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Mendocino County Today: September 25, 2012

IN WHAT SOUNDS like the latest step in a standoff between Coast Hospital and its employees union, Coast Hospital CEO Ray Hino announced last week that he is asking his Board of Trustees to consider filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Hino has already received approval from the board to have the Hospital’s attorney draw up the bankruptcy paperwork. Trustees will also consider an “action plan” to deal with the Hospital’s financial problems. AVA readers may recall that last month Hino backed away from a unilateral decision to not implement the 3% pay raise called for in the current union contract without giving a reason after the union's attorney pointed out that such steps must be negotiated. According to bankruptcy law, formal mediation is required before Chapter 9 bankruptcy can be filed. (Chapter 9 is not a liquidation style bankruptcy, but a reorganizational process that postpones creditor claims and other payouts while reorganization is undertaken.) However, Hino made it pretty clear that the bankruptcy filing is primarily addressed at lowering employee costs. “The process allows us to negotiate better terms with our creditors and bondholders,” said Hino, adding, ominously, “and to alter our union contract in our effort to reduce overall expenses by $3 million per year.” Since the hospital’s prior “action plans” already addressed many of the “better terms” with creditors, it’s pretty obvious that Hino wants to use the bankruptcy process to pressure employees into the mediated concessions he couldn’t get unilaterally.

NEW BRIDGE for the Russian River? More and more talk about one for Asti in place of the temporary summer bridge maintained for years at Asti. A lot of people now live across the river and through the trees to the east of Cloverdale, and on south to Asti and beyond. But to get to their homes across the river they've got to go to the Cloverdale Bridge five miles north of Asti. Many permits are required to build an all-weather bridge so it'll be a while.

FASTER, GRAN, FASTER! FASTER, GRAN, FASTER! Last Thursday, September 20th, at about 9:30pm, Mendocino County Sheriff’s deputies observed a speeding a pick-up on Highway 162 near Covelo. There were full-grown marijuana plants in plain view in the bed of the truck. When deputies attempted a stop, the truck, with Linda Britton, 63, at the wheel, accelerated to more than 80mph. When the truck pulled into a driveway on Agency Road, Covelo. Linda Britton, 63, Colleen Downey, 37, and Kerra Stillwell, 22, all of Covelo, explained that they had taken the marijuana from the Round Valley Tribal Natural Resources Department where it was stored in the equipment yard. According to the suspects, they knew that the Round Valley Tribal Police had eradicated a marijuana garden on tribal land earlier in the day, and that the marijuana had been stored at the yard for eventual destruction. The women said they intended to sell the marijuana and split the proceeds between the three of them. Deputies located eight mature Marijuana plants in the bed of the truck, with a potential yield of approximately 6 pounds of processed marijuana (in total). Suspects Stillwell and Downey were issued a citation for transportation and possession of marijuana and released upon their signed promise to appear. Grandma Britton was arrested for possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale, transportation of marijuana and evading a peace officer/reckless driving. Britton was transported to the Mendocino County Jail where she was held on $25,000 bail.

COMMENTS OF THE DAY:

• “Mitt Romney’s meltdown has Democrats in a celebratory mood. They are so accustomed to living on thin political rations that their enthusiasm waxes whenever fortune smiles upon them. This sudden brightening of prospects in the Presidential election may have nothing to do with the intrinsic appeal or skillful politicking of their own candidate. But they suppress that uncomfortable thought lest it cloud the sunshine brought into their otherwise bleak lives by the hapless Mr. Romney.” — Michael Brenner

• “The only issue in this election contest between Pee Wee Herman and Captain Kangaroo is how to do nothing to disturb the fantasy that we can keep living the way we do. I am coming to detest Mr. Obama for the unforgivable feats of doing absolutely nothing to oppose, resist, or remedy the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, and doing absolutely nothing to restore the rule-of-law in banking. Mr. Romney, at this point, can only be pitied as some kind of thought-experiment gone awry in an evil consumer product testing lab on a planet of oafs. His fecklessness has no modern analog. Next to Romney, Bob Dole looks Lincolnesque.” — Jim Kunstler

THE ONGOING EFFORT by Eric Price to drive his competition out of business meant that Bones Road House, Gualala, was twice raided last weekend by Eric Price's badged till tappers who snagged $286 from the thriving South Coast eatery, then came back to grab another $394. When Captain Bones himself tried to talk to Price about cooperating in the interests of the well-being of the wider community, Price angrily claimed his 90 year-old father was being harassed and hung up. The latest raid on Bones by his competitor also cost Bones' employees 16 hours of income), denying wages and tips to ten people and their families (10 x 2 days = 20) and destroyed the Bones roadhouse portion of a benefit for the co-owner of the Four-Eyed Frog bookstore, tragically killed in a road accident.

