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Mendocino County Today: March 16, 2013

BYPASS PROTEST: Who’s in Charge of Enforcement?

By Jennifer Poole
, Willits Weekly

www.facebook.com/WillitsWeekly

Who’s in charge of enforcement? CHP or Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman? Caltrans or CA Fish & Wildlife? Two top CHP officials flew in today for a meeting with Caltrans. Protesters Friday morning held off for the fourth time the installation of what Caltrans says is “environmentally sensitive area” fencing along the bypass route, despite confusion among apparently all parties about the legal status of Caltrans starting up work again — and what would happen if protesters were arrested.



In a conversation with Willits Weekly Thursday morning, Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman continued to be adamant that it will be his department citing or arresting demonstrators for trespassing at the site — if it comes to that. But California Highway Patrol Captain Jim Epperson told Willits Weekly Thursday afternoon that his agency is in charge of arrests and will only call in local sheriffs if they deem it appropriate.

“This is state property,” Epperson said. “To have the sheriff coming in and wanting to make arrests would be like the county sheriff making arrests on the state capitol grounds. They can do that, but it's not really where their resources need to be spent.” Epperson said. “CHP is the primary agency; it’s more appropriate for us to make the arrests.”

Epperson told protesters Wednesday — during a lengthy negotiating session and discussion about where Caltrans actually was as far as having permission to continue work — that those arrested by the CHP might be taken out of the county to be jailed: “Unlawful demonstration or dispersal orders is different than disrupting operations on state property,” Epperson told Willits Weekly on Thursday. “It takes a lot of resources; there are quite a few protesters. We try not to tax the local sheriff’s department.



“Right now we’re waiting on some very specific direction,” Epperson said. “We’re on a holding pattern right now… until I get some more direction from my chain of command.”

Caltrans’ spokesman Phil Frisbie told the media this week that it’s only courtesy that compels Caltrans to deal with the California Dept. of Fish & Wildlife’s attempt to enforce the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Fish & Wildlife told Caltrans they needed to submit protocols for a proper bird survey and get it approved before restarting work. Caltrans has apparently accepted all but one of Fish & Wildlife’s “recommendations” — the one dealing with construction schedule.

Excavator tracksAlthough Frisbie told media the protocol agreement has not yet been “formalized,” Caltrans sent contractor Flatiron and local company Arrow Fencing and the SHN biologist back to work Wednesday morning, the biologist surveying “one step ahead” of the excavator. On Friday morning, a different fencing company came to work, not Arrow Fencing.

Protesters say Caltrans is “not being candid’ with local contractor Arrow Fencing, who they say might have committed a federal crime by driving earth-moving equipment through an area protesters say is one of the Army Corps’ jurisdictional wetlands along the route, which is not supposed to be disturbed at all until mitigation funds are granted for the bypass project. The site was flagged Wednesday by the SHN biologist as sensitive amphibian habitat.

Why the rush, after Caltrans’ own project start date last fall (still listed as the project start date on the Caltrans website) was missed due to Caltrans not having permits in hand? Certainly, this early spring means birds are courting and building nests, and once eggs are laid, strict rules under the federal Migratory Bird Act protect any tree or brush with birds’ nests in it. Frisbee also told the media about a $6,000 cost for each day work was stopped, which might be part of a contract guarantee.

“I just really want to emphasize this fact: CHP is not taking sides,” Capt. Epperson said. “We have actually been in negotiations with the demonstrators for three weeks now.” Epperson has been talking to Caltrans and to the demonstrators, including conveying one offer from Caltrans to set up a permanent demonstration area, with an encroachment permit, “so their rights would be taken care of.”

On Friday, protesters said, a plane flew over the tree-sit site while they were discussing the morning's incidents with Capt. Epperson. Epperson told them the plane was bringing in two top CHP officials for a meeting with Caltrans: Assistant Northern Regional Chief Todd Chadd and Northern Division Chief Bridget Lott. Epperson said the two officials were flying in to talk about the negotiating proposal, but protesters wonder if the meeting is in fact about “a very broad coordinated response by the CHP to crush the tree-sit.”

After the Press Democrat Friday morning reported that a possible deal was in the works, Willits Weekly got this email from Save Little Lake Valley’s Sara Grusky, detailing the protesters’ counteroffer to Caltrans, via Capt. Epperson:

“We will stop our protest if: 1) Caltrans agrees to meet with State Senator Noreen Evans to negotiate alternatives to the bypass; 2) Caltrans agrees to stop work on the bypass; 3) Caltrans meeting with Noreen Evans must include representatives of the Willits community and people knowledgeable of alternatives to Caltrans’ bypass. This was witnessed by 15-20 people who were part of the protest to stop the fence on Wed. March 13, 2013.”

