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Letters (Oct. 20, 2022)

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To Mendocino County Residents:

The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office has been working extremely hard this year. With all your help the Sheriff’s Office Marijuana Enforcement Team has seized over 200,000 marijuana plants, almost 30 tons of processed marijuana and 43 firearms. We have been forced to focus our efforts on the most egregious violators due to the extreme shortage in personnel which most law enforcement agencies are facing. This was just a drop in the bucket. We are looking much better than we were last year in many areas, however we have a long way to go until we have this problem cleaned up. I continue to receive calls from residents concerned about violence and environmental degradation. Please understand we are trying very hard to get to all of the problem locations.

Recently I read an article, in which a press release completed by Attorney General’s Office was quoted. I don’t know how many people in Mendocino County read this article however I found it to be a little insulting. This article seemed to be declaring the legalization of marijuana a success in California. Sadly, as I read the article and realized, Sacramento must be a long way from Mendocino County. I began to wonder if the policy makers truly understand what’s going on in rural California. It’s not that they haven’t been told yet it seems they probably aren’t listening. Clearly the roll out of legalized marijuana has been a much different experience for those of us living in the emerald triangle.

Reading this press release made me realize those of us who have seen our county at a time prior to legalization and at a time following it, have a much different view of what has occurred here. I can tell you, as a rural sheriff I feel as if the policy makers came to our county, hit it with a wrecking ball then began praising themselves for offering us a broom to clean up the mess.

The article stated, “California has the largest safe, legal and regulated cannabis market in the world, but unfortunately illegal and unlicensed grows continue to proliferate.” I have not seen a safe, legal, or regulated market in Mendocino County. I doubt the families of the homicide victims murdered in grow sites over the last few years would agree with this statement. I also doubt the legal cultivators, many of whom have poured their life savings into a failing system would agree either.

In 2020 I, along with other Northern California Sheriffs, met in Trinity County with members of the state’s marijuana policy team. During this meeting we asked several questions including, what are the plans for enforcement against drug trafficking organizations as well as how would they deal with the marijuana being diverted to the black market and shipped out of state. We also brought up the struggles of finding personnel and asked who would be handling the enforcement of the massive wave of illegal marijuana which we all knew was coming.

As the conversation continued, we asked if the state had any plans to regulate the market ensuring these things wouldn’t happen. We asked if they had a target number of product production which would supply the needs of legal marijuana within the state. We pointed out the fact that producing beyond market saturation would cause diversions to the black market. The black market would have a negative impact on legal farms and as the prices drop, the violence, environmental impacts and damage to the legal farms would continue and escalate. If the black market isn’t dealt with all legal markets will fail. That is simply a fact. All these questions seemed to fall on deaf ears. The issues we are currently facing were predicted in that meeting by the rural sheriffs in California.

The article went on to discuss future direction to focus on environmental, economic, and labor impacts from illegal cultivation. I didn’t see anything discussing the violence which has been long associated with drug trafficking organizations.

Homicides, robberies, and environmental destruction have become the new normal for rural communities. We had two rolling shootouts in the Ukiah and Willits area on highway 101 this year. Drug Trafficking Organizations are not one trick ponies. Once they have established a footing in our rural areas, they bring fentanyl and other hard drugs as well as human trafficking, violence, and intimidation. We are seeing these things occur and continue to occur in our county. We simply can’t have this in Mendocino County.

State agencies such as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, are incredibly helpful for us in Mendocino County. They are stretched incredibly thin as almost all law enforcement agencies currently are. The state CAMP program is extremely helpful as well. These agencies have always been force multipliers. Sadly, the CAMP program is a shadow of what it once was, we only received 7 days of assistance from them this year. The problem isn’t with boots on the ground, it’s the policies which have restrained us from making true impacts.

Over the past several years we have been working hard with staffing shortages, we’ve taken on these issues, and I am happy to report we are making a small dent in many areas. It is a small dent however, we will continue to work on this. This all comes with a price. Our deputies are placed in danger each time they enter one of these sites. We must work collaboratively to meet the current needs. Again, locals are being placed in harms way due to decisions made by policy makers far from the problems.

