Wind Rain | 17 Cases | Another Death | Museum Benefit | Book Signing | Kelley Family | CoCo Raise | Rockport View | Consolidation | Toy Run | Pot Undertaker | Mendo Namesakes | Crisis Facility | Drought Zoom | Mendocino Unchanged | BOS Agenda | Trent Video | Reckless Fatality | Stinkerland | Jussie Can't | Blighting | Skunky Questions | Labor Shortage | Coast Ancestors | Ed Notes | Reel Foot | Soto Suspicions | Proud Ghoster | Yesterday's Catch | 215 25 | Filthy Rich | Exceptional Idiocy | Redwood Forest | Marin Escape | Final Variant | MasterClass | Scam Nigerians | Silencing Assange | Some Weirdo | SNAPshot | Lost Elk | Marco Radio | Bella/Bestia | Journalist Prize | After School | Culture War
AS A COLD FRONT APPROACHES today, southerly winds will become locally strong, particularly across Humboldt and Del Norte counties. Rain and mountain snow will spread southeastward across northwest California, reaching southern Lake County late this evening. Winds diminish tonight with lighter, more showery precipitation for Sunday. Another area of low pressure will bring rain, mountain snow, and gusty southerly winds on Monday.
THE STRONGEST WINDS will be on the higher peaks of Humboldt and Del Norte county and along the more prominent coastal headlands in the late afternoon and early evening hours. Winds will diminish substantially in the wake of the cold front Saturday night. Periods of gusty southerly winds will continue through Monday, but will not be as strong as this episode, with gusts below the Wind Advisory threshold of 45 mph.
PRECIPITATION is forecast to spread across the area through the day on Saturday. The heaviest precipitation will most likely occur Saturday night. Most areas will see a break in the heavier rain and snow on Sunday. Additional rain, wind, and snow are expected early next week. The rain will generally be beneficial, however brief heavy rain will reduce driving visibility and traction.
(National Weather Service)
17 NEW COVID CASES and another death (100) reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.
[Note: The dashboard is not displaying the correct # number of deaths. There have been 100 deaths due to COVID-19.]
MENDO HITS 100 COVID DEATHS
A Mendocino County resident recently passed away from COVID-19. Our thoughts are with all of their family and friends.
Death #100: Minor less than 18 years old from Fort Bragg area; fully vaccinated with comorbidities.
Public Health asks all Mendocino County residents to think about the ways they are protecting themselves and their families from COVID-19. When in doubt, consult with and follow all CDC and CDPH guidance. Vaccination, masking, and social distancing remain the best tools for combating COVID-19.
Fully vaccinated people over age 16 should strongly consider getting a COVID-19 vaccine booster to improve immunity. If you have questions about boosters or vaccines in general, speak with your doctor, or call Public Health at 707-472-2759. To find the nearest vaccine clinic in your area, please visit the Public Health website at: www.mendocinocounty.org/covid19
LITTLE RIVER MUSEUM
Don't forget to join the Little River Museum staff and volunteers on Saturday, December 11th from 11am to 4pm for our Holiday Open House featuring light refreshments, dulcimer music to put you in the spirit, and affordable stained glass gifts! All proceeds from the gifts sale go to benefit the continued community presence of the museum.
This is a wonderful way to support your community and get in the Christmas mood for Candlelight shopping in the early evening.
The museum is located at 8185 Hwy 1 in Little River. Parking is available across the highway at Petersen's Headlands. Admission is always free (and masking required).
AVA CONTRIBUTOR, local historian and author Katy Tahja, will be autographing copies of her book “An Eclectic History of Mendocino County” between 4:30 and 6:30 at Gallery Bookshop for Mendocino’s Saturday Shopping Night. Pick up a copy or one of her earlier books as the perfect gift for a local history lover.
SUPES PUT LARGE RAISE FOR COUNTY COUNSEL ON CONSENT CALENDAR
Tuesday, December 14, Board Meeting Consent Calendar Item 4c:
Approval of Employment Agreement Between the County of Mendocino and Christian M. Curtis to Serve as County Counsel for the Term of August 9, 2020 through August 8, 2024, Including Compensation Effective December 26, 2021 in the Amount of One Hundred Ninety-two Thousand Four Hundred and Thirty-Six Dollars ($192,436.00)/Annually (Sponsor: Supervisor Gjerde)
Summary of Request:
This item proposes and recommends that the Board of Supervisors approve Employment Agreement between The County of Mendocino and Christian M. Curtis for the term August 9, 2020 through August 8, 2024.
Mr. Curtis was appointed as County Counsel for Mendocino County effective August 9, 2020. He was hired as a Deputy County Counsel IV August 28, 2016, promoted to Chief Deputy Counsel then to Assistant County Counsel prior to his current appointment.
current f/y cost: $39,470 Increase; includes cost of benefits
annual recurring cost: $327,141 Includes cost of benefits
Agreement/Resolution/Ordinance Approved by County Counsel: Yes
According to the attached proposed agreement Effective Dec. 26, 2022 county will also adjust County Counsel’s pay to maintain employee’s annual salary at 15% above Step 5 of Assistant County Counsel (which County Counsel himself controls, thus putting him in a position to give himself a raise by giving his assistant a raise).
Since this would be effective in the middle of the fiscal year, and current fiscal year cost is $39,470 (includes the cost of benefits), then the annual increase is almost $80k per year which is not mentioned anywhere in the item or attachments.
This is the same County Counsel who has lead the stumbling charge in the County’s case against the Sheriff during which he was admonished by Judge Moorman for pre-empting her ruling by having the board approve an attorney other than Duncan James while the ruling was pending, the same County Counsel who has farmed out hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal services to outside counsel, and who has never reported on his department’s caseload or performance and who does not appear in the legal establishments two main attorney rating service database.
PS. According to transparent California, Mendo DA David Eyster makes about $158k base salary and runs a much bigger office with many more duties and responsibilities. What’s next, a giant pay raise for the DA?
PPS. We have sent requests to Supervisor Gjerde (who sponsored this item) and his colleagues asking for their justification of this outrageous proposal. As of Friday night, no response.
IRONICALLY, considering the unexplained and unjustified pay raise proposal for County Counsel Curtis, Tuesday's Closed Session includes this familiar item: “Conference with Legal Counsel - Existing Litigation: One Case - Harinder Grewal v. Mendocino County” which has cost the County — gasp! — $600,000 in legal fees (and counting) for outside counsel. Former Ag Commissioner Grewal alleges he was the victim of discrimination and was wrongfully terminated. Mr. Grewal's real crime was attempting to reverse the island culture that existed in the Ag Department. Grewal, obviously too professional for Mendocino County, insisted employees show up on time instead of coming in late, leaving early and running personal errands on county time. The County fired him instead of investigating the discrimination.
THE COUNTY COUNSEL'S OFFICE has 8 or 9 attorneys on staff but every high profile legal case gets palmed off on Liebert, Cassidy & Whitmore (LCW) the pricy San Francisco legal outfit, and Carmel Angelo's go to choice for legal advice. Even if Curtis wasn't creating conflicts with the Sheriff, provoking a lawsuit, irritating the judge and making the Supes look like fools, with all the difficult cases being farmed out, what is the justification for handing him a huge pay increase? The item offers nothing in the way of justification besides the implication that he has to be paid more than his subordinate whose salary he controls.
THE GREWAL CASE is set for trial in February but these things often result in last minute settlements. Whether Grewal settles or wins, in addition to paying whatever settlement agreement is announced and at least $600k for LCW, the County will also have to pay for Grewal's attorney. Who just happens to be the Law Office of Duncan James, the Sheriff's sole choice for legal representation. Compounding the irony is that Curtis advised the Supes not to hire Duncan James because he would be too expensive! But it's Curtis who has been dragging out the fight with the Sheriff, running up the legal fees and wasting the court's (and everyone else's) time.
CURTIS IS NOT held in high regard by the local legal fraternity (including judges, perhaps especially judges), an opinion that's supported by his inept performance in the Sheriff's case. Curtis wasn't even able to sustain a bogus restraining order against Barbara Howe, another of the CEO’s abrupt firings without any apparent justification and who is also suing the County. Despite not handling any of the tough cases, the County Counsel's office struggles to keep up with routine requests from other departments, and reviews of boilerplate contract approvals as to form and other simple matters which often take six weeks to six months or longer to get a response.
TO SUMMARIZE: County Counsel can't handle the tough cases, can't keep up with the routine work, overruns his own budget, worked with the CEO to set the Supes up for a pointless (but expensive and time consuming) fight with the Sheriff and has managed to alienate the judge who is hearing the case. And so far they're only fighting over whether the Sheriff gets to pick his own attorney! Once the judge issues her ruling (which will almost certainly be in the Sheriff's favor) don't be surprised if the first agenda next year includes a consent calendar item for a contract with LCW to take over the case.
