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Off the Record (August 16, 2023)


Dear Voter Readers, 

The League of Women Voters has not taken a position on this issue, but the following event may be of interest to you:

Change Our Name Fort Bragg will sponsor a public debate on a possible name change between Bruce Anderson, Editor of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, and Philip Zwerling, Board President of Change Our Name, on Tuesday, August 22, at 7:30 p.m. in the Community Room at the Fort Bragg Library. Jane Person has agreed to moderate.(This program is, of course, neither sponsored by nor affiliated with the Mendocino County Library/Museum.) The program is free and open to the public.

Voter editor,

Jary Stavely, Fort Bragg

MATTHEW GRIFFEN: I wish [the name change] people would put this much energy into figuring out the housing crisis, the addiction and mental health problems, or the slow destruction of private local businesses... Yeah, Fort Bragg is a shitty name when you consider its history but there are so many other more pressing and urgent issues that deserve an equal if not greater amount of attention. But I guess a name change is much easier and requires little effort on the part of those who wish for easy recognition in the strange world of virtue signaling.

THE GREATEST ongoing swindle on the Northcoast, a swindle-friendly jurisdiction since its murderous political formation at the time of the Gold Rush, is how the Northwestern Pacific Railroad became The Great Redwood Trail, the magic transformation having been brought off by the Democrats.

RATS, in the moldy metaphor, usually desert the sinking ship just before the enterprise goes down for the last time. But the rodents who brought off this swindle, led by former congressman Doug Bosco, managed to loot the old rail line before abandoning all but the cash-generating southern tracks, which magically wound up the personal property of Bosco.

DAN HAUSER was a Northcoast assemblyman out of Arcata of zero distinction. When he was mercifully termed-out of office, the Democrats handed the otherwise unemployable politico a make-work appointment as boss of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, soon to be a public entity called the North Coast Railroad Authority and, these days, The Great Redwood Trail, the last so far consisting of an arid multi-million dollar stretch of pavement running through industrial Ukiah east of State Street. 

UNDER HAUSER, a few freight cars still rolled every week between Willits to Schellville in Marin until Chris Neary, the Willits lawyer who functioned as the line’s legal advisor, accompanied Hauser to the resignation booth. Emily Rowe, the railroad’s chief financial officer oversaw the $125 left in the bank then also hit the road, and not by rail.

THE NORTHWESTERN PACIFIC ran more or less on time until the mid-1960s when Southern Pacific stopped putting sufficient money into maintenance to keep it going at an always slim profit. The old train chugged along its 287 miles of track between San Rafael and Eureka, often closing down altogether for months at a time because the Eel River Canyon north of Willits through which the train must pass to reach Humboldt County, is impassable every winter for varying periods of time. When the rains come great seas of mud bury the track in the Canyon. When the sun comes out in the spring, crews would shovel the muck off the tracks, nicely positioning the line for the next winter’s slides. This annually Sisyphean approach to track maintenance became unsustainably costly by the early 1970s.

THE DEMOCRATS faked that they could come up with the many millions of public dollars to properly shore up the collapsing banks of the Eel so the train could run through the Eel River Canyon in the winter time. That money would never be available for either a train or even the later-day Great Redwood Trail.

BUT THE NORTHCOAST Demo shot callers and miscellaneous entrepreneurs managed to sell the public a fanciful bill of goods that the line could become a public entity upon whose existence depended on a wholly illusory trade generated by the revival of deep water shipping in and out of the moribund port of Eureka. 

ADDITIONALLY, the Democrats promised, there were millions to be made shipping lumber south out of Humboldt County by rail and perhaps comparably attractive amounts of money would be generated by shipping Humboldt County’s trash south by train.

HAUSER was appointed to run the dying railroad. Why Hauser? In theory, he had access to the political levers at the public money spigots.

IN PRACTICE, the Hauser-led railroad couldn’t even get past Cal Trans. Big Orange objected to the barely revived line’s non-existent bookkeeping practices. Caltrans has say-so over California transportation funding, including rail funding. 

MAKING a bad situation worse with a lot of lies about the deep water trade out of Eureka if only the railroad was running as everybody associated with the make believe venture ignored the topographical fact of the Eel River Canyon, where the track was now covered in mud in late summer from the winter’s rains.

THE TRAIN HADN’T run through the Canyon since ‘97, and even on its last gasps the track was so precarious that the few cars that did huff and puff through once a day south and once a day north, traveled at 10mph.

THE SCAMMERS attempted to scare up more public money for what was a great big barrel of pork for a couple of Humboldt County lumber companies and one rock-hauling outfit. Mike Thompson and Virginia Strom-Martin were dispatched to lobby on behalf of the fantasy that year-round rail service between Marin and Eureka could be made a reality.

BUT THE FEDS wisely held up repair reimbursements from two years of storms because (1) the NWP’s accounting was loose-to-unintelligible and (2) there was hard evidence of bills submitted for work that was never done.

WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE was suggested by then-Mendo supervisor John Pinches, whose ranch at Island Mountain sits above one of the more precarious of several precarious stretches of track that run through Pinches’ viewshed. He grew up in the wilds of the Eel River back country, and remains a reliable historian of the remote vastness stretching from Dos Rios to the south, Alderpoint to the north. Pinches suggested that the train run north from Marin to Willits or maybe as far as Longvale where what was viable of the path that used to be train track would become Rails-To-Trails, capitalizing on the beauty of the Eel River Canyon and areas of the remote Mendo-Humboldt-Trinity outback to attract thousands of annual bikers and hikers and their money, which seems to be where Mike McGuire got the idea for The Great Redwood Trail.