WE FIRST REPORTED on Bones' unique hassle months ago just after the first raid on Bones. We're re-printing it here for background:

THE SOUTHCOAST'S POPULAR Bones Roadhouse Restaurant was till-tapped again Saturday for $323. Right in the middle of the lunch rush here come the cops with a Sonoma County court order to grab what they can on behalf of a rival Gualala restaurateur called Erik Price.

THE PATTERN developing here seems to be that Price will swoop down on Bones every few weeks, grabbing whatever cash is in the register, causing maximum disruption to the business as he goes. But he doesn't go himself. He's got Mendocino County deputies doing his dirty work, and they're none too happy about it.

THE SONOMA COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT says Bones owes Price more than $200,000 so it's obvious these raids are not aimed at retrieving that amount a few hundred dollars at a time but are intended to harass Bones' popular owner, Mike Thomas, out of business as Thomas tries to work out a rational payment schedule with Price's attorney.

PRICE also distinguished himself Saturday when he appeared in the bushes across the road from the Gualala Famer's Market with a video camera, recording Thomas in the sinister act of setting up for the morning.

PRICE finally stormed out of the bushes and ran aggressively up to Thomas as if to assault Thomas, veering off at the last second to pretend to be eager to shake the hands of nearby persons who withdrew from Price as if they were about to be bear hugged by a terminal leper.

THE FOLLOWING, I HOPE, explains the background of the Bones dispute. WHEN THE HIGHLY popular Bones Road House and Restaurant burned down in September of 2009, Bones, aka Mike Thomas, had a liquor license he’d leased from the family of an uneven newcomer to the South Coast called Eric Price.

THE FIRE, to put it gently, was suspicious, and it became even more suspicious when Price, funded by his wealthy parents, built his own restaurant on the site of, you could say, Mike Thomas’s Bones. Price’s new restaurant and the accompanying motel Price erected are as unpopular with locals as Price is himself. Locals are critical of everything from the food at Price’s Shoreline Restaurant to the architectural aesthetics of the thing. And then they assess Price’s unfortunate personality, which South Coast people characterize as rude, arrogant, ruthless, and at least partly chemically enhanced in a way that doesn’t make Price, a veteran of drug and alcohol rehab programs, any more beguiling.

MIKE THOMAS is a long-time resident of the area. He's highly popular with locals not only for his personal charm but for the quality of his enterprise. He’s also one of these essential community guys who quietly does a lot of good for people apart from employing 23 of them. The South Coast is unanimously in support of Thomas and hopping mad that he's clearly the victim of, in Thomas's description, “a demon.”

THOMAS managed to get a new Bones Road House and Restaurant up and running only to be slowly garroted by Price who clearly resents the popularity of Thomas’s revived business, which is in direct competition with Price's, especially for local business upon which local businesses depend, especially in the non-tourist winter months.

WHEN THOMAS RE-BOOTED BONES, Price said Thomas’s liquor license had reverted to him and his parents. Logic would indicate that the license went on hold while Thomas re-built. But Price insisted the license had reverted to his family. He went to court and somehow won a judgment against Thomas in Sonoma County, a very large judgment which, with the usual attorney's fees, interest and mysterious add-ons, has driven the judgment from $80,000 to $214,842.98. That amount is impossible for Thomas to pay. That amount would be difficult for most Mendo businesses to pay, unreal for Thomas as he rebuilds after that Price-convenient fire put Thomas out of business in 2009.

VIA A THUGGISH LEGAL STRATAGEM called a “Keeper's Levy,” good for eight-hour periods on a day-to-day basis, a posse of deputized till tappers has three times now swooped down on Bones and grabbed all the money in the till, $529 on their initial raid, another $430 the next day and whatever they got last Saturday. Price is rumored to observe the badged till tappers through binoculars as they looted his rival’s business in a way that's designed to put Thomas out of business, not recover money owed.

IF THESE “KEEPER'S LEVY” RAIDS on Bones continue on a regular basis, Thomas will be put out of business, which would suit Price just fine. To that end Price's Keeper of the Levy has court-ordered Thomas's books and bank records.

