DEPARTMENT OF UNINTENTIONAL HILARITY. Or your pathos files, depending. Dipping into the depleted coffers of bed tax revenues, the City of Ukiah paid a Walnut Creek outfit called Z Group Communications $21,000 to come up with a logo and slogan to attract visitors to the Paris of Inland Mendocino County. John Arend of Z Group managed to come up with a blandly corporate logo but inadvertently hilarious slogan that he says captures the “essence of Ukiah.” Brace yourselves, this is what Arend came up with for $21k: “Ukiah: Far out. Nearby.”
AREND told the City Council that he'd surveyed some 100 “well-connected” Ukiahans from whom he'd deduced, “You guys are edgy — you're cool.” (For another $21 thou I'm sure he'd have said that Willits is like a week in the luxury suite at the Fairmont.) Arend went on to say that Ukiah “evokes an image of fun and intrigue.” Intrigue? Fun? Stop a random citizen of any far-flung County community and ask, “I'm going to Ukiah today. Want to come along?” You wouldn't get an answer: you'd get incredulous looks and despairing groans. If locals regard a trip to Ukiah with dread and trepidation, how are you going to persuade auslanders to deliberately visit the place?
A FEW SPOILSPORTS immediately complained that one of the proposed logos (not yet widely available for public review) put too much emphasis on wine while others kvetched that “far out” evokes the long gone days of full-tilt Hippie, and golly, we certainly don't want to celebrate that ancient horror, although scratch a County official, a well-paid public employee, a superior court judge and there he is — The Great Shaggy Beast of yesteryear and his Topless Tootsie.
HMMM. Now that I think about it, maybe Ukiah could cash in on the outlaw pasts of its leading citizens. Maybe, just maybe, Ukiah really could be marketed as “intriguing,” perhaps in a slogan along the lines of, “Ukiah: It's Not What It Seems.” Or, “Ukiah: Land of the Instant Makeover.” Or, “Ukiah: Where History Starts All Over Again Every Morning.”
UKIAH'S own native genius, Tommy Wayne Kramer, could surely come up with something far more evocative of the Ukiah vibe, and he'd do it for a six-pack of Pabsts.
ALL THIS IS GREAT FUNZIES, but sad, too, because the $21,000 and the thinking behind it assumes that if the Winnebago caravans and the cool people who now spend crowded wine weekends in Napa only knew that Ukiah was “edgy and cool,” our County seat would soon be teeming with awe-struck visitors. But…
BUT MENDOCINO COUNTY, for visitors, is the Mendocino Coast. Period. And it already draws lots of visitors. Inland Mendocino County has the great beauty of unvisited Covelo and the Mendocino National Forest, and there are innumerable beauty spots in the hills above even Mendocino County's dreariest towns, specifically Ukiah and Willits, but they're all private property. Covelo is not for everyone, but it does boast one of America's most exciting bars, and the Mendocino National Forest is presently occupied by industrial scale outdoor marijuana grows, but not every tourist is a candy-arsed chardonnay sipping silly. No, sir, some people relish the thrills and chills of true adventure.
GETTING BACK to Haiku Backwards, the town has a half-dozen restaurants that serve edible food, and it has the Grace Hudson Museum, delusional as that institution is considered as history, with the talented old girl's depictions of the happy papooses she rendered in the wake of a war of extermination against the papoose's grandparents. There are three truly excellent bookstores that might attract the passing print dinosaur, and there's the Held-Poage historical archive, which is Mendo-centric and hardly a tourist draw. That's it. No tourist in his right mind would ever make Ukiah an intentional destination.
AS A LONG-TIME resident of Groovy County, if I were thinking of spending some time here, I'd head for either Fort Bragg or Covelo. Fort Bragg is more for the sedentary, which most tourists seem to be, but it's a coherent, attractive little town — easily the most attractive between Santa Cruz (which isn't attractive), and Port Townsend in the state of Washington, which is, but it rains in Port Townsend all the time. The entire coast of Oregon, except for Astoria, is like seaside versions of Ukiah and Willits. Fort Bragg has nice weather year-round, some very good little restaurants and with huge amenities which include its Cannery Row-like harbor, an old logging road that runs for several miles along the Pacific, acres of hidden little beaches, a first-rate botanical garden. And, as you travel north to Fort Bragg, you've got a majorly seductive pit stop in the Anderson Valley, replete with good food, free tasting room booze, virgin redwood groves and, for the discriminating, America's last newspaper. Gualala, Point Arena and even Elk (if you're inclined to purple-think, all have their attractions. Ukiah, sad to say, really has nothing going for it.
