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Mendocino County Today: December 2, 2012

SEAN WHITE, general manager of the Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District said Friday, “There is a high probability that Hopland will experience significant flooding this Sunday, depending on the accuracy of the current rain forecast.” Which is for lots and lots of rain beginning late Saturday night lasting well into Sunday. White also said that “Lake Mendocino has ample room to absorb this flood and there should be no need to make any releases.” “We are working closely with (Sonoma County Water Agency) and the (United State Army Corps of Engineers) to maximize the flood control benefits of Lake Mendocino. The current forecast is based on a closed reservoir.” If the Russian River attempts to reclaim Hopland near 101, that attempt, White said, will occur about 2pm Sunday when the RR reaches flood stage.

BEHIND UKIAH'S COSTCO FIASCO: Ukiah's Redevelopment Agency bought the 18 acres on Airport Park Boulevard intending to sell it to Costco. The City also sold RDA bonds intending to use part of the money to make needed improvements to the Talmage Road/US 101 interchange, as well as the crumbling Airport Boulevard itself, and put in a stop light at Commerce and Airport Blvd which will become a parking lot (with or without the stop light) once Costco is built. Costco has made it clear the City must pay for these improvements if it wants to land the Ukiah Costco store.

BECAUSE the City of Ukiah ignored the writing on the wall and did not take timely action to meet reasonably foreseeable deadlines, the use of the RDA bond money has been called into question and the transfer of the 18 acres from RDA to the City was clearly illegal. The State Department of Finance (DOF), charged with overseeing the dissolution of the Ukiah RDA and others around the State, has just ordered three of the four city RDAs it has audited to pay back tens of millions in RDA property that was improperly transferred). So now the City Attorney is recommending that the 18 acres be transferred from the City to the “successor agency” to the City RDA, which is, once again, the City, but now wearing the successor agency hat. The successor agency must answer to an “oversight board” (mostly made up of representatives from other agencies that were milking the RDA cash cow — MCOE, Ukiah Unified, Mendo College — but also community watchdog Lee Howard and Kyle Knopp from the County's CEO Office).

THE CITY OF UKIAH hopes to sell the 18 acres to Costco, which is allowed under RDA dissolution, but then wants to use the money from the sale to carry out other RDA projects, which might or might not be allowed. The State Department of Finance could say the money has to be distributed to the taxing agencies that were deprived of tax revenue that went instead to the RDA. (Curiously, the aforementioned edu institutions are in favor of the Ukiah RDA successor agency continuing to collect the “tax increment” revenue (the additional taxes to be paid by Costco) and then distributing it to them — instead of it going to them directly. If it went to the educrats directly, the money would have to be spent on the education of children, a perennial low priority in Mendocino County. If it is distributed to them via the “RDA pass through agreements” the money will be theirs to spend as they want — new district offices in the case of Ukiah Unified, for example — instead of having to pay teachers, buy books and so forth.)

COSTCO has submitted a “development application” (to satisfy a requirement of the 18 acre land purchase agreement) and is also paying for an EIR on its store development (but is under no obligation to finalize the deal). Costco has made it clear that the City must deal with the Talmage Road interchange and Airport Park Blvd infrastructure if they want Costco to come here. So the City needs to shell out in the range of $6 million in improvements to land Costco. Because they may not be able to use the RDA bonds, they are also working on borrowing the money from the state. The City is desperate to land the Costco deal because they see it as the only way to solve their budget shortfall.

MEANWHILE, DDR (Developer's Diversified Realty) is still waiting in the wings with its industrial wasteland on Ukiah's slab city, Masonite, which is also right next to a freeway interchange. If the City fails to land Costco, or if the City fails to reach a sales tax sharing agreement with the County, the County could decide that maybe one big box store (and the millions in tax revenue it would generate) might not be so bad, in contrast to the full blown megamall that DDR was trying to shove down our throats. Until the City gets Costco to sign on the bottom line and/or inks a tax sharing agreement with the County, it can't be sure that Costco won't decide to turn its back on the Airport Boulevard site.

