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Mendocino County Today: November 25, 2012

I THINK I HAVE AN IDEA how to help with Fort Bragg's request “for the public's help in identifying potential illegal or unsafe marijuana-growing operations in the city.” Get search warrants for half the town's structures. If the dope's not there it's next door.

THE FBPD and the city's code enforcement staff have, over the recent past, found a number of outlaw grows within the city limits characterized by “shoddy and overloaded electrical wiring which has resulted in structure fires which damaged property and put occupants, neighbors and public safety workers at risk.”

FORT BRAGG, in 2009, attempted its own guidelines for weed production: It is illegal in Fort Bragg to grow marijuana for sale or for recreational use; outdoor cultivation is prohibited and indoor cultivation is strictly limited; medical marijuana cannot be grown in a rental unit unless the tenant has the property owner's written permission; there must be no evidence of marijuana cultivation visible from the street; no more than 50-square-feet of floor area may be used for cultivation; cultivation is not permitted in the kitchen, bathroom or primary bedrooms of a residence (hence several busts that found grows in the kids' bedrooms; grow-lights cannot exceed 1200 watts total and all electrical wiring must be installed and permitted in accordance with applicable building codes.

LET’S PUT IT THIS WAY: Fort Bragg's regs have not been widely adhered to.

REACH Medical Holdings, the Santa Rosa-based air ambulance service with operations in three western states, has been sold to Bain Capital. Next time you're airlifted out of some deep outback locale, know that you're in good hands with Mitt.

REACH was founded in 1987 by Santa Rosa Dr. John McDonald who realized lots of people were living in the boondocks, and if every muffin living on every hill between The Rose City and Laytonville bought a membership — not to mention the wealthier muffs with insurance — well, there was money to be made, lots of it.

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LARRY HAGMAN, RIP. By Jan Tucker

To understand the mostly private political viewpoint of Larry Hagman, a longtime member of the California Peace & Freedom Party, you first have to look at the context of his mother’s career. Mary Martin won Tony Awards for her Broadway appearances in South Pacific and Sound of Music.  Look at the times and the themes:  an attack on racism where she risked getting blacklisted and an explicitly anti-fascist movie.

The play was based upon James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific.  Michener was a principled liberal and later served as Bucks County Pennsylvania Chairman of John Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1960.  When Kennedy won the state, Michener was Secretary to the Pennsylvania College of Electors convention.  When Mary Martin starred in the role of Nellie Forbush in 1949, it was not exactly without controversy, as explained in the Wikipedia Article:

“The musical explores the theme of racial prejudice in several ways. Nellie struggles to accept Emile’s mixed-race children. Another American serviceman, Lieutenant Cable, struggles with the prejudice that he would face if he were to marry an Asian woman. His song about this, ‘You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught,’ was criticized as too controversial for the musical stage and called indecent and pro-communist. While the show was on a tour of the Southern United States, lawmakers in Georgia introduced a bill outlawing any entertainment containing ‘an underlying philosophy inspired by Moscow.’ One legislator said that ‘a song justifying interracial marriage was implicitly a threat to the American way of life.’ Rodgers and Hammerstein defended their work strongly. James Michener recalled, ‘The authors replied stubbornly that this number represented why they had wanted to do this play, and that even if it meant the failure of the production, it was going to stay in.’

Now, here’s the song Wikipedia references, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught–”

You’ve got to be taught
 / To hate and fear,
 / You’ve got to be taught / 
From year to year,
 / It’s got to be drummed
 / In your dear little ear
 / You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid / 
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
 / And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
 / You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
 / Before you are six or seven or eight,
 / To hate all the people your relatives hate,
 / You’ve got to be carefully taught!

Larry Hagman joined many literary and entertainment industry members in joining the Peace & Freedom Party when it qualified for the ballot in 1967 in California. Amongst others, California PFP members included: Ray Bradbury, Jan Michael Vincent, John Saxon, Wally Cox, James Coburn, Berton Schneider (Producer of Hearts & Minds), George Clayton Johnson (Screenwriter of the second most “Twilight Zone” series after Rod Serling), Barbara Eden (used to throw Black Panther fundraisers with Larry at her pad), Biff Rose (Comedian), Al Lewis (Grandpa Munster, later Green Party gubernatorial candidate in New York), Jorma Ludwik Kaukonen Jr. (Guitarist of Jefferson Airplane fame), Calypso Joe (former Vaudevillian turned Anti-Vietnam War activist “General Hershey Bar”)

Apparently afraid that he could risk blacklisting like his mother while portraying J.R. Ewing in the original Dallas series and basking in the popularity of the role that spawned “J.R. For President” bumper stickers throughout America, Hagman re-registered for a time as a Republican. Later he re-joined the Peace & Freedom Party with his fame and fortune established to a point where he didn’t have to worry.