A READER WRITES: “I just saw in the UDJ the feds asking for the zip-tie records (and maybe the names and addresses of all the people in the County program.) This is turning into a helluva big story. Exciting times. It is ALL everyone is talking about. And today's Beacon alludes to more warrants and more arrests coming and says the Mendo folks will have their trials in Kansas so they are really tied into the Kansas bunch and all those counts. Their California attorneys will have to have reciprocity with Kansas to represent them there or they will have to hire even more lawyers. I am sure they all have their cash deposited in what I call the Redwood Bank, in other words buried. Pot money has a very earthy odor.”
THE FOLLOWING is a press release from Fort Bragg City Manager, Linda Ruffing: “The City of Fort Bragg has been pulled into a complicated lawsuit that was initiated in June when Georgia-Pacific LLC (“G-P”) filed a complaint in US District Court against OfficeMax Incorporated and Boise Cascade, LLC seeking recovery of response costs that G-P has incurred and will continue to incur relating to the ongoing clean-up of G-P's 415-acre former timber mill site (“Mill Site”) in Fort Bragg. Operations on the mill site were established by the Union Lumber Company in 1885. In 1968, the Union Lumber Company merged with Boise Cascade Corporation who then sold the mill site to G-P in 1973. Boise Cascade Corporation changed its name to OfficeMax in 2004, at which time Boise Cascade LLC acquired the forest products and paper assets of OfficeMax. As former owners and operators of the site, OfficeMax and Boise Cascade LLC may be liable for a portion of the site cleanup pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Contamination and Liability Act (“CERCLA”). The court filing indicates that, as of Dec. 31, 2011, G-P had expended approximately $31,400,000 in site investigation and clean-up costs at the mill site, and significant future costs are anticipated. In late summer, the City received a Claim for Damages from OfficeMax and Boise Cascade LLC alleging that the City's current and historical stormwater system conveys significant quantities of toxic substances onto the G-P mill site. The complaint asserts that the City is liable to contribute to and reimburse OfficeMax and Boise Cascade LLC for damages and costs. The City rejected the claim and on Nov. 8, the court granted a motion by OfficeMax and Boise Cascade LLC to bring both the City and Louisiana-Pacific Corporation into the G-P v. OfficeMax litigation as third-party defendants. According to Fort Bragg Mayor Dave Turner, ‘The City is prepared to mount the strongest possible defense to save taxpayers from footing any part of the bill for clean-up of the mill site property. After more than a century of industrial operations on the property, it is disappointing that the former property owners have pulled the City into what is likely to be a time-consuming and costly legal battle.’ Inquiries with regard to this press release should be directed to City Manager Linda Ruffing at LRuffing@fortbragg.com or 961-2823, ext. 118.”
DA DAVID EYSTER has announced that career bank robber Frederick Joseph Orlando, 55, formerly of Magalia in Butte County, was sentenced Wednesday morning in the Mendocino County Superior Court to 45 years to life in state prison. He was also fined $5,000. On Aug. 23, Orlando and his son-in-law traveled to the Mendocino County coast to rob the Redwood Credit Union in Point Arena. Orlando had previously researched banks in rural settings where he believed there would be little or no law enforcement and few customers to interfere with a robbery, and he believed Point Arena fit that description. Dressed all in black, Orlando burst into the bank, threatened tellers and credit union customers with a loaded handgun, herded the people into a back room, and then with stolen money in hand attempted a getaway in a car over unimproved Fish Rock Road. Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy Luis Espinoza, responding from the east, and California Highway Patrol officer Terry Solomon, pursuing from the west, blocked Orlando's escape, took him into custody and recovered the stolen money. According to District Attorney David Eyster, who prosecuted the case, Orlando had previously served over 11 years in a federal penitentiary after being convicted in 1990 of four bank robberies in Southern California. He has also served three prior state prison commitments, one for residential burglary and two for drug possession. Orlando was charged and prosecuted under California's Three Strikes laws because, according to Eyster, "this guy poses an extreme threat to public safety." In addressing the court during the sentencing hearing, Orlando apologized to the customers and employees of the credit union, and to his family for the embarrassment he has caused, especially to his grandchildren, and to the people of Mendocino County for the resources spent on prosecuting him. But Orlando also noted that he did what he did because he felt wronged by prior financial dealings with unnamed banks. After sentencing Orlando, Judge Behnke directly addressed the defendant and told him that no matter what Orlando's feelings were toward banks in general, the judge said he was absolutely certain that the people, customers and credit union employees in Point Arena had never done Orlando wrong and to victimize them in this manner could never by justified, an admonishment which Orlando agreed with.