AND HERE WE ARE a quarter century later with the rail track from Dos Rios north to Alderpoint — roughly sixty miles — pretty much disappeared beneath years of slides and collapsed tunnels. There will never be enough money to make a trail through the Canyon, and if two miles of paved trail through Ukiah cost over $4 mil, well, do the math for 300 miles of hiking and biking from Marin to Humboldt.

PS. I always laugh at the premature fears of property owners that bums will menace them when the trail is completed. Drink and drug people are unlikely to foot it far from liquor stores and their dealers. I’ve walked the unappealing Ukiah stretch of The Trail. Both times I saw nobody else. The walk was un-scenic apart from a few trees around the Grace Hudson Museum.

MARK SCARAMELLA ADDS: Given the lameness of the Democrats and the bureaucratic self-strangulation involved in constructing anything in California, and the piecemeal funding that will dribble out of Sacramento, and the various physical and geological and environmental obstacles that are sure to arise, the most likely result is that the Dems will get an overpriced disconnected patchwork of macadam in and around a few cities along the tracks built which will simply stop in mid-trail here and there but which will be convenient routes to semi-rural campsites for bums who will indeed present a problem to both neighboring land owners and law enforcement. Meanwhile the Trail Dems will continue to claim that it’s a work in progress and everything will be fine someday as long as the money for them keeps flowing. 

JIM SHIELDS: Just a few quick comments on a couple of things that I haven’t had time to address because for the past couple of months I’ve been buried under a blizzard of totally meaningless paperwork generated mostly by the state Water Board. To continue my bitch for just a second longer, notwithstanding their repetitious flacking of emergency drought measures, constant chatter about “water resiliency” planning, and new procedures for reporting water production, usage, etc., there’s little or no sense urgency on behalf of either the state or this county to actually getting something done. Example? For over a year now, a well-drilling/water hauling ordinance drafted by a committee (that I served on, that actually did its work and accomplished the objective assigned to it) has been gathering dust in the County Counsel’s office. Last summer, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved/accepted the committee’s draft ordinance and directed that it be sent to the Planning Commission. Instead, it was re-routed to CoCo where it remains short-stopped. In the intervening moths, both yours truly and Supe Haschak have inquired at several BOS meetings as to the status of the MIA draft ordinance. Initially, we were told CoCo would have the review finished by February. Well, February’s come and gone several times now, and still no word on its status.

Sunday’s Ukiah Daily Journal’s opinion page featured pieces that spotlighted three FUBARing issues that are clearly high on citizen lists of public concerns.

• UDJ editorial by K.C. Meadows on the ever-worsening homelessness/mental health crisis/addiction/crime;

• Tom Hines column dealing with local government ignoring graffiti, “minor crimes”, and abandoned buildings; and

• Another installment of my series on “Catch and Release” criminal justice enforcement/sentencing policies.

What appears to be high on County lists of concerns? One item for sure is the creation of a Department of Finance. Everyone is familiar with the background on this non-issue, issue, so I’m not going to re-flog it. There’s two bottom lines to this “concern.”

• There’s no indication that this idea any traction at all with the public. It’s wholly created by the BOS (Haschak excepted).

• There’s every indication to believe that the overwhelming majority of citizens would never entrust the responsibility of financial control to the Board of Supervisors, or any creature office or department under its influence. If this proposal would ever go to the ballot, it would a wipeout.

Just goes to show, there’s priorities and then there’s priorities.

DAVID HILLER: Does anyone know anything about Tom Bell Flat and Tom Bell creek, a tributary of the Albion River? Tom Bell was a Coast Yuki/Usal "Sinkyone" who worked in the woods along the coast before he married Sally Bell of Needle Rock/4 corners. A Tom Bell patent claimed nearby property in 1889, but I don’t know if Native Americans could claim land. There may have been a second Tom Bell, said to be a hunter, and a newspaper search turned up an account of a Tom Bell’s death at Westport(not Sally’s Tom who died in the 1930’s). Anyone have a clue?

JACK SAUNDERS DOES: is the Thomas "Tom" Bell that lived about 11 miles (give or take) out on the Mendocino-Comptche-Ukiah Road. He was born in England and patented 160 acres (marked in green on the photo here) on 29 Jul 1889. A couple months later he caught pneumonia at his place and was taken to the Mendocino Hospital where he died on 5 Nov. The flat named for him is a bit south of his land and is a good-sized clearing on the south side of the road as you enter a left-hand turn. It would be about where the old railroad (labeled Albion Ridge Road in the photo) meets the road. Tom Bell Gulch and Tom Bell Creek are named for him as well.

A BELATED MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Saving Private Ryan’: SPR is a good genre movie, war movie being the genre. The special effects are impressive even pegged to the improbable spectacular events which comprise their whole, just as the movie itself is pegged to a series of improbable events. The thing begins and ends in total mawk, the sound track is an ongoing musical insult as if the audience is too dumb not to understand what’s happening on the screen without the emotional assistance of the tunes. The script is better than most war movies and the cast is good. The visuals are spectacular. Tom Hanks is very good as the leader of a platoon assigned to find Private Ryan and send him home because his brothers have all been killed. Overall, the movie is a mix of realism and pure fantasy — the usual Spielberg serving, I guess, although I’ve only seen a couple of his movies — ‘The Color Purple’ and ‘Schindler’s List’ — and thought they were uniquely awful. At almost three hours, I wouldn’t want to sit through SPR again.

