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Letters (December 16, 2021)

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THE LAST STEELHEAD?

Editor,

This past Sunday at 10:48 am I was standing on the edge of Hwy 128 as it rises on the bluff beside the mouth of the Navarro River. That was the time this year’s king tide was to hit its maximum 7 something feet and I wanted to see if it would be enough to bridge the sand bar and open the river to the ocean. 

No such luck!

Or maybe good luck indeed depending how you look at it. Last year a second run of steelhead were able to make it up to Philo where they hung out waiting for enough water to continue upstream to their spawning areas. At one point I counted 70-something big ones. They waited and waited until the river ceased flowing to the point it became a series of unconnected pools. The number of steelhead dwindled until one day there were only seven or so left. As I walked past they all stayed in the deeper far side of the pool they were in. Shortly, it couldn’t have been more than about 3 or 4 minutes, I turned and walked back the way I came. Now there was a 20 inch or more steelhead snuggled right up to the bank. I wondered if it had come over to ask for help. Almost crying I knelt down and petted the back of this wonderful creature as you might gently pet a dog. It stayed in place and then I picked it up, turned it to face me and sung it a couple lines to an Indian good luck song I know before putting it back in the water. When I did so it swam slowly back to the other side.

A few days later these last few were gone - probably dinner for the four-legged, wind-walkers or two-legged poachers. So it is that maybe these wondrous ancestors of ours might fare better in the ocean than falling into a trap of not enough water to survive.

David Severn

Philo 

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COYOTE COWBOYS: 41 YEARS OF ENTERTAINMENT

Editor,

The Mendocino County Fair and Apple Show Board of Directors would like to express our deep appreciation to the Coyote Cowboys for their long-standing support of the Mendocino County Fair and Apple Show.

The Cowboys have played as regular entertainment at the Fair since 1980. Their first performance at the Fair was on a lowbed trailer in the rodeo area while the old June Hall was being torn down.

This local group of fine musicians always provides a good show and a good time. These friends and neighbors have contributed to our enjoyable evenings for 41 years.

A big Thank You to: Dean, Craig, Eddie, Guy and Susan

Sincerely,

Wayne Hiatt, Jay Newcomer, Eva Johnson, Lindsey Clow, Sophie Bates, Derek Wyant, Morgan Baynham, Jim Brown

Boonville

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EVERYONE MAKES MISTAKES

Editor,

In a letter to the Editor a couple of weeks ago, Bear Kamoroff of Willits wrote:

FOLK HERO OR COMMON CRIMINAL?

Mr. Anderson and Mr. Scaramella:

Why are you glorifying and making a folk hero out of a man who broke into people’s homes, stole what did not belong to him — mostly alcohol, not exactly Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family — and shooting his rifle at a deputy sheriff trying to capture him? If this man is guilty of the charges against him, including attempted murder, he belongs in prison for the rest of his hopefully short life.

Bear Kamoroff

A Response to Mr. Kamoroff,

True, I may be a common criminal, but I did take only what I needed. Alcohol was just a plus. Any Sheriff's deputy who says I fired a gun at them is a liar and only he and I know the truth. How come there is no video surveillance evidence? Ask yourself that! I believe you are just mad since you couldn't survive a day in the backwoods of Mendocino County. Wishing me a short life to me is shortsighted, childish, inhumane and cruel. The great things I've accomplished in life may not outweigh the bad, but don't worry, pal, I probably will spend the rest my life behind bars. I would never have done what I did if I wasn't running from the law already and starving.

Everyone makes mistakes. I could have bear-maced the Sheriff's canine when I was arrested by the cops, but I didn't. Note that in all my crimes nobody was physically hurt. 

Sincerely,

William Evers

Mendocino County Jail

Ukiah

PS. Look out for my book, ‘Redbeard.’ I'm available for visits, etc.

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HAUNTED

Editor,

Maybe this one is our ticket to fame/fortune?

