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Letters (Sept. 8, 2022)

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OPEN LETTER TO MENDOCINO COUNTY SUPERVISORS: NEW PUBLIC RECORDS FEES WILL COST MORE THAN THEY SAVE

(Note: This letter was sent and published on August 31, 2022, but we are happy to add additional signatures — if you would like to be added to the list or republish the article, please contact publisher@mendovoice.com. You can read our reporting on Mendocino County’s public records fee change here. — Kate Maxwell, Publisher, MendoVoice.com)

August 31, 2022

Dear Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, County Counsel Christian Curtis, and CEO Darcy Antle, 

We write to express our opposition to Mendocino County’s new public records ordinance (No. 4507), and to question the creation of a media fund to offset the fees imposed by the records ordinance (No. 22-181). We also wish to voice our support for the First Amendment Coalition’s letter to the Board of Supervisors, dated August 29, 2022. Access to these records is essential to democracy, accountability and government oversight. 

We believe the ordinance language and new fees violate state law and present an unreasonably high burden on members of the public, who play a crucial oversight role in Mendocino County. This will result in a demonstrable chilling effect on such transparency efforts. 

To quote the FAC, “our position is that the Ordinance is unlawful because the California Public Records Act (“CPRA”) does not authorize fees for locating, reviewing, and redacting records and no statute authorizes a county to impose fees not otherwise allowed by the CPRA. To charge up to $150 per hour for responding to record requests creates a financial barrier that deprives many people of transparency rights guaranteed by the CPRA and California Constitution. The grant program cannot cure the defects of an ordinance unlawful on its face.”

The California Public Records Act (CPRA) clearly states that only the costs of duplication can be passed on to the public, and the public has a right to inspect such records at no expense. The creation of a media fund does not address our overarching concerns about what this ordinance will do to transparency and government oversight in Mendocino County. Moreover, the supervisors and county counsel have publicly stated their intent with these fees is to reduce the number of requests as well as to assess them based on the perceived intent of the requester, which is a clear violation of state law. 

As FAC wrote, “Regardless of any benign motive to support local media, the First Amendment does not permit the government to favor one segment of the press over another, whether based on geography, circulation, medium of publication, or any other characteristic. For all these reasons, the only appropriate definition of ‘media’ is a person who is gathering information for the purpose of dissemination to the public… To look beyond that definition to other factors such as location, circulation, longevity, business model, corporate status, employment status, medium of publication, or the like would amount to impermissible discrimination between segments of the press.”

The media outlets covering Mendocino County vary in size, medium of distribution, legal structure, and business model, but many of us cannot afford additional fees — much like the community organizations, freelance journalists and residents who comprise the majority of public records requestors. We fear these ordinances are a boondoggle that will cost the county more than it saves in staff time and potential legal fees. 

Details of how this fund will be created, administered, and implemented are still not publicly available weeks after the fee ordinance took effect, demonstrating the lack of due diligence county supervisors and counsel have put in. The creation of a media fund will inevitably take additional staff time, generate public comment and debate, and increase administration costs on county staff by creating an additional layer of applications, administration, labor, and grant dispersals on top of the public records request process required by state law. 

If the goal is to reduce staff costs, as supervisors and county counsel have expressed, neither this ordinance nor the media fund will accomplish this, and is likely to have the opposite effect. Moreover, the creation of the fund does not address the fundamental issue, which is ensuring public access to these records — in a county where many residents cannot afford $150/hr to do so.

We are urging the Board of Supervisors to repeal this ordinance, which we believe to be in violation of the California Public Records Act. We are joined by the majority of public comments, including statements from KZYX, the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance, First Amendment Coalition, California News Publishers Association, Society of Professional Journalists Northern California Chapter’s Freedom of Information Committee, and the signers included below.

Thanks for your consideration,

Kate Maxwell, Publisher and cofounder, The Mendocino Voice

Frank Hartzell, freelance journalist/Mendocino Voice

Dave Brooksher, Mendocino Voice/CopDocuments.org

Dana Ullman, freelance photojournalist/reporter/Mendocino Voice

Kym Kemp, publisher Redheaded Blackbelt

Matt LaFever, Founder of MendoFever

Chris Pugh, Editor of the Fort Bragg Advocate-News

Bruce Anderson and Mark Scaramella,  the Anderson Valley Advertiser

Elizabeth Larson, Editor/Publisher of Lake County News

Sarah Stierch, freelance journalist

Will Carruthers, News editor of the North Bay Bohemian and Pacific Sun

Carole Brodsky, freelance journalist

Zack Cinek, newsboy.substack.com,  Pacific Media Workers Guild (The NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America Local 39521)

Lauren Schmitt, KMUD News Director

Olivia Henry, former Mendocino Voice Membership Coordinator

Sarah Reith, reporter, Mendocino and Humboldt Counties

s.e. smith, National Magazine Award-winning freelance journalist

J. Stephen McLaughlin, publisher, Independent Coast Observer, Gualala

Aaron Mackey, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

ED NOTE: What happened to KC Meadows and Jennifer Poole?

