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Mendocino County Today: December 1, 2012

IT'S OFFICIAL! Ukiah is far out and nearby, the $21,000 slogan created by a consultant in Walnut Creek. The “Visit Ukiah Task Force” has given the controversial slogan the official Ukiah stamp of approval, in spite of a mostly negative reaction from the Ukiah public. The matter will now do a fast fade into Ho-Hum obscurity because it will take more than a slogan and a blandly corporate logo to lure tourists to Ukiah. “Far out. Nearby.”

MASS OPPOSITION to any reduction in Ten Mile Court's operations seemed to have convinced the eight Solomons of the Ukiah-based Mendocino County Superior Court that they themselves might be massively opposed. There was talk of recall if Ten Mile was closed or its hours reduced with a view to closing. As one prominent Coastie put it, “We'll recall all eight of them. Would a recall succeed? Probably not, but it would embarrass the hell out of them and get a lot of attention in the outside world.”

DEIRDRA LAMB WRITES: “Hi Everyone, It was a very packed Town Hall meeting tonight regarding downsizing our 10 Mile Courthouse which would certainly lead to a closure, and thank you to all of you who sent letters and made comments on the website, our local courthouse has been saved! Judge Henderson made a display of budget cutbacks on a power point, then surprised the standing room only crowd with the admission that “On this decision, we stubbed our toe. We never imagined the Coastal people would come forth in the sheer numbers, and we listened. We have decided not to make any cutbacks on the 10 Mile District court.” There were many speeches from public servants, including Sheriff Tom Allman who had a good idea to set up video arraignments from the jail to save money, and thanks to the community from Chief of Police Mayberry, some good speeches from the www.saveourcoastalcourt.com alliance reps Carter Sears and Steve Antler, Supervisors Dan Hamburg and Kendall Smith, and mayor Dave Turner who estimated it would cost the City of Fort Bragg about $180,000 a year in police staffing and travel if the court was moved to Ukiah. There was a very moving speech from the Chief of Police in Willits who said he had no idea the impact would be so hard when they closed the courthouse in Willits, he often has two or three officers in traffic court in Ukiah and is so short on staff he himself has to go on the street and is short staffed. He said he wished he had a crowd like we have here on the Mendocino Coast when they met back when before the court was closed there, but only a handful of police officers showed up and it was all over. Not like here, the crowds were spilling out on to the rainy Main Street and it was standing room only. There was plenty of applause after the announcement, and the Judges encouraged us on the Coast to write letters to Senator Wes Chesbro and our State officials to keep the funding coming our way. Thank you to all of you supporters — this was a big win.”

THE LA TIMES REPORTS that two hundred school districts across California, including Boonville and Willits, have borrowed billions of dollars using a costly and risky form of financing that has saddled them with staggering debt, according to a Times analysis. Schools and community colleges have turned increasingly to so-called Capital Appreciation Bonds in the economic downturn, which depressed property values have made it harder for districts to raise money for new classrooms, auditoriums and sports facilities. Unlike conventional shorter-term bonds that require payments to begin immediately, this type of borrowing lets districts postpone the start of payments for decades. Some districts are gambling the economic picture will improve in the decades ahead, with local tax collections increasing enough to repay the notes. CABs, as the bonds are known, allow schools to borrow large sums without violating state or locally imposed caps on property taxes, at least in the short term. But the lengthy delays in repayment increase interest expenses, in some cases to as much as 10 or 20 times the amount borrowed. The practice is controversial and has been banned in at least one state. In California, prominent government officials charged with watching the public purse are warning school districts to avoid the transactions. One sounding the alarm is California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who compares CABs to the sort of creative Wall Street financing that contributed to the housing bubble, the subsequent debt crisis and the nation's lingering economic malaise. “They are terrible deals,” Lockyer said. “The school boards and staffs that approved of these bonds should be voted out of office and fired.” Most school bonds, like home mortgages, require roughly $2 to $3 to be paid back for every $1 borrowed. But CABs compound interest for much longer periods, meaning repayment costs are often many times that of traditional school bonds. And property owners — not the school system — are likely to be on the hook for bigger tax bills if the agency's revenues can't cover future bond payments, Lockyer and other critics say. Several financial consultants who advise school districts on CABs declined to comment, as did the chairman of their trade group. Education officials acknowledge some drawbacks with CABs, but argue that the bonds are funding vital educational projects. The Newport Mesa Unified School District in Orange County issued $83 million in long-term notes in May 2011. Principal and interest will total about $548 million, but officials say they are confident they can pay off the debt. The bonds “have allowed us to provide for facilities that are needed now,” said the district's business manager, Paul Reed. “We could not afford to wait another 10 years.”

THE STORM closed 128 at Navarro (Flynn Creek Road) early Friday morning. The Garcia River on Highway One flooded between Point Arena and Manchester. The third big rain in the series of three heavy log-rollers is expected to hit late Saturday into Sunday.

DA DAVID EYSTER announced on Friday: “People vs. Norbury: The defendant was sentenced this afternoon to 50 years to life in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for the January murder of Jamal Andrews in Redwood Valley. Defendant Norbury will not be eligible to schedule a parole hearing until he is approximately 83 years of age.”

