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Letters (February 16, 2023)

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Like a bad acid flashback, Fred Gardner’s memory continues to be selective (or changes like his journalistic resource “Wikipedia,” which my children aren’t even allowed to use as a source for their school reports…) about my involvement in him possibly (possibly?) being an FBI plant. 

For the record, one night about 25 years ago at my favorite North Beach bar Tosca, I was summoned by the patch-eyed, legendary journalist/editor Warren Hinkle (editor of Rampart’s, Scanlan’s, and oft credited for creating Gonzo journalism by pairing Hunter S. Thompson with Ralph Steadman and editing/publishing their famous collaboration “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent And Depraved”…) to saddle up on a stool next to him, and above his ubiquitous Basset hound, for a round (or two, or three…) or drinks because he had some information he wanted to pass along to my uncle Bruce Anderson. 

I had read Hinkle’s coverage of the Mitchell Brothers murder trial in the pages of the AVA, and I knew my uncle Bruce greatly respected him, so I didn’t question his clandestine approach. No cell phones existed at the time either for him to make a more convenient call from his bar stool. Maybe he thought his office or home phone was tapped? Maybe he didn’t want a paper trail? I’d been raised amid 60’s radicals, outlaws and revolutionaries, their eccentric behavior and modes of self-preservation, and could recite dozens of conspiracy theories, lists of assassinated lefties and infiltrated organizations… And Hinkle was buying the booze!

He told me, “There’s some information your uncle needs to know. It purports Fred Gardner is an FBI plant.”

Nuff said. Message delivered.

I didn’t write an article about it. 

Or really care. 

I was living in an SRO, jocking espresso at Caffe Trieste, and trying to finish my first novel. At best, this seemed more like Pynchon territory. Or at the time, for longstanding AVA subscribers, a job for “Wanda Tanasky.”

As my memory serves, Fred didn’t come to my coffee shop in San Rafael as he wrote recently in the AVA, but accosted me in SF while I was walking down Broadway to Enrico’s. He had a cohort with him, the always annoying and bludstering pamphleteer Stephen (now “Lulu”) Schwartz. 

Fred passionately told me I was wrong about him being an FBI plant. Then took a step toward me and threateningly said, “This is bigger than you. I don’t want to see you get hurt.”

But he was a short, balding old man (my age now?) and Schwartz a gibbering fool. They were tough to take seriously in any situations, let alone a fight.

I’m sure at the time, I felt like slugging him for getting in my face. In my late-20’s I was, er, um, uh, less adult in my responses to hostility. And Schwartz deserved a drubbing for good measure as he used to regularly come into Caffe Trieste and rave non-stop while I was working. More than once, he was banned from the establishment. But not by me.

I walked away.

I did write up that encounter for the AVA many moons ago. Maybe Gardner is confusing that article as my having accused him of being an FBI plant?

Who knows what blasts from the past burst forward in his muddle of a mind?

But I am not on the warpath as he claims because of his admiration for Barbara Lee (much of which I share…) only noting his consistent mischaracterization of some members of congress while he tirelessly lionizes politicians like Bernie Sanders, who apparently gets a big Bernie Bro pass for his pro NRA/pro assault gun stance of voting AGAINST the Brady Bill four times, shoveling pork for his anti-environmentalist dairy farmers, and mansplaining about race and economics from a homogenized state with the lowest GNP in the Union and a population smaller than SF but with more white people than Pac Heights aka “Specific Whites” (Vermont is ethnically 93% white while the neighborhood of Pacific Heights is roughly 72%)… 

But I never accused Fred Gardner of being an FBI plant. I relayed a message twenty-five years ago to my uncle Bruce from Warren Hinkle that he had information that Gardner may be an FBI plant.

All these years later, what remains true is I still don’t trust Gardner. Or any propaganda driven journalist who uses Wikipedia as their main reference source. Or anyone who buddied around with Stephen Schwartz.

However, even in death, I still trust Hinkle’s phenomenal editorial instincts. Though not his choice of whisky as I choke upon memory of a water glass he half-filled for me once from a bottle of his home stock paint thinner while we had a “creative meeting” about an article he published of mine in his Argonaut. I believe there was a sinking ship on the label.

