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Mendocino County Today: May 19, 2013

SkunkCollapseA 40-FOOT cave in at the east end of the Skunk Train's Tunnel One will prevent the popular tourist line from chugging on through to Willits until the tracks can be cleared and the tunnel shored up, an effort that will cost an estimated $300,000 the Skunk doesn't have but is in the process of raising. Tunnel One, about a quarter mile long and more than a hundred years old, is about three miles from the Fort Bragg terminal. For now, the Skunk is running tourists out the three miles and back again to Fort Bragg.


MENDOCINO COAST TELEVISION has got to move out of the Footlighters building at 248 E. Laurel, Fort Bragg. The two groups (Footlighters is a theater group) have shared the space for years, but newly appointed Superior Court Judge Jeanine Nadel, as reported by Frank Hartzell of the Fort Bragg Advocate, “has ruled that MCTV must give back the Footlighters building at 248 E. Laurel St. in Fort Bragg and pay $36,315. The tentative ruling stems from the 2007 transfer of the building from then-Footlighters president Bud Farley to MCTV, a transaction the judge found to be illegal. The suit dragged on for three years, while MCTV continued to spend on the building and Footlighters operated in other venues.”


HMMM. I WONDERED why he didn't file last week. Woke up Saturday morning and there was a big color photograph in the Press Democrat of my star environmental reporter staring down from an oak tree a little north of Willits High School. Will Parrish, as close to the story of the Willits Bypass as a reporter can get, has begun a tree sit to draw attention to the pure destructive folly of the project. Red Tail Hawk, aka Parrish, hauled a large banner up in the tree with him that reads, “Save Our Water. Stop CalTrans Now.”

RedTailHawkMEANWHILE, CALTRANS now has a pile driving apparatus on-site they'll use to pound hundreds of huge steel piles (poles) and 55,000 (count 'em) wick drains into the wetlands route of the Bypass with which to withdraw the wet from the wetlands and keep it out (they tell us) doing huge and lasting damage to the area as they go.

SATURDAY, THE RUCKUS SOCIETY, held a training in aggressive non-violent protest at the Willits Grange. The RS is funded by liberal foundations such as Ben and Jerry's and has a long history of helping mobilize direct action protests.

DIRECT ACTION RESISTANCE could only stop construction of the Willits Bypass if many, many (pick a number) people were willing to go to jail to stop the machines. I'd say about 500 people could clog the works if that many people could be found with the commitment (and the time) to put themselves through the catch and release arrest process. So far, only a handful of mostly Senior Citizens have been willing.



GORDON OSLUND has been hired as principal at Ukiah High School. Oslund's wife, Karen, who previously sat on the Willits City Council. Oslund had worked at Willits High School under Deb Kubin, who is now superintendent of the Ukiah School District. Blithely denying that Oslund's hiring was the usual inside Mendo edu-job as she confirmed suspicions that it was, Ukiah school board trustee Anne Molgaard said, “I just want it to be known that he didn't get the job because he was from Willits. The search was very competitive.” Oslund himself said (of course), “I am super-excited to be coming to Ukiah,” the first person in years to express more than tepid enthusiasm for the big-boxed, fast-fooded, paved-over County seat.

ShmooPATRICIA JOHNSON of San Berdoo has been named the new superintendent of the Willits schools. She, too, is “excited” at her “new challenges” and on into the usual auto-blab we get from our school administrators, a dreary and unintelligent bunch in Mendocino County whose captive school populations must suffer these fools because the leadership is too “super-excited” to teach them anything.


IDIOT'S GUIDE to the Big Picture:

ONE: THE IRS scandal? The scandal is that many corporations park their vast profits and pay no taxes at all. The very rich pay nowhere near their fair share and are seldom if ever audited, and most non-profits are phony and shouldn't have non-profit, tax-exempt status in the first place.

TWO: BENGHAZI: The scandal is that our government plunked diplomatic people down in the middle of what is basically a war zone with inadequate security.

THREE: The Obama government's spying on Associated Press will make the corporate media even more timid than it is now. Surveillance tech grows in sophistication by the day, and pretty soon even the paranoids will have legitimate cause for concern.


