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Letters (March 17, 2022)

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The Anderson Valley School Board has placed a school renovation bond, Measure M, on the June 7 ballot. The elementary school, built in 1948 and the High School, built in 1957, have served generations of kids and have been modernized in sections through the many decades of use but the infrastructure is worn out after more than 60 years. Age and the elements have taken their toll. We have surveyed our community and the “wish list” is long. Measure M will allow funds to renovate classrooms at the high school, upgrade heating ventilation and air conditioning systems to improve indoor air quality, replace leaking water pipes, repair deteriorating roofs, potentially build a multi-purpose room at the elementary, refresh the gym at the high school, upgrade septic and fire safety systems, replace failing solar inverters, and upgrade doors and lock systems for security. This list is long. We won’t be able to do it all, but we will be able to create a substantial difference in our students’ educational experience and create a campus that is on par with other county school systems.

The district has used bond funds effectively in the past matched with State funding and grants to maximize past bond funds installing large solar arrays to off-set energy bills, renovate locker rooms at the high school, replace large sections of roofs, renovate classrooms at the elementary school, install some HVAC systems, and complete a first wave of improvements back in 2010. That was twelve years ago, and the deferred maintenance needs of these 60-year old properties continues to grow.

Prior generations provided us with a quality local school environment for kids. It’s time to continue the legacy by protecting and improving these vital public assets. Please join business leaders, teachers, parents, grandparents, and neighbors by voting YES on Measure M.

Philip Thomas


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A few years ago, when I was in China reading the only Chinese newspaper written in English I was drawn to an article entitled “Black American and Chinese girlfriend shot by police.” Reading the article further -- turns out they were in possession of heroin and shot on sight by police. Killed. Might make one wonder why we as in USA have a heroin, drug problem labeled as “homeless” in cities like LA, SF, etc.. The Chinese are well aware of their past, their history and what the English did to them. You might also want to start thinking about fentanyl and where it comes from.

Peter Gregson


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I read an ad in the February 9 edition of the Ukiah Daily Journal featuring employment opportunities and seeking applications with the City of Ukiah for ambulance personnel. The first question one might have is: Is this money coming from the City of Ukiah's general fund under the premise that they will soon begin receiving $1 million in new parcel tax revenue each year from the recently approved LAFCo parcel tax annexation (a tax implemented without voter approval)?

I remember the Ukiah city attorney writing a letter to the editor in November 2021 stating that the annexation had nothing to do with ambulance service and everything to do with adequately funding fire protection services and would not harm MedStar ambulance. These recent employment ads contradict the city attorney's statement at that time and seem like a very obvious attempt to begin City ambulance service again.

MedStar Ukiah Ambulance of Mendocino County is the longest continuously running ambulance provider in Mendocino County and is operating as a 501(c)3 nonprofit. MedStar has been a safety net service in the community for many years and provides this service at no cost to the taxpayers. Our business is just the latest example of an industrywide shortage of ambulance personnel, not just here in Mendocino County, but throughout the region, state and country. Those familiar with the ambulance business are undeniably aware of this critical shortage. The city of Ukiah's move to hire ambulance personnel has led them to interview and attempt to hire MedStar employees. This is not increasing the number of EMTs and paramedics in our region, but creating a ping-ponging of employees and resources that will only cause two local agencies to fight for business in the same area. This will not enhance emergency response times but only cause one ambulance service to grow while the other suffers.

With more than 80 years of continuous ambulance services here in Mendocino County, it is both unfortunate and disheartening that a taxpayer-funded agency is seeking to hinder the ability of a local nonprofit which supports numerous fire departments and other community non-profits.

There can and should be a better, more sustainable opportunity for both the fire district and MedStar to coexist. The city's recent moves are not encouraging and I hope we can work together and forge a better path forward.

Leonard Winter, Chief Executive Officer

MedStar Ukiah Ambulance of Mendocino County

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Good morning. I was just considering your praise for the book “Empire of the Summer Moon,” about Quannah Parker and the Commanches. I could not agree more with your praise of the book. It is an incredible story. I think I’ve read it 2 or 3 times - an epic story!