SUPES POISED TO ELIMINATE INDEPENDENT FINANCIAL OFFICES AND OFFICERS
Without ANY analysis and against the judgment of both persons involved and everybody else but themselves.
Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, Agenda Item 5h:
Discussion and Possible Adoption of 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) Adopt 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; and authorize Chair to sign same; or
2) Direct County Counsel to prepare an ordinance and ballot materials for the creation of a Director of Finance Position; or
3) Affirm preference for current County structure and direct staff that no further action on consolidation is required.
Previous Board/Board Committee Actions:
On November 15, 2021, the Board of Supervisors waived 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. The Board of Supervisors directed this item to return on December 14, 2021 for a second reading.
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.
5i Agenda Title:
Discussion and Possible Action Including Adoption of Resolution Establishing the Compensation of the Consolidated Elected Auditor-Controller Treasurer-Tax Collector at $176,267.30 Annually
(Sponsors: Human Resources and County Counsel)
Adopt Resolution establishing the compensation of the consolidated elected Auditor-Controller Treasurer-Tax Collector at $176,267.30 annually; and authorize Chair to sign same.
Previous Board/Board Committee Actions:
On December 19, 2017, the Board of Supervisors adopted Resolution Number 17-189 establishing the compensation of Mendocino County Elected Department Heads and Officials.
Summary of Request:
The Human Resources Department is charged, as part of the overall maintenance of the classification and compensation plan, to evaluate current classifications, create new classifications (including appropriate salary levels), reclassify positions, examine requests for salary grade adjustments, analyze allocations, and make recommendations for additions, modifications, and corrections.
This item and accompanying resolution to establish the compensation of a single incumbent/single position Auditor-Controller Treasurer Tax Collector at $176,267.30/annually is contingent upon, and concurrent with, the Board’s adoption of Ordinance Consolidating the Elected Offices of Auditor-Controller and Treasurer-Tax Collector, effective January 2023.
The fiscal impact shown below reflects salary of $176,267.30 including the cost of benefits.
* * *
TREASURER SCHAPMIRE OPPOSES CONSOLIDATION
Honorable Board Of Supervisors
Shari L. Schapmire, Treasurer-Tax Collector
Proposed Consolidation Of The Auditor-Controller And Treasurer-Tax Collector Positions
On November 15, 2021, your Board voted unanimously to adopt the first reading of an ordinance to consolidate the positions of the Auditor-Controller and Treasurer-Tax Collector. Prior to the second reading of this ordinance, finalizing this decision, I would like to share my additional thoughts on this subject.
Throughout the November 15, 2021 meeting, the majority of the board appeared to express a desire to someday have one centralized financial office. While this may very well be an efficient and resilient structure for the County one day, it can only be accomplished successfully through planning, analyzing, and taking the necessary time to fully understand all the factors involved. As there has been limited discussions with leadership in both the Auditor-Controller and Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Offices, it is clear this decision could be made without fully evaluating the repercussions of such a financially consequential decision.
A concern raised during the recent meeting was these elected department heads will hand-pick their soon-to-be elected replacements. One thing to keep in mind, regardless of a Department Head being appointed or elected, they all still have the same responsibilities to maintain operations within their departments. It only makes sense that senior leadership in all departments are being mentored to one day take the lead in their respective departments, this is the best scenario for the County. In fact, the County affirms to encourage this scenario with the adoption of the High Performance Organization Leadership Initiative. One of the main themes is investing in and supporting employee development as this results in the retention and promotion of quality employees.
I ran for Treasurer-Tax Collector in 2006, not because I was hand-picked by my predecessor, but because I realized if I did not run I would have the responsibility to train my replacement – my new boss. In fact, I never had aspirations to run for Treasurer-Tax Collector, it was just where my career path led me. Senior leadership is the future of the County, to dismiss this segment of our staff in offices with elected department heads is not the best use of our human capital.
Senior leadership in offices with elected department heads have spent years, or in many cases decades, learning all the important laws, policies, and procedures that govern their respective offices. Do we want these individuals to aspire to be Mendocino County Department Heads or do we want them to move on to other Counties where their experience and expertise is valued and they will have more opportunities? The loss of this continuity could be detrimental to any office.
Board members also raised the issue that if this combined structure works in Sonoma County, it can surely work in Mendocino County. To compare the staffing and financial resources of Sonoma County and Mendocino County is not a fair comparison. This is especially true with the required dedicated staffing needed for the new $2 million property system conversion, as well as the Munis Financial system upgrade. These new or changing structures can only happen if the staffing and financial resources are there to make it successfully happen, this resource does not exist in Mendocino County.
I cannot stress enough, in my opinion, if the offices of the Auditor-Controller and Treasurer- Controller are combined, the success of the new $2 million property system is in jeopardy. The limited leadership staff coordinating this project would also be the staff tasked with establishing new operational processes and procedures, as well as taking on an unlimited amount of new fiscal and financial responsibilities. This property system 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, all energy needs to be devoted to developing the new property system. The successful operation of the property system needs to be one of the biggest pillars to any comprehensive financial structure the Board is envisioning for the future.
I am respectfully requesting this Board not adopt the second reading of the ordinance to consolidate the positions of the Auditor-Controller and Treasurer-Tax Collector. I am adamantly opposed to any consolidation of financial services as separation of duties and responsibilities, as well as necessary checks and balances between the governing body, elected officials, and management, are already in place. This proposal would place too much financial power with one elected official. Instead of destabilizing two stable offices in a rushed decision, I encourage this Board to take the necessary time to fully analyze all the possible options so the best decision can be made for the citizens of Mendocino County.
I would be happy to answer any additional questions the Board may have.
WHAT HAPPENS TO CONFISCATED POT? (and who checks to make sure it stays buried?)
From next Tuesday’s Consent Consent Calendar:
Item 4p. The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office has an annual revenue agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DOJ DEA) for the eradication and suppression of illicit cannabis on federal lands. Marijuana disposal is an essential and final step in the illicit marijuana eradication process. MCSO has contracted with Edward Berry Jr. to provide this service in previous fiscal years. Due to delays in the contract process, this agreement is presented for retroactive consideration.
* * *
WHO'S WHO IN MENDOCINO WINE COUNTRY: ED BERRY, JR.
A Mendocino County grape grower who farms 100 acres in the Talmage Bench, Ed's been at it, alongside his parents, since they moved here in 1976.
“Mendocino County farmers are original family farmers who are highly competent and don't turn their backs until the fruit is in the bucket,” he says. Ed tends his Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay crops with care at the family's Cononiah Vineyard, which his mother named and means “Fellowship.” They primarily sell their grapes to Navarro, McNab Ridge, Jackson Family Wines, and Clos du Bois. “People take our fruit and make great wines. It's a pleasure to seek a customer who will make something wonderful with it. I look for a winemaker who appreciates the 10 months of hard work; and my neighbors feel the same way.”
Ed earned degrees in agronomy and business from Chico State and is very concerned with managing his land with sustainable and environmentally friendly farming. He uses soil conservation methods, such as cover crops and road winterization practices to prevent fine sediment from finding its way into Mill Creek. “I'm a resource manager, that”s what farming is,” he says. “We run a clean business and our topsoil stays where it belongs.”
An advocate of participation at every level Ed feels fortunate for the farming lifestyle that afforded him opportunities to help raise his children and stay involved with his church. He spent years taking groups of kids to La Presa, a town in Mexico southeast of Tijuana, to build orphanages, kitchens, bunk houses and other infrastructure. “We always came back learning more from them,” he says. “They are so relational while we Americans are more industrial, always wanting to solve problems. It's the same for farming. To sell fruit you have to know people by maintaining relationships.”
(Ukiah Daily Journal)
Crisis Residential Treatment Facility Ribbon Cutting
Behavioral Health and Recovery Services invites you to attend the grand opening of the Crisis Residential Treatment Facility! The ribbon cutting will be on Thursday, December 16, from 2:30 - 4:30 PM at 641 Orchard Avenue, Ukiah, CA.
Members of the public are welcome to attend.
DROUGHT AD HOC COMMITTEE TO HOST VIRTUAL COUNTYWIDE DROUGHT TASK FORCE MEETING ON DECEMBER 16TH
Post Date: 12/10/2021 12:00 PM
On Thursday, December 16th at 4:00pm, The Board of Supervisors Drought Ad Hoc Committee consisting of Supervisor John Haschak and Supervisor Glenn McGourty will host a virtual Countywide Drought Task Force Meeting. The Supervisors will give an update on their current discussions with community partners and staff on drought related issues. Members of the public will have an opportunity to hear a brief update and share their recommendations with the Ad Hoc Committee.
Please click the link below to join the webinar: https://mendocinocounty.zoom.us/j/88971765675?pwd=Ty9Nczk4MlVGSjlxaE82Slc2YndhQT09
Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
US: +1 669 900 9128 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 253 215 8782 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 558 8656
Webinar ID: 889 7176 5675
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS REGULAR MEETING AGENDA - DECEMBER 14, 2021
Community Partners, Colleagues, and Interested Parties:
The Board of Supervisors Regular Meeting Agenda for the Tuesday, December 14, 2021 meeting, has been published and is now available on the County website: https://mendocino.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx
Please contact Clerk of the Board at (707) 463-4441 if you have any questions regarding this message.