I am sitting here at David’s Deli, Fort Bragg, having a late breakfast, as I crossed the Noyo bridge on my scooter I was filled with warm remembrance of when I would take my twin toddler daughters Inyo and Kiara to lunch in the harbor below. They would get so enthralled watching the activity in the harbor below. They would need encouragement to eat! I loved that about them and I always figured I was raising them right! Their interest in boats, birds, seals was wonderful to behold. 

Fast forward 13 years and one life-threatening stroke later and now across from me are 2 children , with their grandparents, the kids are about 6 or 7 sister is older. They are all having a great time, but I notice EVERY interaction is through a screen, a phone is being passed around, both kids are stealing glances at me, probably mostly out of curiosity (what’s wrong with that guy?), as I have a walking stick and an obviously lame left hand, but I sense something else as I only meet their glances fleetingly, as I don’t want to be thought strange or rude. Something in their eyes is pleading, just wanting to look into another human being, to see and be seen. (Maybe I’m making too much of it, but I doubt it.)

As we stepped (or in my case shuffled) into the restaurant we all passed an unhoused man eating from a container while sitting in the doorway of an adjacent business. I think how we are all getting used to seeing masses of the unhoused even up here in rural Fort Bragg, as we are most certainly are not immune to the prevailing winds of predatory late stage capitalism. Even as the unhoused increasingly occupy public spaces, our private ones are increasingly valuable to those who find themselves on the monetized side of capitalist inequality. 

Just recently I heard of an old man who owns a modest home on the North side of the harbor. Someone knocked on his door one morning and offered him $2 million dollars for his house (it is appraised at $750K). He turned it down as he feels too old to move. 

Just a few days ago I was shopping at Harvest Market when a well-coifed woman just approached me and asked if I was a local and could I recommend a good realtor?

I am still haunted by the eyes of those two children. As I move back out into my day, to scoot back into town and complete my modest list of chores, passing more unhoused, on sidewalks and small fields adjacent to the sidewalks, they congregate in numbers that would have been alarming a short time ago. As the ban on evictions has been allowed to expire. What can we hope next?

For me it’s off to the Company Store completely sanitized — for tourists idealized version of Fort Bragg’s past as a lumber and fishing town(spoiler alert- it is no longer either of these things)

The glorification of a “company store” is, of course, appalling to anyone with even a basic knowledge history. Most of these places profited extravagantly off the backs of exploited workers, who were often paid in scrip for their labor. Yes , it was not quite slavery, but a horribly exploitative system nonetheless. 

And now this building is filled with pictures of forests and vibrant fishing harbors that no longer exist. When I first arrived here 30 years ago there were still some trees for loggers and environmentalists to argue over. Georgia Pacific and Louisiana Pacific and their regulatory enablers in the California Department of Forestry ended that conversation. 

And now Fort Bragg seems to be mostly thought of as an investment opportunity.

What does the future hold for all of us, as the excesses of neoliberal late stage capitalism continues to tighten its grip, and our social interactions are increasingly digitized? I have no answers but, the piercing searching eyes of those two young people, looking for something.

Chris Skyhawk 

Albion/Fort Bragg

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HERE'S ONE REASON…

Editor: 

Last year, an estimated 10% of all claims for unemployment benefits at the California Employment Development Department were fraudulent, to the tune of approximately $10 billion to $20 billion. I can give you one possible reason for such a drain on our state’s resources.

I received a letter from EDD saying someone had opened an account in my name and telling me to “call immediately” if I didn’t create the file. There is no way to report fraud online, and over several days I called at least 20 times and always got a busy signal. I have been persistent but will likely give up. I can only imagine how many others have given up more quickly.

Clearly EDD needs to create a more seamless, rapid and responsible way to allow citizens to report likely fraud. Surely the investment in staff and website development would more than pay for itself.

Ron Welch

Santa Rosa

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DON'T DIVERT THE DIVERSION

Editor: 

The Friends of the Eel River continually rant about the Potter Valley Project and dam safety, ignoring the level of monitoring of Scott Dam that is regularly conducted by multiple agencies.