The co-defendant, Raymon Jesus Ojeda, 40, of Pico Rivera, also pleaded guilty to bank robbery and a gun allegation Monday.
Eyster had alleged that Ojeda acted as a lookout at the front door of the credit union and tried unsuccessfully to stop one customer from fleeing when that customer realized he was caught in the middle of an armed robbery.
Ojeda will appear for his sentencing on Dec. 28, and can receive a sentence of up to six years in state prison, according to Eyster.
DEAR FOLKS at Mendocino Courts: I'm appalled to learned that our local court, the Ten Mile Justice Court, is due to be closed or greatly reduced. This is a great burden and disservice to residents of our coastal communities. There is no timely public transport from the coast inland, as you surely know, and even if there were, the difficulties of travelling over the hill for older people, and those who are disabled or poor, are massive. I myself am 79 years old, and most of those who I consider friends and neighbors are elders. It's a struggle some days even to drive into town, or from Fort Bragg to Mendocino. Please consider all Coastal residents, even those who are not young, affluent, or energetic. I beg you to continue full service of Ten Mile Justice Court. Thank you for your attention — Adrienne Ross, Fort Bragg
MENDO VETERANS AT WAR, by Mark Scaramella
Stacey Cryer was wearing her psychic flak jacket as the Supervisors met to discuss the use of the County’s veterans facilities on November 6. Ms. Cryer, the amenable director of Mendocino County's Health and Human Services Director, had been tasked to work out an agreement between two warring groups of local veterans. On one side are the traditional Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion composed entirely of retired members of the various military services; the other, Veterans for Peace, is composed of several bona fide veterans and a small number of local peace activists.
The VFW/American Legion doesn't want to share the Ukiah Vet's hall with Veterans for Peace. The inland chapter of the VFW regards Veterans for Peace as a gang of subversives, while Veterans for Peace regards the VFW as, well, pick your pejorative beginning with warmongers, work through White House dupes and on down to Fox News Zombies.
Ms. Cryer was charged with working out a ceasefire but, essentially, had been shot down.
She said she had not brought back a recommended policy as she was directed to do in back February of 2011 because, basically, there exists a state of intransigence on both sides of the dispute. Veterans for Peace say that they have a right to use the VFW's facilities at a reasonable rent, the VFW says No, they don't because Veterans for Peace isn't a veteran's organization in the congressionally recognized sense the VFW is.
The embattled Ms. Cryer suggested an ad hoc committee of the Board be formed to try to resolve the impasse between the two groups. She brandished a thick binder of background material which she said could be used as negotiation starters by an ad hoc committee of Supervisors.
Board Chair John McCowen said that before she resigned, former Assistant Health and Human Services Director Karen Wandrei had tried to assemble a draft policy. “Unfortunately there wasn’t agreement among the different parties who would like to use the building,” said McCowen. “But most of the basic outline was worked out.”
Cryer: “We worked out a lot of what needed to be done. Some of the bigger questions were, who will be sure the room was clean and ready for the next user? General Services doesn’t have the staffing. Who could actually facilitate some of the processes? That’s still open. And the big issue is who gets to use the building? There’s been lots of conversation about whether the Veterans For Peace should be allowed to use it. There’s some discretionary users — can the Boy Scouts use it? Can they not use it? Those kinds of questions — but it’s still not resolved between the veterans and the other organizations.”
Carl Stenberg, former County Veterans Service Officer, said he was proud of all veterans no matter what their affiliation and that they should all try to get along and respect one another and the country they served. Stenberg told the Board that he had prepared a revised and updated policy before he retired in August of 2011. “It’s now a year and a half later and nothing’s been done,” he complained. “We hashed out the rules piece by piece, word by word. But it didn’t get to the Board. Lots of time and money was spent on them, but in the end there was not much original thought.”
Stenberg agreed that maybe an ad hoc committee of Supervisors John McCowen and John Pinches would help, adding that they could probably arrange for a hired company to do the cleaning if the fees were set properly.
Then several older veterans came forward, most of whom complained about the Veterans For Peace (VFP) organization with varying degrees of outrage.
Robert Ireland, Vice Commander of the American Legion Post in Willits said VFP was “a fraud seeking unfair advantage.” “They don’t have congressional recognition [as a veterans organization] and they are attempting to gain through fraud what they can’t get legally. … They just added the word ‘veterans’ to their corporate title. They demand status as a veterans organization but their own documents state they are other than a veterans organization. They are trying to obtain personal gain that they are not entitled to. Veterans For Peace is an educational organization, not a veterans organization, and they will be opposed. It’s simple. It’s not about use; it’s just that they should pay the same price as any non-veterans organization. No backdoors. No cheating. Do it the right way.”