We did receive some assistance this year from our legislators, I would like to thank Senator McGuire, who came through for rural counties providing funding through the state to assist us in our work regarding these issues. I am very grateful for his assistance.

We must stay focused and continue to work towards a solution that will meet the needs of our communities. If we don’t continue to progress things will digress again. Little to no enforcement on the illegal market has created the perfect storm for our communities.

In order to face these new challenges, I have been and will continue to work with other sheriffs including Lake, Humboldt, Trinity, and Butte Counties. We are continuing to work together and support each other as we investigate these crimes. We need the state policy makers to step up and provide more personnel for enforcement, also we need them to change the flawed policies which have brought these problems to our communities. 

The first step to fixing a problem is admitting there is one. Without changes in policies these issues will continue. Please help us by letting Sacramento know there is a problem. Reach out to our state leaders and legislators, let them know we have a problem and together we can come together to find a solution.

Thank you,

Sheriff Matt Kendall


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Dear Sheriff Kendall: 

The Emerald Triangle weed nightmare started long before you became sheriff. All of the blame can’t be placed on Sacramento. They’re just trying to get their cut like everyone else, right? Millions of more dollars funding eradication efforts can only be viewed as price supports for those who don’t get raided. Erratic enforcement in Mendocino County for the past 25 years has been a big part of the problem. I watched my neighborhood get overrun by carpet-baggers and dimwitted weed players in 2016. The only reason they aren’t still plaguing my neighborhood is because of the wholesale price of bud. That’s the only real force that will change our communities. So, I say, let’s keep promoting what all the hippies have been screaming for decades: “It’s just a plant man.” $100 per pound seems like a good price point for a safe community. Find the bad actors, fine the crap out of them, but don’t cut down their sacred medicine cuz they need to buy some fancy rims. Let all the plants grow and this chaotic weed shitshow will turn to a moldy memory.

Kirk Vodopals


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The intertwined dance between environmental upheaval and human psychic turmoil was on display this past weekend at the Ukiah Pumpkinfest themed Planet Pumpkin. I’m not sure how to envision Earth as a pumpkin, but the contemporary jack-o-lantern might be a metaphor for a scary environmental future. 

I say contemporary because the original Irish (?) jack-o-lantern was carved out of a turnip. But there was lots of un-needed, unharvested stuff for sale and lots of plastic, including enough plastic firefighter helmets for every kid in Ukiah. I lasted about half an hour, just long enough to get the gist and then to stand guard over a pile of dog poop that was laid in the middle of pedestrian filled School Street in Ukiah by a sweet little fluffy white doggie on a leash whose owner, after waiting patiently for poopsy to finish, scurried away when I suggested that she pick up the stuff. 

A couple cops and a couple firefighters strolled by but did not respond when I asked them to get someone to clean it up. A firefighter with a remote controlled motorized red fire hydrant did park it at my request beside the pile but not before one baby stroller pushed its way past me from my backside and hit the poop loaf. 

I half envisioned  another dog coming along and peeing on the hydrant. I couldn’t just leave it there. Upon seeing my plight, a kind woman waiting in line for some food handed me a bunch of napkins and I was able to pick the doggie doo up and then wander around a bit with a load in each hand looking for a garbage can. Fortunately there was one to be  found in the park and water available to rinse my hands. But I’d had enough Planet Pumpkin fun and found my way back to Anderson Valley in time to catch the 4 o’clock animal-less Flynn Creek Circus performance: very enjoyable — no shit.

David Severn


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Here is my list of books. Asking your readers for a books list is a terrific idea. 

1. Adventurous in Marxism by Marshall Berman

2. Collected Works by Isaac Babel, especially The Red Calvary and the   Odessa stories. Babel is one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century.

3. The Way We Live Now and He Knew He Was Right by Anthony  Trollope. The latter is a very dark novel about obsession.

4. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell. And you  thought your job was demanding.