FORMER DEPUTY TRENT JAMES’S LATEST
DENNIS DAY DIES IN FORT BRAGG RECKLESS RIDING MOTORCYCLE INCIDENT
On December 09, 2021 at approximately 10:16 p.m., Officers were conducting foot patrol in the downtown when they observed two motorcycles driving recklessly at the intersection of N. Franklin Street and E. Redwood Street. Officers returned to their vehicles and began checking the area for the motorcycles.
While checking the last known direction of travel of the motorcycles, Officers located Dennis Day, 34, of Fort Bragg lying in the roadway in the 500 Block of E. Pine Street.
Day had no pulse and Officers initiated life saving measures utilizing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and an Automated Defibrillator Device (AED). Medical staff arrived on scene to assist officers with CPR, however Day was pronounced deceased on scene.
Based on witness statements and the initial traffic collision investigation, Officers determined that Day was driving his motorcycle at excessive speeds eastbound on E. Pine Street when he struck a parked pickup truck. The force of the collision ejected Day from his motorcycle and he landed in the street where Officers found him. After Day was ejected from the motorcycle, the motorcycle continued eastbound, rolling through a wooden fence and colliding with a parked vehicle nearly 175 feet away from the initial collision. Once the motorcycle struck the second parked vehicle, the motorcycle became airborne and entered a plate glass window in the living room of a nearby residence. The residence was occupied at the time, however the occupants had recently left the living room in order to go to bed for the evening.
During the initial investigation, Officers determined that Day was in possession of a firearm at the time of the collision. The force of the collision caused the firearm to be dislodged from Day’s person resulting in firearm parts and live ammunition being spread through the area.
Officers were able to confirm that Day was the motorcyclist who was previously observed driving recklessly in the downtown. The second motorcyclist initially observed was also stopped and identified at the scene of the collision. An investigation continues to determine whether any criminal charges will be brought against the second motorcyclist.
The Fort Bragg Police Department extends its condolences to the individuals affected by this incident. We have activated our Department Chaplain and will be offering Chaplain Services to the public and to our Officers who were involved in this investigation. Questions regarding this press release may be directed to Captain O’Neal at 707-961-2800 ext. 120 or at email@example.com.
Previously: "Blood on the Tracks"
NO DISNEYLAND FOR FORT BRAGG
I am reading with much dismay articles from different sources regarding the Skunk Train's eminent domain acquisition and plans for more than 300 acres on the west edge of Fort Bragg — the former Georgia-Pacific mill site.
Plans include touristy-related gift shops, cafes, hotels and condominiums, all facing the ocean across from Highway 1, with access via the Skunk Train — it’s “all aboard” an amusement-park-like atmosphere at the northwest end of Fort Bragg and spreading south from Glass Beach to the Noyo Headlands, leaving a sliver along the coast as open space.
It's sickening. There is native wildlife that depends on those headlands. Many rare wild plants also live in this area, and it supports a rare butterfly species, the coastal green hairstreak.
This is a definite land grab by a company that rarely performs any public service as a transportation or shipping utility. It should have given the city a chance to negotiate with Georgia-Pacific instead of claiming eminent domain.
The company that owns the Skunk Train is out for nothing more than profit and wants to make Fort Bragg a Disneyland-type destination. No. Please, no.
Lisa D. Walker-Roseman
THE SKUNK’S HORRIFYING PLANS
I just received my copy of The L’il Stinker in the mail and was horrified to see the proposed plans for the Mill Site. This plan is extremely detrimental: high-density housing, big hotel(s), massive paved parking lot for hundreds of cars, increased traffic and congestion, environmental degradation, destruction of the ocean viewshed, and extensive blighting of Fort Bragg’s historic mill town quality.
People come here to the Mendocino Coast to escape city congestion and high-density development and enjoy the area’s natural beauty. The Coastal Trail and former Mill Site is a large part of this experience. Hundreds of people go to Glass Beach and the Noyo Headlands every day to enjoy the open space of our beautiful community.
The proposed development of the former Mill Site will destroy the open space beauty of the area. This is not the future Fort Bragg Watershed Plan any of us envisioned. This is Big Development coming in to destroy the fabric of our community. It is coastal waterfront destruction on a major scale.
Residents expect the Mill Site redevelopment to include open space and parklands, aquatic exhibits, a Pomo Native American visitor center, cultural exhibits, outdoor education centers, recreational parklands, and nature trails. We do NOT want to see a corporate land grab from wealthy landowners who sued GP, forcing them to cede property to them for a tiny fraction of its total resource value.
Our City Council must stop this from happening.
Rosanne S. McHenry
CHRISTY WAGNER COMMENTS:
It seems very important to me to begin to ask: why did a Hart Brother (of Sierra Railroad) publicly threaten the city at the last FB City Council meeting with a lawsuit for millions in damages if the challenge to their public utility status is not immediately dropped? If they are committed, as Mr. Pinoli seemed to promise Wednesday on Karen Ottobani's show, to abide by state and local regulation in their development, then why such a threatening approach to protect their privileged status? They already own the land. Surely the Skunk Train doesn't make millions, is this projected income? And will their stated plan to extend track to Cypress St. mean that development along that track makes it exempt from all but federal regulation? These are all questions I am asking. And there are so many more to ask. And I don't trust the company's answers.
BEFORE THE MILL
The recently concluded purchase of over 275 acres of prime Fort Bragg waterfront land by the Skunk Train from the Georgia Pacific Company possibly bodes well for “a community badly in need of renewal,” according to Press Democrat reporter Mary Callahan.
The deal involves the clever use of the Skunk Train’s status as “a federally recognized railroad,” according to Callahan. Up until about 1900 the Union Lumber Company operated its mill at its Noyo River. This site was taken over by Georgia Pacific.
Few, except the Pomo Indian Tribe, the Indians and some California historians like yours truly and Robert Winn, Mendocino Historical Review, 1986, recall that before there was a federal Indian reservation, initiated in 1858 by the federal government, the Pomos lived for many generations at the sites of the entire Mendo Coast including Fort Bragg. California Indians richly deserve reparations, not just casinos or an apology by the state’s current governor Gavin Newsom.
UNBELIEVABLE as it is, the two guys believed to have shot and wounded Chris Brown of Albion last week in a 2am intrusion into Brown's property have been released. Although initial bail had been set at $750,000 each, when they appeared in court last week charges had mysteriously disappeared and they were free to go. And went. We hope to get a clarification from the DA's office Monday. More to come on this one.
THE SEEMINGLY ENDLESS matter of Douglas Stone, the latter day bandit of Black Bart Trail, Redwood Valley: On December 7th, the date for the setting of the preliminary hearing, Douglas Stone and his attorney, John Runfola, appeared on Zoom at the Mendocino County Courthouse. Joan Vivaldo, one of Stone's vics, was “electronically present.”
“In contrast to his trim, in-person appearance in November, Zoom presented Mr. Stone as hunched, bulky and mute in a brown plaid jacket. Ms. Heidi Larsen for the People and Mr. Runfola for the Defense had already decided that February would be an acceptable date for the prelim. And so it was set. In an immediate postscript, ‘reconcile’ chorused in Chamber H. The cases may be settled prior to the prelim. Judge Dolan asked that the court be informed if the cases were reconciled. Later in the morning, by chance I met another Doug Stone victim, a man who knew Stone as a first responder, and could pinpoint the tragic episode in the 2018 fire in Redwood Valley that initiated the PTSD which launched Mr. Stone’s descent into crime.”
OKLAHOMA EXECUTED a 79 year old this week. He'd murdered his girl friend and had tried to murder her new boy friend almost four decades earlier, and what exactly the point of frying him after all those years on death row wasn't explained by anybody. Yes, I suppose he'd had revenge coming in the Old Testament sense, but this execution is one more example of how pointless the death penalty is as its supposed deterrent.
STATE SENATOR McGUIRE has a pandering trophy coming for floating the idea that pot farmers should be tax exempt because the bottom has fallen out of the market. In other words, McGuire suspects a lot of pharmas vote so why not test public reaction by suggesting they get tax relief? Well, one reason would be that many of them have already logged years of tax free cash income and aren't specially entitled, are they?
IDIOT HED from a recent Press Democrat: “How to snag your favorite celebrity.” I polled the office and our next six visitors to the office, none of whom had a favorite celeb, one of whom said he was “insulted” by the question, another said he'd be interested if he could shoot all celebrities, the two ava staffers couldn't even think of a celebrity they were interested in, and two other gaffers said, Betty Grable and Mickey Rooney, respectively.
BAD BEAR’S BAD END
by Katy Tahja
Regular readers of the AVA know that as a historian I love finding good “Man vrs. Bear” stories from local history. Here’s a great one from Lake County.
