Increasing Clouds | Yorkville Market | Skunky Business | Pet Beth | Amended Demand | Leaf Area | B Audit | Stewardress | Goat Pens | Young Tolstoy | Cancer Resource | What Variant | Homeless Dashboard | Patriot Game | Ed Notes | 1906 Chaps | Christmas Passed | River Crossing | Emerald Memories | Pseudo Realities | Weed Woes | Yesterday's Catch | Book Party | Monsieur Ali | Smollett Enablers | Noyo River | Ecological Disaster | Comptche Carriages | Next Coup | Burnt Out | Santa Break
GLOOMY, MILD WEATHER is expected for most the area today with isolated light rain along the Humboldt and Del Norte coasts. Gusty winds look to arrive Monday with more serious rain and snow starting Tuesday. Steady rain and snow will most likely continue into Christmas weekend with increasing chances of low elevation snowfall. (NWS)
YORKVILLE MARKET HAS CLOSED.
I hope you are enjoying the holiday season!
As of last week I have officially closed the Market. It is a sad moment, but unfortunately necessary. Let’s hope for great new things in the future.
It has really been a pleasure getting to know you over these years. I have appreciated the many kind words and interesting articles you have written about the Market. Hopefully our paths will cross again soon.
Wishing you all the best.
Fondly, Lisa Welsh, Yorkville Market
BRUCE BRODERICK ON THE SKUNK:
The Skunks Speeder Shed revisited.
In 2019 when the mendocino railway decided to completely refurbish it's old Speeder car barn at 535 Main St. behind North Coast Brewery's retail store on Main St., the City of Fort Bragg tried to cooperate with them and aid in bringing a unique business to our town that would, not only be profitable to Mendocino Railway but would benefit other businesses by attracting more tourists.
In a recent public records search I came across documents that show how Mendocino Railway/Sierra Energy not only didn't cooperate with the city in its requests to help bring the structure into code compliance but the railway blatantly defied the City of Fort Bragg while deceiving the city on the actual use of the structure.
The saga starts with the removal of a Red Tag placed by the City on the structure in question in Dec of 2019.
After the removal of the Red Tag, Mr Pinoli had Sierra Energy's in-house counsel send the city a letter declaring the property's railroad status.
What's important about Mendocino Railway's letter to the City of Fort Bragg was that they were claiming railway use of the property in the form of their speeder car storage. As it turns out, the only use for the property is the expensive excursion rides sold to tourists by Mendocino Railway that competes with other businesses in town, a violation of Public Utility regulations. The rail bikes are stored in the building which has no railway connection other than the use of public rails for their own profit, while they close down our streets to accommodate that profit taking a number of times a day.
Beyond that, while all of the other legitimate businesses in Fort Bragg pay their fair share in fees and taxes, Mendocino Railway and it's corporate overlords get a free ride on our dime. For all of you business owners out there, they don’t even have a business license to operate. Try getting away with that and see how far you get. The town is essentially subsidizing this operation so that the monies received can leave the area.
Joe Wagner: I am disgusted by gopro wearing tourists going as slow as they can blocking traffic, waving at us locals trying to work for a living. The gross emissions of the traffic when fuel is over 4 bucks a gallon sucks too. Parades need permits. If I wanted to block traffic on State Route 1 I would need a permit. Besides some TOT tax these people may bring; what do they contribute to the community? My suggestion just to build bridges and make things work out; is the park the rail bikes on the other side of all the street crossings? Build a permitted building over there by the gas pumps and cemetery. The skunk has gone bankrupt before. People lost a ton of money via the skunk over the years. Now a big shot company owns it and guess who bears the losses? The greater Mendocino coastal community. Also isn't that deck they built subject to inspections by the county? I saw some of the work and I am wary about it handling 20-30 thousand pounds of tourists.
Broderick: The Department of Transportation requires a registered schedule of vehicles using rail crossings so that there are no conflicts in traffic. This is especially true on a state highway. Mendocino Railway closes our roads on a whim to entertain the tourists for a high price. How many locals with low paying jobs have been late to work while waiting for the tourists to pass? Of course, the tourists all wave at the waiting traffic expecting them to wave back joyfully because they are so appreciative that the tourists have spent money with the Skunks.
UKIAH SHELTER PET OF THE WEEK
We found Beth to be smart and engaging during her evaluation. This beautiful girl enjoys walks, and has good on-leash manners. She can be reactive to some dogs and very playful with others, so supervised introductions to unknown dogs will be best for Beth. We are also recommending no toddlers in Beth’s new home due to her energy. German Shepherds are wonderful, loyal dogs and friends. They do best with lots of physical and mental stimulation. GSDs usually excel in canine obedience classes and activities—ask us about classes in the Ukiah area. Unfortunately, Beth tested positive for heartworm, and we will be treating her at the shelter.
For more about Beth, visit mendoanimalshelter.com While you’re there, check out all of our canine and feline guests, our services, programs, events, and updates. Visit us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/mendoanimalshelter/ For information about adoptions, please call 707-467-6453.
BROWN ACT VIOLATION NOTICE & CURE AND CORRECT DEMAND - Amendment #1
TO: Board Chair Dan Gjerde and board members of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors
December 18, 2021
Dear Chair Gjerde,
This letter is to amend my December 14 Brown Act complaint based on a further review of the Tuesday, December 12, Board of Supervisors meeting.
My December 14 complaint was to call your attention to what I believed was a substantial violation of a central provision of the Ralph M. Brown Act, one which may jeopardize the finality of the action taken by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, December 14, 2021
The nature of the initial violation was as follows:
In its meeting of December 14, 2021, the Board of Supervisors took action to give a large pay increase to County Counsel via the Consent Calendar and the unanimous approval of the consent calendar.
The action taken was not in compliance with the Brown Act because Goverment code requires that such actions for department heads be read out loud into the record and voted on separately.
See Government Code Section 54953(c)(3) and 3511.1.
The Brown Act creates specific procedural obligations for such department head raises which were not complied with by approving the item on the consent calendar.
The Brown Act also creates a legal remedy for illegally taken actions—namely, the judicial invalidation of them upon proper findings of fact and conclusions of law.
Pursuant to that provision, I demanded that the Board of Supervisors cure and correct the illegally taken action as follows:
Invalidate the proposed increase and put the proposed pay increase on a regular agenda, read it out loud for public review and conduct a roll call vote.
Further, at the time of the re-vote I demanded that each board member explain their justification for voting the way they did.
Further, I demanded that the Board specify which budget this unbudgeted expenditure will be taken from.
Further, I demanded that the Board create a specific policy that requires all future department head or elected official pay increases to be handled in accordance with applicable government code sections on a regular agenda in open session.
As you correctly noted at the end of the December 12 meeting, your action to approve Item 4c on the consent calendar was a Brown Act violation.
However, your attempt to correct the violation by adding a separate item to the Board meeting later in the day, also violated the Brown Act and further violated the Board’s own Rules of Procedure.
