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HIGH PRESSURE will ensure that dry weather will prevail across northwest California through next weekend. Cool mornings with areas of valley fog will be followed by mild and mainly sunny afternoons across the interior. Most coastal areas will be cooler and mostly cloudy through Wednesday morning, but only patchy drizzle will be possible. (NWS)
by Mark Scaramella
Mendocino County’s latest crop report covers activity in 2020. It was released last week, more than a year after the end of 2020. There’s a significant lag in assembling these things because of the in-built delays in collecting the data and then calculating the numbers and producing the report.
After reading that 2020 report and noticing what was in it and what was not in it, we recalled a Board Directive from late 2019 which directed that future crop reports include cannabis information.
According to the minutes of the October 22, 2019 Supervisors meeting:
“Item 5-l) Discussion And Possible Action Including Acceptance Of The 2018 Mendocino County Crop Report. Board Directive: General Consensus Of The Board that future Crop reports shall include cannabis information.”
But there are no orders or directives from the Board from that 2019 meeting listed on the latest Board Directives list which goes back to September of 2019. According to Senate Bill 657 which was enacted as Business & Professions Code Section 2609.5 in September of 2019:
”A county agricultural commissioner may report to the secretary on the condition, acreage, production, and value of cannabis produced in the commissioner’s county under a cultivation license issued pursuant to this division. The cannabis data may be submitted in a separate report that is similar to those reports required for agricultural products pursuant to Section 2279 of the Food and Agricultural Code. This section does not require the department to publish this report.
(b) Data on cannabis production that is included in a report pursuant to this section may be organized by categories including, but not limited to, the following:
(1) State cultivator license type, as set forth in Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 26050), and regulations adopted pursuant to that chapter.
(2) Local license, permit, or other authorization type, as described in Section 26200.
(3) Price tier, including for different strains of cannabis, different production methods, or different parts of a plant, such as flowers or leaves.”
Note that these three categories of information are to be included as a minimum — “including but not limited to…”
By “cannabis information” which “may be submitted in a separate report” the obvious intent of the Board’s directive was that the “information” to be included is now part of Business & Professions Code Section 2609.5.
I checked both subsequent crop reports (for 2019 and 2020) but I saw no reference to cannabis or to a separate cannabis report.
So we sent a note to the Ag Commissioner’s office asking:
“Did your office comply with the Board consensus that ‘future Crop reports shall include cannabis information’?
If so, I hereby request a copy of that cannabis information.
If not, I request that you either explain why no such report was prepared, or comply with the board’s consensus and directive for all crop reports issued since the date of the Board’s order (October 22, 2019). (To see the data year over year.) And provide a date when the information will be submitted.
* * *
Assistant Ag Commissioner Aaron Hult replied:
“The Board finally found a slot for us on March 9th. I presented a Cannabis report addendum but I never received formal input about what I presented and it wasn't attached to the schedule.
* * *
AVA: “I went back and reviewed that video. Mr. Donnelly [Ag Commissioner] told the Board that he was unable to get cannabis info and something about an MOU with the state Bureau of Cannabis Control. Are you saying now that there was a cannabis addendum for 2019? Do you have a cannabis addendum for the 2020 report also?
* * *
Hult: Oh, I'm sorry. When I was searching for the crop report on the BOS agenda, I was looking at the March 9, 2021 agenda [last year]. So to answer your initial question, no, there wasn't ever a finalized or published Cannabis report for 2019. I did have some rough figures that I calculated, but I didn't receive much guidance on how to follow up with those. And since it was already so far after the fact already, we didn't see the point in spending any more time trying to get more blood out of those turnips. That data would have been partial no matter what sources we would be able to contact, so we focused energy on making the 2020 Cannabis report the best it could be. We still didn't have an MOU with the State for data sharing, so the information we were able to gather from surveys and polls was only slightly better in 2021. We haven't been given a date yet this year to present the 2020 Crop Report and Cannabis addendum, but there is a chance it could be on January 25 or February 1. Sorry for the confusion.
* * *
Dear Mr. Hult,
I understand. The entire pot situation is confusing. So it's no surprise that attempting to quantify it is confusing.
I remember years ago talking to Commissioner Dave Bengston about it and he liked to wave the BOS minute order he had from the late 70s when he was pointedly ordered NOT to include any pot info.
Have you given any thought to turning the question over to Cannabis Program Director Ms. Nevedal? Is the Tax Collector's info useful? (It should be.) Anyway, do you have any release-able info, partial as it may be? Or should I wait until the 1/25 or 2/1 meetings?
* * *
Hult: Yesterday I heard that our Crop Report presentation will most likely be on the Feb. 9 BOS meeting.
About the possible sources for cannabis, yes I have been in contact with Ms. Nevedal, and she is in a better situation this year to help out with some info if and when requested. Their new online portal system should help facilitate that process. The Tax Collector was having similar software issues as they were moving into a new accounting system. They did provide me some tax info for the 2019 year, but it wasn't an entire year’s worth of data, so I had to extrapolate some figures to come up with a rough estimate of crop production. Hopefully some time this year, in time to be useful, the State/Bureau of Cannabis Control should have an Memorandum of Understanding in place to be able to share pertinent cannabis info with the counties. If we don't hear anything from the State in the next month or so, our office is ready to send out a mail and email survey to cannabis permit holders for 2021 crop data. Even that will be more substantial than the input we had to compile the 2020 figures.
I am familiar with the 1979 crop report with the cannabis figures. I have one of the few remaining blasphemous copies of the report in the files in my office. Suffice it to say, we have come a long way. There is now legislation in place that allows counties to submit cannabis reports, though they can be provided as an addendum. I believe that we will be posting the cannabis report on our website once it is reviewed and OK'ed by the BOS.
* * *
AVA: I believe I cited what you refer to as state legislation that is now in place as Bus. & Prof. Code § 2609.5 (enacted in 2019) I interpret the BOS directive as the info is to be included (or attached to) the regular crop report and is only to include legal/permitted cannabis.
I can see where there could be problems when the data formats the state expects is not necessarily what you have. Maybe that's why an MOU is necessary.
The reason this seems important to me is that we keep hearing about a near collapse of the local legal cannabis industry — anecdotal reports of entire hoop houses full of mature bud being abandoned in Covelo -- and the associated drop in county revenues. So it would be interesting to see some numbers. PS. I noticed in the last two crop reports that grapes seem to be way down in value as well.
* * *
Hult: I noticed in your recent AVA posting about the decline in grape harvest value that you included some info from the growers whose crops were down for 2021. They would know best about what the figures were like for 2021. So when they say everything was down 20-40%, I believe them. Contributing factors for those tonnage decreases are probably due to weather and drought factors, and less so about market fluctuations. 2016 was quite a bumper crop for white wines after a pretty bad 2015. Then in 2018 it was an incredible year statewide for red grapes. With so much wine on the open market, demand in 2019 was expected to be pretty low anyways, but with the fires, some wineries used smoke taint as an excuse to reject crops. One such winery being Constellation Brands. I know one local grower who left well over a 100 tons [of grapes] unpicked because Constellation rejected him. There were many more in the same boat too. It looks like Constellation is selling off their assets in the wine industry and transitioning into cannabis. They even closed the Underwood Winery in Ukiah, one of the longest running wineries in the county.
For the Crop Report on wine grapes, we get all of our figures from the State wide report from NASS, and that report is posted in April every year. All the other crops, we send out a survey, which we did in mid December. Those surveys are still trickling in. It was my goal last year to have the crop report done by the end of July, but that didn't happen for various reasons. And by the time I had it all completed in mid November there weren't any slots left on BOS schedule, hence another year 15 months after the fact. I'm setting the goal again for end of July again, if not sooner.
I think with the BOS directive to complete a cannabis report, that we won't have an issue with the State. Monterey County was the first one last year to actually put cannabis in their crop report and I didn't hear any flak about that. And yes, the black market for cannabis seems to really be booming right now, at the same time that the legal market is staggering. We are hearing that average price per pound being paid in the legal market is between $400-600, with some even lower. So many people in the legal game now, with high up front costs and pricy, high interest rate loans just can't make it with value so low. So as many predicted, the bigger players have deeper pockets and can withstand the storm and will probably buy up smaller businesses more and more.