THE ORDINARY PERSON. I'd been thinking about a mythological individual, the hero of modern democracy, Ordinary Person. Sometimes known as Ordinary Hardworking Person, he is the opponent to mythological villains like Fat Cat Banker, Workshy Scrounger and Faceless Bureaucrat. He obeys the law, pays taxes, puts money by and raises a family. He's one of us. The trouble is that in real life you don't meet ordinary people. Who's one of us? I know I'm not. (—James Meek)


LOOKING BACK: “I was an American soldier in Occupied Germany after the Second World War. We GIs lived in a former SS barracks in Frankfurt am Main. We were comfortable and happy, free to loot the fine wine cellar the Nazi elite had stored in the basement. Our ‘shit work’ — cleaning toilets, sewing uniforms — was done mainly by Polish, Russian or Balkan Jews, some of them Displaced Persons from the murder camps, others tossed into western Germany by the chaos of war. Gerard Daniel Cohen is correct when he writes that ‘contrary to the collective invisibility and silence of Holocaust survivors elsewhere in Europe, Jewish DPs loudly asserted their identity.’ The key word is ‘loudly.’ On the whole we GIs preferred the compliant, smiling deferential, defeated Germans to these spiky, sallow, sullen, often angry Jews who looked like ghosts from another world. German mothers offered their daughters to us in exchange for a bar of soap of Lucky Strike cigarettes (coin of the realm then). The DPs had to keep their lips zipped as we, their recent liberators, fraternized with the former enemy who had killed their families. DPs I spoke to were desperate to get out of Europe's ‘bloodlands’ and somehow make it to Mandate Palestine. They begged me to sell or smuggle them guns to take on their escape route to Bari and thence to the eastern Mediterranean. There was no talk from them of Zionism; that came later. These were people who, based on their experience with American soldiers who didn't much like them, felt they had no choice.” (Clancy Sigal, LRB, May 2013. Sigal is the author of the wonderful novel, ‘Going Away.’)



MURDER IN ARCATA. Arcata Police Department press release chronicling the day’s events:  On May 18, 2013, at about 2am, the Arcata Police Department responded to the 2400 block of Eye Street on the report of gunshot victims inside the residence. A female victim was pronounced dead at the scene, the male victim was pronounced dead at Mad River Community Hospital.  The Arcata Police Department conducted an extensive investigation with a suspect being developed. The investigation led officers to a residence located in the 200 block of Marilyn Avenue, located in the Sunny Brae area of Arcata. Upon initial contact with the occupants of the residence, the suspect was not located. A short time later, citizens in the area notified police of a suspicious subject in the 1700 block of Shirley Blvd, a short distance away from the Marilyn Avenue residence. Officers responded and located Bodhi Tree, 28 years old of Arcata. Tree was the homicide suspect sought by the police department and he was arrested.  Tree was transported to the Humboldt County Jail and booked for two counts of PC 187 — Murder.

* * *


By Kevin Hoover (Courtesy, the Arcata Eye)

EYE STREET – Two people, a male and a female, were killed in a house on Eye Street early this morning. People staying at the house said that a suspect, another houseguest, shot the two with a revolver. Victims have not been identified. The houseguests said the female was an 18-year-old high school student. Peterson said the female was pronounced dead at the scene. The male died shortly thereafter at Mad River Community Hospital. Arcata Police have the house cordoned off and are processing the scene. Another team is pursuing leads and tracking down witnesses.

Saturday morning, nearly a dozen individuals milled about outside, some lying and sitting about in the street eating donuts and tending to pets. Several said that they had been staying at the house. “People crash here,” said one of the guests. Some said they had been staying at the house for two days.

About 2am, the houseguests said, three to five shots rang out and the guests discovered the victims in the living room. They applied pressure to the victims’ bleeding wounds while 911 was called.

Police arrived, the guests were told to leave the home, and were interviewed by officers outside. They left all their possessions inside.

The suspect was described by the houseguests as an African-American man in his twenties who went by the name of “C Nasty.” He was dressed in gray sweat pants, with a “wife beater” sleeveless t-shirt and an Oakland Raiders cap.

He has a tattoo of a tree on his upper arm, and what was described as an “all-seeing eye.” All in all, said witnesses, the man had a “thuggish look.”

The houseguests characterized the man as unpleasant and sexually aggressive towards the women staying at the house. “He was drunk all the time,” said one. “He hit on every girl here.”

“He tried to feel up on me,” said a young woman sitting in the street holding a cat. “He was into terrible music.” The guests described the music as abrasive, with the term “thirsty-ass hoes” repeatedly used.

“He was really fucked up,” said a man. “He talked about Garberville, about the Bloods accepting him. Gang and drug talk.” The suspect was armed with some sort of baton, in addition to the firearm.

“We think he was trying to get with the girl,” said a man who had been in the house when the homicides occurred. The consensus scenario was that the suspect had solicited sex from the female, and that the male victim had tried to defend her.

The man apparently went by the name “Sunshine.” The female victim  just turned 18 years old, the guests said. They described her a “sweet and nice,” and still in high school. “She was a bubbly young lady, full of life,” one guest said.