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MARIJUANA VS FISH in Humboldt’s Watersheds

by Kym Kemp

Scott Bauer of the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife raised quite a stir in Southern Humboldt with his speech before the Eel River Task Force in January. Maps from his presentation depicting alleged marijuana gardens in two prominent local watersheds splashed across the front page of the [Garberville-Redway] Independent and became a hot topic in homes and in various media outlets. He claims that by using Google Earth to zoom in on the areas, his team discovered that each of the two watersheds contained roughly 19,000 marijuana plants this last season. Using calculations based on those numbers of plants, he has attempted to estimate the amount of water drawn out of the region and came up with numbers that he believes are quite serious. He believes that the water draws could damage fish populations.

HumCoWatershedsBauer says he and his team chose the two watersheds shown above because “Those two have a lot of fish. They are side by side…” He says the South Fork of the Eel has “a decent population” of fish and both creeks are tributaries of the South Fork of the Eel. “We’re worried,” he says, “about the South Fork and we want to make sure those populations don’t wink out on us.” He also heard “there was extensive activity in those watersheds.”

Bauer has plans to similarly examine other watersheds in northern Humboldt and in Mendocino.

Tom Grover, a Southern Humboldt resident and community activist, has some concerns about the methodology of Bauer’s work. He believes that extrapolating from Google Earth didn’t give an accurate estimate of the number of plants in production or the amount of water being used. He says that to have credibility Bauer needs to have “ground truth — go there and actually see what is actually there.”

He says that some of the sites depicted as grows aren’t, and he believes that Bauer’s study doesn’t accurately describe the amount of water drawn from the creeks because there are multiple water storage tanks in these areas that aren’t reflected in the study.

However, he does agree that “Fish are really suffering.” Though he does not believe that small mom and pop marijuana growers are responsible for most of the issues. He believes, “It is the people doing big grows, often absentee owners.” He says some of them care nothing for the land and will just “throw a hose in the creek” to get whatever water they want. He also points out that the logging industry years ago damaged the fish populations. But, he says, some companies are changing their practices for the better now.

Bauer is not worried by the concerns brought up by Grover and others. He feels fairly confident that he got the overall numbers right. “We tried to err on the side of being conservative,” he said. However, “There is always a potential for an inaccurate reading…If people want to have me take [an alleged garden] off the site, let me come look.” He says that he would be open to doing that. But he adds that even if the numbers are off by 10%, ten percent off of 19,000 plants leaves “a lot of activity.”

Bauer worries that fish populations are being seriously impacted. “We need to collect more data but I keep telling people ‘How much longer will we have? Are we going to study this thing to death?’”

Bauer doesn’t believe that these presentations will alienate growers and keep them from working with agencies in the future. “…I think it started a serious discussion in those communities and other Humboldt communities.” He believes these discussions are forcing people to ask, “What are my personal activities? How are they contributing?” He says that “We just gave a presentation in Mattole and people were interested. The goal is to start a discussion.”

So far Humboldt County has not seen the full effects of increased production, Bauer believes. “We haven’t had a dry year since [large scale marijuana production] started taking off in 2009.” During 2009 the combined area for marijuana production in both watersheds was 47 acres. In 2012, it was over 95 acres. Grows doubled between 2009 and 2012, says Bauer. Furthermore, he believes that production is likely to increase and water draw will be even more severe in years to come.

“We know that climate is changing,” he says. He explains that this was the driest January and February for a very long time. There isn’t much that individuals can do to control the changing weather, he says. However, “What we can control is how much water we use. Diverting water for [marijuana growing] maybe that is the final cut” that will destroy our fish populations.

Bauer says that he and his department are trying to reach out to the communities to bring about change in the way growers use and store water. He’d like to see people get permits for their water use. “There is a lot of caring people in those watersheds. If everybody had permits, we would know how much water is being used.” However, there are other things people can do to help protect the fish. Bauer suggests,

• Use less water. Make sure water lines aren’t leaking.

• Don’t take water in the summer.

• Develop water storage — ponds or tanks.

• Control sediment — Use properly sized, not rusted culverts.

• Gravel your road.

• Eliminate pollutants; contain diesel. Reduce or eliminate herbicides and don’t use or apply in ways that they end up in streams.

He says landowners should contact Fish and Wildlife for help managing their property. There are other groups that can also be helpful he says. He suggests the Salmonid Restoration Federation, Humboldt County Resource Conservation District, and the Mattole Restoration Council.