* * *
AVA: Yes, Constellation is one of several well-financed names I've heard that are getting into the cannabis business. Sheriff Kendall told me the other day that he thinks Oklahoma's recent legalization is producing lots of black market pot for the east coast markets at pretty low prices, some of which were formerly filled by Mendo black market cannabis. I heard that Flo-Canna is cutting back too.
Your reference to smaller operations being bought up by the bigger ones is familiar, commonly known as a “shake-out.” I am personally aware of similar shakeouts in previous Mendo ag operations such as timber (which started in the 30s), apples, dairy, and grapes (to a lesser extent).
I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the March crop report presentation.
COST OF DOING BIZ
The cannabis industry is experiencing a classic problem of oversupply — falling prices. On Jan. 5, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors explored tax relief, while some growers threatened to avoid paying taxes by returning to the black market. Both groups ignored the fact that the county has applied for $5.5 million in state equity grants to help pay cultivator permit and licensing costs.
Despite firestorms and a pandemic that have kept customers away from Sonoma County businesses, no special tax treatment has been proposed for hotels, restaurants or grape growers.
Cannabis had a bumper crop in 2020, cultivators applied for additional permits, and they increased production in 2021. The market responded to this oversupply with falling prices. Such is business.
Likewise, grape growers had a bumper crop in 2018, resulting in 2019 price declines. Then, the August firestorm struck, and the 2020 grape crop was lost to smoke taint. Although unable to sell our grapes, we paid our farming costs, taxes and grape commission fees — which, like the cannabis tax, are not based on gross revenue.
Taxes are a business expense — other taxpayers should not be expected to subsidize the cannabis industry.
SHERIFF KENDALL ON RUMORS A SERIAL KILLER IS BEHIND Recent ‘Suspicious’ Deaths of Mendocino County Women: “Currently, There Is No Evidence They’re Connected”
In the last week, Mendocino County residents have had to grapple with the tragic news that two young women have been found dead and in both circumstances, law enforcement has characterized their deaths as “suspicious.”
The shared traits between these two deaths including their gender, their youth, their residence in Mendocino County, their characterization as “suspicious,” and the fact the cases emerged just days after each other have led many locals to speculate a serial killer is behind the deaths.
Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall told us that after “exhaustive efforts of investigators” there is currently, “no connection between these two cases.”...
LARGE PINE SPARED - PG&E ends attempts to cut down tree - Utility reports that the Bald Eagle nest in branches was deemed "inactive"
by Justine Frederiksen
Unable to gain access to a tree that several concerned citizens claimed has actively nesting Bald Eagles using it, the Pacific Gas and Electric company Friday reported that it would not be cutting down a large pine tree in eastern Mendocino County that the utility had designated as a hazard requiring removal.
PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras said Friday morning that an “in-house” expert had determined the large pine tree on Ridgeway Highway in Potter Valley was “dying” and in danger of falling into nearby power lines. Therefore, in order to fulfill its mandate of protecting public safety, Contreras said the utility was attempting to “remove the hazard tree” this week.
She confirmed there was a Bald Eagle nest in the tree, but she described it as having been deemed “inactive,” and that the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife had given the utility until Jan.15 to remove the tree without interfering with nesting season. If the tree were removed by Jan.15, she said, “that gives the birds time to move to other nests in the area.”
A group hoping to stop removal of the tree has been gathering near it most days this week, and when asked Friday morning why the tree had not yet been removed, Contreras said the tree cutters were still trying to gain access.
About 12:30 p.m. Friday, she reported that “PG&E was unable to reach agreement with the property owner and the tenants, and was unable to gain access” to the tree. Contreras reported that the utility would not be removing the tree at this time, and would employ other mitigation measures until August, when the critical nesting period had ended.
(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
NOTCHING AN EASY WIN NOT IN 49ERS’ NATURE as they down Cowboys in playoffs
by Ann Killion
ARLINGTON, Texas — The 49ers got out the gift wrap. The tape and the ribbon. In the final agonizing minutes of Sunday’s NFC wild wild-card game, they tried their best to hand the Dallas Cowboys a victory. Maybe a makeup for that whole “Catch” thing that broke Dallas hearts 40 years ago this very week.
But they couldn’t do it. Dallas just wouldn’t take the game.
“You’d like to finish people off there better at the end,” said coach Kyle Shanahan, whose beard looked a bit grayer by the end of the game.
The 49ers won, 23-17. They won in sloppy and painful fashion against a wildly undisciplined Dallas team that kept self-destructing, with 14 penalties.
But no one’s awarding style points. The 49ers became the first victorious road team of the playoffs.
And these road warriors will keep going. Next weekend, on a day yet to be determined, the 49ers face a date in frigid Green Bay against Aaron Rodgers’ Packers, the team they lost to in the final seconds of their September home opener.
How will the 49ers fare? Who can make predictions about this team? On Sunday, they lost their two best defensive players — Nick Bosa and Fred Warner — to injury yet still managed to hold the league’s top scoring offense to just 17 points.
Jimmy Garoppolo, after a week of suddenly being lauded from coast to coast for his leadership and coolness and toughness for playing with an injured thumb, made a couple of boneheaded errors that gave the Cowboys new life.
Deebo Samuel took things into his own hands and ended up being the difference-maker in the game.
It was just another terrifying, stomach-churning, exhilarating ride for the 49ers and their fanbase.
“It’s survival of the fittest,” safety Jimmie Ward said.
And the 49ers survived. The final two minutes seemed to take two hours as the 49ers tried to bleed the clock but were hamstrung by penalties and corrected ball spots and reviews. They ended up giving the ball back to Dallas for one last-gasp effort.
“It was an emotional game, the highs and lows,” said Garoppolo who, just like last week, knew he could have been playing his final game in a 49ers uniform. “I always felt like we were in control of game. It made for good TV, I guess.”
It was emotional before it even began. Shanahan rewatched the 1994 Championship Game, one of the highlights of his childhood (he said he tried to spot himself on the sideline but the quality of the video was too poor). He showed snippets to the team last week, trying to impart the history of the rivalry.
“I just tried to remind our guys that Deion (Sanders) and Michael (Irvin) were about 25, just like you guys,” Shanahan said. “These guys become everyone's heroes because of what you do in the playoffs.”
Before the game, on the stadium’s giant big screen, highlights of the rivalry were shown, though of course only the ones where the Cowboys were victorious.
“Just walking into the stadium today, you could tell it meant a lot to everyone in this stadium,” Garoppolo said. “It was a different type of atmosphere. There’s energy, passion. You felt it today.”
AT&T Stadium wasn’t overrun by 49ers fans the way SoFi was a week earlier, but there was a significant and very loud presence of 49ers fans. The Cowboys’ planned “white out” didn’t happen - throughout the stands there were huge pockets of red jerseys, creating a patchwork effect. And the 49ers fans made sure everyone, including the television audience, could hear their presence in the massive crowd of more than 93,000.
In the first quarter, 49ers fans were actually about all you could hear inside the enormous stadium. The 49ers got off to a dreamlike start, taking the opening kickoff and marching down the field for a touchdown, never facing a third down on the way and only one second down. And when Dallas got the ball, the 49ers forced a three-and-out, the red-clad fans roared and everyone started checking the temperature in Green Bay.
But you didn’t think it was going to be that easy did you? Of course not. These are 2021 49ers, an agonizing, erratic, dramatic team that can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. To which nothing comes easily.
“Sure, we’d love a blowout,” D.J. Jones said with a shrug.
But that isn’t the storyline of this team. This is a flawed team that makes mistakes, digs holes and battles back.
Nick Bosa went out with a concussion just before halftime and never returned. Fred Warner limped off the field midway through the fourth quarter and didn’t come back. But the rest of the 49ers defense stepped up and closed the Cowboys out.
