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Letters (March 30, 2023)

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Dear Editor,

Thanks for your memorial to Debra Keipp. Without you, I wonder if I would have known that this singular person had left us. Deb and I met in 1993 when she moved from Berkeley to Point Arena with her daughter Ruby and lived in a guesthouse on our property for a year. Deb told great stories about growing up on a farm in the Midwest amid the buckeye trees, where the corn grew high as an elephant’s eye and she spent her days strafed by pesticides raining from crop-dusters. Ruby was born prematurely, with health problems Deb pegged to the poison.

Deb was a fighter. She spent a year at our place fighting a custody battle with her ex-husband, who protested when she moved their daughter out of the Bay Area. Once, when Ruby was stung by a scorpion at our house, Deb spent the next hour on the phone fighting with a doctor about insurance. Deb was also funny, resourceful, original, and wild. 

Once while driving somewhere with our kids she spotted a downed deer on the side of the road. She recovered the hooves — using garden loppers — and made ceremonial rattles. She gave terrific massages. Once she promised to cure my husband of a cold with massage — and she did. Another time I took my 95-year-old Nana in for Deb to work on. When I came back an hour later, Deb was removing numerous needles from all over Nana’s body. “I decided to do acupuncture on her,” she said. “I’m not licensed, but I’m pretty darned good!” She put the used needles into an envelope marked “Nana” for next time.

Once in San Francisco Deb was about to drive away with our kids and Ruby in her battered Volvo when I noticed that all four of her tires were flat. All four. Deb was completely unfazed. What was the big deal? She’d stop at a gas station…

Eventually, our bond frayed. After she moved out of our place she bought her house on Mill Street in Point Arena, and Ruby became ill with the brain cancer that would kill her a few years later. I wrote a story about an evening with Deb and Ruby during this time called “Opal Is Evidence” that’s in my collection Amor & Psycho.

When Ruby died at thirteen, Deb brought her home. I remember seeing Deb holding Ruby’s body in her arms and opening her front door. I couldn’t see her face, but her back expressed grief, strength, and fierce possession. I think she stayed in there with Ruby for a day, or two, or three.

I never knew the interior of Deb at all; she wore a shell. But she was fun, for example, to drink with. In later years she sometimes rode a horse through the City of Point Arena; she did some damage, I believe, on the City Council. It made me happy to see her byline on stories in the AVA — not because I agreed with everything she wrote, but because she’d found a way to externalize her rage against injustice, Monsanto, and The Man by telling tales filled with bad guys.

After reading your wonderful evocation of your relationship with Debra Keipp, horsewoman and journalist, I turned to a few of her pieces for the AVA and re-upped my subscription. How could a lapse like this happen? Like you, I got shpilkes and spent some years in San Francisco away from local news, but we’re happily back now in the madhouse, probably for the duration.


Carolyn Cooke

Point Arena

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To the Editor:

Have you ever made 1,000 phone calls to get an appointment for anything? And still not gotten an appointment? I have.

HEAP is the Home Energy Assistance Program that redirects funds from PG&E to low-income residents to help them with their energy bills. It's a great program that has helped me out tremendously for 20 years.

But to get the benefits you have to spend hours in a torture chamber. You see, the way you get the benefits is after the first of the year, to get the lump sum payment for the new year, you have to call them on a Monday morning starting at 9 o'clock, competing with other low-income people all calling at the same time, to get one of the appointments that are available for that week.

However, there are too many people using this system and it has broken down. So far this year, every Monday morning, I've awakened early and started making the calls at 9:00. Its always busy so I hit redial... over and over again, stopping only for pee breaks or when my phone battery dies, ending up making over 100 redials until at around 10:45 the call goes through to their answering machine which means they have filled all of the appointments for that week. I'm out of luck for that week.

It's now been ten weeks or so that I have done this for 2023 benefits. It could be that I've made over 2,000 attempts, and still I have no appointment. The weeks go by and I worry that my PG&E bills will go unpaid while waiting for the benefits, so each week that goes by another dread grows in me: that a month or two from now I still won't have an appointment, my bills will be overdue, and my electricity will be shut off.

There is nobody you can call to talk to in person until your call gets through and someone sets up your appointment.

Didn't any of these people ever read Kafka?

Why in the 21st century can't we go to a web site, fill in a form and get an appointment, even months away? I would certainly prefer to go to a web site and get an appointment for two or three months later, than to futilely call week-after-week for months and still be left hanging!

