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Off The Record 12/2/2009

TRAVEL ADVISORY: The Heeser bathrooms in downtown Mendocino have been closed. They proba­bly aren't dank enough, but whatever the reason the Heeser tombs been replaced by a coed Port-A-Potty which, in the words of a recent visitor, “Are unbe­lievably dirty, beyond anything I've seen any place in the world.”

GRINGO, origins of. A scholar named Ernesto Priego at University College, London, writes: “I am Mexican, and lived in Mexico for 29 years, but I never heard anyone use the term 'gringo' to refer to anyone other than US citizens. In the third volume of Histo­ria, tradiciones y legendas de calles de Mexico, Arte­mio de Valle-Arizpe writes that the word 'gringo' first appeared in Mexico after the incursion of General Winfield Scott in September 1847. De Valle-Arizpe describes an 'unhappy' and 'abominable' song that Scott's troops sang incessantly, and which began with the words 'Green Grow'. The Mexican historian tells how the locals, not knowing English, interpreted the song's first words as 'gringo'. I grew up seeing graffiti that read 'Green Go Home' next to a cartoon of Uncle Sam....” But Gustavo Arellano, who writes the widely circulated newspaper column called, “Ask A Mexican” says, “Mexicans don't call gringos gringos. Only gringos call gringos gringos. Mexicans call grin­gos 'gabachos.'”

A COUPLE of weeks ago the Mendocino County Farm Bureau, in the person of their President, Fort Bragg logger Mike Anderson, wrote a letter to the editor of the Ukiah Daily Journal saying that the Farm Bureau had asked a few questions of County CEO Tom Mitchell but even after two months had still received no reply.

THE FARM BUREAU wanted to know: Is there cur­rently a clear plan to encourage increased revenue generating activity (new business) within Mendocino County? What is the current unfunded liability for the pension plan based both on the Actuarial and Market Value of Pension Fund Assets, not including the pension obligation bonds? What is the total debt of the county and how much of our approximate dis­cretionary budget will go toward serving the principle and also the interest on this debt?

ANDERSON ALSO COMPLAINED that the County Budget is unreadable and asked, “Is there any current or planned program that would make this information more readily available for public review?”

OF COURSE, Mitchell has yet to respond to the County-related questions, but we can probably rest assured he's “looking into it,” as he inevitably says when he's asked a question. Mitchell, who makes about $170,000 annually to run Mendocino County, did rouse himself to ask County Retirement Adminis­trator Jim Anderson, who makes about $160k, to reply to the pension-related questions. Anderson’s insanely lengthy “reply,” replete with evasions and outright fabrications, appeared in last Sunday’s Daily Journal. After first stating that questions “can actually be harmful if they are used to misinform, create fear or mistrust,” Anderson went on to further insult Ander­son by saying the answers that the Farm Bureau posits “are meaningless or perhaps even misleading,” and that he was therefore ignoring them and would ask his own questions to which he would also respond.

ANDERSoN then launched into a jargon-riddled “explanation” which drew in large part from the Retirement Association’s pricy actuarial consultant, Buck Consulting, which may add a whole new level of meaning to the phrase “passing the Buck.”

BUT one part of Anderson’s obfuscating reply gave away the game. After running down his own carefully-chosen debt numbers, Anderson added, “Note: The above liabilities and funded ratios are based on June 30, 2008 liabilities projected to June 30, 2009. The June 30, 2009 actuarial valuation has not been com­pleted as of this date.” (It’s now December 2009, and it’s still not done. And no date was given for when it would be done.)

THE STOCK MARKET CRASH and accompanying economic slide began in October 2008. That’s when Mendocino’s retirement investments lost about a third of their value. Since then the market, awash in bank bailout money, has gone back up a bit, but only the stock market salesmen and their flacks expect the market to return to anywhere near their pre-crash highs.

THEREFORE, Anderson’s entire “reply” is based on fiction, bad fiction at that. And if anyone is mislead­ing or misinforming people on pension debt it’s Jim Anderson, not Mike Anderson of the Farm Bureau.