KILL LISTS and the Constitution; Reining in Obama and His Drones. By Ralph Nader

Barack Obama, former president of the Harvard Law Review and a constitutional law lecturer, should go back and review his coursework. He seems to have declined to comport his presidency to the rule of law.

Let’s focus here on his major expansion of drone warfare in defiance of international law, statutory law and the Constitution. Obama’s drones roam over multiple nations of Asia and Africa and target suspects, both known and unknown, whom the president, in his unbridled discretion, wants to evaporate for the cause of national security.

More than 2,500 people have been killed by Obama’s drones, many of them civilians and bystanders, including American citizens, irrespective of the absence of any “imminent threat” to the United States.

As Justin Elliott of ProPublica wrote: “Under Obama…only 13% (of those killed) could be considered militant leaders — either of the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, or Al Qaeda.” The remaining fatalities, apart from many innocent civilians, including children, were people oppressed by their own harsh regimes or dominated by US occupation of their country. Aside from human rights and the laws of war, this distinction between civilian and combatant matters because it shows that Obama’s drones are becoming what Elliott calls “a counterinsurgency air force” for our collaborative regimes.

The “kill lists” are the work of Obama and his advisors, led by John O. Brennan, and come straight from the White House, according to The New York Times. Apparently, the president spends a good deal of time being prosecutor, judge, jury, executioner and concealer. But he does so quietly; this is no dramatic “thumbs-down” emperor.

Mr. Brennan spoke at Harvard Law School about a year ago and told a remarkably blasé audience that what he and the president were doing was perfectly legal under the law of self-defense. Self-defense that is defined, of course, by the president.

It appears from recent statements on The Daily Show that President Obama does not share the certitude boldly displayed by Mr. Brennan. On October 18, President Obama told John Stewart, and his audience, that “one of the things we’ve got to do is put a legal architecture in place, and we need Congressional help in order to do that, to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president is reined in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making.”

So in the absence of “a legal architecture” of accountability, do presidents knock off whomever they want to target (along with bystanders or family members), whether or not the targeted person is actually plotting an attack against the United States? It seems that way, in spite of what is already in place legally, called the Constitution, separation of powers and due process of law. What more legal architecture does Mr. Obama need?

Obviously what he wants is a self-contained, permanent “Office of Presidential Predator Drone Assassinations” in the White House, to use, author, scholar and litigator Bruce Fein’s nomenclature. According to The New York Times, President Obama wants “explicit rules for targeted killing…. So that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures.” Mr. Fein notes that “clear standards and procedures without accountability to the judiciary, Congress, or the American people” undermine the rule of law and our democracy.

Indeed, the whole deliberation process inside the Obama administration has been kept secret, a continuing process of morbid over-classification that even today contains secret internal legal opinions on targeted killings. The government refuses even to acknowledge that a drone air force operates over Pakistan — a fact that everybody knows including the hundreds of injured and displaced Pakistanis. This drone air force uses what The New York Times called “signature strikes” “against groups of suspected, unknown militants.”

Predictably, these strikes are constantly terrorizing thousands of families who fear a strike anytime day or night, and are causing a blowback that is expanding the number of Al Qaeda sympathizers and affiliates from Pakistan to Yemen. “Signature strikes,” according to the Times, “have prompted the greatest conflict inside the Obama administration.” Former CIA director under George W. Bush, Michael V. Hayden has publically questioned whether the expansion in the use of drones is counterproductive and creating more enemies and the desire for more revenge against the US.

Critics point out how many times in the past that departments and agencies have put forth misleading or false intelligence, from the Vietnam War to the arguments for invading Iraq, or have missed what they should have predicted such as the fall of the Soviet Union. This legacy of errors and duplicity should restrain presidents who execute, by ordering drone operators to push buttons that target people thousands of miles away, based on secret, so-called intelligence.

Mr. Obama wants, in Mr. Fein’s view, to have “his secret and unaccountable predator drone assassinations to become permanent fixtures of the nation’s national security complex.” Were Obama to remember his constitutional law, such actions would have to be constitutionally authorized by Congress and subject to judicial review.

With his Attorney General Eric Holder maintaining that there is sufficient due process entirely inside the Executive Branch and without Congressional oversight or judicial review, don’t bet on anything more than a more secret, violent, imperial presidency that shreds the Constitution’s separation of powers and checks and balances.

And don’t bet that other countries of similar invasive bent won’t remember this green-light on illegal unilateralism when they catch up with our drone capabilities. ¥¥

(Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.)

