting like “any other entity” on the NYSE, it is alleged that NACs “will use the funds to help preserve a rain forest or undertake other conservation efforts, like changing a farm’s conventional agricultural production practices.” Yet, as explained towards the end of this article, even the creators of NACs admit that the ultimate goal is to extract near-infinite profits from the natural processes they seek to quantify and then monetize.
NYSE COO Michael Blaugrund alluded to this when he said the following regarding the launch of NACs: “Our hope is that owning a natural asset company is going to be a way that an increasingly broad range of investors have the ability to invest in something that’s intrinsically valuable, but, up to this point, was really excluded from the financial markets.”...