WE REALIZE that the Farm Bureau and the Employer’s Council have an anti-government agenda and they mainly want the pension debt information as ammo for their simple-minded cut-government-spending agenda. But when the County and its Retirement officials answer with misleading jibberish or non-replies those County officials are doing more to spread fear and mistrust than the Farm Bureau and Fox News *combined* ever could.

THE RETIREMENT FUND picture is bad. Real bad. All they’ve done so far is to play games with the numbers so that the growing debt is spread out over more years while the interest on that debt goes up and up. It's not sustainable, and for Anderson to claim it is is simply irresponsible.

BY THE WAY, County Deputy CEO Jennifer Wyatt, a true budget-maven, doesn’t dispute that the County budget is unreadable. When asked about its opacity at a previous Board meeting, Wyatt said that the budget has to be unreadable because the budget format is state-mandated and the County can’t change it. Which shouldn't prevent the Board from ordering staff to provide a readable budget summary for the Supervisors and the public. But that simple public service is — you guessed it — too expensive because there's not any money in the unreadable budget to do it.

THREE LA THUGS shot a man at Chicken Ridge (Covelo) address Sunday night about 9pm as they attempted to rob the guy of his cash and marijuana. One of the crooks was casually pulling the slot levers at the casino in Willits when he was apprehended. His two associates had been grabbed earlier during a traf­fic stop in Willits.

YEARS AGO I took a call from a subscriber who'd bought twenty acres on Chicken Ridge. He said he was a Bay Area accountant who'd bought the property sight unseen at a foreclosure sale. The twenty acre parcel was cheap and he'd always wanted a place in the country. The accountant said it took him almost a year before he visited his acquisition, and when he finally got around to making the long trip north to Covelo he brought his wife and two small children along for what he envisioned as a weekend camp out, a family together in the country where the kids could run around without fear of traffic or other urban haz­ards. The family arrived about noon and promptly heard the startling sound of nearby gun fire. The accountant said he walked up the hill to both intro­duce himself to his new neighbors to ask that they cease fire because he feared he and his family were in the line of fire. The accountant said he was met by a wild-looking male individual who promptly told the accountant “to get the bleepity blank off my property or I'll shoot you!” The accountant drove into Covelo and called 911. The late deputy Bob Davis soon appeared, listened sympathetically to the accountant's unhappy story and said, “I wouldn't camp up there myself without a gun.” The accountant said he left that afternoon and has never been back. When the accontant called me he asked, “Where am I anyway? What kind of place is this?”

MENDOCINO COUNTY IS A VERY large place with a very small police force relative to its area, which is vast. Unless your catastrophe happens to occur in one of Mendocino County's incorporated areas, where law enforcement is only minutes away, you should probably have some means of defending yourself, as Sheriff Allman himself suggested last week during an appearance in Gualala. “I don't want to push guns on anyone who doesn't want one,” Allman said, “but I encourage concealed weapons as the Sec­ond Amendment gives you that right and you have every right in the world to protect yourself.”

THE SECOND AMENDMENT says you can keep a gun in your house if you're a member of “a well-regu­lated militia.” Which most gun owners, me included, are not — well-regulated, that is. The Second Amendment doesn't say anything about concealed weapons, which don't seem to me a particularly good idea for most citizens, especially those with infirmi­ties, physical and mental, and there goes roughly half our population right there if you figure in the infirmi­ties. The Second Amendment, of course, was written by the rural aristocrats who'd just beaten back mad King George and feared a counter-attack on their new country, so new it didn't have (or want) a standing army, hence the idea of a musket by the door in case the redcoats came back. George, Tom, Ben and the boys could not have foreseen a seething population of 270 million locust-like consumers scared bleepless of each other and armed with automatic weapons and endless supplies of ammo. Besides, if you're going to cite the 18th century Second Amendment as a guide to contemporary behavior, well, gee, how about the rest of the original rule book? Nobody but rich white guys with vote and the rest of it? But a home defense unit in our more remote neighborhoods isn't a bad idea in times less certain by the day.

