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Mendocino County Today: May 26, 2012

RICHARD POOLE JR. and Scott Anderson came by the Boonville office the other day. They’d driven down from Willits where Poole owns property at 195 E. Oak, a couple of blocks from Main Street. Poole is in his late 50s and is a disabled veteran. He’s a big man who travels with a pair of small, well-behaved dogs. It wasn’t easy for Poole to get up the office stairs, and when he sat heavily down I could hear his lungs. Anderson did all the talking as Poole stared at me and occasionally nodded assent. Whenever I looked back at Poole he smiled ruefully and shrugged his shoulders in a total gesture of, “Isn’t this a mess?” I don’t think he quite knows what’s happening to him. I liked him. I’m told sometimes media attention helps, sometimes it doesn’t. The two of them, Anderson and Poole, made me think of Lenny and George from Of Mice and Men.

I’VE KNOWN Scott Anderson all the way back to his days at Boonville High School. I knew his parents. We all knew his mother Terry who was instrumental in forming the Anderson Valley Health Center, which has grown into a small hospital. I knew that Scott was doing pretty well in Willits as a property developer when he started turning up in the Sheriff’s Log. And kept turning up in the Sheriff’s Log. He, too, is a likeable man with the gift of gab but, law enforcement says, he’s been enslaved by white powder and has lost everything he’d had, including his wife who died in an automobile accident. He’s looking ahead, he said, to better times.

THE STORY the animated Anderson told was a confused one, but the gist of it was that Poole is about to lose the home he bought with a VA loan back in 1999. Then there were refi’s and fixer-upper loans from the City of Willits, and Poole got in deeper and deeper.

THE IRREPRESSIBLE Anderson said the City of Willits owes him money. He says he wants to give that money to Poole so Poole can get himself out from under the avalanche of loan defaults and liens on his maxed out property. There is no evidence that the City of Willits owes Anderson any money.

HERE’S THE TRUE SITUATION: Mr. Poole is, at this point in his difficult life, is disoriented from his multiplicity of disabilities. How he got that way can be debated, but here he is. I’d say he needs a judge to appoint a conservator, but it’s probably too late for that because in a few weeks Mr. Poole will be out of his house.

EVERYONE AGREES that Poole’s case is a sad one, and everyone I talked to about it has tried to help the guy because he’s the kind of guy people try to help. He’s probably gotten more help over the years than any other single citizen of Willits. That help has been repeatedly extended by the City of Willits and the various entities Poole owes money to, including family members.

POOLE LIKES TO HELP PEOPLE, TOO. He has no criminal history, but people who do have criminal histories have moved in with him. As one Willits resident put it, “If we lose a Willits tweeker we know we can probably find him at Richard’s house.”

IF YOU LOOK up Poole’s property you’ll see that 11 persons are alleged to be living on his tiny plot. As presented by Google Earth, Poole’s place is covered with an assortment of structures, many of them apparently inhabited.

195EOakSatSatellite View at the corner of E. Oak and Railroad Avenue

195E.OakStreetView from E. Oak Street

195E.OakRRAveView from Railroad Avenue

SEVERAL YEARS AGO, Poole got a nice loan from the City of Willits to rebuild his crumbling house. Not long after it was made fully habitable, the house began to crumble again from lack of basic maintenance. Keeping property up requires energy and focus. Poole doesn’t have it. He’s not well.

AS 195 E. OAK became a consensus eyesore and habitat for people who long ago parted ways with the conventional world, Willits paid people to clean up the property. And Poole said he’d keep it nice, and keep the deadbeats out, too. But try as he might, Poole, running as fast as he could, fell further behind on his loans as his property seemed to fall down around him. Willits several times re-negotiated the terms of the loans but the result was always the same: Poole would make a few payments and then the payments would stop.

THE CITY OF WILLITS cannot by law make endless gifts of public money. At some point the City has to at least try to get its money back. Poole’s so far in to the City that even when the City abates him right out onto the street, which will happen in a couple of weeks, and Willits sells the place, Willits still won’t recover all the money they’ve got invested in Richard Poole. Maybe one more deal can be worked out, maybe Willits will let Poole stay on under some sort of conservator arrangement. But Willits has already exhausted itself making deals with Poole, and in a matter of weeks the big guy with the bad lungs and the two well-behaved little dogs will be out on the street.