BILL QUIGLEY WRITES: "I believe that there are at least six factors which have contributed to the demise of Vermont liberalism:

Bernie Sanders — Bernie Sanders, the ideological leader of Vermont, is not only not a socialist, but he is not even a political liberal. He is a technofascist war monger disguised as a liberal. Bernie has never known a Pentagon military program which he did not want to embrace. He’s in bed with Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, and the Sandia Corporation, the weapons of mass destruction producer.

Ben & Jerry’s — Ben & Jerry’s brand of cutesy, commercial liberalism was always more about selling ice cream and hyping the price of its stock than it was about political ideology. Given the relatively passive nonconfrontational nature of its forays into the political arena, it was hard to take them very seriously. Ben & Jerry’s credibility as a political activist was even further eroded after it sold out to Unilever a few years ago. Furthermore, it always maintained very close ties to Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Party. Most recently it has embraced the political campaign finance reforms and corporate personhood amendments promoted by the Occupy Wall Street crowd. The kind of political activism practiced by Ben & Jerry’s is not serious business, and it undermines the efforts of those committed to making real changes.

Phish — Although Phish is no longer active, its inane lyrics and monotonous, repetitive music helped promote hedonism, affluenza, and drug abuse in Vermont for two decades. The apolitical band seemed to be connected to nothing other than the Vermont drug scene. Phish helped Vermont become more like every place else.

Bill McKibben — Environmental activist Bill McKibben with his 350.org organization is ostensibly concerned with climate change, fossil fuel consumption, and peak oil. Yet somehow he seems to have overlooked the fact that the Pentagon is the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels. McKibben is an apologist for the Empire with very close ties to Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy as well as Governor Peter Shumlin. He never has an unkind word to say about the Obama administration, the military-industrial complex, or American foreign policy. His primary objective seems to be to have large numbers of college kids running around screaming “350.org.” It’s difficult to take any of this very seriously.

Bread and Puppet — Over ten years ago Bread and Puppet discontinued its annual megapageants in favor of weekly circuses in July and August. Although Bread and Puppet is one of the most radical, left-wing political activist groups in Vermont, its political influence in Vermont has been minimal. First, Bread and Puppet performs mostly for out-of-state audiences which means that its political message is widely dispersed. Second, many of the skits and circus acts performed by Bread and Puppet are so obtuse and abstract, that their political content is often not easily understood.

Marijuana — Although I favor the legalization of the sale of marijuana, I am of the opinion that Vermonters smoke too much pot for their own good as well as the good of the Republic.

In summary, what has rendered Vermont liberalism morally and intellectually bankrupt is too much Bernie, too much Ben & Jerry’s, too much Phish, too much McKibben, too much Bread and Puppet, and too much pot.

VOLUNTEER DIVERS Help Count Eel River Early Fall Chinook Salmon — The Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP), the Wiyot Tribe and the Bear River Tribe of the Rohnerville Rancheria are co-sponsoring dives of the lower Eel River to count the early run of fall Chinook salmon. These fish enter the Eel River beginning in late August with fish moving upstream opportunistically with rainfall and increased flows through fall. Dives will take place on alternating Fridays beginning on September 28 or at any time the river drops and clears after a rain. The purpose is to help establish an index of abundance of early fall run Chinook salmon to document what appears to be a major resurgence in the population. North Coast anglers just experienced the best ocean Chinook salmon sport fishing in decades and many of the fish off the mouth of Humboldt Bay may be returning to the Eel River to spawn.

Anglers have recognized a rebound in Eel River salmon since about 2006 and runs of fall Chinook in 2010 and 2011 broke records at Van Arsdale Fish Station at the lower end of the Potter Valley Project. Thousands of fish spawned throughout the basin and runs are likely in the range of 10,000-30,000 fish or more, which is similar to 1955-1958 population estimates. The lower Eel River area targeted extends from above the Van Duzen River to below Fernbridge. Dives will take place until steady rains and high flows disperse the fish. Volunteer divers will be paired with trained professionals who can help newcomers learn how to count fish quickly and expand the team's capacity. Volunteers have to be very good swimmers and OK with cold water. Wetsuits, masks and snorkels will be provided for volunteers who don’t have gear. Bear River and Wiyot Tribe staff will be participating in dives and fisheries biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Arcata Office will also be assisting. A similar dive on October 1, 2010 counted over 434 Chinook salmon from Fernbridge to the mouth of the Van Duzen and over 600 were counted during an October 6, 2011 survey. These counts did not coincide with peak abundance and expanding the number of divers available by recruiting volunteers should help increase flexibility to capture peak run data in brief windows of water clarity following storms. Flows on the Eel River are currently on 60 cubic feet per second (cfs) according to the U.S. Geologic Survey flow gauge at Scotia, which is just 55% of the 99 year average of 110 cfs for this date. Such low flows prevent large scale migrations of Chinook salmon and may delay entry from the ocean.