GREAT MOMENTS in public radio: Green Party organizer and former county employees union rep Linda McClure called in to Norm DeVall’s KZYX Acess program last Friday: “Hi, uh, I was wanting to talk a little bit more about the issue of non-partisan races in Mendocino County,” began McClure as her brain reluctantly engaged her speech mechanisms. “I have a real problem with the… … [sighs]… What? The… the… lack of, of… um… Hmmm. Hmm. I'm not phrasing this right. That, when I'm a Green, and I have watched my fellow Greens run for office and be, and for non-partisan office, and the Democrats who say, um, er, Greens should stay to non-partisan offices and not run in state and be the spoiler but when Greens try to run for office the Democrats agressively encourage them to cha — they say you can't win if you're a Green. Of course, we have elected Greens in office in our County so, so Joe [Wildman, local Demo Party insider], maybe you could comment a little bit on that.”

“I sure can, ” said Norman whose name is not Joe. “It’s different from being endorsed by the Central Committee as opposed to parties entering non-parti­san offices.”

Wildman: “Local Democrats do endorse locally. It looks better to have Colfax and Smith signing your mailing letter.”

[It does? To whom?]

DeVall: “Do these central committees have an obli­gation to look at whether the candidate is qualified?”

Wildman: “I would hope so.”

DeVall: “Good luck.”

McClure stumbled on. “I just look at Democrats that approach Greens saying you can't win if you're a Green, I won't work on… You know, I won't… I will not, uh, uh, say … Become a Democrat and we'll get you elected. Or that the Democratic central commit­tee will say, Gosh, the only people running for this office, uh, the only ones registered, or, er, uh, that's, uh, signed up, uh, is a Republic — uh, is a Democrat, or, uh, is a Green, we've gotta get a Democrat to run, uh, is the partisan politics, uh, at the local level is, um, I think, a real problem.”

NO, THE REAL PROBLEM is jive liberalism in a county with one of the highest child hunger rates in the state as local “liberals” grab every public dollar they can for themselves and their equally oblivious buddies from the old naked pile days, a small self-selected cadre of fagged out old hippies who go to sleep at night dreaming of chardonnay and Mike Thompson.

NO ON DDR co-organizer Antonio Andrade sent out the following email to the anti-DDR email list: “Ding Dong. The Witch is Dead — NOT! I was informed yesterday that DDR and Costco representa­tives have met with the County and floated the pro­posal that DDR drop all its plans save the Costco option. They would come in for a minor use permit and do an EIR. Apparently a Minor Use permit is available under an Industrial zoning. How did we all (myself included) miss this avenue? At any rate, this could have gone to the Zoning Administrator but the County wisely took the position that given the magni­tude of the project, it would need to go to the Plan­ning Commission. Do note that if DDR is involved, then I think the requirements of the CFAR (Citizens For Adequate Review, a Ukiah-based lib-lab group) settlement holds. If not, then Costco likely doesn’t have the CFAR agreement to deal with (but the County does). I had to laugh. These folks are great chess players. Once they get the foothold there, then the next proposal would come along for the next retail store. This is essentially a continuation of the piece­meal approach to planning and starts to look a lot like what happened at the Airport complex which is now almost wholly commercial. It has taken me some time to think this through. Costco is very appealing in this County as a stand-alone. This essentially takes the No position on the ballot measure and uses it against the opponents. It is also possible Costco is playing the County against the City (there may have been a meeting there as well) on this one to see where they get the best deal. As the great Yogi Berra sage once said, ‘It ain’t over ‘til it’s over’.”