Anyway, I’ve been very wary of dipping a toe into the calamity of local politics, considering the results of my last endeavor. But Mark Scaramella wrote about Measure V a little while back with the word “betrayal” attached to his analysis. When Ted Williams and I were both with the Albion-Little River Fire Protection District, he as chief, me as Board President, we proposed the prohibiting of leaving Dead Standing trees, within our District boundaries. As President I eventually pulled it as a number of our Board members were very resistant to the idea that a board should exercise such authority, and their commitment to this position was seriously undermining our ability to function as a board with the more ordinary matters of business. 

Of course, Ted and others went on with the concept, and eventually came up with Measure V which became a centerpiece of his successful campaign to be 5th District Supervisor. 

I imagine this piece of local history might be completely irrelevant at this point, but we had favorable legal opinion from then-County Counsel Doug Losak.

I am unsure if sifting through the old record would, at all, be helpful toward moving enforcement of Measure V forward, and may be only an interesting historical artifact. But the public record is certainly available. 

Thank you,

Chris Skyhawk

Fort Bragg

Mark Scaramella responds:

At this point in the long-drawn out, sordid history of Measure V, there are three relevant county documents and a board meeting video that are most relevant. 

The documents are: 1. Measure V itself. 2. County Counsel Christian Curtis’s analysis of MRC’s bogus exemption claims which convincingly proves that MRC is not exempt from nuisance rules — an opinion that his own Board, including Williams, has ignored and refused to back, even though they gave Curtis a big raise as if his opinion should carry some weight with them.

And 3. The Board’s February 2020 “directive” to Curtis to draft an “enforcement plan” for Measure V. That directive is still listed as “in process” on the Board’s ever-growing list of unaddressed Board directives.

There’s also the embarrasingly subservient February 2020 Board of Supervisors meeting where the subject was last discussed when Curtis was given his “directive” to prepare an enforcement plan.

Unless Williams or one of his timid colleagues agendizes these items for an update on Measure V, there’s no point in discussing it any further because for now the Board has shown zero interest in their own County Counsel’s well-reasoned opinion and no interest in asking him where his draft of the “enforcement plan” is.

If it were up to us — of course it’s not and never will be — the best course of action is to ask MRC directly what they are willing to do voluntarily about the problem in light of Curtis’s analysis. Then if they do nothing or don’t respond by a date certain (30 days) file a formal abatement notice at least on the MRC parcel across from Ms. Terry d’Selkie’s Comptche parcel (as specified in her still pending complaint) and put a lien on that parcel if nothing is done and take it from there. In theory, if MRC refuses to abate the nuisance, the County can seize the parcel and sell it for the cost of paying a third party to do the abatement. (Although we doubt Mr. Curtis will mention this option if he ever develops an enforcement plan.)

Even this modest step by step approach, however, is obviously well beyond the capacity of the five tiny minds that currently sit as Mendocino County Supervisors.

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Re: Mendo Coast Restaurant Business

I believe the/an issue is is my understanding that when a bill amount includes an involuntary further contribution we are legally compelled to factor that into our sales and pay tax on it; it essentially becomes the cost of the product and believe me, the State of California is firmly of the position that any and all sales revenues are being held sort of "in trust" by the business. This was not hard to circumvent back in the day when most transactions were cash; yours truly (when I started the Cafe tips were not taxable) lived on mine for about 7 years before I got/cafe had the wherewithal for a "paycheck." Some customers (I remember who you are) informed me they had been raised not to tip the owner, the inference being if we did our jobs right we'd not need to augment. Humph. I worked really hard albeit I always loved it and it was my gig, so not like working for others in the service industry perhaps but around here the owners are mostly righteous. It is a tough equation and I drop to my knees in gratitude to have landed on my feet and ready to Rise - Up. Here's the position in which I and I suppose we all find ourselves. As far as I know, the minimum wage in CA is level, I know of no tiered system for tipped employees. At my restaurants bartenders and servers make great money in the season and nowadays we don't know when/if there is an "off season." Cafe's been packed since we got the tent.