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UNCLOG THEM

Dear AVA:

Sorry to be so long getting around to it, but I have been meaning to write for a while to see if you could pass on a congratulatory message from me to the author of a particularly cogent LTE concerning the possible destruction of the Van Arsdale and that other dam that creates Lake Pillsbury, which makes possible the Eel River diversion into the end of Potter Valley, which of course allows the Russian River to have water in it all year.

I wanted to thank the guy (I think his last name was Nicoll) for beating me to this urgent statement of obvious facts, his piece being very close to the column that I have been writing in my head for months.

I am mystified by the virtually nonexistent response to this insane proposal to take out those dams and do away with the Eel River diversion altogether. I mean, what are there, maybe a million people in the Russian River watershed? Perhaps $1 trillion worth of high-end wineries, etc.? Not to mention the significant (six or 7 MW) hydroelectric power produced by this colossal piece of human endeavor created with the almost superhuman labor of Chinese coolies in the 1800s.

The idea of abandoning all this, as we know we are in a super drought, even after we have gone to the significant expense of creating fish ladders around the dams (the complaint is that, “they get clogged up”) well sheesh, UNCLOG THEM!

Anyway, all this and more was expressed quite eloquently by Mr. Nicoll in his letter of couple of months ago. If you could pass this email to him along with my contact info, perhaps I could collaborate with him to bring more attention to this severely under-covered but crucial news item.

Keep up the excellent work guys.

Best wishes, 

John Arteaga

Ukiah

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LOOKING FOR PATTY VAN DAMM

Editor,

I enclose a postal money order for years of fun reading for my brother, an avid reader, to enjoy.

In addition, I am searching for an acquaintance from way back and down there in Mendocino County around 1971, also in Acapulco, by the name of Patty Van Damm. We both have roots in Mendocino. We planned to make a connection. 50 years flew by! I haven't given up hope. So I'm asking you to help spread my search through the AVA readers who can use my cell phone number to set up a meeting: 707-272-1879. Text will work.

Thank you, man,

Bart Butler

Laytonville

PS. That was such an articulate story about one of your prominent Valley people recently. It gave me a deep down stomach howl of joy! The August 17 story about Sam Prather and his departure was great. That Brad Wiley is some writer.

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THE CHRISTMAS LIGHT BANDIT

Dear AVA,

Bureaucratic red tape is the reply of some. Criminal recidivism others. I personally think it is a case of sheer utter boredom, lack of something better to do. I have taken my issue to the front steps of the Mendocino County Courthouse over the past year almost daily. I have been accosted and arrested on the steps and benches outside the courthouse five times now, four of those arrests were unfounded and charges were dropped. 

I'm now the "Christmas light bandit," LOL. I face charges for removing one strand of Christmas lights. The city of Ukiah claims without prejudice that out of all the professionals here that can replace the strand I removed out of thought of an arcing and broken wire haphazardly strung up the side of the tree. They say it is going to take four electricians and 10 hours each to set the zip-tied lights back on the broken limb. The city of Ukiah is pressing vandalism charges in excess of $4,000. The estimate of repairs is $3,480 or so and said charges of over $1000 for one strand of Christmas lights. Is this what our taxpaying dollars are going to? No wonder the county is broke. 

Am I one to cry wolf? No. I take full responsibility for my actions. That being said I am representing myself in this absurd case. I'm a college graduate of Mendocino College as a fire science major with a 3.7 grade point average. I graduated Howard Forrest Firefighter Academy, completed fire service class (FSC) 68 wildland firefighting at Mendocino, got my firefighter safety and survival training from Ukiah Valley fire authority. I'm certified with Cal OSHA, MSHA, local 1245 IBEW out of Vallejo as a flagged emergency response groundman, certified with the American Board of Traffic Safety Association. I am a certified oil field first responder from when I worked in the oil fields in North Dakota for companies such as Hess, Everstar, Halliburton, Triangle, Hurley's Oilfield and Pioneer Drilling, just to name a few. 