WATER WARS: Eel River Diversion-Potter Valley Project Theater

From the Potter Valley Irrigation District website:

PotterValleyTunnelPrior to the construction of the Potter Valley Project by Snow Mountain Water and Power (SMWP) and even until after the construction of Scott Dam forming Lake Pillsbury on the Eel River, the farmers in Potter Valley had little water for irrigating crops during the late summer and fall. Potter Valley, seven miles long and two miles wide, has a very small watershed with a few tributaries to the East Branch of the Russian River which runs, from north to south, through the center of the valley. On normal years of rainfall the small creeks, such as Busch, Hawn and Mewhinney stop flowing by midsummer and on dry years the creeks no longer have surface flow as early as April. At first, after the Potter Valley Project was built in 1906, water was only diverted from the Eel River through the tunnel during high winter and spring flows because the natural late spring, summer and fall flows on the Eel River drop to levels so low that it was impossible to divert water through the Potter Valley Project. Scott Dam was completed in 1922 allowing winter runoff water to be stored in the, newly-formed, Lake Pillsbury and to be released in the summer for power production. It soon became clear to the farmers of Potter Valley that there was a new source of summer water and dry farming crops could be a thing of the past.

* * *

Supervisor John McCowen reported on the early stages of another upcoming legal battle over whether Eel River water should stay in the Eel or be partially diverted through the Potter Valley Tunnel into the Headwaters of the Russian River to water grapes in Potter Valley, add water to Lake Mendocino and so that Sonoma County can make millions of dollars by selling lots of it to Marin County.

McCowen: “I attended the all-boards meeting called by the Inland Water and Power Commission (IWPC). The initial portion was an informational presentation on the relicensing of the Potter Valley Project. That process will begin in April of 2017. It's expected to be a five-year process. Going right along with that, there was a presentation regarding the creation of yet another agency with the term Russian River in its name. It is currently proposed to be the Russian River Preservation Alliance although Supervisor Brown and I might think it should be the Russian River Water Alliance. It is intended to bring together all of the entities that currently do benefit from the Potter Valley Project to the downstream use of water that is conveyed via the Potter Valley Project. There are groups who would like to block the re-licensing of the Potter Valley Project and tear out the dams and cut off that flow of water. They are very intent. They have a ten-year plan that they have launched to raise funds and advocate for their cause. So the main purpose of this meeting and of this proposed new group is to create a counterbalance that can first of all educate people who currently benefit from the Potter Valley Project who may not really understand that that is a fact and who probably have no idea that the continued flow of that water is potentially at risk so this will be an effort to outreach to those communities to educate them, to see their their participation to support the relicensing of the Potter Valley Project. There was an initial ask of the modest amount of $5,000, $1000 from each member agency of the IWPC to help fund of this new organization. There were questions about governance and accountability and so I'm sure there will be more discussion of that going forward.”

Supervisor John Pinches: “Was there any discussion as to what would be Plan B if PG&E decides not to apply for a relicensing agreement-permit?”

McCowen: “There was some discussion of PG&E's intentions and at this time it is believed that PG&E does intend to go forward with the relicensing. The hydroelectric power does give them a plus in terms of renewable and green energy so there is value to them in maintaining that. Supervisor Brown may be able to expand on that if PG&E were not to go forward.”

Supervisor Carre Brown: “The process really starts in 2017. We just all felt that a communication plan was so badly needed so the facts are there. Most people don't even realize how important the Eel river water is to the livelihood of the entire Russian River watershed and beyond even. What's more important is the fact that you have a Lake Sonoma that could possibly serve northern Sonoma County. We do not have that. We do not have a lake as big. And other important points I do not need to go forward with. But Lake Mendocino and the Eel River water that is diverted is extremely important even though 46% since the last relicensing has been cut of what can go through the tunnel. But it is very important to our very livelihood and the environment within the Mendocino-Russian River watershed. So that's — we just feel there has to be an educational program. I don't want to call it educational, I think it's communications, so that everyone can go to a site and this is the initial setup and it will go to a nonprofit because local government or other entities just do not have the financial ability to continue the program so we will be looking— in fact we should hear soon that it will go under a nonprofit that already carries a website so the expenses and oversight and administration doesn't have to come from any one entity that sits on the IWPC board. But they are asking for $1000 from each member in order to start the tool.”

Hamburg: “Is this still the project that Paige is heading up?” [“Paige” was unexplained. Presumably Paige Poulos, former president of the Mendocino Wine & Grape Commission.]

Brown: “Yes, but this is how it's evolved. Yes.”