He also suggests that communities in watersheds form their own groups like the Mattole Restoration Council and says, “Agencies often fund those kind of groups. Then we are happy to work with a group effort like that.”

(Courtesy, LostCoastOutpost.com)

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MANBEATER of the week:

DanielaFavilaOnly a blind man would call the cops on a girl this pretty. Ms. Favila is 5'2 and 103 pounds? The wrong person was arrested.

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FAMILIES ON FOOD STAMPS, now known as the CalFresh Program, receive an average of $5 a day to eat on. According to the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, the average daily per-person cost of groceries for a family of two adults and two children is $7.42. 15% of California households, or 1.86 million households, qualified for food stamps in 2012. Last time I checked, about 21% of Mendo households received food stamps.

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THIS LETTER from Peter Weverka appears in the current edition of the London Review of Books: “Rebecca Solnit laments that economic competition from young technocrats has made it hard for ‘dissidents, queers, pacifists, and experimentalists…writers, artists, activists, environmentalists [and] eccentrics’ find homes in San Francisco. What she doesn't mention is how difficult living there has become for families with children. Of all major American cities, San Francisco has the lowest percentage of people under 18 years old. In the 2010 census, just 13.4% of residents were children, down from 25% in the 1960 census’.”

I THINK all of the above are still in SF; they just have more money. But it's certainly true that ordinary working families have been priced outta the city clear to Tracy. That Ms. Solnit and another terrific Frisco-based writer, August Kleinzhalzer, appear in an English book review and not in a San Francisco publication of some sort is one more example of how thin cultural life has become in this self-alleged intellectual hub. In the late 1960s there was real intellectual excitement at publications like Ramparts, especially under the great Warren Hinckle, the only editor in America who can honestly claim never to have issued a single boring edition of any publication he produced. Even the Chronicle, believe it or not, was a daily must-read. What we have now is a suffocating liberalism of the mainstream Democratic Party type dominated by “intellectuals” as blandly tedious as their writing. I've thought for a long time that the entire Frisco artistic-intellectual effort ought to put out one publication a week. And call it Wuss. Or maybe Sominex.

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MARCH 14 COUNTY TREASURY POOL MEETING

Thursday, March 14, at 1 pm, Mendocino County Treasurer, Shari Schapmire, convened a “Roundtable Discussion” of the Mendocino County Treasury Pool.

We met in Conference C at the County Administration Center on Low Gap Road.

The agenda included the following items:

• Introduction of New Investment Adviser — Chandler Asset Management

• Update on the Economy and Financial Markets

• Chandler's Investment Strategy

• County Treasurer's Investment Policy

• Interest Rate Apportionment Rates

• Costs Associated with the Treasury Pool Banking Services

Additional Topics of Interest

Four of the five members of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors (BOS) were in attendance: Dan Hamburg, John McCowen, John Pinches, and Dan Gjerde. Supervisor Brown was absent.

This was a Brown Act meeting that was properly was noticed. Also attending the meeting were 40-50 members of the public. The meeting was also videotaped for community television.

My takeaways include the following:

• Chandler is doing a good job for a reasonable fee. Chandler earned a 61-basis point return for last quarter on the consolidated portfolio. On a risk-adjusted basis, this is better than our previous money manager (Abalone Cove Advisers). Meanwhile, Chandler only charges the county about $16,200 in annualized fees, which includes Bloomberg and most other services.

• Chandler also diversified the holdings in the treasury pool from approximately 20 holdings to about 80 holdings. Our holdings were expanded to include U.S. Treasury securities and federal agency securities. In diversifying the holdings, the average size per holding went from approximately $5 million to $1-2 million per holding.

• The diversification has resulted in a much more level “interest rate apportionment rate.” More level interest, and less volatility, is a good thing.

• Fitch, the bond rating company, had previously noted that Mendocino County had some performance issues with the treasury pool, hence the switch to Chandler. The County Treasurer's Investment Policy puts its highest priorities as “safety, liquidity, and yield.”

• Chandler staggers the maturities of our county's holdings in a “Ladder” fashion. The average duration is 0.86 years. The average coupon is 0.74%. The Average Purchase Yield to Maturity (YTM) is 0.46 %. The average Market YTM is 0.35%. The Average Final Maturity is 1.0 year. The Average Life is 0.90 years.

The Average S&P/Moody Rating is AA/Aa2. Approximately 10.7 % of the portfolio is only rated A by S&P, and 42.9% of the portfolio is Unrated.

As of 1/13/13, the market value of the treasury pool was $212,906,082, which includes accrued interest of $367,075.

