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Mendocino County Today: March 2, 2013

WILLITS BYPASS: You know, for the entire 40 years or so that I have been lucky to call this county home, I’ve been struck by the absurdity of the perpetual traffic jam on 101 as it passes through Willits, where the interstate narrows down to two slender lanes as they cross the railroad tracks that once served the long abandoned toxic ruin of Remco hydraulic, where, besides injecting unknown amounts of chromium arsenate deep into the water table, they once produced the enormous hydraulic rams for Reagan's absurd "peacemaker" nuclear missile installations; supposedly a defensive weapon system, even though the only threats it ever deterred were the ones in Reagan's Alzheimer-tainted brain, afflicted by its virulent anti-commie mania.

As uncomfortable as I find it too concur with just about anything written by my old friend Tommy Wayne Kramer, I've got to admit that I wholeheartedly agree with his view on the Willits bypass project, the subject of his column in last Sunday’s Journal. I too am mystified by the bizarre opposition to this godsend, the Willits bypass project, which has been SO sorely needed for at least the last 40 years, and now, at long last, free money from the state is available to build what could never be afforded by our humble, impecunious county.

What is with so many people who have a knee-jerk impulse to march in lockstep behind anyone who dons the green mantle and starts to protest something? Like the opposition to the Harris Quarry blacktop plant, where classic NIMBYism led people who had deluded themselves into thinking that they were pro-environment to protest tirelessly, even after it was made clear that NOT allowing that plant to be built would simply mean that much larger amounts of petroleum would have to be burned elsewhere (in both the production and delivery) than would be consumed locally. Clearly, building the asphalt plant was way the greenest option.

Likewise, how can anyone in their right mind believe that having the thousands of big diesel trucks slowing to a crawl, then endlessly idling through Willits is more environmentally correct then building the minimal first world infrastructure to allow such vehicles to maintain highway speeds and bypass Willits humble business district? Okay, a certain number of beautiful old oak trees must go, and the right-of-way will forever change that narrow strip of wetlands it must traverse, but surely all the benefits of having a sane, non-third world traffic situation in Willits forevermore more than justifies that modest environmental impact. I mean, Mendocino County has about a gazillion acres of beautiful old oak trees, and half a gazillion acres of wetlands. I'm sure that 101, at the south end of Ukiah Valley, must have been built on wetlands. Should we tear it out to restore the wetlands? As the old saw goes, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

As for the moaning Minnies in Willits business community, fretting about potential loss of business; their counterparts in Cloverdale expressed the same concerns before their bypass was built, and from what I hear, Cloverdale is now considered one of the nicest small towns in the country. I'm sure that they are crying all the way to the bank at how things have worked out for them. Imagine how much nicer, people and bicycle friendlier Willits will be post-bypass! I might actually want to go up there sometime for a meal and a movie!

Think it through, knee-jerk protesters! You're looking the richest of gift horses in the mouth! It will truly be a tragedy, not only for Willits but for the whole economy of the North Coast of California, dependent on trucks to bring in goods and take out products, if the protesters succeed in shutting this vital project down.

The highway system does not exist to serve the needs of each little town that it goes by; it is for the utility and mobility of the larger society, and that society will clearly benefit from the construction of the Willits bypass!

John Arteaga, Ukiah

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WHO WILL STAND UP TO BIG OIL'S PROFITEERING?

THE GAS GOUGERS. By Ralph Nader

Here we go again. A sudden surge in the price of gasoline and heating oil is followed by reported expressions of frustrated despair by hard-pressed consumers in the midst of silence from the oil companies and abdication of responsibility by the elected and appointed officials of federal and state governments.

The price of gasoline is up by about 50¢ in the past month, according to AAA, making the average gallon go for close to $4 per gallon in many parts of the country. Prices are even higher in California. AAA says that this “is the most expensive we’ve seen gasoline in the dead of winter.”

Every penny increase in the annual price of gasoline takes over $1.6 billion dollars from the pockets of American consumers. That doesn’t even count the higher prices for heating oil homeowners are paying.

There was a time when even a few cents increase in the price of gasoline or natural gas would provoke Congressional investigations, actions by state Attorneys General, and condemnations of the producer countries, the OPEC cartel and Big Oil from presidents and the heads of antitrust divisions of the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission. That is, until smooth, smiling Ronald Reagan came to Washington, DC with his mantra that “government is not the solution; government is the problem.”

Well, now the multi-layered petroleum cartel has become institutionalized, having “gotten government off its back” and put the New York Mercantile Exchange speculators at the gaming tables.