WHAT EVER HAPPENED to convicted cho-mo and drug dealer, Denny Devore Dederick, after he was released from prison back in 1998, even though he did less than two years for abducting a 13-year-old Albion girl, shooting her up with dope, sexually abusing her, then abandoning her in Berkeley. Dederick had used his own daughter to sell drugs at Mendocino High School before he was arrested in Palo Alto when he and another creep appeared at Stanford Hospital clearly intending to kidnap the Albion girl from the hospital’s rehab program to prevent her from testifying against him in Mendocino County. During one court appearance in Mendocino County, an unrepentant Dederick, prior to the arrival of the judge, turned to the Albion victim and her family and fixed them with a death’s head grin for a full five minutes, terrifying his young victim and outraging every adult in the room. This mega-degenerate sold dope to kids on the Mendocino Coast for years before he was finally arrested. He should have gotten a long stretch for kidnap and rape of a child, but thanks to the usual bumbling by what passed for authority in Mendocino County at the time, Dederick basically got off. The family of the victim armed themselves because they no longer trusted the courts to protect them. 


A Reader Writes: Looks like Dederick is living in Santa Rosa. He has no relatives or associates listed. All things considered; his email address is disgusting.


Sarah Kennedy Owen:

The last verse of the Phil Ochs song:

“Oh look outside the window

There’s a woman being grabbed

They’ve dragged her to the bushes

And now she’s being stabbed

Maybe we should call the cops

And try to stop the pain

But Monopoly is so much fun

I’d hate to spoil the game.

And I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody

Outside of a small circle of friends.”

That happened right here in Ukiah in 1985, only it wasn’t a woman, it was a 15-year old girl, Rosie Marie Grover. It happened right under that friendly Foster’s Freeze sign we seem to treasure. How strange, our memories select what they want to select and “de-select” anything disagreeable. In that case, police dispatcher was called by Rosie trying to get a ride home, but that wasn’t policy so she was left to die. And life goes on, right up to the present, with same troubles now as then, in so many ways.


Yes that was very sad, I grew up with Rosie, family friends, my dad and her mom dated when they were teenagers. Rosie was also killed on my birthday, in the creek behind my house, very close indeed. There was a creepy man in a brown car hanging out by the dental office, for at least 2 weeks before she was murdered. Never found out if it was him. Sadly her mother Marilyn has lived through the death of 3 of her children. There is a Rosie Grover FB page if you want to stay updated on the murderers possibility of release.

TOM HINE: Rosie was murdered in that shallow ravine just south of what is now a franchise pizza place (Mountain Mike’s?) in House of Garner building. She’d been raped. Ravine is still there. Her body was maybe 50 feet west of the sidewalk.

Clark is still on Death Row and is probably in his late-50s.

PS. By the way, the story on which Phil Ochs based his song (Small Circle of Friends) has been thoroughly debunked as a NYTimes fabrication. I think reporter Abe Rosenthal, later the Editor and maybe the Publisher, teamed up with his city editor to sensationalize the stabbing death of Kitty Genovese around 1960 or so. The Times acknowledged the inaccuracy 50 or so years later. Someone ought to do a history of Fake News, the Greatest Stories That Never Were.


Well, looks like this is where we are going.

Sonoma County Water Agency, Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission and Round Valley Indian Tribes submitted a proposal to assume responsibility and ownership of a portion of the Potter Valley Project. A yet to determined regional entity would be formed to take over the diversion tunnel and modify the diversion structure. Scott Dam and at least a large portion of Cape Horn Dam would be removed.

Unfortunately, we are short on time, support and resources to successfully fight for more.

FROM THE WAYBACK MACHINE: Patrick Cant on the second-to-last Reggae On The River: “The two most often-heard announcements from the stage were: ‘Please remember to drink a lot of water,’ and ‘Alcohol, Ecstasy and sunlight do not mix.’ The latter was in reference to a drug that was apparently popular with the fans. They were dropping like flies in the heat from lack of water. The music was fantastic, and the message contained in that music is one of peace and love and sharing and unity. Therein lies the problem: There seems to be a philosophical Grand Canyon between the ideas preached in reggae music and their application at the concert site itself. Water was free, but everything else was horrifically inflated in cost. A cheeseburger was $5, a 12-ounce beer was $3.50, and the T-shirts started at $22. Not that different from any other rock concert, really, or even a baseball game. The ground was also littered with cigarette butts, despite the proliferation of ash cans everywhere. I guess peace and love doesn’t extend itself to the actual concert site itself, which is a shame, because the music was so good.”