If our cooks, many of whom have been with me for decades and are raising families, need a living wage of $25 bucks an hour and if that's what we gave them under PPP can we take it back? So, now our cooks do all make that and they do all earn it; it used to be more discrepant between the FOH and the BOH but that's kind of shifted and we don't know where will settle. If you pool tips the recipients are required to pay tax on their shares. That used to suck big time (no one claims their cash tips) BC (Before Covid) but lo and behold, thank you Biden, the next round of UI INCLUDED all of your tips claimed the year before (i.e., everything Plastic which is now most) and THAT'S why everyone was stoked to stay home! Big fat regular checks in the mail.

To sum up: tips never belong to the "house;" they belong to whomever earned them who is then individually liable for the taxes as income; we owners don't participate or include in taxable revenue. This issue sometimes comes up when we host an event; if the gratuity is included in their payment (check or credit card) it becomes taxable income to the establishment. Clear enough?

All that said, general protocol in our area is employees must take responsibility for their tip income which we get to deduct at the end of the year from our taxable sales BUT most do not declare their cash tips, only what has a paper trail. That used to be somewhat obscure but now the processors for all major credit cards report deposits directly to the IRS so nowhere to run/hide.

I could and may write a longer diabtribe about the costs making raising prices mandatory (above and beyond Pay Roll/Tax increases) for most restaurants who purchase quality product; wholesale prices for organic produce & dairy are +27%. There are new fuel surcharges for deliveries and who can blame them since many come on trucks from elsewhere. Which is why I wonder once more: are we growing sufficient food for our needs and we should support those who already are struggling farmers or should we farm for ourselves locally (we have the place to do it)?

Merideth Smith, Owner, Mendocino Café


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Dear Editor,

Nobody ever suggested that Trump was a 'satellite' of Russia.

What was suggested, and rightly so, is that the Russians absolutely did help get Trump elected. Of that there is no question. As I mentioned last week, the collusion between Trump's campaign team and Russia is well documented.

Whether that help was the deciding factor is, perhaps, an open question, but the election was so close (what was it, 17,000 votes spread out over three swing states?) that it didn't take all that much to push him over the top.

What's also obvious is that, as president, Trump gave the Russians whatever the hell they wanted, whether it was attempts to lift sanctions on the Oligarchs or help with Russia's foreign affairs goals.

We don't yet know what Putin had (and still has) on Trump. We do know, and what has been so obvious all these years, is that he somehow, for sure, had/has Trump by the short hairs. My guess is it's all about money laundering but that will take some time to sort out.

Douglas George


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While the US has watched Russia invade Ukraine, since February 24 when President Putin ordered his troops to invade the independent nation, now is the time to do a little more to aid President Zelensky’s forces. We have the option of supplying Ukrainian pilots with aircraft now stationed in Poland and Romania as well as other NATO countries.

What is going on in Ukraine is horrific, inhuman shelling and bombing of civilians. Yesterday, one thousand pound bombs rained down of hospitals, apartments and homes of Ukrainian noncombatants. The war has already produced millions of refugees.

Today eight members of the Congressional bipartisan Armed Services Committee returned from a visit ot the border where terrified women and children have taken refuge. Congresswoman Susan Wilder is calling for the release of these aircraft to the Ukrainian Air Force now. The US can resupply these nations with aircraft.

Frank Baumgardner

Santa Rosa

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For more than two years our neighborhood in the Central Business District has pushed back against the City of Fort Bragg’s efforts towards permitting cannabis dispensaries and other types of cannabis operations within the CBD. What began as a tussle with the City Council over efforts to issue a cannabis permit at 144 N. Franklin Street, has escalated to include a community-wide coalition against such permits. The opposition includes hundreds of anti-cannabis signatures from merchants, property owners, and residents; two voter initiative petitions presently making their way among registered Fort Bragg voters, and a very sour taste over ill-conceived administrative attempts to by-pass due process and totally ignore legitimate residential neighborhood cannabis concerns.