By re-voting on the item later in the meeting, there was 1) an acknowledgement of the initial violation, and 2) a violation of notice requirements because no vote was taken to add the item to the agenda as an urgent item, nor was public comment provided for.
Further, your own Rules of Procedure (#26 and #27) require that to correct a violation the Board make a motion to rescind the incorrect initial vote to approve the consent calendar, then consider and approve a motion to reconsider, then take public comment and then vote on the item as revised.
Further, the provision in the pay raise item which ties the County Counsel’s pay to 15% more than his own subordinate’s pay is also illegal, not to mention unethical. Essentially, this provision means that the public official can give himself a raise by giving his subordinate a raise which in turn would violate Government Code which requires all raises for government officials and department heads to be agendized and individually voted on in open session.
The Brown Act creates specific procedural obligations for such department head raises which were not complied with by approving the item on the consent calendar.
The Brown Act also creates a legal remedy for illegally taken actions—namely, the judicial invalidation of them upon proper findings of fact and conclusions of law.
Pursuant to that provision, I again demand that the Board of Supervisors properly cure and correct the illegally taken action and incorrect attempt to correct it as follows:
Invalidate the proposed increase and put the proposed pay increase on a regular agenda, read it out loud for public review, take public comment, and conduct a roll call vote.
Further, at the time of that re-vote I demand that each board member explain their justification for voting the way they did.
Further, I demand that the Board specify which budget this unbudgeted expenditure will be taken from.
Further, I demand that the Board create a specific policy that requires all future department head or elected official pay increases to be handled in accordance with applicable government code sections on a regular agenda in open session.
And further, I demand that the Board remove the provision which sets the County Counsel's salary at 15% over the Assistant County Counsel's salary.
As provided by Section 54960.1, you have 30 days from the receipt of this amended demand to either properly cure or correct the challenged actions or inform me of your decision not to do so. If you fail to cure or correct as demanded, such inaction may leave me no recourse but to refer the item to the District Attorney and/or seek a judicial invalidation of the challenged action pursuant to Section 54960.1, in which case I would also ask the court to order you to pay my court costs and reasonable attorney fees in this matter, pursuant to Section 54960.5.
PO Box 459
Boonville, CA 95415
cc: County Counsel Christian Curtis, District Attorney David Eyster
A READER ASKS: Just curious, is there an annual audit of Measure B funds? I think the ordinance includes an annual audit requireent. Is there a link to view the audit?
Mark Scaramella Replies:
From our coverage of the March 2021 Board meeting:
“FOLLOWING DR. MILLER’S presentation the Board rambled on in typical Measure B style about whether to move forward with a PHF, albeit four years after such initial discussions should have been completed. Possible locations and the need for a feasibility study were mentioned. Supervisor Haschak brought up the requirement for an annual independent audit as called for in Measure B. Supervisor Gjerde questioned the need for an audit given that relatively little money has been spent. The Supes finally agreed to do the “annual” audit (after only three years) because it’s required by Measure B as approved by the voters. (When we asked former Project Manager Alyson Bailey about that audit last year, she replied that so little had been spent that there was no reason for an audit, despite the Measure’s calling for it.)”
The audit is listed as a “Board Directive” for March of 2021 as “in process” in the September 2021 CEO report with no date. At that point it had been “in process” for a half a year. And at this point millions of Measure B dollars have been spent.
But in Mendo “board directives” are more like, maybe, suggestions to staff, if they kinda feel like doing it, if they have time in their busy schedules, some day, hopefully, otherwise never mind. Oh well.
PENS TO HELP PROTECT AV UNIFIED GOATS
by Justine Frederiksen
In an effort to prevent more goats being killed at the Anderson Valley High School farm, the Mountain Lion Foundation reported that it will be donating and installing two livestock pens at the school in Boonville this Friday.
“We are pleased to offer AVHS a gift of two, 10-feet by 20-feet, predator-proof livestock pens,” wrote Dylan Henriksen of the Mountain Lion Foundation, a group which offered the pens last week in response to Anderson Valley School District Superintendent Louise Simson’s request for help after three goats were reportedly attacked by a mountain lion at her school. One goat was injured and two were killed.
Henriksen explained that the offer had been accepted by Simson and teacher Beth Swehla on Dec. 10, and that the group planned to install the pens on Dec. 17. She added that “California Department of Fish and Wildlife Regional Biologist Dr. Thomas Batter, who has been in collaboration with the Mountain Lion Foundation on this case, has volunteered his time to assist in building the structure.”
In describing the pens, Henriksen said that since “mountain lions can jump 12 to 15 feet vertically, these pens will have roofs which can support the weight of a 200-pound cat. We will be reinforcing the chain link fence walls and making sure the doors are secured by chain and lock, to remain locked from dusk to dawn — when mountain lions are most active. Because mountain lions are largely visual predators, we’ll also be adding opaque visqueen to the walls and burying a fence skirt to prevent other wildlife from burrowing into the pens.”
She also explained that mountain lions typically prefer “natural prey, most notably deer … but if there are livestock unprotected in mountain lion habitat, it is essentially communicating to lions that this prey is available. But by taking simple protective measures, like the livestock pens… coexistence is not only possible, but is the (best) long-term solution to perceived conflict. In response, the mountain lion will move on, to continue the search for deer and other natural prey.
“Mountain lions play a vital role in supporting the health and function of the ecosystem in which they exist,” Henriksen added. “They keep deer populations in check which prevents over-grazing, and in effect protects our orchards, gardens, etc. They have acted as apex predators in Boonville for longer than we have been here, keeping the forests and grasslands healthy.”
Simson, who told the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors after the lion attack that she was very concerned about keeping everyone at the school safe, said when asked about the donation of the pens: “While I don’t agree this is the most effective tactic from a school safety perspective with removal (of the predator) more appropriate, I do appreciate that the foundation actually offered a tangible solution at their expense and not just advice.”
Dr. Quinton Martins, a Wildlife Ecologist based in Sonoma County, advised the Board of Supervisors during the Nov. 18 meeting when Simson reported the attack that the response to the incident should focus on keeping the goats safe rather than removing any predators from the area.
“Removing the specific individual is not going to solve the issue, and may even exacerbate the situation by drawing in other animals if a vacant territory becomes available,” said Martins. “The recommendation would be to focus specifically on keeping the livestock safe; when they are locked up, they will be unavailable to the mountain lion.”
Jayma and Jim Shields and Mickey at the Resource Center in Laytonville are very ethical and fine people. If you referred me to the resource center I completely understand and I say thank you. Elderly distraught women seldom are listened to. A whistleblower in “Canna Country" is silenced for obvious reasons.
The first week after I was referred to them I called and told them I had plenty of goods because of the stimulus money and that I'm fine. Since then I have called the cancer center and received help as well.
After I called the resource center I got a call with a totally different area code. I get a lot of scam calls and it stresses me because we are going through a cancer thing here.
Jayma is a wonderful person. I knew her mother. I read in the AVA about ships in the night and darkness. I have thought about that for many years. You are all brothers and sisters to me in the old Union speech, Solidarity and Lech Walesa.