In an October 1889 issue of the San Francisco Call-Bulletin newspaper there was reported the demise of “Old Reel Foot”, a grizzly bear that plagued Napa and Lake counties for decades. He earned his nickname from being shot in his right front paw and having it heal crookedly. The grizzly rolled from side to side as he walked looking like “a drunk four sheets to the wind.”
The bear was well known and vicious and he hated hunters, stockman, horses, children, natives and anything that crossed his path. For 20 years he left a path of blood behind him. His first known crimes were in Childs Valley in Napa County where ranchers were tired of him killing and eating sheep in wholesale lots.
”He eats enough to keep a family of four in mutton meat for a year!” It was claimed. A hunter there had 2 dogs killed and was gashed by the bear before he got the lucky shot in that damaged the bear’s paw and gave him his nickname. “Reel Foot” then tore apart a hog pen in Pope Valley, took off north, and was tracked up to the Bartlett Springs area of Lake County where there were caves to hide in.
”Old Reel Foot” seized an “Indian Papoose” in a woven cradle basket on a creek bank and killed it as family members fishing in then stream watched in horror. The bear had the sobriquet “Man Eater” added to his title when he killed and ate an experienced bear hunter, then broke into a remote cabin and killed the inhabitants.
His grizzly bear luck ran out when he was finally confronted by a group of hunters, shot repeatedly, and had a knife thrown into his ribs. Dead, “Old Reel Foot” weighed 1350 pounds, had a skin that was a crazy quilt of scars, and had 45 bullets in his body.
This story came from “Lake County History” compiled by Gene Paleno in 2016. It’s available upon request from the Mendocino County Library and on the shelf at the Ukiah Public Library and is a great read for history lovers. Interestingly enough “Reel Foot” was a common name applied to bears and “Reel Foot” stories exist in other geographic areas.
SANTA ROSA MAN ARRESTED IN CLOVERDALE ARMED ROBBERY WAS ‘PERSON OF INTEREST’ IN 2017 MENDOCINO COUNTY HOMICIDE
by Alana Minkler
A Santa Rosa man who was a person of interest in a 2017 homicide was arrested Wednesday night in connection with the armed robbery of a Cloverdale convenience store earlier in the week, according to authorities
Cloverdale police officers began investigating the armed robbery on Monday night after a Quick Trip convenience store employee told officers he handed over an unknown amount of cash to a man brandishing a gun, demanding money “in a calm, clear voice.”
Their investigation led them to suspect that Roman Jose Soto, 32, of Santa Rosa was involved in the armed robbery, according to Cloverdale police in a Nixle alert.
Soto was previously the “person of interest” in the 2017 homicide of a Nichole Smith, a 32-year-old Pomo woman who was shot at her home in the Manchester Band of Pomo Indians’ reservation. Soto had been taken in for questioning, but never charged with the unsolved killing.
On Wednesday, Cloverdale police went to a residence connected to Soto near Common Way and Mojave Avenue in Santa Rosa, according to the alert.
They found a White Acura Infinity G37 sedan, registered to Soto, parked in front of the house. The vehicle’s make, model and color matched the vehicle that left the Cloverdale convenience store right after the robbery, caught on surveillance camera footage, officials said.
While officers waited for a pending search warrant, they watched the residence and vehicle, accompanied by Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies.
Around 5:11 p.m., deputies detained Soto outside of the residence without incident, the alert said.
Once Cloverdale police were able to conduct a search warrant on the residence, officers located evidence connecting Soto to the crime.
Based on the evidence seized, including a gun, ammunition, cash and clothing matching the man in robbery footage, they arrested Soto on suspicion of armed robbery, possession of a firearm with no serial number and felon in possession of a firearm, according to officials.
He was booked into the Sonoma County Jail and his bail was set at $500,000.
(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
* * *
CLOVERDALE ARMED ROBBERY SUSPECT WAS A PERSON OF INTEREST IN THE 2017 MURDER OF MENDOCINO COUNTY WOMAN NICOLE SMITH
WILLITS PROUD BOY SENTENCED FOR POSSESSION OF ‘GHOST GUNS’
A Willits man was sentenced this month to seven years in federal prison for illegal possession of “ghost guns” and ammunition, the federal Department of Justice reported in a press release.
According to the DOJ, in pleading guilty on June 22, 2021, Cuney admitted that from at least August 2018 until November 12, 2019, he purchased firearms parts from several dozen online retailers, and had these items shipped to East Greenbush; Willits, California (where he maintained a residence); and Providence, Rhode Island (where he formerly maintained a legitimate firearms business). Cuney then used these firearms parts to manufacture non-serialized handguns and rifles, and silencers. These firearms are often called “ghost guns” because they do not have serial numbers, making them more difficult for law enforcement to track.
When federal agents searched Cuney’s East Greenbush storage unit on Nov. 14, 2019, they reportedly found: “Two rifles, one revolver, four serialized AR-15-style rifle receivers/frames, two completed “ghost” guns, five pistol parts kits, two completed silencers and enough parts to build more than ten silencers, and an assorted quantity of firearm parts and accessories — of which five would be classified as machine guns under federal law — and 3,250 rounds of assorted rifle and pistol ammunition.”
Cuney also rented a storage unit in Humboldt County, which federal agents also searched in November of 2019 and reportedly found: ” two Glock pistols, seven additional handguns, three rifles, one shotgun, five machinegun conversion kits, more than ten (10) silencers, and more than 1,000 rounds of assorted rifle and handgun ammunition.”
The press release also notes that Cuney has also admitted to joining the Proud Boys organization in late 2018.
In sentencing Cuney, Senior United States District Judge Frederick J. Scullin, Jr. noted that “ghost guns are killing people on the streets every day in this country.”
As part of his plea agreement, Cuney agreed to abandon a variety of firearms, silencers, ammunition, and firearm parts found in both East Greenbush and Redway, California, as well as the following items, all found in Redway: one pair of handcuffs with key; 56 Monadnock disposable single cuffs; and clothing items, patches and badges bearing law enforcement acronyms and insignia, including a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ball cap, FBI badges, FBI patches, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) patches, and DEA badges.
Cuney previously pled guilty to unlawfully possessing a Springfield Armory rifle and an FMK Firearms Inc. AR-15-style rifle receiver/frame, and to possessing three unregistered silencers, between Sept. 9, 2019 and Nov. 14, 2019.
Cuney has a prior conviction for unlawful gun trafficking. In December 2015, he pled guilty, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, to transporting and selling firearms with obliterated serial numbers while he was a licensed firearms dealer. He was sentenced to 37 months in prison, and returned to East Greenbush in April 2017 upon his release from prison.
* * *
WILLITS PROUD BOY JONATHAN CUNEY SENTENCED
Jonathan M. Cuney, age 38, and a part-time resident of East Greenbush, New York, was sentenced…to 87 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release, for unlawfully possessing firearms including “ghost guns,” and ammunition.
The announcement was made by United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman and John B. DeVito, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF).
Cuney previously pled guilty to unlawfully possessing, as a felon, a Springfield Armory rifle and an FMK Firearms Inc. AR-15-style rifle receiver/frame, and to possessing three unregistered silencers, between September 9, 2019 and November 14, 2019.
In pleading guilty on June 22, 2021, Cuney also admitted that from at least August 2018 until November 12, 2019, he purchased firearms parts from several dozen online retailers, and had these items shipped to East Greenbush; Willits, California (where he maintained a residence); and Providence, Rhode Island (where he formerly maintained a legitimate firearms business). Cuney then used these firearms parts to manufacture non-serialized handguns and rifles, and silencers. These firearms are often called “ghost guns” because they do not have serial numbers, making them more difficult for law enforcement to track.
ATF searched Cuney’s East Greenbush storage unit on November 14, 2019, and found it to contain, among other items:
Two (2) rifles,
One (1) revolver,
Four (4) serialized AR-15-style rifle receivers/frames,
Two (2) completed “ghost” guns,
Five (5) pistol parts kits,
Two (2) completed silencers and enough parts to build more than ten (10) silencers, and
An assorted quantity of firearm parts and accessories – of which five (5) would be classified as machine guns under federal law – and 3,250 rounds of assorted rifle and pistol ammunition.
Cuney also rented a storage unit in Redway, Humboldt County, California. ATF searched this storage unit on November 20, 2019, and found it to contain, among other items:
Two (2) Glock pistols,
Seven (7) additional handguns,
Three (3) rifles,
One (1) shotgun,
Five (5) machinegun conversion kits,
More than ten (10) silencers, and
More than 1,000 rounds of assorted rifle and handgun ammunition.
Cuney also admitted to unlawfully possessing, on September 17, 2019, in Columbia, Missouri, several thousand rounds of ammunition that he purchased at a firearms store through a straw purchaser.