Suddenly it appears our City Council may finally be listening to the serious roar to protect residential neighborhoods shouldering the East side of the Central Business District. This new conversation embraced by most Council members at the February 28th Meeting — would essentially prohibit commercial cannabis dispensaries, nurseries, manufacturing, or distribution from being permitted on the East side of North Franklin Street., including to the Eastern Boundary of the CBD.

This would be achieved either by measured Buffer Zones; or by a unified Exclusionary Zone prohibiting cannabis operations of any kind from the Center Line of North Franklin St., and anywhere East of that Center Line, within the CBD. This more streamlined Exclusionary Zone Option would in turn only allow cannabis permits West of the Franklin St. Center Line.

There are other issues to be ironed out with regard to the proposed West side cannabis applications which subsequently would be permitted (environmental, review, project sizes, etc.). But in the interest of a compromise that promises to respect and protect neighborhood rights, we endorse the East Side of The N. Franklin St. Center Line Cannabis Exclusion Zone Option. And we sincerely hope there are no political ploys designed to blow up this compromise at the last moment, which would undermine the Fort Bragg Planning Commission’s diligent efforts to stand up for neighbors and neighborhoods.

Bill Mann and Susanne Rogers

Fort Bragg

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When planning a landscape for a yard, one might consider mulch instead of rocks. Birds can forage for food in mulch, but not in rocks. In my yard, I used mulch without sheets of plastic and planted drought-tolerant plants and ground cover. I enjoy seeing birds in my yard and am pleased knowing that I am supplying them with food. As for weeds, if they are picked before they flower and go to seed, there will be less of them each year. There is a trend to cover entire landscapes with pavers, fake grass, and/or rocks over plastic. This will result in repelling birds and creating soil that is not alive.

Lynn Hoyle

Santa Rosa

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Any teachers who strike for higher salaries will have my support as an ex-teacher. In a March 2018 letter to the editor, I wrote about teacher salaries and how abysmal they were. Seems it hasn’t changed much since then.

The past two years have been difficult for teachers and students. Teaching and learning via Zoom couldn’t have been easy. It’s time for school districts to recognize that teachers are important employees and deserve salaries that allow them to live decently.

A single teacher who makes the salary given now would have a difficult time, considering the cost of housing, gas, food, etc. Teaching is not an easy job now due to many outside situations, or should I say dangers? It is beyond time that school districts give teachers what they deserve for doing a very important job.

Linda Elliott


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Build Back Better. Does anyone truly believe that? Gas prices are over $5 a gallon and on their way to $7-plus. Food prices have become an obscene joke — just look at the discount prices at Costco. Unless you are an American passport holder the southern border is only a line on a map. Joe Biden’s stern warning to Vladimir Putin has sure made it better for Ukrainians or, wait, was that Iranians? Old Joe’s just a little confused about who Putin is burning alive. But he is going to hold somebody accountable.

Frank Sanderson


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I never thought I could affiliate or side with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, but the photo in the March 4 business section of the Press Democrat showing large pigs in Iowa literally stuffed inside pens with no room to turn around, much less move sideways, was sad and shocking. When one sees that photo, the storyline and content become miniscule. I thought the size of pens had been changed for all animals, not just chickens.

Audrey J. Chapman


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Will you also be ordering flags of Palestine, Yemen, Somalia, Haiti, Cuba, Sudan, etc? The hypocrisy is breathtaking. 

