PRO-BYPASS RALLY IN WILLITS
By Jennifer Poole, Willits Weekly.
Honks of support from passing traffic and chants of “Build It Now” filled the air this morning as Operating Engineers Local 3 and Laborers Union Local 324 staged a pro-Willits bypass rally on the sidewalk in front of Safeway. Most of the ralliers weren't from Willits, but organizers said the response they got was strongly positive. “There's a bustle in Safeway,” said John Galeotti, business rep for Local No. 3. “The locals are happy we're here, and the people coming in and out of Willits.” Supervisor John Pinches stopped by this morning and said thanks to the pro-bypass demonstrators. There were about 40 people there altogether at 11:30 a.m., most of them on the Safeway side of the highway, but organizers said there'd been about 15 more at the rally's peak. Willits Weekly talked to Kurt Ackermann, who's been parking his truck off Highway 101 not far south of the tree-sit site, with a big “Yes Now! Willits 101 Bypass. 50+ Years = X. Enough Spending!” sign. Ackermann and the two other Willits people who were present when Willits Weekly was there (a local contractor and his wife had just left, organizers said) all agreed that the design of the bypass — without a Highway 20 intersection — was not optimal. “We need a Fort Bragg intersection,” Ackermann said, “and maybe we'll get one later,” but he said he was worried Willits would lose the money allocated for the bypass if it wasn't built now. Others agreed that restriping the bottleneck, eliminating the empty middle lane to give coast-bound drivers a lane of their own, should be done to relieve traffic that would still be using the old Highway 101 even after the bypass is finished. Another local businessman talked about how bypass construction would mean “a stimulus to our local economy for years to come,” including the years of mitigation work he said would be done after construction is completed. “This will bring new people to our area; with our schools losing enrollment, this will be good.” Organizer Galeotti said he thought the bypass project was “well thought-out,” with the Army Corps and the Department of Fish & Wildlife getting involved in the decision on where the bypass would go. “The elevated structure footprint is miniscule,” he said, “and they'll be creating habitat for wildlife after this is built. We're stewards of the land,” he said. “That's our biggest concern. Look at some of the projects we've done. We find a garter snake or a protected species, and we go out of our way until it is protected.” Asked if there were plans for further rallies, Galeotti said he didn't expect so, as hopefully the project will go forward with no more hiccups — “I don't have any doubt it will go forward,” he said. “Let's get these guys to work, generate some revenue to Willits, and stop the smog from the cars sitting in traffic.”
BYPASS IN THE WIND
by Will Parrish
Members of California State Senator Noreen Evans' staff, including her resident guru on environmental policy issues, Jeff Tyrell, visited The Warbler's tree sit south of Willits on Feb. 20th to get a feel for the opposition to the CalTrans Bypass of Willits and hear first-hand the opposition’s grievances. Evans herself had planned to visit the tree sit, but she canceled after being called to a vote in Sacramento. Her staffers also met with regional supporters of the Bypass, including at least one member of the bloc of three Willits City Council members who publicly favor the proposed six-mile superhighway.
Probably the most instrumental part of Evans' staff members' visit was an afternoon sightseeing tour of the freeway's planned route through the Little Lake Valley's wetlands north of Willits High. Some members of the Save Our Little Lake Valley (SOLLV) campaign know in great detail exactly how the freeway would impact each specific part of the valley, having led nine so-called general invitation “Bypass Bootprint” tours. (Full disclosure: I've helped lead many of these tours.)
Roughly 150 people from all areas of inland Mendocino County, and as far away as Oakland and Arcata, have taken part in the tours, which meet every Sunday at 1pm at the Little Lake Grange, 291 School St.
It's difficult for anyone who isn't completely somnolent to remain unaffected by this direct perspective on CalTrans' intention to “wick drain” the wetlands, dump an enormous quantity of fill upon them, and build a freeway upon their corpse. Though the wetlands are only a fraction of what they once were, they teem with mallard ducks and other wetland bird species at this time of year.
