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Letters (June 30, 2022)

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To the Editor:

I have been asked many times, “What is going to happen to the Old Howard Hospital”? We have not had an answer because we’ve had it listed for sale for years and had no interest at all, even though we have dropped the price to less than half the appraised value. The vandalism and things that happen to a vacant building have taken a toll, and now we must do something. The overhead of taxes, maintenance, and security is becoming a financial burden. The Willits PD or the Fire Department is called at least 3 times a week. Last week the Fire Department was called out and found a man in the attic lighting matches.

We have had an environmental assessment done and put out a Proposal for Bid for environmental remediation and demolition. The Board received the bids last week and with a unanimous vote on a motion made by Mike Howard, decided that we have to move on. It breaks my heart to do that, but with every passing year, the building becomes more uninhabitable. Our money could be so much better spent with philanthropic work than propping up a building that is rapidly deteriorating.

I have truly tried to find a good fit for someone to have a reason to buy the building and a Mental Health Facility would have been the perfect solution in so many ways, but it was not to be.

After the building is gone, we will still own the property and have control over what happens in that space. I am hoping that we can find something that will be a beloved asset for our community like the hospital has always been.

Margie Handley, 

President Frank R. Howard Foundation


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Dear Editor, 

On behalf of our family, we write to express our deepest appreciation and gratitude for those involved in responding to our brother’s suicide from the Noyo Bridge on June 7, 2022. We are still in the process of reconciling ourselves to the fact that he is gone, and the traumatic circumstances in which his death occurred. It is not lost on us that we are not the only ones that feel the trauma, and hope that this letter may provide some comfort to the responders who may also be suffering.

Our brother lived with schizophrenia. With the help of medication, his symptoms were controlled, such that he was able to work and live similar to the rest of us - he was smart, college-educated, and had enjoyed hobbies such as surfing, skiing, and flyfishing. Even though he did not have much money, he gave regularly to environmental and social service causes. He was sensitive, compassionate, loyal, kind, gentle, and always willing to lend a hand to anyone who asked. 

While staying in Fort Bragg temporarily to help out our father, we communicated with him regularly, multiple times per week. We last talked to him 48 hours before his death, and there was nothing to indicate that anything was amiss, or that he was in crisis. And yet, we will continue to ask ourselves that “terrible disabling question,” as Rabbi Holub put it, “could any of us have done something to prevent his death?” She reminds us that all any of us can do is what we would do for any person with a serious illness - treat the person like the whole person that they are, show up, care, and realize that there is nothing you can do to alter the ultimate trajectory. 

We know that our brother would not have wanted to cause any harm to anyone, and he would regret knowing that the people who responded will have to carry the experience of that day. This knowledge has allowed us to begin to let go of some of the trauma - even if just a little bit - knowing that it does not serve the memory of him and his true self. We share this in the hope that it can facilitate the healing process for those who need it. 

We are grateful for the Fort Bragg Police Captain who spoke with my brother for 29 minutes before his death; we are grateful for the Redwood Community Services Crisis Worker who was not required to show up but did; we are grateful for the unknown staff from Adventist Hospital, California State Parks, Fort Bragg Fire Department and the U.S. Coast Guard. Please know that we know that you did all you could to prevent this tragedy. You are all in our hearts and your efforts will not be forgotten. 

We are also grateful for the Mendocino Coast Jewish Community and Rabbi Margaret Holub, who generously receives us in our time of grief, three years ago with the passing of our mother, and now with our brother’s death. 

We would be remiss if we did not also thank the warm professionalism of David Yeomans and Kris Strickland from Rose Memorial Park and Seth from Chapel of the Sea. Thanks also to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s office whose immediate response to our questions helped ease our pain in the aftermath. 