I remember the Catholic Workers and the poor from when I was a child. I have learned a lot and I am responsible for the rotten choices I have made. It's hard to feel comfortable anymore. I have been a farmworker, and an AFL-CIO shop steward and I have held many jobs and moonlighted.
I get some strange calls and if I don't feel comfortable I don't pick them up. But I am lucky to be here among the frogs and the foxes and the blue herons and everything on my land. I am not a victim. I am grateful and prayerful and sad.
Thank you for the referral and to all nine people who work there.
My partner has gotten better after weeks of radiation and we are both optimistic and we are both working a little every day for firewood and our house is warm and we have tons of food and the people at the Cancer Resource Center are really great human beings.
I may be too sensitive for my situation. I've been here for 40 years. Sometimes it's too much for people around here who don't use drugs. I think I am a strong old woman and old distraught women don't get paid much attention to. But that's okay. I have help with the Cancer Resource Center.
It's amazing how strong we are for old people. But we have our house and we are doing pretty well.
This is the culmination of years of work for me. Multiple dashboards with data on homelessness and homeless services in our country. Not a list of resources, but filterable dashboards showing what populations are served and by what projects and providers. Outcomes. Success rates. Racial disparity in services. Much more.
THE PRESIDENT cheered us up earlier this week with a promise of a “winter of illness and death,” not that cadaverous, tottering Joe is the guy who should be delivering the grim news. But assurances of illness and death go with the rest of recent alarms, including the break up of the Republic and the death of the planet.
THEN WE heard former Army Major General Paul Eaton and former Brigadier Gen Steven Anderson and former Army Major Gen Antonio Taguba warning of another coup attempt. They claimed in a column for The Washington Post that there may be an attack similar to the January 6 Capitol riot after the 2024 election. “Military and lawmakers have been gifted with hindsight to prevent another insurrection,” they wrote, emphasizing that leaders must take action now.
EASY, BOYS. Alarming as January 6 was, it wasn't a coup attempt, but it was certainly a major clue that millions of Camo Bros and they're shrieking female auxiliaries are thinking dangerously subversive thoughts. If the Orange Pumpkin had himself led the charge after having incited it, and if he were accompanied by even a dozen armed people who knew what they were doing… Well, with the mob having routed the Congressional Guard, it's not hard to imagine what might have ensued.
AS OF NOW, Trump is the only rallying figure they have, and he's not up to a full revolutionary fascist assault on the national government, as he's already established. Mussolini, say, would have taken January 6 over the top. Our fascists, however, are too stupid and lazy to have seized that particular opportunity, but there are a lot smarter ones out there raring to go, I'm sure, hence the worried talk out of the generals.
FROM A COUNTERPUNCH article of last week: “I want to say one thing only. The Republicans are pushing for civil war. Friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor. Armed and ready to kill. People are unhappy, desperate and oppressed. They are struggling. They aren’t being heard. Nobody cares about their hardships. The unhappiness and desperation of the average American is, paradoxically, the very thing that will lead us over the cliff to a suicidal civil war. Trump used this unhappiness. DeSantis is using it. Texas lawmakers used it. And the Supreme Court is making a mockery of its own institution by riding the same wave…”
THAT'S ABOUT RIGHT. The final crack-up will be widespread but heaviest in the regions much more estranged than mellow Mendo, not that there aren't plenty of fascists and latent fascists right here, especially east of 101. (For local example, the Coop invaders are latents, as is the entire anti-vaxx movement.)
A LOT will depend on the basic loyalty to democratic principles of police departments and the professional military. Many police departments, and the entire military, are replete with ethnic minorities who, if it comes to it, can probably be depended on to crush the Camo Bros. Additionally, the Camo Bros will be hurting for regional and local leadership.
CHRISTMAS MEMORIES I WISH I DIDN’T HAVE
by Tommy Wayne Kramer
We all have wonderful Christmas memories of past holidays with family and friends. These are the thoughts and sentiments of the best of our times and the happiest of our days.
But not today. Beautiful Christmas memories are So Last Year. Instead, let’s take a detour through the worst of Christmases Past, as experienced by me and some friends.
First we go to Missouri, circa 1974, and we peep in on Christmas morning in a suburban living room featuring the tree, the ornaments, the family members (most of ‘em, anyway) and a young Buddy Eller.
Yes that Buddy Eller, now long gone but far from forgotten, an early champion of Ukiah’s homeless and anyone else on the outer fringes of society.
But in 1974 Buddy was simply a young man with a new wife about to celebrate Christmas with his Missouri in-laws. Everything described so far is true, but may I clarify? Yes, Buddy was recently married and it’s also true that only “most of” the family members were gathered around on this Christmas morning in anticipation of celebrating the holiday together.
But it was also true that Buddy and his wife had gone to a Christmas Eve party the night before, during which his wife caught the eye, and then the arm, of another man.
They left the party together, which meant Buddy was left alone, and he was still alone the following morning when he came downstairs to join his new in-laws in the living room. Warm and wonderful memories were not about to begin.
Buddy couldn’t tell me what gifts he and his wandering wife had given to her parents, but he did recall sadly peeling paper off gaily wrapped packages of cookware he and she had been given. Who suffered greater embarrassment that Christmas morning, Buddy or “most of” his family? There is no right answer.
He pulled a few more ribbons and bows from boxes of skillets and sauce pans, and then everyone paused to listen as a car pulled up outside. A door slammed, the car zoomed off, and seconds later Mrs. Buddy Eller came in the front door, carrying her shoes. She went upstairs.
Buddy got nothing for Christmas that year, not even the cookware, which he said he would liked to have been able to exchange at the Sears store for a Diehard battery to put in his car, which wouldn’t start when he packed up that afternoon to go back home.
No gifts, but Christmas memories to last a lifetime.
The Shortest Happy Day Gift
When I was about 10 a kid down the street got a new bicycle for Christmas, but the next day his mother backed over it in the driveway. The bike was destroyed, and I don’t think he’d ridden it more than a few hundred feet.
Also, his family was poor so he didn’t get another one.
A Visit from St. Bert
Long before the kids were awake, long before the sun was up, and long before we would have ever consented to a Christmas morning visit from our legendary, appalling, lovable, terrifying and wonderful coworker, Bert Schlosser, there he was, a-bang bang banging with his big fat fist upon our front door. Christmas morning, 6:15 a.m.
I opened the door and in thrust his big yellow plastic bourbon cup followed by his outstretched arm, and then the jolly old elf himself. Bert was in full stagger, full sweat, and full of the holiday magic and good cheer for which he was famous. He (re-)filled his yellow quart mug from the Jim Beam bottle he kept on our laundry shelf, collapsed into the old leather recliner in the living room and fell into a snoring mess until awakened by our children an hour later, which annoyed him.