Anyway, with his death on Friday, the real Larry Hagman, the lifelong radical, will be missed by me, while others will be missing the J.R. Ewing that he really wasn’t.

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AT ITS November 13th meeting, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors endured about two hours of mind-numbing opinion from actuaries and consultants and staff about adding a new retirement tier for new hires. Fresh County workers won't get the attractive retirement bennies of yesteryear's employees, but… But after two hours: let’s not do it this year; it’s too much work for the over-burdened County Auditor’s staff.

THE MOST LIKELY outcome will be that the County will have to follow a new state pension austerity law called PEPRA, meaning the Supes will be able to deflect anger at the new benefits schedule to Sacramento. In any case, it won’t kick in for at least 15 years when the new hires start shuffling off. The only Supervisor to regard the discussion as a learning experience was John Pinches who declared, “Now I know the difference between a fortune teller and an actuary.”

THE SUPES then got down to serious business. Does marijuana stink? Does its distinctive odor also represent air pollution?

Rose

MR. J.R. ROSE, a frequent commenter, mostly on what he describes as “senior issues,” during the Board’s always entertaining open mike, er “public expression,” was apparently provoked by the sight of Air Quality's Chris Brown at the dais where Brown was reporting to the Board that, thanks to his unsleeping vigilance, Mendocino County's air quality is as good as the day God breathed it into being. Mr. Rose begged to differ. He wanted to know why so little is being done about the smell of marijuana in Mendocino County. “I have made numerous complaints about the smell of marijuana. This has been an ongoing thing for over two years,” Mr. Rose said. “I don't know about Anderson Valley, but this is a thing that's completely throughout Mendocino County.”

(IN ANDERSON VALLEY we call it the smell of cash.)

“MY MAIN CONCERN is that we are still in the same situation that we were a few years ago regarding air-quality with marijuana. I think that marijuana is against the federal law to grow. I think that people should not have to smell it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I think when it's brought to the proper authorities, and like you said it should be brought to the Board of Supervisors, but I have brought it to the proper authorities, not only Air Quality but I've also brought it to the Sheriff's department. But when laws are not enforced — we have lots of laws that are not enforced — but when they affect the capability — I never had a headache in my life until last year and for 24 hours a day, seven days a week I smelled marijuana and I had extreme headaches. This year I didn't have a headache almost into October. But then it started again! And it's back to exactly the same place it was the year before and when I brought it to the proper authorities I get the same situation. I get people calling me from your district, Supervisor Brown, I get people calling me from John Pinches’ district. I don't have anybody calling from Supervisor Hamburg's district. I guess they don't know about me over there in Anderson Valley and places, but people were calling me and they were worried about the air quality in these valleys. From Round Valley to Potter Valley, Redwood Valley, even people here in this city. The point is I think something needs to be done and if it's going to be air-quality then give us air-quality. I think you are in the position, you're his boss and I think you are in a position to help stop this smell.”

IF EVER A MAN needed a medical marijuana prescription…

SUPERVISOR McCOWEN: “I have invited you before. Don't wait until October; give me a call earlier. I think you have my number anyway.”

Rose: “I have your number.”

McCowen: “Give me a call earlier in the year [pointing] and I will work with you.”

Rose: “I take it to the authorities to whom you divest the part to. I take it to the people that are supposed to enforce it. It is not your job to enforce the law.”

McCowen: “No, but I—”

Rose: “But it's your job to know that when it is not being enforced to see if you can do anything about it. And I don't need to be dressed down when I'm walking away when I bring it to your attention.”

McCowen: “I'm not dressing you down, Mr. Rose. I'm giving you an invitation. No, it is not my responsibility to go out and make the enforcement, but I actually can ask questions. So again, if you want to be effective, there is an open invitation, give me a call, but please don't wait until October.”