Samuel demanded the ball in the third quarter after the 49ers got possession on K’Waun Williams’ interception and ran into the end zone as though his very life depended on it.
It was another gutty, gripping performance by a team that will fight on for at least one more week.
And oh, by the way, temperatures in Green Bay next weekend will range between 1 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Nothing easy. Not for this team.
BROCKWAY’S ALBION BARRICADE
Sheriff's Deputies have responded to the area of the Long Valley Fire Department in Laytonville (Branscomb Road) at the request of CHP after a traffic stop was conducted on a vehicle. The driver of the vehicle (sole occupant) became hostile and barricaded inside the vehicle. The driver is believed to be a want person who failed to surrender at the Mendocino County Jail yesterday after recently being granted a short term release pass from a local magistrate. The Mendocino County Regional SWAT Team has been deployed to assist with the situation and verbal negotiations with the driver are ongoing at this time.
UPDATE @ 11:35 hours: Barricaded subject situation has ended with successful apprehension by SWAT team members. No reported injuries to subject or law enforcement personnel. Barricaded subject (Christopher Brockway) who was wanted for jail escape (not returning on issued short term release pass) will be booked back into the Mendocino County Jail.
ED NOTE: Here's the Albion guy "barricaded" in his vehicle:
On Sunday, January 16, 2022 at approximately 8:19 AM, California Highway Patrol Officers requested assistance from the Mendocino County Sheriffs Office regarding a pursuit in Laytonville.
While responding, Sheriff's Office Dispatch informed Deputies the driver had stopped in the 100 block of Branscomb Road. Deputies were advised the driver was refusing to obey any verbal commands and was threatening "suicide by cop".
Deputies arrived on scene and identified the driver as Christopher Brockway, 33, of Albion, known from previous law enforcement contacts.
Brockway was recently booked into the Mendocino County Jail on charges of felon in possession of a firearm, forgery, possession of stolen property, conspiracy and identity theft.
Brockway had recently been granted a short term release pass from custody by a Mendocino County Superior Court Judge.
Brockway was ordered to surrender himself back to the Mendocino County Jail on 01-15-2022 by 8:00 P.M. and he failed to do so. This resulted in Brockway being wanted for escape from custody.
An original responding Deputy who was a crisis negotiator with the Mendocino County Regional SWAT Team arrived on scene and began speaking with Brockway in a attempt to get him to surrender peacefully.
Due to the "suicide by cop" statements Mendocino County Behavioral Health was contacted and asked to send a crisis worker to the scene. Behavioral Health was unable to send a crisis worker to the scene so the SWAT Team crisis negotiator continued communications with Brockway.
Based on previous history with Brockway and his recent firearm related arrest, the Mendocino County Regional SWAT Team was summoned to the scene. Many of the team members where off-duty and were called out to respond to the situation.
Verbal negotiations with Brockway continued for approximately three hours, asking for his peaceful surrender.
Brockway eventually exited his vehicle, however he continued to refuse to obey verbal commands.
Brockway attempted to walk back towards his vehicle where a knife was observed on the ground.
Based on the above circumstances, SWAT Team members deployed a 40mm less-lethal foam baton round which struck Brockway in the upper leg.
At this time Sheriff's K9 "BO" was deployed and the canine bit Brockway in the arm, allowing SWAT Team members to quickly approach and safely place Brockway under arrest.
Brockway was later transported to a local hospital for medical examination/treatment and was determine to have a minor injury from the canine bite.
Brockway was ultimately arrested for Escape from Custody (4532 PC) and Resisting Arrest (148(a)(1) PC). 'Charges will also be filed with the District Attorneys Office by the California Highway Patrol for potential charges related to the pursuit.
Brockway was booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $90,000.00 bail.
ASSIGNMENT: UKIAH - DESTROYING HISTORY IS IN UKIAH’S DNA
by Tommy Wayne Kramer
Is there a city in California, other than Ukiah, so eager to wipe out its history and destroy architecturally significant buildings?
Why does Ukiah have a near spotless record of bulldozing and/or setting fire to old Victorians on South Dora Street, abandoning lovely buildings in exchange for ugly ones, and ignoring beautiful landmarks until they fall apart? Truly maddening.
It’s in Ukiah’s DNA to ignore and destroy its history so that shiny new meaningless crap can replace it, only to themselves be torn down 50 or 75 years later.
Here we are, deep into the 21st century, and the city is determined to prove it has learned nothing from the many, many disastrous decisions that have made the town so cheesy looking. And it’s about to do it again, eyes wide open.
There is one (1) pressed tin building surviving from the early days as an agricultural hub, and one (1) galvanized metal building from the same era. Where but in Ukiah could there exist a Demolition Review Committee that analyses its own guidelines, invents nonsensical, inaccurate interpretations of what the guidelines mean, then votes to tear the old buildings down, of which there are no similar survivors?
It’s happening right now with a pair of structures at the corner of Main and Perkins. They may not immediately grab your attention. But ain’t it always that way? We don’t know what we got til it’s gone?
Look at pictures of our old courthouse, admire its classic beauty, then look at the green monster that replaced it because politicians thought it was an improvement. Check out the modest but magnificent old Carnegie Library on South State Street (corner of Clay) the city abandoned; aghast citizens have endured 50 years of the junior Rite-Aid-style library that replaced it (corner of Perkins and Main, across from the doomed metal buildings). It’s getting ugly out there on Main Street.
Think of the old Talmage State Hospital, once envisioned as the perfect Mendocino College campus, available to the county for one (1) dollar. It might have become the most beautiful college campus in the state; the county declined. Now look at the cheap, prefab buildings scattered north of town. Does Mendo College today look like a classic 19th century Ivy League campus or an insurance office complex in San Jose?
In other cities abandoned warehouses are converted into lofts and apartments. In Ukiah, a stately brick hotel, abandoned but functional, is left to rot. A solid, beautiful old post office a block west of the dead hotel will remain empty for as many years as its owners feel like ignoring it. Ukiah’s civic leaders drive past these unloved buildings multiple times a week, eyes closed.
Now, with a chance to at last preserve and protect a pair of hundred year old structures, our Review Commission members pretend their own guidelines don’t say what they clearly say, and recommend a placard be substituted for the only remaining pressed metal building.
In a recent front page UDJ story Justine Frederiksen quoted commission member Alyssa Ballard, who read from committee guidelines regarding the preservation of city structures. Reminding her fellow members that if any of three criteria are met, the committee must deny an application to demolish a building.
The first two: 1) “Has a special or particular quality such as oldest, best example, largest or last surviving example of its kind, or 2) “Exemplifies or reflects special elements of the city’s cultural, social, economic political, aesthetic or architectural history.”
The Code says “If the Demolition Review Committee finds that any of the criteria listed apply to the building(s) proposed for demolition it shall recommend denial of the permit to City Council.”
Pretty straightforward, but commission member Ted Eriksen, Ukiah’s Public Works Director, said he didn’t feel a pressed metal building, the one and only surviving example in Ukiah, fit Criteria One. Eriksen acknowledged “there is an element to agricultural history being lost, but I think that the train depot is where that story is being told.”
Right-o Ted. Go to a train depot for agricultural history, and to an airport if you want to research old Mendocino County logging practices. Want a longterm overview of Ukiah’s criminal justice system? Just stop by Walmart’s Returns counter.
Matt Keizer, a committee member also serving as a building official, took on the issue of whether the buildings were of significance by changing the subject.
“I think a lot of folks are getting the story within the building, Dragon’s Lair, confused with the building … there is obviously a lot of history there but that could be summed up with a placard or some kind of display.”
Well no, Matt. No one thinks the Dragon’s Lair shop of hippie garb, crystal souvenirs and smelly incense has been around 100 years. What they actually think is that the last pressed metal building in Ukiah is worth preserving. Feel free to read that sentence again.
Readers should drive up Perkins past Rainbow Ag and the BBQ joint, and look for a few seconds at the backsides of two of Ukiah’s oldest buildings. They cannot help but evoke histories and stories.
They are irreplaceable. They are worth preserving.
(TWK takes the credit but Tom Hine does the work of writing this weekly column.)
SHARING McCOWEN’S THOUGHTS ON CEO
by Jim Shields
I’ve never done this before but I’m going to share this space so someone else’s voice can be heard on something I believe is important to be heard.
What follows is former Supervisor John McCowen’s thoughts, insider elucidation and job performance evaluation of soon-to-be-retired Chief Executive Officer Carmel Angelo’s tenure with Mendocino County. I believe McCowen mostly gets it right but I’ll have a few things to say on follow-up next week.
Here’s McCowen’s take on Angelo’s stint of “public service” in Mendocino County:
One of the best (and worst) decisions I made as Supervisor (along with my colleagues) was hiring Carmel Angelo as CEO. We were dealing with the steepest economic downturn since the Great Depression. The Board of Supervisors adopted tough economic policies to stabilize county finances, pay down debt, build reserves, balance the budget and continue to provide public services. The Board and Angelo took a lot of heat for implementing a 10% pay cut but the alternative was 10% layoffs. The Board set the policies but Angelo provided critical leadership in implementing those policies.
Angelo advocated effectively with State legislative and administrative officials on behalf of Mendocino County. She was instrumental in securing funds for the Redwood Valley water system upgrades and correcting the “over digs” (aka over-excavation) following the 2017 fire storm.
In short order Angelo became Clerk of the Board, Purchasing Agent, Emergency Services Director, Risk Manager, Water Agency Director and the overseer of Recovery Services, Information Services and Fleet and Facilities. Angelo has direct authority over most departments, including Health & Human Services (Mental Health, Public Health & Social Services), Planning and Building Services and Human Resources. She also created a “Fiscal Unit” within the Executive Office. Several of these actions (creation of the Fiscal Unit and taking over Information Services to name a couple) were done without formal approval by the Board of Supervisors.
As Angelo consolidated power, her unilateral dictates increasingly trumped the professional judgement of the County’s senior managers and department heads. Her orders were often unethical and sometimes illegal but nothing mattered except the CEO getting her way. She became increasingly blatant at ignoring and/or acting without Board of Supervisors direction. The progression of her autocratic tendencies has been a textbook case in the corrupting influence of unchecked power.
Angelo has a tendency to take things personally, won’t tolerate dissent and has a notoriously short fuse. Employees have felt her wrath for not having her coffee ready when she comes into the office or simply speaking during a meeting.
Over the years, I was Angelo’s foremost defender, but also one of the few Board members (and often the only one) willing to hold her accountable. In my last year in office Angelo retaliated against me for questioning her complicity in illegally diverting $500,000 out of the budget of a state created and funded agency. With the help of County Counsel Christian Curtis (who thinks his job is to do whatever Angelo tells him to do), she was able to effectively block my ability to do my job as a County Supervisor.
But many employees have been “Carmelized” by Ms. Angelo so my experience is not unique. Over time she’s caused dozens of employees to be fired or leave and has destroyed the morale of several departments. I was ready to terminate her years ago but there were never three votes to do so.
Her self-serving comments in the interview with Matt LaFever announcing her retirement exemplify her skill at managing for perception. As Angelo tells it, the Leadership Initiative, Measure B and the Strategic Plan have all been great successes. But after nine years in operation, if the Leadership Initiative has been so great, why do employees leave faster than they can be trained? Why are there no measurable results from Measure B after five years? Why is the public only asked for input at the end of the consultant driven Strategic Plan process, not at the beginning?
“Never waste the opportunity offered by a good crisis” (attributed to Machiavelli) has been fully utilized by Angelo during Covid. She locked the Supervisors out of their offices and locked them and the public out of the Board Chambers. She openly bragged about how great it was to have the Supervisors out of the building! The ability of the public to have meaningful input and the ability of the Board to function effectively has been steadily marginalized.
The number and complexity of issues within the Board’s purview has steadily increased, but Angelo has intentionally limited the capacity of the Clerk of the Board function. As a result, numerous issues are not presented to the Board, lack sufficient background information or are slipped through on the Consent Calendar.
Angelo insists on personally making or approving virtually all decisions. As a result, the Executive Office has been a major chokepoint for years. For much of the past two years Angelo has been obsessively focused on micromanaging Covid to the detriment of numerous other County issues which have been dealt with poorly, belatedly, or not at all. Everything from routine business to critical issues have been given short shrift unless they were of personal interest to Angelo.
The County appears to be in reasonably good fiscal condition but that’s largely a result of the PG&E settlement money and Covid disaster funds. The impact of Angelo’s failure to effectively manage key issues will begin showing up after her departure.
The Board seems poised to move to a CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) model but that’s likely to solve one problem (the CEO has too much power) at the cost of another (how will day to day operations be managed and new policy directives implemented?).
The problems we’ve seen, especially in the last couple of years, have little to do with CAO v. CEO but stem from the autocratic, self-serving and megalomaniacal actions of the departing CEO and the reluctance of the Board to hold her accountable. Angelo repeatedly ignored Board direction, set her own policy and got away with it.
Reverting to a CAO model but with continued understaffing of the Clerk of the Board will add to the Supervisor’s workload while doing nothing to hold the administrator accountable. Instead of taking on direct supervision of 15 or so department heads the Board should create the conditions that will allow them to successfully manage and implement policy.
Understaffing the Clerk of the Board function has been a primary means of the CEO controlling the agenda and marginalizing the Board. Instead of five full time staff (the number in place in 2008 when the workload was much less) the current CEO has limited the Clerk of the Board function to half that or less.
Instead of reverting to a CAO model, the Board will be better served by reclaiming the Clerk of the Board function from the CEO and restoring it to department head status. Doing so will provide the structure and resources the Board needs to fulfill their policy setting role.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, email@example.com, the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org.)
Beth Bosk: I shared John McCowen’s post [critical of CEO Angelo] to both the Mendocino County 4th & 5th District group sites. It was immediately dumped as "hate speech" by the manager of the 4th District group site. Folks are commenting on it on the 5th District site, but that may be in an adjunct "Community" site established by Bruce Broderick. Retelling a personal history that involves criticism of one public official by another is not hate speech, it's lived history.
John McCowen: A few days ago the Administrator of the [Fourth & Fifth] District pages deleted the following comment which was considered to be bullying or hate speech: "The mismanagement starts at the top with CEO Angelo who is more concerned with rewarding her friends and punishing her perceived enemies than with managing the county for the benefit of the public." If this is hate speech or bullying then either the Administrator lived a very sheltered life or is personal friends with the CEO.
Dickey Weinkle: I shared it on the Willits Fan Page Community page. It was approved with a notation at the bottom that it was hate speech. What a pile of poop.
60 MINUTES (2012) FEATURING SISTER CITIES OTSUCHI AND FORT BRAGG
Recent editorial comments have been “interesting.” The fact of the matter is that Mendocino County has five Board of Supervisors [sic] that represent the community and will need to decide what needs to happen next with this [CEO] position. So before anyone goes jumping to conclusions please know that the decision about how to move forward, will be agendized for the January 25th meeting. This has been an ongoing discussion the last year that I’ve been on the Board, please feel free to ask questions and share opinions but know that NO DECISIONS have been made yet.
CATCH OF THE DAY, January 16, 2022
ETHAN BAUER, Clearlake/Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
CHRISTOPHER BROCKWAY, Albion. Forgery, stolen property (attempted), identity theft, felon-addict with firearm, ammo possession by prohibited person, resisting, escape.
KENIA DUARTE-LOPEZ, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
KIAHNA FELIZ, Redwood Valley. Harboring a wanted felon.
NATHAN FELIZ, Redwood Valley. Domestic battery, felony committed while on bail.
ANDREA GONZALEZ, Santa Cruz/Fort Bragg. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, addict driving a vehicle, failure to appear.
CHRISTOPHER HEANEY, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, failure to appear.
HOUSTON JOHNSON, Yorkville. Domestic abuse.
MOLLY MCCLOUD, Fort Bragg. Vandalism, disorderly conduct-alcohol.
ANDREW MULLINS, Lakeport/Ukiah. Domestic battery.