Bert said the sweater Santa brought me looked cheap and gay, that Teri’s new earrings were so ugly she’d be at Scott Gaustad’s office filing for divorce no later than Monday, and that the kids would have gotten better gifts if they’d been in foster care. He said our cat showed signs of neglect and abuse, was surprised we hadn’t dropped our dog off at the animal shelter yet, and wanted to borrow my car. He’d lost his truck last night somewhere between The Broiler and Club Calpella.
By this point we had been sufficiently delighted by his visit, and I called a neighbor across the street.
“Kevin!” I whispered. “You gotta take Bert! He’s been here three hours and I’m afraid he’s gonna stay for New Year’s. Drive him to Diamond Jim Liquors, buy him a gift. Anything. Get him out.”
“Ahh, he’s with you? Great,” Kevin chuckled. “He came to our house about 5 this morning; I tossed him after he finished my bourbon and called Danna’s mother a cow. Have fun! Ho ho ho!”
That afternoon someone pulled up in front of our house and honked the horn a few times. He was driving Bert’s red Ford pickup. I held the front door open; Bert heaved himself up and aimed for it.
Crossing the porch at an angle, he missed a step but caught the next and regained his iffy balance while not spilling a drop from his plastic mug. He didn't turn around as he waddled away, but he lifted a hand in an approximate wave.
“Merry Christmas,” he said. “And I’m serious. Your cat’s a goner. Probably leukemia or something.”
(Merry Christmas to you and all the people you love, and even the ones you don’t. Tom Hine and his fictional pal Tommy Wayne Kramer hope your holidays are cheerful and memorable in all the best ways. PS: Kittiboy lived another 13 years.)
PEBS ON THE HISTORY OF THE EMERALD CUP
by Pebbles Trippet
The Emerald Cup was founded in 2004 from a fledgling few weed growers who gathered informally at Area 101 in Laytonville to share their grow tips and buds on the down low without public knowledge, as prohibited people associated with the illegal plant.
Prop 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 legalized medical marijuana at the ballot by 56%, mainly due to a triumvirate of sponsors -- Dennis Peron, Brownie Mary and Dr. Tod Mikuriya -- who carried it all the way as the community's answer to the AIDS epidemic. The Mendocino County patient base initiated close relations with Sheriff Tony Craver and DA Norm Vroman based on their promise to support 215 implementation with a local program that would protect patients who registered their garden with the Sheriff's office, since the Mendo BOS wanted no part of it. When I asked Tony if we should outreach to supes to join the process, he discouraged it saying, 'they don't care, that's why my office has to do it'. His comment was prescient, considering the BOS failure to build a meaningful regulatory program with any local support to this day.
Tony lived on the Coast and ran the Sheriff's office in Ft Bragg where he interacted on a regular basis with the two co-founders, Maurice Meikel, Vietnam veteran from Jamaica and myself, visiting our closet size gardens at home, satisfied we were small, legitimate and truthful.
We shifted from the Medical Marijuana Patients Union centered on the coast, 2000-2006, to Area 101 in Laytonville when Tim Blake agreed to publicly sponsor the Sheriff-DA debates in 2006 to replace Sheriff Tony Craver who retired & DA Norm Vroman who died of a heart attack. I'd asked Tim if he would take over by sponsoring the debates since he and I had different perspectives for the cannabis community's future.
The Patients Union formed in 2000 based on endorsing policies, not politicians. thus allowing us to refrain from endorsing either Allman or Broin for Sheriff, while on the other hand, Tim Blake, the Laytonville community and beyond, got behind Tom Allman for Sheriff and his unique 99-plant zip-tie program with 'guaranteed' law enforcement protection at approximately $8000 per grow. I was adamant this would never work, the Feds would stop it, and besides, it only protected an elite few who could afford the steep tariff, setting them a class apart from the most vulnerable, such as Covelo growers.
Tim felt equally strongly that the inland community needed this protection by flowing with the zip tie program since it would tend to protect the whole community especially those who put up the money. I felt we should avoid getting engaged in an experimental illusion that would not last even if this short cut worked for awhile.
The first year, it was immediately busted by the Feds, Joy Greenfield was the first whose entire garden was confiscated. She quickly reupped with another $8000 for her 99 plants and made it through the first year without another bust. So she and 90 or so others gave it another go the 2d year at $8000 each, all going to law enforcement. Halfway into the season, the Feds raided the Mendo zip tie farmers again the second year. The County didn't challenge seizure of doctor-patient medical records as Oregon had done and won. The Court ordered redaction of medical records, all but about 10, giving the Feds those medical records unredacted, without a fight on confidentiality. And that was the end of that story.
The Emerald Cup was happening every year after harvest at Area 101 in pouring rain, uncomfortable for vendors standing in rainwater, while being a spiritual uplift for several hundred community people who found warmth and comraderie inside. 500 enthusiasts advocates farmers crowding the stage, spinning a ribbon of protection if need be.
There was the example of the teenage wonder who played multiple grateful dead songs to a grateful audience, enraptured by a serious teen musician who was practicing, not performing, never once smiling as he shared his sound, one song after another. This is a slice from rural Mendo, unavailable at the citified Santa Rosa Fairgrounds and shows why country folks yearn for their return to their roots
Several years of weather hardships finally forced a decision to try the Mateel Community Center in Redway outside Garberville for dryer warmer conditions. That lasted a year with similar hardships which drove Tim Blake & Co to search Mendocino for a spacious spot which didn't exist and neither did a welcoming by the powers that be.
So they went onward through the fog to Santa Rosa where they found Fairground space and a welcome mat. The Emerald Cup remains in an authentic relationship with Sonoma County since 2013 with mutual respect and strict rules at mass gatherings that work for all concerned.
It is now 2021, The Emerald Cup occurred during a Pandemic which is a remarkable feat in and of itself with the Prop 215 patient base, borderline legal people due to their association with a prohibited plant, sharing joints in the Area 101 medical tent, designed by Phoebe, where 'tent toking' is an exception not allowed in the larger arena, allowed under Prop 215 rights to obtain, use, and possess marijuana for 'medical purposes'.
Vaccination for entry is required, enforced by strict rules, including written proof. A vaxxed co-worker neglected to bring paperwork proof to get in and was forced to wait an hour and a half in a vax line nearby to get proof the Fairgrounds would accept. This assumption was a factor in behavior in the Area 101 tent around the issue of sharing joints. A generous plant like Cannabis inspires sharing, which is embedded in cannabis culture worldwide in the song, "Pass the kochi from the left hand side", reflecting long held local indigenous ways such as the carriers of the pipe.
All these thoughts are rippling to the surface as the culture reasserts itself and people have begun to share joints once again. I asked around a bit, here's one person's take: "A friend of mine shared a joint with someone who was covid+. He didn't get the virus, since it is passed through droplets in the air, not saliva." This simple assessment may be close to what is generally believed based on experience among legacy farmers, artists, intellectuals, activists, engaged people. The culture through joint sharing is making a resounding comeback while also evolving into carriers of the pipe, an indigenous practice.