The top issuers in the Treasury pool are: Local Agency Investment Fund (24.7%), Custodial Checking Account (10.25), Government of the United States of America (9.2%), Federal Home Loan Bank (7.0%), Federal National Mortgage Association (6.5%), Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. (5.7%), Federal Farm Credit Bank (5.2%), and Bank of Montreal Chicago (4.9%).

Chandler's investment advisory fees represents only a small portion of the total costs for administering the treasury pool. Chandler's annualized fees of $16,200 is dwarfed by $246,000 in annual costs that the County Treasurer's Office charges off to the treasury pool in 2012-2013. Of the $246,000 amount, 65% of the County Treasurer's salary and benefits of $155,200 was charged off to the treasury pool.

Approximately 43.3% off the total staff time at the Treasury Office was spent on treasury pool business.

Other costs included “variable costs” for Bank of America — about $10,026 per quarter — and lesser dollar amounts for Mellon Bank and Savings Bank of Mendocino, for custody and clearing services. After an RFP conducted last year, Bank of America was retained.Total pool costs are about 0.00165 per $100.The County Treasurer emphatically stated that “socially responsibility” is not a factor in making treasury pool investments. Her only criteria were “safety, liquidity, and yield.”

Treasury pool holdings include; 2.33 % of the portfolio in Barclays Bank (responsible for the LIBOR rate manipulation scandal); 0.70 % of the portfolio in Wells Fargo Bank (responsible for “robo foreclosures"); 0.60% of the portfolio in General Electric (a major defense contractor); and 0.47 5 of the portfolio in Wal-Mart Stores (an anti-union shop and the defendant in a gender discrimination class action lawsuit filed in federal court by many of the women who work for Wal-Mart). Members of the public were outraged that the treasury pool included these controversial holdings.

Members of the public respectfully suggested to the County Treasurer that a county bank, if approved by the BOS, would be a good way to make socially responsible investments in the treasury pool. A county bank could also earn the administrative fees of approximately a quarter million dollars that currently charged off to the County Treasurer's Office. This could help fund the operation of a county bank.

Public banking is already working in the United States (the State of North Dakota) , and 20 states are currently considering some form of public banking legislation. A county-owned, county-operated bank would be a public bank.

The Public banking Conference, “Funding The New Economy,“ will take place on June 2-4, in San Rafael, at Dominican University. The event is hosted by the Public Banking Institute, the Pennsylvania Public Bank Project, New Montana, Dominican University's Green MBA, the Vermont Partnership Bank, and the Washington Investment Trust.

Respectfully submitted, John Sakowicz

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ON JANUARY 29, 2013 at approximately 9pm the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office received a missing persons report on Thomas Bottello Sierra, 58, of Redwood Valley. A family member had last seen Sierra after he walked away from the family member's home located on Pinecrest Drive January 27, 2013. Investigations were conducted by Sheriff's Deputies and Sheriff's Detectives who learned Sierra had been seen in front of the Redwood Valley Market possibly sometime after leaving the Pinecrest Drive home. Investigators recently contacted the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Search & Rescue team (SAR) and requested assistance in the search for Sierra. Due to the circumstances of Sierra's disappearance a mutual aid request was made to the California Emergency Management Agency, which resulted in the activation of three teams from the California Rescue Dog Association (CARDA). On March 15, 2013 at approximately 9pm Sheriff's Office SAR members in addition to the three CARDA teams and a Sheriff's Detective deployed to the area of Pinecrest Drive in Redwood Valley. While searchers were searching a brushy area to the east of Pinecrest Drive in the 800 block of East School Way they were contacted by an eight-year-old child. The child reported he had found a deceased body a short time before the searcher's arrival while walking in the area with his dog. The child escorted the searchers to the body and Sheriff's Detectives were summoned to the location to further investigate. At this time Sheriff's Detectives have identified the body as being that of Thomas Sierra based upon the presence of specific tattoos. A forensic autopsy has been scheduled for March 18, 2013 to help determine a cause and manner of death. (Sheriff’s Office Press Release)

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ON MARCH 14, 2013 Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were contacted by the Cahto Tribal Police Department regarding a domestic violence dispute that had occurred on Reservation Road. Upon arrival Deputies contacted the 24-year old victim from Clearlake who stated that Donald Wiltsey, 25, of Laytonville, had punched her in the head. According to the victim she and Wiltsey had been living together for a number of years and they have a child in common. The victim reported that she and Wiltsey got into an argument due to his illegal drug usage. During the argument Wiltsey got made at the victim, who is 6 months pregnant, and punched her several times on the side of her head with a closed fist. The victim did not require medical attention due to her injuries. Deputies contacted Wiltsey and placed him under arrest for inflicting corporal injury on a spouse, partner or co-habitant. Wiltsey was transported to the Mendocino County jail where he was held on $25,000 bail. (Sheriff’s Office Press Release)

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WALMART BOSSES & THE MINIMUM WAGE

What's Holding Mr. Duke Back?