JONATHAN NEUMEYER, Willits. DUI.
VANESSA SANCHEZ, Upper Lake/Ukiah. Harboring a wanted felon.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY #1
When it’s down to a handful of second-rate politicians like Dan Quayle (!), Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney as the only thing standing between the quasi-democracy we have today and a wholesale rejection of all remaining American democratic (small “d) institutions, well you know this country is in serious trouble.
Dan Quayle? Seriously? It took a chat with the intellectual powerhouse Dan Quayle to finally convince Mike Pence not to overturn the will of 81 million American voters in 2020?
Yikes. One has to scrape pretty far down to the bottom of the barrel to dredge up any “profiles of courage” left in the Republican Party these days. The Democratic Party ain’t a heckuva lot better, but at least they aren’t working 24/7 to turn this country into a one-party autocracy led by man-child with the charming maturity of a fourth-grader.
JEFF BLANKFORT: I am generally against hostage taking, but one need not be a lawyer to suggest that Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist "suspected by the US of having ties to al-Qaeda," who was convicted of trying to kill U.S. military officers while in custody in Afghanistan, had at least as much right to use a weapon against US soldiers in Afghanistan as those soldiers did against anyone they found there. But we know that the US makes the rules, issues the sanctions, and its largely nationalistic citizenry never thinks to question it.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY #2
Once in a while I’ll see some tattoos that are aesthetically pleasing. I think when people try to make them meaningful instead of simply aesthetic it always comes off as pure douchebaggery. I’m pretty sure you can remember your grandmother without that hummingbird tattoo.
BILL KIMBERLIN: When I worked in special effects at ILM there was a master model maker there named, Ira Keeler. He built this very toy-like luxury liner for me. He liked to spoof his great skills and did this one as if it were “folk art.” If you look closely you can see that the deck cabins are made from upside down sardine tins.
WHAT’S BEHIND THE ‘GREAT RESIGNATION’ OF CALIFORNIA LAWMAKERS?
by Ben Christopher
Will the last legislator in the building please turn out the lights?
Propelled by approaching term limits, new district lines and a raft of political opportunities outside the state Capitol, more than a dozen California lawmakers have sought employment elsewhere.
At last count, an exodus of 15 Assembly members and state senators have either opted not to seek re-election in November or have already called it quits mid-term. That doesn’t include the seven members, all senators, who are barred from seeking reelection in 2022 by legislative term limits. Nor does it include Murrieta Republican Kelly Seyarto, who is hoping to jump from the Assembly to the Senate, or Orange County Republican Janet Nguyen, hoping to do the same.
It’s not just the number; it’s also the power and stature of those leaving.
Last week alone, the Capitol bid farewell to progressive powerhouse Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, who departed the Assembly to take the top job at the California Labor Federation. Then came back-to-back announcements from Democratic Sen. Connie Leyva of Chino and Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell of Long Beach, who both said they would not be seeking reelection despite having four years left to serve under the state’s term limit law. Then, on Thursday, Republican Assemblymember Kevin Kiley of Rocklin, who ran in the 2021 gubernatorial recall, announced that he would be running for Congress.
And Saturday, former Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes of Rancho Mirage, now the only independent in the Legislature, announced he’s not running again and is considering running for Congress. “I have seen first-hand the dangers of partisan politics. Blind faith to political teams has created a toxic tribalism that is tearing families, friendships, communities and this country apart,” he tweeted.
That all makes for an unusual degree of churn, already the largest in at least seven years. In 2012, California voters passed Proposition 28, extending the amount of time that lawmakers can serve to a total of 12 years, in either chamber. That had ushered in a new era of job security for legislators and continuity for the Legislature as a whole.
But there will be at least 22 new legislators, out of 120 total, after the November election. There are special elections on Feb. 15 and April 5 to fill the four Assembly seats that are already vacant.
And this election year is still young: Candidates have until mid-March to declare their candidacy for office — or not.
Some incumbents and lobbyists say this year’s changing of the guard has the potential to shake up the Capitol’s policy-making dynamic.
As experienced lawmakers move on, they take their policy expertise and their legislative know-how with them. O’Donnell and Leyva both serve as K-12 education committee chairpersons, and last month, Assemblymember Jose Medina, who leads the Assembly’s higher education committee, announced that 2022 would be his final session, too.
“There’s the potential for not just the loss of leaders who have an extraordinary background and expertise, but also the staff that have made the realization of their policies possible,” said Jessie Ryan, lobbyist with the Campaign for College Opportunity, a nonprofit advocacy group.
Kristina Bas Hamilton, a lobbyist and consultant who represents unions and anti-poverty groups in Sacramento, said the turnover makes things less predictable for those in the business of pushing policy change and wrangling support for contentious legislation. For one thing, lawmakers eyeing other races may be more circumspect or distracted.
“If there’s uncertainty, no one wants to commit to doing big stuff,” she said. The early departure of incumbents also means new committee leadership. For policy advocates sponsoring a particular bill, that “changes the whole landscape.”
O’Donnell said his decision not to run for reelection wasn’t motivated by politics. “I’m not getting any younger…and being an elected official is not the sum of my being,” he said. He plans to return to the classroom as a high school civics teacher.
But the fact that many of his colleagues on their way out are preparing to run for Congress or local office is “gonna have an impact on policy,” he said. “People are probably going to be more cautious of the big bills that seek to do Herculean changes.”
Where’s everyone going?
The Legislature’s “Great Resignation” is driven by a number of political trends — all of which have come to a head at roughly the same time.
A rash of congressional retirements and changes in district lines have inspired some legislators to seek higher office. That’s the case for Kevin Mullin, a San Mateo Democrat second in the Assembly pecking order to Speaker Anthony Rendon, who has been endorsed by the retiring U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier to succeed her.
Likewise, after Rep. Karen Bass announced her bid for Los Angeles mayor last year, state Sen. Sydney Kamlager opened up a congressional fundraising committee — though she has yet to officially announce her intention to run.
The approach of term limits may also be pushing some incumbents to an early retirement. Of the 14 legislators so far not seeking reelection in 2022, 10 would have been termed out in 2024 anyway.
“Some of these members were going to raise a bunch of money to — what?” said Republican strategist Matt Rexroad. “Go serve for just two more years and then have no obvious Senate and congressional seat to run for?”
If 2022’s bevy of retirements looks big, it’s nothing compared to the next cycle, said Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data Inc. which provides voter tracking services to Democratic campaigns. Because the Legislature’s 12-year term limit law went into effect in 2012, “between 2024 and 2028 you’re going to see the entire Assembly turnover,” he said.
That’s good news for those who make their money off of elections. “Consultants that weathered the last few years of minimal election activity are finally going to get some big years,” Mitchell said.
New maps, new politics
Maybe the biggest factor driving the political turnover: The state’s newly inked electoral maps.
Last week, incumbent Republican Rep. Tom McClintock announced that he would be running to represent the state’s new 5th Congressional District, which spans the Sierra foothills from Placerville to Kings Canyon National Park and includes a big chunk of the district represented by Republican Devin Nunes, who resigned last week to head former President Donald Trump’s new media company.
That left the northern portion of McClintock’s old district without an incumbent — and cleared the way for Kiley to make his move.
In cobbling together the new districts for the state’s 120 legislative and 52 congressional seats, California’s independent redistricting commission was barred from taking an incumbent’s political prospects into account. In some cases, the commission placed politically safe lawmakers in more competitive seats, stripped them of the communities with which they felt the most affinity or placed multiple legislators together into the same district.
When Gonzalez took the union job last week, she sidestepped a difficult choice of either running against fellow Democratic Assemblymember Akilah Weber of San Diego or relocating to another district. State lawmakers, unlike members of Congress, must reside within their districts.
Likewise, labor champion Leyva was placed into the same Inland Empire state Senate district as moderate Democratic Sen. Susan Rubio. Leyva, however, said her decision not to run again had nothing to do with the prospect of a costly intraparty reelection fight.