As Jennifer Poole of Willits Weekly, a new online news publication founded by the former Willits News reporter, revealed last week, Noreen Evans is now the first regional elected official to raise public objections to the Bypass. On March 5th, she sent a letter with “pointed questions” about the project to California Transportation Secretary Jeff Tyrell.
The letter hits on many of the issues that seemingly have the most currency in policy debates about the subject: CalTrans' refusal to consider much cheaper, exponentially less destructive, and arguably much more effective ways of reducing traffic; the agency's insistence on building out the footprint of a four-lane freeway when it only has funding secured for a two-lane freeway; the fact that “70 percent” (and that's a conservative estimate) of traffic on Main St. is local and thus won't be diverted from town; that there is no median barrier and no emergency access on the route as designed.
“There is a perception that Caltrans has refused to seriously look at other two-lane alternatives,” Evans writes in a key portion of the letter. “Has the agency thoroughly examined the Baechtel Road-Railroad Avenue Corridor, a route through Willits' eastside industrial area that was initially the focus of a 2004 community-led study funded by Caltrans? Some participants in this study say that the route is a viable alternative for through-town traffic which avoids wetlands. This route has tremendous popular support, avoids environmental problems and could save taxpayers millions of dollars in scarce transportation funds. Are there reasons why it shouldn’t be seriously examined?”
Evans' letter is courageous given that other powerful members of her party have so far lined up in favor of the project. Rep. Mike Thompson was one of the project's most influential cheerleaders. While 1st District Congressional Rep. Jared Huffman has yet to take a position on the project publicly, word is that he supports it on the stated grounds that all its permits are now in order, and that the public had an opportunity to express input at the time the permits were under review (only for that input to be marginalized or ignored by CalTrans, I might add.)
Wes Chesbro, Evans' counterpart in the State Assembly, has reportedly been preparing to make a public declaration in support of the Bypass. Sensing a dramatic shift in the political winds, he may be holding off until momentum shifts back in CalTrans' favor (if it ever does).
Some of the subtext for Evans' public stand, which essentially expresses opposition to the Bypass, even if it is couched as a series of questions, is the successful direct action against CalTrans' attempt to initiate the construction phase of the project on Feb. 25th, which I described in two previous editions of the AVA. Not only did the action delay actual construction by at least six weeks, it also punctured the sense that CalTrans is too mighty to be stopped. By stopping Big Orange in its tracks, the opposition demonstrated that its members are trenchant, effective, and actually far better informed about CalTrans' own project than their own “public information” office.
Aside from John Pinches, who vehemently favors the Bypass, none of the Mendocino County Supervisors have taken a strong position. Supervisor John McCowen did visit the tree sit a few weeks ago, though, and even engaged The Warbler in a roughly one-hour phone conversation in which he waxed fondly about his own participation in the Redwood Summer and Headwaters forest defense campaigns of the 90s. McCowen even sent his personal copy of Julia Butterfly Hill's autobiography, The Life Of Luna, up into the tree as a friendship offering.
Besides The Warbler, who has now been perched in her ponderosa pine for 45 days, as of this writing, the real heroes of the effort to stop the Bypass have been the birds who were building their nests right in the swath where CalTrans' sub-contractor plowed through a vernal pool, wetlands, patches of Dutch broom, several manzanitas, and other habitat on Feb. 25th as part of its fence construction effort. According to bird experts who have since done independent survey work of the area, the species that would most likely have been constructing the nests include California Towhees, Oak Titmice, Winter Wrens, Fox Sparrows, or Anna's Hummingbirds.
CalTrans personnel have submitted a proposed protocol for its required bird survey work, which they initially attempted to skirt around, to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. As of last report, Fish and Wildlife has not yet signed off on the protocol but is likely to any day. At that point, CalTrans must conduct a complete survey under the terms of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, after which it would be unable to begin construction for 30 days even if no active bird nests were discovered.