He also admitted to unlawfully possessing, on November 12, 2019, near Tucson, Arizona, a pistol and a rifle, which were discovered during a traffic stop of a vehicle that Cuney was driving.
Cuney has also admitted to joining the Proud Boys organization in late 2018.
Judge Scullin noted Cuney’s prior service in the United States Marine Corps, including a combat deployment to Iraq, but said that “any credit you might get for being a veteran is outweighed by your conduct as a criminal. You know how to play the system. You tell a good story – an ‘A’ for creating writing, but an ‘F’ for conduct.”
As part of his plea agreement, Cuney agreed to abandon a variety of firearms, silencers, ammunition, and firearm parts found in both East Greenbush and Redway, California, as well as the following items, all found in Redway: one pair of handcuffs with key; 56 Monadnock disposable single cuffs [basically zipties]; and clothing items, patches and badges bearing law enforcement acronyms and insignia, including a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ball cap, FBI badges, FBI patches, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) patches, and DEA badges.
These cases were investigated by the ATF New York Field Division, with assistance from ATF Special Agents and Task Force Officers in Arizona, California, Missouri, Rhode Island, and Wyoming. The California Highway Patrol also assisted in the investigation.
The New York case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Barnett.
The Arizona case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Serra M. Tsethlikai of the District of Arizona.
The Missouri case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Oliver of the Western District of Missouri.
CATCH OF THE DAY, December 10, 2021
CARMEN ARENS, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.
WARREN BECK, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
MARIA FARIAS-FARIAS, Ukiah. DUI.
ANDRES GONZALEZ, Kelseyville/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
SKYLAR HENDERSON, Willits. Failure to appear.
ANTHONY HERNANDEZ, Los Angeles/Ukiah. DUI, no license.
ALEXANDER JACKSON, Ukiah. Forge/alter vehicle registration, suspended license, probation revocation.
SHANE JONES, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, contempt of court, failure to appear.
RITA LAVENDUSKEY, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, false ID.
HEATHER MASCHERINI, Willits. DUI alcohol&drugs, suspended license for refusing chemical DUI test.
JACOB PETERSON, Fort Bragg. Vandalism, resisting.
RICARDO RIVERA, Bakersfield. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
RICHARD STARK, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
PROP 215 - THEN & NOW
by Oaky Joe Munson
I think it was 1999 and Eddy Lepp said to me, “Oaky Joe you gotta come down the mountain and get your shit legal, now is the time!” Sooooo I followed Eddy’s really bad advice and came down off the hill and this is what happened.
So Eddy decided to do a Medical Marijuana grow along Hwy 20 in Upper Lake. He basically pissed off the feds so Bush set the dogs on Eddy’s 32,000+ plant garden. Eddy had a shit ton of recommendations but the government did not, and still doesn’t give a shit. So Eddy went to jail after a prolonged legal battle (he had 19 lawyers through a 4-year trial). He is dead now!
I went to Redwood Valley just north of Ukiah and found a small house to rent with a small backyard and kept my garden small. I wanted to teach people how to grow their own and I put an advertisement in the free section of the Lake/Mendocino Exchange. Thank you, Andrew:) I offered sick card-holding patients in this area free advice, support, and medical marijuana. This was my contribution to the needy in the marijuana world!
Sooooo, within 8 year, my wife and I had 18 felonies, yes, 18 felonies dismissed! By 2015, I had racked up 30+ dismissals. The District Attorneys can't hold up to a valid medical defense including, wheelchairs, respirators, people with 1 foot in the fuckin grave. Shame the government! What a huge waste of time, money, work, and medicine! Cases dismissed 2, 3, 4 times more! “Hey Keith Faulder,” I said “Why do they keep coming for me, I am 100% legal?” Keith says “They don’t like being beaten soundly in court.” So much for doing the right thing huh DA. If you haven’t heard MM is legal you can ask anyone outside of law enforcement. Just so you know, 0 of my cases went to trial, the DA does not want cases like mine in or on the public forum!
Wait where was I, Oh Yeah 215, 25 years later. My friend Jonah Raskin invited little ol’ me to the big city where he is living now so he can be close to his loved ones. “Hey, Joe they are having a sort of party to recognize the 25th anniversary of 215 passing, wanna come along?” I said “Hell yeah!” Where else am I going to see so many well-intentioned people all together talking about making history and kickin the shit out of our fucked up government? Chop Chop, I’m there!
I really respect Dale, Ellen, Dennis, and Bill and, and, and. I agree fully with Fred Gardner about Rob Bonita (government hack) A.G. about setting up the legislative basis for the current hyper tax and regulatory terrorism on the patients and their providers. TAX MEDICINE - Fuck You Assholes. The government henchmen trying to be politically correct with little to no moral compass (most popular in class)!
So Jonah and I parked by the Marina and assumed that it would be a short hike, but ended up hiking around the Presidio for half an hour with two stoner ladies that eventually were able to get all of us to the venue. Jonah is almost 80 now and was a real trooper going up 100+ stair stairway. Why the organizers of the pot party would have it at a military institution is a mystery to me. It was beautiful though. Lots of history, memories, and reunions were the theme of the day. I personally learned quite a lot about how 215 came to be.
In my humble opinion, it is great that a care provider or compassionate donor, or grower has legal standing in court to plead their case (not if feds are involved). But the rub is that the local jurisdiction and individual cop in that field have way too much say about who gets hammered and who actually gets their medicine. Don’t piss any local cops off or they elevate your case to the Federal level, then you’re fucked! Shame the government! All my cases were during 215. I proved no wrong in court and the police are allowed to come back repeatedly with no ramifications at all (sometimes the judges frown at them and throw the case out of the court). I can’t even sue the cops after they lied to the judge in their affidavit in support of their request for a search warrant. I’m a farmer, why do I have to know this legal shit, I’d rather talk about beneficial bugs, hyphae, and nematodes. Fuck!
Now let non-profit growers jump through a thousand hoops while cancer patients are dying in front of them(ask me more)! I can give 1oz a day to anyone I want. What if they live 100 miles away and use it for edibles, then what? That is a lot of gas and driving for someone that needs more than an oz! I think the government has stopped or is going to stop taxing giveaways! This is because of pushback, not because they have come to their senses or found a conscience. I still don’t hear any conversation about how to get free pot to needy patients. I bet David Goldman has some ideas!
If you want to see very very clearly how bad 215 is, hop in your car and drive to Covelo in Round Valley. I know a dude that has a big permitted garden which he pays a lot of money to government agencies that all want a piece of the cannabis pie. This guy is surrounded by 100s of grows mostly “illegal”. He has one advantage in that he has legal standing. Wait a minute! The cops haven’t done anything to the non-permitted growers in Covelo for the last 3 years! Lots of heavy stuff going down in Covelo all the time. My friend has to deal with growing his plants and permits, inspectors (incompetent usually), bandits, cops, fires, employees, and has to pay tax even if you don’t get paid from distributors. Can’t give directly from farm to patient in any significant amount.
Unless a sick or dying patient is a slave to the fake legal system and is bound to follow the rules written by a bunch of haters. I can’t see any reason why they would even consider stepping into a high-cost dispensary when they can get the same product almost free anywhere else. Free from me:)
Sooooo I had a good time at the gathering. I got to meet Fred Gardener (kind of my unofficial superhero-type mere mortal)! Some people are just plain smart! Jonah Raskin was ready to leave when I spied Pebbles lounging in a chair in the General residence. I said “Hey Jonah, wanna interview Pebbles?” He said “Yes, yes. Where is she?” Sooooo I told Pebble that I had a friend that would like to meet her, she said “Sure”. Those two talked for an hour. I think that Jonah has a hard crush on her, but maybe I’m wrong.
Personally, 215 changed my life. My family has been wonderful and has helped me to understand why I’m fighting this ass-backwards government. I have had people cry and tell me how much this plant helps them. My children are sharp and have watched everything going on over the last many years. Whose side do you think they are on?
To anyone that wants to help sick people get pot for free. Grow it for them yourself. 6 legal big plants can produce upwards of 20lbs so quit congratulating yourselves and grow a bunch of MM for those who can’t. No liquid salt-based NPK’s for patients with or without compromised health. Please.
“Do some good!”
PS. I think one of the coolest things I ever heard was uttered by Dennis Peron who said, “Crybaby Lundgrin has completely gone off the deep end.” Well put, Dennis!
PPS. I’m on 43 acres in west Sonoma, my zoning allows me to grow as much medical marijuana as I want. The infrustructure is there and the patients are still dying. This space remains empty. Wanna help a medical marijuana garden (non profit) for legitimate patients. I can grow the MM for the patients but I have no patients for the regulatory hurdles that must be jumped, so if you are good with the bureaucracy and pencil-pushing then lets talk! If you’re a dove, call me! If you’re a vulture there would be nothing here for you. Home phone: (707) 887 1448
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
When you consider the crew of cretins, criminals, charlatans, inquisitors, whores and moneychangers and garden variety incompetents running the show, ‘madness’ sounds like such a grand term, one normally used in reference to guys like Hitler, Stalin, Mao or Pol Pot, whose madnesses were truly gigantic in scope, killing millions and tens of millions.