There seems to be an adequate supply of crude oil in this recessionary global economy. What could be the cause of this latest price spike? The news media offer a spectrum of possible factors – restrictions on exports of Iranian oil imposed by western governments, instability in Syria and elsewhere in the volatile Middle East, oil hungry China, oil speculators on Wall Street and reduced refinery capacity in the US.

Each price surge in recent decades seems to have different principal causes. This time it seems to have been precipitated by surging prices of crude – easily manipulated – and in the US the permanent or temporary shutdown for repairs, of too many refineries.

Believe it or not, the US is now a net refined petroleum importer because of the continuing refusal by the industry to rebuild or expand refinery capacity on the very sites where many refineries have been shut down, often in favor of offshore, cheaper installations.

Whenever supply and demand for refined oil products is tight, all it takes is for one or two refineries to suspend operations, other than for repairs, and the prices surge all over the country.

This happened in January to a refinery in California, due to a fire, and most prominently the closure of a key refinery in Port Reading, New Jersey, owned by the Hess company. Five dollars a gallon gas “is a real possibility,” John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital, told Yahoo! Finance, adding “this is partly being driven by the lost refinery capacity of about one million barrels per day… that’s a lot.” (The US consumes about 19 million barrels a day of refined petroleum products.)

So what can our so-called representatives in Washington do about a gouge that has angered almost all conservative and liberal consumers? Well, the Democratically-controlled Senate can start by holding investigatory hearings. The President can speak out more forcefully and indicate he may release some of the government’s crude oil reserves to increase supply.

He can order his Justice Department to at the very least subpoena pertinent oil industry information for starters.

Mr. Obama can forcefully back up Gary Gensler, his appointed, savvy Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, who has been trying to rein in excessive speculation that drives up prices and punishes the motoring public.

In 2011 CFTC data showed that massive inflows of speculative money drove up prices. At that time, even Goldman Sachs analyst, David Greely, claimed Wall Street speculation in the futures market was driving up oil prices. Earlier, Rex Tillerson, the head of ExxonMobil, estimated that speculation was responsible for a more than $40 per barrel price increase when oil was just over $100 per barrel. Over the last month crude oil has ranged in price from $93-$120 per barrel.

Admiral Hyman Rickover who, more than 40 years ago, wisely said that there should always be government-owned shipyards to provide a yardstick by which to restrain the high prices and cost overruns being charged by private ship buildings manufacturing the Navy’s ships. That means, in this oil price context, that the government should own and operate some refineries for the armed forces. Any excess capacity could loosen the market with gasoline and heating oil when the corporate interests maneuver tight supplies for which they get immediately rewarded with cold cash.

Were Obama to direct some of his bully pulpit heat on those members of Congress who are marinated in oil, he might find more support from Capitol Hill for all these initiatives.

So call the switchboard at the White House comment line (202-456-1111) and tell the president that you are fed up and determined to drive less, carpool and walk more where possible, but that he, the president, must be more aggressive in taking on the staggeringly profitable and tax-favored big oil companies.

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

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ON FEBRUARY 12, 2013 Deputies from the County of Mendocino Marijuana Eradication Team (COMMET) were conducting follow-up investigations in Laytonville, California from an earlier marijuana cultivation investigation.
Deputies went to a property in the 62000 block of Bell Springs Road and contacted David Jeffreys. While at the location Deputies believed that marijuana was being grown at the location and obtained a search warrant for the property. Located in an outbuilding on the property were 503 marijuana plants that were being grown inside a building. The property was determined to be owned by Jason Smith.
Deputies noted this was the same location that was searched on 07-24-2012 where 651 marijuana plants were seized growing both inside and outside.
Deputies then went to a property in the 48000 block of North Highway 101 and contacted Richard Ezell. While at the location Deputies observed marijuana being grown in an outbuilding and obtained a search warrant for the property.
Located in several outbuildings on the property were 925 marijuana plants that were being grown inside the buildings and approximately 50 pounds of hanging partially processed marijuana.