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IS WILLITS READY for at least two solid years of deafening pile driving? CalTrans’ contractor, Utah-based FlatIron, has been carrying out test piledriving this week. Piledriving, which is so loud that it splits eardrums of nearby wildlife, is one of the major environmental and quality-of-life impacts of the project. Unless the Bypass is stopped by the people of Willits, Willits will be dealing with and associated heavy construction for at least a few more years. A new video at

www.Savelittlelakevalley.org

courtesy of Chris Hardaker, shows (or more accurately blasts) just a small snippet of Caltrans driving test pilings on the Bypass route near Hearst-Willits Road.

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WILLITS WILL GET NO HELP from newly elected Congressman Jared ‘Spike’ Huffman either. According to another recent post on

www.Savelittlelakevalley.org

Congressman Huffman told the Ukiah Democratic Club that it was too late for him to get involved and that he would “get engaged” … “if any agency is not living up to its mitigation requirements.”

Huffman, who represents the 1st Congressional District spanning the entire California North Coast from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border, was sworn in to his new job this past January. Previously, the Willits area’s representative in Congress was an instrumental supporter of the Caltrans bypass of Willits, Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena), who intervened at multiple stages to make sure the project moved forward. On April 20th, Congressman Huffman appeared at the Ukiah Democratic Club event focused on global climate change. Roughly 20 members of Save Our Little Lake Valley (SOLLV) turned out to challenge and clarify Huffman’s position on the Bypass. As you will see in the savelittlelakevalley.org short clip, Huffman promises to “get engaged” in the needless project if Caltrans violates its mitigation requirements, to make sure that the Bypass is carried out “in the most environmentally responsible way possible.” Note that Huffman stops short of saying he would try to stop the project. SOLLV has submitted abundant documentation to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and to the Army Corps of Engineers regarding CalTrans permit violations. On the first and only inspection the State Water Resources Control Board conducted regarding CalTrans’ construction activities, they cited Big Orange for six violations. SOLLV is calling on Congressman Huffman to live up to his word and hold Caltrans accountable for its repeated violations of its permit obligations. A number of Willits residents have sent Huffman letters urging him to get engaged over mitigation shortcomings. To contact him as well, contact http://huffman.house.gov or call (202) 225-5161.

The SOLLV video begins with Ellen Drell, founder of the Willits Environmental Center, requesting Congressman Huffman’s support in stopping the Caltrans Bypass. In the video, you will also hear from Willits resident David Parch, Amanda “The Warbler” Senseman, and lifelong Willits resident John Wagenet. Below the video, you will find this excerpt of the relevant quote by Huffman. (Video by Cynthia Jeavons.)

“If I were stepping into this way earlier in this process, I think [City Councilwoman] Madge [Strong] and many of you make a compelling case, there could be alternatives that make more sense. There are some apparent shortcomings in this that would cause me to have all the same concerns you are laying out. But, I have to also respect that all of the approvals at every step in a very deliberate and extensive and lengthy process are in place, and we now have a court case that is pending. It’s just something that, as a member of Congress, I have to have respect for the process at some point.

I told Madge, and I’ll tell you again: There are two things that could cause me to engage differently on this project. One is that if the court decision goes your way. If we get a court ruling that says now you need to go look at other alternatives, including the one on the rail right-of-way, which seems like something that would merit a second look if that’s the case. Then you’re gonna’ see me shoulder-to-shoulder with all of you urging Caltrans to do that, and I think that would be respectful of the process as well.

The second way I would get engaged is if any agency is not living up to its mitigation requirements. I want to make sure that if this does move forward as it’s been permitted and approved, that all of the mitigation takes place and that it’s done in the most environmentally responsible way possible. That’s not going to satisfy a lot of the folks in this room, I know. But, I gotta be honest with you, that’s where I am, and I can’t unwind a process that’s this far along. But I certainly respect what you’re doing as well.” (Courtesy, SaveLittleLakeValley.org.)