This is a snail's eye view from my special chair in the Area 101 tent. I didn't venture out for health reasons. I hear panels were generally on a high thought provoking level--Julie Chiariello, Skunk Editor, on Sexual Healing and Del Potter on the Psychedelic Revolution, scientific views on shrooms and the ease of breakdown into microdoses, mild and beneficial like cannabis, available to the advanced and informed. Now that the Psychedelic Revolution has reached the ballot with wins in Oakland and Oregon, microdosing will begin. There's no stopping a resurgence of respect for psychoactive plants in the natural world and a simultaneous move to dismantle the War on Drugs.
The music was too loud without let up so I didn't do public interviews.
We were handicapped by deafening pounding sound, called music, reducing us to lip-reading, the biggest mistake of the event, short circuiting hundreds of hours worth of educational conversations, ready to be shared. This error shows a disproportionate recreational influence, even an alcoholic influence. I was frazzled the night of the Cannabis Trail honoring session because I couldn't get away from the noise before my speech and finally ended up seeking out a stall in the women's bathroom. This must change. It's antithetical to the calming influence of the cannabis plant. A quiet Meditation Space, a hammock without piped in music, and a separate tent at the next Emerald Cup.
(This is Part one of my report on the 2021 Emerald Cup. Part two to follow.)
MARIJUANA MONEY MALADIES
California pot companies warn of impending industry collapse
by Michael R. Blood
Leading California cannabis companies warned Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday that the state’s legal industry was on the verge of collapse and needed immediate tax cuts and a rapid expansion of retail outlets to steady the shaky marketplace.
The letter signed by more than two dozen executives, industry officials and legalization advocates followed years of complaints that the heavily taxed and regulated industry was unable to compete with the widespread illegal economy, where consumer prices are far lower and sales are double or triple the legal business.
Four years after broad legal sales began, “our industry is collapsing,” said the letter, which also was sent to legislative leaders in Sacramento.
The industry leaders asked for an immediate lifting of the cultivation tax placed on growers, a three-year holiday from the excise tax and an expansion of retail shops throughout much of the state. It’s estimated that about two-thirds of California cities remain without dispensaries, since it’s up to local governments to authorize sales and production.
The current system “is rigged for all to fail,” they wrote.
“The opportunity to create a robust legal market has been squandered as a result of excessive taxation,” the letter said. “Seventy-five percent of cannabis in California is consumed in the illicit market and is untested and unsafe.”
“We need you to understand that we have been pushed to a breaking point,” they told the governor.
Newsom spokeswoman Erin Mellon said in a statement that the governor supports cannabis tax reform and recognizes the system needs change, while expanding enforcement against illegal sales and production.
“It’s clear that the current tax construct is presenting unintended but serious challenges. Any tax-reform effort in this space will require action from two-thirds of the Legislature and the Governor is open to working with them on a solution,” Mellon said.
Companies, executives and groups signing the letter included the California Cannabis Industry Association, the California arm of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the Los Angeles-based United Cannabis Business Association, Flow Kana Inc., Harborside Inc., and CannaCraft.
In a conference call with reporters, Darren Story of Strong Agronomy said tough market conditions forced him to cut loose more than half his staff. He said taxes that will increase next year make it an easy choice for shoppers. With prices in the underground half of what they see on legal shelves, he said “most consumers are going to take off.”
The companies asked Newsom to include their proposals in his upcoming budget proposal, which will be released early next year.
“The solution to these issues and the possibility of saving this industry lies in your hands,” they wrote.
CATCH OF THE DAY, December 18, 2021
CESAR ABARCA-GARCIA, Stockton/Ukiah. DUI, suspended license for DUI.
JOHN ARDENYI, Ukiah. Controlled substance, assault weapon, manufacture/importation of short barreled rifle, metal knuckles, ammo possession by prohibited person, felon with firearm.
JAI CASE, Laytonville. Failure to appear.
JESSIE DUGGER, Ukiah. Domestic battery, damage to power lines, probation revocation.
EDWARD ESQUIVEL JR., Willits. DUI, suspended license, child endangerment.
DOUIGLAS HUTT, Covelo. DUI-alcohol&drugs.
NATALIE MENDEZ, Ukiah. DUI w/blood-alcohol over 0.15%, “viol adv mur adv,” probation revocation.
MIGUEL PLASCENCIA-BARAJAS, Ukiah. Touching intimate parts of another againt their will, county parole violation.
ASHLEY SCHUCKER, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.
CHRISTOPHER WOODWARD, Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs, addict driving a vehicle, controlled substance.
Author Byron Spooner will be selling, signing and reading from Rounding Up A Bison at Specs’ Twelve Adler Museum Cafe, San Francisco, December 22, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
Praise for ‘Rounding Up A Bison’:
Byron Spooner’s stories read like common speech and speak with deep tones that never feel literary, but sound like a full measure of humanness, and we can ask for no more, ‘Rounding Up a Bison” does the job with artistry and an adroitness that is rare. This is an exciting contribution to contemporary writing.— Neeli Cherkovski, whose latest books of poetry are “Hang on to the Yangtze River” and “Elegy for My Beat Generation.”
A major teller of stories is Byron Spooner, who has mastered the art of conversational technique, with all the memorable precisions of images from his own childhood as well as from the many others he’s invented. The result is these brilliantly composed works that make anyone say, “Wow, I was just told what I just read: a beautiful book of stories!” American literature, welcome your newest short-story master.— Jack Hirschman, emeritus Poet Laureate of San Francisco
With working-class wit, a strong sense of absurdity, and an ear for the conversations of not-so-wise guys, Spooner spins stories from the busted front porch of a faded American Dream. From hard-drinking Hackensack holidays to scheming dog-eared New York booksellers, his characters eke out their livings and mistake-riddled lives calling to mind the early work of Richard Price and Richard Russo.— Robert Mailer Anderson, author of Boonville and Windows on the World
I got my copy of Rounding Up a Bison. I’ve been reading it this afternoon and recommend it highly.— Eric Spooner, my brother
If you’re miserable because Ray Carver is gone, and the delicious Jean Shepherd is still dead, don’t be. if you love the ringing-clear dialogue and impossibly true-to-life behavior of the characters in Daniel Woodrell (Winter’s Bone), don’t be blue, run to your local independent bookseller and get a copy of local book man Byron Spooner’s Rounding up a Bison. Hell, run between the raindrops and snag a copy and bundle up once you get home and read it. All. Tonight. You may thank me tomorrow.—Beverly Langer, Extremely well-read Bookseller & Publishers’ Representative
JUSSIE SMOLLETT ENABLERS
Our media pretends rigor in relentlessly cataloging the lies of at least one politician, Mr. Trump. Otherwise, our reporters see their job as simply putting shoulder to whatever bandwagon comes along. Far from their minds is the question, “Is it true?” Not far from their minds are the questions, “How can I work this?” and “What’s in it for me?”