The upper mainstem Eel River above Scott Dam was dry as recently as Oct. 29. How would removal of Scott Dam help assure water supply reliability for humans or endangered fish?

The Two Basin Partnership has yet to receive funding to complete the required environmental studies and form a regional entity to take over the Potter Valley Project, and they face deadlines. PG&E appears unlikely to repair its broken hydropower facility, reducing water diversion capacity into the East Branch of the Russian River and significantly limiting water to fill Lake Mendocino. It's likely that PG&E will file an application to surrender/decommission the Potter Valley Project. This can mean anything from removing the hydropower equipment to removal of all infrastructure, including Lake Pillsbury.

But this isn’t a done deal. Everyone acknowledges that those diversions are necessary for our water future. It is time for the public to speak up to about saving the Potter Valley Project and Lake Pillsbury as critical resources for water, fire suppression, ecosystems and recreation for Humboldt, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties.

David Taber

President, Palomino Lakes Mutual Water Company

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DECEMBER 7

Editor: 

On Dec. 7, 1941, the bombing of Pearl Harbor rallied the nation to war. Sacrifice joined Americans together — rationing, enlisting, buying war bonds. The sacrifices made by Japanese Americans who lived on the West Coast were monumental. Their rights as Americans were suspended, and they were rounded up and sent to internment camps with armed guards, leaving behind everything except what they could carry.

Out of this part of American history came the all-American Japanese fighting unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, with its “Go for Broke” motto. The 442nd broke the back of the German army in the Italian mountains. The Germans called them the little iron men as they were unrelenting in their attacks.

Fueled by proving their loyalty to America, the 442nd and the 100th Infantry Battalion, also all Japanese Americans, received the most honors and suffered the most casualties of any units their size: 680 killed in action; 9,486 Purple Hearts for being wounded in action; and 18,143 individual medals, including 21 Congressional Medals of Honor.

Melissa Grahek

Santa Rosa

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THE FACTS ARE THE FACTS

Editor: 

The expressions “critical race theory” and “cancel culture” have been weaponized by Republicans to attack community leaders, educators and politicians who want to remove monuments to Confederates, slave owners and racists and support a more balanced and accurate history.

Although “critical race theory” has not been taught in schools, this misinformation has provoked parents to attack school boards and administrators, distracting from more important issues.

The removal of monuments to Confederates and slave owners has been revived by recent protests for social and racial justice, but the legacies of Columbus, the pioneers, missionaries and the founding fathers have been under scrutiny for years.

If there is a constant in history, it is that views of the past will be challenged and revised. Each generation has different priorities, asks different questions, discovers new sources and information, and uses the latest methods to create new interpretations of the past.

Thanks to the participation of scholars from underrepresented groups, students are also exposed to that information and interpretations which challenge traditional views.

The claim that American history is being perverted by including that information and alternate perspectives is disingenuous and only adds fuel to the cultural wars which divide our country.

Tony White

Santa Rosa

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NO DISNEYLAND FOR FORT BRAGG

Editor,

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

Fort Bragg

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THE SKUNK’S HORRIFYING PLANS

Editor,

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

Fort Bragg

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WHY THREATEN THE CITY?

Editor,

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.

Christy Wagner

Mendocino

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BEFORE THE MILL

Dear Editor,

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. 

Frank Baumgardner

Santa Rosa

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CHRISTMAS WITH THE WOLF AT THE DOOR

Editor,

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.

Lucy Robson

Eureka

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INCIDENT AT THE SKUNK TRAIN DEPOT

Editor,

Earlier Sunday afternoon, a friend and I were returning from a walk to Otis Johnson Park on the east end of Laurel St. As we were walking through the Depot parking lot on our way home we decided to stop by the Model Train Museum. It is not open much, so when they are it's nice to be able to see what they have going on.