But one officer for the Ukiah Police Department with the nickname "Dirty Dutch" feels with her 10 months of employment experience that after her first five attempts to arrest me last year that I am incompetent to notice an active fire hazard. I believe I was preventing that. Once again she feels she can stutter her way into the District Attorney's pocket by not validating who I am and what I worked for in my life. 

I am currently awaiting a jury trial in Ukiah where the city is going to spend who knows how much money with the cost of a court-appointed counsel, private detectives, jury summonses and more of everyone's taxpaying dollars to fund a jury trial against me over one strand of broken Christmas lights in July. 

If anyone ever has a mishap at Christmas this year or any year in the future with flaming Christmas trees or the like catching fire, don't expect me to piss on them to put them out. Rely on Dirty Dutch, the newest recruit for the Ukiah Police Department, to save you. 

Hopefully you won't have to go through five dropped charges, six trials and five and a half months of BS in return. Let's see if attempt number five by the Ukiah Police Department will get a conviction because for some reason District Attorney David Eyster backed down the first four times. Please consider me for a first time contributor to the newspaper about this. 

Bah humbug, as Scrooge said.

Sincerely,

Patrick Ray Redmill A#95751

Mendocino County Jail, 951 Low Gap Road

Ukiah, CA 95482

PS. My cell mate Alan Sonny Crow left for his seven years recently. Good luck brother. I look forward to reading the next newspaper if we get it.

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ROOFTOP SOLAR TAX

Editor: 

As we experience more 100 degree days, we must consider peak electricity demands related to such heat. Will the increased need for electricity be fueled by burning coal, biomass, natural gas, hydroelectric, nuclear, wind or solar? Nationwide, the answer is yes to all of those modes of generation, but rooftop solar panels and backup batteries help minimize grid overload by delivering power directly to homes and businesses, while some contribute excess energy to the grid.

Despite the obvious benefits to all from rooftop solar, despite the federal government’s support for electrification, despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s lip service for a clean energy future, he remains silent on the solar tax and net metering credit reduction supported by PG&E, San Diego Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison.

This silence can only be explained by contributions these utilities make to Newsom’s campaigns. Newsom appoints the California Public Utility Commission members who are considering the utilities’ request for increased fees on current and future rooftop solar installations. Call and let him know he must speak up loudly and clearly on this issue.

Bob Cipolla

Santa Rosa

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A GOOD WORD FOR FORT BRAGG ADVENTISTS

Editor,

As an elder, I was recently admitted to our local Fort Bragg Adventist hospital. Admittedly I was hesitant to go because over the past years I’d heard secondhand negativity which I was also guilty of passing on whenever the subject came up.

I want to set the record straight from my OWN experience. Perhaps a change came from the new ownership (Adventist) but I couldn’t imagine having more nurturing and skillful care from all the nurses and with Chief of Staff Dr. Paul Miller and, in the ER, from Dr. Robin Serrahn.

The nurses were like angels with their attention, seemingly not as a job or duty but rather, far beyond. That they were called to “serve” and that their work is not easy or for the faint of heart. Every person I encountered, from the time I entered the ER, was helpful and friendly and a special shout out to Mellisa, the access coordinator navigating my care and insurance.

Please do pass along the good word. We are significantly blessed to have such an exceptional local hospital. I am filled with gratitude for my experience in my vulnerable time of need.

David Gidley

Fort Bragg

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STRAINING THE GRID

Editor: 

The California Independent System Operator, which manages the state’s bulk power, transmission lines and electricity market among its member utilities, said it will issue flex alerts for residents to conserve power during an expected heat wave this weekend. What is the reason for the flex alerts? The state’s power grid and power generation infrastructure cannot meet increased demand caused by a short-term heat wave.

Meanwhile, the California Air Resources Board has ruled that California will ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars by 2035. As of 2021, there were 29.8 million vehicles registered in California. Of those, 838,000 are electric, hybrid or fuel cell vehicles, or only 2.8% of all registered vehicles. What could possibly go wrong if we add 30 million cars to the grid without massive investments in power generation and transmission?

Rich Brothers

Petaluma

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LABOR LEFT BEHIND

Editor: 

Another Labor Day. No grand parades, no magnificent speeches. What does Labor Day mean for the average American worker? A day off — if she is lucky. Shouldn’t “working poor” be an oxymoron? Workers are paying more for necessities and earning the inflation-adjusted equivalent of ’80s wages. Where is the outrage?