We’d like to end this letter with a big thank you to all of you in Fort Bragg – those we know and those we don’t – and remind you of the beauty and warmth in this community. While in Fort Bragg making arrangements and caring for my dad, my sister and I were continually surprised by the support and ease of doing business in town, making it easier to address the practical matters of attending to our brother’s death. In every community encounter during out recent stay here we were greeted with warmth and kindness – the postal clerk, the fedex proprietor, Safeway checkers, the Adventist Health physician, Andersson Home Health and others, including a bittersweet encounter with someone at the car wash of all places. In return for his generosity, he asked only that we appreciate the goodness in this small town community. And this letter in part is to communicate that appreciation. It is so humbling to be embraced by a community that we have not been part of for over 30 years, and we are uplifted by it. Thank you. 

Melinda Posner and Sonia Wolfman 

Olympia, Washington

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Open letter to Julia Acker-Krog, Mendocino County Planning & Building Director,

It is exciting to have a locally-raised young woman step up to the plate as Planning & Building Director - Thank you. I know that you are going to do well in your new position.

As an elder (80), father of eight, grandfather to 12, I have some concerns about what the future might hold — not only for my progeny but for all of humanity. And Planning is what we do to try to make the future palatable, equitable and frankly just plain comfortable for the people living in the environs covered by each planning venture.

Acknowledging such I would like to express a few self-evident realities that might well be taken into consideration as we plan for the future.

First and foremost:

The degree to which we are battering the Earth we are also battering the human psyche. People of all ages, politics, ethnicity and nations are not only anxious, worried and stressed but many are literally going crazy and berserk.

Such is the evolving existential evidence of the interconnectedness of all life. So as we all move forward in our endeavors to plan for the future we must constantly remind ourselves to question and seek answers to just what it is that we have been doing wrong to bring us to this looming precipice that is our future as a species on a planet that is becoming less friendly (yet still absolutely beautiful) every year.

Again I thank you for the work you are undertaking and the burden you bear in so doing.

David Severn


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With all due respect to you and your newspaper, Bruce, I am compelled to say what cannot be said; write that which cannot be written.

I shall confess that I have monthly charge to a credit card for the International Rescue Committee, which provides humanitarian relief for the refugees from Ukraine.

My ideas have been percolating for the past several months. In the past few days both the head of NATO and the British Minister of Defense have expressed the notion that the Russo/Ukraine War might very well go on for years into the future.

This is an unacceptable, intolerable forecast. And must be resisted world-wide. The world, especially the United States, must be finished with perpetuating “Forever Wars”. Period. Full stop. Regardless of the parties that are being touted to eventually benefit.

The only entities who profit from a Forever War in Ukraine are Raytheon, Martin Marietta, Grumann and other defense contractors. Sophisticated military ordinance alone in insufficient to save Ukraine.

Pundits wiser than I posit a narrow menu of resolutions to the current conflict in Ukraine. None strongly envision a Ukrainian victory. So be it.

So how does the modern world work its way out of this violent impasse? This Morass?

Henry Kissinger — and I am loathe to (even) mention his name — suggested a land-for-peace settlement, whereby Ukraine cedes Russia the Donbas region (which Russia currently occupies almost all of) in exchange for a cease fire. Might sound a bit too much like Chamberlain at Munich to some, but it is Realpolitik in the (slimy) flesh.

What the world should want in Ukraine is a cease fire. What President Zelinsky should want, is a cease fire.

That's one option. The other...

NATO puts on its Big Boy Britches and commits troops on the ground and planes in the air. Bomb'em back into the stone age. Teach them a lesson about military superiority they will be telling their grandchildren. BOOM! And BOOM! again. Until the Russians learn in the hardest way that you don't F around with NATO in its back yard.

The United States and NATO have committed multiple mistakes in dealing with Putin's Russia. What we learned in crisis intervention training back in the 1960s was, among others, “Never threaten a paranoid”. Putin is just that. Think DJT with the launch codes.

Wanna call his nuclear bluff? I don't. And Yet...

Ukraine without Donbas is still Ukraine.