5. Lenin’s Political Thought by Neil Harding. An excellent analysis of  Lenin’s political process.

6. The Ethnic Cleaning of Palestine by Ilan Pappe. As Hitchins said, “Religion poisons everything.”

7. History of the Paris Commune of 1871 by Prosper Olivier Lissagaray. An eyewitness account by a reporter on the scene.

8. Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac.

9. The Western Lands by William Burroughs.

10. The Ridley series by Patricia Highsmith. Five novels about Tom  Ridley. Gives real meaning to the word amoral.

Michael Wiest


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While the Clintons took furnishings from the White House, the Washington Post reported in February 2001 that the Clintons returned $28,000 worth of furnishings to the National Park Service and earlier had paid the government $86,000 for other items they received as gifts in his last year in office. Also, according to a 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service, “Since the President is not flatly prohibited from accepting gifts from the general public, such a gift made to the President personally, and accepted, may be retained by him when he leaves office.”

As for Sandy Berger, the former national security adviser pleaded guilty to cutting up classified documents and paid a $10,000 fine.

The problem of the Clintons taking furniture at the end of his administration is laughable when compared to Donald Trump taking classified documents. Trying to compare the two is ridiculous.

Gordon Barbosa

Fort Bragg

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This note is in response to the several people who have expressed concern that the Measure P funds may not go to support our local fire districts because the County and/or Board of Supervisors cannot be trusted. 

Everyone I have spoken with agrees that our 20 mostly volunteer fire departments across Mendocino County are absolutely necessary to our daily lives. We also agree they’re not well enough funded, not well enough to continue to the level of service we need today as disasters continue to increase, as our land gets hotter and dryer. You want a plan as to how the revenue from Measure P will be spent? Apparently you have not done your research. Just ask any fire chief in this county. They have a plan according to the serious unmet needs that we all must want them to meet. Items like fire trucks (half a million each folks!!), equipment for sea rescues, protective equipment for the firefighters needs regular replacement or at least, repair, equipment and machines constantly need repair and maintenance, buildings to store all this stuff, training of firefighters is ongoing, cost of workman’s compensation insurance rises continually. On and on it goes. Keep in mind – these folks fight fires! Lots of wear and tear, they are hard on equipment because it’s hard, hard work and, its fire. There is serious need – you just need to listen and from your comments it appears you haven’t even tried. I am not using scare tactics here – this is a real situation – but not doing anything to better fund Fire IS scary. Accountability of fire department spending on Fire is built in. Each fire department has it’s own oversight board. I put my trust in these folks to spend wisely. Even if Measure P passes, that still won’t be enough, but it gets some funds to the right place, immediately. I trust my firefighters to answer my 911 call – so I trust them to spend the dollars they get on what they need to respond to my emergency call. They don’t have time to write you up a spending plan every month; they’re out on calls that are life threatening and life saving.

As for the resolution that put Measure P on the ballot, this is our best shot, right now, to respond immediately to the needs of our fire community. The Board of Supervisors are proposing capturing a rare chance to provide some relief for our fire fighting community without making county residents pay more taxes than they are now. Measure P is the redirection of a 1/4cent sales tax set to expire at end of the year, but let’s keep paying what we have been paying, and send that to our firefighters over the next ten years. Your sales tax will not go up, even if you vote Yes on BOTH Measure P and O (Library), it will not go up (O and P are not “pitted against each other”). And really – a Sales tax?? That’s what you are up in arms about? That’s a small bit we all pay, including all our visitors, little by little. It’s not like we’ll get a big tax bill suddenly in the mail. I can do this small amount here and there, and I am doing that because I want fire protection. Why is that so hard? I have done the research and I know how much Measure P is estimated to produce annually and how much would go to each fire department. You ask “how much tax”? Look into it. Oh I forgot – you don’t really have an idea how to fix this, or a plan, it’s just about complaining.