Poverty wages are directly related to inequality. The U.S. is one of the world’s most unequal societies. CEOs earn 300 times the income of average workers. When huge corporations fail, they are rescued by government, but workers must be self-reliant. Our economic system protects the fortunes of the elite, while small businesses and workers are left to fend for themselves.

Adam Smith believed that labor is the ultimate source of wealth — not management, machines or markets. Why can’t the wealthiest nation on Earth afford to respect and support American workers? To seriously shrink inequality and honor labor year-round, every American worker deserves health care, a defined-benefit pension and a living wage. When that is accomplished, Labor Day will truly be a happy occasion.

Gene A Hottel

Santa Rosa

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A MESSAGE FOR THE AVA’S THREE SWING-STATE READERS

Editor,

Every little bit helps. Ask those voters in swing states whether they want to be responsible citizens. If so, ask them to vote for who will pledges to support the following: Make election day a national holiday. Start working on eliminating the electoral college, and a one –six-year term for the president. Insist that the DNC provide a list of those house seats that are toss-ups. Concentrate on voters under 30 with the message outlined above. Those voters are not interested in politics as usual. When you have unanimous opposition it means money is talking and fear of being denied another term… The most horrible thing that could happen… that big salary and all the perks gone, gone gone. Yes sir, Mr. McConnell, you can count on me.

An unofficial note, if this works.

Ralph Bostrom

Willits

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WHY UKIAH SUCKS

Editor,

The following is not an indictment or attack on the people of the greater Ukiah area. I have countless friends and family members who live there. My wife and I have recently moved to the White Mountain area of Arizona. I was a vineyard manager in Ukiah area for 30 years, then I did the same job in Philo for 14 harvests.

Hot Weather. Ukiah is friggin HOT in the summertime. When I moved to Redwood Valley with my parents in July of 1971 that day hit something like 117. There are easily 80-100 days from June to September that can be miserable. After farming and living in Philo for a short time, it became very clear the weather in Ukiah sucks. Afternoon temps in Philo are easily 10-15 degrees lower than Ukiah.

Homeless/Addicted/Crazy People. After returning to Ukiah recently, there they were....... wandering around all areas of town. Call them what you wish, but they have been there for decades. Mumbling, often aggressive pushing grocery carts or pitching a tent near the RR tracks. Ukiah gov't or leadership just turns a blind eye. I've seen so many folks from the 'frequent flyer' list in The Ava, I'm starting to know them by name.

Planning. Certainly not my area of expertise, but upon our recent visit I was excited to see a new cookie store go up where Talmage road meets State street. A pretty nice blue building. Then some locals told me it was a new dispensary. Really? Like the town needed another one! And then there's Mike Maguire's hobo highway.

Lack of Economic Opportunity. Where's the decent paying jobs? Who's producing a product.....except for Factory Pipe? Luckily they don't build something to use from the dispensary. When my folks moved to the area there was Masonite, Carousel Carpet and a couple lumber mills. Now one of the better jobs is cart collecting at Costco?

Lack of Natural Attraction. Ukiah doesn't have anything to hang its hat on except for maybe Montgomery Woods? There's no magnificent mountain or river nearby to enjoy. There's tens of thousands of acres of Cow Mountain.... a dry brush covered mess that needs to burn every 10 years. Russian River has turned into a slow flowing garbage and toilet for the homeless.

A Mediocre Wine Industry. Except for a handful of serious and dedicated producers, the inland wine biz is a joke. Obviously a sector I have some knowledge of. When the wine commission was formed almost 20 years ago, people said Ukiah area needed 2-3 50,000 case wineries to pop up. As many folks know up to 65% of the grapes from Mendo leave the county to become the cheap out-of-county blender in Napanoma wines.

Casey Hartlip

Lakeside, Arizona

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LIFE IN THE ROSE CITY

Editor,

An RV with people living in it is parked next to my home. Residents in this neighborhood have to have a permit to park, but someone can live in their vehicle if they are, or claim to be, homeless.

I have owned my house in the Luther Burbank Gardens historic neighborhood for 30 years, in which time the neighborhood has gone downhill severely because of drugs and street people.

People all around Santa Rosa are suffering because Santa Rosa does not appear to prioritize residents who pay taxes and support the city. In the Luther Burbank Gardens area, crime is high, with any item left in a backyard at risk of being stolen. Syringes can be found lying around and human feces are everywhere.