But, admittedly, I don’t fully remember.

Robert Mailer Anderson

San Francisco

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Dear Editor, 

I greatly appreciate reading your regular columnist, Jim Shields. He brings valuable information and insites to local issues while also linking them to the bigger picture.

I found Shield’s latest column especially enlightening when he quoted Republican ex-President Teddy Roosevelt saying, “The great corporations… are creatures of the State, and the State ... is duty bound to control them whenever need of such control is shown.”

T.R followed those words with action; he broke up the giant oil and railroad monopolies, and became a very popular president for doing so.

Similar action is deeded today, since a few giant corporations have monopolistic control over energy, drug, meat, media and other industries. This allows them to set high prices and earn huge profits at the expense of us consumers.

This has created an ever-growing wealth gap between the rich and the rest of us, resulting in inflation-adjusted workers’ wages stagnating during the last forty years while corporate owners have increasingly obscene incomes and wealth.

In the century since T.R.’s trust-busting, we’ve lost “control” of corporations because they have poured vast sums into buying media, many politicians and court judges who protect Big Business from the controls that average citizens need.

The Republican Party is the mouthpiece for giant corporations while Biden and the progressive Democrats are working to reduce corporate power and advance ordinary citizens’ interests. During the 2018 elections, around 185 Democratic candidates like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez agreed not to take corporate PAC money, while only two Republicans took that pledge. Which party’s side are you on?

Tom Wodetzki


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Dear Committee,

As a longtime Northern California journalist and a former member of the Society of Professional Journalists, I was dismayed to read of the pending Madison award to attorney Paul Nicholas Boylan.

While Mr. Boylan is applauded in some quarters for his work on access to public records, his role in a local controversy involving the nationwide sex cult One Taste, and its leadership's involvement with a so-called 'prison monastery' project which was implemented on a trial basis at the Mendocino County Jail in my mind compromises his widely touted standing. Sheriff Matt Kendall wisely severed ties with the prison monastery program after the link was publicly revealed by local public radio news reporters.  

In turn, Mr. Boylan, representing the local prison project coordinator, trashed the news reporters and demanded a correction and/or retraction. His letter was widely circulated by his clients.

In part, Mr. Boylan's letter reads: "Never in all my years of working with reporters have I ever encountered a more heinous example of bad, irresponsible, sensationalist, tabloid misuse of journalistic power and privilege."

Later it was learned Mr. Boylan was engaged in questionable litigation to prevent Netflix from releasing its own documentary on One Taste and related activities.

I worked for 28 years with The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, a New York Times-owned regional newspaper. I am professionally and personally appalled that Mr. Boylan is being honored with one of the most prestigious awards in journalism.

How can the Society of Professional Journalists turn a blind eye to Mr. Boylan’s hired gun approach, smearing the reputation of hard-working reporters, and taking extraordinary steps to block the release of a documentary? 

Mike Geniella,


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To the Editor:

For some time now your fire, rescue, and a portion of EMS services have been provided for by the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority. The agreement between the City of Ukiah and the Ukiah Valley Fire District became effective on July 1, 2017. Essentially merging two fire agencies, Ukiah City Fire and the Fire District and is now known as the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority. The area of services provided cover just under one-hundred square miles, essentially from the east and west ridge tops and Burke Hill in the south to Agnes Lane (North State St. / Gold Gulch, for us “old timers”) in the north.

This past calendar year the Fire Authority responded to 4,384 incidents, and 2,777 medical aid responses. Generating a minimum of 7,161 reports. One report per engine response and one PCR (patient care report) per ambulance response. The typical engine response is one engine with a minimum staffing of two, with possibly three as staffing allows. One member of this engine response is paramedic qualified, usually the captain position. With first alarms or greater, the second engine will be assigned with the same staffing levels. Depending upon the level of severity one incident may require more than one emergency vehicle to respond. This would also include any Volunteer response. This past calendar year there were well over 5,000 responses which does include assists to Med Star Ambulance, our local private provider. All engines are Advance Life Support equipped (ALS). Medical Aid or ambulance responses are staffed with a two-person crew, at least one being paramedic qualified.