WHICH LEAVES Gary Ackerstrom, the developer of Airport Business Park, waiting in the wings. He is seeking to activate a clause that said the City must land a big box within three years or he can buy the 18 acres back. The City says it has met the agreement, based on the supposed application from Costco. But no one can take any action on the application, because the EIR has not been completed. So it is obvious the “development application” is just a piece of paper with no meaning other than to fend off the Ackerstrom threat.

ACKERSTROM says he is ok with the deal if Costco really goes in, otherwise he wants to exercise his option to buy the land back. The City says that based on the pro forma “application” from Costco, that they have met the terms of the agreement. The “tolling agreement” with Ackerstrom stops the clock from ticking, pending further events. If Costco goes in, fine; if it does not, then the City and Ackerstrom can go to mediation on what the option agreement really meant. Ackerstrom is notoriously difficult to deal with and is suspect numero uno for the collapse of the previous Costco deal.

COAST MEMO OF THE WEEK: Big Cutbacks at College of the Redwoods, Fort Bragg Campus

(Below is a link to an article about the current College of the Redwoods president Kathy Smith and her previous occupations. She was actually working for Mendocino College before CR. Also, she was recently married which is why her name is Smith now and no longer Lehner.

1. The dean position at the Mendocino (Fort Bragg) campus is being eliminated. This means that our current dean, whose contract ends June 1st, will not be replaced.

2. CR's custodian, maintenance man, lab tech, library tech, and administrative office assistant were all laid off. Their last day will be January 31st.

3. Out of the five layoffs listed in #2 everyone except the administrative office assistant has the option of being rehired, but their hours will be reduced from full time to 19 hours a week and they will no longer receive benefits.

4. Our financial aid officer is retiring at the end of the year, and she is not being replaced. She will be coming back very part time in the spring semester, but beyond this there is no plan to provide a new financial aid officer.

5. Our IT person is retiring at the end of this fall semester, and he is not being replaced. This means we will have no one to repair computers or help with technical problems.

6. Out of the 38 layoffs district wide, five of them took place on our little campus.

7. Please get the word out that people can contact Barbara Rice, the trustee for the Mendocino Coast, at can also contact CR's President Kathy Smith at The more people that contact these two women with their concerns on this issue the more attention it will get.

NORM de VALL ADDS: “I think it's time for a Citizen's Committee to meet with Mendocino Community College and Santa Rosa JC. This is reminiscent of citizen push-back 20 + years ago. We can initiate a pleblicite and attempt to merge our college district with another community college. As before CR et al will take our tax share, spend it somewhere else and return less and less to the district. — Norman de Vall, former CR Marine/Maritime Technologies Instructor

CORNELL WEST ON OBAMA: “God, no! He’s had four years and he’s proved himself to be a Wall St. President, he’s proved himself to be imperial to the core, he’s proved himself to be a war criminal. And you have to call that for what it is. And people say ‘oh you hatin’ ’ and I say ‘I’m a Christian. I hate the deed; I don’t hate the person,’ because he has the potential to change. Malcolm X was a gangster for a long time; he was wrong, he changed and he became a great freedom fighter. All of us have the capacity to change, you see. And so in that sense, you know, as a Christian, ‘you love your enemies’ which means you better have some! (laughs) Because if you take a stand for poor and working people, you gonna’ have some enemies! That was part of what Jesus had in mind — if you go through life with no enemies, you’re probably not living a good life. You’re going to have enemies if you take a stance. And, the question about loving them is not sadomasochistic: you’re not loving your oppressors because they’re beating you down but because they’re still human beings and you know you have the capacity, inside of you, to actually engage in those same kinds of vicious forms of revenge, envy, domination, hatred and so forth. And therefore that allows a self-critique within your own soul. But, you know, I don’t want to get too theological here. But the point is that it’s been a challenge. What’s interesting now is that more and more people are coming around. I gave a talk in San Francisco with 4,000 people; in New York, 3,000 people. You think, ‘wow, this thing is getting bigger and bigger and bigger!’.”

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