Property values in Luther Burbank Gardens as well as in other parts of Santa Rosa will go down. Who wants to buy a house with homeless people parked next to it? It appears that the city believes homeless people have more rights than other residents. Residents no longer feel safe in their own homes.

Lisa Shiffrin

Santa Rosa

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NEITHER NOR

Editor: 

As a moderate Republican who wrote in this space in 2016 that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump deserved to be president, I was faced with a choice. I voted for Trump, Clinton being an example of what is wrong with D.C.

Many Trump haters still don’t understand why he was elected. Remember, many Republicans hated the fact that he was our candidate. They hate him because he exposed the seedy underbelly of our politics, both Republicans and Democrats.

Clinton, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Kevin McCarthy, Lindsey Graham and, most of all, Mitch McConnell are all corrupted lifetime politicians. Most people are tired of political correctness and now woke-mania coming out of talking heads and extreme candidates on both sides of the aisle.

We the voters are in charge of change. Whether you’re left or right on important issues, vote for the candidate you feel will help solve our issues. Don’t vote party lines, vote for the best candidate.

Locally, it’s great to see so many new candidates running for office. We need to support new blood on all levels of our government. Vote sensibly for the future.

Jim Hickey

Santa Rosa

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THE DISLOYAL OPPOSITION

Dear Editor;

No wonder the Republican Party is working to destroy our democracy. They oppose most things Americans want.

For example, while 62% of Americans believe abortion should be legal, 99% of House Republicans recently voted against it.

While 70% of Americans support gay marriage, 77% of House Republicans voted against it.

And while 90% of Americans believe in their right to use contraceptives, 96% of House Republicans voted against it.

The laws protecting these rights passed through the House thanks to overwhelming Democratic support but will have trouble getting past a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

If you believe in democracy, help get more Democrats elected, especially to the Senate, since Democrats support and protect what Americans want while Republicans work to end their rights and freedoms. While Republicans endanger our democracy, please vote Democratic to keep it alive and healthy.

Tom Wodetzki

Albion

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AMAZING!

Editor,

Some things amaze me. An outgoing president, who has flaunted time-honored traditions like revealing his past taxes upon first taking office, snatched hundreds of classified materials on his way back home from the White House in January, 2021. According to protocol, the National Archives and, then, the Justice Department asked for the return of these documents, but was refused. A year-and-a-half later he left office, finally in early August, 2022, when officials in the Justice Department sought a warrant, searched and retrieved said crucially important documents from his residence, it appears there may be an indictment brought of this former president, hordes of his loyalists fall all over themselves to defend him. 

After Senator Lindsay Graham, R, South Carolina threatens “there will be violence in the streets,” today Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, reports that “Trump was acting under his own rules,” when he took these records of vital significance to national security and defense. 

Is this not the obvious extension of special privilege to a person of interest in a possible, even probable, federal crime? Violence won't result in anything but more death. 

Frank Baumgardner

Santa Rosa

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ONE PARTICULAR BILLIONAIRE

Editor,

Bob Proctor asks “why no other similarly situated billionaires have been subjected to the same scrutiny” as Donald Trump. The answer is simple: there is no “similarly situated” billionaire. 

No other billionaire has taken an oath to “protect, preserve, and defend the U.S. Constitution” and proceeded to refuse to acknowledge a duly elected successor and strive to disrupt the formal acceptance of the vote by Congress. No other recent president (billionaire or not) has refused to separate himself from financial decisions regarding his personal wealth upon election and refused to make his tax returns available to the American public. No other president (billionaire or not) has taken with him valuable and top-secret documents when he left office and then repeatedly refused to return them. 

The list goes on. Trump is not a victim. The evidence is clearly showing that Trump, a former president of our country, may have seriously violated his oath of office and the Constitution. 

Anne N. Thomas

Fort Bragg

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THE APARTHEID STATE

Editor: 

I am outraged at so much unnecessary suffering in our world. How long will the boots of the powerful remain on the necks of innocents? News from Palestine is especially grim. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Israeli organization B’Tselem have reported that Israel is an apartheid state. Six civil society organizations, such as Al Haq (Arabic for the truth) and Defense for Children International-Palestine, which records and reports abuses committed by Israel on Palestinian children, have been officially declared by Israel as terrorist organizations. Their offices were raided, records taken and doors welded shut by Israeli soldiers. Our government, Israel’s biggest supporter with $3.8 billion in tax dollars yearly, is allowing this to continue, making us complicit.