The new regional commander for California Highway Patrol, whose name is Lt. Effington, has visited the Warbler's tree sit a handful of times and attempted to form some rapport with members of her ground support crew. Most recently, he informed them that he is receiving a lot of pressure to bring the tree sit to an end. He indicated that he doesn't want to remove The Warbler from her tree, but that it is his job and he has to.
Effington offered to allow The Warbler and her supporters an area south of the tree sit along Highway 101 as a designated protest and signage display area if she would voluntarily end the tree sit. The ground supporters informed him that they would consider his offer, but that they operate by consensus and would need until the end of this week to get back to him with a response to his offer.
THE GREATER UKIAH CHAMBER OF COMMERCE held its annual awards banquet before a packed house at the Saturday Afternoon Club in Ukiah last Saturday. DA Dave Eyster was the MC and, to no one's surprise, Eyster's “surprise co-MC” turned out to be none other than Sheriff Tom Allman. Mendo's two top cops have a pretty good stand-up going: “We have a strange and unique relationship,” Eyster said. “He's strange and I'm unique.” And so it went throughout the evening.
A LOT STRANGER were their awards. Business of the year came down to a battle between the Super 8 Motel, the local franchisee of a national hot sheets chain, and Coldwell Banker Real Estate another chain franchise. Super 8 won by a whisker. Crush Italian Steakhouse (which went into the space on Airport Park Boulevard formerly occupied by the now defunct Branches), won new business honors with their U Top It frozen yogurt. At which point we begin to realize that there really are no businesses in Ukiah in the traditional sense of providing livable wage jobs. Restaurants, chain real estate offices, and chain motels are not exactly the foundation of a thriving local economy. What's next? A civic beautification award to the new Arco station on Talmage Road?
THE AWARD FOR NON-PROFIT of the year came down to a contest between the all-female Mendo Mayhem roller derby team and the mostly male Employers Council of Mendocino County, a rich boy advocacy club that agitates for no government unless it benefits them. (Cf Limbaugh, Fox News and other honk-honkers.) The Employer's Council won!
THE GREATER UKIAH VALLEY is home to scores of worthy non-profits, but the Chamber chose to honor an ultra-conservative claque of inheritance princes. Mendo Mayhem would have gotten our vote based on style and moxie alone.
MAUREEN “Mo” Mulheren was honored as volunteer of the year. Her father, Jim Mulheren, was also nominated, but after receiving her award, Mo quipped: “He's had his moment.” Jim Mulheren (aka “The Ever Pleasant Jim”) twice ran for Ukiah City Council despite not living in the city limits. The first time he claimed he was “living” in the office above his gritty industrial cabinet shop on Waugh Lane. The next time he at least rented an apartment in town, but all the while Pleasant Jim was really living with his wife in a faux Tuscan villa on the outskirts of Ukiah. He also ran for Second District Supervisor but was eliminated in the primary. By contrast, Mo Mulheren, who is smart and personable in ways that her father is not, would probably be a shoo-in for city council if she ever chooses to run. Interestingly, although the Ukiah City Council recently added “Economic Development” as one of its “strategic goals,” and its members universally claim to be champions of local business, not a single member of the city council attended the Chamber's awards banquet.
JENA CONNER has been promoted to deputy director of the County's Social Services Department, which apparently means she's the new boss at CPS. From all accounts a principled and intelligent person, Ms. Conner is the first person in years with those qualities to run Mendo CPS. She's been appointed outside CPS's traditionally insider process, probably via agitation by judges and the County Counsel's office rightly disturbed that derelict CPS work has now resulted in the murder of an infant they'd placed in an obviously unsuitable home.
TWO PEOPLE took the trouble to point out an obvious typographical error in an recent item that said that Mendocino County was “35,010 square but mountainous miles.” The correct figure is 3,510 square miles, still larger than Rhode Island and Delaware together, but not ten times bigger. One commenter wanted to know who the three owners of the convoluted Ukiah garbage companies.