If your position is that there should be a specific tax passed, which requires a 2/3 vote, this is not a decent plan. A 66%+ vote is a really high bar and would require a large mobilization to actually happen. Our fire fighter friends in Sonoma recently studied the option of going for a specific tax. They gave up after finding that approximately 64% would be the best they would be able to do. You can take the position of just being against any tax. Never mind that it would have someday save your own life, your home, those dear to you. And should the firefighters, who work full time and volunteer to keep us safe, need to take on such a campaign? I’d rather have them responding to the emergency calls, which by the way, have increased each year significantly for some time now. NO – I want to get our fire departments more funding immediately, they desperately need it.

So you have a choice – continue to just complain about government and it’s inefficiency. Or, decide to do something about it. Choose to be a part of the team that monitors how the funds are distributed and let’s hold the County to its promise. Just complaining about government is not good enough. Oversight is on us – each citizen. You can bet I will be watching and so will the 20 fire chiefs across the county and their boards. Take your distrust of government out this way – ensure the BOS does what they said they would. We can’t mess around on this one – our very lives depend on it.

Nancy Armstrong-Frost


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I’m writing this letter of support for Susan Sher because I believe she is the best candidate for the upcoming election for the City of Ukiah Council. Susan and I both have lived in the Wagonseller neighborhood for over 25 years. We both care deeply about our small community but Susan goes above and beyond caring. She can often be seen out walking in our neighborhood stopping and talking to people and making sure our giving library area is clean and tidy. This was before she made the decision to run for the council.

In the last 2 years I have had the opportunity to join Susan with some neighborhood issues. These included the homeless camping problem on Hamilton Street as well as a pop up illegal business on Joseph Street. A handful of neighbors were joined by the chief of police and we met in Susans’s backyard. Through this meeting both issues were totally resolved. Susan facilitated this meeting with a real knack for the import questions. As well as having the ability to let everyone voice their concerns and ask questions. She was precise and to the point as well as calm and concern. This showed me the real Professional side of Susan.

I truly believe Susan is the person best suited for our City Council. I have no doubt she will be a real asset.

With warm regards,

Porter DuMar Dinehart

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Letter of Recommendation for Susan Sher, Ukiah City Council


I am voting for Susan Sher to serve as the newest member of the Ukiah City Council in the coming November election.

I feel that if elected Susan will bring invaluable historical perspective to the needs of our city. Susan has been very involved in many local issues, but probably the most important one in these uncertain times we're living in now, Climate Change, Susan has the most experience of the candidates that can be of help to the city in dealing with the Climate Emergency threat. She has served on both County and City climate action committees, and will seek bold new solutions.

Susan believes that these times also call for us to deal with homelessness, fire threats, economic development that keeps the economy local, and many others. To deal constructively with them I feel that we need a dynamic, vigilant and inquisitive City Council. Susan has the energy, skills and experience to bring this new voice to the council.

I feel that Susan will also bring new energy into solving the various issues that Ukiah's many neighborhoods face and will work to ensure residents receive the services that they need. She has been vigorously advocating for her own neighborhood, the Wagenseller Neighborhood, for many years.

Lastly, I'm voting for Susan because she really does believe that it “takes a village” to make the needed changes for the creation of a better Ukiah.

Larry Sheehy


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I am extremely worried about water. And I do everything I can to conserve it. Admittedly, I still have a small green lawn, but in everything else I do — a strict five-minute shower every second or third day, containers in sinks and showers capturing water, less flushing — I am water aware. However, recently I am thinking, why do I bother?

When I look around, particularly southwest Santa Rosa, every empty lot is being razed for development. And they are building large homes, three and four bedrooms, that require a lot of water.

I know housing is needed, but so is our precious natural resource. Lake Sonoma is at 45% capacity. That’s scary, and there is no relief in sight. My husband tells me it takes years for these housing projects to get approval. I’m hoping that the city Planning Commission will start including a clause in any future contract that reads “subject to cancellation pursuant to water levels being sustainable.”