Ezell
Ezell

Deputies noticed this was the same location that was searched on 07-24-2012 where 1,315 marijuana plants were seized growing both inside and outside. During the earlier search a stolen firearm was recovered in a safe that contained items of paperwork in Ezell’s name.
Richard Ezell was arrested on the marijuana cultivation and sales-related charges and booked into the Mendocino County jail and was subsequently released after posting bail. Charges are being sought through the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office against Smith and Jeffreys. (Sheriff Press Release)

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THIS COMING TUESDAY’S Board of Supervisors agenda includes “an Informational Presentation and Initial Introduction on ‘Approved Source’ Issues Relating to Locally Grown Food” in Mendocino County. According to the Agenda summary, “State law only allows food preparation facilities (like restaurants and cafeterias) to utilize food from an ‘approved source.’ The concept is simple: food that will be used to serve the public must be protected from contamination at all stages of the process, and the approval process allows officials to ‘trace back’ a food product to its source if a health-related problem occurs. Locally grown, fresh fruit and vegetables benefit consumers, the environment and the community as a whole. The Environmental Health Director and the Agricultural Commissioner have started the process of addressing Approved Source issues as they relate to using locally grown foods for the preparation of meals consumed by a third party. We are hoping that eventually a program would be in place to expand the use of fresh fruit and vegetables from gardens in Mendocino County. This informational presentation will identify the underlying issues and the need for the program. We will explain the process tentatively planned at this point and summarize the program’s envisioned basic structure and components, which will include the electronic issuance of Approved Source Certificates to growers. As envisioned, staff anticipates that a Mendocino County Approved Source Program could be operational by the end of 2013.”

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THE COUNTY’S LIST OF TAX DEFAULTED parcels for this year includes the usual lengthy list of undeveloped Brooktrails parcels, most with minimum bids of under $10,000. The list also includes 18 parcels owned by legendary Elk resident Bobby Beacon with minimum bids for his 18 parcels totaling $212,600.

ANOTHER INTERESTING parcel on the list is a Laytonville parcel co-owned by Ms. Dana Wuerfel, wife of attorney Mark Wuerfel. The tax defaulted Spy Rock Road parcel has a rather large minimum bid of $12,200. A couple of years back, in a lawsuit following a drug task force raid at Wuerfel’s Laytonville office, Wuerfel famously said he was growing pot in Laytonville so he could provide clean water to Indians. Wuerfel’s highly complicated wrongful prosecution case limped on for years in Mendocino County Superior Court with Wuerfel saying things like, “I move to continue the motion to continue.” But we haven’t heard much from the Wuerfels lately.

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ON FEBRUARY 14. 2013 Deputies from the County of Mendocino Marijuana Eradication Team (COMMET) assisted by Probation Officers from the Mendocino County Probation Office conducted a probation search at a residence located in the 1400 block of Boonville Road in Ukiah, California. Upon the personnel's arrival, Brian Stephens, 54, of Ukiah, was contacted at the residence. Seized from the location were items used to manufacture controlled substance (honey oil via the butane extraction method), 1,003 indoor growing marijuana plants, 3.2 pounds of concentrated cannabis and 16 firearms.

Stephens
Stephens
Gattoni
Gattoni

Stephens was arrested on the listed charges —Manufacture of controlled substance, Cultivation of marijuana Possession of marijuana for sale, Maintaining place to grow marijuana, and Armed in commision felony — and booked into the Mendocino County jail were he was subsequently released after posting $75,000.00 bail. Charges are being sought through the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office against David Gattoni, 33, of Ukiah (property owner) and another person, William Miller, 64, of Ukiah, who was determined to also reside at the residence. (Sheriff’s Press Release)

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DARWIN AWARDS 2012

1. When his 38 caliber revolver failed to fire at his intended victim during a hold-up in Long Beach California the would-be robber James Elliot did something that can only inspire wonder. He peered down the barrel and tried the trigger again. This time it worked.

2. The chef at a hotel in Switzerland lost a finger in a meat cutting machine and after a little shopping around, submitted a claim to his insurance company. The company expecting negligence sent out one of its men to have a look for himself. He tried the machine and he also lost a finger.. The chef's claim was approved.

3. A man who shoveled snow for an hour to clear a space for his car during a blizzard in Chicago returned with his vehicle to find a woman had taken the space. Understandably….. he shot her.

4. After stopping for drinks at an illegal bar, a Zimbabwean bus driver found that the 20 mental patients he was supposed to be transporting from Harare to Bulawayo had escaped. Not wanting to admit his incompetence, the driver went to a nearby bus stop and offered everyone waiting there a free ride. He then delivered the passengers to the mental hospital, telling the staff that the patients were very excitable and prone to bizarre fantasies.. The deception wasn't discovered for 3 days.

5. An American teenager was in the hospital recovering from serious head wounds received from an oncoming train. When asked how he received the injuries, the lad told police that he was simply trying to see how close he could get his head to a moving train before he was hit.

6. A man walked into a Louisiana Circle-K, put a $20 bill on the counter, and asked for change. When the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man pulled a gun and asked for all the cash in the register, which the clerk promptly provided. The man took the cash from the clerk and fled, leaving the $20 bill on the counter. The total amount of cash he got from the drawer... $15. [If someone points a gun at you and gives you money, is a crime committed?]