Are we friends of Israel when we support its moral self-destruction or the slow genocide it is committing? The claim is always security, but annihilation of indigenous Palestinians and blatant territorial expansion are the reality.

Please contact your representatives and insist that they work for security and equality for all living in Palestine/Israel.

Therese Mughannam-Walrath

Santa Rosa

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BLUE ZONE BOOKS

Editor,

Andrew Lutsky and I are not reading the same Blue Zone books. In my reading I have not recognized the promotion of any religion at any place in the books. A little background will validate this perception. They are called Blue Zones because someone involved drew a blue circle on a map around one of the towns. It was Dan Buetner, a world traveler, who encountered several of these locations and observed that the citizens not only were living longer, but were much more active and healthier in there old age. Dan took his discoveries to National Geographic and convinced them to do more research on people who were benefiting from this lifestyle. They hired a team of researchers to look for more long living groups of people and study their lifestyle. They found five communities around the world, called them the Blue Zones, and did cross-cultural comparisons. The team of scientists isolated nine different components that these communities shared in common and therefore were factors in the people living longer, healthier, and more active lives. Dan Buetner has written several books detailing the different lifestyles and cultures in the Blue Zones. (This is the information that Lutsky wants to deny to public school students.) Please note that none of this was directed by the Seventh Day Adventist Church. They only came into the picture because the Blu Zone in this country happened to be in Loma Linda, California where the Adventist church is centered. In recent years Buetner has put together a package he sells that provides guidelines for how communities can implement the nine components into there communities. I think Ukiah has wisely bought into this package. It in no way promotes one religion over another. The people I know who are working in this program have no connection to this Adventist church.

I could argue with Lutsky on nearly every point he makes but I will focus on some of the more flagrant falsehoods. He cites a physician named Hall who says “It is false to assume that diet is a factor in making us live longer”. Give me a break! The statistical facts on the Blue Zones is that they live about 12 years longer then other Americans. However, they die differently: Instead of a slow long decline into decrepitude they stay fully active into old age and then die quickly. They are getting about 25 more years of quality life. Hall needs to run down to the shopping mall, have a seat, and watch the people walk (I should say waddle) by. A few minutes observation will confirm that over 40% of them are obese and becoming diabetic. According to Hall diet has nothing to do with this.

Lutsky’s expert Hall also says that the Blue Zoners could be living longer just because they are wealthier and that there has been little research on this factor. Wrong! Hall,s head is in the sand. Loma Linda is the only well off Blue Zone. The other four communities live an old fashioned subsistence lifestyle where they herd goats and grow a lot of their own food. One of the nine components is that exercise is built into the lifestyle. This is why I have my wife carry in the firewood. I cut and stacked it. Hall is also unaware of the largest nutritional study ever conducted on thousands of Chinese people. It is detailed in a book called “The China Study” by an American professor named T. Collin Campbell. With help from the Chinese government Campbell analyzed the diets of peasants living on the land eating rice and beans and compared their health to the newly wealthy Chinese who were eating high on the hog. Campbell refers to the big killers of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease as”diseases of affluence”.

Some years ago I went to Kenya. In my three weeks while traveling from Nairobi to Mombassa to Malindi, I encountered 3 people who were over weight. As a tall slim person it was nice to be among people of my body type who were nimble on their feet. It could have been a factor in crossing streets in the traffic. The everyday staple in these Kenyans is a whiter corn polenta served with steamed collard greens. This is the food that fuels the world’s greatest distance runners. They even insist on eating it in the olympic village. It is also worth noting that Cubans on the island have an unusually long life expectancy. So much for the rich living longer and Lutsky’s science.

There also seems to be a concern about the Adventist work in healing the sick being part of their religious mission. I guess Lutsky has never heard of Mother Teresa. I think it is a noble purpose and I am not bothered by it at all. Moreover, I prefer it to the motives of those whe go into medicine to get rich. This is the mode of operation for many of the players in our profit driven healthcare system. We all know about the outrages of the drug companies where Americans are paying 4-500% more for drugs than Canadians. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 75% of medicare funds are spent on people in the last month of their lives. A lot of our hospitals are gouging medicare (US). Considering all this I find it refreshing to hope that our hospitals and staff are providing medical care on the basis of a sense of moral purpose in the service of our residents. I also like the Adventists because of their dedication to preventive healthcare. Teaching people how to maintain their health makes the hospital less money. This is more evidence of their dedication to their ethical purpose. Please note that you don’t have to be an Adventist to get this service.