Camille Walsh

Santa Rosa

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So I was sitting in my car before work thinking of yiddish and Hebrew words that I know because the day before at work we were messing around and calling each other schmendrick and schlimazel and goy and saying shabbat shalom and shomer shabbes and just absolutely cracking up while we work. So then I start thinking what Hebrew I know to share at work today and think of the Shema prayer, that will definitely impress. So I recite “Shema Israel Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Ahad. Hear O Israel, The Lord is our God, The Lord is One.” I recite it a few more times to myself and think about what it means and what impact it has had on the long story of history and the people of the world. So I leave the parking garage to walk to work and realize I have a gift card in my pocket for a ubiquitous coffee shop. So why not I love free coffee. I walk the maze for the line and as I pull my gift card from my pocket, unbeknownst to me my wad of $200 just secured from the ATM plops to the floor. 

I order my coffee and ding the QR code and this perfect slight and tanned man with a sandy blond tuft of curly hair says “Sir, Sir, your money!”

I look up astonished and say “Huh?”

I realize what has happened and say “Um, wait you don’t have to do that.”

He says, “Yes I do or that would follow me.”

I look and he is with his wife and 2 beautiful young children and I realize and at the same time say, “You are a traveler with your blessed family”

“Where are you coming from?”

“We are from Israel.”


I am astonished at what has happened and my body is overwhelmed with an intense adrenaline rush and sense of well-being.

I say, “Well I just recited the Shema three times in my car and I’m on my way to work.”

He said, “Well then it's from God.”

I said, “Well I’m glad it's not Saturday or my story just flies right out the window.” 

Nate Duffy


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Considerations: FB Council Candidate Michelle Roberts’ son Jacob Patterson

Will you go on the record that you do not condone or are complicit in your son, Jacob Patterson’s continued harassment and bullying of City workers and Council Members.

Are you aware of his hundreds of public records requests from City Hall (thousands of pages of documents)?

Do you know his intentions of using all those requested documents received?

If elected, will you recuse yourself on any matters involving your son and his records requests?

Do you support his public statement at the September 12th City Council meeting that “election fraud occurred by Council members Albin-Smith and Peters defacing, destroying nomination papers a crime the Police Chief should look into”? 

Do you support his efforts to find the City at fault (a misperceived notion that he will eventually find some errors to use against the City with these records reviewed and retained)?

How will you mend relationships with City staff after 5 years of Jacob’s activities and bullying them?

Did you support Jacob’s legal claim against the City with a settlement of $22,000 of the taxpayers’ money?

Did you raise the rent of your son, Jacob, during the pandemic and while receiving rental assistance from the City?

These are serious questions and concerns for a candidate that may be tasked with the City’s budget and maintaining a safe workforce at City Hall.

Will Lee, former Council Member and Mayor

Fort Bragg

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Hello County Staff and Administration,

I find myself navigating the first PRA subsidy request since its implementation.

The following passage is a crucial component to all parties, but needs more information and context to guide the media:

“The County has committed to providing 120 hours of administrative staff time and 40 hours of attorney or paralegal time without charge to news media requesters each calendar month. To ensure parity, each individual requester is eligible for up to 30 hours of search time and 10 hours of attorney time each month.”

Simply put, these allotted hours are not universally understood. Now that reporters are navigating these parameters, we need to better understand the number of hours required for the various types of public records requests.

For example, TransparencyCalifornia submits public records request all across the state annually to identify the salaries of county employees. How many hours of search time would that be? Attorney time?

Help us help you. We know public records request take valuable time, but right now, the actual hour conversion rate to the public records request is unclear.

Are there any best practices your staff could offer to make our requests more efficient and small in scope so less time is needed to fulfill them?

Another note of concern is these guidelines' inability to adapt to urgency and immediacy. An inquiry, research-based public records request could take up a reporter’s allotted time leaving them, unable to request records needed for any more urgent matter. Most reporters have long-form research they are conducting and also responding to the day-to-day incidents that punctuate our lives. I do not think the county wants to discourage that, but this current model does.

Another note: the NextRequest system is robust and offers the searchability of previous public records requests and the ability for others with the same inquiry to download them. Currently, Sheriff/Coroner public records requests are not available to the general public after they are fulfilled. There are multiple examples of essentially the same PRA being filed for MCSO records. Fundamentally, this is inefficient. 

I hope you hear these questions and feedback in good faith and I look forward to a response. 