Instead, she said the new district, which now stretches into the San Gabriel Valley, no longer reflects her geographic loyalties. “My heart is in San Bernardino County,” she told CalMatters. “Those are my people.”
So far, a handful of paired-up incumbents have decided to duke it out with a current colleague of the same party. Democratic Assemblymembers Laura Friedman and Adrin Nazarian will be running against one another in the San Fernando Valley. Ditto, Democratic state Sens. Anna Caballero of Salinas and Melissa Hurtado of Sanger. And Assembly Republicans Tom Lackey and Thurston Smith will be vying for the same high desert district that stretches from Lancaster to the Nevada border.
Asked about the prospect of competing against a colleague and party member, Smith cited Ronald Reagan’s “11th Commandment” not to speak ill of a fellow Republican. “Keep it civil. Let’s talk about the issues,” he said. Lackey, for his part, called the match-up “awkward,” but said there was nothing personal in the race.
He also rejected the notion that it would influence his votes in the Legislature: “I’ll still be the same guy that I was before.”
And for those incumbents who choose not to fight or depart, there’s the Evan Low approach. After finding himself stuck in the same Assembly district with Los Altos Assemblymember Marc Berman, the Cupertino Democrat decided to settle things with a mock pillow fight — before announcing that he would be moving to a neighboring district to seek reelection.
Relocating isn’t to everyone’s taste. Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton was placed into the same district with fellow Orange County Democrat, Sen. Dave Min. Because Senate terms last four years and both were elected in 2020, they won’t have to make a decision about how to proceed until 2024.
Newman has already ruled out the possibility of settling the impasse by moving.
“I can only imagine that conversation,” he said. “I say to my wife, ‘Hey, I got this great idea!’ And she’d be like, ‘Hey, take care. Keep in touch.’”
(CalMatters reporter Mikhail Zinshteyn contributed to this story. Ben covers California politics and elections. Prior to that, he was a contributing writer for CalMatters reporting on the state’s economy and budget.)
THERE ARE THIRTY ASYLUM SEEKERS imprisoned in the repurposed hotel that Serbian Tennis star Djokovic has just left. At least one has been locked up for nine years: the Iranian asylum seeker Mehdi Ali fled to Australia at the age of fifteen, and recently turned twenty-four in detention. The Kurdish-Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani was held for several years in the Manus Regional Processing Centre. His book No Friend But the Mountains, written in WhatsApp on a smuggled phone he stowed inside his mattress, chronicles the psychological cost of enduring incarceration with no end date. The waste of life is staggering. So is the waste of resources. Guards patrol the hotel corridors day and night while the prisoners languish in their rooms, waiting for who knows what. Over the last few days the monotony was broken by boisterous crowds of tennis fans and anti-vaxxers protesting in the street outside, a galling reminder that people know how to raise hell for the incarcerated when they care to do so.
— Arianne Shahvisi (LRB)
$1 BILLION LATER, FINANCIAL SYSTEM STILL NOT FINISHED
In 2005, when Arnold Schwarzenegger was in his first term as governor and the iPhone had yet to be introduced, state officials came up with an idea to develop an integrated California government computerized budget system.
The following year, the scope was expanded to connect the state’s accounting, budgeting, cash management and procurement into a single modernized and transparent system to track hundreds of billions of dollars of spending.
In 2012, the Financial Information System for California, dubbed FI$Cal, was slated for completion in 2016 at a cost of $620 million. Today, with the cost exceeding the latest $1 billion estimate, the project remains only partially done. Deadlines in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020 were missed.
And now the project — currently being overseen by a committee representing Gov. Gavin Newsom, state Controller Betty Yee and state Treasurer Fiona Ma — will blow through the July 2022 target date with no new deadline set, according to the latest scathing report on FI$Cal from the California State Auditor’s Office.
Meanwhile, state agencies are struggling to use the parts of the system that are operational. Once again, the government of the state that’s home to Silicon Valley has demonstrated its technology ineptitude.
Apple is now selling the iPhone 13. But California government, from the DMV to high-speed rail to FI$Cal, repeatedly demonstrates its inability to deliver big projects.
FI$Cal was originally meant to improve the state’s financial controls by speeding the timeliness of information. But according to the auditor’s report, released last week, questions about the integrity of the new system have cast doubts on the reliability of the data. And the integration of the old systems with the new one has led to the state’s publishing late financial statements three years in a row.
While that might seem like insider stuff for financial wonks, consider that the delays could end up costing taxpayers big money. Late financial statements could endanger receipt of federal funding and weaken California’s high credit rating, which would increase the state’s borrowing costs.
And then there’s the cost of the system: $1 billion is real money. Taxpayers should get what they’re paying for.
A big reason for the latest delays, according to the auditor’s report, is the need for the state Controller’s Office to verify that FI$Cal data is accurate by comparing it to the numbers in the legacy system. Staffing shortages have led to a backlog in that process.
While the deadlines keep getting pushed back, the scope of the project has been narrowed. Or, put another way, what constitutes completion has been redefined.
Key features, such as statewide loan accounting, have been jettisoned or indefinitely postponed. That means that the state controller must continue using the legacy system as well as FI$Cal. That’s concerning “given that one of the original goals of the project was to replace standalone systems with a single, integrated system,” according to the audit.
So much for efficiency.
Then, as anyone who has undergone a computer system change at work knows, there comes a time when the vendor leaves and in-house staff must take complete control. The problem in this case, according to the audit, is that the state has struggled to hire and retain workers qualified to do those jobs.
Finally, there are deficiencies in FI$Cal’s safeguards, concerns the auditor mentioned in past reports and repeated last week. As a result of those deficiencies, “the state may not be able to rely on the financial reports FI$Cal generates.”
It’s been nearly 17 years since the inception of this project. And, right now, it’s not even good enough for government work.
(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
ANNIE EDSON TAYLOR posing with the barrel in which she rode over Niagara Falls in 1901
DON’T HOBBLE SOLAR POWER
To the Editor:
Many of us early adopters to solar panels put our savings into installing solar panels. We did so for both ecological reasons and because we wanted to stimulate the solar industry. That worked very well. Now the cost for solar panels has fallen a lot from what we paid years ago. The PG&E tariff at that time meant we could break even on our rooftop solar cost by lowering energy costs and the minimal reimbursements for PG&E use of our power in 25 years. These calculations are now being disrupted with PG&E’s proposed rate hikes.
Why is PG&E lobbying for tariffs on rooftop solar? They say it’s to shift costs of maintaining the grid onto solar customers. Haven’t solar customers paid by installing the solar panels, maintaining them, and providing clean electricity that benefits all of us? We have saved PG&E from building new generation plants. We need as much solar electricity as possible to limit climate change which has been amply demonstrated to be real, increasingly severe and arriving sooner than predicted. There have been horrific fires, terrible storms and new records for heat, cold, rainfall and snow across the world.
Imperial County and a couple of other counties had put tariffs on solar and solar installations plummeted. When they reversed those rate hikes solar installations resumed. Tariffs kill rooftop solar and hurt home owners.
These are certainly not times to be shutting down solar power. It’s estimated that by the end of 2020 solar provided about 1/4 of California’s electricity. But California is not yet at net zero for carbon emissions. We should have more solar, not less.
The California Public Utilities Commission will make the final decision on solar rate hikes on Jan. 27. The only ways to influence them at this point is to write a letter to them (firstname.lastname@example.org) or, better yet, call Governor Newsom who has strong influence with them. His phone number is 916-445-2841 from 9-5 Monday-Friday.
Solar is vital to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and seriously slowing the effects of catastrophic climate change. Please don’t delay and call Governor Newsom today and write to the CPUC, if you can.
Eileen Mitro, Climate Action Mendocino
THE BEGINNING of my career as a journalist was not unlike noted reporter Carl Berstein's. I too fell in love with the “glorious chaos” of the newsroom in my hometown newspaper, The Appeal-Democrat.