By Ralph Nader

Last weekend on a bright, sunny day a dozen of us demonstrated at shopping malls where Walmart has three of its giant stores, supplied heavily by products from China and other serf-wage countries. But outsourcing the jobs of its American suppliers to China was not the focus last Saturday. We were drawing attention to the plight of one million Walmart workers who are making far less than what Walmart workers made in 1968 when the minimum wage was the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $10.50 an hour today.

In 1968 Walmart was run by its founder, the legendary Sam Walton, who started with one store in Bentonville, Arkansas. Sam had to pay his workers wages that were worth much more than wages today because the law required him to do so.

The clenched-jawed CEO opposition to catching the minimum wage up with 1968 for their workers continues to manifest itself today. CEOs seem to have little concern for the budget-squeezed daily lives of their employees.

These days, however, Walmart is feeling some heat with the rising demand for increasing the stagnant federal minimum wage finally coming from Washington, backed by over 70 percent of the people in polls. A Walmart rival, the successful Costco, has a CEO who already endorsed a federal minimum wage over $10.00 an hour. Costco starts its entry-level workers at $11.50 per hour plus benefits that Walmart workers do not receive. As blogger Alan DiCara said, “Walmart’s benefits department is the U.S. taxpayer.”

I think Walmart will follow businesses like Costco, the Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and the booming Busboys and Poets restaurants in supporting a higher minimum wage. Remember Walmart executives are all about the numbers and how they can manipulate them to their own benefit. February’s retail sales, writes Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes “was a rotten month for the Bentonville Giants.” Internal emails leaked from Walmart expressed concern about the spending level of the low to middle-income shoppers who are the dollar source for the company.

“Where are all the customers? And where’s their money?” bewailed Cameron Geiger, Walmart senior vice-president. Calmer colleagues attributed the sales slump to the restoration of the social security payroll tax, delayed tax refunds and higher gasoline prices.

What Walmart’s bosses are coming to realize, however, is that a minimum wage above $10 per hour would lift the income of about 30 million workers, including Walmart employees, who would spend some of that extra cash at Walmart stores.

For the overall economy, a $10.50 per hour minimum wage would be a certain stimulus for sales, which would increase jobs and contribute more money to social security and Medicare funds.

The decision facing Walmart is how much of a higher minimum wage will they publically support? The predecessor of today’s Walmart CEO, Mike Duke, took the plunge in 2005. H. Lee Scott, Jr. told company executives that “the U.S. minimum wage of $5.15 an hour has not been raised in nearly a decade, and we believe it is out of date with the times….Our customers simply don’t have the money to buy basic necessities between paychecks.” He then supported a phased-in-increase to $7.25.

What’s holding Mr. Duke back, he who makes $11,000 an hour? In Canada, he pays his workers there the required minimum wage of more than $10 an hour in that country.

A few years ago, feeling the heat from environmentalists, three high-level Walmart managers visited the late Ray Anderson, the pioneering CEO of Interface corporation in Atlanta, the largest carpet tile manufacturer in the country. Mr. Anderson was the corporate leader in taking recycling and reduction in pollution to unsurpassed levels, while regularly cutting costs. Doing well by doing good!

The cutting costs part attracted their attention. These managers are now among the executives running Walmart, and the changes they have made — reducing excessive packaging materials, saving on water and energy and increasing recycling — have brought Walmart lower costs and public praise.

Yet, when it comes to their workers — euphemistically called “associates” — Walmart bosses can’t seem to absorb the evidence that paying all their workers more than $10 an hour reduces its notoriously high worker turnover and improves productivity and morale. The bosses will feel better about it when they overcome their bizarre intransigence bred of a thoroughly regimented company hierarchy.

At the store level all over the U.S., Walmarts are full of surveillance cameras, not just monitoring customers but also their tight-lipped workers, especially when customers start small talk about their low wages. Big Brother is watching them. Walmart security guards are stiffer than Army MPs. They are programmed to be the private police in so-called private shopping malls built with tax preferences and tax abatements.

My advice to Mike Duke is to come out sooner rather than later to support a $10.50 an hour federal minimum wage. Believe it or not, more members of Congress are waiting upon your move. Polls show heavy majorities of liberals and many conservatives support a higher, inflation-adjusted minimum wage.

(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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