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COASTAL CLOUDS AND FOG will linger today, while interior valley clouds give way to afternoon sunshine. Daytime highs across the interior will continue to run above normal, but nighttime lows and coastal temperatures will remain mostly seasonal. Rain will spread across much of the area on Monday. Temperatures are expected to return to near normal by early next week, with more rain possible by Wednesday. (NWS)
KING TIDES are rolling in this weekend. These enhanced solar tides can occur from late November to early February, on a new or full moon when the Earth is close to perihelion (closest point to the sun in its orbit) and the moon is at or near perigee (closest point in its orbit to the Earth). At this time the gravitational pull on the tides is at its strongest.
Here are the times of this weekend's King Tides on the Mendocino coast:
- Dec. 4, 2021: high tide at 9:59 AM / 7.77 ft.
- Dec. 5, 2021: high tide at 10:45 AM / 7.76 ft.
- Dec. 4, 2021: high tide at 10:01 AM / 7.35 ft.
- Dec. 5, 2021: high tide at 10:47 AM / 7.34 ft.
- Dec. 4, 2021: high tide at 9:54 AM / 7.50 ft.
- Dec. 5, 2021: high tide at 10:40 AM / 7.49 ft.
23 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.
THIS SATURDAY at the Yorkville Market we are serving pork roast braised with autumnal fruits, served with spice roasted carrots and decadent mashed potatoes. This delicious meal will be served from 12:30ish until 4:30ish (or we run out) and will be $15 per plate.
Remember this weekend is our holiday wine sale - don't forget to stock up on some local wines for serving or gifting this holiday season!
Lisa Walsh at Yorkville Market
WHERE’S KELLY? FAMILY CONCERNED AFTER 23-YEAR-OLD AUTISTIC WOMAN LAST SEEN IN UKIAH GOES MISSING
23-year-old Kelly Erickson’s family is worried. Family and friends have not heard from her since Saturday, November 27, 2021. According to her sister Leah, “It is not like her to not be in contact.”...
THE ANDERSON VALLEY PANTHERS first basketball games of the season were Friday, Nov. 19 in Tomales at 5pm (JV) and 6:30pm (Varsity). On Friday-Saturday, December 3-4, they played in the Point Arena Jolly Roger Tournament starting at 3pm. We will post those results as soon as we get them. Their first home game will be against Potter Valley on Tuesday, Dec. 7 with start times listed as 3:30pm, 5pm, 6:30pm and 8pm. which probably refer to JV Girls, JV Boys, Varsity Girls and Varsity Boys. On Thursday-Saturday, Dec 9-11, they will play in the Cloverdale John McMillan Holiday Invitational at times not yet announced. After that they play two more away games in Point Arena on Dec. 14 and Tech on 7:30. Then Xmas break followed by the first home game of the 2022 against Round Valley at the same times as Potter Valley: 3:30, 5, 6:30 and 8pm.
SKUNK PROTEST, Fort Bragg, Saturday, 12/4/21 [MCN-Discussion]
Various community members will be in front of town hall at 11:00am today protesting the skunk land grab. If any of you want to join it would help.
It is important to have a good turnout! Bring friends and signs!!!
COURT & LOGGING UPDATES
Thursday afternoon, volunteers returning from a recon to the Albert Cattalini Conservancy (ACC) learned a motion was filed by attorney E.D. Lerman to have our TRO heard today on the 3rd, two weeks earlier than the continued 12/17 date.
This is good news, please hope/pray/wish for the best. There are no guarantees it will be heard as scheduled, which is 1:30 PM in Dept. E, or if it will be heard at all today, based on the previous pattern established by the court.
MRC has cut most of the trees. What we know is left for MRC to cut is on the steep slope mutually owned by MRC & FOEM. About 2/3 of the slope is owned by FOEM. The top 1/3 portion of this slope is MRC's and it abuts the failing and unstable Deadman's Gulch Haul road, historically landslide prone.
This road has collapsed into the ACC in the past and caused slides which MRC and CALFIRE has failed to address. It is currently failing now at Map Point # 37 into the ACC. To log trees in this area would cause irreparable harm to the ACC.
A TRO now would keep MRC from logging this area until the case is heard. Thank you all for your spiritual, financial and physical support.
Friends of Enchanted Meadow, firstname.lastname@example.org
SUPES TO APPROVE Final Redistricting Map for 2022 on Tuesday. Hopland moved to from Fifth to First District. Mendocino stays in Fifth District. Fourth District picks up some areas west of Willits that had been in the Fifth District.
ART IN ELK? MOS DEF.
The Artists' Collective in Elk annual Christmas Gift Show for December
For the month of December The Artists' Collective in Elk with hold its annual Christmas Gift Show. We will be featuring less expensive, hand made arts and crafts, appropriate for Christmas gifts. We have paintings, pastels, prints and photography; pottery, glassware, stained glass, jewelry, sculpture and woodworking. We also have many blank cards.
We are a Collective of 30 local artists who live from Gualala to Fort Bragg. Buying your Christmas gifts here directly supports local artists.
Come meet some of our artists any day; because of COVID-19, we will not have our traditional 2nd Saturday opening, but a different artist sits the gallery every day. Masks mandatory, of course.
The Artists' Collective in Elk is located at 6031 S. Highway 1 in Greater Downtown Elk. Open every day 10 to 4. We will even be open on Christmas morning, 10 to noon, for that last-minute gift! Gift wrapping will be available on request. Original art makes wonderful holiday gifts! For more information call 707-877-1128
UNCLEAR ON THE CONCEPT: A Reader Writes: “Mark Scaramella’s County Notes pieces are the highlight of my week — really! A depressing tale of ineptitude and self-aggrandizing deceit. He nails all of it.”
