THE UKIAH UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT will be millions in debt by the 2015-16 school year, according to Sandra Harrington, Chief Business Official for UUSD. And whatever happened to CFO or Chief Financial Officer? (The more things stay the same, the more these people change their titles.) Harrington, according to a story by Justine Frederiksen in the Ukiah Daily Journal, tried to spin dramatically deeper deficit spending by smacking up to her apparently unwitting bosses. The millions of debt showed “the huge level of respect this board has for the employees of this district,” adding “these are the risks the board has been willing to take to show respect for the bargaining units.”
HUH? The “board” referred to is the Ukiah School Board, now calling itself the Ukiah Unified School District Board of Directors. These fiscal daredevils recently increased teacher salaries nearly 10% by agreeing to wipe out the district reserves. Board member Anne Molgarrd explained: “Of course we're concerned [about the lack of reserves], we just don't know what's going to happen three years from now,” adding that she didn't “want it to seem as if the old board were misers and the new board is not.” Another word for “miser” might be “prudent,” which the old board probably was and the new one is not. Not knowing what will happen in three years is an argument for building a reserve, not draining it.
BOARD MEMBER Gail Mon Pere, who was elected (along with Molgaard) on a teacher-backed slate (always a sign that the inmates are running the institution) that promised to raise salaries by tapping the reserves, said she was very pleased to throw the district's reserve fund to the people who'd elected her. (Incidentally, the reserve money is known as Fund 17. A lot of budgetary confusion occurs by not calling things by their right names.) According to Harrington, Fund 17 was a “special reserve” for funds that were not designated for a particular purpose, so it could be used to offset shortages in other areas. Mon Pere, on hearing that the reserves will soon be depleted, exclaimed: “I wanted nothing more than to hear that Fund 17 was empty, so that people would stop asking about it.”
MOLGAARD, WHO IS PAID GENEROUSLY to preside over the government-funded First 5 program, an annual $1 million boondoggle funded out of the cigarette tax, has always worked for government programs, which is Mendolib's primary employer. Former Superintendent Lois Nash, incompetent as she generally was, had at least guided the previous board to build the reserve precisely because it is unknown what the future may hold.
ACCORDING TO HARRINGTON, the future will hold a $2.25 million dollar shortfall as soon as the fall of 2015, just over two years from now. But the good news is that teachers will get these lush raises and be able to enjoy them for two years before the district hits the financial wall.
SUPERINTENDENT DEBRA KUBIN stayed with the upbeat party line, commenting that the new salary schedule was already helping with recruiting, adding “It feels good, knowing we'll be able to attract some really good applicants.” And then lay them off when the bad news arrives.
UKIAH CITY COUNCIL WOMAN MARI RODIN claimed during a recent meeting that comments by fellow councilmember Benj Thomas calling upon the city to hire a “pastor/ombudsman/ethicist” had been taken out of context. Ms. Rodin complained, “I'm pretty sure that Mr. Thomas doesn't want the city to hire a priest; the idea was presented out of context. When the news media takes our comments out of context, it makes our job not only not rewarding and not fun… it is just not helpful for the newspaper to cover our in-depth conversation in a superficial way.”
JOIN US, PLEASE, in the shallow end of the pool while we deconstruct Mari's Lament:
AFTER DENOUNCING the Ukiah Daily Journal's coverage, Moaning Mari admitted that she hadn't bothered to read the offending story, so we've got to wonder how she knew it was superficial and out of context. Thomas' inane comments were covered in two in-depth articles in the Ukiah Daily Journal, which reported his original comment verbatim. When Thomas was asked what he meant, he explained he was concerned that budget decisions could become a struggle between “values and the bottom line. I don't want to lose track of our values.” (Fatuity is a value?)
K.C. MEADOWS, Editor of the Ukiah Daily Journal, and a bona fide smart person, couldn't resist responding: “We believe that what Ms. Rodin really objects to is not superficial coverage, but the accurate coverage she and her council-mates get, in which they often display a complete lack of any sense of reality, or vision beyond their own tightly-enclosed West Side universe.” Truer words… etc. And it's important because West Side Ukiah pretty much calls the tune for the entire County, what with judges, lawyers, the better paid public bureaucrats, the non-profit drones and, of all people, their only known antidote, Tommy Wayne Kramer.
RODIN also blamed the media for a lack of city council candidates, to which Meadows responded, “If no one is running for city council we suspect it's the thought of working with people like Ms. Rodin and the atmosphere of self-imposed desperation in which the city finds itself that is the culprit.”
THE LONG and the short of it is, the Ukiah City Council is dominated by three hot tub feebs unequipped for adult give and take.
THE CITY OF UKIAH is running at an annual deficit of $1 million plus, not because they lack an on-staff pastor/ombudsman/ethicist but because their elected leaders lack the will to make the hard decisions that need to be made. When the state called a halt to the kinds of abuses typified by the Ukiah Redevelopment Agency (RDA), which milked redevelopment for $1 million annually to pay city administrative salaries; instead of cutting admin expenses the city proposed to lay off cops, firefighters, public works and parks workers. In other words, keep the suits employed and lay off the worker bees. The council also approved spending $27,000 of RDA funds to take out three parking spaces and build a “dining platform” on public property to benefit their favorite restaurant, Patrona, without letting any other business downtown do the same thing.
THE LACK of capable city council candidates more than likely stems from the dread of working with the current set of self-satisfied incumbents who more often than not function as bots in a virtual world sort of caricature of local governance. “Red” Phil Baldwin occasionally questions staff from a left/progressive perspective and the fiscally prudent Doug Crane raises questions about fiscal sanity, but their three colleagues are unfailingly in total lock-step sync with the city admin's wish list.
AND HIGH ON THAT wish list is borrowing $4-6 million dollars to satisfy the infrastructure needs of mega-corp Costco while the rest of the city infrastructure continues to crumble. Also high on the wish list is working a deal to locate the proposed new County courthouse at the old railroad depot site, which will remove most of the remaining business out of the old downtown. Lawyers, judges and cops will not walk two blocks to have lunch at Schat's Bakery, one of the few viable businesses in the downtown.
THE COAST HOSPITAL BANKRUPTCY HEARING has been postponed from April 12 to April 26, and may be postponed again. Meanwhile the Hospital continues to operate with the current structure and union contract and bills, to the extent possible, are still being paid. So even though Hospital management said they were insolvent last Fall, it appears that the Hospital has been able to maintain operations (albeit with 20 less employees and a number of resignations and retirements since the bankruptcy was announced) without any bankruptcy relief. The doors are still open, patients are still being admitted. Employees, both medical staff and administrative staff, however, are “jumping ship” — quitting for jobs outside of Fort Bragg, not knowing what the status of their jobs will be by the time the bankruptcy proceedings are concluded, whenever that may be. In the last two months Coast Hospital has spent $100k on lawyers which could have been used to finance actual medical care. Rumors among hospital staff are that CEO Wayne Allen somehow wants to downscale the hospital's services to only those that can be paid for directly from ongoing revenues. This would mean that all other revenue (such as the parcel tax that goes to the Hospital district, property taxes, grants and bonds) would go toward debt financing and capital equipment. This in turn leads to speculation that the Hospital would become a very attractive sale for a for-profit hospital chain such as the Adventists, since it would no longer be operating at a deficit. A few years ago the Hospital reconfigured itself into a “Critical Access Hospital” (CAH) so that it would qualify for a Medicare reimbursement “bonus” at the end of each fiscal year. But that several hundred thousand dollar annual bonus (5% of basic Medicare billing) is only provided if the hospital turns Medicare patients (i.e., the old and infirm) out the door in an average of under 72 hours per admission. In other words, in America's distorted medical financing structure, small hospitals are encouraged to push elderly patients out the door in the shortest possible time to allow the hospital to maintain even a minimally balanced set of books.
ANYONE driving Highway 1 near Elk recently will have noticed that the 56-year old picturesque Greenwood Bridge just south of Elk is being replaced with one-way traffic on the old bridge. So far, the northbound lane of the bridge has been removed and a retaining wall is being built while the concrete base of the new bridge (on which the actual driving surface will be placed) is poured and installed. Caltrans estimates now that the new northbound lane will be ready for traffic by the end of summer. The project is, of course being a Caltrans project, behind schedule, but they still expect to be finished by the summer of 2014, assuming no more surprises are in store. The new bridge was estimated to cost $20.5 million, but will probably overrun by some as yet unquantified amount due to the delays. Not only was the old bridge road surface deteriorated, but the footings had become exposed as the river channel they were in shifted over the decades. The new bridge will be wider and will include a five-foot-wide pedestrian walkway so that the scented soap and pastel sweatshirt crowd moseying down from Elk’s many B&Bs will be less likely to be run over by the occasional logging truck.
MORE BYPASS COMMENTS & CLOSING REMARKS from last Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors discussion of a draft letter of Bypass support.
COLBY FRIEND: I am a resident of the Willits. I'm a business owner there. I'm a homeowner there. I have four children in the Willits schools, one on the way. I think that arguably I am as invested in Willits as anybody could be. And I'm here now and in the future. Supervisor Pinches mentioned that these decisions were made in the 60s and the 80s. I wasn't here then, but I'm here now. And I'm against it now. And I think everybody is against it now. That should be obvious to you. If anybody is for this bypass, where are they? They are not here today. But everybody against it is here! And not even everybody. Supervisor Pinches named off a number of cities that have been bypassed — those are all the cities that I bypass on my way north and south! I don't stop and spend money there because they have been bypassed. I hear a lot of, it’s too late, construction has already started. It has not been built yet! It cannot be too late! It's a big project! If it's too late to stop a $300 million project because we have cut down a few trees, we are not thinking human beings anymore! We are not ants or machines. We have to be able to pull back if we go down the wrong path. I knew this was a bad idea when I saw that there was no access to Highway 20 off this bypass. That's the only other highway in Willits! How are you not going to connect to the one other highway in Willis with your highway?! We have also heard a lot about wildlife destruction, pierced aquifers, nuclear waste transportation through the town. I don't know every detail about these things, but it should be a concern of this board, based on the charter that this young lady read for you all about protecting the quality of life of the citizens of Mendocino County. It should be a big concern! It's a big concern to me and all the citizens here. We are all very concerned and you are our elected representatives! It should concern you! And you should make sure that we are protected! Have we got guarantees that there won't be pierced aquifers? And wildlife destruction? And that the salmon will be saved? I don't think so. I do not want you to send the letter for sure. The point should be moot at this point. But I am asking you to please be more proactive and oppose this! Help us oppose this! So that we can just sit back and think about what the best solution is. There are many great minds here and they all want to help you. So just do your best to oppose this, at least for the time being. Let's figure it out.
DONNY ALEXANDER. [Comes to podium with two young children, a young daughter and a younger son.] I almost left because I have these guys. But I’m here because I have these guys. I’m a business owner for over seven years in Willits. A property owner. I actually live on Outlet Creek. So this project greatly affects my life. I was raised in Cloverdale; my parents still live there; my father had business in Cloverdale for 20 years. I know the devastation of a bypass to a town like Willits. I've seen it in my life. Cloverdale today is a breakfast community. Nobody shops there. They live there; they commute. If Willits is like that, where are they going to commute to? Sonoma County? There are no jobs in Ukiah for them? What are we going to do? I am an avid fisherman. I live on Outlet Creek. But I am not allowed to have a fishing license on Outlet Creek. But Fish and Game and the Army Corps of Engineers have been given the biggest landfill permit to fill in the headwaters of Outlet Creek which is the longest salmon and steelhead natural run without a hatchery or a dam on it left still intact in California. I know that the economy in Mendocino County and the environment go hand-in-hand. This is a jewel of Mendocino County, this Little Lake Valley. I came here because of this. My family is originally from Montana, I’ve lived in the Bay Area, I lived in Cloverdale. Mendocino is Montana to me. And we are going to destroy it. For what? I don't understand. I drive my kids every morning to school. I don't even like to drive home past 10 o'clock because I get pulled over because I'm the only car on the road. It's eerie. Have you ever been stuck in a snowstorm? Because it's like that every night. There is no traffic at all past 9:30 at night, every night. This morning I drove to town at nine in the morning and I counted the cars I passed. Two cars! From Covelo road to Willits I went past two cars. Two cars! And this was nine o'clock in the morning on a Tuesday. Why are we paying $300 million for half of a project without an exit to Highway 20? I don't understand why the elk that reinhabited this Valley after over 100 years after the white settlers wiping them all out. They made it back on their own. There were no federal projects to have the elk put back in valleys. They made it to Willits Valley on their own. I watched them, my children were with me, I had just passed the train tracks driving home from school one day, just past where the railroad tracks meet in the city of Willits and we watched and they all came out of the bushes and we stopped in the middle of 101 as one of them crossed the highway. I see them every morning now. I counted 16 of them the other morning. I have it on video, right where they are doing the shoulder tapering, widening 101 so they can unload their heavy equipment because that's where the highway exit is going to be. I have video showing 16 elk right there where they're about to do this exit. This is going to affect my children's future. Please take this seriously.
PETER GOOD: I came to Mendocino County in 1974. When I got here Willits had a traffic problem, a small traffic problem in the summer. Since 1974 I would ask the Board of Supervisors and everyone to consider who's been in charge of Highway 101 Highway 20? Who has had the most power to make decisions about the traffic that is still, almost 40 years later, bad? Who has made those decisions? Caltrans has been the major player in it. Locally, the Mendocino Council of Governments has been a major player in this. Neither of these agencies have solved a local traffic problem, they haven't even fixed Highway 20 that connects Ukiah, the largest city, the county seat, to Willits, the third-largest city, and Fort Bragg, the second largest city. It's been 39 years and they can't get a reasonable 101/20 bypass. This is what we've received from the professionals. After 39 years! So when I am listening here I am very inspired to hear that the common people, the nonprofessionals, come up with wisdom, smart ideas, passion. The professionals have failed us time and again. The proof is in the pudding. It's 39 years and you still have a traffic problem. We elected our government officials so they can hire the transportation people to get a reasonable way through Willits. It's been 39 years and they haven't done it! And now they come up with a very unsafe bypass — a very very unsafe bypass — only two lanes — and it will destroy the valley. People are going to remember this day. They will remember every single person and the five people that have a vote in this and they will remember it for a long time because it will be a big, ugly mess. You should listen to the wisdom of the common people and forget about the professionals. They had 39 years and they failed! I regularly go down to visit my sister. You might say I'm against Caltrans. Well, they did a good job on Highway 5. But in Santa Clarita California ten years ago they built an overpass and everybody in that valley will look at that now and say, I'm not going to go to that anymore because you're going to get in an accident or you're going to get lost because it's poorly designed. So Caltrans makes mistakes all the time. This is a mistake. Stand up for us, the people.
KELLY LARSON: I am a local contractor. I have lived in Mendocino County for 17 years. I have been contracting here and I want to thank the Board of Supervisors for this forum. I speak for the many contractors who cannot take the time off on a weekday to come down here and a lot of other folks. Everyone I've spoken to is frustrated by the lack of Caltrans response to the Willits traffic problem. I mean folks on all sides. Even the fella who has his sign out on the road across the street from the Warbler protest site was just frustrated. That's what he told me. He said, I'm not against these folks protesting; I'm just frustrated because nothing is happening. That's our opposition. I believe there is plenty of evidence that Caltrans has purposely failed to respond in order to get support for what they want, regardless of what the community wants. The fact is that Caltrans hasn't even re-striped the road in front of Safeway for people to safely go north. That would be a very inexpensive, simple step. It just makes no sense at all, except that Caltrans wants to build something like they are. The past support that has been talked about? None of it was for a two-lane bypass with no off-ramp for Highway 20. The current Caltrans bypass is a very expensive, ineffective and unnecessarily destructive project. It benefits only a few, it doesn't solve the problem, and it has divided this community. We cannot afford to make this mistake bypass in tax dollars by indecisiveness. As a local contractor, I want to offer local jobs to local people doing positive work and solve a problem. This project does none of those things. The opposition such as the people here today are a large group and it is growing. And you know that only a small percentage can afford to show up like this, so there are a whole bunch more people. These people represent a whole bunch more people who cannot sit here all day long. Practical alternative plans have been summarily dismissed by Caltrans. We don't need Caltrans telling us what to do with our valley. We need to control our valley. We need us telling them what they will do with our valley — with all that money! I urge you to vote no on the support letter and help us stop the work and put this back on the table so that you can join us in demanding that Caltrans seriously consider these alternatives. Thank you.
JULIA FRESCH: I am from Redwood Valley. I never cared about the bypass until I read some of the details. That story will be heard many more times as more people outside of Willits learn what's going on. In the next few weeks, the noise, people coming and going, and the work we are doing to let people know, is going to have a huge impact. There are probably 50 points in the county's general plan that directly conflict with the Caltrans bypass. In 10 years people will look back at the $300 million spent at a crumbling Willits economy and an empty freeway and wonder: who let this happen? This will be your legacy. Nothing else in your political career will matter. This is what matters. I seriously believe that if you send this letter to Mr. Dougherty you'll find yourself on the wrong side of political opinion.
DAVID DRELL: You have a unique opportunity here to show some political courage. It's not often that local government officials have that opportunity to take a good look at the path they have gone down and to make a course correction and to do it publicly and to do it in front of your constituents. That's a pretty unique opportunity. Most of you know that this is a stupid project. You have looked at it, you know it's stupid and you feel like it's gone too far to make a change. But I would say that based on what you heard today, people are hungry to see change from their leaders. We have no leadership for the kinds of changes we need to make to allow humanity to live on this planet. And you have this opportunity to make a statement about change, about a course correction, and I hope you take it.
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SUPERVISOR CARRE BROWN: Supervisor Brown said she preferred a different route and that she didn’t like the loss of farmland. She pointed out that she attended “plenty of bypass meetings” over the years. But, “I do want to see a bypass of some sort.” She said she was personally not in favor of this one, but “professionally, I have to go in support to get this done.”
SUPERVISOR DAN GJERDE: “This is pretty uncomfortable. I have been a member of the Mendocino Council of Governments since 2003. In 1997 Quentin Kopp, then a state senator, passed legislation that gave money to the County Councils of Government. They are in every county and they receive transportation dollars beginning in 1998. In 1998 the Fort Bragg representative to the Mendocino Council of Governments was, I believe, the only person to vote against funding for the Willits bypass because it was the entire allotment, the entire $18 million that was going to the one project. After that the project was in the planning stages and there was a funding opportunity as the project costs went up for the California Transportation Commission to fully fund the funding gap. At that point I was on MCOG representing the city of Fort Bragg. The Willits city representatives at the time were, at least the ones at MCOG and as far as I always have known, a majority of the Willits City Council, were in favor of the Willits bypass. So hearing from them that that was the solution that they wanted for Willits, I voted to support the grant application for the funding gap. The project also had the support of the supervisor at the time, I believe Supervisor Pinches probably supported it before but I wasn't in office at that time and then it was Tom Lucier and then Hal Wagenet and now Supervisor Pinches again. I realize from the testimony today that the project has evolved over time, but at the time it came to MCOG the request was strictly for funds. So I voted to support the grant application. In the end the application was not successful. There was another funding cycle and MCOG had additional funds and I did vote to give money to the bypass project twice since being on that board. Again, it was with the understanding that it was supported by a clear majority of Willits residents. I know there were people who opposed the project, but you are sitting with other people who are elected and you trust that they are representing the people who elected them. That said, I understand some of the numbers about the traffic on the highway in Willits. And it's only about 22,000 vehicles per day. A three lane highway, a three-lane road, two lanes in each direction and a left-turn pocket, can handle about 20,000, so it's just barely over capacity. You could easily divert that traffic with connector streets that would parallel Main Street. So I want to congratulate and compliment everyone here who has identified some obvious facts because these obvious facts for whatever reason have not been pursued by Caltrans and others. This is kind of difficult because as some people have said it's not easy to vote one way and then take new information and look at things differently. I'm uncomfortable at this point knowing what I know about this project in signing the letter saying go for the project. It's hard for me to imagine a scenario where it's not built, but I also do not feel comfortable signing the letter.”
SUPERVISOR JOHN McCOWEN: “I don't know if there's ever been an issue of this level of importance where we've heard comment that’s been so one-sided. On the other hand if the people who are in favor of the bypass had made an organized effort to turn people out, they could have turned out an equal amount or more. [Grumbling in the audience.] We listen to you, please listen to us. There are a lot of things about this project that I don't like. It's not the ideal bypass project probably in anyone's mind. I got over the idea a few years ago that there is no Highway 20 interchange which I think is not consistent with the purpose of having a bypass. If it’s to get traffic through town and around town, it has not achieved that to the optimum level. But I also think that a lot of the arguments that we hear are contradictory to each other. We've heard every conceivable argument today against the bypass and probably 95% of it is the same things that have been said for at least 10 years, in some cases 20 years. We hear that the bypass will not solve the traffic problem in Willits because it's really not going to take that many cars out of town and yet it's going to devastate the economy because it takes cars out of town. Both of those cannot be true. I am concerned that the alternatives have been suggested don't really address the problem for US 101. They may address a lot of the problems for Willits. But I don't think they do it completely. The Baechtel Road-Railroad Avenue route is not really a truck route. It's kind of the opposite of a truck route. It's got six roundabouts; it's got traffic calming measures, roundabouts themselves are a traffic calming measure. Some say well we build the Baechtel Avenue and Railroad Avenue and we build a truck route too. Every one of those things you do is going to have its own impact to the community. It's going to have a direct impact to the people who are living on those streets that are intended to become the alternate north-south route. And Willits needs to do some of those things whether there is a bypass or not a bypass. But when the day comes that you are actually talking about doing those things you will see a lot of people stand up and say you can't do it because it's going to have these impacts and these impacts and these impacts. And that's why a lot of those alternatives were considered and then not included in EIR, because the impacts that they had, including environmental justice impacts of putting a major route through a low income neighborhood, and you can all shake your heads, but that's part of the reality of it. My concern is that we are not looking at a choice between the ideal bypass and the proposed route. We are looking at a choice between the proposed route and no bypass. And I personally don't find the continuation of the status quo for the next 20 years to be acceptable. And I think that's what we're looking at. I don't think that supporting or not supporting the letter is going to have a direct impact on the project. The project is going forward. It's not a decision that was made by the Board of Supervisors. We are by supporting this letter, if that's what the Board does, it is reaffirming our historic support for the bypass project and the commitment of over $30 million in funds. They have been spending our money first, I believe over half of it has already been spent on the right-of-way acquisitions. Again, if this project does not go forward, I think you'll get a continuation of the status quo for 20 years with everyone idling through town with heavy trucks. The one city-one vision which I also took a look at, one of the recurring comments of what people wanted to do was get the trucks out of town and a bypass is the only way that you can get through trucks out of town. And the comments that 70% of the trucks will still be in town, that was done with someone standing on a street corner writing things down on the back of an envelope — I think that one's going to Fort Bragg. I think that one's going to Eureka. I believe that you will see that far more of the truck traffic will be out of town. It's not a choice between is there a better alternative or this proposed bypass; it's this proposed bypass or nothing. So I will vote to support the letter.”
SUPERVISOR DAN HAMBURG: “When I saw Senator Evans’ letter a week or two ago I was kind of shocked because I have known that this Willits bypass thing had been in motion for so many years. I came on board in 2011. The Willits bypass had been around for many many years while I was not part of county government. I considered this something that MCOG was working on and of course at the last MCOG meeting which was just a week or two ago there was a letter written, I think Supervisor Pinches had a lot to do with it, that was basically to address the comments made by Senator Evans which seem to me to be kind of late to the process just because I knew this had been going on for so many years and I had always heard mostly through people who were sitting on MCOG that countless different options had been considered and all these environmental studies have been done and this and that and the other. What was really surprising to me just over the last week or so has been at this very late hour when Caltrans is beginning construction that this movement has just kind of blossomed. If it’s been going on for 10 years at this kind of level and this kind of scrutiny of the project, I was not aware of that. So I do think there's a real problem with timing. I would not say that it's this way or this highway or no highway, this bypass or no bypass, because I don't know what's going to happen on June 7 when this matter gets to court. I don't know what's going to happen as a result of these very vigorous protests that are ongoing at the site. I don't know what you can do. I don't think that the Board of Supervisors — and whether this letter is signed and sent to Malcolm Dougherty or not is going to make a whole heck of a lot of difference on whether the Willits bypass project goes through. I do agree with what Supervisor McCowen said, that if the people who were in favor of this project had brought all their folks together and come down here they might have made — this was a very one-sided presentation. We didn't hear from people who are for the bypass. I'm sure they're out there. I'm sure there are people who are for it. But I do have to say that I've heard so many concerns raised today. The overarching concern to me is whether we are building something that maybe would have been appropriate a couple of decades ago but now as we are trying to move into, at least in my political mind, sort of this more localized culture, this post-petroleum age — I know it's not going to happen in the next five years or even 10 years — but we are trying, if we want to survive, and there were several people who spoke to this, we are trying to create a different paradigm. And to me this project as it's conceived does not contributing to that new paradigm. I'm really sorry to say that because I have a huge amount of respect for my colleague from Willits and I know this is a project that he supports really strongly and I understand his support and talked to other people in Willits who are big supporters of this project. None of them made it down here today. I'm not totally sure why. But there was speaker after speaker after speaker today who finally wore me down, and I'm not sure that nothing can be done. So in that spirit that maybe something can be done to make this project more in keeping with the kind of vision that I have for the future of Mendocino County… I'm not a Willits person. I'm not a Little Lake Valley person. But I know what you're talking about. I understand the language you are using when you are talking about trying to create a different opportunity for generations to come, and also the very real thing that's happening which is an overall alarming deterioration of our planet on every level. Those things speak very dearly to my heart. So I'm inclined to join my colleague from the Fourth District.”
THE VOTE was 3-2 in favor of sending the bypass endorsement letter to Caltrans, with Supervisors Brown, Pinches (whose concluding remarks were, basically, a repeat of his opening remarks) and McCowen voting in favor; Supervisors Gjerde and Hamburg dissenting.
THOUSANDS MORE AMERICANS ARE LOSING THEIR HOMES this year with 1.5 million properties taken by banks - up 9% from 2012. By Katie Davies.
The number of foreclosed or bank-seized homes has risen by 9% already this year — with 1.5 million properties currently being lost by homeowners who can no longer afford them. A realty survey found the worrying increase over the last three months compared to the same time in 2012. The research by California-based RealtyTrac says a further 10.9 million American homeowners are at risk because they owe more than their property is worth. Of the 1.5 million properties currently in the seizure process more than 300,000 are stuck in limbo — not yet sold on but abandoned by cash-strapped owners. Such situations occur when a bank notifies the owner of foreclosure but fails to go through with the sale — simply because they do not think its worth their while. If they don't sell the property banks get insurance and tax from documenting the loss which can often earn them more than the profit made on the house sale. According to the Christian Science Monitor, it also means they can sell on debt to debt collectors. The house then becomes a so-called “zombie property.” These properties tend to fall into disrepair because absent owners remain responsible for their upkeep but have moved on and don't realize it. They can attract vandalism and other criminal activity, further reducing property prices in the neighborhood. Florida was the worst state for such deserted properties with 301,874 zombies. Illinois and California were ranked second and third for zombies, with Kentucky having the highest percentage of zombies per foreclosed properties. More than half of their bank-seized homes were listed as empty and falling into ruin. States deal with the growing problem in different ways — some fund the properties’ upkeep while others bill absent owners to varying effect. “These people have become like indentured serfs, with all of the responsibilities for the properties but none of the rights,” former Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Professor Kermit Lind told the Monitor. The record of foreclosures peaked in the midst of the financial crisis in December 2010 with 2.2 million homes seized by banks. More than 60% of the homes currently seized had loans worth less than $200,000 outstanding on them, with 30% with loans between $200,000 and $400,000, according to the research. (Courtesy, the Daily Mail of London.)
MENDOCINO COUNTY, 1969: Lyn [Lynette Fromme] loved Mendocino, but Charlie decided she should stay at Spahn Ranch. He depended on her, and couldn't afford to let her get mixed up in business far away. Unfortunately, Sadie and the other girls were unable to keep it cool during their assignment. Staying in a remote cabin near Philo, a tiny settlement in the redwood forest, the girls had begun to spread drugs and sex among the local boys. Soon, they were being called “the Witches of Mendocino.” According to Bob Glover, a Mendocino old timer, the Family girls were somewhat discriminatory and turned away a bunch of older fellows who wanted to share in the love. That, and a bad trip or two among the Mendocino boys, brought the local law down hard — three sheriffs' cars and two from the Highway Patrol — and the girls got busted. Even worse, after the girls were picked up, the guys they had rejected came by and tore up the house they were staying in, stomping on the stereo and smashing their bus. These men then took the girls' clothes and scattered them across the yard, splattering them with orange paint. On the west wall of the house, written in the same orange paint, they left an eerie message: GET OUT OF HERE OR ELSE. Sadie, Katie and the rest looked at the scrawl and understood.  — from Squeaky — The Life and Times of Lynette Alice Fromme, pg. 90
WOODCUTTING PERMITS AVAILABLE MONDAY
WILLOWS, Calif. – Starting Monday, April 1, personal use firewood permits will be available for purchase from the Mendocino National Forest. Permits are $5 per cord of wood, with a minimum purchase of four cords for $20. The permits are good through December 31, 2013. The wood does not have to be cut at the same time. All firewood removed must be dead and down. It is illegal to remove firewood from the National Forest without a valid permit. Permits are available in person or by mail order from one of the Forest offices listed below. Mail order forms are available online at www.fs.usda.gov/mendocino. If a person is unable to cut the wood themselves, they can obtain a third party authorization when they purchase their permit that will allow someone else to cut or gather the wood. The Mendocino National Forest only accepts cash or check as payment for firewood permits and sales are final, with no refunds. Permittees will receive tags and a map of the Forest. Permit holders should be aware that federal and state quarantines to prevent the spread of sudden oak death (SOD) are in effect for Lake and Mendocino Counties. Any firewood cut in these counties can only be transported into other SOD quarantine counties, including Alameda, Contra Costa, Humboldt, Marin, San Francisco, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma. Firewood permits can be purchased from the following offices:
Mendocino National Forest Supervisor’s Office/Grindstone Ranger District Office 825 N. Humboldt Ave., Willows, CA 95988 530-934-3316 Hours: Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-4:30pm.
Stonyford Work Center 5171 Stonyford-Elk Creek Road, Stonyford, CA, 95979 530-963-3128 Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 8 a.m.-12 p.m., 1- 4:30 p.m.
Covelo Ranger Station 78150 Covelo Road, Covelo, CA 95428 707-983-6118 Hours: Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Upper Lake Ranger Station 10025 Elk Mountain Road, Upper Lake, CA 95485 707-275-2361 Hours: Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Gathering firewood is important to many individuals and families surrounding the Mendocino National Forest. Following are some tips for a safer experience. Plan your trip – check the weather, bring plenty of warm clothes for spring and fall through winter cutting, water, emergency food, and the appropriate gear for the season when you are gathering firewood. Make sure you have a full tank of gas when you leave and are prepared for changing conditions in the mountains! Also, let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back. Keep vehicles on designated roads and be aware of changing weather and road conditions. Wet dirt roads can quickly turn to mud, making it possible to get stuck and causing damage to road, soil and water resources. If there are puddles in the road, mud flipping off the tires or you can see your ruts in the rearview mirror, consider pulling over and taking a hike to look for wood, or turning around and finding a different area to cut your firewood. As we enter fire season, be aware of fire restrictions or closure order than may be in place restricting where you can go. Make sure you have a spark arrester on chainsaws and any other mechanical equipment being used. Make sure you are cutting firewood on the Mendocino National Forest and not from other federal, state or private lands. For more information, please contact the Mendocino National Forest or visit www.fs.usda.gov/mendocino. (Calfire Press Release)
Keep this in the back of that old feeble mind of yours, Bruce; school districts are mandated by state law to maintain a 3% reserve. If you were truly investigative, as you like to tout yourself, why don’t you look into the reserve amount the district had been sitting on in recent years. But of course, this would be tougher than just regurgitating Journal copy.
Oh, I see. Because it’s there spend it on the people who elected you to the school board. Then, two years from now, and the largesse has disappeared and there are no reserves, lay off the young, and maybe even smart teachers you’ve hired. I agree that the Journal does a good job staying on top of inland profligacy.
Let’s hope Mendocino County doesn’t follow the UUSD in spending its reserves. Reserves.
Why does a county or city need a reserve?
There are several reasons.
First, a fiscal year is an artificial construct used for budgeting, control, and financial reporting purposes. Expenses do not cease simply because we change fiscal years. Local government has to continue to pay employees and operate. Revenues in the new fiscal year often do not come in precisely when they are needed. For example, property taxes in many counties aren’t received until early in a new calendar year. For a county which uses a fiscal year beginning July 1st, this is six months (or more) into the fiscal year. Other revenue sources have their own collection cycles. It is not uncommon, therefore, for a local government to have a negative cash flow in some portions of its fiscal year. This simply means that more money is being paid out than is coming in. Fund balance accumulations from prior years would typically be used to finance these expenditures. As revenues come in, of course, these funds are restored to the fund balance so long as the government is living within its budget and revenues meet projections. Thus, cash flow needs dictate a need for a fund balance. Of course, local governments can finance these cash flow needs with short-term debt in the form of tax anticipation notes, but interest, debt issuance costs, and potentially increased costs of long-term borrowing make this make this a more expensive alternative.
A second reason for maintaining a reserve is that many governments it as a means of financing large capital expenditures, such as vehicle fleets and other equipment, land acquisition, and buildings or building maintenance projects. Building up a reserve over time may eliminate the need for entering into debt, or at least reduce the amount of debt needed when capital expenditures are required, thereby reducing the interest charges the government will pay. In addition, a reserve allows local governments to plan ahead for major expenditures and to smooth the tax rate out as much as possible, so that erratic fluctuations in property tax rates, sale tax rates, or other revenue sources need not occur.
A spin-off benefit of a reserve is that it also provides government with funds to invest in order to earn interest income. Such income is a revenue source that can be used to maintain lower taxes. Thus, when cash is temporarily idle, wise investments can provide a valuable source of revenue for a county or city.
Finally, a reserve can indeed serve as a contingency fund which enables local governments to respond to unanticipated events or emergencies during the years. Buildings or equipment may be damaged through unexpected events. An emergency may require more employee overtime expenses than budgeted, such as when hurricanes, earthquakes,or other acts of God strike counties and cities. Or, opportunities may arise which a local government may want to take advantage of, i. e., park land, a historic site, or surplus equipment offered for sale, etc., but which were not anticipated when the budget was prepared. Reserve funds also serve as contingency funds for protracted litigation involving injury claims and other tort claims, labor negotiations and disputes, defense against federal and state claims, constitutional claims against public officials, strategic lawsuits, etc.
Plain and simple: Maintaining reserves is good government.