7. Seems an Arkansas guy wanted some beer pretty badly.. He decided that he'd just throw a cinder block through a liquor store window, grab some booze, and run. So he lifted the cinder block and heaved it over his head at the window. The cinder block bounced back and hit the would-be thief on the head, knocking him unconscious. The liquor store window was made of Plexiglas. The whole event was caught on videotape...

8. As a female shopper exited a New York convenience store, a man grabbed her purse and ran. The clerk called 911 immediately, and the woman was able to give them a detailed description of the snatcher. Within minutes, the police apprehended the snatcher. They put him in the car and drove back to the store. The thief was then taken out of the car and told to stand there for a positive ID. To which he replied, "Yes, officer, that's her. That's the lady I stole the purse from."

9. The Ann Arbor News crime column reported that a man walked into a Burger King in Ypsilanti , Michigan at 5 A.M., flashed a gun, and demanded cash. The clerk turned him down because he said he couldn't open the cash register without a food order. When the man ordered onion rings, the clerk said they weren't available for breakfast... The man, frustrated, walked away. [*A 5-STAR STUPIDITY AWARD WINNER]

10. When a man attempted to siphon gasoline from a motor home parked on a Seattle street by sucking on a hose, he got much more than he bargained for.. Police arrived at the scene to find a very sick man curled up next to a motor home near spilled sewage. A police spokesman said that the man admitted to trying to steal gasoline, but he plugged his siphon hose into the motor home's sewage tank by mistake. The owner of the vehicle declined to press charges saying that it was the best laugh he'd ever had.

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RAUCOUS political satire & quick wit on Friday

Tom Neilson is a folk singer in the radical tradition that mixes humor, compassion and outrage in songs about real people’s struggles against greed and violence. You can measure your mix this Friday, March 8th at 7:00 PM at the Garberville Vet’s Hall, Locust and Conger. This will be a benefit for the Veterans for Peace Golden Rule project which has been busy restoring this historical vessel. During Pacific Ocean nuclear testing in the fifties, the valiant ketch trespassed into that zone in the name of sanity.

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SWIM TEAM FUNDRAISER DINNER MacCallum House 45020 Albion St., Mendocino, CA 95460 • Wednesday March 13th • The MacCallum House is donating 100% of their profits to the Mendocino Coast Sea Dragon Swim Team. Please join us for a night of fine dining to support the MCSD *Financial Assistance Fund. Bar opens at 5:00 PM Dinner 5:30 - 8:00 PM (Reservations highly recommended) Make your reservations online at www.maccallumhouse.com or call 937-0289. If you are unable to attend, but would like to make a donation, please contact the MCSD at P.O. Box 2939 Fort Bragg, CA or call Anna 813-6928. *This Fund allows us to offer financial assistance to eligible children. MCSD gives children 5-18 the opportunity to learn water safety, encourage a healthy lifestyle and promote the love of swimming and competition. Non-Profit 501 c (3) Organization • Tax ID # 27-0584700

3 Comments

  1. chewsome March 2, 2013

    RE: “THIS COMING TUESDAY’S Board of Supervisors agenda includes “an Informational Presentation and Initial Introduction on ‘Approved Source’ Issues Relating to Locally Grown Food” in Mendocino County.”

    Ah, eer… it was this PAST Tuesday’s agenda being described, NOT next week.

  2. Donna Schindel March 3, 2013

    Caltrans is set to spend approximately $357 million on a Willits Bypass project on Route 101 that will not safely serve the people of this community. We all agree that Willits has serious traffic problems. Divisive attitudes are growing as the Bypass project looms over us with all of its realities. The current Bypass plan for one lane in each direction, with no median barrier is unsafe! This will result in numerous serious accidents. There will be no emergency access between interchanges for six miles of freeway.
    All vehicles headed for Highway 20 will still have to travel through town. There won’t be an interchange for Highway 20! There won’t be an exit into central Willits. Most of our local traffic problems could be addressed by adding alternate north-south routes, which would be far less costly than this Caltrans project.
    This Bypass may benefit long haul truckers and Building Trade Unions by moving goods along the highway as fast as possible but the environment will be damned. Little Lake Valley is home to bears, cougars, bobcats, foxes, coyotes, Tule elk are coming back, amazing birds like scarlet tanagers, mountain quail, bluebirds, thrushes, raptors, even bald eagles. The wetlands provide habitat for migratory birds. We are so lucky to live in a place where this still exists. This Bypass jeopardizes the future of the ecosystem here. This is the largest wetlands fill permit issued in California in over fifty years. California once had five million acres of wetlands and that number has been reduced to 370,000. Much of the original wetland here was drained for ranching. Now, this plan will even take that pastureland away from the ranchers.
    We will endure pile drivers for years, thousands of dump trucks moving millions of cubic yards of dirt, skimmed from nearby hills, even in the area of our new Hospital and Hospice Garden. They will bury the wetlands and try to move it somewhere else. They will drain and lower the water table. The oaks will die, the animals will leave. This must affect the people in the valley who depend on wells for water. What if the funds dry up before they finish? We could end up killing the valley and getting nothing. Please help us find an alternative.