After about 10 minutes or so looking at the different displays and talking with the volunteers about different aspects of their projects, I was approached by an employee of the Skunk train and told to get off of their property, immediately. Confused, I asked him why. He said that his boss wanted me and my friend to leave. I asked again why he wanted us to leave and he said it was their right to remove us from their property. I stated that we were at the Railroad Museum exhibit who indeed rented from Skunk but we weren't on Skunk Train controlled property. He said it didn't matter and we needed to leave immediately or be forcibly removed. I said no and the police were called. After about 15 minutes or so, the police arrived and then began about an hour or so of back and forth with the police being the intermediaries.

It turns out that the Skunk people can indeed have people removed from their property even if that property is rented to someone else, as ridiculous as that sounds. The reason that was given was that the management of the Skunk Train was fearful that my friend and I might take pictures of the employees. The reality is that I took pictures of the oil spill in the train yard and turned them over to the county.

We were agreeable with the police after we understood that an open to the public business can kick people off of their property for whatever reason they want, even if they are a Public Utility. So now it seems that my friend and I are banished from any Mendocino Railway property because I took a few pictures of a toxic oil spill and brought it to the attention of the county, who in turn sent out an inspector who was also kicked off of the property after taking their own pictures of the mess.

Somehow, this doesn't quite seem like the friendly little Skunk Train that used to attract tourists to Fort Bragg. It seems more like some distant corporation that will do anything to further its own interests, community be damned.

Bruce Broderick

Fort Bragg

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HANDS OFF PILLSBURY

Editor: 

I’m disappointed to see the Friends of the Eel River continue to run a fake news campaign. They claim they are committed to supporting the two-basin solution, but they couldn’t care less. They just want to tear down Scott Dam (and all California dams). 

It is insulting to hear them and others quote data as if they are facts when they are completely baseless. David Keller says Scott Dam and Cape Horn Dam are past their expiration dates and a liability with zero facts to support his claim. In fact, PG&E performs countless structural and dam safety tests and reports results to multiple agencies on an ongoing basis. 

California desperately needs water, and anyone who says otherwise is uninformed. Friends of the Eel River claim there are hundreds of miles of prime spawning ground that would be uncovered based on test it did. The fact is if you walked the Eel in the summer in any of the last several years you would have found no water where Friends of the Eel claims it is. 

Please leave Lake Pillsbury alone.

Dave Luhrs

Potter Valley

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A GIUSTI EXPLANATION

Dear AVA Editor:

Jail inmate/felony defendant David Giusti complains in Saturday’s MCT that he has been “locked down now 21 months in solitary confinement at the Mendocino County Jail. What is my crime? If DA C. David Eyster has his way nobody will ever know, including me! DA Eyster has zero evidence to prosecute me, so he is attempting to stall me into insanity.”

I personally don’t know the particulars of Mr. Giusti’s housing status at the jail. However, given that he is a Strike defendant facing an attempted murder charge (of another person living on the streets of Ukiah), along with special allegations that Mr. Giusti used a weapon to commit the crime and inflicted great bodily injury on the victim, it would not surprise me if he was being housed away from other inmates.

Candidly, we would love to have Mr. Giutsti’s case decided by a jury sooner than later, but that is currently not possible under California law. While Mr. Giusti’s preliminary hearing was conducted in June 2020 where evidence was presented to a magistrate that justified the pending charges, Mr. Giusti has since been ordered into the Jail Based Competency Treatment (JBCT) Program at the Low Gap jail.

JBCT is funded by Department of State Hospitals (DSH). Since there are limited beds available in state hospitals, a local jail-based program was developed to treat defendants judicially determined to be incompetent to stand trial with the goal of restoring these individuals locally to competency. The funding from DSH pays for JBCT program implementation and staffing. The Jail must follow the JBCT program elements set forth by the contract with DSH.

A defendant can be found by a judge to be incompetent to stand trial if, due to a mental disorder, he or she does not have ability to understand the nature of the pending criminal proceedings and/or is unable to assist his defense counsel in presenting a defense in a rational manner.

DA Dave Eyster

Ukiah

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