“In most towns these days, it’s impossible to imagine a scene like the one that so entranced Bernstein the first time he walked into the newsroom of his hometown paper. The ‘glorious chaos’ and ‘purposeful commotion,’ he writes, were generated by a room full of reporters, editors, photographers, and copy boys (gender-specific terms used advisedly, as that’s the way it was back in the day). In an era when data is transmitted wirelessly, the work that kept Bernstein so busy is obsolete: Copy boys crisscrossed the newsroom ferrying first drafts of the day’s news from the typewriters of reporters still writing it to the desks of editors waiting to ready it for publication. A floor or two below, another room full of linotypists and pressmen was preparing to create the rumble of the presses that Bernstein would feel under his feet.”
— Mike Geniella
OMINOUS HISTORY IN REAL TIME: WHERE WE ARE NOW IN THE USA
by Norman Solomon
(This article is adapted from the new edition of Norman Solomon’s book “Made Love, Got War,” being published next week as a free e-book.)
The final big legislative achievement of 2021 was a bill authorizing $768 billion in military spending for the next fiscal year. President Biden signed it two days after the Christmas holiday glorifying the Prince of Peace.
Dollar figures can look abstract on a screen, but they indicate the extent of the mania. Biden had asked for “only” $12 billion more than President Trump’s bloated military budget of the previous year -- but that wasn’t enough for the bipartisan hawkery in the House and Senate, which provided a boost of $37 billion instead.
Overall, military spending accounts for about half of the federal government’s total discretionary spending -- while programs for helping instead of killing are on short rations at many local, state, and national government agencies. It’s a nonstop trend of reinforcing the warfare state in sync with warped neoliberal priorities. While outsized profits keep benefiting the upper class and enriching the already obscenely rich, the cascading effects of extreme income inequality are drowning the hopes of the many.
Corporate power constrains just about everything, whether healthcare or education or housing or jobs or measures for responding to the climate emergency. What prevails is the political structure of the economy.
Class war in the United States has established what amounts to oligarchy. A zero-sum economic system, aka corporate capitalism, is constantly exercising its power to reward and deprive. The dominant forces of class warfare -- disproportionately afflicting people of color while also steadily harming many millions of whites -- continue to undermine basic human rights including equal justice and economic security. In the real world, financial power is political power. A system that runs on money is adept at running over people without it.
The words “I can’t breathe,” repeated nearly a dozen times by Eric Garner in a deadly police chokehold, resonated for countless people whose names we’ll never know. The intersections of racial injustice and predatory capitalism are especially virulent zones, where many lives gradually or suddenly lose what is essential for life. Discussions of terms like “racism” and “poverty” too easily become facile, abstracted from human consequences, while unknown lives suffocate at the hands of routine injustice, systematic cruelties, the way things predictably are.
An all-out war on democracy is now underway in the United States. More than ever, the Republican Party is the electoral arm of unabashed white supremacy as well as such toxicities as xenophobia, nativism, anti-gay bigotry, patriarchy, and misogyny. The party’s rigid climate denial is nothing short of deranged. Its approach to the Covid pandemic has amounted to an embrace of death in the name of rancid individualism. With its Supreme Court justices in place, the “Grand Old Party” has methodically slashed voting rights and abortion rights. Overall, on domestic matters, the partisan matchup is between neoliberalism and neofascism. While the abhorrent roles of the Democratic leadership are extensive, to put it mildly, the two parties now represent hugely different constituencies and agendas at home. Not so on matters of war and peace.
Both parties continue to champion what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism.” When King described the profligate spending for a distant war as “some demonic, destructive suction tube,” he was condemning dynamics that endure with a vengeance. Today, the madness and the denial are no less entrenched. A militaristic core serves as a sacred touchstone for faith in America as the world’s one and only indispensable nation. Gargantuan Pentagon budgets are taken for granted, as is the assumed prerogative to bomb other countries at will.
Every budget has continued to include massive outlays for nuclear weapons, including gigantic expenditures for so-called “modernization” of the nuclear arsenal. A fact that this book cited when it was first published -- that the United States had ten thousand nuclear warheads and Russia had a comparable number -- is no longer true; most estimates say those stockpiles are now about half as large. But the current situation is actually much more dangerous. In 2007, the Doomsday Clock maintained by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists pegged the world’s proximity to annihilation at five minutes to apocalyptic Midnight. As 2022 began, the symbolic hands were at one hundred secondsto Midnight. Such is the momentum of the nuclear arms race, fueled by profit-driven military contractors. Lofty rhetoric about seeking peace is never a real brake on the nationalistic thrust of militarism.
With the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the third decade of this century is shaping up to unfold new wrinkles in American hegemonic conceits. Along the way, Joe Biden has echoed a central precept of doublethink in George Orwell’s most famous novel, 1984: “War is Peace.” Speaking at the United Nations as the autumn of 2021 began, Biden proclaimed: “I stand here today, for the first time in twenty years, with the United States not at war. We’ve turned the page.” But the turned page was bound into a volume of killing with no foreseeable end. The United States remained at war, bombing in the Middle East and elsewhere, with much information withheld from the public. And increases in U.S. belligerence toward both Russia and China escalated the risks of a military confrontation that could lead to nuclear war.
A rosy view of the USA’s future is only possible when ignoring history in real time. After four years of the poisonous Trump presidency, the Biden strain of corporate liberalism offers a mix of antidotes and ongoing toxins. The Republican Party, now neofascist, is in a strong position to gain control of the U.S. government by mid-decade. Preventing such a cataclysm seems beyond the grasp of the same Democratic Party elites that paved the way for Donald Trump to become president in the first place. Realism about the current situation -- clarity about how we got here and where we are now -- is necessary to mitigate impending disasters and help create a better future. Vital truths must be told. And acted upon.
(Norman Solomon is the national director of RootsAction.org and the author of a dozen books including "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State," published in a new edition as a free e-book in January 2022. His other books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 and 2020 Democratic National Conventions. Solomon is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.)
MLK DAY CELEBRATION MOVED TO ZOOM, Monday January 17th
We hope you join us on zoom to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.! There is an amazing panel of speakers offering their insights. And updates from groups all over this county that are working for indigenous sovereignty, police accountability, environmental justice, housing rights and more.
Please spread the word that we are moving the event to zoom,
Thank you and hope to see you soon!
Full zoom connection info:
Join Zoom Meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89286753610
Meeting ID: 892 8675 3610
One tap mobile: +16699009128,,89286753610# US (San Jose)
Dial by your location: +1 669 900 9128 US (San Jose)
SINGLE-PAYER HEALTH CARE ADVOCATES RIP GAVIN NEWSOM FOR ‘FLIP-FLOP’
by Joe Garofoli
The California Nurses Association didn’t just endorse Gavin Newsom for governor in 2018; the powerful union drove a giant red bus around the state with Newsom’s face plastered on the side of it.
Written underneath: “Nurses Trust Newsom. He shares our values and fights for our patients.”
Now, though, the nurses union is ready to throw Newsom under the bus.
Six months before Newsom appears on the primary ballot seeking re-election, a top nurses union organizer just called him a flip-flopper. Another top union leader told me that Newsom is “at war” with their top priority.
Why? It’s all about single-payer health care — the nurses’ foundational issue. A bill creating a single-payer system, AB1400, is moving through the Legislature after getting delayed last year, and so far the governor has been uncharacteristically silent about it.
That’s a change. Newsom earned the union’s endorsement largely because he openly and loudly — as only he can — supported single payer. The nurses were thrilled, as not a lot of governors had made such a pledge, let alone one leading the world’s fifth-largest economy. If California were to adopt single payer, “the rest of the country will follow,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, its leading national advocate, predicted back in 2017.
Not only did the nurses’ endorsement bolster Newsom’s credibility among California progressives, but his stance set him apart from his top 2018 Democratic rival, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who had accused Newsom of “selling snake oil” for supporting single payer without identifying a funding source.
Newsom fired back, to the nurses’ delight.
“I’m tired of politicians saying they support single payer but that it’s too soon, too expensive or someone else’s problem,” Newsom tweeted in September 2017.
But last week, union leaders said Newsom did just that.