Until covid, those appointments would be for a half-hour meeting in Eureka, requiring a 130-mile round trip drive from Garberville. And it's the same meeting every year, showing the same video on ways you can save money by being energy efficient in your household (how about being energy efficient by not making us SoHum residents drive 130 miles in our cars and trucks!)

The information I provide them has been EXACTLY the same every single year (I live in the same place and my income is from my disability checks). So why do I even need an appointment for anything? Why can't I just go to an online portal where I can confirm the information is the same as the previous year (or make corrections... I did get a new phone number two years ago) and click a button that says apply for 2023 benefits?

I think this process violates the Americans with Disabilities act. For ten weeks, on ten Monday mornings, I have had to go through a process that aggravates my disability (PTSD) by triggering a PTSD attack that lasts all day and leaves me hanging for another week. This is how I’ve had to spend twenty hours of my year so far, in a state of aggravated, mindless numbing hitting redial.

I've complained to the folks at HEAP about this on many occasions over the last two decades. Today I called my state senator's office (Mike McGuire), so we'll see if he can do anything...

Fortunately for some SoHum residents, once a year (usually too late in the year for me to take advantage of it), the HEAP folks drive down here one morning to the Healy Senior Center in Redway where folks just have to show up (no appointments necessary), wait in line for a half hour or so, and they are seen and their applications are accepted.

Andy Caffrey 


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Rep. Mike Thompson has introduced the IRS Whistleblower Program Improvement Act to reduce tax fraud. Didn’t Joe Biden already get a massive increase in money that was supposed to give the IRS more ability to go after people who didn’t pay their taxes?

At the time, many of us were concerned that the IRS would ignore the wealthy donor class and go after everyday Americans, but the president assured us they were going to go after the wealthy. Thompson’s bill, on the other hand, is asking neighbors to turn on each other. This is not how we should be governed, but government never seems to work for most of us, but rather against us.

It doesn’t matter which party the president of the day is, politicians and the national media intentionally keep us divided. And it works. As long as we blame each other and fights about wedge issues, we ignore the economic policies of trickle-down “scamonomics” (from both parties) and austerity and endless war.

As long as we ignore the economic policies, nothing will significantly change. And that’s how the ruling elite want it. Stop fighting your neighbor and fight your government. Love thy neighbor. It’s a universal teaching. Practice it.

Jason Kishineff

American Canyon

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Will Rogers said it best: “If you want to get out of a hole, stop digging.”

Vladimir Putin just paid an unexpected personal visit to the Ukrainian City of Mariupol. Wonders never cease. Perhaps he wished to place a memorial wreath as a token of how much he grieves for the five hundred lives his bombs killed in the clearly marked hospital. It seems all the more callous and cruel since these attacks also killed hundreds of civilians-including the woman whose baby and she died when she was in the act of giving birth.

Putin’s brutal war on Ukraine’s blameless civilians grinds on. He’s been charged with crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Switzertland. Is he trying to outdo other madmen like Raznatovic’, R. Karadzic or Adolph Hitler? Sooner or later he will be replaced in Russia so that some of his own people will arrest him and transport him to the Hague for trial. Or maybe an assassin will pull a trigger and save the world the trouble.


Frank H. Baumgardner

Santa Rosa

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The single biggest contributor to the chaos in public schools is a lack of appropriate discipline by school administration. Violence and  bullying start in the primary grades and never get dealt with. A reprimand  or a time out does not create a safe place for youth that want to learn.  

When bullying gets reported to a principal, they simply say they will look  into it. They are not allowed to discuss what if anything ever happens.  I know firsthand because my grandson continues to be the victim of vicious  ongoing bullying at Maria Carrillo High. Nothing happens, and it doesn’t  stop.  

These students should be suspended for one week with their parents giving  one warning. Next instance should be suspension from the school district.  No exceptions. I am pretty sure after a few have been properly dealt with  the message will get across.  

This most likely will not happen because educators are out of touch with  human nature, and they want the state money that comes with the bully.  Bullies are bullies and will not change.  How many innocent youths must bear the scars of meanness due to our school  administrations not doing their most basic job?  Maintaining a safe environment for everyone is primary, education is  secondary.  

D. Don Johnson

Santa Rosa   

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It seems to me that the Fort Bragg name changers are just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. If words are important to them, how about these words from Shakespeare. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” These politically correct language monitors still don't realize why blue collar folks reject them as elitists.

Karl Schoen

Little River

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I can't understand, for the life of me, why this everyday problem in this country continues to be an obvious non issue. A non issue to those in the position to make a change. An immediate change.

I simply am left wondering, who's running the show.

Why is it such a problem to install metal detectors at the school entrances. No one would gain access to the school without passing through one. No one, no matter what "title" they may hold. All school doors would remain locked from the outside, except for the main entrance(s), which would have a metal detector(s). Specified doors would be accessible from the inside out, for safety purposes, in case of fire or other needs.

School resource officers, security, or others in law enforcement capacity would be located at the entrances. Cameras would be placed in proper locations that would continually monitor anyone entering school property. However, those responsible for watching the cameras would have to be properly trained and constantly present to monitor those cameras, and a plan in place when any one person or more were on the school property without the proper clearance . Surveillance is properly manned at the casinos in Las Vegas, Reno, or anywhere there is gaming. Are our children not worth this precise surveillance each and every day they are at school? Obviously they are not, according to the action taken by those in the positions to make a change.

I simply don't understand why this has not been addressed yet. What is so difficult about this? Yes, I understand the cost would be exorbitant , but really, are we placing the priceless value of our children below this cost? Obviously so. Must change not happen until one or more of the children shot and killed are the children of those in "authority" ? Unfortunately, that seems to be the case, again . Cost should not be an issue in the investment of our children and their safety each and every day. I just don't get it. It leads one to believe that there are either bozos driving this bus or that they simply don't care.

Everyone must know, it's no longer a matter of if, it's an absolute matter of when. Educate me.

Joan M Craig 

Northern California, Mendocino County

ED REPLY: If police and metal detectors are required in schools, it's past time to re-think giant education factories.

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To the Board of Supervisors: 

I have often wondered -- and I am not alone -- if pay-to-play, conflicts of interest and other misdeeds of public corruption have seeped into the Mendocino County Cannabis Department.

Mendocino County's cannabis permit rate only 1.4 % when the state average for California's 58 counties is 49% and Humboldt County is 65%. Why? Saying our ordinance is too complex and application fees are too expensive is a simplistic, flippant answer.

Additionally, the Department failed to report a $3.2 accounting error. It is also $662,000 over budget.

So, what's up?

I have often wondered if Department Director Kristin Nevedal has an undisclosed incentive to fail. 

I'll explain. 

Is Ms. Nevedal, and/or any third-party for which she may be fronting, snapping up bankrupt farms at discount prices -- the very farms she is bankrupting? 

It's a fair question.

A “vulture fund” could assemble a nice portfolio of properties right here in Mendocino County. Hundreds of black market cannabis farmers are just walking away from their farms, and hundreds more who want to be legal, and who are seeking permits in a broken system, will soon be “deprioritized”.

A vulture fund, you ask.

Yes. Vulture funds are a thing. In 2009, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) introduced “The Stop Vulture Stop Funds” Act (H.R. 2932), but it didn't pass, although similar legislation passed in the United Kingdom. 

Since that time, vulture funds have carved out a big niche all across Corporate America. In our lifetime, the mortgage industry, coal, and manufacturing have all failed in large part. The hospitality industry, aviation, and retail all ran into trouble during the pandemic. 

So why not cannabis too? Why wouldn't the cannabis industry be prey for a vulture? 

Follow the money, I say. 

Who is benefiting from the gross, and perhaps deliberate, incompetence at the Mendocino County Cannabis Department?

John Sakowicz


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I see the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s regulation as tripling the cost to replace an end-of-life gas water heater. Few current installations will have an electrical circuit for a water heater if there is currently a gas heater installed. The cost to install a new electrical circuit will typically be $2,000 if the panel is full, on top of the cost of a new heater, which has doubled in price in the past decade.

This disproportionately affects mid- and lower-income families who would already be stretched to afford a new gas water heater. In my opinion, this regulation is virtue signaling, racist and elitist and will make it even less affordable and desirable to live in California. Workers will move out of state, making it harder for businesses to stay. The tax burden will fall to a declining population made up of poorer residents who cannot afford to move.

The 2029 effective date for furnaces will also be ahead of the electrical grid capacity to support this load. The grid already won't keep up with the exponentially increasing demand for vehicle charging. We will see more power supply failures in California due to increased demand and climate stress.

Tony Stephen


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To the Editor:

I have been a full blooded Democrat since F.D.R was first elected in 1932. I have closely watched the ups and downs of the Democratic party to date.

I would like to see more participation from voters during the presidential primary. The state primaries swing widely because of media interference, last minute news events, money spent trying to pull the party to the right and dumb police of the DNC.

In the coming election I think the best person to serve as president is Elizabeth Warren. She hasn’t been mentioned in the press as one of the possibilities as a candidate thus far.

She ran very poorly in the 2020 primary never finishing better than third. She dressed like British factory worker. She would have dressed like a girl hosting her first birthday party.

What is the best thing to do? Send 1,000 letters from Mendocino County addressed to Elizabeth Warren, Senate Office building, Washington, asking her to please run for president and enclose a one dollar bill.

The hope is that 1,000 letters are sent from Humboldt County, Marin County as well. If these letters are sent about the same time, it should attract some media attention. Who knows, it might start a grassroots revolution.

Ralph Bostrom


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I recently received a “bill” from from Geek Squad for $285.98, an entity I have never used nor agreed to use. I assume that this “bill” is generated from the same swines who, in your recent column called themselves Go-Daddy. Again, neither phone number, “unsubscribe button, nor e-mail address were active.

On a happier note, I was pleasantly surprised in that I agreed with much of last week’s “Off The Record” missive. Not to say that I don’t read your paper front to back every week.

Thank you for that!

Richey Wasserman, Ex-City Councilperson

Point Arena

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Are grants a good thing or a bad thing?

Plenty of discussions have arisen lately about grants and how they either help or hinder our communities. Basically, grants from the state and federal government provide an opportunity to use our tax dollars to fund, or partially fund, programs and projects that the local governments don’t have the means to accomplish on their own. They provide the money that allows local governments the ability to accomplish projects that benefit their communities.

This leads to the question, are grants good or bad? Grants can and should be utilized to build out or improve our communities. Examples of this can be seen in the grants the City of Fort Bragg received to replace all of our water meters and to refurbish our water treatment facility. Both of these grants will have an effect on nearly all of our residents for years to come. 

Some grants, while serving a specific purpose, may not sit well with a majority of the community. In the middle of the last decade it seemed the city was seeking any and all grants, thus shaping our community simply based on what grants were available. This did not sit well with a large portion of the populace and, of course, soured those folks on applying for and receiving grants. On one level that was understandable but blaming the grant was putting the onus in the wrong place. For example, we used CDBG grant opportunities to fully build out and support a service provider in town who did not necessarily have the entire community’s best interest in mind. We did this to the tune of several million dollars. The grants assisted a particular group in purchasing property and renovating their current properties. This provoked a loud uproar from a significant number of citizens. As it turns out the dissenters were probably onto something but were not being heard by the entire council at the time. 

Just a year or so later the community, and a large portion of our downtown businesses, were upset about the affects this particular service provider was having on the downtown. When we approached the provider about being better neighbors and helping us fix the problems they instead blamed the businesses and the community for lacking compassion and understanding. This after the city used taxpayer dollars to fund their grand plans. Looking back one can understand the outcry for the city to stop utilizing grants, unfortunately giving grants in general a bad name 

My first year on council, 2016, I took it upon myself to gather the support of council to change the way we approach grants and in 2018 with councils support we placed that directive into our council goals thus redirecting our focus to apply for grants that had a broader impact on the entire community and not just one demographic. This has had an amazing result. Now, there are few arguments about grants or the city utilizing grants. Often times these grants free up other monies, allowing local governments to get additional projects done. Other times, grants require matching funds allowing local government to get a two-for-one deal out of their money. 

The next time you find yourself upset about your local government seeking and utilizing grants, ask yourself, is the grant the problem or is the problem which grants are being sought?

Bernie Norvell, Mayor

Fort Bragg

MARK SCARAMELLA NOTES: When the late Norm Vroman was running for DA against incumbent DA Susan Massini in the late 1990s he pledged at a public meeting in Philo that he wouldn’t seek grants for DA activities because the grant terms frequently required the DA’s office to do things he didn’t agree with. But once elected, Vroman switched his position, denied he’d ever said such a thing, and continued with the grants that were already in place. Apparently, once in office he saw that grant funded activites such as the victim-witness office were useful and, despite their requirements, could be conducted without too much meddling from the grant-givers.

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