A COAL MINE FOR EVERY WILDFIRE
by James Butler
Where are all the ecoterrorists? In early 2001, the FBI listed environmental terrorism as the primary domestic threat facing the US. Perimillennial anxiety, and rising ecological concern after the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, made the ecoterrorist a pop cultural staple. The nadir was Michael Crichton’s novel State of Fear (2004), in which a group of eco-extremists fake climate disasters for political ends. Crichton appended various denialist tracts to the text, though its paranoid reading of climate politics was a few years ahead of the American right. He was later invited for a secret rendezvous at the White House, having found in George W. Bush an enthusiastic if not critically acute reader.
Fiction fed on reality. The FBI attributed $43 million worth of damage to the two most prominent environmental action groups – the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front – as a result of more than 600 criminal acts between 1996 and 2002, most of them arson. The torching of a Colorado ski resort in 1998, causing damage worth $12 million, was typical of the ELF’s tactics: targeting sites of environmental destruction or luxury consumption, while trying to avoid injury to human or animal life. The FBI’s intense surveillance of such groups is frequently cited as evidence of its warped priorities, but, at twenty years’ distance, other features of the period seem strange.
The ELF’s communiqué from Colorado, issued in the name of the lynx against the encroachment on its last remaining pristine habitat in the state, seems oddly small-scale. A similar statement today would concern itself not with the habitat of a single species in a single state, but with extinction-level events across species, ecosystem collapse and planetary-scale economic and political change. The FBI categorized “environmental terrorism” as “single issue extremism,” distinct from organized left or right-wing activism. Now, major climate organizations are on the left of national politics in nearly every country, and are increasingly willing to connect environmental destruction to its systemic roots. These days, $43 million seems a paltry sum.
Forests are consumed in wildfire. Salmon die in heating rivers. Towns burn off the map or sink beneath floods. The kinds of disaster Crichton’s fictional terrorists engineered in order to sway public opinion occur almost every day, and are greeted with insubstantial pledges masquerading as action. The risks identified three decades ago – ice melts, sea level rises, extinctions – have arrived faster than expected, but without an equivalent acceleration of action. The daily business of politics has started to look trivial, if not insane.
A Chatham House (London) report, published in September, projects a global temperature increase of 2.7°C (about 5 degree F) by the end of the century if countries meet their current targets; it does not rule out rises of 3.5 or 5°C (6 or 9 degrees F). Even the best-case scenario is catastrophic: 3.9 billion people exposed to major heatwaves by 2040, with 10 million a year exposed to heat exceeding the survivability threshold. Droughts will be three times worse than they are now; food insecurity as a result of failed crops will risk, if not guarantee, political turbulence and economic collapse, migration for survival, international security crises. The Paris targets adopted in 2015 are dead, or so officials brief in private. The Chatham House report gives a less than 1 per cent chance of meeting them, a less than 5 per cent chance of limiting warming to 2°C (almost 4 degrees F).
(London Review of Books)
TRUMP’S NEXT COUP Has Already Begun: January 6 Was Practice.
by Ralph Nader
“Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun…” is the title of an article in the Atlantic, just out, by Barton Gellman, a Pulitzer Prize winner and author of many groundbreaking exposés. He describes the various maneuvers that Trump-driven Republican operatives and state legislators are developing to overturn elections whose voters elected Democrats from states with Republican governors and state legislatures. Georgia fit that profile in 2020 – electing two Democratic senators in a state with a Republican legislature and governor.
Getting ready for 2024, the Georgia GOP legislature has stripped the election-certifying Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, of his authority to oversee future election certifications. The legislature has also given itself the unbridled authority to fire county election officials. With Trump howling his lies and backing his minion candidates, they created a climate that is intimidating scores of terrified election-precinct volunteers to quit.
Added to this are GOP-passed voter suppression laws and selectively drawn election districts that discriminate against minorities – both before the vote (purges, arbitrary disqualifications), during the vote (diminishing absentee voting, and narrowing dates for their delivery), and after the election in miscounting and falsely declaring fraud.
The ultimate lethal blow to democratic elections, should the GOP lose, is simply to have the partisan GOP majority legislators benefiting from demonically-drawn gerrymandered electoral districts, declare by fiat the elections a fraud, and replace the Democratic Party’s voter chosen electors with GOP chosen electors in the legislature.
Now take this as a pattern demolishing majority voters’ choice to 14 other GOP-controlled states, greased by Trumpian lies and routing money to his chosen candidate’s intent on overturning majority rule, add Fox News bullhorns and talk radio Trumpsters and you have the apparatus for fascistic takeovers. Tragically, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices – three selected by Trump – has no problem with his usurpation of the American Republic. All this and more micro-repression is broadcast by zillions of ugly, vicious, and anonymous rants over the Internet enabled by the profiteering social media corporations like Facebook.
Anonymous, vicious, violent email and Twitter traffic is the most underreported cause of anxiety, fear, and dread undermining honest Americans working, mostly as volunteers, the machinery of local, state, and national elections, with dedicated public servants. These people are not allowed to know the names behind the anonymous cowardly, vitriol slamming against them, their families, and children.
What are the institutions – public and civic – that could roll back this fast-approaching U.S.-style fascism with the snarling visage of serial criminal and constitutional violator, Donald J. Trump?
1. First is the Congress. Democrats impeached Trump over the Ukraine extortion but left on the table eleven other impeachable counts, including those with kitchen-table impacts (See Congressional Record, December 18, 2019).
All that is going on to deal with Trump’s abuses in any focused way on Capitol Hill, controlled by Democrats, is the House’s January 6th investigation. So far as is known, this Select Committee is NOT going to subpoena the star witnesses – Donald Trump and Mike Pence. So far, the Congress is feeble, not a Rock of Gibraltar thwarting the Trumpian dictators.
2. The federal courts? Apart from their terminal delays, it’s Trump’s Supreme Court and his nominees fill many chairs in the federal circuit courts of appeals. The federal judiciary – historically the last resort for constitutional justice – is now lost to such causes.
3. The Democratic Party? We’re still waiting for a grand strategy, with sufficient staff, to counter, at every intersection, the GOP. The Dems do moan and groan well. But where is their big-time ground game for getting out the non-voters in the swing states? Are they provoking recall campaigns of despotic GOP state legislators in GOP states having such citizen-voter power? Why aren’t they adopting the litigation arguments of Harvard Law School’s constitutional expert, Professor Larry Tribe? Where are their messages to appeal to the majority of eligible American voters who believe that the majority rules in elections? Why aren’t they urgently reminding voters of the crimes and other criminogenic behavior by the well-funded Trump and his political terrorists?
Bear in mind, the Democrats are well-funded too.
4. The Legal Profession and their Bar Associations. Aren’t they supposed to represent the rule of law, protect the integrity of elections, and insist on peaceful transitions of power? They are after all, not just private citizens; they are “officers of the court.” Forget it. There are few exceptions, but don’t expect the American Bar Association and its state bar counterparts to be the sentinels and watchdogs against sinister coup d’états under cover of delusional strongarming ideologies.
5. Well, how about the Universities, the faculties, and the students? Weren’t they the hotbeds of action against past illegal wars and violations of civil rights in the Sixties and Seventies? Sure. But that was before the Draft was eliminated, before the non-stop gazing at screens, and before the focus on identity politics absorbed the energy that fueled mobilizations about fundamental pursuits of peace, justice, and equality.