SKUNK BOSS DENIES REFUSING ACCESS TO OIL SPILL
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Comments from MendoFever’s article about the Skunk Train Oil Spill:
John Redding: That’s an oil spill? I’ve seen worse from trucks around here.
Chris Calder: Misleading headlines are always suspect. The article says access was denied to “another part of the property.”
Steven Gravenites: A spill of only one gallon of oil can contaminate a million gallons of water. A single pint of oil released into a lake or wetland can cover one acre of surface water and seriously damage aquatic habitat. Storage tank spills can contaminate drinking water supplies and take years for ecosystems to recover. All spills pose a threat to human health and the environment, require remediation which may extend beyond property boundaries, and result in substantial cleanup costs. At low levels of contamination, fuel contaminants in water cannot be detected by smell or taste, yet the seemingly pure water may be contaminated to the point of affecting human health.
“ThankGood”: More drama about nothing. Unpussify America.
Mark Taylor: Sounds like it wasn’t much of a spill, and they did what any agency would have required to clean it up. This might have been overblown, On the other hand, I wonder what was up with the other part of the property? Not a lot of cooperation there. The Skunk certainly tipped their hand and proved, once again that they feel themselves exempt from any local rules or oversight. What happens when something major happens? I wonder if they’ll keep the fire department out if there’s a fire on the property?
BruceR: It’s very funny how the guy who has been organizing protests of 3-4 people against the Skunk Train’s operations, Bruce Broderick, just so happened to find the “spill” and that Will Nalty, the guy that lied about military service (stolen valor) is trusted to do any kind of independent reporting.
Mark Taylor: The facts are pretty simple. A spill was observed and reported to the County Environment Health Dept. The Skunk did not deny it was theirs and addressed it. Based on their explanation, a request was made to inspect another location on Skunk property. That request was denied on the basis of the Skunk’s long maintained claim of exemption from local, county and state rules. I suggest putting the personalities aside and consider the facts and their ramifications.
COUNTY NOTES (aka The Most Recent Edition Of Official Mendo’s Slo-Mo Train Wreck)
NEXT TUESDAY’S AGENDA continues the saga of ridiculous half-baked items, most of them served up on the Consent Calendar, without any plausible supporting data or explanation.
CONSENT ITEM 4F – “Direct staff to allocate Cannabis Business Tax revenue in manner approved by voters as $1,000,000 to Mendocino County Water Agency, half of remaining amount to local fire agencies and remainder to enforcement of marijuana.” Supervisors Williams and McGourty, apparently acting as one of the numerous Board ad hoc committees, recommend allocating Cannabis Business Tax revenue “in manner approved by voters as $1,000,000 to Mendocino County Water Agency, half of remaining amount to local fire agencies and remainder to enforcement of marijuana.”
THE SUPES don’t define what “enforcement of marijuana” means. Are they mandating that more be grown? Is it enforcement of the impossible to comply with permit regulations against already over-regulated permitted growers? Enforcement against non-permitted growers? Will the enforcement be carried out by the Cannabis Program? Code Enforcement? The Sheriff? The Agenda Item is mute. They also have no idea how much money is being discussed, whether or not it has been budgeted and whether or not the direction is prospective or retrospective or some kind of zen-internal monologue that only Craig Stehr could appreciate. What’s next? Enforcement of water?
UNDER ‘PREVIOUS ACTION’ the County pot staffers candidly state: “Advisory compliance has been difficult to track.” In fact there has been no compliance. In the five years since the passage of the cannabis tax the Supes have never identified the total annual sum to be allocated or the proportion of that total to be allocated to “funding enforcement of marijuana regulations, enhanced mental health services, repair of county roads, and increased fire and emergency medical services” as the long-ignored advisory measure from a few years ago directed them. Yet “follow through of the advisory has been difficult to track.”
IT MAKES A MOCKERY of the deliberative process (non-existent in Mendocino County) to spring an item like this on the Board on the consent calendar. Without identifying the funds to be allocated the proposed action only adds to the confusion. Which may be the idea to begin with. In another couple of years the issue will have been so thoroughly rehashed that no will remember that the cannabis tax was dedicated to specific purposes by public vote.
CONSENT ITEM 4S - Approve Purchase of Two Cellsense Ultra Contraband Detection Systems for the Mendocino County Administration Center and Mendocino County Probation in the Amount of $35,370.00. As usual there is no supporting information and no mention of the “contraband” to be detected. Drugs? Bombs? Firearms? Pocket knives? Airplane bottles of Jack Daniels? Tape recorders? Copies of the AVA? Sheriff Kendall himself? The explanation staff offers is “the County of Mendocino would like to add Contraband Detection Systems to the Administration Center and Probation to increase the security and safety of the staff and members of the public.”
THIS QUESTIONABLE item may explain a recent Closed Session agenda item vaguely labeled “Threat to County Facilities” which would have allowed CEO Angelo and her subservient Risk Manager to massage the Board into going along with another needless expense without bothering to even try to justify it publicly. It’s especially unnecessary since the public — not to mention the Supervisors themselves — are still largely excluded from the County Offices, including entirely from the Executive Office.
CONSENT ITEM 4X is another stunner: “Accept the informational report regarding the issuance of Emergency Coastal Development Permit EM_2021-0008 (PG&E) to remove 389 trees within California Department of Parks and Recreation jurisdiction.” The affected areas include: MacKerricher State Park (70 trees) Jug Handle State Natural Reserve (30 trees) Caspar Headlands State Beach (16 trees) Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Preserve (51 trees) Russian Gulch State Park (140 trees) Mendocino Headlands State Park (40 trees) Van Damme State Park (46 trees) Navarro River Redwoods State Park (3 trees) Manchester State Park (16 trees) Schooner Gulch State Beach (9 trees).
“…All trees proposed for management [sic] under this permit are within the Coastal Zone as defined by the California Coastal Act and within Mendocino County’s Local Coastal Plan management area. This project is also within PG&E’s Multi-Region Operations and Maintenance Habitat Conservation Plan area (MRHCP).”