“BOSCO-ING,” as in dumping a seemingly entrenched officeholder, made it into the Northcoast’s political lexicon in ’98 when estranged Democrats, and Northcoast members of the Peace and Freedom Party, combined to get the incumbent Democrat, Doug Bosco, out of office. The term derives from the Peace and Freedom Party’s Darlene Commingore, or “Commie-gore,” as she was known among the Democrats whose apple carts she’d upset by aggressively participating in an election process they seemed to have thought, and still think, belonged to them upset the Democrat’s apple cart big time. Commie-Gore grabbed about 18% of the Democratic Party vote, enough to un-elect Bosco from Congress and send Gingrichian hack Frank Riggs to DC in his place. Dan Hamburg, running for governor as a Green, was in a position, according to Dan Walters of the Press Democrat and Sacramento Bee, to “Bosco” Gray Davis. The Democrats have looked over their expensively clad shoulders ever since.

THE AGE OLD SLAM from big shot Democrats that Democrats who vote third party are voting for the Republican have already begun for the 2024 election. Vote for Cornel West you’re voting for Trump. A vote for dissident Democrat RFK Jr. is a vote for Trump. As a registered Democrat, I’ll be voting for West because he’s more than less in line with what I consider my principles, which are more than less the principles of George McGovern, the last Democrat I voted for for president. And McGovern’s principles were in line with the long-gone Democrat principles that defended working people, not plutocrats. RFK Jr. is more than less an old fashioned Democrat worth supporting if it weren’t for his obsessions with unsupported science. The big shot Democrats are going after Kennedy big time and, of course, ignoring West. Will I be “objectively” supporting Trump? No, I’ll be voting for what Democrats used to stand for. 

MATT TAIBBI nicely sums up where we're at politically: “American politics has long been a careful truce, in which natural economic tensions were obscured by an elegantly phony two-party structure that kept urban and rural poor separate, nurtured a politically unadventurous middle class, and tended to needs of the mega-rich no matter who won. That system is in collapse. Voters are abandoning traditional blue-red political identities and realigning according to more explosive divisions based on education and income. As the middle class vanishes the replacement endgame emerges. A small pocket of very wealthy and very educated, for whom elections have until now mostly been ceremonial and to whom more fraught realities of the current situation are an annoyance, will move to one side. That’s your “15% strongly approve” group, the Marie Antoinettes who’ll go to the razor pledging loyalty to the regent, even if he’s a loon in a periwig, or Joe Biden. The inevitable other constituency is just everyone else, which should be a larger demographic. The only reason polls are at 43-43 (or perhaps slightly in Biden’s disfavor) is because the other actor is Donald Trump. If Democrats should be panicking because they’re not trouncing an opponent whose biggest campaign events have been arraignments, it’s just as bad for Trump that he polls even with a man who’s a threat to walk into a propeller or carry a child into a forest every time he walks outside. Still, the abject horror Trump inspires among the Georgetown set may be his greatest political asset, and a reason the realignment seems to be proceeding even with him around.


On August 9, 2023 at around 7:50 PM, The Mendocino County Sheriff's Dispatch Center received a 911 call from a person in the 2900 block of Richards Road in Redwood Valley. The caller identified himself as 46-year-old Clinton Maxwell, who told the Dispatcher that he had shot his neighbor who he found trespassing on his property.

Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies responded to the location and requested that EMS stage in the area until the scene was deemed safe for them to enter. Upon arrival, Deputies encountered Maxwell who was detained without incident. Deputies located Timothy J Abshire, 43 of Redwood Valley, in a remote area of the property on a dirt road. Deputies and EMS performed life saving measures including CPR, however Abshire succumbed from the gunshot wounds and was pronounced deceased at the scene.

Abshire Booking Photos

During the course of this investigation, Maxwell was subsequently arrested and booked into the Mendocino County Corrections Facility for homicide. Maxwell will be held in lieu of $1,00,000 bail.

ON LINE COMMENT: RE ABSHIRE: “Good riddance! Timothy J Abshire is the worst tweaker and awful human being in this entire county. I used to live across the road (Colony Drive) from that complete waste of human life. Tweaker Tim, as we used to call him, would shoot at me, my female roommate, and my dog, from his porch, when we were on our own property, or driving down the road. He burned down his own property there once, and the cops chased him down on a manhunt after he shot at them! HOW was he not in Jail for life for all of this? The Abshires, his elderly Parents, kept bailing him out and paying off the cops, and putting him up in their many properties in Redwood Valley. That’s how.” Read all about it in The AVA archives: ‘Terror In the Vineyard

ADAM GASKA: Actually, I have heard that Tim had turned himself around and been sober the last few years. He was recently married. He and the new neighbor had an argument about spring water. Sounds like the Abshire family had rights to a spring on the new neighbor’s property that they had been using for 50 years. New neighbor didn’t like it and was disconnecting the pipes. Tim came to see what happened, argument ensued and new neighbor shot him three times in the chest. Tim was unarmed. … I don’t know Tim, have only heard of him and none of it is good. The shooter probably ruined his own life. He has a wife and two kids.


I’ve partied with, fought against, and logged with members of the Abshire family. My stepdad wasn’t happy when he heard that either me or one of brothers or cousins were brawling with who we called the “Redwood Valley Boys.” He had grown up with their mother and they were good old friends. My stepdad’s family, the Woolleys, at one time almost owned the whole valley. His grandfather and grandmother donated the land for the old Redwood Valley School and the Grange Hall. Most of the trouble we had with the Abshires was because my youngest half-brother married Dick’s ex-wife who was the mother of Dick’s son. We all became friends in later years. Dick was a strong voice against the environment terrorists organization known as “Earth First.” He was a suspect in the bombing incident. The Abshires a are tough bunch, nothing ever came easy to them.

IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus “…Judi Bari, Earth First! … a 38 year old man named Dick Abshire, who had been driving back and forth in front of…”

MS NOTES: According to court records Timothy Abshire was first arrested back in 2004 and has been “known to law enforcement” ever since. In April of 2016, 18 months after the “terror in the vineyard” incident, he was sentenced to serve nine years in prison after shooting at a CHP officer in the Redwood Valley vineyard. He plead guilty to assault with a deadly weapon and various other felonies associated with the incident. The attempted murder of a police officer charge was dropped in the plea deal. 

BY ALL ACCOUNTS, Mr. Abshire of Redwood Valley and yesterday's murder victim, is not likely to be missed by many given his felonious back story. But was Abshire plugged for cause? Given the million dollar bail and murder charges against, of all people, a lucratively employed administrator with the Mendocino County Office of Education, the Sheriff's and DA's investigators seem to have quickly concluded that lethal force may not have been justified. (Although they do note that “The circumstances leading up to and during this incident are still under investigation.”

DON'T ASK ME how I know, but the late Richard Johnson, aka The One True Green, is buried deep in the east hills of Redwood Valley, and I'm assuming the old boy's funereal wrappings were bio-degradable.

JOHNSON was one of many Dickensian-quality characters who've called Mendocino County home. He existed on the margins of the newspaper business via his haphazardly-published ‘Mendocino Country Environmentalist’ and, it is fair to say, singlehandedly destroyed this county's tenuous, organized Green presence.

I SYMPATHIZED, kinda, with OTG's publishing struggles. It's a tough, dying business, but was not yet terminal when OTG drove over the hill to Boonville to propose that we become “partners,” having noted the seeming efficiency of the AVA's production process — Diane Herring typesetting; Ling Anderson doing the paste-up; Major Mark Scaramella, USAF ret on the Address-o-Graph. Me? Uh, my function remains vague, but one duty was to fend off supplicants, of which Johnson was one of many but among the most memorable because he hated me and hated the AVA. He nevertheless faked approval long enough to ask if he could use our premises, our labor, our post office privileges and, I gasped as he said, “And maybe fifty dollars a week for me.”

AND you would do what, Mr. Johnson?

WELL, as you know I'm a writer and an organizer, he said. (Mendo was then teeming with organizers, editors and “healers,” although the only organizer ever in the unorganized history of the county was Judi Bari, who bludgeoned an amorphous mass of hippies, dingbats, old and new commies, and a few genuine enviros to get the whole mob shuffling as one in the general direction of corporate timber. Bari was brutal with OTG, as she was with everyone, relegating him to serve only as a foot soldier.)

AS OTG made his pitch to climb aboard the SS AVA, Ling and The Major were shooting me frantically negative hand and arm signals. I'll think it over, Richard, I said, as our interface veered into total improbability.

YOU know what's wrong with you, Bruce? he said.

LOTS and lots, Richard. You behold a man with no illusions.

IRONY being lost on the guy, he continued. You're too uptight, too judgmental.

WHAT do I owe you for your personality assessment?

He finally got the sarcasm. I have to get back over the hill, Bruce. Leave a message for me at the MEC . (Mendocino Environment Center, Ukiah, a combination out-patient clinic and deadbeat welcome wagon.)

THE NEXT TIME I saw the OTG he was chairing a Boonville meeting of the fledgling Mendo Green Party where OTG appointed an elfin pal of his as “vibes watcher,” and declared that only people in possession of a battered fern were “empowered” to speak. I never got to offer my opinions even though I tried to wrestle the fern away from the tenacious hippie next to me who droned on and on to this captive audience of loons, me included for being there. I've voted Green a few times in protest of the national duopoly, but wild horses couldn't have dragged me to another session of the Mendo Greens.

JOHNSON bounced from printer to printer, Healdsburg refusing to deal with him at all and Willits Printing demanding cash up front before the presses would roll. Money first was and is a common practice at the lower levels of the publishing world, and we also pay our killer of a print bill every week as per prevailing practices.

JOHNSON was an aging flower child who never quite got over the mesmerizing splendors of the Summer of Love. He was always close to the county’s abundant population of time capsule hippies for whom he produced a guide to the dubious services of the county’s over-large consignment of uncredentialed therapists, healers, tarot tossers, and massagers — all that and a guide to the county’s innumerable boogie and music venues. He eked out this kind of marginal living for years. 

AND the guy did do some important reporting. He revealed unsafe working conditions at the old Retech plant between Hopland and Ukiah, and he deserved high marks for persistence, simply hanging on for years as a newspaper despite managing to pick up several DUI's, one of them for bicycling drunk. 

OTG was finally carried off by a series of heart attacks, but he left an indelible impression among all of us who knew him. Mendo seems way blanded down these days. The great characters are gone. 


I am sick of the debate over the Supervisors’ salaries. The solution is obvious. Reward them for merit and longevity, just like all other government employees are compensated. Don’t give them high salaries until they prove themselves. How about this? Start a new supervisor at $40,000/yr. If she does a good enough job to be reelected, the salary goes up to $50,000. A good enough job to be reelected a third time $60,000, etc., or whatever scale you choose to adopt. I don’t think the public should give away all its leverage with new supervisors until they have proved themselves, and it is clearly in Mendocino’s interest to provide a carrot for good performance.