A READER WRITES: “I had one comment regard­ing your More Off The Record entry in the Novem­ber 18 edition in which you mentioned attending a recent basketball game at USF. You mentioned that Memorial Gym was where the NCAA championship teams of 1955 and 1956, including Russell and Jones, played their games. Memorial Gym was not built until 1958. Prior to that, in the Russell-Jones era, the team played its home games at Kezar Pavilion in Golden Gate Park. As a young boy, my father and I would walk through the Park to Kezar from our home near 3rd Avenue and Balboa Street to watch the Dons. My family didn't own a car in those days, and the Park was still a safe place to walk even at night. I will never forget those games and those players. On a related note, during my youth from age 5 through high school, I was a member of the Ernest Ingold Branch of the San Francisco Boys Club located on Page Street just off Stanyan Street. The Club had a regulation sized gymnasium, and this is where the Dons practiced before Memorial Gym was built. The Club opened at 3pm each weekday afternoon, and the Dons would just be finishing practice. My friends and I would hurry over to Ernest Ingold as fast as we could after getting out of school so we could see the players before they left and returned to the Hilltop campus. Those were some memorable times, and you are right; basketball has not changed for the better over the years.” Allan Stanbridge, Burlingame.

I SHOULD have known that. As a kid, I read the sports page of the Chronicle with such avidity I can still recite whole rosters of ball clubs from the Old Pacific Coast League. I followed the Seals, USF bas­ketball and 49er football. I got to a couple of Niner games at old Kezar, and a half century later I'll pop into the old Pavilion on an occasional summer's night to watch a few minutes of what I think is called the Pro-Am League. Like most people, I keep to the perimeter of the park after dark to avoid the wild things beginning with the gauntlet of dope dealers at the Stanyan gate and continuing on past Hippie Hill to the tennis courts. America isn't the country I grew up in, which isn't entirely a bad thing but isn't exactly a good thing either. There's a passage in Phillip Roth's novel, Exit Ghost, where a young person asks the old person, “What's it like to be old?” And the old person answers, “Try to imagine the year 4000. That's what it's like.”

MENDOCINO ART CENTER Director/President Tom Becker writes of the recent fire at the Center: “Today was a very sad day for the Mendocino Art Center. This morning, I received a phone call from an employee stating that one of the buildings was on fire. Upon arrival, Mendocino Fire Chief, Danny Hevillo, informed me that a wall heater located in a hallway of the business offices was where the fire started. Our hero for the day was our own on-site security staff, Darrin Elkern. Darrin heard the alarm go off and ran to the business offices, saw flames, located a nearby fire extinguisher and called 911. Had the flames con­tinued for another 10-15 minutes, we could have expe­rienced a complete disaster. The good news is that no one was hurt. Minimal fire damage was present in the hallway and the steps leading up to the Executive Director's office, but smoke and water caused a lot of damage all throughout the business offices. All art pieces were moved out of the fire area and we saved most of the computers and related equipment. We are waiting for the arrival of an insurance adjustor so that damage estimates can be determined and clean-up work can start. Until repairs can be completed, the Stevenson Studio will be used as the Art Center's temporary business office. All equipment will be removed from this studio prior to beginning Spring Semester Classes that are scheduled to start in March 2010. Lots of volunteers, current and former staff members and coordinators and board members stopped by and offered their assistance. Thank you. Because of the fire and smoke damage, the Art Center will remain closed for the rest of this week. We hope to open for public usage beginning on Monday, November 31. There have been many changes at the Art Center over the past few months, some good and some maybe not so good. We will end 2009 with our heads held high, full of enthusiasm and determination to begin our next 50 years in the wonderful commu­nity of Mendocino. We will repair the damaged buildings, Classes and Workshops will begin in March 2010, the Mendocino Art Magazine will be distrib­uted in early April 2010, planning our Summer Fair has started, and we are already making plans for the 2010 Thanksgiving Fair at MAC. Yes, the Art Center does have operational cash flow difficulties and insur­ance policies never really cover the total replacement costs of damaged property, so we will need financial help to rebuild. If anyone is able to help us make repairs by providing financial assistance, please go to our web site at and press the contribution key. ”

THE MORE FERVENT CRITICS of former Art Center Executive Director Karen Ely had hoped to link her exit with the blaze, which occurred the week­end Ms. Ely was sacked and the very day Ms. Ely was at the site packing up her moving van for her return trip to Sedona, Az. Nope, Karen didn't do it. Boxes piled up too close to the heater inevitably burst into flames. Why the boxes were stacked so combustibly close to the heater and how the heater got turned on given that the person would have had to have snaked a hand in amongst the boxes to accomplish it without noticing the fire hazard thus constituted? Not appli­cable, apparently. Mr. Becker has said he'll take Art Center calls on his cell phone, 813-0728, until the office is operational again.