When Newsom rolled out his state budget, it included a plan to extend health benefits to low-income undocumented residents of all ages — long a desire of progressives. Newsom touted that California would be “the first state in the country to achieve universal access to health coverage.”
Universal access to coverage is great, the nurses agreed, and the proposal is expected to fly through the Democratic supermajority in the Legislature. Advocates point out, however, that access to health care is not a single-payer health care system that covers every Californian. A single-payer system would include no co-payments, and no health insurance companies. (But yes, higher taxes.)...
NO CELEBRATION IN SACRAMENTO: Environmental Groups Divided On Newsom’s Big, Headline-Grabbing Budget
by Dan Bacher
This week Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled his 2022-23 state budget proposal in Sacramento, including a $45.7 billion budget surplus, receiving both criticism and praise from environmental and climate justice advocates.
The budget proposal followed one of the most catastrophic years for fish and the ecosystem in California history, one that saw the Delta smelt become virtually extinct in the wild, while only 2.6% of winter-run Chinook juveniles on the Sacramento River below Keswick Dam survived warm water conditions, and most spring-run Chinook salmon on Butte Creek perished before spawning.
The proposal also came after a year in which Consumer Watchdog and Fractracker Alliance revealed that Newsom’s oil and gas regulatory agency, CalGEM, had approved a total of 9,728 oil drilling permits from January 1, 2019 until October 1, 2021. In addition, the groups found that the Newsom Administration approved 150 offshore drilling permits in state waters since January 1, 2019.
Newsom touted his “California Blueprint” budget proposal as a “bold plan building on the state’s ongoing work to confront California’s greatest existential threats, bolster our strong economic growth and make historic investments in California’s future.”
He went on to claim, “with major new investments to tackle the greatest threats to our state’s future, the California Blueprint lights the path forward to continue the historic progress we’ve made on our short-term and long-term challenges, including responding to the evolving pandemic, fighting the climate crisis, taking on persistent inequality and homelessness, keeping our streets safe and more. As California’s robust recovery continues, we’re doubling down on our work to ensure all our communities can thrive.”
Under the category “Combating the Climate Crisis,” Newsom proposed the following, including “fighting wildfires,” “tackling the drought” and “forging an oil free future.”
- Fighting Wildfires: The Blueprint provides $648 million to support firefighters, and more helicopters and dozers, along with an additional $1.2 billion — building on last year’s $1.5 billion investment — to step-up forest management and other practices that save lives.
- Tackling the Drought: On top of last year’s $5.2 billion water package, the Blueprint makes an additional $750 million investment for immediate drought response to aid residents, farmers, and wildlife as California continues to grapple with a historic drought.
- Forging an Oil-Free Future: The plan will decrease California’s reliance on fossil fuels while preparing our economy and workforce for a clean energy future. California will write the playbook for how America confronts the impacts of climate change — investing billions in climate tech research & development, clean cars, preparing Californians for career opportunities, and further readying our infrastructure to withstand extreme weather.
During his press conference, Newsom asserted that combating the climate crisis was second only to fighting COVID-19 on his list of priorities.
In response, Food and Water Watch said the governor’s proposals “lacked clear pathways” towards ending fossil fuel proliferation and extraction, instead promoting factory farming and fossil fuel technology like factory farm biogas, carbon capture and â˜green’ hydrogen.
“Newsom’s proposed budget fails,” Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy said in a statement. “It lacks a comprehensive investment plan for ending fossil fuels and factory farms, two major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, Newsom includes funds for technologies that prop up these industries, like green hydrogen, factory farm manure digesters and carbon capture.”
She added, “Too many Californians lack access to fresh water and suffer from climate change induced disasters like wildfires. Newsom has allocated $2.7 billion for wildfire mitigation and $6 billion for drought support, but he neglects the root cause of these disasters: climate change hastened by fossil fuel emissions.”
On the other hand, Sierra Club California praised Governor Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal for including “critical funding to protect Californians against the climate crisis,” while also pointing out that “we need more than just money to fight the climate crisis.”
“The governor’s proposed budget allocates $22.5 billion over five years across all agencies,” the Club wrote in a statement. “Specifically, the budget seeks to increase funding for zero emission vehicles, decarbonize California homes and buildings, invest in water conservation and efficiency technologies, support small farmers in transitioning to climate-friendly production, and establish a framework to support transitioning workers from polluting industries to clean energy jobs.”
The Club also praised Newsom’s budget proposal for committing $6.1 billion in clean transportation to put clean cars, trucks, and buses on the road and support an “equitable transition to electrification for underserved communities.”
In addition, the group said Newsom “reiterated commitments to phasing out fossil fuels. His proposal invests billions to transition the state off of dirty fossil fuels towards affordable, clean energy. There are also provisions in the budget to train oil and gas industry workers in oil well remediation and clean energy jobs.”
But it did have a caveat.
“The proposal also includes funds to cap and remediate abandoned oil and gas wells — however — the costs of cleaning up dirty oil wells should be footed by the fossil fuel industry, not state taxpayers,” the Club argued.
Brandon Dawson, Director of Sierra Club California, also released a statement summarizing the Club’s assessment of Newsom’s budget:
“The Governor’s budget proposal highlights just how involved the state must be to combat the climate crisis and protect California for future generations. If adopted, many of the investments announced today will aid in mitigating the worst of climate change’s impacts.
However, Californians know that we need more than just money to fight the climate crisis. We need strong regulatory actions to address the source of the crisis: the practices of the fossil fuel and other extractive and exploitative industries that continue to harm our lands, rivers, ecosystems, and communities — largely BIPOC and underserved communities. The state must hold these industries accountable and ensure they foot the cost of remediation, not the taxpayers.”
The release of Newsom’s budget proposal also followed a year during which his administration continued to advance the highly embattled Delta Tunnel, which would run between Hood and Courtland, and the controversial Sites Reservoir on the west side of the Sacramento Valley. Newsom’s team is pushing ahead with these plans despite strong opposition by California Indian Tribes, environmental justice groups, commercial and recreational fishing organizations and conservation groups. Opponents of the tunnel and Sites say the projects would only do further harm to already collapsing fish populations on Central Valley rivers and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
“The Delta is being further diminished along with its cultural and traditional resources that Tribes have utilized from the Delta for food, medicine, transportation, shelter, clothing, ceremony and traditional lifeways from the beginning of time,” said Malissa Tayaba, the Vice Chair of the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians. “Additional diversions from the Sacramento River watershed will exaggerate an already damaged and diminishing Delta ecosystem and estuary and our Tribe’s ties to our homelands.”
Tim Stroshane, policy analyst for Restore the Delta, said the proposed budget “continues to play hide-the-ball about how much state funds are to be spent on the single Delta Tunnel project.”
He added that’s because “the Delta Conveyance Program is not singled out in any one fund, as usual.”
Stroshane points out there is one reference in the January Budget Summary (p. 233) to “water conveyance” as part of $5.2 billion water and drought resilience initiative, but it’s just one of seven areas of funding for the initiative alongside groundwater recharge, Salton Sea, water supply reliability, water recycling, ecosystem restoration and flood management.
“Most of the proposed water budget seems to center on small and rural community water systems for drought resilience and response investments/preparation,” Stroshane noted. “These are smart investments. Now, if he would apply that to saving the Bay-Delta estuary, we could finally face one of the State’s ‘greatest challenges.’ Governor Newsom understands what needs to happen.”
WE NEED to discard Cold War mentality and seek peaceful coexistence and win-win outcomes. Our world today is far from being tranquil; rhetoric that stokes hatred and prejudice abound. . . . History has proved time and again that confrontation does not solve problems; it only invites catastrophic consequences. Protectionism and unilateralism can protect no one; they ultimately hurt the interests of others as well as one's own. Even worse are the practices of hegemony and bullying, which run counter to the tide of history. Naturally, countries have divergences and disagreements between them. Yet a zero-sum approach that enlarges one's own gain at the expense of others will not help. . . . We should choose dialogue over confrontation, inclusiveness over exclusion, and stand against all forms of unilateralism, protectionism, hegemony or power politics.
— Chinese President Xi Jinping, January 17, 2022