MARK SCARAMELLA REPLIES: That’s a perfectly nice idea in the abstract. Unfortunately being re-elected bears no relation to a Supervisor’s performance in office. For example, when applied to the Fifth District, say, Mendo would end up giving raises to the likes of David Colfax and Dan Hamburg for being re-elected despite doing absolutely nothing for three terms (in Colfax’s case) or two terms (in Hamburg’s case). They got re-elected because they managed to hornswoggle the credulous CoastLibs that they were on their side. But CoastLib never followed what they actually did (or more accurately did NOT do) as Supervisors. (Kinda like now, actually.) Colfax never lost an election (although when AV resident David Severn ran against him a few years ago, Severn easily outpolled Colfax in relatively small Anderson Valley where many people knew and couldn’t stand Colfax), but lost to the larger CoastLib vote. Hamburg quit before his term was up claiming some kind of vague mental health problem that was buttressed by his conspicuously bringing a therapy chihuahua to Board meetings. Otherwise he would still be Fifth District Supervisor. On hindsight, that was probably some kind of health care or pension scam.

THERE ARE SOME stories that still anger me. One of them is Helen Ochoa's. She's long gone, but at the time Helen was a 68-year-old Leggett woman in failing health. For many years, she and her late husband, Bill, devoted many thousands of volunteer hours to the safety and welfare of people living and travelling the northern reaches of Mendocino County. For most of three decades, the Ochoas’ Leggett home served as emergency central for Mendocino County’s deep north. Ambulances and fire trucks got their directions from the Ochoas’ command center. Helen and Bill would often rouse themselves in the middle of the night in all kinds of weather to aid a stranded motorist or transport an injured neighbor to the hospital. Name the go-to people in your community and substitute the name Ochoa and you will understand the Ochoas’ standing in the Leggett-Laytonville area.

WHEN BILL OCHOA died a few years ago, a neighbor who didn't seem to have anything better to do than monitor the property of the widowed senior citizen next door, sicced the county’s Department of Environmental Health on Mrs. Ochoa because, the neighbor alleged, the old lady’s septic tank wasn’t working properly. Environmental Health, conveniently among the missing when it comes to the toxic behavior of the county’s largest employers, wasted no time visiting the widow’s modest property on the banks of the Eel, only minutes from Highway 101. Environmental Health also managed to visit Mrs. Ochoa’s theoretically confidential file sequestered at the Department of Mental Health, a second highly politicized agency whose craven, incompetent staff had managed to kill two of its “clients” in as many years as one of its psychiatrists went unprosecuted for beating his wife. 

THESE DAYS, tax-paid sadism is pretty much confined to the federal government, but at the millennium we were still neck deep in the usual Mendo morass of official misconduct, wholesale snitching, tax-funded bullying, and random confirmations that the authorities themselves are, likely as not, totally ape shit.

MRS. OCHOA’S worldly goods consisted of her small piece of Eel River property and her meager monthly Social Security stipend. But she had billions in friends and support. 

HER home parcel was small but, it seems, highly coveted, which may account for the ongoing harassment she faced in what might have been her golden years. Beset by the relentless neighbor and the neighbor’s allies in what passed for legitimate authority in Mendocino County, Mrs. Ochoa scraped up enough money to hire an attorney to defend herself against both the official onslaught and her neighbor’s hyper-vigilance. Her septic system worked perfectly; there was no evidence it had ever malfunctioned. That case was at the deposition stage and seemed obviously related to what happened,

ABOUT TEN, Saturday night the 26th of September 1998, came the jackhammer knock on the Ochoa front door, just west of the Leggett School. Mrs. Ochoa and her 19-year-old niece, Leeann St. Clair, were soon confronted by Bruce Smith and elements of the County of Mendocino Marijuana Eradication Team. Apparently the Camo Buddies were enjoying one of their famous Old Ladies Nights, collecting some serious OT while picking off senior citizens.

THE GREAT CRUSADE against weed being no respecter of age, what followed, I understand from outraged neighbors, was an hour or so of low-intensity bullying by the forces of law and order. But the old lady was not easily intimidated at remarks from publicly-funded cartoon cops like, “Jail is a hard place for people your age,” and “If you don’t admit the marijuana garden is yours, we'll add on the guns and your bail will be a lot higher.” The guns were old hunting rifles belonging to the late Bill Ochoa. They were locked up in a gun cabinet. 

SMITH and his overtime posse busted open the gun cabinet and made its antique contents sound like the Mexican Mafia’s arsenal of AK-47s. Helen Ochoa didn’t budge. Neither did Miss St. Clair who just happened to be visiting. Soon the young woman and her aunt were cuffed, stuffed and sped south to the County Jail in Ukiah where they spent most of the next three days.

JUDGE JOE ORR used to live with the Ochoas. Orr was the sitting justice court judge for the large but sparsely settled area from Laytonville north to the county line and east to where the Eel meanders north to Alderpoint, the deep Mendo outback. Alerted that his old friend Helen Ochoa had been hauled off to the County Jail on a Saturday night, Orr called the jail and asked that Mrs. Ochoa be released on her own recognizance.

DOING the right thing isn’t necessarily doing the right legal thing, although Orr quickly backed off when a lot of indignant harrumphing about judicial favoritism began in the local media and even though presiding judge of the county’s courts, Eric Labowitz, had declared that a judge had every legal right to call the jail to suggest a confined person be released on his or her own recognizance.