It's land for peace or Forever War or NATO marches in and cleans it out/up.

What's your choice? Pick it.

Make lots of noise about this.

Not another Forever War. Ever.

This has not become the America we wanted it to be. Fought for us to be. Foreign or Domestically.


Just Sayin'.

Lee Edmundson


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To the Editor (whoever that is),

I sent my previous letter rebutting Bruce Anderson's poorly sourced column to you twice, on March 7 and March 8. I sent them to the same email address as this letter, so for you to say you never received it is rather disingenuous. Methinks thou dost protest too much. Besides, I didn't say you printed my letter, I simply said “I thoroughly debunked the lies of former Wildlife Services trapper Chris Brennan (aka: Dead Dog) that were uncritically reported as fact by AVA columnist Bruce Anderson,” which I did. (See letter in its entirety below.)

There is no statement of fact in my letter that calls my credibility into question. The question is, do you have the balls to print it this time? —Jon

To the Editor,

Bruce Anderson’s “Off The Record” column, “‘Dead Dog’ Chronicles,” is truly off the record, as it is devoid of any actual facts regarding wildlife management in Mendocino County. Instead, Anderson relies exclusively on the word of former USDA Wildlife Services trapper Chris Brennan (“Dead Dog”), who has spent the past two decades slaughtering wildlife in our County. 

Much of Anderson’s column is devoted to Brennan telling us what a great guy he is and how he spends much of his time helping poor injured wild animals. But the actual facts taken from Wildlife Services’ own records tell the true story of what Brennan has been up to for these past many years. Below is a partial list of wild animals killed by Wildlife Services trappers in Mendocino County between the years 1997 and 2017, as reported in the County’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on Wildlife Services released in June of 2019:

Mountain lion 181 killed, 2 freed

Black bear 261 killed, 8 freed

Coyote 4,119 killed, 4 freed

Bobcat 112 killed, 22 freed

Gray fox 235 killed, 37 freed

Opossum 233 killed, 33 freed

Raccoon 868 killed, 47 freed

Spotted skunks 22 killed, 2 freed

Stripped skunks 1,287 killed, 9 freed

Squirrels (various) 65 killed, 0 freed

*Note: Wildlife Services trappers don’t even report the hundreds of non-target wild animals and domestic dogs and cats that suffer and die in their indiscriminate traps.

As can readily be seen by the kill numbers above, coyotes are the main target animal of Wildlife Services trappers, and the County’s now terminated contract with Wildlife Services was largely a taxpayer subsidy for ranchers. The fact is, Wildlife Services isn’t in the business of wildlife rescue, as Brennan would have you believe. The Wildlife Services wildlife management program is called, “Integrated Wildlife Damage Management” (IWDM), and its primary function is to kill wild animals that cause property damage.

Brennan’s account of the County’s new non-lethal wildlife management program that is being set-up to replace Wildlife Services is wildly confused. He seems to be laboring under the delusion that Mendocino County has contracted with the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue (a private non-profit) for wildlife rescue services. The fact is, injured wildlife in Mendocino County are transported by citizen volunteers down to Sonoma County for life saving treatment since Mendocino County doesn’t have its own wildlife rescue facility. While wildlife rescue is a much needed service here in Mendocino County, it is not within the purview of the County’s new non-lethal wildlife management program, which is basically designed to protect peoples’ property from wildlife damage by using non-lethal methods of exclusion.

Mendocino County is presently in the process of contracting out for a wildlife exclusion technician who will work with County home owners on-site to exclude small wild animals (raccoons, skunks, squirrels, etc.) from damaging their property using non-lethal methods. The County is working with non-profits such as Project Coyote and the Mountain Lion Foundation to work with rural dwellers on how to exclude large wild animals (lions, bears, coyotes) from damaging their property, also using non-lethal methods. To dispense immediate answers on what to do when human/wildlife conflicts arise, the County is now in the process of setting-up a hotline telephone operator who will be fully trained in non-lethal conflict resolution. 