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ACCORDING TO A RECENT 2013 GRAND JURY REPORT, in 1985, LAFCo (Mendo’s Local Area Formation Commission) “commissioned a study by Culp/Wessner/Culp Engineering to determine the feasibility of combining the City of Ukiah, Millview, Willow and Calpella water systems into one agency. In December 1986 this study resulted in two recommendations: that the City of Ukiah be the sole supplier or that a new district be formed that included all four agencies. The recommendations failed because the city did not want to join a separate district and Millview did not want to secede to the city.” The 2013 Grand Jury report notes that “there is a proliferation of special districts in the Coastal and valley areas of Mendocino County,” but can only muster a pointless suggestion that LAFCo “provide the leadership to facilitate the consolidation of some of the resources and services of the valley…” Back in the 90s a bolder Grand Jury specifically suggested that everyone’s best interest would be served if the multiple water agencies in the Ukiah valley were consolidated. But, of course, nothing changes because none of the balkanized little boards each with their own irrational collection of water rights, obviously including Millview, want to cede their prize water rights to anyone else. (And don’t forget that some of the water rights are used for the proliferation of vineyards in the Ukiah Valley.) Among the results of this pathetic situation are a damaging competition for underlying groundwater which is already overallocated and overappropriated and a patchwork of widely varying conservation measures between districts whenever there’s a drought — which may well happen again this year. (In the last drought, homes across the street from one another were told, on the one hand to cut back their water usage by 50% and, on the other, to engage in voluntary conservation, creating unnecessary animosity among neighbors, some of whom continued to wash their cars while others avoided flushing their toilets.)

TECHNICALLY, the Board of Supervisors, acting as the County Water Agency, could issue some regulations that would apply evenly to all water districts in the County (such as gauging and rate setting) but that would require the “leadership” that the Grand Jury incorrectly calls on from LAFCo. Historically, the Board of Supervisors has never shown any interest in “leadership” outside what little they do internally with the County’s management structure. There’s no indication that they have any will to do so now. And the Grand Jury recommendation to LAFCo, instead of the Board of Supervisors, just gives the Board yet another free pass on the subject until the next drought comes along.

OH, WE FORGOT TO MENTION SEWER SERVICES which are also in dire need of “leadership.”

THE SUBJECTS OF WATER AND SEWER are so untouchable that no board members have ever even put the Ukiah Valley water and sewer problems on their agenda for open discussion. Development and vineyard interests always take precedence over “leadership” in Mendocino County.

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FRIDAY NIGHT, MAY 31st, The Mendocino Coast Jazz Society, will honor this year's music scholarship winners, Mariana Cooper and Spencer Crowell, as part of the regular Fri. night Jazz show at the North Coast Brewery in Fort Bragg. Mariana and Spencer will play a short opening set at 6:00, and then will be presented with their scholarships. Jazz pianist Richard Cooper and saxophonist Francis Vanek will then play till 9:00.  The Brewery is located at 501 N. Main, Fort Bragg

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ATTENTION UKIAH HIGH CLASS OF 2003 GRADUATES

10-Year High School Reunion — The graduating class of 2003 is hosting a 10-year high school reunion on Saturday, July 13th at Barra of Mendocino in Redwood Valley from 6-10:30pm. Join us for dinner, dancing and reminiscing with old friends. A family-friendly potluck picnic will be held the following day, Sunday, July 14th at Harrison Grove Picnic Area Low Gap Park from 11-4pm. Early bird ticket prices are $50 for individuals and $75 for couples. After June 1st ticket prices will be $70 for individual and $95 for couples. Log on to www.uhsclassof2003.com to purchase tickets, sign up for committees, view additional event information and more. You can also mail in your ticket payment to PO Box 1064 in Ukiah. Checks should be made payable to UHS Class of 2003. E-mail info@uhsclassof2003.com with any questions.

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WHY SHOULD CALIFORNIANS PAY FOR $50 BILLION TUNNEL BOONDOGGLE?

by Dan Bacher

As opposition to Governor Jerry Brown's plan to build two massive tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta increases every day, Brown administration officials continue to mount a full court press for the project's completion.

Dr. Jerry Meral, Brown’s point man for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels, recently said, “the Delta cannot be saved,” in spite of administration claims that one of the co-equal goals of the plan is “ecosystem restoration.”