BUT MRS. OCHOA stayed in jail on the original warrant auto-signed by Judge Ron Combest because Cindee Mayfield, Louisiana-Pacific’s and Jared Carter’s contribution to California jurisprudence, didn’t have either the sense or the ordinary humanity to see an elderly woman who had lived in Leggett for many years standing before her on a phony beef. 

MAYFIELD kept bail at $50,000 for both Mrs. Ochoa and her niece, Miss St. Clair. The late Bill Ochoa’s hunting rifles became an additional felony charge, you see, because the Overtime Banditos claimed the North County senior citizen was not only growing pot she also had guns on the premises, adding up to felony cultivation plus felony possession of firearms at a place where devil weed was alleged to be cultivated.

FROM SATURDAY NIGHT until late Monday the dangerous Leggett grandmother and her menacing niece were off the streets of Mendocino County, and solid citizens from Rockport to Yorkville rested easier in their beds.

AN INDIGNANT editorial in Sunday’s Ukiah Daily Journal marveled at how local judges and the judges’ protection agency called the State Commission on Judicial Performance stonewalled the Journal when staffers tried to find someone in authority to talk to about Orr’s call to the County Jail on behalf of his friend, Helen Ochoa.

WHERE’S THE SURPRISE? Federal, state and certainly Mendocino County judges have existed beyond all but electoral accountability for years, and electorally they are also all beyond even that slim accountability because they are seldom opposed for re-election. Just in that year we saw DA Susan Massini dispatch Judge Henry Nelson to expel Joel Steed, the prior year’s Grand Jury foreman, from the Grand Jury room of the County Courthouse. A judge ran a political errand expelling a former Grand Juror from his work site for the DA because she was unhappy with the Grand Jury’s assessment of severe dysfunction in her office? Yes, the little judge ran the political errand for the DA and they both got away with it. 

ON THE HEELS of that one, presiding judge Eric Labowitz issued a confused opinion that future county grand juries should include the rebuttals of the public agencies that the Grand Jury criticizes. 

WHY Labowitz’s sudden public appearance on the teensy issue of the grand jury report format? Think collegiality. Several powerful county department heads (by the standards of Mendo-Lilliput, anyway) didn’t like the fact that for the first time since the berserk reverend from Redwood Valley, Jim Jones, served as GJ foreman, Mendocino County saw Mr. Steed and Company render a competently critical report on several public bureaucracies — including the DA’s ever-bubbling caldron. 

OF COURSE Labowitz wasn't about to censure or otherwise add to the discomfort of Judge Joe Orr on the Ochoa matter. After all Labowitz, and much of the rest of the local judicial posse, had just got their lawyer-colleagues in the state legislature to elevate their outback, once-a-week justice court jobs to full Superior Court status, complete with lucrative raises. The reason for the lucrative promotion? To ensure “the quality of justice.”

MENDOCINO COUNTY'S over-large contingent of royally compensated judges have a terrific deal going here — lifetime jobs at big pay with no supervision. (Conrad Cox was the only judge with the integrity to resist the in-house promotion of his outback justice court judges.) 

ADDING to this only-in-Mendoland Ochoa farce, was the fact that most of the County’s judges were themselves committed pot smokers during that period of the late sixties and early seventies when the secure middleclass dropped out for a while to smoke the bazooka and engage in hep-C frolics with runaway teenagers. When the counterculture fad ended in a sort of mass national amphetamine psychosis, the people who now occupied all levels of Mendocino County’s public power, dropped back in as blithely as they’d dropped out. In other words, we now had pot smokers sending other pot smokers to jail.

HELEN OCHOA was not allowed to go gentle into her last night. She spent her final years fighting off the jackals.

RYE FLINT: RE: Another item to consider is the Transient Occupancy Tax for Short Term Rentals. Right now it is at 10%. Other counties charge more.

Great idea!!! Especially since half, yes 50%, of homes on the coast are owned by people living in the Bay Area. Tax the living hell out of them. Locals need those homes instead. The government can do its part to help the local public instead of giving away our assets like candy to rich people from the Bay that own more than 2 homes. It worked for Tahoe, it should work for us too.

GEORGE DORNER from the frontier of free enterprise: According to ‘The Guardian,’ Barbie coffins are now available. Pink, natch, with gold fittings, and a Barbie on the lid.


[1] Much of the problem is that, since about 1970, women have had to assume traditional masculine roles, in addition to being mothers and homemakers. They did this primarily because men abdicated from masculine roles and responsibilities. Women HAD to do this. They had to become full-time wage-earners, because Dad took off or did not support the family. And, of course, women’s role as mothers and homemakers has been denigrated since at least 1970–and actually probably since about 1955. I well remember the media back in the 50s referring to women who wanted to marry as “looking for a free meal ticket,” the wife as “a ball and chain,” and housewives being portrayed as eating bon-bons all day. The media actually started working on the men to reject marriage, as well as traditional male responsibilities, way back in the 50s.

Also, as I’ve mentioned before. BOTH men and women need to be chaste before marriage. Unchastity shows contempt for the opposite sex, in both men and women–and contempt for their proper masculine and feminine roles. An unchaste man shows contempt for his mother and sisters, since he feels he can be contemptuous of other people’s mothers and sisters. An unchaste woman shows contempt for her father and brothers, and indicates that she thinks so little of men in general that she has no expectation of finding a virtuous man to marry. I think it is very little acknowledged that women in general are often promiscuous to “get even” with men for being promiscuous; i.e., “I can be just as contemptuous of you as you are of me.”