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LOVE IN ACTION: Extreme Weather Shelter in full operation — Friends, The Coast Extreme Weather Shelter (EWS) began operations November 19, the same day as rain fell. The EWS is open whenever there are storm conditions or it is extremely cold, 36 degrees F. To access the EWS individuals need to go to Hospitality House, 237 North McPherson, Fort Bragg, @ 4 PM. Supper, a shower, overnight shelter, and breakfast are provided. Families, men, women and children can be accommodated. Now in its fifth year of existence, the day to day operations are handled by Hospitality House. Faith communities share their facilities, and other needed services and financial support to cover staffing and other expenses all come from us, the larger community. Financial contributions in support of Hospitality House and the EWS may be made to Hospitality House, P.O. Box 2168, Fort Bragg, CA 95437, and/or The Mayors Fund for the Homeless, P.O. Box 2859, Fort Bragg, CA, 95437. All donations are tax deductible. Please know that days the EWS opens, agencies are notified and signage is posted at 20 locations on the coast. If you need related information, please contact Hospitality House @ 961-1150. Blessings, Susan Holli Love in Action.

Paige Poulos Woolley and Gudrun Dye, President and Vice President of the Sun House Guild

HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE at Grace Hudson Saturday. By Roberta Werdinger — Annual Holiday Open House at Grace Hudson hosts passel of activities — Whoever promoted the belief that there was nothing to do in country towns didn't know about Ukiah. This already active and friendly community will be even busier and friendlier from 10 am to 3 pm on Saturday, December 1, when the Grace Hudson Museum & Sun House hosts its annual Holiday Open House and Gift Market against the backdrop of the City of Ukiah's Small Town Christmas festivities. Admission to the Museum's exhibits and all the day's activities will be free to all humans, elves, and Santa Claus. The holiday reveler might want to start by looking in at the Sun House, Grace and John Hudson's 1911 redwood Craftsman bungalow, which will be freshly decorated for the holidays, where Santa will hold court. Once inside the Museum itself, a variety of activities beckon. The Ukiah Madrigal Singers will sing carols, and puppeteer Gigi Brown will recount folk tales using the wooded landscapes of the Museum's current exhibit, "The Comprehensive Keith: A Centennial Tribute," as backdrops. A number of talented local artists and artisans will ply their wares, including Lolli Jacobsen of Pacific Textiles, Wax & Bing Pottery from Anderson Valley, Whispering Winds Nursery, and Gail Meyer, who imports Huichol Indian art. Christmas bay leaf and fir wreaths will also be on sale, and refreshments will be served. Several noted local authors will be on hand to sign their books, available at a 10 percent discount from the Museum Store. Gretchen Mauer, Shirin Yim Bridges, and Natasha Yim, who have contributed works of young adult fiction in Goosebottom Books' series “The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Dastardly Dames,” will all be present. Co-authors Lucienne Lanson and Patricia Tetzlaff will sign their work, “Grace Hudson: Artist of the Pomo Indians” and Jeane Slone, from Sonoma County, will be signing her young adult fiction centered on women who participated in World War II. (All other merchandise in the Museum Store will also be on sale.) Proceeds for this gala event will benefit the Grace Hudson Museum and Sun House. Ukiah will continue its observance of the season with a tree lighting ceremony in Alex Thomas Plaza that evening, followed by a Truckers Light Parade. The Grace Hudson Museum and Sun House is at 431 S. Main St. in Ukiah and is part of the city of Ukiah’s Community Services Department. For more information please go to www.gracehudsonmuseum.org or call 467-2836.

3 Comments

  1. John Sakowicz December 1, 2012

    Good story on the Capital Appreciation bonds .

  2. Pete December 4, 2012

    The source of the story, L.ATimes,
    (http://spreadsheets.latimes.com/capital-appreciation-bonds/ search on mendocino)
    lists the Mendocino-Lake Community College District as a CAP school district borrower.

    I voted yes for that bond issue in 2006, took classes at Mendo, but I had no idea of its cost. According to the L.A. Times table, a $15,682,090 bond will cost $177,162,542 for the property owners of Mendocino and Lake Counties. Sheeit, had no idea about this, what it will cost over the long term, and i will never vote yes for a bond issue of any sort ever agin.

  3. Mark Scaramella December 4, 2012

    I agree that bonds are not a good way to finance school facilities — ideally districts should save money in a sinking fund and pay for facilities as the funds permit. But that’s like saying people shouldn’t borrow money for their home because you end up paying at least twice the money. Borrowing is the American Way and in itself isn’t that bad when done right. But when you throw in these modern financial rip-off artists and consultants and fee-grabbers, you can quickly get yourself in trouble with that other time tested American Way: Fine print. And lawyers.
    That said, I’m not sure I believe the LA Times database either. They don’t provide their source other than “state records.” I’m on the local bond oversight committee and I don’t recognize the bond numbers they say in their database nor that they amount to a problem. We’re actively looking into it.
    But the Anderson Valley school board has voted NOT to borrow against future bond revenue which is where the biggest problem comes from. I don’t trust the state educational establishment’s numbers any more than I trust the claims of the Wall Street people and the consultants. (Do you believe MCEO? Can you even understand them?) It’s all suspicious and hard to unravel.
    There’s certainly a problem. But we need good data and clear reports to figure out exactly what it is. Particularly BEFORE bonds are voted on. There’s lots of garden variety corruption opportunity in them.
    But you’re right, if schools were properly funded they shouldn’t need to borrow.
    But then there’s that other question that G.W. Bush incoherently asked: “Rarely is the question asked: Is our chidren learning?”

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