AS BEST WE CAN TELL, there’s Ukiah Waste Solutions and Solid Waste Solutions and their “administrative arm,” C&S Waste Solutions. According to their website C&S began in 1997 when “childhood friends Dave Carroll and John Shea formed a business partnership in the solid waste industry that developed from years of literally ‘growing up’ in the business. Not only did John and Dave grow up living across the street from each other as kids, but their family backgrounds were owning and operating solid waste collection, recycling and landfill companies. … As Dave and John's business grew, their need for more talented individuals grew. … Damon Shea initially pursued success in the accounting field before returning to the solid waste industry, which he had learned so well growing up. Damon was the best choice to join his brother in growing and managing his businesses in Nevada. Nevada was a familiar place to Damon, since he attended college at the University of Nevada, Reno while earning All-American honors in football. … When Dave and John decided to expand into California, they acquired a company that was operated by Bruce McCracken. Over 30 years ago, Bruce was a childhood friend and neighbor to Dave, John and Damon. He [McCracken] now leads the California operations.”
WHEN HE CAME BEFORE the Board of Supervisors in 2008 for approval of a permit for a recycling/garbage facility on the outskirts of Northern Ukiah, Mr. McCracken said he operated Pacific Recycling Solutions which purchased their Ukiah operation from North Bay Garbage. In 2007 Mr. McCracken seemed to be associated with Solid Waste Systems of Ukiah and was quoted in the Ukiah Daily Journal saying that “in addition to handling the contents of the city's blue-binned recycling containers, workers at the Solid Waste Systems Inc. transfer station/recycling center in south Ukiah meticulously sort through truckloads of standard rubbish each day searching for reusable materials.”
WHATEVER (or WHOEVER), as the dudes like to say. The point remains that the Ukiah City Council approved a very bad 15 year sweetheart deal with Ukiah Waste Solutions (a deal that even the very cautious Mendocino Grand Jury said was done very badly). The company(ies?) claimed it (they?) was (were?) losing money. But because of the way garbage companies are organized it is virtually impossible to track their finances. In the case of Ukiah, one company picks up the garbage and recyclables, and pays to dump them at the Ukiah Transfer Station, which is owned by a second company and operated by a third, which then pays double the market rate to take the green waste to a fourth company, and sells the recyclables to a fifth company, and all of the above lease their trucks from a sixth company. (Got that?) And just by coincidence all six companies are owned by the same three people. With so many “related party transactions,” cooking the books to show a loss is child's play. The company also got over on the Ukiah City Council in a number of other ways that enriched the company at the expense of the residential and commercial ratepayers of Ukiah. As if the financial windfall handed to the company wasn't enough, the city council prevented implementation of the immediate diversion of food waste from the landfill!
SOUND TRACKS ON KQED Monday night, March 18.
Bay Area friends, Our most recent episode of SOUND TRACKS — featuring Wynton Marsalis, Youssou N'dour, Julie Fowlis from the movie "Brave" (which won the Oscar for best animated film), and the band from Iceland, Of Monsters and Men — airs on KQED this coming Monday, March 18 at 10 pm. If you haven't seen SOUND TRACKS on TV in all its HD glory — or you just want to see it again — tune in on Monday night, and let friends know. Also, if you really want to help us out in getting more episodes made, please let KQED know you are pleased to see SOUND TRACKS on Ch. 9. Send an email to KQED, better yet leave a message on their viewer phone line, or write them a letter. (These days an actual letter will really blow their mind.) TV Comments Line: tel: (415) 553-2100 Record a statement about programs aired on KQED 9 Office of the President John Boland (a fan of SOUND TRACKS) email: email@example.com KQED Main Headquarters 2601 Mariposa Street San Francisco, CA 94110 tel: (415) 864-2000 Thanks!