THIS “EMERGENCY” LOGGING PERMIT was issued back on Sept. 24, 2021 and now two and a half months later staff is getting around to notifying the Supes. Supervisor Williams has been involved in direct negotiations with NorCal PG&E reps over terrible plans to cut a swath through County owned Faulkner Park in Boonville but PG&E’s removal of 389 trees in State Parks has flown right past the Board.
CONSENT ITEM 4AB is the adoption of a resolution “approving Department of Transportation Agreement Number 210004, exclusive franchise agreement between the County of Mendocino and Redwood Waste Solutions, Inc., upon execution for the term of this agreement from July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2032, for residential and commercial garbage, recyclable material and organic waste collection for County Solid Waste Franchise Area Number Two (Ukiah and Fort Bragg Areas).”
GETTING RID of Waste Management which gouged those ratepayers with questionable charges imposed retroactively and for bins or carts being over-filled is probably a good move. But the adoption of a 10-year franchise agreement on the consent calendar? Without any discussion of the contract terms? What will the impact on rates be? Will the new hauler continue the practice of charging outrageous fees if a bin is even slightly overfilled? Will retroactive charges be allowed? Who will negotiate rate increases?
CLOSED SESSION includes a personnel evaluation of County Counsel. Will the Supes take Christian Curtis to task for instigating an unnecessary conflict with the Sheriff and fighting to prevent the Sheriff from hiring legal counsel of his choice? For farming out huge contracts to CEO Angelo’s SF based legal supporters causing large overruns in the County Counsel’s office? Or will the Supes reward Curtis for being a faithful lapdog of the CEO, always eager to please his master no matter how bad it makes the Supes look or how much public money it squanders.
IN OTHER MATTERS, the ill-advised consolidation of the Auditor-Controller and Treasurer-Tax Collector is expected to be on the agenda for final action the following week, on December 14, most likely on consent. At their previous meeting the Supes introduced an ordinance proposing to combine the two independent offices despite a well written letter from Treasurer-Tax Collector Shari Schapmire pointing out the numerous pitfalls. The move will not result in any added efficiency but will reduce existing checks and balances and threatens to de-stabilize both offices. The Supes don’t care.
THE ONGOING DISPUTE with the District Attorney over having to submit travel claims for approval is well known by now. Assistant Auditor-Controller Chamise Cubbison ignited the ire of the DA by insisting that his attorneys follow County policy. The Supes could easily change the policy but it’s not fair to blame the people charged with enforcing the policy for doing so. But the dispute with the Acting Auditor Controller may go far deeper than a few travel claims.
THE LATEST RUMOR is that the Acting Auditor denied the CEO’s claim for reimbursement for a C-PAP machine to treat her sleep apnea. Worse yet, at least from the DA’s perspective, we’ve heard that she denied a claim for reimbursement for a hot tub. (Staff health-related, of course.) The rumors, if true (and they’re vouched for by County sources outside the Auditor-Controller’s office) explain the personal commitment of the DA and CEO in blocking Ms. Cubbison from being named Auditor-Controller.
SUPERVISOR GJERDE is also said to have a personal beef, as yet unspecified, with Ms. Cubbison. Gjerde projects a milk toast persona in public but is said to be pushy and demanding behind the scenes in efforts to get his way. Perhaps time will tell if the rumors are true. But true or not, there is no documented benefit to consolidating the County’s two primary independent financial offices while these spendthrifts are running the show. The needless consolidation just lends credence to the theory that it’s more about personal grudges and control, and less about financial accountability which has never been high on the Board’s agenda.
HOUSE MOVING, Fort Bragg (photos by Ron LeValley)
HOUSE REPUBLICAN LEADER Kevin McCarthy said Friday that he wouldn't be taking any action against Rep. Lauren Boebert for making suicide bomb jokes about Democratic Congressperson Ilhan Omar, a Muslim, because Boebert has already apologized. McCarthy said when AOC said “I was running a KKK caucus she didn't apologize to me.”
WHILE THE “LEADERSHIP” swapped insults and grappled in their DC sandbox, Anderson Valley, an island of rustic harmony, gathered for two significant events, the first in honor of the long-time secretarial anchor of the Boonville schools, Rebecca Brendlin, the second the lighting of the community Christmas tree at the Boonville Hotel.
THE WEDNESDAY PARTY at the Boonville Brewery for Rebecca was organized by our new hostess with the mostest, Louise Simson, superintendent of the Boonville schools who, and this is truly unprecedented for a school administrator, picked up the beer tab out of her own pocket. Rebecca's retirement after nearly 40 years of calmly keeping track of the innumerable daily crises that are school offices in these fraught times was well-attended by mostly school people, past and present, who did not feign their affection and admiration for their departing colleague. The Brendlins will continue to reside in Boonville.
THURSDAY EVENING, what seemed like the entire community gathered in the garden of the Boonville Hotel to raise money for the Anderson Valley Food Bank, the occasion being that worthy cause and the sometimes annual lighting of the Hotel's Christmas tree. Covid having thrown us all off kilter, the lights failed to light, not that the electrical failure dampened the enthusiasm of the large crowd. As ancient acquaintances enjoyed the Hotel's culinary bounty — really good and lots of it — and lied to each other about how good they looked after all the years, the Singing Sarahs sang, small children, their shoes illuminated with Christmas lights, ran in and out of their gathered elders and a bona fide good time was had by all. Admission was a suggested $15 and, for this attendee, it was the best time he's had for $15 since the head-butting nights at the old Boonville Lodge.