So with the aforementioned work load, what does staffing look like? I will not sugar coat this, in my opinion it looks terrible! And has been for quite some time, years actually! Currently there are eighteen suppression positions on the roster, with three on some level of leave, this does not include the command staff of two Battalion Chiefs and one Fire Chief. Responding to well over 4300 calls for service, including over 2,700 ambulance responses. Command staff can and will on occasion staff and drive the ambulance as they are all paramedic qualified. Active stations are located on Laws Ave., and Lovers Lane. The central station is located at the Ukiah Civic Center and is where the ambulance crews live and respond from. So, if you were merely to count bodies/positions, that’s a total of 27, this includes volunteers. Volunteers are an important part of our fire department. However, they typically don’t respond to the daily call volume unless needed, larger incidents or additional staffing and such. The Fire Authority is currently seeking to fill at least three authorized vacancies. Not much luck thus far! There are incentives to those who are successful in the hiring process.

So while responding to the call volume as stated above other assigned duties must be undertaken. Reports must be completed, apparatus must be maintained, training must be undertaken, “at all levels”, and crew quarters must be kept up. So let’s look at what a typical member may receive or be required to get during any given year. Each member receives about 300 hours of training, plus an additional 80 hours of required certification training (Incident command, paramedic, state fire training). All of this is accomplished during any given period during the year and must be maintained. Volunteers also receive required training, amounting to about 468 hours per year. None of this is easy, nor is it not necessary!

So as I mentioned earlier, staffing is terrible, (my opinion) and has been for years. I started my time with the Ukiah Fire Department in 1982 as a Volunteer, promoted to paid Battalion Chief in 2005. At that time we had 25 Volunteers and 22 paid staff. Managing to run approximately 2,400 calls for service per year, which includes fire department ALS ambulance responses within the city limits, roughly 4.5 square miles. Upon my retirement from the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority in 2019 there were roughly 18 paid staff, and about 6 volunteers running over 4,300 calls for service, and over 2,700 ambulance responses within our roughly 100 square miles of service area. Now keep in mind with the merger in place the fire department now covers roughly 100 square miles with fewer staff, why is this? The call volume has significantly risen and staffing has stagnated or even declined. Cost is often given as the driving factor to not being able to hire new staff. But there are various costs to consider such as the overtime burden, injuries due to over-worked or lack of appropriate rest and recovery. The paid staff works a two day on and four days off rotation. Lack of appropriate rest and time away from work has negative impacts to well-being and health.

The question must be asked, why are our local leaders, city and county, gambling with the health, safety and welfare of our first responders, and to our community? It may be entirely possible that our community just simply doesn’t know of the working conditions of our staff? Working conditions are getting worse largely due to the lack of support. I know we don’t have a tax base that will support that of other communities, however we, our City / District must do better. How can this be accomplished as our fire department responds to ever higher demands?

Kevin P. Jennings, Retired Division Chief/ Fire Marshal, Ukiah Valley Fire Authority,Newly Appointed Board Member, 

Ukiah Valley Fire District

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America is slowly being allowed by its government and citizens to destroy itself. We have gun violence every day, and nothing is done. The government does nothing, and voters allow it. We are told the Second Amendment allows gun possession, so that’s it. Well, the Second Amendment was passed in 1791, and I don’t think it meant the types of guns being used now. It’s rather ridiculous to compare those times to now and use that as an excuse.

Congress has an easy ride because it seems all they do is argue and belittle each other and lie. We have elected liars, and nothing is done. Take a look online at benefits they get. Being in Congress isn’t a bad deal. It’s sad that the government and citizens of this country have allowed it to sink to the level it has, and it will continue until citizens wake up and do something about it.

Linda Elliott


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The League of Women Voters of Mendocino County will hold its monthly meeting on Tuesday, February 21, 6-7:30pm, at the Caspar Community Center. Planning for the next year's local activities will be the focus of the program. Input for California League state level priorities will also be covered. 

Current local issues for emphasis are: Water; Land Use Planning (Mill Site); Transparency and Participation in Government; and Justice System Reform. 

A possible new local topic is updating the Fort Bragg City and Mendocino County Local Coastal Plans. These plans will be completely revised over the next few years, and citizen input is essential in addressing all the elements of the plans, such as housing, transportation and sea level rise. 