Bill Pilgrim, On Line Comment

ED REPLY: I’ve got a Palestinian flag somewhere; maybe you could lend me the rest of them. But your point is? Let me guess: NATO forced Putin to invade Ukraine and NATO is a creation of the Evil Empire. Fleshing out Pilgrim-think here, shared by many of the under-informed, safe and comfy far from the bombs and the refugees. Their presumption is that NATO was a compulsory creation of the U.S. to contain the old Soviet Union and continued to be a creature of American imperialism after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in its last days presided over by a pair of unpredictable drunks, Brezhnev and Yeltsin, and finally by Gorbachev as the whole show collapsed of its own dysfunction. Nobody in Eastern Europe wanted Russia under Putin. As Putin assumed control of Russia, he described the fall of the Soviet Union as a great tragedy, an opinion not widely shared, and went on to create a gangster kleptocracy, sponsoring today's Russian oligarchs who ripped off whole Russian industries while making Putin one of the wealthiest individuals in the world. Putin signed off on the deal with Ukraine as it became independent to de-nuke. In return for de-nuking, Putin promised Ukraine he would leave Ukraine alone. The former Soviet satellite countries Putin hasn't already picked off, such as Belarus, joined NATO because they prefer The Mall to being mauled. The brutal invasion of Ukraine by Putin and his gangster state, which seems headed for a nuclear exchange between him and NATO, which of course includes US, but nothing, no history, no nothing, nada, justifies Putin's invasion, which now threatens the entire globe.

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In recent weeks, there have been dueling columns in the Fort Bragg Advocate-News between some members of the Fort Bragg City Council and Mendocino Railway, which operates the iconic Skunk Train. The primary reason is city leaders will not meet with us to discuss the future of the former Georgia-Pacific mill site.

It’s time for city leaders to abandon an unwarranted lawsuit and replace the saber-rattling with productive dialogue. The current political discourse could discourage private investment, leading the land to remain fallow, as it has for decades.

With the closing of the mill in 2002, there came the opportunity to repurpose the land. For nearly 20 years nothing was done with this premium property until Mendocino Railway purchased the northern portion of the waterfront property. Recognizing the potential of the land and value to the community, Mendocino Railway wasted no time to release a conceptual land use plan, even before acquiring the balance of the property to the south. The project will conform to environmental laws and local building standards, and environmental remediation will continue to remove toxins from the former mill site.

Like any large land-use project, it requires significant private investment and considerable public input, and our company is uniquely positioned to provide both. The conceptual plan will evolve as the project attracts interest from potential development partners and from those who live and work in Fort Bragg. The public is invited to join our collaborative process, not by riding the caboose, but by helping us drive the train.

There is also a real opportunity to transition the community from one that was once dependent on one major employer for jobs and tax revenue to another that is economically diverse and sustainable. While portions of the property will build upon the area’s strong and vibrant hospitality and tourism industry, it has even greater potential to attract high-paying jobs in the areas of technology, green energy, and medical/healthcare.

There are also public benefits to consider, many of which will appeal to residents and visitors alike, including new housing and public access to the beaches, parks, and trails, all the while ensuring that portions of the land is protected as open space for wildlife. Some have proposed a golf course or outdoor amphitheater. While the possibilities are endless, connectivity is important for this waterfront property. Additional train stations and rails could connect visitors and residents from Main Street to work and home, hotels and restaurants, and all the public amenities the property has to offer.

Unfortunately, while the court considers the city’s lawsuit, Fort Bragg City Council members are lobbying federal authorities to deny the railway a loan that is intended to improve and enhance existing railroad infrastructure along the 40-mile Redwood Route™ including refurbishments to Tunnel #1, which would restore the severed connection between the communities of Willits and Fort Bragg. Should the $21.5 million loan be granted, millions of dollars in labor and material will be invested in the region. Ironically, the loan has no connection to the mill site project. However, it is critically important for sustaining the railway’s operations and its ability to attract visitor dollars to both communities. We sincerely hope the city and those they encouraged to do the same withdraw their objections before it is too late.

Working together with the Fort Bragg community we can grow the local economy by increasing visitor spending for existing and future businesses, create quality jobs and expand waterfront access and outdoor activities that appeal to residents and visitors alike. Despite the past interaction we sincerely desire a better relationship with the Fort Bragg City Council. It is time for Mendocino Railway and the city’s leaders to get on the same track, moving towards a more promising future together. We are prepared to meet.

Robert Jason Pinoli, Mendocino Railway

Fort Bragg

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