[2] I don’t think $90,000 is a crazy salary for a supervisor. Looking at the median wage of other counties and what those counties supervisors make, it looks like county supervisors make 2.5-4.2 times as much as median workers. Mendocino is in the middle at 3.4.

The job of supervisor isn’t an ordinary job. You are on a board that runs an organization with roughly 20 departments, 4 elected offices and approximately 1200 employees. There is some merit to the argument that to get good talent, competitive wages need to be offered.

I agree that those that serve as supervisors, or aspire to serve , should do so with the interests of the public at heart and in mind. There is a mechanism to evaluate supervisors, it is called the ballot. There is a mechanism to fire under performers, it’s called a recall. Unfortunately, the general public doesn’t exercise its duty and power to hold elected officials accountable often enough. The voting public is the hiring committee. If we want better, we need to do a better job not just at voting, but in encouraging those among us who we think would do a good job to run. When they are in office, we need to continue to respect and support them. Being a public official is a hard job, constantly being the target of criticism which too often turns into personal attacks on those holding office. This prevents many qualified people from seeking office.

All that being said, I do think that considering the current financial situation, the current BOS should take a pay cut along with other the other non-represented department heads. It looks as though there are 50 something positions that are lumped together with the supervisors. They should cut all those salaries 5-10% until the County is in a position to give the bargaining units currently in contract negotiations the COLA’s they deserve. It looks as though a 10% wage cut across the board would free up roughly a million, enough to give those bargaining units a meager 1% COLA. Supervisors would still have a base salary of $82k along with a more than generous benefits package. 

—Adam Gaska

[3] I was never crazy about chocolate chip ice cream because chocolate melts at a lower temperature than ice cream, so the chips would never really melt before the ice cream was finished. So the chocolate was not really enjoyed in the way it would be if it could melt in your mouth. Chocolate has to melt in my mouth.

[4] (All captured on video)

Kathy Griffin olds up a picture of Trump’s severed head.

Madonna, “I’ve dreamed of burning down the Whitehouse.”

Robert Deniro, “I’m going to punch Trump in the face.”

Johnny Depp, “He needs help and there are a lot of wonderful dark, dark places he could go.”

Craig D. Robertson disabled 75 YO air force vet posts some obscure social media crap.

“I hear Biden is coming to Utah. Digging out my old ghille suit and cleaning the dust off the m24 sniper rifle. Welcome, buffoon-in-chief!”

FBI shoots him dead.

And then Kathy Griffin goes on to complain and whine that she has lasting PTSD from the backlash from doing that.

This is what it’s come to.

What a f-ing clown world.

[5] My goats taught me the importance of mothering. I had one who was a great mother. She allowed me to help her kids when needed but was attentive and caring of them simultaneously. I obviously was co-parenting in her estimation.

One day I watched when her kids went adventuring around a tree out of her sight. Another young doe took the opportunity to investigate the kids. Something she had not previously been allowed to do. One of the kids got nervous and made a bleat for Mom. Who came running with thundering hooves around the tree and chased the young doe off. It was funny to watch a post-partum bellied mom run to the defense of her kids but I was full of admiration over the quality of mothering involved.

Attentive mothers in human society do not get the respect they should. While a kid can survive without a mom, even thrive, and certainly can suffer from a totally self-involved mom, a good mother is a treasure in her society that deserves admiration beyond what they are given. Self-sacrifice is baked into the job and tends to get taken for granted but both the kids and their society should be aware of the nature of it. Hooray for your banty and all good mothers of every stripe.

[6] Long ago, mentally Ill folks were put into institutions to get them off the streets. The asylums were nightmares as few people knew what to with miswired or drug addled brains.

Like prisons today, the affordable infrastructure for the mentally ill crumbled and new structures were not built in lieu of the upsurging liberal causes spending money on welfare and buying votes. Eventually the government shut down the asylums and put the patients on the street. The public outcry was very muted so it never became an issue.

Medicine figured out ways to sedate the strange ills of the mentally impaired with drugs but never to get rid of the problem. So today, it is still one of the main groups of the homeless population.

With 33 trillion in debt, the Feds have no incentive to do much about the street population including the mentally ill, so nothing happens. No surprise, as usual government does not do much of anything except work to be re-elected.

In the meantime, the number of dislocated folks grows on the streets with no solutions in site. The Dem solution of throwing money into the welfare garbage disposal does absolutely nothing.

Is it going to take having 51%.of the electorate on the streets to get the gimmes to stop electing Democrats?

One Comment

  1. Eric Sunswheat August 16, 2023

    RE: Dos Rios north to Alderpoint — roughly sixty miles — pretty much disappeared beneath years of slides and collapsed tunnels. There will never be enough money to make a trail through the Canyon,

    —> Following the lead of seasonal deer paths over rough terrain with Eel River nearby, the final sixty miles of the Great Redwood Trail, may be recreated each year with live work mental health fitness stamina Trail Guides exercising a system of overnight trail shelters, for endurance athlete tourists, and. court ordered Community Service clients, empowered by diminished artificial intelligence corporate money free speech personhood’s ranked choice voting elections. Why never say never to planetary toast.

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