All members, old, new and prospective, are encouraged to attend and contribute to a lively discussion.

Coffee and conversation at 6, program at 6:30. It will still be possible to join the meeting via Zoom; check the League website for details:

For more information, call 707-937-4952.


Pat Dunbar, Publicity,

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I posted this in response to a post on Mendocino Action News - Fire, Traffic and Other Emergencies. 

It was about the celebration in Willits of the 115th birthday of a County resident. 

Adventist Health Howard Memorial posted a lengthy article about the celebration which I believed more than strongly suggested them being the source of her longevity. I took offense, as I am sure others are, and so I wrote in response: “Why is AHHM playing like it's they who take credit for Ms. Cecarelli's longevity? Seriously, is there anything they won't do to try to convince the residents of this County how fantastic they are? They can certainly accomplish that by offering to the residents of this County quality healthcare for starters. (Posted by an ex employee.) PS. Guaranteed, they will delete this post. Edie!! What a wonderful and remarkable accomplishment. Much love today and always!”

They deleted the post.

And so, I posted the following in response to that deletion.

“Question: Should I inquire as to why this topic appears on what is supposed to be ‘Fire, Traffic and Other Emergencies’ page? 

Censorship at its finest!! Plain and simple!!"

They banned me from their fb page!!

Amazes me how honest and pointed input from community members of this County are censored if it goes against the public relations facade.

Rosemary Mangino


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A hypothetical: Joe Biden decides to shoot down a Chinese spy balloon as it enters Montana. No one is injured, but the balloon’s cargo is destroyed as it hits the ground at high speed. Republicans start screaming that Biden is reckless. People could have been injured or worse. Any opportunity to examine the cargo is lost. So much could have been learned. Why not, the Republicans say, wait until it is safely over US-controlled waters before shooting it down? Another instance of Biden incompetence.

This is, unfortunately, politics as usual on both sides of the aisle. When will the American electorate start punishing this behavior in public opinion polls and at the ballot box? If we did, it would end quickly.

Joe Compagno


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Julian Assange has now spent more than a decade imprisoned, much of it in solidarity confinement (a torture under U.N. and international law) for simply disclosing information about what our government was doing illegally in Iraq and didn’t want us or the rest of the world to know. Assange has never been tried for any crime, yet has spent years in prison for crimes he’s only allegedly involved in. It’s time to free the man. It’s time to free journalism, and it’s definitely time to allow our democracy to operate in the bright light of the open.

Garth Saalfield

Fort Bragg

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With China’s spy balloon flyover last week of our entire nation can anyone be unaware that China and the US are now involved in a new era of international geo-political relations? This was a serious violation of our airspace which presents new challenges to all politicians regardless of which color state or whatever “culture” they hail from.

President Biden may try to reduce obvious new tensions with China by calling for “economic competition” and downplaying “conflict”, primarily yet not solely the struggle over Taiwan, but the Pentagon has confirmed the balloon was using sophisticated technology to probe our most important nuclear ICBM missile sites.

Our Defense Department still needs time to adequately assess debris still being collected off the floor of the Atlantic Ocean near the South Carolina coast.

Frank H. Baumgardner, III 

Santa Rosa

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For decades, radical progressive university students have protested the invitation of conservative speakers to visit on campus lest they say something that might “trigger” a negative reaction from tender-minded students. Liberal faculty members were slow, or totally absent, in standing up for freedom of speech and telling students the purpose of a university education is to learn how to think, which will probably require learning how to handle ideas you may not agree with.

Conservatives are now flipping the script. Any discussion of the 1619 Project, Black Lives Matter or critical race theory needs to be scrubbed from academic class offerings lest a topic be raised for discussion that might lead some equally tender-minded conservative Caucasian, with excessive pride in his or her epidermal hue, to be offended. And, whatever you say, just don’t say “gay.” Really?

Participating in a democracy means sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Sometimes you agree with a speaker and sometimes you don’t. But we always have to listen to each other and trust we are all in this together. If you try to understand before you disagree you might disagree anyway, but you also might learn something.

Jim Pedgrift

Santa Rosa

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