6. How about some enlightened corporate executives of influential companies? Having been given large tax reductions, sleepy law enforcement regulators, and a corporatist-minded federal judiciary, while the war contracts and taxpayer bailouts proliferate, why should they make waves to save the Republic? The union of plutocratic big business with the autocratic government is one classical definition of fascism.
7. The Mass Media. Taken together, they’ve done a much better job exposing Trumpism than has the Congress or litigation and the judiciary. However, their digging up the dirt does not come with the obvious follow-ups from their reporting and editorializing.
Covering the Ukraine impeachment, but not covering at least eleven other documented impeachable offenses, handed to them by credible voices, left them with digging hard but never hitting pay dirt. Trump has escaped all their muckraking as he has escaped all attempts by law enforcers who have their own unexplained hesitancies. If reporters do not dig intensely into just how Trump and his chief cohorts have escaped jail time and other penalties, their usual revelations of wrongdoings appear banal, eliciting “what else is new?” yawns by their public.
What’s left to trust and rely upon? Unorganized people organizing. What else! That’s what the farmers did peacefully in western Massachusetts in 1774 (See: The Revolution Came Early – 1774 – to the Berkshires) against the tyrant King George III and his Boston-based Redcoats? By foot or by horse, they showed up together in huge numbers at key places. These farmers collectively stopped the takeover of local governments and courts by King George’s wealthier Tories. Their actions can teach us the awesome lessons of moral, democratic, and tactical grit – all the while having to deal with nature and their endangered crops.
What are our excuses?
A TOUR GUIDE TO HELL ON EARTH, Small Town Style
by Jane Braxton Little
Half a mile south of what’s left of the old Gold Rush-era town of Greenville, California, Highway 89 climbs steeply in a series of S-turns as familiar to me as my own backyard. From the top of that grade, I’ve sometimes seen bald eagles soaring over the valley that stretches to the base of Keddie Peak, the northernmost mountain in California’s Sierra Nevada range.
Today, stuck at the bottom thanks to endless road work, I try to remember what these hillsides looked like before the Dixie fire torched them in a furious 104-day climate-change-charged rampage across nearly one million acres, an area larger than the state of Delaware. They were so green then, pines, cedars, and graceful Douglas firs mixed with oaks pushing through the thick conifer foliage in a quest for light and life. Today, I see only slopes studded with charred stumps and burnt trees jackstrawed across the land like so many giant pick-up-sticks.
Dixie did far more than take out entire forests. It razed Greenville, my hometown since 1975. It reduced house after house to rubble, leaving only chimneys where children once had hung Christmas stockings, and dead century-old oaks where families, spanning four generations, had not so long ago built tree forts. The fire left our downtown with scorched, bent-over lampposts touching debris-strewn sidewalks. The historic sheriff’s office is just a series of naked half-round windows eerily showcasing devastation. Like natural disasters everywhere, this fire has upended entire communities.
Sadly, I have plenty of time to contemplate these devastating changes. I’m the first in a long line of vehicles halted by a burly man clad in neon yellow and wielding a stop sign on a six-foot pole. We motorists are all headed toward Quincy, the seat of Plumas County and its largest town. My mission is to retrieve the household mail, a task that would ordinarily have required a five-minute walk from my second-floor office to the Greenville Post Office. Now, it’s a 50-mile round trip drive that sometimes takes four hours due to the constant removal of hazardous trees. I’m idling here impatiently.
Greenville still has a zip code, but the fire gutted the concrete-block building that was our post office. The box where I once received magazines, bills, and hand-decorated cards from my grandkids lies on its back, collecting ashes. Whoever promised that “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” would impede postal deliveries never anticipated the ferocity of the Dixie fire.
Few did. That blaze erupted in forests primed for a runaway inferno by a climate that’s changing before our eyes. Temperatures worldwide are up 2.04 degrees Fahrenheit since 1901 and 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit in the United States since 1970. This year is California’s driest in a century. Only 11.87 inches of rain or snow fell, less than half what experts deem average. Combine that with a century of forest management that suppressed natural fires and promoted the logging of large, more fire-resistant trees and these forests needed only a spark to erupt into a barrage of flames that swept from the Feather River Canyon to north of Lassen Volcanic National Park, the equivalent of traveling from Philadelphia to New York City.
Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) almost certainly provided that spark, as company officials told the California Public Utilities Commission. Earlier, they had accepted responsibility for the deadly 2018 Camp fire, which destroyed the sadly named town of Paradise, and three other blazes. Those fires are the outsized products of corporate greed and a gross failure to maintain the company’s electrical infrastructure.
PG&E’s negligence comes at a time when a dramatically changing climate is wreaking havoc worldwide. For every victim of the Dixie fire, there are thousands who were hit last November by massive hurricanes in North and Central America, and hundreds of thousands who find themselves escaping rising seas in places like Bangladesh and elsewhere in the Global South. As the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported in April, the number of people displaced by climate-change-related disasters since 2010 has risen to 21.5 million, most of them in poor countries and small island states.
Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe calls all of this “global weirding,” adding, “No matter where we live or what we care about, we are all vulnerable to the devastating impacts of a warming planet.”
Ten minutes pass.
The bored man with the stop sign pounds it onto the pavement like a squirrel defending its nuts. Waiting here in a quest to retrieve my mail is the least of the indignities of living in the scar of the Dixie burn. In fact, I’m among the fortunate. Although the fire did destroy my office in downtown Greenville, the erratic winds that bamboozled firefighters for months inexplicably shifted flames away from my house and the surrounding forestland.
Two neighboring communities had already gone up in a firestorm of torched trees and burning embers after a pyro-cumulous cloud collapsed above them on July 24th. Ten days later, it took less than 45 minutes for fire to reduce Greenville’s tarnished Gold Rush charm to smoldering ash.
The town has now lain comatose for more than four months. Those of us whose houses were spared drive through it white-knuckled, stomachs churning, compulsively reciting the names of our neighbors whose ruined homes we pass. Like the victims of climate disasters everywhere, such former residents have scattered to the — I’m sorry to even use the word — winds in a diaspora that’s shattered our community and left those of us who remain wondering how we can possibly rebuild our town.
Greenville has always been the stepsister of Plumas County, the least affluent of its four major communities, the least politically significant, and the first to be threatened with school closures. It lacks even one rich philanthropic resident. In fact, its median income declined 15% in 2019 to $26,875. Try supporting a family on that even without a major wildfire. It’s no surprise, then, that this neediest of Plumas County communities is suffering the most. As Solomon Hsiang reported in 2017 in Sciencemagazine, climate change inflicts its heaviest economic impacts on the poorest 5% of the population, reducing average incomes post-disaster by as much 27%.