Rose: “Well, that's when the smell is overwhelming. I can't make a call — if you want to know about marijuana, roll your windows down and drive down the middle of State Street, or drive any places, and don't turn your air conditioner on and you can smell exactly what I smell.”

McCowen: “We are not unaware of the issue.”

Supervisor John Pinches: “Can we direct our Air Pollution Control Office to develop marijuana plants that don't smell?”

Supervisor Dan Hamburg: “It has something to do with GMOs, Johnny.”

McCowen: “Some of the horticulturalists are working on that. But seriously, while we have you here, Mr. Brown, I do know that for eight or ten years at least, we have received a significant number of complaints regarding the odor of marijuana and maybe just for the benefit of the public you could explain what protocols you follow when you receive a complaint and some of the challenges that you might encounter in verifying a complaint and then what actions you are able to take as the air pollution control officer.”

Brown: “First of all, complaints are anonymous. Just like if you call the Sheriff or you call code enforcement or environmental health, any time you call any of those agencies the complaint is anonymous so it's confidential as we say, your name is not going to be released, it's not going to be put in the public record in any way, shape or form barring a court order. The most common problem— I'd say complaints are actually down. I'm not sure if it's because people are less bothered by it, but I think they are calling other agencies at this point. As particularly with 9.31 and when 9.31 was changed and then changed back and the variations there, compared to how complaints used to be for example in the city of Ukiah which went to a no outdoor cultivation at all ordinance and the city of Willits we received virtually no complaints from those entities. We also receive virtually no complaints on the entire coastal strip. It's basically an inland situation, I think that has to do with the temperature. I know there is cultivation going on in those areas, we just don't hear about it. A lot of times we go into an area following after we receive a complaint, we dispatch an inspector out there, we try to go out there at the time of day when things are said to be the worst and what we encounter is a pervasive odor that covers the neighborhood and when you dig a little deeper you find three, four, five grows. In that situation I have very few enforcement tools because we need to have an identifiable source and when we have neighborhoods with multiple grows, areas on Brooktrails, areas in Redwood Valley, it's very difficult for us to say that's the source of the odor. In a case where I can say that is the source of the odor it needs to rise to the level of being what's called a public nuisance. Your counsel can give you a ton of information probably about the difference between a public and a private nuisance. But most of the time the complaints we receive are private nuisances. I can't sleep in my house. It bothers me. And we don't receive five, ten, fifteen complaints from surrounding neighbors. So at that point the option is for the individual to proceed however they want to proceed with the private nuisance which can be through civil action of their own. If it does rise to the level of a public nuisance I have the option to go to my hearing board and get an abatement order in fairly quick order and that would be enforced by the Sheriff's Department. Basically, we have never had to do this, at one point we got to the point of issuing an abatement order when the person voluntarily harvested early to resolve the issue. But we do have that authority, the power lies with the hearing board to resolve that issue and I think my hearing board would be willing to do that if it rose to that level. But it is the single most difficult thing because it is so pervasive that you just can't do it and we do see situations where people are growing, you know, in violation of 9.31, they are growing too close to a fence line, they are growing their school, they're growing near a bus stop, they are growing near a church, and we refer those over either to county code enforcement or to the Sheriff's office and that's gone back and forth. The Air District does not enforce 9.31; that is a county ordinance, that's for the county to enforce however they choose to do it. I have discussed the issue with Mr. Dunnicliff [County Planning & Building Director] via e-mail and with the Sheriff's office to see if we can streamline the process and I think we're working a little bit on that.”

McCowen: “I think better notification of the public of what the restrictions are because they can be effective tools if they are properly enforced, but it's important to have the public, law enforcement, and anyone else who might be dealing with this to be aware of just what the specific requirements are and they won't address every issue but they certainly will address hopefully some of the worst ones.”

[It's always fun to watch a politician retreat from a direct statement — “they certainly will” — to mushy terms like “hopefully” and “some of the worst ones,” as they realize in mid-sentence that nothing is even close to “certain.”]

Brown: “Yes, air quality regulations were written for what we call smokestacks where you can turn and you can say that smokestack with the brown plume, that's the source of what's bothering people. And when you get to these more residential, I call them retail level problems, our rules don't have the same tools. Clearly, when you can measure from a fence line and a property line and say you are too close, that's a black-and-white issue, that's a lot easier to enforce, but that's not in our realm.”

McCowen: “Maybe we should put it in your realm.”

Brown: “I have enough in my realm.”

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