CHARLIE HIATT stopped me the other day to ask, “Who was the guy we used to play softball with way back at the Fairgrounds? He played shortstop barefoot.” I remembered the young man, could picture him even. I walked around all day thinking about him and trying to remember his name because I, like everyone else who knew him, liked him. He had a happy vitality about him, one of those rare persons who makes everyone around him feel good. When he died by drowning when the car he was in ran off 128 and into the winter Navarro, everyone who knew him in the Anderson Valley was saddened, still saddened whenever we think of him. I remember him as “Bill Fletcher,” which I was unsure of so I asked our ace researcher, Deb Silva, to see if she could find the only memory of our barefoot shortstop most of his have.
And she did:
Ukiah Daily Journal, September 16, 1974 — Two persons were killed and two others escaped serious injury in a Sunday morning crash on Highway 128 about half a mile east of Highway 1. State traffic officers reported that John Thomas Miller, 24, of Martinez, was eastbound on Highway 128 at about 2:30 AM when his car missed a turn and plunged into the Navarro River. The driver and a passenger in the front seat of the car, Dana McQuaide of Philo, escaped without serious injury. Two passengers in the back seat however were trapped in the vehicle when it overturned and drowned. Dead is William Fleischer, 24, of Philo, and a 22-year-old Walnut Creek woman. Her name is being withheld by authorities pending notification of next of kin. Miller was treated at Mendocino Coast Hospital for minor injuries and released. McQuaide was not hospitalized. A number of other accidents occurred on Mendocino County roads over the weekend, one of them a spectacular crash on Highway 101 North of Ukiah near the Heart Arrow ranch in which the driver miraculously escaped with only minor bruises.
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Mendocino Coast Beacon, December 12, 1974. No Manslaughter In Navarro Drownings — A tragic accident which on September 15 of this year took the lives of two young people has resulted in a jury verdict that John Thomas Miller, 24, of Martinez, the driver, was not guilty of vehicular manslaughter but was guilty of misdemeanor drunk driving. Drowned when they were trapped beneath the waters of the Navarro River were Kathleen Malolepszcy, of Concord, and William Fleischer of Navarro who were both dead when the vehicle was pulled from the river. Escaping were Miller, the driver, and his companion in the front seat, Dana McQuaid. They were apparently unable to assist the victims. According to the reports of the California Highway Patrol and the coroner's office, a sedan driven by the defendant went through a guardrail at 2:30 AM and plunged into the river. Evidence presented by Deputy District Attorney Leonard LaCasse indicated that the woman victim and the defendant had driven from Contra Costa County on September 14. They visited Fleischer, drank some wine, had dinner at about 11 then went to a dance at Navarro by the Sea. Miller had three or four scotch on the rocks while dancing. At about 2:15 AM the four left the dance and drove to the point of the accident. Miller testified that he was traveling between 30 and 40 mph when the car left the road.
CATCH OF THE DAY, December 3, 2021
BASILIO ANGUIANO, Ukiah. Failure to obey lawful peace officer order, resisting, probation revocation.
OSCAR CABEZAS-TAFOYA, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
JOSHUA FRAILEY, Orland/Ukiah. Probation revocation.
EUGENE HARRIS, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
TRAVIS HUMPHREY, Redwood Valley. Arson of inhabited structure during state of insurrection/emergency, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
SYLVESTER MCCOY, Upper Lake/Ukiah. DUI, suspended license.
JEREMIAH MCOSKER, Ukiah. County parole violation.
ZAHIR PECHCERON, Fort Bragg. Domestic battery, probation revocation.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
WILLIAM WILLIAMS JR., Willits. Failure to appear.
WATER & POWER IN CALIFORNIA
by Jonah Raskin
Some sleuths have a detective gene. One of them is my brother Adam, a PI for the past 40 years who tells me that everyone lies: cops, criminals, judges and lawyers. I think of Mark Arax as a natural born detective. His book, The Dreamt Land (Knopf), is a compelling report of his thorough investigations into the dark world of water and power. While it has been in print for several years, it’s still news, especially now that California is in the midst of a drought once again, and the cracks in the earth and in social institutions are wider than ever before.
This review meanders like a river, though it also hews to two main channels: one personal and the other social and political. As a young man growing up and coming of age under the hot California sun, Arax couldn’t help but be inquisitive, aim to separate truths from half-truths and outright lies and expose the guilty parties.
To separate the criminals from the worthy citizens and genuine environmentalists, Arax has traveled all over the American West, and “West of the West,” to borrow a phrase from his second book, which is subtitled, “Dreamers, Believers, Builders and Killers in the Golden State.” The key word in that cluster is “killers,” though “dreamers” runs a close second.
You can’t be a Californian and not entertain big dreams, whether they’re about wealth or justice, power or water, blockbuster movies or illegal drugs, a subject Arax mostly avoids. Still, he has tangled with more than one big-time criminal during his career as an investigative journalist who has followed in the paths carved out by Ida B. Wells, Lincoln Steffens and Carey McWilliams.
Wells wrote about lynching, which she rightly called, “Our National Crime.” Steffens uncovered urban corruption in The Shame of the Cities and McWilliams busted wide open corporate California agriculture in Factories in the Field, published in the thick of the Depression and in the same year as Steinbeck’s classic, The Grapes of Wrath. Some have likened Arax to Joan Didion, who skewered California in many of the essays collected in The White Album. Indeed, she has inspired Arax.
Water, its uses and abuses, is as big a story as lynching, urban evil, the Dust Bowl and the Okies who came to California to escape poverty. Dust seems to have followed them, or so Arax suggests.
In his own books, he has unearthed more environmental crimes and criminals— including big time water thieves, known as “water buffaloes,” plus violators of basic human rights—than any other living reporter in the state that’s been called “Golden. Let’s not forget that if California is a “golden state,” it’s also a “noir” state as Dashiell Hammett showed in Red Harvest and The Dain Curse and Raymond Chandler in The Big Sleep and The High Window. Not even during the boom times of the Gold Rush— which took place not long before California became a state—was the place golden, though many dreamed it was. Too much blood has stained the hills and valleys and too much water has been purloined and polluted to call the place “golden.”
When Arax writes about “The Golden State” it’s to demythologize it and its unending craving for what developers and ag giants call “a WaterFix.” If Arax is to be believed — there’s no good reason not to — there are no more yeoman, Jeffersonian farmers in the Great Central Valley which cranks out crops to feed most of the nation and in the process ravages the land, the people who work it and claims more water than it can actually use.
In his lyrical, monumental book, The Dreamt Land, Arax describes California as a landscape where water was “weaponized,” “mechanized” and “industrialized” early in its history, and certainly decades before he became a teenager in the 1970s. At the age of 15, his forty-year old Armenian father Ara—named after the Aras River which cuts through the land of his ancestors—was shot and killed in Fresno. That was in January 1972. Half-a-century later, it’s still the decisive event in his life, though he has been a husband, a father, a teacher and a writer who has won awards for his style of impassioned journalism in which the author himself is always emotionally and intellectually present and never a distant story teller.
Mark Arax took his memories of his dead father and his insatiable curiosity with him when he left home to attend college, first at nearby Fresno State and later at Columbia University in New York. Once he had his diplomas in hand he went to work as a reporter at The Los Angeles Times.
His beat was the Central Valley, which few people have wanted to be covered honestly and in depth. Too much money has been at stake to make it easy for reporters to tell its truths. Too much water has been spilled and too many lives, most of them belonging to Latinos, have been lost to locate the source of the problems. For most of his adult life, Arax has been searching for clues about his father’s murder, and at the same time about the theft of millions and millions of gallons of water (usually measured in acre feet) which has led to billions of dollars in bank accounts attached to men like Stewart Resnick and his lovely wife, Lynda.
According to Arax, the Resnicks “control more land and water — 130 billion gallons a year — than any other man or woman in California.” It hasn’t been easy to track down his father’s killers. Nor has it been easy to follow the hidden and obscure paths that water takes on the land the Resnicks own which spreads across five counties. On page 335, there’s a telling photo with the caption, “Resnick’s secret pipeline,” and the information that he’s been buying tens of thousands of acre-feet “in a series of hidden deals.”
The “transactions aren’t easy to trace,” Arax writes. “Public water auctions are rare; buyers and sellers confer behind closed doors and stay mum about deals.” He adds that “schemes” are “byzantine and harmful to the environment.” Page after page in The Dreamt Land—the title suggests a kind of figment of the human imagination— Arax has water on his mind. He also has his father on his mind.
In fact, he interrupts the narrative of his water story to write about the family tragedy that took place “on a fog-drip night…[when] two men wearing gloves walked into my father’s empty bar and shot him to death.” Arax adds, “They dumped their stolen car and a thirty-eight-caliber revolver into the canal’s black water and got away with murder for the next thirty-two years.” Every place Mark Arax looks he sees water. The murder was eventually solved, but that wasn’t until the twenty-first century.
It wasn’t his writing about his father or corporate ag in the Central Valley that upended his career as a journalist, but rather a story he filed about the Armenian Genocide, which took place in 1915-1916 when a million Armenians were slaughtered. In The Dreamt Land, Arax writes about an uncle of his who apparently strangled two Turkish men to death and fled to California under an assumed name. “That story – what parts were true, what parts were myth? — was passed down to me as a family’s act of vengeance,” he writes. Like all good reporters, he takes nothing for granted, asks pertinent questions and doesn’t fake news or information.
What exactly happened to Arax at the LA Times after he filed his story about the Armenian Genocide isn’t clear, though his editors declined to run it. In fact, it’s a bit of a mystery. Still, we know that Arax left the paper, struck out on his own and became a living legend in California journalism and literature.
Yes, his work qualifies as literature. He is the author of three bodacious books, often referred to as the “Arax trilogy”: In My Father’s Name, The Dreamt Land and West of the West. With the Drucker Institutes’ Rick Wartzman, he also wrote The King of California, which tells the story of “the building of a secret American empire in the middle of California” to borrow the words of one reviewer. Arax likes to find secrets, the deeper and the more hidden the better. Then he likes to uncover them and reveal them to anyone who will look and listen.
He does his job masterfully in The Dreamt Land, which is about many things, including his father, himself, environmental degradation, Indians, immigrants, salmon, corporate agriculture, and the lives of migrant workers, who are treated like feudal serfs in the Central Valley, a mirror of the state. Still The Dreamt Land is mostly about California water (including the kind that comes from Mt. Shasta and fills plastic bottles) though Arax ends his symphonic book by talking about fog and one particular tribe of Indians who lived around Buena Vista Lake and Kern Lake.
“The Yokut had a saying that when the farmer drained the last drop of snow melt from Tulare Lake, the water would return,” Arax writes. “It would return as tule fog would return to remind the white man of his theft.” It’s a lovely thought. I’ve heard California Indians express similar sentiments. Global warming, they say, is payback for the destruction of land, the water, the air. The fog is Arax’s last thought on the last page of his 562-page book. “The fog is our history,” he writes and suggests, at least to me, that California is a murky, mysterious place on a par with the fog of war. Getting beneath and behind the fog takes patience, endurance and luck.
Arax is not the first author to look into the fog and beyond it.
He will not be the last. When itwas published in 2019 The Dreamt Land seemed built to last a century. It is still a classic and an enduring work of literature. But already the land and indeed the whole planet have changed yet again, with apocalypse fast approaching on the horizon and time running out for Californians who are, on the whole, the most optimistic of Americans. If hope dies in the U.S it will die last along the Pacific Ocean, somewhere between San Francisco and San Diego.
Of course, water is a slippery subject that has ebbed and flowed in dozens and dozens of books, including Marc Reisner’s epic Cadillac Desert, Norris Hundley’s diligent The Great Thirst and Obe Kaufman’s small and potent “data-driven” The State of Water in which he writes, “To dominate the distribution of water is to dominate life.”
These books and many others on the same subject crowd the corner room which serves as my office in an old, two-story building in the heart of San Francisco’s financial district. The building, once a printing office, survived the 1906 earthquake and fire; not long ago this part of town, which was known as “the Barbary Coast” sat at the edge of the Bay. The owner of the building, an architect in his nineties who shies away from publicity, has followed the water story since about 1945 when he lived in a San Francisco boarding house. The other day the 93-year-old architect told me, “we are winning.”
“We,” being the environmentalists. He also told me that I should approach the subject at hand with a sense of optimism, though he also pointed out that environmental groups fight one another for mailing lists, donations and their place in the sun. Too often egos get in the way of the work.
There are probably more books about water in California than any other subject, except perhaps the Gold Rush, which “industrialized mining,” as Arax shows, made some men rich and that was an unmitigated environmental disaster that he writes about again and again and especially in Chapter 7, “Eureka,” which begins poetically, “What is gold but a vein. What is water but the blood that runs in a vein. The mining of gold is the mining of water first.”
You can’t write about California and not write about water. Write about California topography, geography, economics, history, biology and more and you must write about water, surface water and groundwater, (which is under the ground) and snow and rain. Also, a thorough journalist must write about the absence of water known as drought, which occurs every summer, when it rarely if ever rains.
For hundreds perhaps of years, as tree rings testify, California has endured long droughts. There has hardly been an extended period of time when there was no drought. Indeed, one might say that drought is the new normal. In the last chapter of his book, “Holy Water,” Arax writes, “there is no average here.” He adds, “It rains. It floods. It doesn’t rain. Drought comes.
During my first winter in California, which was in 1975-1976, it hardly rained. Drought was my introduction to California, specifically to Sonoma County, north of the Golden Gate. Then a torrential rain storm struck my house and land. Roads flooded. The wind knocked out the power lines and the phone didn’t work. I was isolated.
The redwood groves along the coast, I discovered, were rainforests. The Russian River would spill its banks and flood farms, pastures and towns like Guerneville. More recently fire and smoke have been added to the mix. The new normal is extremes of weather; heavy rainfall, flooding, inferno-like fires, and extended drought. They’re all connected.
Not long ago, I mounted an exhibit with a photographer named Karen Preuss that we called, “Parched, Drenched and Scorched.” The photos, along with my texts, were on view in the building where I now have my office. When we took down the exhibit I thought that I was done with floods, fires, droughts and other catastrophes. Boy was I wrong! Floods, fires, droughts and other catastrophes were not done with me or with California and all of the west. (Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert is subtitled The American West and Its Disappearing Water.)
What’s happening here in California is happening elsewhere. Like politics, water is local. One farmer might have more than he or she can use, while a neighbor has to truck it in. Arax paints that picture. At the same time, he shows that all water is regional and global.
In California, as Arax demonstrates, water flows from North to South, West to East, from mountains to valleys and from largely unpopulated, remote locales in the Sierras, to mega cities such as San Diego and Los Angeles. Ag grabs 80% of the state’s supply of water; cities 20%. There’s always a push and a pull between the two. In the era of global climate change, the battle is becoming more and more heated.
The City of Angels is of course the setting for Roman Polanski’s noir classic, Chinatown, which nails the nexus between water and power and the personal and the political in California. Arax mentions the film, but only in passing. Chinatown has been connected to the story of water so often that it’s now a part of the mythology of state. Often when I’ve talked to Californians about the subject of water, they’ve interrupted me and said, “Chinatown,” as though that’s all there is to say. In a way they are right, though they’re also wrong. There are more than a dozen big different water stories in California.
In the twenty-one chapters that make up Chasing the Dream and that follow the state’s major crops and some of its big industries— including cattle ranching, which devours water—Arax tackles the major stories, some of which are set in the past. Gold led to cattle, cattle to wheat, wheat to grapes, grapes to almonds and almonds to pistachios. Whatever the market dictates. Arax goes back before the first settlers arrived. “California Indians didn’t need to move the water to survive,” he writes. He adds, “Only the Paiute of the Owens Valley and the Cahuilla of Palm Springs erected water-conveyance systems that sought to even out the extremes of mountain and desert climes.” That’s some mighty savvy technology.
Arax tells the Owens Valley story, which has been told many times before. Reisner tells it masterfully in Cadillac Desert. Still it’s a story well worth repeating, especially how Los Angeles and men like William Mulholland, stole land and water from hoodwinked farmers, some with guns in the Owens Valley. Arax also makes sure to bring JFK into the water story and at precisely the right moment. The president was with California Governor Pat Brown when ground was broken for the San Luis Reservoir which when completed would store water from the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta and send it via the California Aqueduct to valley farmers.
On that day, JFK said what must have been obvious to many of the 12,000 people in the audience, including the representatives of big ag. But it was good to hear the president himself say it: “We can see the greenest and most rich earth producing the greatest and richest crops in the world. And then a mile away we can see the same earth and see it brown and dusty and useless, and all because there’s water in one place and there isn’t in another.”
Arax is wise not to dissect Kennedy’s speech that speaks for itself. Wise also not to analyze and interpret Chinatown. Still, his portraits of real life water oligarchs like Stewart Resnick— who created an empire in the water poor “Westlands”— provide enough information for screenwriters to create at least half-a-dozen contemporary villains who might replace the celluloid Noah Cross in Polanski’s film.
If only the studios had the guts to make them. Stewart and Lynda Resnick are masters of PR, marketing and advertising. According to Arax, they changed “the way food was grown in California and sold to the world.” He adds, “If they were farmers, they were farmers who hung out with Tom Hanks, Steve Martin, David Geffen, Warren Beatty and Joan Didion.”
At the end of The Dreamt Land, Arax offers a comprehensive program that includes: build no more dams; expand the capacity to hold snow and water; restrict groundwater pumping to safe levels; retire millions of acres where farming is unsustainable; prevent urban sprawl; create agricultural preserves; and conserve, conserve, conserve. That’s what I’m doing right now. The State Water Board has asked San Franciscans to cut water use by 5%. Will that alleviate the crisis? It might. But unless and until it rains again, we’re in big trouble.
We need exactly what the ag oligarchs and the politicians who live in their deep pockets don’t want. Big government that’s on the side of people like Tom Joad, the undocumented workers on Resnick’s plantations, and the many California residents who are forced to use water that’s not fit for barnyard animals. Is it too much to call for a new New Deal, and a Green New Deal that would help the poor, the thirsty, the battered, the homeless and the hungry, along with the fish and all living creatures that cry out for clean water in a state that’s called “Golden.”
(Jonah Raskin is the author of Beat Blues, San Francisco, 1955.)
SAN FRANCISCO TODAY
THE GREAT AMERICAN LAND GRAB
by Peter Barnes, The New Republic, June 5, 1971
With three out of four Americans now jammed into cities, no one pays much attention to landholding patterns in the countryside. How things have changed. A hundred years ago, land for the landless was a battle cry. People sailed the oceans, traversed the continent and fought the Indians, all for a piece of territory they might call their own. America envisioned itself — not entirely accurately — as a nation of independent farmers, hardy, self-reliant, democratic. Others saw us this way too. Tocqueville noted the “great equality” that existed among the immigrants who settled New England, the absence of rich landed proprietors except in the South, and the emergence in the western settlements of “democracy arrived at its utmost limits.”
Along with industrialization, however, came urbanization and the decline of the Arcadian dream. Immigrants forgot about land and thought about jobs instead; the sons and grandsons of the original pioneers began to leave the farms and join the immigrants in the cities. Radical agitation shifted from farm to factory. Frontiersmen’s demands for free land and easy credit were supplanted by workers’ demands for a fair wage, decent conditions and union recognition. In due course a kind of permanent prosperity was achieved, and America directed its energies outwards, not inwards. Consumers bought their food in neatly wrapped packages, at prices most of them could afford, and forgot about the land.
Why, then, in 1971, should we turn back to look at our landholding patterns? One reason is that the land is still’ the cradle of great poverty and injustice. Another is that the beauty of the land is fast disappearing. Canyons are being dammed, redwoods felled, hills strip-mined and plateaus smogged. Wilderness and croplands are giving way to suburban sprawl and second-home developments. And the balance of nature itself is threatened by excessive use of pesticides....
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY: Mel Brooks had it right all along, “People, they’re Nuts.” Everything going on right now can be directly traced back to unsound money. It was my parent's generation (I’m a boomer) who lost the war of Banksters against Humanity, and it looks like it is up to my grandchildren to take it back up again. Not sure they have it in them. So, I was perusing utube yesterday and watched Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” w/ introduction by him. He was talking about overpopulation, wars, climate, etc, more or less what is going on today and it gave me a new perspective for a little while.
WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD
I see trees of green
Red roses too
I see them bloom
For me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
I see skies of blue
And clouds of white
The bright blessed day
The dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
The colors of the rainbow
So pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces
Of people going by
I see friends shaking hands
Saying, "How do you do?"
They're really saying
"I love you"
I hear babies cry
I watch them grow
They'll learn much more
Than I'll never know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself
What a wonderful world
(composed by Bob Thiele & George Weiss; popularized by Louis Armstrong)
(MCN Chat Line)
 Two times, I’ve entered this store with my little Service Dog (on a leash!) and out of nowhere the owner’s big unleashed dog runs up and viciously attacks my dog. The first time my dog had a bleeding gnash on his head. When I approached owner about this, he casually said his dog didn’t like little white dogs. How about posting a sign or warning, then? I suggested. (After all Mendocino is a dog friendly place). He simply shrugged and walked away. Never ever ever going there again.
 Sorry for your horrific experience - hope you dog recovers quickly …. I suggest we all refrain from going in there and letting the owners know why … unleashed violent dogs are the last thing we need around here …
 Are you serious?! That 'vicious' dog is like a million years old! Attacked twice? Once was not enough for you to figure out not to repeat endangering your small 'therapy' dog? Therapy dog? You get one of those silly online certificates & a little vest from etsy? Got news for you: most dogs are therapy for their humans. If you have an actual trained Service Dog, well excuse me, but anyone can call their dog a 'therapy' dog. I've interacted with that dog countless times, just as friendly and sweet as my pooch (who stays in the car - dog-friendly town or not - because I know dogs can still be unpredictable and I don't wanna precipitate any conflicts; common sense). In fact, in my experience, small dogs are typically WAY more aggresive, to the point that there is even a cliche for their behavior: "big dog syndrome"... like human, like dog. Say what you will about the owner, I know him as a good, community-minded person with a wry sense of humor & his dog and business are both very worthy of my interaction. In fact, if your house catches fire, he's prolly gonna be there to extinguish it for you, despite what you think of him. You fall in the ocean, wreck your car, have a heart attack, whatever, he's gonna be there to help you without question or judgement. That's the kinda' people you are defaming & persecuting, your COMMUNITY. I am not closely connected to him or the shop, I just think your complaint is gaslighting and irresponsible. Enough local biz has been crippled in the past 2 years, stop trying to injure another one. We are a town where most of the business owners are locals who actually love their community - be grateful for what we have, it's rare. Sounds like the real problem here is you and your dog - leave it in the car if you can't keep it under control. Stop making problems.
 I’m weighing in: small dogs are often snappy and annoying to older dogs. Perhaps the small dog owner bears some responsibility for not containing her dog in the vicinity of the owner’s dog’s territory?
In another winter of discontent, 2021 will end with almost 800,000 COVID-19 related deaths. What have Americans learned? The lesson of “leadership matters” comes to mind. One leader embraces science and consults with experts who understand the challenges of COVID-19: transmissibility, progeny/offspring and longevity/durability. Vaccines, masks and boosters are examples of science defeating the virus. A second leader embraces willful ignorance, narcissistic buffoonery and the promotion of deranged clinical advice, such as drinking bleach or inserting a light into the body’s cavity to cure COVID-19.
As we enter the third year of the pandemic what do we do? For most of us, we get vaccinated, take our booster shots and follow the scientific advice. Now, an antiviral pill is available for the unvaccinated and breakthrough cases. Hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 and variants will decrease in frequency. Soon we will settle into a new normal. COVID-19 will lose its deadly grip; after all, previous pandemics ended without a vaccine. Maybe we will have our flu shots twice a year rather than once.
Leadership is healing the division within our country, not exploiting differences. Focusing on climate science, investing in families and infrastructure. Or back to the walking tornado of incompetence and corruption.
Steven J. Garcia
BRAVO TO THE NYT, and who knows better than they do about liberal hypocrisy? The liberal class, the so-called meritocracy, is not living its professed values or principles. The Center cannot hold. It is corrupt and cannot govern. And since there is no Left -- we are moving to the Right and fascism. “Every movement to the Right is due to the failure of the Left.”
— Carol Mattessich
ASSAULT GUN KILLING, AGAIN!
Thankfully California's gun law was recently confirmed. Not so in the Detroit, Michigan suburban school this week.
On Thursday, Nov. 30th Ethan Crumbley, 15, killed four fellow students and critically wounded one young lady. Once the number of guns didn’t outnumber the total of American citizens as it does today. In 1954 I was twelve, an 8th grader in Jacksonville, Florida. I had a buddy whose father hunted.
On a Saturday afternoon I found myself walking in a field out in nature carrying what was then called an “over and under” rifle. It was a “30-0(ought)-6” with one barrel — a larger caliber gun. The narrower barrel was a 22. It was just for hunting; not capable of shooting multiple rounds by constantly holding down the trigger. Fortunately, I didn’t shoot John or his father (no pheasants either).
There have been far too many recent tragedies, like at Oxford High in Michigan, caused by the presence of an assault military weapon, just “out there,” readily accessible to anyone.
FOR THE PAST EIGHT presidential elections, 5 of which were won outright by Democrats (who also carried the popular vote in 7), we were told that the primary reason to hold our collective noses and vote for Democrats was to preserve the Supreme Court and save Roe v. Wade. Over that same period, the court has swung to a super-majority of the far right, which has whacked voting rights, environmental laws, campaign finance reform, immigration rights, and abortion rights. For 25 of those 29 years, Joe Biden was either chair/ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Vice-President or President. The Democrats have forsaken the last reason to vote for them.
— Jeffrey St. Clair
SUPPORTS SKUNK PLAN, Dierdre Lamb writes: "I have lived on the coast for almost my whole life. I have seen Fort Bragg City make one bad decision after the next on so many projects, it would make your head spin to see them listed. How about Linda Ruffing, who spent years the head of City Planning and toiled hours and hours for years to get the Coastal Trail approved and in. Frankly, I couldn’t believe it, I was sure Fort Bragg City would designated the oceanfront part of the headlands for McMansions, an airstrip, housing, who knows. And after 10 years of Linda’s life, and the trail in and with no warning, she was fired from her job. She was reeling for a while about it, they said they wanted someone more “progressive” which equals more money. The Fort Bragg City doesn’t realize the Coastal Trail has added a priceless feature to the city, for people to walk, bike, and hike. It has made Fort Bragg a nice place to live. So, I am all for the Skunk Train, I saw their plans in the Little Stinker newsletter they sent out, and I think they are great. And, I think they will follow through with them. I do not think Fort Bragg City would follow through on making the headlands nice, and the Skunk Train will."
LOOKING FOR THE CENTER IN GARBERVILLE
Immortality, Divine Anarchy, & Eco-Revolution
Update fr. The Earth First! Media Ctr. Garberville, CA @ 3:00PM PST
Warmest spiritual greetings, Following a morning of watching the news on the big screen, my comment to Earth First!er Andy Caffrey was simple: "The center is NOT holding in this civilization!" It's not just the constant stories of abominable behaviour by the youth, but the evil, crazy, "worms in excretia" that comprise the adult population as well. We know that this is the dark phase of Kali yuga, and that the demons will be destroyed, and that this world will be returned to righteousness, which will then herald in the Satya yuga. [Of course, if this is the final yugic playout, then the entire creation will be reabsorbed into Brahman for a gestation period, until (perhaps) such time as another yugic cycle commences. Nota bene: Even the Vedic astrologers do not know the specifics.]
For now, if you have either advanced to the stage of a Jivan Mukta, or are solidly on the way, let us collectively drop the attachment to the body-complex altogether, and without interference, let the Brahmic vrittis take over. In other words, let the thought waves created by the Divine Absolute occur in the mind, and then allow the subsequent actions to take place. This is the ideal situation in yoga.
Please know that the social security benefits have come in, and thus I am ready and eager to move on for more frontline spiritually focused direct action, what with the digitization of the Earth First! video archive accomplished and stored in the cloud; Andy doing the technical work and myself contributing financially and otherwise. You are invited to contact me with an invitation, to join with you, if you identify with where I am generally coming from. It's simple. Thanks for listening. ?
Craig Louis Stehr, email@example.com
POST-MODERN HEADQUARTERS, GARBERVILLE (Craig Stehr in the middle, Andy Caffrey with the big beard. The third guy is an innocent bystander)