Several less hyperbolic vets said they just wanted to get the rules resolved one way or the other and encouraged the board to move on them as soon as possible.
Veterans For Peace member Jamie Connerton pointed out that he understands the group is not congressionally recognized as a veterans organization, “but I’m not fond of being called a fraud or a cheater.” He agreed an ad hoc committee was a good idea and he thought common ground was possible.
Disabled vet Sanderson Hill was wearing a VFP shirt, but said he was a lifetime member of Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and had been wounded in Laos during the Vietnam War. “We have money for bullets and bombs, but not for those who suffer from injuries,” said Hill. “To be denied veteran status is unfortunate. Some of the things that were said here are petulant and irresponsible, divisive and derisive. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t happen. I respect these vets for their service.”
Hill concluded by saying that it was “vital and crucial” that they put the facilities dispute behind them and show respect for each other.
Robert Parker, a senior staffer in the County’s Transportation Department, said he was a member of the Redwood Valley Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the Ukiah American Legion chapter. “We participated in many different meetings to hash out the proposed changes to the rules and regs,” barked Parker, waving what he said were “copies of what we recommend as changes,” adding that “some are controversial. But it’s up to the Board to decide, to say which they disagree with and then hash it out. As far as not inviting the VFP to participate, there’s a lot of people we didn’t invite to participate. We didn’t invite the usual users of the building, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts. We didn’t invite the Black Panthers. We didn’t invite the Klu Klux Klan. Okay?”
Someone in the audience objected: “Excuse me, that’s a…”
Parker waved off the objection, and moved into even higher dudgeon. “No! Nevermind! I tell you what! We don’t need to be enlightened by the VFP on how to march in the parade with the flag upside-down; or how to try to impeach the president. Etc. Awright? If you board members think that we’re going reach out in brotherhood—”
Chair McCowen: “Speak to the item please.”
Parker: “I am, sir.”
Chair McCowen: “Well, the item is if we’re going to form an ad hoc or not.”
Parker: “I’m trying to convey the attitude, the stance, of the veterans organizations, the recognized veterans organizations. Not the ones that claim to be an educational organization. Or in actuality, a political organization. You have our recommendations. There’s no need to pursue an ad hoc committee. You can say yes or no or change some modifications.”
Parker's argument seemed to be that he didn't care who used the facility so long as they paid full price.
Lame duck Supervisor Kendall Smith, on task for once, summarized what the real issues were that the ad hoc committee should deal with as suggested by Ms. Wandrei: the fee schedule, the underutilization of the building, collection and accounting for fees, and cleaning and maintenance responsibilities and costs. “The big one is the conflict with VFP,” added Smith. “The VFP does not meet the legal definition of a veteran's group. But they have the right to use the facility. There’s just the question of whether they should use it for free, at discounted or at regular rates. These can be decided here. Staff can just bring forward options.”
Mr. Stenberg returned to the podium to point out that his revisions and updates suggested that the VFP would pay the regular rate, $500 per day which, he said, is normal for large halls. Plus a $500 cleaning deposit, up from its present $100. Perhaps signaling what a compromise would entail, Stenberg added that the VFP could be charged at the non-profit rate but there would still be the question of who gets to decide who gets priority when schedule conflicts arise. Stenberg said the recognized vets organizations should receive preference most of the time.
After some confused back and forth about which regs were the current regs and which were the proposed modifications, Supervisor Pinches observed, “I came into this thinking I wouldn’t support an ad hoc committee, but now I support it and they can come back with recommendations. In the 60s I hated Jane Fonda. Now I’m in my 60s I think she’s one of my favorite actresses. So I don’t know, people change. Let’s give this a try. Even non-vets have families that have been in the service. Without vets we wouldn’t even have a country. This has dragged on too long.”
(The two veterans at this newspaper regarded Jane Fonda as a frivolous dingbat in 1967 and regard her as even more of a frivolous dingbat in 2012.)
Supervisor Smith moved to appoint Pinches and McCowen to an ad hoc committee.
Pinches: “I have a conflict. I’m a veteran.”
Supervisor Dan Hamburg quipped: “Some of my best friends are veterans.”
Pinches' “conflict” disappeared. He and McCowen will be the ad hoc mediators.
The vote to name the pair as an ad hoc committee was unanimous. McCowen said he planned to begin the peace process by hold meetings of veterans both inland and on the coast.
MENDOCINO COUNTY THANKSGIVING TURKEYS, Thanksgiving 2012: