MENDOCINO COUNTY'S Air Pollution Control Officer, Chris Brown, has resigned. Contrary to what the County Counsel's office is putting out as the reason for Brown's resignation, which is no reason at all, Brown's staff had revolted at Brown's heavy-handed management style. They apparently all signed letters detailing the boss's ill-treatment of them. Brown sued the County last year over an allegation of failure to notify his office of asbestos-related activity at a County building. That move was, to say the least, an unhappy one that pitted the County against one of its own departments over a matter that could have been handled informally. Prior to his resignation Brown had been out on paid administrative leave. The resignation is the usual no talk deal, as in, “Mr. Brown, we're paying you a few months salary to go quietly. If you go away quietly we won't tell your next employer that, ah, your personality could stand some upgrading.”
PLENTY OF SKEPTICISM from the Board of Supervisors during their March 12 discussion of the Exclusive Operating Area proposal for county ambulance service. As “outreach” sessions commence around the County, all five Supervisors expressed “concern” about both the process and the feasibility study being conducted by an outside consultant about what they admit is basically a franchise arrangement for ambulance service in Mendocino County. Here’s a summary of the Board’s reaction and responses.
Supervisor John Pinches: (On existing services) These are mostly volunteers. You’re really talking about a franchise agreement with a single operator throughout the county. How will that interact?
Staff: It would essentially be a franchise agreement.
Pinches: This seems like an aggressive time line. It’s very complicated. Two months [for a feasibility study]? Seems more complicated than that.
Staff: We are building off of the 2011 assessment which identified problems with Emergency Services in Mendocino County. Of course we’d have to include the volunteers. This would help them, enhance their work, help them with training.
Pinches: Covelo calls are about one a day. How would you cover such a small call volume out of there? And a private company? How would you organize volunteers in that situation?
Staff: Volunteers make the system work and you still have coverage. We want to work with volunteers.
Pinches: I don’t see how one big franchise area could work.
Staff: Sonoma County has one ambulance system and they incorporate established units into their system. Mendocino County will have to incorporate our unique system here and we have to work with our volunteer partners. But we need something that’s more sustainable, fairer, more efficient and that we can monitor better. But if it’s not possible, we go to Plan B. This is the time to study this.
Supervisor Dan Hamburg: Is there general stakeholder support for this process?
Staff: There is concern about a change from the top. People think this might wipe away what was there before. We have to educate folks. This is just exploratory now. There will be no changes until we understand this. People providing the service now have to be at the table. We don’t want to steamroll anybody. It’s a big change and it will be unsettling for some.
Hamburg: It sounds great, but my concern is when you end up with winners and losers. Friction is likely. I hope this is collaborative in the best sense.
Staff: A franchise arrangement does not preclude partnerships with prospective providers.
Pinches: A single franchise area is what this is. Volunteers offer their services 24/7. And the volunteers do this for the community. But if you give them a “boss” instead of the community, I’m afraid volunteers will drop off because ‘I’m not taking orders from the community anymore, but from the franchise winner.’ Two months is ambitious. I’ve heard about the urgency for years, but people still step up and provide this service. I think the system is pretty good and I don’t want this to end up five years down the road with something worse. Two months seems very fast.
Supervisor Dan Gjerde: Make sure you involve the smaller fire departments. Mainly the problem is a lack of a funding stream.
Supervisor John McCowen: I know sustainable funding is an ongoing subject. I am concerned that we might be trying to fast track this process for a report by May 15. We need to connect with all providers and make sure this is deliberative, not done with an artificial deadline.
Supervisor Carre Brown: Keep us updated. If more time is necessary, let us know.
Pinches: We need a financial solution. It’s a legislative issue. This needs a legislative fix. This is really important, but the legislature has avoided it. CHP and Caltrans depend on emergency services on the main highways so that’s a real obligation and a budgetary commitment. How can you replace these small providers with one big franchise provider? How can you send an ambulance from a central location? I don’t see how this can be solved without legislative action. They have to contribute to this, at least for road accidents. Our volunteers have done a damn good job to meet this need with minimal funding.
Hamburg: There’s quite a bit of concern that we make things better and not more complicated.
ON A RECENT visit to Fort Bragg, we couldn't help but notice the many lawn signs for two of the three candidates for city council. Madeleine Melo seemed to have more lawn support than Heidi Kraut. We didn't see any signs for Derek Hoyle. But judging from their interviews in the Fort Bragg Advocate, all three are capable people fully up to speed on Fort Bragg affairs and Fort Bragg won't go wrong with any of them.
COASTLIB, of course, is supporting Mrs. Kraut over Mrs. Melo, recently widowed when her husband was shot to death by Aaron Bassler, touching off the famous month-long hunt for Bassler that ended with Bassler's own death when he was shot by a Sacramento swat team. Jere Melo was retro on the issues. Mendolib is liberal right up to where their personal welfare is in play, then look out. They suddenly aren't liberal anymore. Mrs. Melo is or was a nurse, a profession high on the mighty AVA's approval list. Whatever her late husband's views, Mrs. Melo certainly doesn't come across as a Fox News-type frother; she'll undoubtedly garner a lot sympathy votes but really does seem mellower (sic) than her late husband.
HOWEVER THE ELECTION comes out, the Fort Bragg City Council, having worked itself back into the fiscal black over the past decade after years of old fashioned civic corruption, will continue to make intelligent management decisions. (Dominic Affinito was making no-interest loans to FB City Council people in exchange for yes votes on his various projects. Not only were the loans interest-free, the councilmen didn't have to pay them back. Any other place than Mendocino County the loans would have been seen as bribes and the person making them and the persons taking them would have been arrested and tried.)
FB COUNCIL CANDIDATE DEREK HOYLE, asked the usual Zen question about economic development to which there are only Zen answers, mentioned the long range possibilities of rail, which struck me as a good thing to at least throw in the development discussion mix. Used to be — circa 1950 — you could board a morning train in Fort Bragg and be eating dinner in San Francisco that night. On the remote chance we're ever again capable in this country of a functioning train system, a Fort Bragg train to Willits and points south could be restored, and what a boon that would be to the isolated northern tier of coastal Mendocino County.
I ALSO LIKED Mrs. Melo's comment that it was high time Fort Bragg got going with the development of the old GP mill site. What's the stall? The Koch bros? (Would you love to see Fort Bragg eminent domain those boys?) Mean time, and the times are definitely getting meaner, can't we at least get the Noyo-to-Ten Mile trail open?
MRS. KRAUT was a little heavy on family evocations for my liking. I'm at the point whenever I see some candidate, at any level, either talking about or, worse, pictured with his or her perfect-toothed brood, I make a note to myself: “Here's a person who would sell his wife and children to get elected.” We all have families; some of us might even like our families, at least some of its members, so being married and having children is not relevant to public office. Or shouldn't be.
NONE of the candidates talked “visions” or “paradigms,” always a good sign in Mendocino County where the public rhetoric, especially from the libs, tends to be heavy on zircon spirituality.
CONTRAST the functioning of the Fort Bragg and Willits City councils to the functioning of the Ukiah City Council and you immediately see the difference; the Ukiah City Council is dominated by three silly people who don't even seem particularly interested in local government. From the quality of the conversation they obviously aren't prepared. Point Arena, in wacky-quotient, is a mini-version of the Ukiah City Council, but only the 448 people who live within the tiny municipality's city limits suffer the consequences.
CHAD GAUDIN, the San Francisco Giants recently acquired relief pitcher, threw a couple of brilliant innings of relief in Sunday's thrilling double come-from-behind win over the Cubs.
Maybe Chad was in a hurry to get home.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: This must be “Garbage In” week. We have received an extraordinary succession of undercooked press releases and other submissions for entirely worthy events. I'm always eager to make space for community items, to lay out and publish submitted text. That's what we do. At the same time, is it unreasonable to ask that things sent in for publication be more or less ready to print without rewrites; that they rise above lazy Facebook/texting writing style? I don't think so. What's frustrating and a little scary is that I can point people to our website's Submission Guide, explain to them on the phone the basic requirements... and the thing still arrives in unpublishable form. I guess it's a comment on our educational system, and/or maybe our attention spans these days. But I know that I will forever be mystified by people's disinterest in submitting useable text. Particularly those who are getting paid to generate publicity, and have no awareness of the most basic style issues. — Kevin Hoover, Editor, The Arcata Eye
SMALL UPDATE regarding the Benefit Dinner for Lupe Medina (Gunshot victim, south coast) — There will be a benefit for her at the Pier Chowder House and Tap Room on Wednesday April 17, located at the Arena Cove (upstairs) in Point Arena. Tickets for this, which entails a Three Course dinner, is $30 and can be purchased in advance at the Pier Chowder House, the Gualala Chevron and other businesses. There will be three “waves” of dinners: 5pm; 7pm; 9pm.
For more info: 884-4100. — Mike Jamieson
THE WORM TURNS? Child Support of Social Services and the half-dozen Air Quality workers have petitioned the County to decertify SEIU representation. They seem to have figured out that they were getting poor to non-existent representation from SEIU. We're hearing more and more Teamster talk out of Ukiah.
By Steve Heilig
Have you put the little dot on your driver's license that indicates you consent to being an organ donor if you die? Please do.
A few years ago, one of my very best friends died of liver failure. He was a close friend since childhood, my brother really, and even though we lived in different areas in recent decades, we still talked weekly. He always made me laugh, even when the topics were “heavy.” He was an immensely popular and beloved guy. But he didn’t make it to fifty.
As his liver and health failed, he suffered tremendously. Eventually he was on a wait list for a transplanted organ, and he did get one, but it did not work. There were likely multiple reasons for that, but one reason was that the wait was too long and he was already too ill by the time the new liver became available. Admittedly, we’ll never know if an earlier transplant might have saved him. But it’s very possible.
This sad scenario is all too common. Wait lists for transplantable organs have now grown to over 100,000 people at any one time, a bad landmark. Thousands die on those lists – up to 20 people a day. Internationally, the shortage has contributed to the black market in organs and the horrors of those who are desperate enough to sell their body parts. And the sad thing is that much of this suffering is unnecessary, as so many transplantable organs are being buried or cremated even though the people who have died would have wanted them used to save others. But far too many of us do not fill out the little donor card for our drivers’ license or take other steps to make that known, even though in surveys the vast majority of us say we would want to be donors.
The “organ shortage” is an ongoing double tragedy not only due to all the suffering and dying, but because much of that could be prevented. Most organ donation now relies upon education and altruism – an admirable human trait, when one can get it. But increasing numbers of people are coming to believe the current approach is insufficient.
In some nations, the “default” for organ donation has been changed, flipped, really, to one of “presumed consent” – if you don’t say you don’t want your organs used, they can be. This “opt-out” approach has resulted in a dramatic decrease in wait lists in some places, with relatively little negative impact as the public is educated to be made aware of their options. I do think this is probably the best approach, if implemented slowly and with massive public awareness campaigns. I also think, alas, that it is unlikely to be implemented here anytime soon, as it is just too radical a change for our contentious country. Plus too many people in our country just don't trust any authorities, for better or worse, and fear that hordes of patients would start to be bumped off for their organs. But the same fears and warnings have been made about "physician-assisted dying" and have not been borne out in the states and nations that have legalized that "right to die."
As a sort of compromise, another, less sweeping organ donor policy has been proposed called a “donor-first” approach; In this case, if you are a registered potential donor, and you wind up sick and on a wait list, you’d receive priority over those who were not listed as potential donor. It's a way to incentivise becoming a potential donor. I co-authored an article on this proposal with another childhood friend, who was also a lifelong pal of our deceased friend and is also a physician who cares for people in need of organs and knows the suffering involved. She very much supports such an approach. We also drafted a policy statement in support of trying this in our state, which was debated by the California Medical Association. But this proposal received mixed responses. Some saw it as too complex to be implemented; others felt it could be discriminatory. A panel of physicians felt it was a good idea but that “presumed consent” would be better – again, I agree, but doubt we will get that implemented. I think it would be possible to try a “donor first” policy and see how it impacts the wait lists, but have been unable to convince enough people to attempt that - so far.
Until real change occurs, and our nation either adopts "presumed consent" or, as a compromise, a "donor first" policy, and/or until we find an acceptable way to “incentivize” more people to become organ donors, we’ll likely have far too many preventable deaths. No policy is perfect; there are likely to be failures and problems, maybe even some abuses, with whatever we do. But as is often remarked, “the perfect is the enemy of the good,” and the status quo may well be among the least perfect approaches we might try. And that’s a mass failure, even a tragedy.
SCOTTISH-GERMAN FOLK BAND THIS FRIDAY IN CASPAR
Oak & Thorn Presents: Internationally renowned folk band Litha, featuring Aaron Jones (of the great Scottish band Old Blind Dogs) with Claire Mann, Jurgen Treyes, and Gudrun Walther; playing at the Caspar Community Center on Friday April 19, 7:30 pm. We saw this group perform before a large audience at The Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow, during the Celtic Connections festival, and they put on a fantastic performance. We're thrilled to bring them to the more intimate space of the Caspar Community Center and look forward to a night of music and merriment, beginning with another marvelous community dinner prepared by Dalen and her amazing crew. The menu features House-made Old Mill Farm lamb and Covelo pork sausages served with red cabbage, potatoes and pickled eggs (gluten-free), or Savory vegetable strudel served with red cabbage, pickled eggs and potatoes; either for $15. Follow that with dessert, Gingerbread served with ginger whipped cream; or Rhubarb crumble served with whipped cream (gluten-free), either for $5. Beer and wine will also be available. Dinner will be served from 6:00 PM in the Dining Hall, first come first served. If you plan to come for dinner, please let Dalen know so she has an idea of how many meals to prepare: email@example.com or 964-4997. The concert will begin at 7:30 in the North Hall. Tickets for the concert are available online atBrownPaperTickets.com, or locally at Out of This World, Tangents, or Harvest Market (FB store). The dinner and drinks are by and for the benefit of Caspar Community Center. The concert is an Oak & Thorn production and all profits are donated to KZYX. — Tim Bray, Oak & Thorn