I am a retired teacher, have read about education in other countries, have lived and went to school in Sweden, and am married to a German immigrant. Fundamental to a good educational system is that it allows for a free exchange of ideas and information. This is also fundamental to a functioning democracy. The real issue here is not one of religious indoctrination but rather, is it a good idea to teach young people how to live a healthier, improved quality of life. One of the nine components is to incorporate into your life a mechanism for dealing with stress. I have been reading a lot about the uncertainties and concerns young people are dealing with coming out of this pandemic. Teaching them some methods for dealing with stress should take precedence over unfounded claims that the Adventists are trying to recruit lost souls.

As for this censorship that Lutsky is engaging in. Perhaps he should join forces with those who fear Critical Race Theory and have a book burning. i will stick to the principle of allowing a free exchange of ideas. Thanks to the AVA for this opportunity to do that.

Don Cruser

Little River

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LUTSKY REPLIES 

Editor,

Readers gained some valuable insights from Bluzonian theocrat Don Cruser, also known as MCOE Board Member for District 5.

For example, we learned that Cruser admires his own physique. He states he enjoyed traveling in Kenya because “As a tall slim person it was nice to be among people of my body type who were nimble on their feet.”

We learned Cruser happily participates in fat shaming. Displeased with Harriet Hall, a retired U.S. Air Force physician and writer who had the temerity to question one of Buettner’s claims, Cruser recommends she “run down to the shopping mall, have a seat, and watch the people walk (I should say waddle) by.” I must have missed ‘Ridiculing and belittling people for struggling with weight control and body image’ among Buettner’s ‘Power Nine.’ Sounds to me like Cruser owes the families in his district who are struggling with those serious issues an apology at the very least.

We learned Cruser likes to assert control over his wife’s fitness regimen. Referring to the idea that it’s desirable to build exercise into your daily routine, Cruser says, “This is why I have my wife carry in the firewood. I cut and stacked it.”

As we read on we learn of Cruser’s apparent distaste for relying on and citing sources. The source Cruser most often refers to is … Cruser. Maybe somewhere in the unhinged rant he will inevitably send in response to this letter he will include what must be his very impressive bona fides to support his implied claims of authority.

Aside from regurgitating the unsupported claims of journalist Buettner, Cruser cites exactly one other source: The China Study, a pseudo-scientific study written by nutrition researcher T. Colin Campbell, PhD, with his non-scientist son Thomas M. Campbell II and the support of the famously reliable Chinese government. Among the dubious claims of this study: ”Heart disease can be prevented and even reversed by a healthy diet.” Regarding the claim that vegetarianism alone confers health advantages, other major studies contradict that claim.

Hall (the Air Force physician whom Cruser urges to spend more time watching mall-goers “waddle”) notes:

Observations from other countries tend to contradict the correlations found in China. The African Maasai eat a diet high in animal protein (meat, milk and blood from their cows) — yet they have low blood cholesterol levels and low rates of heart disease. Among the Eskimos (who ate an animal-based, very high protein, high fat diet) heart disease was practically unknown.

Along the way Cruser seems to enjoy personally insulting strangers who have expressed a point of view that differs from his own. Apparently frustrated at the suggestion that professing a ‘healing ministry’ does not somehow exempt a religious group from federal law, Cruser declares, “I guess Lutsky has never heard of Mother Teresa.” I must have also missed ‘Make vapid remarks in an attempt to disparage those with opposing views’ among the Bluzonian Power Nine.

Sorry Don, I didn’t know we were playing the ‘Choose your favorite Catholic from history to distract from the real argument’ game. Okay, I’m in. I see your Mother Teresa and raise you a Father Philip Berrigan. His ‘healing ministry’-- his anti-war activism opposing war profiteering, war-promotion and the wars of choice the U.S. entered into, especially in Vietnam and Iraq, activism which earned him eleven years in prison— arguably helped more people and saved more lives than the actions of the Saint of Calcutta, about whom Canadian academics Serge Larivée, Geneviève Chénard and Carole Sénéchal, note "her rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding, in particular, abortion, contraception, and divorce." Those researchers quote Mother Teresa saying “There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ's Passion. The world gains much from their suffering.”