Hamburg: “Ok. So it's evolved from Paige doing it to —”

Brown: “Because we just don't see financially how the entities belonging to IWPC could carry forth on the project so once the original tool is set up we hope to place it with a nonprofit so they, part of that group, the advisory group, can go out and collect funds in order to support a website.”

Pinches: “The reason I bring up the question about PG&E's ability to apply for the relicensing, in the early 90s, you know, after they had the fish screen problem at Scott Dam and whatnot, PG&E basically said they were either going to abandon the project or sell it. That was before the reduction in the water coming through so they could generate a lot more power. I realize the argument is that people say, Oh they can't do it because it keeps their portfolio good as far as green energy goes, but they have other sources of green energy that they can use. What I'm fearful of is some PG&E executive — you know, they've had a lot of financial problems within PG&E here in the last couple years, and probably from what we see there's more to come — but, as they look for the bottom line some of these, they could you say, you know what, we were thinking about getting rid of it before this last relicensing and now that they lost 40% of their ability to generate power, it probably looks more like a financial plus for PG&E if they abandon the project. That's my biggest worry. You're in this issue basically with, if you look regionally, Humboldt, Marin, the Potter Valley Project support is probably lagging way behind what the opposition is putting out there as information. But my most concern at this point is that one executive on one given day could say, you know what, we're just not going to file for relicensing. So I think there should be at least a little bit of a plan or thought about what would be Plan B if that happened because that would just, that could happen with just one executive making a decision, no political pressure or power or nothing involved. Just one executive could make that decision.”

Brown: “That's how Inland Water & Power Commission actually got formed was when PG&E started going through their bankruptcy process and they looked at every hydro project in the entire state and put them together in blocks and were going to auction them off. This particular hydro plant and its assets were coupled with the Sierras which was a real weird thing to have happen. I will also say that IWPC did form because they also looked at the alternative of maybe the Sonoma County Water Agency buying it. Mendocino County just felt, the entities that make up the IWPC, really felt that Mendocino County and its entities had to be players this time, we couldn't just sit back. I think PG&E's commitment is very strong at this point because of the green energy component and elements that they must have. There is worry that if they get into the wind farms and solar farms that maybe the hydro projects would be something that they may well walk away from, but I just can't quite see that. The old valve that broke within the tunnel this last year that caused not even a trickle coming through for over a month of diversion water into Lake Mendocino during the winter, they went in there, they built a diversion from the tunnel so they could bring water around. It wasn't enough, I don't think, to power their hydro plant, but it was going through Potter Valley for instance and into Lake Mendocino or Lake Mendocino would even be shallower than we see it today.”


THE GREAT ONE on ink-stained wretches:

1. "…there is no accurate portrait  (in American fiction)  of the journalist as a whole, from his beginnings as a romantic young reporter to his finish as a Leader of Opinion, correct in every idea and hollow as a jug. Here, I believe, is genuine tragedy. Here is human character in disintegration--the primary theme of every sound novelist ever heard of, from Fielding to Zola and from Turgeniev to Joseph Conrad.  I know of no American who starts from a higher aspiration than the journalist. He is, in his first phase, genuinely romantic. He plans to be both an artist and a moralist--a master of lovely words and a merchant of sound ideas.  He ends, commonly, as the most depressing jackass in his community--that is, if his career goes on to what is called success. He becomes the repository of all the worst delusions and superstitions. He becomes the darling of all its frauds and idiots, and the despair of honest men.” (— H.L. Mencken)

2. “…I do not say that all journalists go that route. Far from it. Many escape by failing; some even escape by succeeding. But the majority who get into the upper brackets succumb. They begin with high hopes. The end with safe jobs.  In the career of any such man, it seems to me, there are materials for fiction of the highest order. He is interesting intrinsically, for his early ambition is at least not ignoble--he is not born an earthworm.  And he is interesting as a figure in drama, for he falls gradually, resisting all the while, to forces that are beyond his strength. Here is tragedy--and here is America.  For the curse of this country, as of all democracies, is precisely that it treats its best men as enemies.  The aim of our society, if it may be said to have an aim, is to iron them out. The ideal American, in every public sense, is a respectable vacuum.” (— H.L. Mencken)


LINDA WILLIAMS of the Willits News has done the best reporting on the Mendo-Kansas dope ring story. Her latest report can be read at

One Comment

  1. John Sakowicz May 19, 2013

    Linda Williams is the reason I read the Willits News — and I don’t live in Willits. Her husband, Finley, is the equally capable former foreman of the Grand Jury. He has served in that capacity several times.

    Finley got termed out of the Grand Jury last year, but I think he is coming back this July, for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

    Finley Williams retired from the IRS, where he served with distinction…unlike the bums currently at the IRS. Finley has administrative law experience and forensic accounting experience.

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