Anderson attributes Brennan’s nickname “Dead Dog” to city people moving to the country who are naive about dangerous wild dogs roaming the hills, but this is just another pseudo legend. I personally know long time County residents who have publicly accused Brennan of shooting their dog right in front of them and their children. Anderson got one thing right, Brennan does relish the nickname “Dead Dog,” going so far as to name his ranch “Dead Dog Ranch” and to hang dog skulls on his fence posts.

Truth is, Brennan takes pleasure in killing defenseless animals, and that is why he is reviled by most people up here in the North County. Why are you trying to rehabilitate his reputation, Bruce? Is this the guy you really want as your BFF?

Jon Spitz


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Speed of care most important for a stroke…

This is not a story about me, but about my mission. On Nov. 15, I awoke to find myself in the intensive care unit of University of California at San Francisco Medical Center surrounded by a group of “white coats” and concerned faces. They asked me many questions: What is your name? Where are you? Can you raise both your arms to the same height? Recite the months of the year backward.

After I answered them, I was informed I had a stroke.

Earlier that day, a friend recognized it. She called 911. After she described my behavior, in minutes, a medical team transported me to MarinHealth Medical Center where an infusion of the “clot buster” (aka tissue plasminogen activator) was waiting for me. Then I was transferred to UCSF.

For me, there is no wheelchair, no speech therapist, physical therapist or art therapist. There is no helper to assist me while I take a shower or dress. That’s because the amazing training kicked in for everyone involved — all performed with precision and speed.

My message: If you see somebody struggling with speech or balance; if they can’t use an arm, have a facial droop, feel sharp chest pain or are clearly experiencing something go wrong, don’t follow your first instinct — which, for most of us, would be to put them in a car and drive them to emergency department. If you do, the preparations necessary to reverse the stroke or physical damage won’t happen until you arrive.

Instead, call 911. Do not hesitate. The person who answers the call will make the decision whether or not to send out a medical team. The dispatcher will stay online with you until you don’t need them. Think FAST by keeping the victim’s face, arms, speech and time in mind. Speed is the most important element. Call 911.

Elizabeth Appell


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A meeting was held on June 2 sponsored by The Grass Roots Institute to answer questions from people interested in one of the 4 open City Council seats. Former members, Dave Turner and Dan Gjerde were present to answer questions about their motivations for running and the challenges they faced being on the Council.

Peter McNamee moderated the discussion and asked each about the opportunities and difficulties they encountered. Ongoing issues such as water, waste treatment, housing, business, and traffic were discussed.

Dave mentioned that there was plenty of water on the coast but that reservoirs were needed for storage; while Dan spoke about the interaction of city and county governments and the cross-county committees that work in the interests of Northern California.

After Dave and Dan spoke on these issues, questions about energy conservation and generation were asked by the audience of 30 along with some nuts and bolts questions regarding the Brown Act, the approximate votes needed to win a seat, and how many hours it takes to do the job.

Also mentioned was that Volkswagen is giving money due to its diesel settlement that can be used for charging electric vehicles which would help promote both local conservation and tourism.

The City Clerk, June Lemos was present. She told the group that the city will help with applications and send new members to classes on government in Sacramento.

Mark Safron

Fort Bragg

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THE FUTURE OF YELLOWSTONE: an Open Letter to Park Superintendent, Cameron Sholly

TO: Mr. Cameron Sholly, Superintendent, Yellowstone National Park

PO Box 168

Yellowstone (Mammoth) WY 82190-0168

Dear Mr. Sholly;

We write with a request and the intent of providing a citizens and professional “push”.

We have walked and backpacked, watched and studied wildlife, and worked in Yellowstone, as citizens and professionals, beginning in the 1970’s and continuing today.