Christopher Hitchens describes her as “a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud”:

She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction. And she was a friend to the worst of the rich, taking misappropriated money from the atrocious Duvalier family in Haiti (whose rule she praised in return) and from Charles Keating of the Lincoln Savings and Loan. Where did that money, and all the other donations, go? The primitive hospice in Calcutta was as run down when she died as it always had been—she preferred California clinics when she got sick herself—and her order always refused to publish any audit. But we have her own claim that she opened 500 convents in more than a hundred countries, all bearing the name of her own order. Excuse me, but this is modesty and humility?

It seems suggesting that money is connected to health outcomes can be controversial. At the suggestion made by Hall, Oxford University demographer and geneticist Saul Newman and other scientists that wealth, not lifestyle/diet/fitness, is likely a more important factor in health and longevity, Cruser again employs ridicule: ”Wrong! Hall,s [sic] head is in the sand.” And the evidence to support his confident claim? None.

Maybe most importantly we learned that Cruser enjoys masquerading as a free speech absolutist. If we are to take his claim seriously that I’m engaging in censorship we must assume he means that a book that promotes a particular religious sect is in fact appropriate for public school classroom use. That’s a radical view which suggests he would have sided with the ALA in U.S. v ALA (2003), meaning he wishes to live in a world where patrons of the Mendocino County Library on Main Street in Ukiah would have no choice but to encounter graphic pornography and violence on the computer screens of patrons who, exercising their free speech rights, browse the unfiltered internet … And that would be okay.

And to be consistent we must presume Cruser cheered recently when a public school football coach won the right to lead an “optional” prayer on the 50-yard line at the end of games. I’ll wear Cruser’s charge of ‘censorship’ as a badge of honor as I stand with Rev. Rudy Pulido, a church leader from St. Louis, who put it this way: ”Government has no place supporting an employee’s religious practice on government property. … Jesus indicated prayer was best practiced in a closet, not in public venues like a 50-yard line.” What we don’t glean from Cruser’s note is any response to my specific charge that Buettner’s book The Blue Zones Solution is biased in favor of a particular religious sect because the author does not adequately clarify or support his claims.

Neither Dan Buettner nor the Seventh Day Adventists nor the hospital corporation they own invented the Mediterranean diet. No one is credibly disputing the health benefits— which are very distinct from claims of longevity— of that diet/lifestyle, and thankfully in this country the Adventists are free to practice and promote that lifestyle however they choose. What is not lawful is for them to do an end-run around the establishment clause by obscuring their sectarian nature behind a nonprofit (Blue Zones LLC, purchased in 2020 for $78 million) owned by their healthcare corporation (Adventist Health) that’s owned by the church.

If the essence of their mission is to help people live healthier and more productive lives I’d recommend that the Adventists, instead of promoting and profiting from a book filled with unsupported claims, take another approach:

Follow the radical advice recommended by Catholic social justice fighter and candidate for canonisation Dorothy Day: Provide better wages and working conditions to their employees. My sources tell me the salaries offered by Adventist for highly trained medical professionals in Ukiah are so much lower than those offered by competing hospitals outside the area that the best physicians and specialists tend to take jobs and settle elsewhere. That cannot possibly lead to better health outcomes for Ukiah residents.

Stop opposing unions, the organizations which defend the rights of the workers the Adventists say they care about and from whose labor the Adventists benefit. 

Stop restricting women’s access to legal and beneficial reproductive health services.

In my open letter to Superintendent Kubin I ask several specific questions about Buettner’s book which Cruser ignores. In my follow-up letter I ask a series of practical questions about how this new church-owned-corporation/public-school partnership was going to work, and Cruser ignores those questions, too. I’m still waiting to learn the answers to those questions and am eager to hear from anyone who wishes to discuss the issue … without resorting to personal (even if feeble) attacks.

Andrew Lutsky

Ukiah

* * *

THE QUESTION WE FACE

Editor,

Meter mixed by thermo or the flying elephant

To be or not to be

that is the question facing humanity.

For it is that

the degree

to which we are battering the Earth

we are also battering

the human psyche.

The invisible hand of Adam Smith

now makes sense

As the battering ram

for so much unintended consequence.

A hundred or so years ago today

Twas Albert Camus that had his say

“Stupidity sure has a knack

for getting its way”

Not just homo but sapiens the wise

the only species

to which that applies

Methinks twould be delusion

If I proffered any conclusion

but perhaps

salvation just might visit

those of us that can and will

make the effort to adapt.

David Severn

Philo

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