What you do have a whole lot of in America is idiocy. That being said, it isn’t merely idiocy of the pedestrian sort, ambling through the world’s affairs, screwing things up, but rather striding, running, jumping, vaulting, that is, idiocy with a great deal of energy and commitment and ambition, very American in that sense, but misguided at best, often delusional, in many cases destructive and self-destructive, in the worst cases murderous and evil.
In short, the United States of America as the now unexceptional nation whose period of youth is past, whose founding people were the recent inheritors of Western Civilization’s time of intellectual ferment and innovation and genius and who lucked onto a continent with pretty much unexploited resources. But that was then. And this is now.
MAROONED IN MARIN
by Darren Delmore
As the atmospheric river unleashed its fury over the winemaker dinner I hosted with my brand manager Johnny Roldan, trouble thundered its way down. The fifty or so guests were four courses deep at the Marin County bistro, overserved and underfed, and the outdoor patio patrons began passing on the dessert round and hitting the road. Thickly bespectacled Johnny and I had shared an UBER from SF to Marin, with plans to do the same on the backend. I’d known him for a decade, mostly professionally, and he had just relocated to the city by the bay. The night’s event was our first real evening working together, and was so far a success.
With the dinner clearing out, I shook some wet hands out in front as Johnny stood by the kitchen area with his cell phone in hand, having secured an UBER driver to snag us, who’s gamey car icon hadn’t moved much. “Seventeen minutes,” Johnny said to me, showing me his phone. “Salvador is coming.” I took a swig of one of the red wines. The tall, handsome owner of the restaurant, Germain, had told us he had a morning flight to NYC, so he couldn’t linger too late after the event. He was drinking twice as much as us, but was younger, fit, French, and the target of attention from two red faced women who repeatedly came in to hug him good bye and receive the ceremonial Parisian pecks on the cheek. One of the women looked through Johnny and I as if we were apparitions, or just boringly American like her.
“Salvador isn’t moving,” Johnny said.
More guests left. The rain hammered down. Streets turned to springs out front. “No!” Johnny suddenly showed me his phone. He’d been charged for a ride that never came.
“I’ll give it a shot,” I said. I clicked on Lyft and it wouldn’t load. The icon just spun around, the map never coming in from the blur. A few wine club members came to thank us for being there as we stood by a refrigerator full of all-you-can-drink Perrier and other cold goods. Johnny continued the search. After the members left, I asked him how it was looking.
“Not good. I think we’re stranded.” He showed me his phone as it tried to upload HotelTonight. “That’s where I’m at,” he said, shrugging his dress coat shoulders. He hadn’t been outside since it’d started storming, yet his curly hair was slick with anxiety over our failing exit plan.
Germain sauntered over with a full glass of the white dessert wine. “Zee internet is out,” he said to us. “All over.” One of the drunk girls, standing nearby, started ripping her car keys out of her purse. “You should not drive,” Germain said. “Absolutely not. No way.” Her face beamed with the fantasy of a night in his sculpted foreign arms, then she belched an aromatic blend of all five pairings. He got his phone out and had the same problem as Johnny. It was after ten.
“I think you guys are stuck,” Germain said.
“Can we try the hardline?” I asked.
The goateed and man-bunned manager came over and said the POS and the hardline were all down too.
“Is there a hotel within walking distance from here?” Johnny asked him.
“Listen,” Germain said, taking an elegant pull off the viscous white and then pointing across the street, “I live just over there. Come to my place. Seriously, it is your only option. Zee best option.”
“Totally,” Johnny said. “But I don’t want to impose.”
Germain’s restaurants here and in SF were the most important on-premise accounts for the wine import company Johnny worked for. His French boss had stressed that he was to take the upmost care of Germain and even learn some French in his off hours to further the connection.
“It is fine. It is okay.”
“You have kids,” Johnny continued, Woody Allen-esque in gesture and tone. “I mean your wife is there asleep probably. We can try for an Uber over there, at your place, but…” I leaned to Johnny. “What about an old fashioned taxi?” But there were no yellow pages to flip through, nor a hardline to phone one in on. “Or maybe Germain’s internet is working at his house? Who knows.”
The manager drove one of the girls home after the other simply bolted. We followed Germain out back and ran through the rain into his VW SUV. I sat in back, Johnny in the front passenger seat, and Germain fired it up. He conversated and drove, and soon I realized we weren’t going across the street. Not at all. Not “just over there.” We were going west into the wilderness. Johnny’s head, right in front of me, was going into overdrive realizing this himself, but he kept it lively, this important French wine account of his. We were ten minutes west, fifteen, with trees, rain and darkness, hydroplaning through the Marin mountainside.
“Germain,” Johnny said, “seriously we don’t want to impose. I know you have a family. But thank you. We’ll hang for a bit and try to pick up a Lyft or cab at your place."
“I have to drive to SFO in zee morning. I can take you to the restaurant for a coffee, breakfast, and then drop you off in zee city. No problem. It’s cool.”
“Totally,” Johnny said, nodding his head rather spastically. “Totally.”
“It is no problem. I have a separated space for you. Separated from the main house. There is a bed in there. You guys can share zee bed.”
“Share zee bed?” we both thought simultaneously.
“Totally,” Johnny replied with false gusto. His head nodded then like it’d flop right off at the neck. I even leaned forward, mostly amused but also… “Share zee bed?” We hummed further west into the stormy night. I honestly didn’t even know where we were. Point Reyes? Sonoma Coast? Finally, we pulled left off the highway into a rural community, past a closed down tavern, with no street lights. A small neighborhood appeared.
“Zis is my place,” he said. We pulled down an unpaved alley so potholed and soaked it could’ve been Northern Panama, and approached an electric gate with mossy wood slats posted vertically onto three thick metal bars. He clicked it open and we drove through. It creaked shut behind us as we parked.
Using our phones for vision, we rushed out into the downpour and followed Germain across a flowing band of water toward the guest unit, over a mock little wooden bridge, and up to the sliding glass door of what looked like a 200 square foot office. “Man,” Johnny said, “That was like a creek through your property!”
“Zare are two of zem,” Germain said, unlocking the slider and opening up the door to reveal a small simple space, with no bathroom or chairs and just a desk on the right. Johnny was trying to compliment him on the space, which had files in milk crates on the floor, some of his handwritten sommelier exam pages taped to the wall above an old computer monitor. Germain crouched over and rolled out a full sized floor mattress, which consumed every centimeter of floor space.
“Zare you are. See you guys in zee morning,” Germain said.
“Thanks Germain,” I said.
“Totally,” Johnny added.
“In zee morning, I take you to SF. Okay, good night.”
He closed the sliding glass door behind him, then Johnny let it out. “I can’t do this. Seriously I’m fat, I snore now, it smells like old man shoes in here.” He opened up the door and called out to Germain, who returned more irritated this time. “Let me get your wifi password. And your address, just in case you know, we get a cab or an Uber out here.”
“Out here? A cab? No way.” He gave him the info anyhow and left.
I sat awkwardly at the foot of the mattress, next to a massive pair of Adidas running shoes. I looked at the wine maps on the wall, and Germain’s hand written “Good vintages” list of Burgundy, Champagne and Bordeaux, going back to 1996 and stalling out at 2007. Johnny laid down tentatively on the mattress and couldn’t even look at me. He clicked on his phone.
“I’m trying man. I’m still tryin’.”
“How are these size fourteen Adidas?” I said. “My head can go down here and you can be up there. It’s no problem.”
“No. Not happening.” Then into his cell phone, he spoke. “Johnny Roldan, call me back, ride to SF, tonight. Thank you.”
“What was that?”
“Marin county taxi service.”
“Really? Think it’ll work?”
“At this point I’ll try anything.”
He continued to type away. “I can’t do the morning thing either,” he said. “Breakfast? Same clothes? With morning breath?”
I wasn’t that excited about the prospect either. I’m 45 years old, father of two small kids, while Johnny was a couple years younger and single. But we were stuck, and now even more so.
After a few quiet minutes, he almost stood and leaped up off the bed. “Ali is coming! Dude. Twenty five minutes.”
“That’s what it says.” He held up his phone to show me.
“Think he’s really coming? All the way out here? Is the car moving?”
Johnny’s face looked insane. “A little.”
“If we bail on Germain, we’ll be losing some placements.”
In the wholesale wine sales world, and going into the busy holiday season where imbibing ramps up a notch, it was a valid point to bring up.
“You know,” I said, “in Euro culture, this is no problem. Two travelling guys having to share a bed? In Australia even. Youth hostels. Germain will be confused why we didn’t just crash out and share the bed. He seemed excited about the breakfast part.”
“Darren, there’s a cultural divide.”
“He’ll be bummed. We could lose some placements.”
He held up his phone again.