You (we) have a rare opportunity to reclaim the ecological integrity of Gardiner Canyon to not ever rebuild the road through the canyon permanently reroute traffic (Gardiner to Mammoth) to the west onto a rebuilt Old Gardiner Road, as is being considered, and institute a formal assessment process to verify the value of this transfer.

Everyone knows the Gardner River Canyon from the Boiling River to Gardiner is a unique ecological landscape for Yellowstone. It has been severely compromised by the road for a very long time. Now we – you – Yellowstone – Americans – have a rare opportunity to correct that early mistake.

Close the road permanently at Rescue Creek on the north and at the Lava Creek Trail head in the south. This would, additionally, relieve over use of the Boiling River site. Begrudgingly, knowing you will still suffer great ecological loss to the immediate area, you could close it at the parking lot for the Boiling River hot springs.

Save what? $100 million dollars in rebuild costs, plus perhaps another $100 million over the next ten years in repair / maintenance / rebuild costs for future flood events?

But even this pales in significance against the ecological advantages of a canyon without a paved road and (at times) thousands of vehicles daily polluting the air and the silence and security of this canyon.

Leave the road alone; leave the bridges there. Let the whole mess stand as a testament to human folly exposed by this flood. Remove the asphalt where you can readily access it, and return the road bed to dirt.

Of course, the Old Gardiner road will have to be rebuilt, and some reconfiguration of the entry Kiosk area at Gardiner will be required, and perhaps limited reconfiguration of the descent road into Mammoth (possibly near the courthouse?).

But the vast upgrade in the ecological well being of the Gardiner Canyon will have hugely beneficial consequences for wildlife, the river, the canyon, the Park itself, even the Park system, and park visitors who might want to walk. The immediate beneficiaries will be bighorn sheep reclaiming and increasing use of the canyon, bison, elk, mule deer, quite possibly even the increased presence of bears and wolves in this special place. And of course the trout population. Not only will the lives of individual animals be improved, but long term viability of these populations will be enhanced. No small achievement in todays world!

Eventually, you/the park might want to consider a hiking/walking trail along the old road bed (with some swinging bridges? ). One cannot deny that it would be an exceptional walking attraction, providing an unparalleled opportunity for (mostly) one way movement from Lava Creek parking lot to the Rescue Creek lot.

A cautionary note, however; this would substantially degrade the expected gains in ecological integrity, but it would still be a vast upgrade from todays motorized, mechanized transportation corridor.

 We close by asking you to act immediately – and you have spoken of heading in this direction also – to begin the rebuild and transformation of the old Gardiner Road to being the permanent and only vehicle corridor from Gardiner to Mammoth.

Brian Horjesi, Ecologist, Penticton, B.C.

George Wuerthner, Ecologist, Livingston, Montana

Mike Bader, Natural Resource Consultant, Seasonal Ranger, Yellowstone National Park 1984-1988, Missoula, Montana

Barrie Gilbert, Senior scientist (retired), Dept. of Wildlife Resources, Utah Sate Univ., Logan, UT

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Letter to the Editor

The Texas Republican Party just approved platform planks rejecting “the certified results of the 2020 Presidential election;” rejecting Biden as president; requiring students “to learn about the dignity of the preborn human” and that life begins at fertilization; getting rid of the constitutional power to levy income taxes; rejecting the Equal Rights Amendment; returning Christianity to schools and government; ending all gun safety measures; requiring colleges to teach “free-market liberty principles;” defending capital punishment; ending gay marriage; withdrawing from the UN; protecting Confederate monuments; and calling for a state vote to determine if Texas should secede.

Can you believe it? And this is not from a minor outlier; Texas is our second most populous state and probably has the largest Republicans party in the nation. This is where the GOP is today. How can any modern, thinking person support such a party?