The Eel River Recovery Project is a volunteer based organization that wants to help collect better water quality and fisheries data on the Eel River and to support grassroots restoration. Dives are scheduled for September 28, October 13, October 26 and November 9, although flows may change dates. Divers will meet next Friday at River Lodge at 8:30 AM, but anyone interested in volunteering should check in before with ERRP Volunteer Coordinator Pat Higgins at 707 223-7200. See www.eelriverrecovery.org for more information.

POINT ARENA LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS Inc. Announce New Executive Director — The Board of Directors of the Lighthouse Keepers announces the selection of Pamela Fitzgerald to serve as the new Executive Director for the Lighthouse Keepers. In accepting the position as Executive Director, Pamela expressed her enthusiasm to work with the Lighthouse Board, staff and volunteers in carrying out the mission of the organization as the non-profit celebrates its 30th anniversary. Pamela has always been fascinated by the ocean, lighthouses and coastal areas and the folklore surrounding lighthouses. She is humbled and honored to have been chosen for this exciting and challenging role and is looking forward to getting to know the surrounding area and the residents who live nearby. Pamela is committed to maintaining the lighthouse for future generations and also educating people about the historical significance surrounding this beautiful California landmark. "I found I was longing to be near the ocean and in a more rural area and desired to work at something that I was really passionate about that related to my love of art, appealed to my sense of history and love of architecture. Being the Executive Director at the Point Arena Lighthouse is going to be like a dream come true for me and the adventure of a lifetime!" Pamela wrote: One of my favorite quotes: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” – Steve Jobs’ famous question to John Sculley, former Apple CEO Pamela was born at Cherrypoint, N.C. (Marine Base) and grew up on the East Coast and lived in New York, Florida and New Jersey. Pamela is no stranger to the West Coast having lived in Hawaii and currently makes her home in San Francisco with her two daughters, Mary-Katherine and Crystal. Pamela has lived in rural areas, having worked in Maryland on a horse farm, Hooks Mill. Pamela deeply loves horses and other animals and has two Jack Russells, Pumpkin and Spot who will keep her company when she moves to her new home in Point Arena. Pamela is experienced in non-profit and business management and has a successful track record of increased revenue for nonprofits in the Bay Area. Pamela began her career in the arts and interior design field and after returning to Chaminade University in Honolulu, Hawaii, for her master degrees (in Psychology and Public Administration (MSCP/MSCJA) she began working in the nonprofit sector in San Francisco as the supervisor in one of California's largest harm reduction clinics. In 2006, she went on to become the Director for the National Association for Visually Handicapped where she was successful in increasing their donor base and increasing the revenue of the organization. She also launched successful new programs at senior facilities and Laguna Honda Hospital of San Francisco. She recently worked as the Development Director for Tenderloin Health in San Francisco. During this time she planned & executed a fundraiser at the Palace Hotel for the nonprofit, A Celebration of Community. As a volunteer, Pamela worked on many events both in Hawaii and San Francisco and served as the Chair of a very successful silent auction fundraiser for the Junior League of Honolulu. She served on the Board of Directors for the JLH for two years and was also the Chair of the Public Affairs Committee. During Pamela’s involvement with the Junior League of San Francisco, she was the editor-in-chief of their magazine, The Fogcutter, for two years. Additionally she volunteered on the JLSF fashion show committee. She currently volunteers for Until There's A Cure. The Search Team, representing the Lighthouse Keepers has been busy conducting the nation-wide search for a new Executive Director. The Team received and reviewed 115 applications most from within California. The Team selected 12 finalists and ultimately identified four of the best qualified candidates to interview with the Board of Directors. According to Glenn Funk, a member of the Search Team, “the recruitment process was long and tedious but the diligence and dedication of the Search Team resulted in what we feel is an outstanding choice of a new Executive Director.”

 

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