  3. Jennifer Poole March 3, 2013

    as is often the case, comments made by people outside of WIllits about the Caltrans bypass around Willits aren’t based on reality. I mean I’m told by his friends that Tommy Lee is meant to be a parody, but Mr. Arteaga? Apart from exaggeration (“perpetual traffic jam?” “thousands” of trucks?) Arteaga is clueless about the main reason most people in Willits in the know are unhappy with the Caltrans bypass (and that includes pro-bypass City Council members), which is exactly BECAUSE it will not relieve the in-town traffic problem in Willits hardly at all. WCC fought hard for a Highway 20 interchange, but failed. WIthout a Highway 20 interchange, not only will, of course, the heavier-in-summertime traffic heading to the Mendocino coast still come right into Willits through the bottleneck to turn west on Highway 20, locals heading almost anywhere in town will find the bypass not worth using either. At best, Caltrans has acknowledged (and that was in the past, before traffic studies for the Harris Quarry project showed a 20 percent reduction in traffic and while there was still hope of a Highway 20 interchange) 70 to 80 percent of the traffic currently on Highway 101 will remain there even after a bypass is built. Willits deserves traffic relief, and this bypass will not provide it. In fact, there is local money that could build the Railroad Avenue in-town “truck route” that locals have advocated for for years: MCOG is holding onto $20 million in Willits’ “share” of RTIP funds that has been squirreled away over the years as a local match for the bypass project. Spending a bit on restriping the bottleneck to turn the almost-always empty middle lane into a left lane for Highway 20 traffic would be a cheap fix, too. The Willits City Council is continuing to work on the Railroad Avenue through route, which they understand will be needed bypass or not, but funding will not be easy to find after so much money has been spent on this boondoggle of a bypass. If Mr. Arteaga doesn’t care about the potential of highway construction sediment killing off salmon in the five salmon-bearing creeks in the Willits bypass footprint, or impact to the Ryan Creek/Outlet Creek/Eel River Coho salmon run, the longest in California of Caltrans’ plan to “relocate” those fish during the 4 -5 years of construction, that’s his prerogative, so I won’t argue that point. If he doesn’t care about the precedent that inadequate review of economic and environmental impact of loss of farmland would set, I won’t argue that either, because the Farm Bureau already has that covered, by joining in with the enviros’ lawsuit against the bypass. If it doesn’t impress him that Caltrans’ plan to use thousands (reportedly 55,000) “wick drains” to de-water the Little Lake Valley might be sketchy, I’m sure it’s because he doesn’t know about such plans. Sketchy, especially after Caltrans planners already demonstrated they didn’t know the Little Lake Valley flooded every winter (Caltrans had designated acreage in the valley to turn into wetlands as mitigation for their take of existing wetlands along the route, and it took the Army Corps to explain to them those acres could not be used for mitigation because they were already seasonal wetlands.) And then there’s the issue the AVA’s Mark Scaramella has written about: the hundreds of feet of loose sediment that highway contractors, following Caltrans’ design for an unsafe 2-lane elevated freeway with no access/egress for 6 miles will be trying to set pylons into. Cloverdale is not a good comparison for many reasons, but especially because: according to the Press Democrat, there were 25,000 cars/day on Cloverdale Blvd. before the bypass and as of 2011, there are 5,000. 80 percent of the traffic is not going away in Willits, but is likely to remain, as previously discussed. If Mr. Arteaga wants a real-time indication about how few vehicles will benefit from the Willits bypass, all he has to do is check out the Caltrans web cam 1 mile north of Willits, which continually shows an empty, or almost empty highway: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist1/d1tmc/1_cam.php?cam=27 Even if through traffic on Highway 101 tripled in the summer, which it doesn’t, there’s plenty of capacity for through traffic right now. The traffic problem is in-town traffic, and if Mr. Arteaga ever blesses us with his presence in future years, he will be able to experience it himself. While a few big trucks and tourists fly by (unless they collide headon) on an almost empty Willits bypass.

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