The storm was at peak strength outside. Johnny went out and peed into the rainfall off the little porch. Maybe a small bathroom, or even a chair in here would’ve broadened the space out, and helped it seem more doable. But It was all bed. He came back in and laid down in his spot, eyes to his phone. I looked at the ceiling.
“Ali’s here!” he suddenly announced, on his feet and tearing open the sliding glass door and just bolting.
I got up, turned off the light, tidied the mattress up, and closed the door shut behind me. I activated my phone light and ventured out into the rain. I saw the light of Johnny’s phone going side to side by the electric gate. The creek was a small river now. I couldn’t hear or see an UBER. We were fully blocked in by the gate. “I can’t find a button!” he shouted.
“I’m sure there’s a passenger gate,” which sounded normal to say. “Or a people gate.”
The dozen or so wooden slats affixed vertically to the electric gate were soaked, weathered by Marin weather, with moss growing all the way up to their sharp, arrowed tips. You couldn’t just climb up over it. There was a small, three foot high metal pole near it, but no button to be found. Aside from the gate, industrial wire fencing enclosed the perimeter along with bushes and trees ten feet high. I left him to scan the northern corner when I heard him say, “Fuck it,” and with his one good hand, hoist himself onto the pole, then crest the top of the gate. He was up there, goofy footed, miraculous in the face of storm, and the whole thing wobbled like he was going down the face of a backwashed eight footer and was drunk, half of which was true. “Johnny!” I yelled, rushing over with my phone light on him. That was when his foot broke through three of the slats and he went crotch down on the gate. I grabbed his phone out of his hand. As he fell completely over the side with a few more slats of wood, I grasped the back of his jeans to lessen his bodyweight blow into the Marin County mud. He’d fled the compound, down there on the earth with his glasses and clothing streaked with terroir.
Still on the inside, I squatted down and shined my light upon the gaping opening, that any stranger, child, dogs or pack of boars could simply walk right through. Johnny suddenly grabbed his phone out of my hand and shined it on the open damage too, before he said, “Now we’re losing some placements.” He tore off down the dark alley, fending for himself. No carpenter by any means, I did what I could to match the rusted nails on a few of the slats to their place on the gate, but most of the pieces were smashed. I pictured Germain leaving for the airport in the morning, taking a sip of coffee perhaps, hitting the gate open and half of the wood just shaking right off.
Down the dark alley and around the corner, I finally saw headlights and a Lincoln Town Car. I ran up and opened the door. Johnny was in back, masklessly rambling a river of gratitude to the masked up driver. I looked at him like he was a mental patient.
“Was that necessary?” I asked.
“My ankle is twisted but totally worth it,” he said, nodding his head. “Totally.”
IT’S CALLED AIR
How long could the folks over in accounting hold back the tides of default and bankruptcy? How many millions of fingers would you have to find to plug all the holes in that dike? For many years — probably as many as Kate Bolduan has been scowling — the damage has accrued as the industrial nations grappled with the conundrums of wealth production vis-à-vis the decline of primary energy resources, and they are fresh out of tricks. All that legerdemain with the suppression of interest rates and self-dealing in bonds, gaming the equity markets with surrogate shadow-bidders, playing hide-the-salami in structured investment vehicles and special purpose entities, and kiss-the-lizard with collateralized debt obligations, leveraged ETFs, credit default swaps, interest rate swaps, commodity swaps, currency swaps, binary options, subprime this-and-that, National League RBI futures, gentlemen’s bets and side-bets on bets, and plain old thieving bought the advanced nations a few decades of breathing room before the whole reeking scaffold of folly groaned and blew.
CBS-News reports this morning that “household wealth has surged an astonishing $36 trillion.” Our Federal Reserve says so in a 205-page statistics dump. Oh, really? Do you know what that is? It’s called air. Something you can see clean through because the thing that is supposed to be there is not there, namely, what money is supposed to represent. This is the financial narrative, cousin to the virus narrative — making manifest the non-manifest… a ghost story around civilization’s campfire. Any minute now, the air is going to come out of the family rooms in these hypothetical millions of suddenly rich households and the people within will suffocate financially. The New York Times will report them as Covid-19 deaths, I’m sure.
The now-notorious Chinese real estate giant Evergrande missed the coupon payments on its bonds the other day. Evergrande builds sixty-story apartment towers made (mostly) of sand. Somehow, the bag-holders even in China, where buying real-estate has enjoyed the rush of novelty in recent years, begin to scent the odor of failure in that bloated corpus of fraud. Who among the twelve regional Federal Reserve bank presidents here in the USA happened to short those bonds, I wonder, and is the Biden family operation sitting on any of that paper? Hunter would be dumb enough to take bundles of it in lieu of cash payment for, ahem, services rendered. Does Evergrande’s distress set off a financial contagion in China now, and does it spread around the world like a novel coronavirus?
Anyway, there’s enough foul air coming out of America’s own overleveraged house of financial horrors and Europe is a veritable Hindenburg of flammable gas waiting for a mere spark of static electricity to go kerblooey — even while it ramps up an epic persecution of its unvaxxed populace, at Christmas-time no less. What geniuses!
The authorities everywhere in Western Civ are suddenly short on legitimacy and at every level of every department and agency. What happens when nobody believes any of their bullshit anymore? I’ll tell you what happens: Hillary Rodham Clinton gives a “Master Class in Resilience” on YouTube. (Check out the “trailer” for it here.) Weep along with the old gal as she marinates in her special puddle of narcissism. She’s aiming to come back into the arena, you see, just as the phantom president “Joe Biden” fades into the woodwork, moaning as he vaporizes like Jacob Marley in chains. And so HRC seizes opportunity, emerging like Rodan the Flying Reptile from her smoldering volcano of political slumber. She wants to share with you the heartwarming victory speech she failed to deliver in November of 2016, when Russia cheated her of her grand prize. She’s as sincere and authentic as a loaf of Velveeta. Her stepping on stage like this signals the end of something big. Batten down your Christmas tree. It’s going to be a bumpy ride into the holiday.
— James Kunstler
I’M DISGUSTED but hardly surprised by the UK court’s decision on the Assange extradition. The UK was a co-conspirator with US in the war on Iraq, helping to fabricated the case for war and cover up the crimes that were committed during it. Wikileaks exposed the UK’s deep complicity not just in war crimes but in a war that was a crime. It is revealing that the two nations which bray the most stridently about a “free press”, crack down the most viciously when their self-righteous is exposed as a sham. In the eyes of the empire, whistleblowers are great as long as they’re blowing the whistle on your enemies. When they blow the whistle on you, suddenly they’ve become a subversive threat which must be silenced by any means.
The scourging of Assange has always been about more than Assange. Sure, he had to be silenced. But he had to be silenced so viciously and mercilessly that it would not only discourage any imitators, but, more importantly, turn his more powerful collaborators, like the NY Times, the Guardian and the Washington Post, into allies of his censors and persecutors.
— Jeffrey St. Clair
CHRISTMAS WITH THE WOLF AT THE DOOR
One of the memories of Christmas time from my childhood that the holidays always bring to mind is the year my Dad overdosed on Vicodin while driving my sister and I somewhere on Christmas Eve. We had to stop the car and ask a passerby for help. My mother then exclaimed, “Well Merry FUCKING Christmas.” My father survived — and is still alive surprisingly to this day.
Although that is a tragic story — that same Christmas REAL SANTA CLAUS came to our house in a red convertible — and brought all four of us children everything we asked for, for Christmas. It was the first year that I ever got anything name brand, and got the toys I really wanted. I got the Everclear CD — and listened to “I will buy you a new life” on repeat so many time that my boombox was eventually taken away. At the time I had no idea that this was the last holiday season I would spend with my parents, or my siblings. I did not know that Santa Claus was actually Toys for Tots — or some other program, I just knew that that year I really felt the magic of Christmas. The next year my siblings and I were placed into foster care, and were split up. We never celebrated another birthday or holiday together as a family again.
I am reliving this memory and writing this letter to the editor after a morning fueled with rage and caffeine as a single parent who struggles to pay bills, keep the refrigerator full enough — for one child— and give my child the experience of a magical Holiday. I am overwhelmed with the distain and lack of compassion for the people, including children — in our community who find themselves in the struggle to find housing, in need of services for food, and rely on other social welfare programs. It is quite appalling and heartbreaking to read the comments in our community when a solution for homelessness is proposed.
I am a person who relies on the SNAP (formerly food stamps) program to help supplement food for myself and my child. I also find myself in a job where I help other people and families access this resource. I work at a job helping others to receive snap benefits. I work full-time, pay taxes and still have to receive snap benefits to support my child. If you have never had the need for these resources consider yourself lucky. I personally, have rarely ever had the pleasure of being dehumanized, on such a soul crushing level. Not even when I was a tag on a Christmas tree. “A little girl who is 10 wishes for a Polly Pocket toy.” The experience of sitting in the welfare office, pulling a number, being visible in your downtrodden, desperate and dehumanized state is quite the event. It is a soul crushing space to find yourself in, but we — the disadvantaged and poor — are willing to humble ourselves and bare our entire lives for the ability to eat and our children to eat. We have to share almost every aspect of our lives, including but not limited to declaring if money has been gifted to you. Heaven forbid if someone has helped you pay a bill, or given you enough money to catch up on rent, if you’re honest, no food for you!!
What is even more awesome is if DHHS suspects that you have been dishonest or committed fraud to receive these benefits. You will have the pleasure of officers, with guns and undercover cars, showing up to your campsite, trailer, car, or house, for the whole neighborhood to see. They will interview your children, they will even send inquiries to your child’s school. This is to ensure that everyone knows that you are not only poor and deserve to be stigmatized, but that you also are a lying liar who lies — or is suspected of lying. Luckily the neighborhood gets quite the show, and can all ponder later if you’re a drug dealer, child beater or something fantastic like that. It would never dawn on me, or I imagine anyone else, that it could be something as miniscule as the possibility of SNAP benefit fraud. “MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS NEIGHBORS. HOPE YOU LIKED THE SHOW,” is what I would shout. To conjure my mother during that moment, with all of her rage and showmanship, would be the ultimate cathartic event.
Merry Christmas to all. Even those who find themselves filled with disgust and distain for their fellow community members who are of lower economical status. Even for those who believe that all house less people deserve to be treated subhuman. Just remember when you make the tax deductible purchase for that little boy or girl who’s Christmas wish may hang on a giving tree, that eventually they will quite possibly become a “leach on the system” that you love to hate.
MEMO OF THE AIR: GOOD NIGHT RADIO ALL NIGHT FRIDAY NIGHT!
Hi! Marco here. Deadline to email your writing for tonight's (Friday night's) MOTA show is around 7pm. After that, send it whenever it's ready and I'll read it on the radio /next/ week.
Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio is every Friday, 9pm to 5am on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg as well as anywhere else via
(That's the regular link to listen to KNYO in real time.)
Any day or night you can go to https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com and hear last week's MOTA show. By Saturday night the recording of tonight's show will also be there.
Also there you'll find a cornucopia of educational delights to spill out all over yourself until showtime, or any time, such as:
Teddy Brown, voted most-nearly-spherical xylophonist of 1930. Remarkably light on his feet, which are down there somewhere, one must assume. (Click the sound on if it ain't on.) (via Clifford Pickover)
And "He photographs by day and he pastes by night."
— Marco McClean, firstname.lastname@example.org, https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
JOURNALISTS MARIA RESSA AND DMITRY MURATOV RECEIVE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
by Rebecca Ratcliffe
The journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov received the Nobel peace prizeon Friday at a ceremony that Ressa was almost blocked from attending because of travel restrictions related to legal cases filed against her in the Philippines.
Ressa, 58, the chief executive and co-founder of the online news platform Rappler, praised for exposing abuses of power and growing authoritarianism under the Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, is facing charges that could lead to about 100 years in jail. Having been awarded the prize alongside Muratov in October, she was granted permission to attend the ceremony earlier this month by the Philippine court of appeals, which ruled she was not a flight risk.
Muratov, 59, the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, who shared the 2021 Nobel peace prize, was described as one of the most prominent defenders of freedom of speech in Russia today. “Novaya Gazeta is the most independent newspaper in Russia today, with a fundamentally critical attitude towards power,” Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel committee, said at the ceremony at Oslo City Hall.
Reiss-Andersen said that Ressa and Muratov were “participants in a war where the written word is their weapon, where truth is their goal and every exposure of misuse of power is a victory”.
Both laureates had been “the object of ridicule, harassment, threats and violence as a result of their work”, she added.
Ressa, referring to the restrictions imposed on her travel, said that she had at least been permitted to attend the ceremony. This had not been the case, she added, for the last working journalist to be awarded the prize in 1935 – Carl von Ossietzky, who was detained in a Nazi concentration camp.
“By giving this to journalists today, the Nobel committee is signalling a similar historical moment, another existential point for democracy,” she said, pointing to the disruptive impact of social media in fuelling the spread of misinformation, and creating fertile ground for divisive, authoritarian leaders.
“Without facts, you can’t have truth. Without truth, you can’t have trust. Without trust, we have no shared reality, no democracy, and it becomes impossible to deal with our world’s existential problems: climate, coronavirus, the battle for truth,” Ressa said during her lecture to the ceremony.
“Our greatest need today is to transform that hate and violence, the toxic sludge that’s coursing through our information ecosystem, prioritised by American internet companies that make more money by spreading that hate and triggering the worst in us.”
Rappler was praised for documenting how social media is used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse.
Ressa called in her lecture for legislation to hold social media companies to account, and for greater overseas development assistance funds to be given to media in the global south. She also said independent media should be helped to survive, by “giving greater protection to journalists and standing up against states which target journalists”.
The Nobel laureates both paid tribute to journalists who have been murdered, jailed or forced into exile for their work. “I want journalists to die old,” Muratov said.
Six journalists working for Novaya Gazeta have been killed – Igor Domnikov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, Anastasia Baburova, Stanislav Markelov and Natalya Estemirova. In the Philippines, a total of 89 journalists have been killed since 1992, she said. That includes the journalist Jesus “Jess” Malabanan, 58, who was killed in a drive-by shooting on Wednesday.
Journalism in Russia was going through “a dark valley”, Muratov said. “Over a hundred journalists, media outlets, human rights defenders and NGOs have recently been branded as ‘foreign agents’. In Russia, this means ‘enemies of the people’.
“Many of our colleagues have lost their jobs. Some have to leave the country. Some are deprived of the opportunity to live a normal life for an unknown period of time. Maybe for ever. That has happened in our history before,” he said.
Muratov condemned the militaristic propaganda promoted by state-owned media, and made a grim warning of the possibility of war between Russia and Ukraine. “In the heads of some crazy geopoliticians, a war between Russia and Ukraine is not something impossible any longer. But I know that wars end with identifying soldiers and exchanging prisoners,” he said. Moscow has provoked alarm by amassing troops and weapons near Ukraine’s border.
Describing journalists as an antidote against tyranny, Muratov added: “Yes, we growl and bite. Yes, we have sharp teeth and a strong grip. But we are the prerequisite for progress.”
LOUDOUN COUNTY, VIRGINIA: A CULTURE WAR IN FOUR ACTS
A furious controversy in the richest county in America was about race, all right, but not in the way national media presented it.
by Matt Taibbi
November 2, 2021, Election night, town of Sterling, Loudoun County, Virginia. Thanks to a years-long media furor over what one former school official here described through a fatalistic laugh as “all the things,” this wealthy northern Virginia county is ground zero of the American culture war tonight. The nation’s most-watched race this evening is a fight for the Virginia governor’s office between a favored Democrat, longtime Bill and Hillary Clinton aide and oft-flummoxed oratorial liability Terry McAuliffe, and the Republican underdog, an aw-shucks private equity vampire turned earnest education advocate named Glenn Youngkin. The contest between the two will be decided at places like this little polling station, at Lowes Island Elementary School.
Democratic and Republican volunteers flank the school entrance, waving YOUNGKIN – GOVERNOR or MCAULIFFE AYALA HERRING signs while attempting to hand out sample ballots. Voters look in foul moods, meeting most of the pamphlet offers with road-rage stares or no-look, “talk to the hand” pleas for space, with one conspicuous exception. The fourth or fifth time I see the same thing happen, a Youngkin supporter standing nearby comments.
“See that?” whispers Raj Patel. “Another Indian who would never vote Republican before just took the Republican ballot.”
A tall, slim, dark-skinned man in a plain tan shirt and tan corduroy pants is indeed standing in the school entrance, examining a sample ballot pulled with two hands close to his face. He’s either nearsighted or really, really interested. Patel, whose father immigrated from India in the late fifties to work for Bechtel, indicates him with a nod and begins talking about the novel experience of standing in the crater of a smoldering national controversy.
“My sister lives in Pennsylvania. She says, ‘I'm watching the news and they're talking about Loudoun County!’ And I say, ‘Yeah, who’d have believed it?’ You know, that our county was going to be on national news over this issue.” He shakes his head. “You watch. Indian and Chinese immigrants who typically vote Democratic will vote the other way because education for children is their number one issue. It’s why they came here.”
Patel is one of the switchers. He was “pretty liberal” after graduating from UC-Berkeley many years ago, then steadily became more moderate in his views, which did not mean voting for Donald Trump. “Honestly, I voted for Hillary Clinton,” he says, clarifying that he’s for “common sense,” not being “right-wing” or conspiratorial, “none of that garbage.” Eventually, he returns to the subject of education. “When you start messing with schools, that’s when you’ll get typical Democrats to flip.”
Within a few hours, networks begin delivering the verdict: Youngkin, not long ago down ten points in the polls, is going to cruise to an upset win. Panic commences...