When California Governor Gavin Newsom visited Greenville shortly after it was devastated, he mentioned getting calls from friends at Lake Almanor, a wealthy, well-connected enclave 15 miles to the north — but not from our town, of course. The state authorized an immediate $5 million for disaster relief. But the response of county officials has been anemic at best. County supervisors have done little more proactive than declare a disaster. The county school district, responsible for the virtually undamaged Greenville elementary and high school campus (talk about survival miracles!), took no initiatives to turn its abundant facilities into safe, warm, functioning spaces for Dixie victims. Only recently has it agreed to house a resource center providing them with everything from blankets and jackets to soup and cat food.
At the most local level, the Indian Valley Community Services District, with bankruptcy looming, is struggling with how to collect the usual fees for water and sewer use from a town with almost no residents. The local chamber of commerce is in complete disarray.
Those of us who still have our houses live with reduced services. Frontier Communications, the only telephone and primary Internet provider, has always been known for its piss-poor service in this backwoods region of California. Four months after Greenville burned, we still have no landlines, no Frontier Internet, and no promise of either one for months to come. PG&E provided immediate electricity through diesel-belching generators, a service we accepted with gratitude, but gasoline, pharmaceuticals, and the mail I’m trying to retrieve remain a 50-mile round trip on distinctly clogged roads.
The anguish of living in a burn scar takes a toll. My dreams are littered with drifting pages of burned books bearing faces I no longer see here: a blue-eyed woman with a voice like a code-red alert, a clerk with straight black hair cascading down his back. We lock eyes before they sink into the dark.
Twenty minutes pass.
The stop-sign guy no longer needs to wave his sign to alert approaching vehicles. The line is now a quarter-mile long — too far for the drivers just pulling up to see him. He turns his back on us, releasing a puff of vaporous steam. Who could blame him for an occasional toke on a day when his most exciting activity is likely to involve turning his sign from “stop” to “slow”?
In October, heavy equipment began moving into Greenville: backhoes, bulldozers, dump trucks, stump grinders, and PG&E’s unmarked fleet of white extra-cab pickup trucks. The whine of chainsaws began to pierce the deadly quiet, while androgynous figures in white hazmat suits swarmed through the rubble. By early December, more than 150 of the town’s 800 destroyed structures had been cleared of debris, leaving lots as smooth as cemetery lawns awaiting possible rebuilding. Many of their former occupants, however, are gone, some having used instant insurance cash to buy houses in the neighboring, unburnt towns of Quincy and Chester. Others have moved farther away: Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, Utah. Some are still here, sleeping in tents despite 20-degree nights.
Hopelessly haunted by the devastation all around me, I find myself revisiting the rubble. On one compulsive trip, I met a sweet-faced, curly-haired young man changing the tire of an aging, mud-spattered SUV. Its battery was dead, he told me with a wan smile. Since his house burned down, this has been his home. He looks weary but is amazed when I tell him about the resource center 10 miles down the road where he can pick up clothing, a sleeping bag, and food.
I wander off to the burned-out shell of the sheriff’s substation, once a copper-roofed bank owned by a woman who managed to nurture it through the Great Depression of the 1930s. No more. The hulking remains of a vault is perched awkwardly in the open amid the ashes of a sergeant’s wooden desk. My office was next door. No longer. I turn my back on Main Street and weep – for the history lost, the curly-headed youth with a charred future, all of us touched by this fire and the horrific costs climate change levies.
The stop-sign guy has suddenly come to life. Strutting to his post in the center of the highway, he gives me a nod, turns the sign to “slow,” and directs me to follow the pilot car up the highway and over the grade. It’s a short-lived reprieve. Ten miles further on, we’re stopped again, this time next to piles of woodchips four stories high. The grief of witnessing entire mountainsides denuded of every tree, living or dead, is deepened by seeing potential timber and firewood ground up and hauled off. How many hundreds of houses could have been built or warmed by those piles of dead wood?
In spite of the devastation and in defiance of approaching winter, clusters of green shoots have nonetheless emerged from the charred soil beside the road, bearing leaves that wave in the breeze as we wait. We, too, are slowly emerging from the bleak, post-fire desolation. It was an all-out celebration when Evergreen Market, Greenville’s only grocery story, reopened on October 1st. I again shed tears in the check-out line as the owner overcame his shyness and greeted me with a handshake. The fellow who owns Riley’s Jerky, Greenville’s only locally made product — a dried-meat snack — has announced that he’ll rebuild at triple the former size. A realtor’s trailer occupies a cleared space near the grocery store, while in a food trailer next to the ruins of a former gas station, Mary’s German Grill is serving bratwurst and potato pancakes spiced with Mary’s cheery greeting: “So how’s the apocalypse treating you?”
A neon-clad clone of the first stop-sign guy turns his sign to “slow” and once again we creep down the road. I’m now nearly halfway to Quincy. No one died in the Dixie fire, a credit to the aggressive evacuation strategy quickly put in place by Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns. But the shock of losing a home and the stress of moving multiple times as smoke and flames advanced have been devastating. Teachers who formed their identities around generations of Greenville students have lost them. Business owners who held forth behind well-worn wooden counters are broken. And now, the trauma of it all is beginning to pick us off one at a time in unheralded deaths that will never be counted among the costs of the Dixie fire.
Like people wracked by climate-disaster recovery everywhere, we’re facing a boot-strap recovery and a generational challenge. People in high places with money to share are not riding over the ridge to our rescue. Instead, we’ve been turning to one another, relying on our mutual commitment to the place we’ve long called, and continue to call, home. There’s a buzz of enthusiasm about the possibility of rebuilding an all-solar town and kissing PG&E goodbye. Others are researching how to use the locally made bricks that survived the fire in new construction to honor the town we lost. A group called the Dixie Fire Collaborative is working to coordinate a host of independent initiatives.
Strengthening us is the resilience of Native American Maidu tribal leaders and the experiences that kept them on this land. They stood up again and again after the destruction of their communities and they remain standing today. “This is a time of renewal, a time of immense opportunity,” says Trina Cunningham, executive director of the Maidu Summit Consortium.
One hour and 45 minutes.
After one more tree-removal stop, I finally arrive in Quincy to find a postal box crammed with slick flyers from attorneys promising to recover my monetary losses. Call it cruelty or irony, but among the envelopes is a bill from PG&E. I fill up with gas, still not available in Greenville, and face what could be another two-hour drive back through that same scarred landscape.
It’s dark by the time I arrive in Greenville. The lights still on in Evergreen Market are welcoming, but most of the town has no electricity or even poles to mount street lights. The only true intersection, at Highway 89 and what’s left of Main Street, is illuminated by a generator when it’s working. It’s a little chancy, but I take a shortcut on a side street past burned-out residential debris looming in the dark. And there, suddenly, are tiny lights spiraling improbably into the night on a 10-foot Christmas tree. Just beyond it, multicolored lights outline a set of stairs to a house that’s no longer there. Who knows where those lights will lead us?
(This column was distributed by TomDispatch. Jane Braxton Little is an independent journalist who writes about science and natural resources for publications that include the Atlantic, Audubon, National Geographic, and Scientific American. She moved to Plumas County in 1969 for a summer that has yet to end. Courtesy, CounterPunch.org.)