Then in an op-ed piece for the Stockton Record, Meral now claims, “No additional water withdrawal from the Delta is being sought under the application for this permit.” (http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130519/A_OPINION06/305190304/-1/NEWSMAP)

Restore the Delta (RTD) responded to Meral’s latest statement by asking, “So why then should rate payers from Southern California and tax payers throughout the state be asked to pick up the tab for a $50 billion project that will not make more water for Southern California or save the Delta?”

That is a very good question. How can the Brown administration possibly ask the taxpayers and rate payers to pay for a $50 billion pork barrel boondoggle, putting Californians in debt for generations to come, when the project makes absolutely no sense?

Restore the Delta emphasized, “There is a better solution to California’s water challenges than to build Peripheral Tunnels that won’t create one drop of new water and will not save the Delta.” Restore the Delta’s plan is here: http://www.restorethedelta.org/about-the-delta/healthy-delta-communities-plan/theres-a-better-solution/

Of course, we know that the real purpose of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, under the guise of the co-equal goals of “ecosystem restoration” and water supply “reliability,” is to create the infrastructure to export more Northern California water for corporate agribusiness to continue irrigating toxic land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and for the oil industry to expand the environmentally destructive practice of fracking.

As I asked Meral, deputy secretary at the California Natural Resources Agency, at a BDCP meeting on March 20, “Can you give one example from U.S. or world history in which the construction of a diversion canal or tunnel has led to taking less rather than more water out of an ecosystem?”

Neither Meral or any Brown administration official has been able to answer this question.

Meral made his controversial comments, “BDCP is not about, and has never been about saving the Delta. The Delta cannot be saved,” while speaking with Tom Stokely of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) in a private conversation after a meeting with Northern California Indian Tribes on Monday, April 15.

"I was flabbergasted because that's not what we've been told by politicians and state officials,” said Stokely after the conversation. “I was surprised at his candor because I've always known that BDCP is not about restoring the Delta.”

"We did not put the statement out for publicity gain or just to try to embarrass somebody,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, RTD Executive Director, who witnessed Meral make the comment. “The reason we let this statement out was to show the true intent of the tunnels project,” which she said is to increase pumping Delta water south.

Both Stokely and Barrigan-Parrilla said Meral had been speaking about his concern that a “mega-flood” could inundate the Central Valley someday, as it did in 1861-62, when Meral made his statement.

A spokesman for the Natural Resources Agency told the LA Times the remarks were “taken out of context” and that there are no plans calling for Meral’s resignation. Congressman George Miller and four other leading Democratic Representatives called for Meral's resignation after he made his controversial remarks. (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/political/la-me-pc-jerry-brown-water-jerry-meral-delta-water-plan-resignation-20130425,0,7348556.story)

It is important to understand that Delta advocates and supporters of Central Valley salmon and Delta fish restoration aren’t backers of “doing nothing,” as Natural Resources Secretary John Laird suggests is the “alternative” to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels in his recent letter in the Sacramento Bee (http://www.sacbee.com/2013/05/17/5417541/managing-to-scientific-uncertainty.html)

The Brown administration needs to immediately halt the BDCP process and instead adopt the following proactive measures:

First, install state-of-the-art fish screens at the state and federal pumping facilities in the South Delta to avoid the deaths of millions of fish including protected salmon and steelhead at the pumps every year.

Second, reduce water exports from the Delta to no more than 3 million acre feet in all years, in keeping with the flow criteria of the State Water Resources Board.

Third, adopt the series of creative recommendations outlined in the Environmental Water Caucus reduced water exports alternative, including an aggressive statewide water conservation program and the retirement of toxic farmlands. (http://www.ewccalifornia.org/reports/REDUCEDEXPORTSPLAN.pdf)

The Brown administration needs to abandon its tired 19th Century solution — the Bay Delta Conservation Plan — to solving 21st Century ecosystem and water supply problems.

Caleen Sisk, Chief of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, summed up the danger that the peripheral tunnels pose to California’s fish, people and rivers: “The common people will pay for the peripheral tunnels and a few people will make millions,” emphasized Sisk. “It will turn a once pristine water way into a sewer pipe. It will be all bad for the fish, the ocean and the people of California.”

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