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(— Steve Talbot)
ON OCTOBER 30 of last year the Mendocino Sheriff’s Department said they received a call from a person wanting to report a suspicious situation. The caller had located a shoe protruding from the earth near the shore of the Eel River in the 83000 block of Highway 271. Upon closer examination the caller believed the shoe was attached to a human body. A Mendocino County Sheriff's Office patrol Sergeant and Sheriff's Detective responded to the scene and located what the caller had reported. During this time it was discovered that the shoe was associated with a shallow grave that contained the skeletal remains of a human body. Sheriff's Detectives have requested the assistance of the Department of Anthropology at California State University, Chico in recovering the remains from the grave. Anyone with information in regards to this case is urged to contact the Sheriff's Office Tip-Line by calling 707-234-2100.
LAST MONDAY the Sheriff’s office received a report from the CSU-Chico Human Identification Laboratory in regards to the analysis of the human remains found on 10-30-2012 in Piercy. The results of the analysis showed that the human remains are believed to be that of a white male adult, approximately 25-45 years of age with a height between 5 feet 11 inches and 6 feet 5 inches tall. Sheriff's Detectives have enlisted the assistance of the California Department of Justice in recovering DNA from a bone to help establish a DNA profile for the remains. Sheriff's Detectives hope to enter this DNA profile into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and use the DNA profile to compare against Mendocino County Sheriff's Office active missing persons cases. Anyone with information in regards to this case is urged to contact the Sheriff's Office Tip-Line by calling 707-234-2100.
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EEL RIVER SKELETON in Sneakers Belonged to Tall, White Man
by Kym Kemp
Photo taken after the shoe had first been removed and the bones discovered. The shoe was set upright in the approximate original position in order to show how the scene had first appeared.
Information on the human remains found just south of the Humboldt County line last October was received yesterday from the CSU-Chico Human Identification Laboratory. According to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, their report states that ” the human remains are believed to be that of a white male adult, approximately 25-45 years of age with a height between 5 feet 11 inches and 6 feet 5 inches tall.”
The grave site and the body was discovered last October by a family near Piercy. For years they had seen the toe of a single sneaker protruding from the ground. They dismissed it as river trash. This last year, a second sneaker toe was uncovered side by side with the first which led to the man of the family poking around more deeply.
On the day before Halloween, the man pulled one of the shoes out. It was difficult. The man thought maybe roots had grown into it but instead discovered that the shoe contained bones and a sock.
“Once he found the bones, they were put in an empty bag he had with him,” explained the wife. “…When I went back with him to confirm [around dusk,] we brought a little shovel and dug out a little more until we could see the [leg-bone. It was only a round little end…but it was obviously a bone leading up the leg …[and we] could see there was a leg-bone going up inside what looked like denim pants. That is what confirmed to us we really were seeing a human body and it was time to call the police about it.”
First, the couple tried to reconstruct the scene a bit for a photo to show what they had seen to the police. “We placed the sneaker back in place to take that first picture. I turned it sideways to show the type of sneaker to take the 2nd one [see below],” described the wife.
The bottom photo shows the type of shoes the man was wearing when he was buried in the wooded area not far from the river.
CLOVERDALE HISTORICAL SOCIETY’S SPRING 2013 SPEAKER SERIES, 7-8:30pm at the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center Tuesday, March 26: “In the Spirit of Frank Lloyd Wright”: 114 N. Main St., Cloverdale, CA. Aaron G. Green, Wright protégé, associate architect. Speakers: Mark Parry, ASU, architectural historian, former staff member, Taliesin West Associated Architects, 1986-1988. Allan Green, U.C.L.A., M.A., graphic design.
Allan (owner of Greenwood Ridge Cellars in Philo) is an art director & son of the architect, Aaron G. Green. Frank Rose, Gen. Contractor (retired). Frank built the Dr. Harold N. Ives dental office at 114 N. Main St. in 1963. Pre-talk exhibit, 6PM to 7PM: “Architecture for Democracy.” Talks are held at the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center, 209 N. Cloverdale Blvd., Cloverdale. $5 donation requested. Light refreshments served. For details call Joaquin@ 894-5653 or Cloverdale Historical Society @ 892-2067. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. CHS is a CA 501c3 non-profit Corp.