Matt LaFever, Ukiah

Reporter for KMUD, Redheaded Blackbelt, and Founder of MendoFever

Phone:(707) 267-1799

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Thank you for bringing up these concerns, Matthew. This ordinance remains highly problematic. No one has any way of knowing how much time it will take which category of employee to fill a request. This is an impossible calculation for anyone to make in the course of researching an issue, and it should be entirely irrelevant. Public records belong to the public, media or not, and we have already paid for them.

This policy incentivizes slow-walking public records act requests, a process that already has plenty of room for extensions and exceptions. I do not believe there has been an estimate, based on any sound study, of the time and money that will theoretically be saved by this policy. I am disappointed that this has become a county ordinance, with so little serious questioning from our leadership.

It is important to point out that the documents that are already part of the public record are poorly organized, and that employees do not appear to be trained to answer basic questions about how to find them. When I was searching for records that I knew had already been requested and couldn't find them, I called the number on the public records webpage, hoping to speak with someone who could take a few minutes to point me in the right direction (rather than laboriously filling a redundant request). I spoke to two employees and left a message for a third, and neither of them had any idea what I was talking about. No one responded to my message. 

This ordinance has come into being at a time when questions are swirling about the health plan deficit, the cannabis program and its various grants, and the District Attorney's prosecutorial decisions. We need more transparency, not less. It is completely inappropriate to initiate a thoroughly non-transparent policy that makes it more difficult and complicated and costly to gain access to public records.

Please revoke this ordinance. It does not serve the public interest.

Thank you,

Sarah Reith, Reporter


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Hey Bruce, I know I’m late w/ this, but am finally in a position to respond - I’ve read some books in the last couple of years that I’ve really loved- yeah, I loved Gone With The Wind etc, 50 some years ago, but I want to hear about newer books- I know some of these are somewhat older, but I’ve just got to them... I love autobiographies, biographies, biographic novels, historic novels, mysteries- so here’re a few I’ve really enjoyed of late:

The Valley Of Amazement - Amy Tan

The Kitchen God’s Wife- Amy Tan

Clara and Mr. Tiffany- Susan Vreeland

Full Dark House- Christopher Fowler

Her Fearful Symmetry- Audrey Niffenneger

Lilac Girls- Martha Hall Kelly

Under The Wide and Starry Sky- Nancy Horton

Little Movies- Todd Walton

Maya’s Notebook- Isabelle Allende

Ripper- Isabelle Allende

The Paris Seamstress- Natasha Lester

She Who Rides Like A Man- Tamora Pierce

The Thirteenth Tale- Diane Setterfield

Killed At The Whim Of A Hat- Colin Cotterill

Democracy In Chains- Nancy MacLean

Pompeii- Robert Harris

Take care, 

Nancy MacLeod


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Dear AVA,

It has come to my attention that someone may be writing letters and signing my name to them. I don't have proof of this, yet someone made a comment that made me suspicious of them and some other shady people they hanging with.

The only people I write to regularly are my aunt, my sister and a friend I have down south.

All I ask is to beware of people writing letters and signing my name to them.

On a different note, I am working hard and going to a lot of self-help groups working at bettering myself. I put God first in my life and I put all the drug use and dumb stuff behind me.

I sure do miss Albion and all of the wonderful people there right now. I have five more long years ago. This place is hard on my soul. I vow to change and never go back. Sometimes I feel like I don't have a friend in the whole world. This place will do that to you.

Thank you so much.

With the utmost love and respect,

James Harriot Jr.

Salinas Valley State Prison, Soledad

One Comment

  1. Eric Sunswheat October 20, 2022

    RE: Drug Trafficking Organizations are not one trick ponies. Once they have established a footing in our rural areas, they bring fentanyl and other hard drugs as well as human trafficking, violence, and intimidation. – Sheriff Matt Kendall

    –>. Absurd statement. Fentanyl or its analogs, has been, and is, almost everywhere regardless. Sheriff Kendall may be regurgitating stale dated DEA propaganda myths. Bring forward orgasmic meditation, a family value tradition.

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