Tom Wodetzki


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Dear Editor,

President Biden should encourage Ukraine’s admission to the EU. While Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are fighting and dying now in large numbers, the worst thing diplomats and so-called “friends” of Ukraine are doing is to hand out unsolicited, unwelcome, condescending advice to the world community about ending the conflict with Putin’s Russia. For example, former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, advised President Volodomyr Zelensky to turn over his nation’s eastern region to Russia as the price of peace. 

Wisely, at least for now, President Biden has not followed Kissinger’s lead. Nor should he. Ukraine is a sovereign, independent European nation. It has a right to plot its own future, 

Biden should continue to do what he’s been doing since Russia’s invasion: send Ukraine large amounts of military and humanitarian aid, employ economic sanctions against Russia and its rulers, and appeal for support for Ukraine from our allies. 

Frank Baumgardner

Santa Rosa

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Dear Colleagues,

Today, many of us have lost federal protection of a fundamental right to autonomy over our bodies -- over who uses our body for what.

As a philosopher of ethics, I have studied and taught the arguments from all sides of the debate over abortion. I think it is often more complicated than both sides admit, and I am sympathetic to the position that a developing fetus, at least at some point in the pregnancy, becomes developed enough to bear the label "person."

But, because it is so often absent from the political discourse, I feel it necessary to share a key point that is often lost in this debate, a debate which often proceeds as a question about whether a fetus has a right to life.

The point is this: Even if the fetus is a person, with a full right to life, it does not follow that the government should force those who are pregnant to remain pregnant.

This is because the right to life has not, and does not, include the right to use the body of another against that person's will to survive.

My right to life does not entitle me to steal your kidney if mine are failing, even if I will die if you do not donate your kidney to me. I am only entitled to your kidney if you consent to give it to me.

My right to life does not entitle me to steal your blood, even if I will die without the transfusion. I am only entitled to your blood if you consent to give it to me. This is true even though I have a right to life. Further, a government that forcibly takes your blood or kidneys as a means to save my life is a tyrannical government. I don't want to live under such a government.

In ethics, we call things like donating kidneys and donating blood supererogatory. They are actions we praise for their moral goodness, but that are not morally required of us. From a bodily autonomy perspective, an unwanted pregnancy can be just as dangerous as a kidney donation and is always much more invasive and prolonged than either a kidney donation or withdrawing blood. This is why I believe gestation falls into the category of supererogatory actions -- it is a tremendous and praiseworthy decision to allow your body to be used for this purpose, but it is not required.

Another way of putting this is, when a government forces a woman to remain pregnant against her will, they are granting the gestating human a right that none of us already-born humans have . It is an extraordinary right not just to life, but the right to secure its life by occupying & using the body of another against their will.

In my opinion, a government that forces us to gestate humans is at least as tyrannical as a government that, in order to save some of its citizens who need them, seizes our blood or our kidneys against our will.

Because this point is absent from most the public debate I hear on the matter, I felt it necessary to share this line of reasoning with you all.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Alexa Farmer, Philosophy Department, Santa Rosa Junior College

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The Jan. 6 insurrection committee is doing a masterful job revealing the seven distinct ways (former President Donald) Trump and his allies broke laws and traditions to overturn the election so he’d remain president for a second term. Hopefully, criminal charges will ensue.

But I’m concerned that the committee isn’t shining a bright enough light on how Trump’s machinations could easily have succeeded. But for a few brave people in key election positions not buckling to his pressures, American democracy might very well have ended.

Trump’s ability to do that only happened because of our Byzantine presidential election system. The Constitution and our election laws have huge flaws — vaguely worded and archaic procedures and far too many standards left for individual states to decide as they wish.

What the committee must absolutely do is keep exposing how truly fragile our democracy is and how badly our election laws need complete revamping. Otherwise, this will surely happen again. Pointing out those flaws every chance they can will help get the public to demand the hard fixes too many Republican legislators are opposed to.

The committee would provide another great service exploring why 30% of our population clings to Trump’s lies and, more ominously, no longer trusts the integrity of our elections.

Rick Childs


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