IN A LONG and very dumb piece by Guy Kovner in Sunday's Press Democrat called “Peace & Justice Cen­ter Feels Left's Malaise,” Kovner suggests that a small group of harmless SoCo liberals is somehow represen­tative of the extinct American left. The late Judi Bari used to call Santa Rosa's Peace and Justice Center the “Peace and Quiet Center” because except for the cir­culation of impenetrable leafletts and occasional group Kumbaya sing-a-longs, the Peace and Quiet Center is hardly a gang of bolsheviks. On their best days they're reformers. But things political are so dominated by the Fox News screamers that even the most toothless libs are now described as “leftists.” Kovner makes his pointless point that the aged group of peace protesters affiliated with Santa Rosa's Peace and Justice Center is the left, as in “The left is now divided between those willing to give Obama more time to deliver the goods — like an exit from Iraq and an end to the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy on gays in the military — and those unwilling to wait.”

FIRST OFF, the left, such as it is, has never had any illusions about Obama. Obama was seen from the out­set as simply another corporate lib of the Clinton political type, the only difference from Clinton being skin color and, so far as anybody could tell, Obama was a much nicer person with a much, *much* nicer wife. Gays in the military is simply a bad joke to the leftists I know and I know a lot of them being one myself. (A leftist, by the way is, at a minimum, some kind of socialist although some leftists are commu­nists, some are anarchists and so on. What we *all* have in common is that we don't “believe” in capital­ism as a form of social-economic organization. I fall more into the anarchist camp myself, but if it's any consolation to some of you free enterprisers, anar­chists are the people the communists kill *first*, even before they knock off the capitalists. By the way, the Russian Revolution was funded by a big time capital­ist. Lenin was a pal of his. But liberals, being mostly wealthy, comfortable people, hence the Obama bumper stickers you see on so many Subarus and Beamers, and insofar as Obama libs think of econom­ics at all, they think capitalism is simply swell, that a little tightening of the regs here, a little tinkering with the privately owned money system there, some cash-free pats on the head for the people who don't have it so nice, and everything will be fine. US leftists, on the other hand, have said all along that capitalism would eventually eat itself, which it is now in the process of doing, and people who have to work for a living — most Americans — are going to be eaten first. Which is also now happening. So, if you make less than $50,000 a year US leftists are the only real friends you have. The libs, in the crunch, are going to go with the ownership. If you don't know a leftist please contact us here at the AVA and we'll introduce you to one. Maybe you can buy him lunch while he catches you up on the realities.

THIS IS ALL news to the PD, of course, and could put someone like Kovner in intensive care if he just happened to walk in on the conversation. So I wrote to Kovner, wrote to him privately at his e-mail address at the foot of his article. I could excuse him for ignorance of leftists and liberals. After all, look who he writes for. But Kovner told one straight-up whopper he shouldn't get away with: “Dear Mr. Kov­ner: You wrote this morning: 'Mushrooming budget deficits at the state and federal level compound the roadblocks to liberal ideas that typically involve gov­ernment intervention and lots of money, such as sin­gle-payer health care.' You may recall Shiela Kuhl's California single payer health care bill that passed both houses of the state legislature because it proved that single payer would save us a lot of money. The governor vetoed the bill. There's a plethora of studies demonstrating the same thing, the latest of which appears in this morning's Chronicle. Regards, Bruce Anderson, AVA, Boonville.” I haven't heard back from him.

AND removing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, also lib-left ideas, would save quite a bit *more* money.

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